By now you have struggled through the implications of Matthew 10:28, Yeshua’s supposed endorsement of the “body-soul” dualism that we have been exploring for the last 4 days. Perhaps we haven’t solved the riddle of the translation, but we have at least learned these few things:
1. The “body-soul” or “body-mind-soul” or “body-spirit-soul” concepts found in most Christian theology are akin to those Greek philosophical systems found in Pythagoras and Plato. They do not have readily available counterparts in Hebraic thought.
2. Hebrew has no dualistic terms that approximate the categories found in Greek philosophy. The Tanakh does not embrace, endorse or support the idea of the separation of Man into various parts.
3. Since we believe Yeshua did not embrace this Greek dualism, the text in Matthew is either a) corrupt, b) an addition by someone else, c) a mangled translation of an attempt to convey a Hebrew concept in Greek language, or d) an idiomatic expression in Hebrew that was mistranslated as a word-for-word concept into Greek.
4. We ruled out a) and b) above and determined that the most likely explanation for Matthew 10:28 is that it was spoken as a Hebrew idiom but badly translated into Greek, and subsequently forced to fit a Greek paradigm. Since the Church had already adopted a Greek metaphysics by the time our versions of the Greek text of Matthew came into existence, it would not have caused in startled suspicion to read the text as “body and soul.” The culture already assumed such a dualism was biblical.
With this in mind, we suggested that the appropriate idiomatic translation might be something like this: “Do not fear those who are able to inflict terrible means of death upon the body. Rather fear the one who is capable of wasting away life.” This idiomatic expression is also ironic (a common tactic employed by Yeshua) because the one who is able to waste away life is NOT God but rather you and I. In other words, Yeshua is teaching us that not fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives is the equivalent of destroying life and WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.
Why is this so difficult to discern from the current Greek of Matthew 10:28 and virtually all the English translations? Because English adopts the Greek paradigm of Man, breaking the unity of the embodied person into pieces which are subsequently treated differently. To put is simply, English (and Greek) do NOT have the needed linguistic forms or ideas necessary to translate this Hebrew idiomatic expression. Much like the HEbrew concept of hesed, Greek is simply inadequate to convey the Hebrew meaning.
Try talking to someone about what it means to be human but do not use any reference to body or soul. You will see just how much our own thought patterns and language is saturated with this Greek idea. Try explaining that the biblical text does not contain the idea of an immortal, disembodied soul and you will probably be considered a heretic. Try explaining what it means to “sleep in the earth” until the Day of Judgment. All of our Christian ideas about heaven and hell, reward and punishment, eternal existence, etc. come under attack. No wonder people have such a terrible time when they try to answer the question, “What would this have meant to the audience that first heard it?”