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Life and death

My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Psalm 6. 3-4

Psalm 6 is the first of the Penitential Psalms, of which there are 7. From earliest times, scholars have categorised Psalms according to their themes and uses. As their label suggests, the Penitential Psalms express the awareness and confession of sin. For that reason various denominations have featured them in their liturgies for this season of Lent, with its emphasis on self examination and reflection.

Among the striking features of Psalm 6 is its use of the word nephesh, which is sometimes translated as "soul" and sometimes as "life". But in the original Hebrew no such distinction is made because the ancient Israelites did not distinguish between body and soul; the two are inseparable. The result is that they had no conception of life after death - because the soul died with the body.

This is why the resurrection of Jesus marks such a dramatic turning point in the faith of those identifying with the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The Bible teaches that the resurrection of Jesus was not simply a spiritual "mirage" but that he was raised as a real person: soul and body. The original Hebrew stress on this present life is a helpful reminder of the significance of life as we know it. The resurrection of Jesus fuels our expectation of eternal life. Putting the two together reveals life in its fulness: the hope of glory which begins now!



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