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Dictionaries :: Flesh

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Easton's Bible Dictionary


in the Old Testament denotes (1) a particular part of the body of man and animals (Gen 2:21; 41:2; Psa 102:5, marg.); (2) the whole body (Psa 16:9); (3) all living things having flesh, and particularly humanity as a whole (Gen 6:12,13); (4) mutability and weakness (2Ch 32:8; Isa 31:3; Psa 78:39). As suggesting the idea of softness it is used in the expression "heart of flesh" (Eze 11:19). The expression "my flesh and bone" (Jdg 9:2; Isa 58:7) denotes relationship.

In the New Testament, besides these it is also used to denote the sinful element of human nature as opposed to the "Spirit" (Rom 6:19; Mat 16:17). Being "in the flesh" means being unrenewed (Rom 7:5; 8:8,9), and to live "according to the flesh" is to live and act sinfully (Rom 8:4,5,7,12).

This word also denotes the human nature of Christ (Jhn 1:14, "The Word was made flesh." Comp. also 1 Tim. 3:16; Rom 1:3).

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia


(basar, she'er):

1. Etymology:

Used in all senses of the word, the latter, however, most frequently in the sense of kin, family, relationship (compare sha'arah, "kins-woman," Le 18:17): Le 18:6; 25:49; Pr 11:17; Jer 51:35, and probably Ps 73:26. In all other places she'er means "flesh" = body (Pr 5:11) or = food (Ps 78:20,27; Mic 3:2,3). Tibhchah, is "(slaughtered) flesh for food," "butcher's meat" (1Sa 25:11). The word ?eshpar, found only in two parallel passages (2Sa 6:19 =1Ch 16:3), is of very uncertain meaning. The English versions translate it with "a good piece (portion) of flesh," the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) with "a piece of roast meat," others with "a portion of flesh" and "a measure of wine." It probably means simply "a measured portion." lachum, literally, "eaten," then food (compare lechem, "bread"), has been rarely specialized as flesh or meat (compare Arabic lachm, "meat," "flesh," so in Ze 1:17, where it stands in parallelism with "blood"). The Greek terms are sarx, and kreas, the latter always meaning "butcher's meat" (Ro 14:21; 1Co 8:13).

We can distinguish the following varieties of meaning in Biblical language:

2. Ordinary Sense:

In a physical sense, the chief substance of the animal body, whether used for food and sacrifice, or not; also the flesh of man (Ge 2:21; Ex 21:10; Isa 31:3; Eze 23:20; 1Co 15:39; Re 19:18,21).

3. The Body:

The whole body. This meaning is the extension of the preceding (pars pro toto). This is indicated by the Septuagint, where basar is often translated by the plural hai sarkes (Ge 40:19; Nu 12:12; Job 33:25), and occasionally by soma, i.e. "body" (Le 15:2; 1Ki 21:27). This meaning is also very clear in passages like the following: Ex 4:7; Le 17:14; Nu 8:7; 2Ki 4:34; Pr 5:11, where basar and she'er are combined; and Pr 14:30; Ec 12:12.

4. The Term "All Flesh":

Flesh, as the common term for living things, animals and men, especially the latter (Ge 6:13,17,19; Nu 16:22; Jer 12:12; Mr 13:20); often in the phrase "all flesh" (Ps 65:2; Isa 40:5,6; Jer 25:31; Eze 20:48; Joe 2:28; Lu 3:6).

5. As Opposed to the Spirit:

Flesh as opposed to the spirit, both of which were comprised in the preceding meaning (Ge 6:3; Ps 16:9; Lu 24:39, where "flesh and bones" are combined; Joh 6:63). Thus we find in Joh 1:14, "The Word became flesh"; 1Ti 3:16, "He who was manifested in the flesh"; 1 Joh 4:2, and all passages where the incarnation of Christ is spoken of. The word in this sense approaches the meaning of "earthly life," as in Php 1:22,24, "to live in the flesh," "to abide in the flesh"; compare Phm 1:16 and perhaps 2Co 5:16. Under this meaning we may enumerate expressions such as "arm of flesh" (2Ch 32:8; Jer 17:5), "eyes of flesh" (Job 10:4), etc. Frequently the distinction is made to emphasize the weakness or inferiority of the flesh, as opposed to the superiority of the spirit (Isa 31:3; Mt 26:41; Mr 14:38; Ro 6:19). In this connection we mention also the expression "flesh and blood," a phrase borrowed from rabbinical writings and phraseology (see also Sirach 14:18, "the generation of flesh and blood," and 17:31, "man whose desire is flesh and blood" the King James Version). The expression does not convey, as some have supposed, the idea of inherent sinfulness of the flesh (a doctrine borrowed by Gnostic teachers from oriental sources), but merely the idea of ignorance and frailty in comparison with the possibilities of spiritual nature. The capabilities of our earthly constitution do not suffice to reveal unto us heavenly truths; these must always come to us from above.

So Peter's first recognition of the Divine sonship of Jesus did not proceed from a logical conviction based upon outward facts acting upon his mind, but was based upon a revelation from God vouchsafed to his inner consciousness. Christ says therefore to him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar- Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17). Similarly the kingdom of God, being a realm of perfect spiritual submission to God, cannot be inherited by flesh and blood (1Co 15:50), nor was the richly endowed mind a competent tribunal to which Paul could refer his heaven-wrought conviction of his great salvation and the high calling to be a witness and apostle of Christ, so he did well that he "conferred not with flesh and blood" (Ga 1:16). That "flesh and blood" does not imply a sense of inherent sinfulness is moreover shown in all passages where Christ is declared a partaker of such nature (Eph 6:12; Heb 2:14, where, however, we find in the original text the inverted phrase "blood and flesh").

6. Applied to the Carnal Nature:

Flesh in the sense of carnal nature (sarkikos, "carnal"; the King James Version uses sarkinos in Ro 7:14). Human nature, being inferior to the spiritual, is to be in subjection to it. If man refuses to be under this higher law, and as a free agent permits the lower nature to gain an ascendancy over the spirit, the "flesh" becomes a revolting force (Ge 6:3,12; Joh 1:13; Ro 7:14; 1Co 3:1,3; Col 2:18; 1 Joh 2:16). Thus, the fleshly or carnal mind, i.e. a mind in subjection to carnal nature, is opposed to the Divine spirit, who alone is a sufficient corrective, Christ having secured for us the power of overcoming (Ro 8:3), if we manifest a deep desire and an earnest endeavor to overcome (Ga 5:17,18).

7. In the Sense of Relationship:

Flesh in the sense of relationship, tribal connection, kith and kin. For examples, see what has been said above on Hebrew she'er. The following passages are a few of those in which basar is used: Ge 2:24; 37:27; Job 2:5; compare the New Testament passages: Mt 19:5,6; Ro 1:3; 9:3,5,8. The expressions "bone" and "flesh" are found in combination (Ge 2:23; 29:14; Jud 9:2; 2Sa 5:1; 19:12,13; Eph 5:31, the latter in some manuscripts only).

8. Other Meanings:

Some other subdivisions of meanings might be added, for example where "flesh" takes almost the place of "person," as in Col 2:1: "as many as have not seen my face in the flesh," i.e. have not known me personally, or 2:5, "absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit," etc.

Written by H. L. E. Luering

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
1 Strong's Number: g4561 Greek: sarx


has a wider range of meaning in the NT than in the OT. Its uses in the NT may be analyzed as follows:

(a) "the substance of the body," whether of beasts or of men, 1Cr 15:39;

(b) "the human body," 2Cr 10:3; Gal 2:20; Phl 1:22;

(c) by synecdoche, of "mankind," in the totality of all that is essential to manhood, i.e., spirit, soul, and body, Mat 24:22; Jhn 1:13; Rom 3:20;

(d) by synecdoche, of "the holy humanity" of the Lord Jesus, in the totality of all that is essential to manhood, i.e., spirit, soul, and body, Jhn 1:14; 1Ti 3:16; 1Jo 4:2; 2Jo 1:7; in Hbr 5:7, "the days of His flesh," i.e., His past life on earth in distinction from His present life in resurrection;

(e) by synecdoche, for "the complete person," Jhn 6:51-57; 2Cr 7:5; Jam 5:3;

(f) "the weaker element in human nature," Mat 26:41; Rom 6:19; 8:3;

(g) "the unregenerate state of men," Rom 7:5; 8:8, 9;

(h) "the seat of sin in man" (but this is not the same thing as in the body), 2Pe 2:18; 1Jo 2:16;

(i) "the lower and temporary element in the Christian," Gal 3:3; 6:8, and in religious ordinances, Hbr 9:10;

(j) "the natural attainments of men," 1Cr 1:26; 2Cr 10:2, 3;

(k) "circumstances," 1Cr 7:28; the externals of life, 2Cr 7:1; Eph 6:5; Hbr 9:13;

(l) by metonymy, "the outward and seeming," as contrasted with the spirit, the inward and real, Jhn 6:63; 2Cr 5:16;

(m) "natural relationship, consanguine," 1Cr 10:18; Gal 4:23, or marital, Mat 19:5." *
[* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 111,112.]

In Mat 26:41; Rom 8:4, 13; 1Cr 5:5; Gal 6:8 (not the Holy Spirit, here), "flesh" is contrasted with spirit; in Rom 2:28, 29, with heart and spirit; in Rom 7:25, with the mind; cp. Col 2:1, 5. It is coupled with the mind in Eph 2:3, and with the spirit in 2Cr 7:1.

Note: In Col 2:18 the noun sarx is used in the phrase "(by his) fleshly mind," lit., "by the mind of his flesh" [see (h) above], whereas the mind ought to be dominated by the Spirit.

2 Strong's Number: g2907 Greek: kreas


denotes "flesh" in the sense of meat. It is used in the plural in Rom 14:21; 1Cr 8:13.

Smith's Bible Dictionary




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