Natural - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


psychikos (G5591) Natural
sarkihos (G4559) Fleshly
Psychikos occurs six times in the New Testament. On three occasions, where it refers to the lowliness of the Christian's present soma (G4983) psychikon as contrasted with the glory of his future soma pneumatikon (G4152; 1 Cor. 15:44 [twice], 46), it does not have a distinctly ethical sense. In the other three cases, however, psychikos is used with a negative moral emphasis. Paul declared that the psychikos cannot and does not receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). James (3:15) characterized the wisdom that is psychike as epigeios (G1919, earthly) and as daimoniodes (G1141, devilish). Jude described the psychikoi as "not having the Spirit" (v. 19). Psychikos does not appear in the Septuagint, but psychikos is used twice in the Apocrypha (2 Macc. 4:37; 14:24) in the sense of "heartily."
At first this use of psychikos (and the words with which it is associated) comes as something of a surprise, since in current parlance the soul is referred to as a person's highest part. We might expect to find psychikos closely related to pneumatikos, separated only by a slight shade of meaning. But this is not the case. The way psychikos is used in the New Testament should not surprise us, since it is characteristic of the inner differences between a Christian and a secular viewpoint. The meaning of psychikos is indicative of those better gifts and graces brought into the world by the gift of the Spirit. Psychikos is always used as the highest term in later classical Greek literature and is opposed to sarkikos or, where there is no ethical antithesis, to somatikos. In Christian terminology, then, psychikos must be replaced by an even loftier term. Secular Greek philosophy knew of nothing higher than the soul of man, but God's revelation reveals that the Spirit of God makes his habitation with people and calls out an answering spirit in them. There was some intimation of this higher level in the distinction Lucretius and others made between the anima (soul) and the animus (mind), which is a more noble term. According to Scripture, the psyche, no less than the sarx (G4561), belongs to the lower region of man's being. Since psychikos often is applied to man's lower level, it is no more honorable a word than sarkikos. According to Scripture, the psychikos is one for whom the psyche is the highest motivation of life and action. On the one hand, such a person suppresses the pneuma (G4151), the organ of the divine pneuma. On the other hand, the pneuma of the psychikos is as good as extinct, because the divine Spirit has never lifted such a person to the spiritual realm (Rom. 7:14; 8:1; Jude 19).
According to Scripture, both the sarkikos and the psychikos are opposed to the pneumatikos.Sarkikos and psychikos refer to different ruling principles, each of which is antagonistic to the pneuma. When Paul reminded the Ephesians of how they once behaved, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph. 2:3), he described them first as sarkikoi and then as psychikoi. In unregenerate people, who live their lives apart from God, there are two forms of life. Although every unregenerate person partakes of both forms, either form may predominate. In the sarkikoi, the sarx predominates; in the psychikoi, the psyche rules. Sarx often is used in the New Testament to refer to the entire domain of our fallen nature, to the source of sin (Rom. 7:18; 8:5). Thus the erga (G2041) tes sarkos (Gal. 5:19-21) not only are sinful works done in and through the body but also include sinful acts of the mind. More than half of the sins listed in Galatians 5:19-21 belong to the latter class. Although sarx can include everything in man that is alienated from God and from his life, it is limited when contrasted with psyche.
Bishop Reynolds' Latin sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:14 includes a helpful discussion on the difference between sarkikos and psychikos. The following is the most important paragraph:
It is true thatsince people consist of flesh [sarx] and soul, although the soul is the more significant part of a personour apostle very frequently terms the unregenerate sarkikoi because their desire is prone to vices and their impulses incline to concupiscence. He names people of this type from their most significant part, demonstrating that he understands them not to be those who are slaves of passion and who bury their natural talent through crass concupiscence (for these the apostle calls 'brute beasts' [aloga zoa,2 Pet. 2:12]), but persons eager for wisdom, who are accustomed to respect only those things which are foolish and absurd. Thus psychikoi are those who "do not have the Spirit" (Jude 19), however much they shine with the most exquisite natural gifts, cultivate the mind, the most excellent part, with all types of education, and direct their life very strictly according to the dictates of reason. Finally he calls psychikoi those to whom he previously had appealed as the wise, the scribes, the scholars, and the leaders of that age that they suppress any natural or acquired rank, in order that human reason may be able to increase with its natural strength"psychikos is one who yields in everything to the reasonings of the soul [psyche], not thinking there is need for help from above," as Chrysostom has rightly statedhe is one who has nothing extraordinary in himself except a rational soul, the light and guidance of which alone he follows.
Grotius made similar observations:
A psychikos person is not the same as a sarkikos individual. Psychikos is one who is led only by the light of human reason; sarkikos is one who is controlled by bodily desires. But usually psychikoi are in some way sarkikoi as the Greek philosophers, fornicators, corrupters of boys, snatchers of fame, slanderous, envious. Nothing else is denoted here (1 Cor. 2:14) but a person who thrives on human reason alone such as most of the Jews and the Greek philosophers.
The question of how to translate psychikos is not easy to answer. "Soulish," which some have proposed, has the advantage of having the same relation to "soul" that psychikos does to psyche, but the word would certainly convey no meaning at all to ordinary English readers. Wycliffe translated psychikos as "beastly," which is equivalent to "animal" (animalis occurs in the Vulgate). The Rhemish Version has "sensual," and this was adopted by the Authorized Version in James 3:15 and Jude 19, instead of "fleshly," which appears in Cranmer's Version and in the Geneva Version. The other three times psychikos is used in the New Testament, it is translated as "natural." "Sensual" and "natural" are both unsatisfactory translations, but "sensual" is even more so now than at the time when our Authorized Version was made. The meanings of sensual and of sensualityhave been modified considerably and now imply a deeper degradation than they formally did.

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