Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pauline Anthropology

Just came across this great quote from Robert Gundry in this book. A very useful sumary of Paul's anthropology.

“As a matter of fact, Paul’s anthropological duality does not display itself in a formally consistent use of any two terms. Sōma always refers to the physique, but so does sarx at times. A number of words refer to the incorporeal side of man and functions thereof: pneuma, psychē, kardia, nous, dianoia, phrenes, syneidēsis, ho esō anthrōpos. For the whole man, Paul uses anthrōpos. In other words, there is an ontological duality, a functional pluralism, and an overarching unity.” -p84

loose translation of terms:
Sōma = body
sarx = flesh
pneuma = spirit
psychē = self/soul/life
kardia = heart
nous = mind
dianoia = understanding
phrenes = thought
syneidēsis = conscience
ho esō anthrōpos
= the inner human (man)
anthrōpos = human (man)

And another good point:

“Paul is not interested in anthropology as an independent motif. Rather, he treats man as the object of divine dealings and as the subject of activity in the order which God created.” - p84-5

I think it is particularly helpful to talk in terms of "functional pluralism", that for Paul it is possible to talk about the different parts of a human, but to emphasise "overarching unity", that a human is not a 'spirit inhabiting a body' or a 'body with a soul' but the human is both the physical and the "inner" and cannot properly exist apart from as both. This is why Gundry uses the term duality - to imply unity, rather than dualism, which implies opposition.


  1. nice post sir!
    ((gotta love the distinction Paul draws in 15:44 between the "soma psu[y]chikon" and the "soma pneumatikon" - lovely combination of terms - would I be correct in thinking that Paul is coining one/both of those terms?))

    And I love the subtle-yet-key distinction between dual-ITY and dual-ISM - unity/opposition a nice way of describing the difference - thanks!

  2. The duality/dualism thing just sounds like semantics to me. There aren't even really two things, as you spoke about with "functional pluralism". There is a unity of many different "parts" - though they're not parts.

  3. Of course, semantics are very important.