Mark 8:37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

What, consequently, {will give} man trade goods of that awareness of his.

KJV : 

Mark 8:37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The word translated as "will give" is not a normal form of the Greek word for "give." It is similar to come forms of the word for "give" in the Greek tense that indicates something happening at some point in time. However, the key term here is "exchange," which is a noun, not a verb and an uncommon one. The word used means the thing traded in return for trying to get something else. The word translated as "soul" here and in the previous verse is translated as "life" and other terms in the NT. See this article for detail about this word and related words. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

τί (irreg sg neut nom) "What" is tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

γὰρ (partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question, it means "why" and "what."

δοῖ [unknown form, fut, act, ind assumed] "Will give" is didomi, which means "to give", "to grant", "to hand over", "appoint", "establish," and "to describe."

ἄνθρωπος ( noun sg masc nom ) "A man" is anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate.

ἀντάλλαγμα [uncommon](noun sg neut acc) "Exchange" is antallagma, which means "that which is given or taken in exchange." It has the sense of the second part of a barter, the counterpart of allagma, (ant-allagma) which is the primary thing that is traded and also means "the price" or "the reward" for a thing and  "change" and "vicissitude."

τῆς (article sg fem gen) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

ψυχῆς ( noun sg fem gen ) "Life" is psyche, which means "breath", "life", "self", "spirit," and "soul." It has the clear sense of the conscious self and is often translated as "life" in the Gospels. It is also used to describe "the spirit" of things. It is often translated as "soul."

αὐτοῦ; (adj sg masc gen) "His"  is autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord." In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there." -- The word translated as "him" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  The word means "the same" when used as an adjective. In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there." 

KJV Analysis: 

Or -- There is no Greek conjunction "or" in this verse.

what -- The word translated as "what" means primarily "anything" or "anyone," but Jesus often uses it to start a question so it means "who", "what", or even "why". 

untranslated -- The untranslated word introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why." However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

shall -- This word does not come from the Greek. In English, it indicates the future tense, but the verb here is not the future tense.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

man -- The Greek word for "man" means "man", "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men", "people", and "peoples". 

give -- The Greek here could be a form of the word give, but it is, it is in the tense that indicates something happening at some point in time. The verb translated as "given" means "to give", "to grant", "to hand over", "appoint", "establish," and "to describe." It is almost always translated as some form of "give."

in -- There is no Greek preposition here. This word is added

exchange -- "Exchange" is from an uncommon noun for Jesus means "that which is given or taken in exchange." It has the sense of the second part of a barter. It is the counterpart of the primary thing that is traded. It also means "the price" or "the reward" for a thing and  "change" and "vicissitude."

for -- The form of the following article and noun requires that addition of extra words in English to capture their meaning.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. 

his -- The untranslated word is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. This word comes after the word "soul" so "of his."

soul? --The word translated here as "soul" is psyche, a common word in Greek, familiar in English, meaning "life", "soul", "consciousness," and "a sense of self." Jesus uses it to specifically mean our identity in our worldly life, the role we play on earth, what we commonly call our "ego", not the soul that lives after death. See this article for detail about this word and related words. 

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

In the Mark 8:36, Jesus expressed the idea that it is our consciousness that gives life meaning.The first part of the trade is the soul. Here, Christ simple asks the question about the second part of that trade: what is more valuable than your sense of self, your self-awareness?

While the term used here for soul (psuchê) is often translated as "life" (including the verse that begins this discussion), it specifically means our consciousness. Christ says that our self awareness is not destroyed by death (Mat 10:28) like life is. We can lose our self-awareness to distraction. Something that Jesus describes elsewhere as "trashing" it (genna, usually translated as hell, means a specific trash heap in which children were once sacrificed to Baal) in the same way that we can trash our bodies and losing it.

It occurs to me that one of the dangers of an "entertainment" culture is that we seek to lose our sense of self, our consciousness.  We busy our mind with constant distraction (music, TV, etc.) so that we lose touch with our real  lives. At what point does seeking entertainment cross over into exchanging our consciousness for an alternative?

Front Page Date: 

Sep 1 2019