Heart, Mind, Body and Soul Part 3: The Body
This week, we will look at the biblical significance of the body.
In the Old Testament, there is not one single word that would translate to the New Testament sōma, or the physical body, which is delineated from the soul and/or spirit. In Old Testament Hebrew, there are various words used. The first, bāsār, which means “flesh,” is used in Leviticus 14:9 for example. Nĕbēlā, used in 1 Kings 13:22, for example, is translated as “corpse.” Finally, in 1 Samuel 31:10, gĕwȋyȃ, is also translated as “body.”
In the New Testament, there are many words that are used for meaning “body,” but one that stands out. Body is used about 150 times in the New Testament, with about ten of those times coming from the words kōlon (a limb), chrōs (skin), sarx (flesh), and ptōma (corpse). The other 140 usages of the word “body” come in the form of soma.
The physical body is given discussion in both the Old and New Testaments with regard to both human and animals. This can be seen in Genesis 15:11, Daniel 7:11, Hebrews 13:11, and James 3:3 to name a few. Angels are not specifically noted as having bodies, but it can be inferred as they often are confused with humans.
The word soma is easily seen to be thought of as the physical body. This is not to be confused with sarx, or the flesh. Even though both are mortal and affected by sinfulness, they are different in various ways:
1) The body can be transformed (Romans 8:11), whereas the flesh, which is our “sinful nature” does not inhabit good (Romans 7:18).
2) The body is created for the Lord to glorify Him ((1 Corinthians 6:13) while the flesh is corrupt (Romans 8:8).
3) The body was formed for righteousness (Romans 6:12-13) while the flesh is filled with sin (Galatians 5:13).
4) The body will be resurrected (Romans 8:23) but the flesh cannot be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:50).
5) Since the body will be resurrected, it will face judgment at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The body is formed of both a material and an immaterial part. Humans are created as both physical body and soul/spirit. When someone dies, the immaterial must be separated from the material. When a person dies, the physical body continues to exist, although it is beginning to decay. For Christians, the body is seen as asleep, waiting for the Lord’s return (1 Corinthians 5:16, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16). The immaterial portion, or the soul, is believed to be immediately with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Some believe there is an “in between” body based on the parable of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, but as this is based on inferences of a parable, the view cannot be taken as imperative.
Paul describes the resurrected body as “soulish.” When Adam was formed at Creation, God breathed in him the breath of life. The human body is designed only for existence on this earth while the resurrected body is spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:44). Please note that we don’t know what this spiritual body is composed of as no inferences are made as to what this body is. We simply know that it is immortal and designed for existence in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50-53). This resurrected body was definitely an actual body that could be seen by others (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). It is the same in many ways in that Jesus breathed (John 20:22), ate (Luke 24:42-43) and was seen (Luke 24:16-31 and other verses). However, this body is different in many ways as well. He was not always recognized immediately (Luke 24:16-31 and other verses), could walk through walls and doors (John 20:19, Luke 24:36), and could travel far distances very quickly (Matthew 28:7-10).
The body of Christ is referred to in three different ways in the New Testament. First, Christ has a physical body. Jesus’ body was a normal human body in every aspect. He breathed, ate, slept, wept, felt pain, and became tired.
Next, the body of Christ is seen at communion. During the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and said “this is my body.” As this was done at Passover, the breaking of the bread symbolized Jesus’ sacrifice of His physical body. The communion table is a holy table. Paul warned of desecrating the communion table to the Corinthian church. Doing so brings shame to Jesus’ sacrifice and brought further judgment to the physical bodies of the Corinthians.
Third, the body of Christ is seen in His body of believers, or the church. The church is unified, through the Holy Spirit, to Christ. This brings into play a theological view of the post-resurrection church. There is diversity and unity in the body of believers. Christ died and rose for ALL. Every member has differing spiritual gifts and purposes but unified in their driven purpose of the body of Christ. This metaphorical use of the word “body” is compared with the body so that diversity and unity can be seen more easily.
At the end of studying about the body, we find that all of the discussions of “body” talk about the physical form. Humans, however, are much more than just physical bodies, we have an immaterial part, the soul/spirit, and are a combination of both. Next week we will discuss that immaterial part.