And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 ESV
Soul – Greek dualism proposes that Man consists of at least two parts: body (soma) and soul (psyche). According to Greek philosophical thinking following Plato, the psyche is the superior part; eternal, pure, heavenly and intended to return to God who created it. The body is the earthly part; corrupt, material, base, filled with mortal desires, impure and the prison house of the soul. Death separates these two parts, allowing the soul to escape the body and achieve freedom from the material world. Adapting this thinking to Christian theology, the early Church fathers asserted that God is interested in a man’s “soul” rather than his body. It is the soul that is eternal and therefore must be redeemed in order to dwell eternally with the Father. Those who do not receive the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ are bound to the eternal torment of their souls in hell. Since the body is temporal, declarations of faith achieved through torture are justifiable because they save the soul from eternal punishment at the minor expense of the agony of the body. What matters most is the saving of souls. What matters least is the condition of men in this transient world. In Christian thought, Jesus was crucified in Plato’s cave so that men might experience God’s glory.
The problem, of course, is that Yeshua wasn’t a Greek philosopher.
When we try to understand the Greek word psyche from a Hebrew perspective, we must first trace the Greek meaning back to its development following Pythagoras. Pythagoras introduced the idea of reward and punishment in the afterlife. If there is going to be reward and punishment in another life, then there must be some essence of the person that survives death, and that essence, according to Pythagoras, is the “soul,” the psyche. For the first time, men thought of the body as a prison of the soul. By 500 BC, the idea of an immortal soul was part of the popular culture of ancient Greece. From this point, Greek thinking developed the themes that the body was evil and wicked but the soul was good and pure. In addition, the soul was the rational element that constituted what it meant to be human while the body was that part of man most connected to animal behavior. By the time of Plato, the psyche was considered the center of thought, emotion and will – essentially all the human attributes – while the body was the weight the soul had to carry in this life until death finally released it from prison.
If this description of the soul resonates with your understanding of Christian theology, don’t be surprised. Hellenism greatly influenced the thought of the early Church fathers. Greek philosophy played a significant part in the formation of Christian doctrine in the first few centuries of the official Church. The crucial idea of an afterlife of reward or punishment is now central to Christian thinking. But it wasn’t part of the worldview of the Tanakh. As rabbinic thought was influenced by Hellenism, the idea of reward and punishment in an afterlife became a part of Jewish thinking. But there were significant differences. Jewish thought never viewed the body as a prison of the soul. After all, God created man embodied. The body was not evil. Embodied man made choices that determined his ultimate end, but even that end was not disembodied spirit. As we have learned, Man is soma. The implicit dualism between good and evil, spiritual and material, soul and body, is not part of Hebraic thinking.
This adds more difficulty to understanding Matthew 10:28. All the Hebrew texts use the word nephesh for the Greek psyche. But nephesh is not “soul” in opposition to “body.” Nephesh is “person,” the whole of what it means to be an embodied human. Only in Greek dualism is body opposed to soul. If Yeshua used the word nephesh in this verse, then He could not be suggesting a separation of body and soul. Nephesh is the homogenization of human being. It is not divisible into parts. That makes our text in Hebrew almost unintelligible as it stands. “Do not fear those who can kill the dead body but cannot kill the entire embodied person. Rather fear the one who can kill both the entire embodied person and the dead body in Gehenna.” What in the world can this mean? The point is this: any translation of the Hebrew ideas into Greek categories of body and soul is unintelligible.
We are left with only two options if we insist on reading the text as it is written. Either the translator of Yeshua’s Hebrew statement changed the thought into Greek categories that were not part of Yeshua’s original thinking OR Yeshua was also influenced by Hellenism and He embraced the Greek dichotomy of body and soul. Neither of these seems acceptable. That leaves us with two other choices. First, the text itself is not original and was added to Matthew’s gospel by someone else who embraced Greek thinking OR, second, this entire text is some kind of idiomatic expression and is mangled in translation. Now you get to decide. What makes more sense given the Hebraic worldview of Yeshua? And what does this mean for the integrity of the Greek text of our New Testament?
Topical Index: soul, psyche, Hellenism, dualism, soma, body, Matthew 10:28
 It’s interesting that in the earlier Homeric age the word psyche meant “vital force” of life, much closer to the Hebrew idea of nephesh hayah than the subsequent idea of psyche found in Greek philosophy.