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Body, Soul, and Human Life

The Nature of Humanity in the Bible

series: Studies in Theological Interpretation

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"Represents Green's mature thinking on the topic after decades of research. The result is a fascinating blend of contemporary science, discussion of big philosophical questions, and first-class biblical exposition."--Alan G. Padgett, Christian Century

Are humans composed of a material body and an immaterial soul? This view is commonly held by Christians, yet it has been undermined by recent developments in neuroscience. How much of Christian theology is built on views of humanity that modern science has proved to be untenable?

Exploring what Scripture and theology teach about issues such as being in the divine image, the importance of community, sin, free will, salvation, and the afterlife, Joel Green argues that a dualistic view of the human person is inconsistent with both science and Scripture. This wide-ranging discussion is sure to provoke much thought and debate. It is the fourth volume in the Studies in Theological Interpretation series.

About the series: The Studies in Theological Interpretation series is dedicated to the pursuit of constructive theological interpretation of the church's inheritance of prophets and apostles in a manner that is open to reconnection with the long history of theological reading in the church. These brief, focused, and closely argued studies evaluate the hermeneutical, historical, and theological dimensions of scriptural reading and interpretation for our times.

Editorial Advisory Board for the Studies in Theological Interpretation Series: Gary Anderson (University of Notre Dame), Markus Bockmuehl (University of Oxford), Richard Hays (Duke University Divinity School), Christine Pohl (Asbury Theological Seminary), Eleonore Stump (Saint Louis University), Anthony Thiselton (University of Nottingham, University of Chester), Marianne Meye Thompson (Fuller Theological Seminary), Kevin Vanhoozer (Wheaton College and Graduate School), John Webster (University of Aberdeen)


"In this outstanding work, the author provides a scholarly and thoroughly biblical analysis of human personhood in dialogue with the neurosciences. This book is likely to provide the definitive overview of this topic for many years to come."--Denis R. Alexander, director, The Faraday Institute, St. Edmund's College

"If you think nothing new ever happens in theology or biblical studies, you need to read this book, an essay in 'neuro-hermeneutics.' Green shows not only that a physicalist (as opposed to a dualist) anthropology is consistent with biblical teaching but also that contemporary neuroscience sheds light on significant hermeneutical and theological questions."--Nancey Murphy, professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Few biblical interpreters have delved as deeply into the science of the human brain as Joel Green. Here he draws upon that learning in conversation with Scripture to put forth a fresh picture of human existence, one that makes sense from both perspectives. He does not shy away from hard questions, especially those about life and death, body and soul."--Patrick D. Miller, Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Joel Green serves as the vanguard of interdisciplinary research on this topic. No one combines the requisite background in theology, biblical studies, and the natural sciences as adeptly as Green, and with the critical thinking needed to move along the interstices of these disciplines. Indeed, he succeeds at closing the gaps between these disciplines. In this volume, we see him examining the biblical data afresh from his monist perspective, surveying the convergence of biblical studies and the neurosciences on a number of conclusions, and exploring the implications of monism for the church and for our understanding of salvation, mission, and life after death. This 'progress report' is another timely and welcome contribution from Professor Green."--Bill T. Arnold, Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Some are students of the Bible. Others are students of neuroscience. Joel Green is both and more. He's also a student of the human condition. Oftentimes students of the Bible and students of the neurosciences tell radically different and ultimately irreconcilable stories about human nature--what we are, who we are, and what we're made for. In Body, Soul, and Human Life, Joel Green helps us listen more attentively both to the Bible and to the unfolding music of the neurosciences. What you hear may surprise you. Far from telling different and irreconcilable stories about human nature, Joel Green helps us to see that these two sources--the Bible and the neurosciences--actually tell mutually enriching and complementary stories about what it means to be fully human and fully alive. I heartily recommend it!"--Kevin Corcoran, professor of philosophy, Calvin College

The Author

  1. Joel B. Green

    Joel B. Green

    Joel B. Green (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is provost, dean of the School of Theology, and professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including the...

    Continue reading about Joel B. Green


"[Joel Green] is known as an expert in biblical exegesis (especially in Luke and 1 Peter) as well as in his work on 'theological interpretation.' One who has already shown breadth and depth of knowledge, he flexes his interdisciplinary muscles by exploring the way in which the study of neuroscience can shed light on discussions of biblical anthropology. . . . This book is a page-turner. . . . We are in Joel Green's debt for this captivating study and exercise in interdisciplinarity. He is articulate, careful, and well-informed theologically and scientifically. . . . The kind of issues and questions he raises are important and need to be reckoned with by Biblical scholars, as well as Christian theologians and philosophers."--Nijay Gupta,

"Here is an important and courageous study that steps out into a new frontier of biblical study. . . . This is a very informative book and, hopefully, the vanguard of many more studies in this area."--Donald Senior, CP, Bible Today

"Green, in typical fashion, has written an accessible and engaging work, relating biblical studies with natural science, specifically neuroscience, while consistently informing non-specialists of contemporary research. . . . Green's work is an excellent introduction to a non-dualist approach. He avoids both technical language and intricate details, thus providing a complement to further theological research and biblical study. . . . Pastors will find the work helpful in shaping multiple aspects of pastoral life, including discipleship and pastoral care. Professors in several fields--philosophy, Christian ministry, biblical studies, psychology, theology--will find the work exemplary in broaching several disciplines to provide resources for the local church."--Aaron Perry, Wesleyan Theological Journal

"Those interested in examining the compatibility of biblical faith with the present neuroscientific consensus will find much that is helpful in this very readable and engaging, but no less profound, book."--Amos Yong, Religious Studies Review

"New advances in the neurosciences continue to challenge common understandings of the nature of humanity. . . . Avoiding the extremes of apologetic rejection and undue harmonization, Green demonstrates that recent work in biblical anthropology shows a degree of convergence with the advances in neuroscience on this fundamental issue: We are not souls encased in physical bodies, but we are thoroughly integrated, embodied creatures. . . . This is an illuminating book because of its insight and suggestiveness."--Bradley C. Gregory, First Things

"[Green] instigates a conversation between neurosciences and theology on biblical issues such as the resurrection, inviting friends in both disciplines to participate. His cordiality and scholarship are successful. . . . Instead of attitudes of hostility or antagonism and instead of taking the rigid position of 'I'm right and you're wrong,' Green provides solid scholarship, fosters an atmosphere of listening, and seeks common ground. A respected scholar in the academy of biblical scholarship, Green extends respect to his scientific colleagues. Employing exemplary critical-thinking skills, Green finds few irreconcilable differences regarding human nature between biblical studies and the neurosciences. . . . I hope Green's book receives wide readership, especially in the segmented academic world. Green's fine mind and top academic standing and now this well-reasoned book should go a long way to producing a friendly dialogue in the academic community. Body, Soul, and Human Life extends a theologian's cordial hand to the great minds involved in the sciences."--Robin Gallaher Branch, Review of Biblical Literature

"Green's book is both commendable and unique for the way in which it brings together the neurosciences and biblical hermeneutics to understand the human person. This unique combination is timely and thought-provoking, and the book warrants close reading for that reason alone. . . . It will be particularly helpful for anyone seeking to understand the science and exegesis that lies behind the growing support for physicalist ontologies among some evangelicals. Probably the most important aspect of Green's book, though, is the way in which he demonstrates that modern science and biblical hermeneutics can be brought together in a vital dialog as we work toward a better understanding of the human person."--Marc Cortez, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Joel Green is one of America's top New Testament scholars and a prolific author. . . . Green has been involved in several important and long-range projects involving scientists, theologians, and philosophers around the topic of mind/brain studies and has taken graduate classes in the subject. . . . Body, Soul, and Human Life represents Green's mature thinking on the topic after decades of research. The result is a fascinating blend of contemporary science, discussion of big philosophical questions, and first-class biblical exposition. . . . Green has written a scholarly, authoritative, and readable proposal that makes both exegetical and scientific sense. It is likely to be widely read and critically engaged."--Alan G. Padgett, Christian Century

"This book is insightful and scholarly. The scope of Green's examination is uniformly commendable. His readers do not have to be experts in theology or the monism-dualism debate. His writing is clear and well documented, and he takes care to represent his research with respect and academic integrity. . . . For monists, this book is a useful resource that sheds light on the recent developments in neuroscience that can be used to support the claim to anthropological monism. Green's presentation of the functioning of the brain challenges many assumptions about the significance of the brain on personhood and will help drive the conversation forward. . . . Dualists will find Green's work worth reading. He presents a clear case for his monistic model, merges science and theology well, and applies reliable hermeneutical practices to scripture. Anyone interested in understanding more about monism or the monism-dualism debate will find the book helpful. For this reason, its use in the classroom with advanced students would work well alongside books explicating a dualist position."--Christopher J. Black, Biblical Theology Bulletin

"Uniting biblical exegesis and neurology in a uniquely interdisciplinary approach, Joel B. Green argues that science and Scripture converge in the same conclusion: human beings do not have immortal and separable souls but are wholly material. . . . Green's case for the importance of interdisciplinary study is persuasive. . . . One may hope that exegetes will see the value of the conversation he has begun and pursue it further."--Jeremy Holmes, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Green deftly and masterfully analyzes recent trends in neurobiology and related fields, and argues for a foundational correspondence between the results of scientific inquiry and biblical anthropology. . . . [This] product is a streamlined and ultimately quite compelling reframing of Christian beliefs in light of recent scientific advances. Green surveys a wide variety of biblical texts, always providing thoughtful and cogent readings. His nuanced treatment of the scientific literature, which could become an indecipherable jumble of jargon in the wrong hands, is clear, concise, and carefully organized. The book is, simply stated, a fascinating piece of work that has the potential to challenge and engage the most experienced theologians while at the same time proving accessible to theological neophytes. . . . Green invites renewed interaction between the theological and scientific communities. One hopes the ensuing dialogue will prove fruitful."--Jeremy M. Hutton, Interpretation

"[Green] has a more complete perspective on the topic than many theologians or philosophers. In order to engage the topic fully it is necessary to understand the arguments from a variety of different perspectives. . . . The question here is not does science undermine the Christian understanding of persons? but rather what is the biblical view of persons? This leads to a corollary question: how do we integrate the biblical understanding of persons with the scientific understanding of persons? Dr. Green's book provides an excellent starting point for this discussion."--Jesus Creed blog