The Breath of Life: Nephesh in Hebrew Scriptures

  • Lucas John Mix


Hebrew perspectives shaped medieval theology through the Tanakh and the works of Philo of Alexandria. The term nephesh, describing both human and animal life in Genesis, was translated as psyche, bringing together two different concepts of the soul. The Hebrew nephesh occurred all animals, was clearly embodied, and not immortal. Ideas of resurrection did not develop in Hebrew thought until just before the common era. Philo tried to reconcile scriptural and Platonic accounts of creation. Though he subscribed to a Platonic continuum, his theory of dual creation led to an ontological divide between eternal forms and physical bodies. Philo’s ideas did not catch on among Jewish thinkers but had a profound impact on medieval Christian life-concepts.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucas John Mix
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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