Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
1901 ASV Translation:
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
There are no differences between the text of the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
March 28, 2004
- 1. Mary speaks of two results of God's dealings with her: one in her soul and the other in her spirit.
- 1. "And Mary said..." is the text's response to Elizabeth's loud proclamations.
- 2. The words "...my soul magnifies the Lord..." are a translation of the word "magnifies" (which means to increase the perception of a thing by making it more obvious, either by speech or vision) and "soul" (which has specific 'relational security' overtones that make it clear that Mary has taken a position in respect to the "Lord" that was not what it had been). She was a "bondservant", but now she is a "wife" in the sense that her soul has found its resting place from the torments of fears and alarms. In other words, her "Lord" is now really "her Lord" in the sense that she now trusts Him regarding the things that come into her experience by the reality of His "lordship". This is no small thing because one of the major issues of mankind's mental life is the struggle to grasp the significance of the events that come along into our experiences...for what we call "good" or "ill".
- a. The issue of just what Mary meant by "soul" is crucial to our understanding of what she is describing.
- b. There are problems with the definition of "soul".
- 1) Some have said that the "soul" is man's capacity to relate to the human realms (as in, 'the body is for relating to the physical realm, the soul is for relating to the human realm, and the spirit is for relating to God') but this seems to be patently denied by the mere fact that Mary's claim regarding her "soul" is directly related to the "Lord", not the human realms.
- 2) Some have claimed that the "soul" is the seat of human personality, but this also seems to be denied by Mary's statement "...my soul..." -- which indicates the "soul" is a "possession" of the person.
- 3) The major problem is that when "soul" is considered in the hundreds of references to be found in the Old and New Testaments, it is described in terms that often seem to overlap with similar descriptions regarding the "spirit". This can be enormously confusing.
- 4) The solution seems to be to begin at the beginning of divine revelation and search out the meaning from those earliest texts and then let that meaning carry our understanding into the multiplied hundreds of later texts.
- a) When we do this, one of the first things we note is that man "became" a living soul at the point when "man", as a body of dust, received the "breath of God" [Genesis 2:7].
- b) When we compare this statement to prior statements made in Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, and 30 we get the distinct impression that having a "soul", or being a "soul", has primarily to do with being able to function. In other words, a created being takes on the characteristics of a "soul" when that being obtains the capacity to "move", or "function".
- c) However, this capacity to "function" is not a capacity of "soul"; rather, the "breath of life" generates the capacity to function [James says "...the body without the spirit is dead..."] and the subsequent "identity" of the functioning body is that it is now a "soul". This is why sometimes the phrase is translated "...man became a living being...". But, herein is a confusing generalization -- that the functioning body is now a "soul" is treated as if it meant simply that the being was "alive", i.e. "functioning" -- that needs to be set aside.
- i. Functioning capacity arises from the union of "spirit" and "body".
- ii. Being a "living being" as a consequence of this union is two vague to be helpful.
- iii. The question is this: what did the imparting of the ability to function to a body of dust by placing a spirit within it actually accomplish? Whatever our answer, that accomplishment is called "soul". So, to answer, we must consider the context and the things that are transpiring in it. The first thing we must understand is that God is "creating". This means that God is making things that are not "God" and giving them existence as a physical creation that is also not "God". The second thing we need to grasp is that, by the act of creating, God is generating an ordered physical reality that is governed. Before God created any "souls", He had already created the habitation of those "souls"...the Day and Night, the atmospheric Heaven, the Land and Seas, and the Lights. In this creation of "habitat", God says that the Lights will be for "signs, seasons, days and years, and that they will "rule" the days and nights. Thus, the created habitat, with its design in place, is now ready for the creation of "souls". There is here an implication that "souls" will be 'functional within a context of ordered regulation'. Thus, when the 'Man' that is the body of dust [Genesis 2:7] received the 'spirit' from God so that he became functional within the context of an ordered habitat, his functionality under regulation made him a "soul". Man was first a physical creation: a body. Then man was given a "breath of life from God" and he began to possess a spirit. This spirit made him, as a body, "functional". But, this "functionality" was not the ability to do just anything: it was a functionality that was bounded by two things. The first 'boundary' was the limitations of the body of dust; and the second 'boundary' was the 'already-established-habitat' that already had specific regulation in place. Thus, "soul" has at least as much to do with taking up an identity as a 'subject' as it does with being a "living being" (whatever that phrase is supposed to mean). In other words, the Body Man was incapable, the Spirit in the Body Man made him capable, and the Consequent Spirit Body Man as placed into a regulated habitat made him a "soul". He was made subject to the ramifications of two things: what he did as a Spirit Body Man; and what would automatically happen to him when he did what he did in the context of a regulated habitat. It is my contention that the references to "soul" have a fundamental basis in seeing man as a 'subject' -- i.e. he will reap what he sows.
- iv. The next question is this: why does the Word of God refer to animate creatures that are not "man" as "souls"? The first four references to "soul" in Genesis are not references to man. The animate creatures of the sea in 1:20 are identified as "living souls". This is expanded in 1:21 by the statement that the great sea monsters were all "living souls". Then in 1:24 God said "let the earth bring forth living souls" as He moves from the seas to the dry ground. And, in 1:30 we are told that the plants are for the food of every creature that has in it a "living soul". The observation needs to be made that each of these references have to do with animate creatures within the context of their own particular habitat. In every case, if the creature is removed from the regulated habitat in which it was created, it will "die". Thus, our thesis that "soul" has to do with being subject to a regulated habitat remains undisturbed, but it does not answer the question as to why God would focus upon "soul" four times before He got to the point of saying that man "became a living soul". The text suggests this answer: it is imperative for those reading the record to grasp the fact that subjection to the created and regulated habitat was an established pattern that man's creation was not going to subvert. In the light of the post-fall reality of man's straining to be free from 'regulation' of any and all kinds, this is not a small issue. Man must know that he will not ever be God: he will always be 'subject' to God no matter how he rages against it. It is the essence of the record of man's fall that he attempted to refuse to be 'regulated'.
- 3. There is another thing that happened: Mary's "spirit rejoiced in God her Savior". The issue of the switch from "soul" to "spirit" is emphasized by the simultaneous switch from the present tense "is magnifying" to the aorist "hath rejoiced". The implication is that what is going on in the soul is durational (on-going) while what happened in her spirit was an "event". She seems to be claiming that her soul is continually being focused upon her "Lord" while her spirit had a momentary "spike" into "rejoicing" (the word is the same that is used of the reaction Zacharias will have at the birth of John and the verb form is typically used in the New Testament to refer to specific reaction to momentary events). It is interesting that Luke said of Jesus, in 10:21, that He "rejoiced in spirit".