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Green, Joel B. “Restoring the Human Person: New Testament Voices for a Wholistic and Social Anthropology."

New Testament scholar Joel B. Green was asked to write an essay reflecting current scholarship on biblical views of human nature. In “Restoring the Human Person: New Testament Voices for a Wholistic and Social Anthropology,” Green laments the fact that recent investigations of “biblical anthropology” have focused either on the question of body-soul dualism or on a series of topics oriented around human sin and its remedies. This is unfortunate because Scripture is largely unconcerned with speculative questions about human nature; the attempt to find answers to current philosophical questions can obscure the biblical writers’ own central concerns.

Green focuses his investigation on the writings of Paul and Luke - Paul because he is regarded as the most important theologian of the apostolic age; Luke because he is arguably the only Gentile author represented in the New Testament. This suggests that if any New Testament material were to reflect the dualism alleged to characterize Hellenistic thought, it would be that of Luke.Luke’s concern with human nature arises within the context of his understanding of salvation. Luke raises questions about what needs to be saved, and what “saved existence” would look like. Answers to these two questions point to his understanding of authentic human existence. Green examines as paradigmatic Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ healing of the woman with the hemorrhage (Luke 8:42b - 48). Green finds here a holistic and social anthropology, evidenced by the fact that healing involves not merely reversal of her physical malady, but also restoration of her place in both the social world and the family of God. The importance of this (and other relevant texts) is to call into question two closely related tendencies in the twentieth-century West: to think of salvation fundamentally in “spiritual terms,” and, with respect to issues of healing and health, to think primarily in terms of bodies. Green supports his claim for the holistic and social anthropology of the Bible by examining other Lukan texts, as well as many of the Pauline and Genesis texts that have been used in the past to warrant body-soul dualism. In addition, he criticizes the popular “word study” method of biblical interpretation that has allowed body-soul dualism to achieve a prominence in Christian thought far out of proportion to the scriptural evidence. Such an approach too easily lends itself to reading contemporary meanings into biblical terms.Green concludes that Christians today who embrace a monistic account of humanity place themselves centrally within a biblical understanding. At the same time, he says, biblical faith resists any suggestion that our humanity can be reduced to our physicality. Furthermore, an account of the human person that takes seriously the biblical record will deny that human nature can be understood “one person at a time,” and will focus on the human capacity and vocation for community with God, with the human family, and in relation to the cosmos.

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