- Biblical Usage. The Problem of Interpretation (§ 1).
- The Hebrew Basar (§ 2).
- "Flesh " Equivalent to " Man " (§ 3).
- Jewish Usage (§ 4).
- New Testament Usage (§ 5).
- Paul (§ 6).
The Bible has different representations of man's
material nature: The term "flesh" is always
used with reference to man's body; so that
Chrysostom's comment on
Gal. v. 16
is anything but precise-" The flesh (Gk. sarx) is not the body, nor
the essence of the body, but the evil disposition,
the earthly, lustful, and lawless rea
:. Biblical son." The same is true of Julius
Usage. The Milller's definition,-" The flesh is the
Problem of tendency or inclination of human life
Interpre- turned away from God, the life and
tation. movement of man in the midst of the
things of this visible world." The
flesh is regarded as endowed with mind (Gk.
Rom. viii. 6),
desire or lust (epithymia,
I John ii. 16),
(thelima,Eph. ii. 3),
and can not, therefore, stand for a disposition of the
will. Sari designates, not a tendency or
disposition of the flesh, but the flesh itself with that
disposition. But a problem arises,-how can aarx
be considered the subjective cause-of-such
disposition while usually kardia
("heart") is looked upon as the seat of the will
(Matt. xv. 10;
Rom. i. 24)P
This difficulty can not be solved by the perception that man himself as the subjective cause of
such disposition may be designated as flesh because
he is represented in it; for Sarx does not in the
Bible always mean man himself, but that which
shapes him, his guiding principle (ef.
Rom. vii. 14,
with verses 18 and 25); this observation, however, leads to a correct understanding of the
It is necessary to go back to the Old Testament
baaar, and y to basar in the sense of sarx,
in which it is used only of the flesh of man, while
it is used in the sense of kreas
only with regard to
animals (i.e., the flesh of sacrifice). In
s. The this special application to man briar
Hebrew means in the first place the substance
Briar. of the body. The bones or blood are
sometimes mentioned with flesh, as
constituting the body
(Luke xxiv. 39; 1
50). By synecdoche flesh is used for the body
(Ps. xvi. 9
Cor. x. 3). This use of the term is
a Hebrew idiom, foreign to the Greek; so that the
translates the Hebrew briar by
soma (" body "). The expression " all flesh " is
sometimes used for the race in its totality
(Gen. vi. 17
but usually for the race as human
(Gen. vi. 12
Luke iii. 6
This leads to the peculiarity of the Biblical use of
the word. It designates man because man appears
through it, and manifests
his nature by it; in the
flesh man has his life-he is flesh.
3. "· Bleslt" This attribute he shares with the
Equivalent whole living universe. Flesh is the
to 'tlleDeut. v. 26).
Thus in the Old Testament the term "flesh"
connects itself with the conception, of impotence,
need of salvation, and sinfulness f man whose
distinction from God is the distinction between
flesh and spirit. The development of the term in
New Testament and especially in Paul may be
traced directly tb this Old Testament conception,
while the development of the term in the synagogue
was quite different.
The most significant traits of the Old Testament
representation practically disappear in the
rypha. Sarx is spoken of
as the substance of the
human body (Sirach xix. 12, xliv. 20;
Judith xiv. 10
etc.). Pass sarx oc-
Usage. curs with the same meaning as in the
Old Testament (Sirach i. 8, xiii: 15;
Judith ii. 3
etc.). But the idea of lowliness and
frailty disappeared almost altogether, likewise the
idea of distinction from God. The same may be
said of the Pseudepigraphs and
post-Biblical literature of the synagogue. Alex
andrianism accepted the Old Testament meaning as
little as did the theologians of the synagogue. The
Septuagint perverted in important passages
(Num. xvi. 22
lea. xxxi. 3) the relation of spirit or God
and flesh into the distinction between spirit and
matter. Philo uses sarx in the sense of evil dis-
position. This is not a translation of Biblical
views into Alexandrinian philosophy, but it is
most clearly a translation of the synagogal view of
the yeger ha-ra', the evil disposition, the
toward the sensual from which the real evil has
On this account it is the more peculiar that the
writers of the New Testament--Paul not exceptedhave not built on this later
foundation, but have
gone back to the Old Testament. In the synoptic
Gospels and in Acts sarx designates
g. New the substance of the body (Luke
Testament xsiv. 39;
Acts ii. 26, 31),
(Matt. xix. 5, 6;
Mark a. 8;
etc.). It denotes the distinction from
God and that not in the physical sense, hence the
incongruous, relation of Sarx to the divine principle
life in the heart of man-
(Matt. xxvi. 41;
Mark xiv. 31).
The writings of Jon and Peter, the Epistle
of Jude, and the Epistle to the Hebrews do not add
any essential features except that "flesh" also indicates the
peculiarity of man's external nature.
Thus it is opposed to pneuma, or spirit
(Col. ii. 1, 5).
In the writings of Peter the contrast between sarx
and gmeuma appears as s contrast of Sarx and the
spirit of God
(I Pet. iii. 18),
and as a contrast of
sarz and the human pnevma
(I Pet. iv. 6).
same contrast between God or the spirit of God and
the flesh dominates the use of the word in the writings of John. Here the expression "The Word
was made flesh"
(John i. 14)
has its force from the
contrast with (verse 1) "The Word was God."
The same contrast appears in
Ps. lvi. 5, 2;
II Cor. xiii. 4.
Sarx in distinction from
God and his spirit denotes frailty, helplessness,
need of salvation.
The sinfulness of the flesh is emphasized by Paul
(Rom. viii. 3).
In this sense he calls the body " a
body of the flesh" aama tea aarkos
(Col. ii. 11),
and life a "walking in the flesh"
(II Cor. x. 3).
Corresponding to the peculiarity of the New Testament revelation of salvation, the Old Testament
contrast between God and man, flesh and spirit, has
the contrast between Sarx and the
In connection with the latter
contrast Paul defines the relation between sarx
and sin in so far as with the former
6. Paul and through it there adheres to man
an evil disposition, a being sold unto
(Rom. vii. 14).
Man is dominated by sin; it
lives in and through him. It was therefore easy
for Chrysostom to identify sari with an evil
disposition or for Neander to define it as "human
nature in its alienation from God." In a similar
way Holstea maintained that for Paul aarz was.the
material, sensual substance in contrast with
as the immaterial, spiritual and Divine substance.
In the sarx and
of Paul there is, according
to Holaten, the opposition of the finite and the infinite, evil and good, so that in Pauline theology sin
was a necessity. The whole Pauline view of the
world, according to him, forms a dualism which
has its root in the Jewish and Hellenistic view of
the world. But it has been shown above that the
thoughts of Paul as well as the other writings, of the
New Testament are in no way dependent upon the
development in the later synagogue or Alexandrian
philosophy, but have developed directly from the
old Testament. This phenomenon shows itself also
in other important points of the New Testament
dispensation and compels the assumption of a double
tendency in religious thought,-the one represented
and influenced by the synagogue as a theological
school and its mode of expression, laid down in the
Old Testament Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and
the Talmudic writings as well as in Philo, the other
starting directly from the Old Testament and known
through the New Testament.
If this be conceded, much has been gained for the
decision of the question. Passages like
Rom. vii. 14-15
show the strongest contrast to the later
synagogal conception of
speaks of sari, he means present reality, and does
not denote by it the source and cause of sin in
the seat of sin and not the
cause of its existence; it is chained to life and prop
agates itself through it and with it in a way which
has originated not through God, but through the
fall. Therefore with life impotence and death
propagate themselves and with them the inability
to lead a life pleasing to God and the tendency to
ward the contrary, "° enmity against God"
(Rom. viii. 7, 8
We are what we are and as we are
through the flesh, we are in the flesh, in its power
instead of in that of the Spirit, we are flesh.
But this evidently does
not mean that flesh is the
source of sin, it does not even mean that the flesh
in distinction from the other parts of the human
being is the seat of sin; for everything, even the
heart, the seat of the origin of sin,-pertains to man
through the flesh, or, as we might say, to the flesh
itself. Since sin is in the world, there are only sin
ners born by the flesh, and thus the apostle may
as he does in
Rom. vii. 25
Thus there is no reason why
human nature. It rather means the flesh in its
peculiar nature as it has been implanted into
man by the
fall. Even Christ appeared "in the
likeness of sinful flesh"
(Rom. viii. 3
sion which denotes not the difference but the agreement
with our case. He entered into the flesh with
consequences of sin or the fall
(Col. i. 22
Heb. ii. 14
but his own spiritual nature overcame,
so to speak, at the very beginning, its disposition to
Soul and Spirit
F. Delitzsch, System der bibiischen Psycho
lopie, Leipsic, 1855, Eng. transl., Edinburgh, 1867; J. J.
van Oostersee, Christian Dogmatics, ii. 365, 398, 659,
New York; 1874; H. H.
Wendt, Die Beprife Fleisch and
Geist in biblischen Sprachpebrauch, Gotha, 1878; B. Weiss,
Biblical Theology of the New Testament, §§ 27, 67, 68, 86,
100, 115, 124, 128, 139, 145, Edinburgh, 1882-83; W. P;
Dickson, St. Paul's Use of
the Terms Flesh and Spirit,
London, 1883; O. Zöckler, HandMuh der theologischen
Wissensclwften, i. 342 sqq., 347 sqq., iii. 307, 531-532,
Nördlingen, 1889, Munich, 1890; O. Pfleiderer, Der Paul
inismus, pp. 60-78, Leipsic, 1890; H. Schultz, Old Testament
Theology, i. 399, ii. 112, 242 sqq., 300-301, 314
315, Edinburgh, 1892; J.
Laidlaw, Bible Doctrine of Man,
pp. 109-120, 270-274, ib. 1895; W. Beyschlag, New Tes
tament Theology, i. 88, 91, 228, ii. 28, 38, 42 sqq., ib.
1896; G. B. Stevens, Theology of the New Testament, pp.
189-190, 338-339, New York, 1899; A. B. Davidson,
Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 188-192, ib. 1904; and