From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

The range of meanings borne by this term in the Bible starts from the literal use denoting the material of which the human body is chiefly constructed, but quickly takes on other senses derived from the writers' understanding of the created order and its relation to God. Careful attention to context is needed to catch the precise nuance in any given case.

The Old Testament. Fundamental Data . The Old Testament employs two terms to denote flesh: basar [   Genesis 2:21;  Leviticus 13:10-11;  Ezekiel 37:6;  Daniel 1:15;  Micah 3:3 ) and animals alike ( Exodus 21:28 ), including animal flesh used for food ( Genesis 9:2-4 ) and in sacrifice ( 1 Samuel 2:13;  Isaiah 65:4;  Hosea 8:13 ).

Extended Senses . What one individual is all kindred individuals will be. Flesh thus comes to denote blood-relationship ( Genesis 2:23-24;  Leviticus 18:6 ), and beyond that, kinship to all humans, "all flesh" ( Psalm 65:2;  Isaiah 40:5;  49:26 ). Yet another extension of significance is the use of flesh in reference to the human body as a whole ( Leviticus 13:13;  16:4;  2 Kings 6:30 ). While in such uses it can denote a corpse ( 1 Samuel 17:44;  2 Kings 9:36 ), it more commonly denotes the whole life of the individual viewed from an external perspective so that safety of the flesh is life ( Psalm 16:9;  Proverbs 4:20-22 ) and its endangerment a threat to life ( Job 13:14;  Proverbs 5:11 ).

Transferred Senses . It is an easy step from flesh as denoting life viewed externally to life viewed more comprehensively. "Flesh" is thus used interchangeably with "soul" and "body, " and credited with the emotions and responses of the whole person ( Psalm 63:1;  84:2 ). In some instances it carries the sense of self ( Leviticus 13:8 ). In short, the human creature is flesh in essence. Implicit in this is the idea that humans do not have flesh, but are flesh. If at times the outer being ("flesh") is distinguished from the inner ("heart" or "soul"), this is not because one is seen as more important than the other, but because both are indispensable for the existence of a whole person. In the Hebrew understanding of a human being there is nothing that is merely physical. As constituted essentially of flesh the human creature stands over against God. By virtue of being God's creation flesh is good, like all other parts of God's creation (  Job 10:8-12;  Psalm 119:73;  Isaiah 45:12 ). At the same time, flesh as dependent on God, and in particular God's spirit ( Genesis 2:7;  6:3;  Isaiah 31:3 ), is frail and transitory ( Psalm 78:39;  Isaiah 40:6 ). While at no time is flesh said to be sinful, it is implied that, by virtue of its frailty, flesh is exposed to the onslaught of sin ( Genesis 6:3,5,13 ). It is safe to say that all of the New Testament uses of flesh are made from these Old Testament building blocks.

The New Testament. Terms . The Greek word used most commonly in the New Testament to render the Hebrew word for flesh ( basar [בָּשָׂר]) is sarx [Σάρξ], which occurs 147 times. Of this total, 91 are found in the Pauline writings, mostly in Romans and Galatians. While the New Testament appropriates the Old Testament foundation, it also builds on it, some writers giving the term their own distinctive twist. From this perspective it is possible to group the New Testament writings into three categories.

Writings Employing Chiefly the Old Testament Usages . In the Synoptic Gospels "flesh" is used only four times (aside from Old Testament quotations in  Mark 10:8; and  Luke 3:6 ). In  Matthew 16:17 "flesh and blood" stands for human beings in their wholeness, but especially in their mental and religious aspect. At the same time they stand over against God, the true revealer.   Mark 13:20 is a typical use of the Old Testament expression "all flesh."   Mark 14:38 has a dualistic ring, but need not do more than contrast the human and the divine as in   Isaiah 31:3 . In  Luke 24:39 the "flesh and bones" of the risen Jesus contrast with the immateriality of ghosts, implying a positive estimate of materiality that again harmonizes with the Old Testament. In Acts there are 3 instances of "flesh" (2:17,26, 31). The first two are Old Testament quotations. In 2:31 "flesh" clearly refers to Jesus in his wholeness, but with the important idea added that in his wholeness he survived death. The Epistle to the Hebrews likewise reflects Old Testament usage. Of its six examples, three are literal in meaning (2:14; 5:7; 12:9). The first two, however, use the term to make the significant point that it was "flesh"—true human naturethat Christ assumed in his incarnation. In 9:10,13 the rituals of the old order affect only external purification, leaving the conscience untouched. Jesus, through the spilling of his blood, opened the way into God's presence through the veil, which is interpreted as his flesh (10:20). Just as it was only when the curtain was torn open that access to the Most Holy Place was possible, so it was only by the tearing of Jesus' flesh in death that access to God's presence was made permanently available. Here, then, flesh stands for Jesus' life in its wholeness: incarnate and surrendered in death. The remaining concentration of instances of flesh in this grouping is found in the First Epistle of Peter, where there are examples (aside from the Old Testament quotation in 1:24). First Peter 3:21 echoes the same contrast found in   Hebrews 9 between the cleansing of the flesh and the conscience. The remaining examples (3:18; 4:1,2, 6) contrast death in the flesh with life in the Spirit in reference both to Christ and the believer. They are best taken to refer to the death and resurrection of Christ, which is reproduced in the life of the believer, bringing death to sin and resurrection to new life. The contrast throughout, then, is between "flesh" understood as earthly existence and "spirit" as life in the Spirit. The adjectival form sarkikos [Σαρκικός], "fleshly, " occurs at 2:11 and is probably best understood within the same frame of reference as the examples of the noun.

The Johannine Writings . In the Gospel of John the term occurs thirteen times, seven in 6:51-63. The strictly literal sense is not found, but the extended sense, "all flesh, " occurs at 17:2. In other examples the idea present is that of limitation, in which the flesh or the sphere of the flesh is contrasted with the divine sphere (1:13; 3:6). The flesh is not evil; it simply is not the sphere of salvation, which rather is that of the Spirit. Both of these uses are in line with Old Testament thought. Cognate with these uses, though advancing beyond them, are passages in which flesh denotes mere appearance rather than inner reality. To measure Jesus thus, rather than by the insight of faith, is to be blind to his identity (6:63; 8:15). The obverse of this is that flesh may indeed be the medium of the revelation of God himself. It is against the background of the affirmation of the incarnation that the six examples in 6:51-58 are to be read. The Incarnate One is he who has come from above from whence alone life can come. Therefore to feed on his flesh and blood is to share in his life (6:57-58). In the Epistles of John the accent falls on confession of Christ's coming in the flesh as decisive for salvation ( 1 John 4:2;  2 John 7 ). "The desire of the flesh" ( 1 John 2:16 ) is condemned not because it refers to the material realm, but because it refers to what is earthly and therefore transitory (v. 17).

The Pauline Writings . The uniqueness of these in this regard is sufficiently indicated in that approximately two-thirds of the New Testament occurrences of flesh are found in them, almost half of these in Romans and Galatians. They may be considered in two broad categories.

Uses Akin to the Old Testament . Most of the uses found in the Old Testament are also present in the Pauline literature. There flesh can denote the physical flesh ( 1 Corinthians 15:39;  2 Corinthians 12:7 ) and, by extension, the human body ( Galatians 4:13-14 ), humanity as a whole ( Romans 3:20;  Galatians 2:16 ), human descent ( Romans 1:3;  9:3 ), and human relationships ( Romans 4:1;  9:3-5 ). By this point the term acquires the transferred sense of that which is frail and provisional ( 1 Corinthians 1:26;  Galatians 1:16;  Philippians 3:3 ). As transient, it is not the sphere of salvation, which is rather the sphere of the Spirit. This does not imply that flesh is evil per se: life "in the flesh" is normal human existence ( Galatians 2:20 ), but it is still merely human. This picture accords generally with that of the Old Testament.

Distinctive Pauline Uses . The uniquely Pauline understanding begins from the idea that flesh, as weak, becomes the gateway to sin ( Romans 8:3;  2 Corinthians 12:7;  Galatians 4:14 ). Still more, as the arena in which sin entrenches itself it becomes the instrument of sin ( Romans 6:12-14 ) to the extent that it becomes sinful itself ( Romans 8:3 ), and so an occupying alien power ( Romans 7:17-20 ). The accompanying war Paul describes as a struggle between flesh and Spirit ( Romans 8:5-17;  Galatians 5:16-24 ). The seriousness of the struggle is indicated by the fact that the mind-set of the flesh leads to death ( Romans 8:6 ), and that those living in the flesh cannot please God ( Romans 8:8 ). Accounts of this conflict are most vivid in contexts where Paul is describing the demands of the law on the one hand ( Romans 7:4,7-11;  Galatians 5:2-5 ), and its impotence to enable the believer to meet them on the other ( Romans 8:3;  Galatians 3:10-12 ). Flesh, however, is not intrinsically sinful, and may therefore be the scene of sin's defeat. This it became through Christ's coming and crucifixion in the flesh ( Romans 8:3 ). Those who identify themselves with him by faith likewise crucify the flesh ( Galatians 2:20;  5:24 ) so being emancipated from the power of sin in the flesh ( Romans 6:14;  8:9 ). This reading appears to be confirmed by the Pauline use of the largely parallel term "body." The "body of sin" was done away with at the cross ( Romans 6:6 ). The "body of our humiliation" ( Philippians 3:21 ), which is weak and still subject to the attack of sin, is the body of the interim. The "body of glory" ( Philippians 3:21 ), transformed and imperishable ( 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,50-53 ), is the body of the age to come.

A. R. G. Deasley

See also Body; Sin

Bibliography . J. Christiaan Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought  ; R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament  ; R. Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms  ; A. Sand, EDNT , 3:230-33; H. Seebass and A. C. Thiselton, NIDNTT , 1:671-82; C. Ryder Smith: The Bible Doctrine of Man .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

(σάρξ, κρέας)

Of the two words rendered ‘flesh’ in the English Versionof the NT, κρέας is found only twice ( Romans 14:21,  1 Corinthians 8:13), and in both cases applies to the flesh of slaughtered animals eaten as food. σάρξ occurs very frequently and in various significations, of which the following are the most important.

1. Its most literal and primary meaning is the soft tissues of the living body , whether of men or beasts ( 1 Corinthians 15:39,  Revelation 19:18), as distinguished from both the blood ( 1 Corinthians 15:50) and the bones ( Ephesians 5:30 TR [Note: Textus Receptus, Received Text.]; cf.  Luke 24:39).

2. As the chief constituent of the body, and that which gives it its visible form, ‘flesh’ frequently indicates the whole body ( Galatians 4:13 f.), which it designates, however, not as an organism (σῶμα,  1 Corinthians 12:12), but with reference to its characteristic material substance ( 2 Corinthians 12:7).

3. It is further employed, just as in the OT ( Genesis 29:14;  Genesis 37:27), to denote relationship due to natural origin through the physical fact of generation. Thus St. Paul describes Jesus Christ as ‘born of the seed of David according to the flesh’ ( Romans 1:3), and refers to the Jewish people as ‘my kinsmen according to the flesh’ ( Romans 9:3), or even as ‘my flesh’ ( Romans 11:14). Similarly be calls Abraham ‘our forefather according to the flesh’ ( Romans 4:1), and the author of Heb. characterizes natural fathers as ‘the fathers of our flesh’ in contrast with God as ‘the Father of spirits’ ( Hebrews 12:9).

4. Again σάρξ is used, in the same way as σῶμα, to designate the lower part of human nature in contrast with the higher part, without any depreciation of the corporeal element being thereby intended. Thus ‘flesh’ is combined or contrasted with ‘spirit’ ( Romans 2:28-29,  1 Corinthians 5:5,  1 Peter 3:18), as ‘body’ is with ‘soul’ ( Matthew 10:28) or ‘spirit’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:20,  James 2:26), apart from any idea of disparagement, and only by way of indicating the fact that man is a unity of matter and spirit, of a lower part which links him to the outer world of Nature and a higher part which brings him into relation with God, both of them being essential to the completeness of his personality ( 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,  2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

5. In many instances ‘flesh’ assumes a broader meaning, being employed to denote human nature generally , usually, however, with a suggestion of its creaturely frailty and weakness in contrast with God Himself, or His Spirit, or His word. ‘All flesh’ ( Acts 2:17,  1 Peter 1:24) is equivalent to all mankind; ‘no flesh’ ( Romans 3:20,  1 Corinthians 1:29,  Galatians 2:16) has the force of ‘no mortal man.’ Similar to this is the use of the fuller expression ‘flesh and blood,’ as when St. Paul says that he ‘conferred not with flesh and blood’ ( Galatians 1:16), and that ‘our wrestling is not against flesh and blood’ ( Ephesians 6:12). That this use of ‘flesh,’ although pointing to human weakness, is free from any idea of moral taint, is sufficiently shown by the fact that it is employed to describe the human nature of Christ Himself ( John 1:14,  Romans 1:3;  Romans 9:5,  1 Timothy 3:16,  Hebrews 2:14) by writers who are absolutely convinced of His sinlessness ( John 8:46,  1 John 3:5,  2 Corinthians 5:21,  Hebrews 4:15;  Hebrews 7:26).

6. In Heb. we have a special use of ‘flesh’ to designate earthly existence -a use which must be distinguished from those that have been already dealt with. ‘In the days of his flesh’ ( Hebrews 5:7) does not mean in the days when He possessed a body, or in the days when He bore our human nature; for the author firmly believes in the continued and complete humanity of our heavenly High Priest ( Hebrews 4:14 f.). It evidently means in the days when He lived upon earth as a man amongst men. Similarly, ‘through The veil, that is to say, his flesh’ ( Hebrews 10:20) points to His life in those same ‘days of his flesh’-the whole period of His suffering humanity; and when the writer describes the rites of the OT Law as ‘ordinances of flesh’ (δικαιώματα σαρκός, English Version‘carnal ordinances,’  Hebrews 9:10) and contrasts these with the blood of Christ in respect of atoning efficacy, the antithesis in his mind, as the context shows, is not so much between the material and the spiritual as between the earthly and the heavenly, the passing and the permanent, the temporal and the eternal. In the same way he draws a contrast between ‘the law of a carnal (σαρκίνης) commandment’ and ‘the power of an endless life’ ( Hebrews 7:16).

7. In addition to the foregoing, which may all be characterized as natural meanings of ‘flesh,’ we find the word used by St. Paul in a distinctly theological and ethical sense to denote the seat and instrument of sin in fallen humanity , as opposed to the ‘mind,’ or higher nature of man, which accepts the Law of God ( Romans 7:25), and the ‘spirit,’ which is the principle of life in the regenerate ( Romans 8:4 ff.,  Galatians 5:16 ff;  Galatians 6:8). In precisely the same way he employs the adj. ‘fleshly’ or ‘carnal’ in contrast with ‘spiritual’ ( Romans 7:14,  1 Corinthians 3:1, etc.; see, further, Carnal). Pfleiderer and others have sought to explain this peculiar usage by supposing that in the Pauline anthropology there was a fundamental dualism between ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit,’ and that the Apostle saw in the physical or sensuous part of man the very source and principle of sin. Such a view, however, is contrary to St. Paul’s thoroughly Hebrew conception of the unity of body and soul in the human personality (see 4), and is expressly negatived by his teaching on such subjects as the sinlessness of Jesus ( 2 Corinthians 5:21) and the sanctification of the body ( 1 Corinthians 6:15;  1 Corinthians 6:19), and by his application of the epithet ‘carnal’ ( 1 Corinthians 3:3) and of the expression ‘works of the flesh’ ( Galatians 5:19 ff.) to sins in which any sensuous or physical elements are entirely wanting. The most probable explanation of this Pauline antithesis of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ is that it amounts to a contrast between the natural and the supernatural. Sin in St. Paul’s presentation of it comes in the case of fallen man through natural inheritance-all mankind descending from Adam ‘by ordinary generation’-and is therefore characterized as ‘flesh’; while the life of holiness, as a gift of the Divine Spirit, is described as ‘spirit’ with reference to its source.

Literature.-H. Cremer, Lex. of NT Greek 3 Edinburgh, 1880, s.v. σάρξ, and article‘Fleisch’ in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3; H. H. Wendt, Die Begriffe Fleisch u. Geist im bibl. Sprachgebrauch , Gotha, 1878; J. Laidlaw, Bible Doct. of Man , new ed., Edinburgh, 1895, p. 109ff., and Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 14; W. P. Dickson, St. Paul’s Use of the Terms ‘Flesh’ and ‘Spirit ,’ Glasgow, 1883; A. B. Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity , Edinburgh, 1894, ch. xiv.

J. C. Lambert.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

basar se'er sarx

Literal use It often refers to the muscular part of the body, both of humans ( Genesis 2:21;  Job 10:11 ) and animals ( Deuteronomy 14:8;  1 Corinthians 15:39 ). Even dead, a person is still called flesh ( 1 Samuel 17:44 ) until the body returns as dust to the earth ( Ecclesiastes 12:7 ).

Food and Sacrifice The flesh of animals is used for food by humans ( Genesis 9:3-4; 1Samuel 2:13, 1 Samuel 2:15 ), while human flesh may be eaten by animals ( Genesis 40:19;  Revelation 19:17-18 ). The flesh of animals is used for sacrifice ( Exodus 29:31 ).

Body The term “flesh” can denote the human body in its entirety—the part referring to the whole ( Judges 8:7;  1 Kings 21:27;  Ephesians 5:29;  Hebrews 9:13 ). It can also denote the opposite where the whole refers to the part, especially when referring to the sexual organs such as the circumcision of the flesh ( Genesis 17:14;  Galatians 6:13;  Ephesians 2:11;  Philippians 3:3;  Colossians 2:13; compare  Leviticus 15:2-3 ,  Leviticus 15:7 ,  Leviticus 15:19 ). It may signify a comprehensive sense whereby “all flesh” refers to all of humanity ( Joel 2:28;  Matthew 24:22 ) or including both the human and animal creation ( Genesis 6:13 ,  Genesis 6:17;  Genesis 7:16;  Leviticus 17:14 ).

Relationship Adam said of Eve's creation that she is the “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” ( Genesis 2:23; compare  Genesis 29:14 ) denoting a kinship between the two, thus Adam and Eve were regarded as one flesh ( Genesis 2:24;  Matthew 19:5;  1 Corinthians 6:16;  Ephesians 5:31 ). Jesus was related to David with reference to the flesh ( Romans 1:3 ).

Whole Person The term may denote the entire person and not just the physical aspects. It can refer to the outward expression of a person paralleling the inward action of the person as seen in  Psalm 63:1 where the “soul thirsts” and the “flesh faints” NRSV and in   Psalm 84:2 where the “heart and flesh sing for joy” (NRSV). Peter, quoting from   Psalm 16:1 , paralleled the flesh with the heart and soul ( Acts 2:26-27 ). Paul spoke of his sufferings for Christ as his flesh suffering ( Colossians 1:24 ).

Hence, the biblical view asserts a dualism of man but not in the Greek sense. Greek philosophers saw the soul, heart, or mind distinguished from and superior to the flesh. The biblical view sees the inward and outward aspects of man very closely tied together. Hence, the psalmist ( Psalm 73:26 ) referring to his “flesh and heart” sees the person in its entirety. Paul's reference to the flesh denotes all of humanity when he stated that no flesh is justified by the works of the law ( Romans 3:20;  Galatians 2:16 ).

Theological Significance Biblically, the flesh is viewed as the created and natural humanity. It is not automatically sinful, but it is weak, limited, and temporal. Such qualities make it vulnerable to sin. Adam and Eve were created as fleshly human beings. They succumbed to the temptations of Satan, who promised them that they would be like God, knowing good and evil ( Genesis 3:5 ). Because of the limited perspective and the weakness of the flesh, Adam and Eve accepted Satan's lie. The weakness of the flesh is seen in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus found the disciples sleeping. He enjoined them to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation for “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” ( Matthew 26:41;  Mark 14:38 ). Here, the flesh was not sinful, but rather limited and weak due to fatigue, and easy to succumb to sleep.

In its weakness and limitation, the flesh tends to yield to the temptation of what seems good naturally. Since sin promises pleasure and fulfillment, the natural propensity is for the flesh to yield to sin's promises. Thus, doing what comes naturally is yielding to sin's will. This is contrary to God's will and commands. Those who follow the impulses of the flesh are governed by the flesh and are characterized as those who live “after the flesh” ( Romans 8:5 ). They are those who yield to sinful passions and produce works contrary to God and His law ( Galatians 5:16-17 ,  Galatians 5:19-21 ,Galatians 5:19-21, 5:23-24; compare  1 John 2:16;  1 Peter 4:2;  2 Peter 2:10 ). Being enslaved to the desires of the flesh ( Ephesians 2:3 ), they have the mindset of the flesh ( Romans 8:5-7 ). Hence, the natural person controlled by the flesh does not and cannot submit to God's will or please God ( Romans 8:7-8;  1 Corinthians 2:14; compare  Genesis 6:13 ). The limitation of the flesh appears clearly in the human inability to discern God's revelation of Himself ( Matthew 16:17;  Galatians 1:13-24 ). Only death succeeds in convincing those who live according to the flesh of the fleeting, temporal nature of the flesh ( Romans 6:23;  Romans 8:6 ,Romans 8:6, 8:13 ). Flesh-driven people are the children of wrath ( Ephesians 2:3 ). They cannot inherit the kingdom of God ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-10;  Galatians 5:19-21;  Ephesians 2:11-12;  Ephesians 5:5 ).

Flesh is weak but not naturally sinful. Christ came in the “likeness” of sinful flesh ( John 1:14;  Romans 8:3;  Hebrews 4:15 ) to redeem those who are in sinful flesh. That is, Christ became a flesh and blood person but did not give in to the desires of the flesh. Instead, perfect in life and death, He died to provide salvation for all other persons, since they do give in to fleshly desires. Those who trust in God's provision in Christ remain physically “in” the flesh but do not live “according to” the flesh ( Galatians 2:20;  Philippians 1:22-24 ). They are characterized as those who are not in the flesh but in the Spirit ( Romans 8:9 ) because they are governed not by the flesh but by the Spirit ( Romans 8:6 ,  Romans 8:11-17 ). They are those who are led by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh, not the flesh itself ( Romans 8:13;  Galatians 5:24 ). Believers must be careful not to be tricked into thinking that they have any obligation to the flesh and its sinful, selfish desires ( Romans 8:12-13;  Galatians 3:3 ). The flesh serves as a base of operation for sin ( Romans 7:8 ,  Romans 7:11 ) and thus enslaves a person to sin ( Romans 6:15-23;  Romans 7:25 ). This does not imply that flesh is automatically sinful, but its history in Adam shows the weakness of flesh and its strong tendency to yield to the commands of sin.

In conclusion, the term “flesh” can be a neutral term referring to created humans and animals who are limited and weak, or it can refer to humans controlled by sin and its passions. See Anthropology; Body .

Harold W. Hoehner

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Since flesh is an obvious feature of the human body, the word ‘flesh’ developed a figurative usage in relation to human life. This usage was not limited to the physical existence of human beings, for the life of human beings within the physical world is inseparable from their moral imperfection. Inevitably, ‘flesh’ developed new meanings in relation to certain spiritual characteristics that are shared by all people.

Physical life

Among the expressions that use ‘flesh’ in relation to the physical nature of human beings are ‘flesh and blood’, ‘flesh and bone’ and ‘flesh and heart’. These may mean no more than body, person, human life, the human race, or something similar ( Genesis 6:12;  Job 2:5;  Psalms 73:26;  Psalms 78:39;  Luke 3:6;  John 1:14;  John 8:15;  2 Corinthians 5:16;  2 Corinthians 12:7;  Galatians 1:16;  Philippians 1:22-24;  Hebrews 2:14;  1 Peter 1:24). A man and a woman united in marriage become one flesh, and people related to each other share the same flesh ( Genesis 2:24;  Genesis 29:14;  Romans 1:3;  Romans 4:1;  Romans 9:3; see also Body ).

On account of the usage of ‘flesh’ in reference to the physical aspect of human life, the word is sometimes contrasted with ‘spirit’, that inner and higher aspect of human life ( Matthew 26:41;  2 Corinthians 7:1;  1 Peter 3:18; see Spirit ). This physical life, however, has been corrupted through sin, and this gives ‘flesh’ its particular meaning in the writings of Paul. There it refers to sinful human nature ( Romans 8:5;  Ephesians 2:3).

Sinful human nature

The nature of men and women everywhere is infected by sin from birth. Adam, as the father and head of the human race, rebelled against God and corrupted human nature from the beginning. All human beings, because of their union with Adam, are born with this sinful nature ( Psalms 51:5;  Romans 5:12;  Romans 7:18; see Sin ).

Human nature (the flesh) is directed and controlled by sin, and rebels against God’s law. It is incapable of being reformed and produces all the evil in the world. Like a deadly disease it cannot be cured, and leads only to moral decay and death ( Romans 7:5;  Romans 8:6-8;  Galatians 6:8;  Colossians 2:23). The evil results of the flesh affect every part of human life and activity ( Galatians 5:19-21; cf.  Matthew 7:18).

Although Jesus was born with a human nature, his nature was not affected by sin. By living in complete obedience to God’s law, dying for sin and rising victoriously from the dead, he condemned the flesh, so that people might no longer be enslaved by it ( Romans 8:3-4;  Hebrews 2:14-15;  Hebrews 4:15).

When sinners repent and trust in the saving power of Christ, they receive new life and freedom through the Spirit of Christ who comes to dwell within them. But the flesh is not destroyed. Believers still lives in a world where everything, even their own nature, suffers from the effects of sin. The original sinful human nature remains with them till the end of their present earthly existence, but through Christ they are now free from its power ( Romans 6:14;  Romans 6:18;  Romans 8:1-2;  Romans 8:10-12; see Justification ).

Therefore, there is a continual conflict in the lives of believers, the flesh fighting against the Spirit ( Romans 8:5;  Galatians 5:17). Before they trusted in Christ and became indwelt by the Spirit, the flesh had ruled them as a cruel master. If, now that they are believers, they readily give in to the flesh, it will soon bring them under its power again. In view of this, they must ensure that their behaviour is controlled and directed by the Spirit ( Romans 6:12-18;  Romans 8:4;  Romans 8:13;  1 Corinthians 3:1-3;  Galatians 5:16). They have no obligation to the flesh; they owe it nothing. They must neither trust in it nor give it any opportunity to satisfy its evil desires ( Romans 8:12;  Romans 13:14;  Philippians 3:3).

Christ has condemned the old nature by his crucifixion ( Romans 6:6;  Romans 8:3). Those who belong to Christ must accept this by faith and show it to be true by living according to the new nature ( Romans 6:7-14;  Galatians 2:20;  Galatians 5:24;  Ephesians 4:22;  Ephesians 4:24;  Colossians 2:11;  Colossians 3:5-10; see Regeneration ; Sanctification ).

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Flesh . This word is used in Scripture to express: (1) the substance of the animal body , whether of man or of beast (  Genesis 41:2 ). (2) The whole human body (  Exodus 4:7 ). (3) Relationship by birth or marriage (  Genesis 2:24;   Genesis 37:27 ,   Nehemiah 5:5 ), for which also the further phrase ‘flesh and bones’ is found (  Genesis 2:23 ,   2 Samuel 19:12 ) a phrase which is also used to describe the reality of the humanity of Jesus after His resurrection (  Luke 24:39 ). (4) The finite earthly creature , in contrast with God and His Spirit (  Isaiah 31:3 ,   Genesis 7:21 ) a use of the term to emphasize man’s frailty and dependence on God (  Job 34:15 ,   Isaiah 40:6-8 ), but without any moral disparagement, as it is applied to the whole human race without reference to its sin (  Joel 2:28 ), and to the human nature of Christ (  John 1:14 ,   Romans 1:3 ). We have the equivalent phrase ‘flesh and blood’ in the NT (  1 Corinthians 15:50 ||‘corruption,’   Hebrews 2:14 = human nature [cf.   John 1:13 ]). (5) One element of the nature of man in combination or contrast with the others, such as ‘soul’ (  Psalms 63:1 ), ‘heart’ (  Psalms 73:26 ), ‘soul’ and ‘heart’ (  Psalms 84:2 ); while it is the lower element, it is recognized even in man’s relation to God (  Job 19:26 ). In the NT ‘flesh’ is, without suggestion or moral defect, either combined or contrasted with ‘spirit’ (  Matthew 26:41 ,   1 Corinthians 5:5 ). As a necessary element in human nature under present conditions, it is in no way condemned (  Galatians 2:20 ); the duality is ascribed to Christ Himself (  Romans 1:3-4 ); and sin is represented as infecting the other elements in man as well as the body (  2 Corinthians 7:1 ,   Ephesians 2:3 ). (6) The seat and vehicle of sin , as contrasted with the ‘mind’ which approves and serves the law of God (  Romans 7:25 ), and the ‘spirit’ which is the gift of God (  Romans 8:4 ff.,   Galatians 5:16 . A similar use is made of the adjective ‘fleshly’ or ‘carnal,’ in contrast with ‘spiritual’ (  Romans 7:14 ,   1 Corinthians 3:1 ,   Colossians 2:18 ). It is to be noted, however, that in this use the ‘flesh’ is not conceived as exclusively material substance, for among the works of the flesh are included idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strifes, jealousies , etc. (  Galatians 5:20 ). The explanation usually given of this use of the term ‘flesh’ is that, man having fallen, sin comes by natural inheritance (flesh), whereas goodness is given by supernatural grace (spirit). Whatever be the explanation of the Pauline use, that the term gets a distinctly ethical content, and is used with reference to sin as dwelling in human nature, cannot be denied.

Pfleiderer endeavours to show how from the Hebraic use of the term for creaturely weakness , St. Paul passed to the Hellenic use for moral defect . His conclusion is that ‘from the opposition of physically different substances results the dualism of antagonistic moral principles’ ( Paulinism , i. p. 54). The usual explanation of the depravity of human nature is rejected ‘there seems to be no allusion,’ says Usteri, quoted by Pfleiderer (p. 61), ‘in the writings of Paul to a change in the moral nature of man, or of his bodily constitution in consequence of the fall, i.e. of the first actual sin of Adam.’ St. Paul is supposed to leave us with two explanations of the origin of sin. Against the assumption of this dualism Bruce offers the following arguments: (1) It is un-Hebrew, and St. Paul’s culture is Rabbinic rather than Hellenistic; (2) the body is capable of sanctification as well as the spirit (  1 Thessalonians 5:23 ,   1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ,   2 Corinthians 7:1 ); (3) the body as well as the soul will be raised from the dead, although it will be changed (  1 Corinthians 15:44-50 ); (4) the Christian salvation is in the present life, and not only after the death of the body ( St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity , 269 ff.). It may be added that flesh is ascribed to Christ, and St. Paul’s phrase ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ (  Romans 8:3 ) is intended to deny sinfulness, not a similar body in Christ (see Comm. in loc. ).

Alfred E. Garvie.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [6]

1: Σάρξ (Strong'S #4561 — Noun Feminine — sarx — sarx )

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

 1—Corinthians 15:39 2—Corinthians 10:3 Galatians 2:20 Philippians 1:22 Matthew 24:22 John 1:13 Romans 3:20 John 1:14 1—Timothy 3:16 1—John 4:2 2—John 1:7 Hebrews 5:7 John 6:51-57 2—Corinthians 7:5 James 5:3 Matthew 26:41 Romans 6:19 8:3 Romans 7:5 8:8,9 2—Peter 2:18 1—John 2:16 Galatians 3:3 6:8 Hebrews 9:10 1—Corinthians 1:26 2—Corinthians 10:2,3 1—Corinthians 7:28 2—Corinthians 7:1 Ephesians 6:5 Hebrews 9:13 John 6:63 2—Corinthians 5:16 1—Corinthians 10:18 Galatians 4:23 Matthew 19:5 Matthew 26:41 Romans 8:4,13 1—Corinthians 5:5 Galatians 6:8  Romans 2:28,29 Romans 7:25 Colossians 2:1,5 Ephesians 2:3 2—Corinthians 7:1 Colossians 2:18

2: Κρέας (Strong'S #2907 — Noun Neuter — kreas — kreh'-as )

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

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [7]

Bâśâr ( בָּשָׂר , Strong'S #1320), “flesh; meat; male sex organ.” Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic, Arabic, and Aramaic. Biblical Hebrew attests it about 270 times and in all periods.

The word means the “meaty part plus the skin” of men: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof” (Gen. 2:21—the first occurrence). This word can also be applied to the “meaty part” of animals (Deut. 14:8). Gen. 41:2 speaks of seven cows, sleek and “fat of flesh.” In Num. 11:33, bâśâr means the meat or “flesh” of the quail that Israel was still chewing. Thus the word means “flesh,” whether living or dead.

Bâśâr often means the “edible part” of animals. Eli’s sons did not know God’s law concerning the priests’ portion, so “when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s [Eli’s] servant came, while the flesh was [boiling], with a [threepronged fork] in his hand” (1 Sam. 2:13). However, they insisted that “before they burnt the fat … , Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have [boiled] flesh of thee, but raw” (literally, “living”—1 Sam. 2:15). Bâśâr , then, represents edible animal “flesh” or “meat,” whether cooked (Dan. 10:3) or uncooked. The word sometimes refers to “meat” that one is forbidden to eat (cf. Exod. 21:28).

This word may represent a part of the body. At some points, the body is viewed as consisting of two components, “flesh” and bones: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23). That part of the “fleshly” element known as the foreskin was to be removed by circumcision (Gen. 17:11). In other passages, the elements of the body are the “flesh,” the skin, and the bones (Lam. 3:4). Num. 19:5 mentions the “flesh,” hide, blood, and refuse of a heifer. In Job 10:11, we read: “Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast [knit] me with bones and sinews.”

Flesh sometimes means “blood relative”: “And Laban said to him [Jacob], Surely thou art my bone and my flesh” (Gen. 29:14). The phrase “your flesh” or “our flesh” standing alone may bear the same meaning: “Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh” (Gen. 37:27). The phrase she’er—bâśâr is rendered “blood relative” (Lev. 18:6; KJV, “near of kin”).

About 50 times, “flesh” represents the “physical aspect” of man or animals as contrasted with the spirit, soul, or heart (the nonphysical aspect). In the case of men, this usage appears in Num. 16:22: “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” In such passages, then, bâśâr emphasizes the “visible and structural part” of man or animal.

In a few passages, the word appears to mean “skin,” or the part of the body that is seen: “By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin” (Ps. 102:5; 119:120). In passages such as Lev. 13:2, the ideas “flesh” and “skin” are clearly distinguished.

Bâśâr sometimes represents the “male sex organ”: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh [NASB, “body”], because of his issue he is unclean” (Lev. 15:2).

The term “all flesh” has several meanings. It means “all mankind” in Deut. 5:26: “For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God …?” In another place, this phrase refers to “all living creatures within the cosmos,” or all men and animals (Gen. 6:17).

King James Dictionary [8]

FLESH, n. I know not the primary sense it may be soft.

1. A compound substance forming a large part of an animal, consisting of the softer solids, as distinguished from the bones and the fluids. Under the general appellation of flesh, we include the muscles, fat, glands &c., which invest the bones and are covered with the skin. It is sometimes restricted to the muscles. 2. Animal food, in distinction from vegetable.

Flesh without being qualified with acids, is too alkalescent a diet.

3. The body of beasts and fowls used as food, distinct from fish. In Lent, the Catholics abstain from flesh, but eat fish. 4. The body, as distinguished from the soul.

As if this flesh, which walls about our life,

Were brass impregnable.

5. Animal nature animals of all kinds.

The end of all flesh is come before me.  Genesis 6 .

6. Men in general mankind.

My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh.  Genesis 6 .

7. Human nature.

The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.  John 1 .

8. Carnality corporeal appetites.

Fasting serves to mortify the flesh.

The flesh lusteth against the spirit.  Galatians 5 .

9. A carnal state a state of unrenewed nature.

They that are in the flesh cannot please God.  Romans 8 .

10. The corruptible body of man, or corrupt nature.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

 1 Corinthians 15 .

11. The present life the state of existence in this world.

To abide in the flesh is more needful for you.  Philippians 1 .

12. Legal righteousness, and ceremonial services.

What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  Romans 4 .  Galatians 3 .

13. Kindred stock family.

He is our brother, and our flesh.  Genesis 37 .

14. In botany, the soft pulpy substance of fruit also, that part of a root, fruit, &c., which is fit to be eaten.

One flesh, denotes intimate relation. To be one flesh is to be closely united, as in marriage.  Genesis 2 .  Ephesians 5 .

After the flesh, according to outward appearances,  John 8 :

Or according to the common powers of nature.  Galatians 4 .:

Or according to sinful lusts and inclinations.  Romans 8 .

An arm of flesh, human strength or aid.


1. To initiate a sportsman's use of the word, from the practice of training hawks and dogs by feeding them with the first game they take or other flesh. 2. To harden to accustom to establish in any practice, as dogs by often feeding on any thing. Men fleshed in cruelty women fleshed in malice. 3. To glut to satiate.

The wild dog

Shall flesh his tooth on every innocent.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [9]

In an ethical sense opposed to "the spirit."  Genesis 6:3, "for that lie also (even the race of godly Seth) (is become) flesh (carnal)." When the salt of the church has lost its savor, the whole mass is corrupt and ripe for judgment.  1 Corinthians 1:26, "wise after the flesh," i.e. with wisdom acquired by mere human study without the Spirit. Contrast  Matthew 16:17;  Matthew 26:41. Not the body, which is not in itself sinful; it was through thinking it so that Gnostic ascetics mortified it by austerities, while all the while their seeming neglecting of the body was pampering "the flesh" ( Colossians 2:21-23). "The flesh" is the natural man, including the unrenewed will and mind, moving in the world of self and sense only.

Self imposed ordinances gratify the flesh (i.e. self) while seemingly mortifying it. "Trouble in the flesh" is in their outward state, namely, through the present distress ( 1 Corinthians 7:28). So  John 6:63, "it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and are life." Not the outward flesh, but the word of Christ, is what gives life. So Peter understood Christ, as his reply shows: "Thou hast the words of eternal life." "To know Christ after the flesh" ( 2 Corinthians 5:16) means to know Him in His mere outward worldly relations, with a view to "glorying" in them ( John 8:15;  Philippians 3:3-10); as Judaizing Christians prided themselves on the fleshly advantage of belonging to Israel, the nation of Christ, or on having seen Him in the flesh, as a ground of superiority over others ( 2 Corinthians 11:18;  2 Corinthians 10:7).

Contrasted with knowing Him spiritually as new creatures ( 2 Corinthians 5:12;  2 Corinthians 5:15;  2 Corinthians 5:17). Outward rebellions toward Him profit nothing ( Luke 8:19-21;  John 16:7;  John 16:22;  Matthew 7:22-23). All outward distinctions are lost sight of in experiment, ally knowing Him in His new resurrection life ( Galatians 2:6;  Galatians 2:20;  Galatians 3:28;  Romans 6:9-11;  1 Corinthians 15:45;  1 Peter 3:18;  1 Peter 4:1-2); disproving both Mariolatry and transubstantiation. In  Romans 4:1, "what hath Abraham found, as pertaining to the flesh?" i.e. as respects carnal ordinances (circumcision). "All flesh," i.e. all men ( Luke 3:2;  John 17:2).

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [10]

 Psalm 56:4 (a) By this figure human power is contrasted with divine power.

 Psalm 63:1 (b) David uses this expression to describe the longing of his soul for the fellowship of GOD, and to see GOD develop His purposes and plans.

 Jeremiah 17:5 (b) This figure refers to human power, man-made expedients and remedies, as well as the results of human effort in contrast with the deliverances that GOD prepared for His people.

 Ezekiel 16:26 (b) This term is used to express the great lustfulness of the Egyptians and also of the Israelites. Their immoral practices were the prime occupation of their lives. It represents the natural, evil human heart as in  Ezekiel 36:26).

 Matthew 16:17 (b) This term is used as a reference to the human mind, the educational values of the mind, and human religious reasonings.

 John 1:13 (b) Salvation is not a decision on the part of a human being wherein with his mind he decides to become a Christian and step out of darkness into light. Salvation is of GOD, and only GOD can save by revealing Himself to the soul. No action of the person (the flesh) can give eternal life to a lost man.

 John 3:6 (a) This refers to all that pertains to the human body. The body is never transformed, nor born again, nor converted. It remains "flesh" until it dies, or until the Lord returns in person to change our bodies.

 John 6:52 (b) This expression occurs several times in this chapter. It refers to an appropriating of the Lord Jesus by faith so that the soul, the mind, and the heart are filled with His own lovely Person, and the heart is satisfied with Him. That interpretation which causes men to try to turn bread into the physical body of JESUS is utterly false, is an invention of the Devil, and is being used throughout the world to deceive the ungodly.

 Romans 7:5 (a) This expression is used to describe those who do not have the Spirit of GOD, are not saved, and are called "sensual" in the book of Jude. Their flesh dominates their lives, and they are occupied with what they can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. (See  Romans 8:8-9;  2 Corinthians 10:3).

 Romans 8:12 (b) This is a type which describes the lusts, desires and affections created by the human body. (See also  Romans 13:14;  2 Corinthians 10:2;  Galatians 5:13-17;  Galatians 6:8;  Ephesians 2:3;  2 Peter 2:10;  Judges 1:23).

 Ephesians 5:30 (a) This figure indicates that we are joined to Christ in a very real and eternal union by faith in Him.

 James 5:3 (a) Probably this represents the remorse felt by a lost man because of a greedy and avaricious life.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

The word flesh hath different meanings in Scripture. It is a word of general acceptation in respect to animal life. Hence the apostle to the Corinthians, chapter the fifteenth, and thirty-ninth verse, saith, "All flesh is not the same flesh; but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." And, hence, when the Lord determined the total destruction of the world, except the church preserved in the family of Noah, he said, "The end of all flesh is come before me." ( Genesis 6:13) But beside this general acceptation of the word in relation to all animal life, the Scripture hath a more confined and special sense in reference to human nature.—"Hide not thyself from thine own flesh;" meaning, thine own nature. ( Isaiah 58:7)

There is another and more endearing sense of the word flesh, when spoken of in Scripture in relation to the types and affinities of families. Thus in the instance of the sons of Jacob, when some were for killing Joseph, Judah restrained from the deed, saying, "What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh." ( Genesis 37:26-27) And there is yet a far more endearing sense in which the word flesh is used in Scripture, when spoken of in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ; the nearest of all types, and the tenderest of all brothers. "For we are members (saith the apostle) of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." ( Ephesians 5:30) But the term flesh hath also another sense, when by of opposition to the spirit, it is taken as a comprehensive expression of our whole corrupt and carnal nature by the fall. "I know (saith Paul,) that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." ( Romans 5:18) And "elsewhere the same apostle saith, The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." ( Galatians 5:17) And hence when by the gracious work of regeneration wrought in the heart by the sovereign power of God the Holy Ghost, believers are then said "to be not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, it so be that the Spirit of God dwell in them." ( Romans 8:9) And hence this new life of God in the soul is called union with Christ, in living upon Christ, and walking with Christ. "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, even so he that eateth me shall live by me." ( John 6:57)

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): ( v. t.) To remove flesh, membrance, etc., from, as from hides.

(2): ( v. t.) To glut; to satiate; hence, to harden, to accustom.

(3): ( v. t.) To feed with flesh, as an incitement to further exertion; to initiate; - from the practice of training hawks and dogs by feeding them with the first game they take, or other flesh. Hence, to use upon flesh (as a murderous weapon) so as to draw blood, especially for the first time.

(4): ( n.) In a bad sense, tendency to transient or physical pleasure; desire for sensual gratification; carnality.

(5): ( n.) The human eace; mankind; humanity.

(6): ( n.) Kindred; stock; race.

(7): ( n.) The aggregate of the muscles, fat, and other tissues which cover the framework of bones in man and other animals; especially, the muscles.

(8): ( n.) Animal food, in distinction from vegetable; meat; especially, the body of beasts and birds used as food, as distinguished from fish.

(9): ( n.) The human body, as distinguished from the soul; the corporeal person.

(10): ( n.) Human nature

(11): ( n.) In a good sense, tenderness of feeling; gentleness.

(12): ( n.) The soft, pulpy substance of fruit; also, that part of a root, fruit, and the like, which is fit to be eaten.

(13): ( n.) The character under the influence of animal propensities or selfish passions; the soul unmoved by spiritual influences.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [13]

a term of very ambiguous import in the Scriptures. An eminent critic has enumerated no less than six different meanings which it bears in the sacred writings, and for which, he affirms, there will not be found a single authority in any profane writer:

1. It sometimes denotes the whole body considered as animated, as in   Matthew 26:41 , "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

2. It sometimes means a human being, as in   Luke 3:6 , "All flesh shall see the salvation of God."

3. Sometimes a person's kindred collectively considered, as in

 Romans 11:14 , "If by any means I may provoke them which are my flesh."

4. Sometimes any thing of an external or ceremonial nature, as opposed to that which is internal and moral, as in   Galatians 3:3 , "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh?"

5. The sensitive part of our nature, or that which is the seat of appetite, as in   2 Corinthians 7:1 , "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit;" where there can be no doubt that the pollutions of the flesh must be those of the appetites, being opposed to the pollutions of the spirit, or those of the passions. 6. It is employed to denote any principle of vice and moral pravity of whatever kind. Thus among the works of the flesh,  Galatians 5:19-21 , are numbered not only adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and revellings, which all relate to criminal indulgence of appetite, but idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, and murders, which are manifestly vices of a different kind, and partake more of the diabolical nature than of the beastly.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [14]

σάρξ. This term is used in various senses in scripture. The principal are

1. The estate of man: "all flesh shall see the salvation of God,"   Luke 3:6; "the Word became flesh."  John 1:14 .

2. The material part of man and of animals: "all flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts."   1 Corinthians 15:39 .

3. The same kindred: "thou art my bone and my flesh,"   Genesis 29:14; "he is our brother, and our flesh."  Genesis 37:27 .

4. Union: "they shall be one flesh,"  Genesis 2:24;  Ephesians 5:29-31 .

5. Man's nature, but corrupted by sin: "that which is born of the flesh is flesh,"   John 3:6; "sinful flesh,"  Romans 8:3 .

6. The state which characterises man before knowing deliverance:  Romans 7 ,  Romans 8:8,9 .

7. Though no longer the state of the Christian, yet the flesh is in him, and is antagonistic to the Spirit, "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye should not do the things that ye would."   Galatians 5:17 . Thus the Spirit resists in the Christian the accomplishment of the lusts of the flesh.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [15]

 Genesis 2:21 41:2 Psalm 102:5 Psalm 16:9 Genesis 6:12,13 2 Chronicles 32:8 Isaiah 31:3 Psalm 78:39 Ezekiel 11:19 Judges 9:2 Isaiah 58:7

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

This word also denotes the human nature of Christ ( John 1:14 , "The Word was made flesh." Compare also  1 Timothy 3:16;  Romans 1:3 ).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [16]

The substance of which the bodies of men and animals are composed. In the Bible, besides the ordinary sense,  Job 33:25 , it denotes mankind as a race,  Genesis 6:12   Psalm 145:21   Isaiah 40:5-6; and all living creatures on the earth,  Genesis 6:17,19 . It is often used in opposition to "spirit," as we use body and soul,  Job 14:22; and sometimes means the body as animated and sensitive,  Matthew 26:41 , and the seat of bodily appetites,  Proverbs 5:11   2 Corinthians 7:1 . In the New Testament, "flesh" is very often used to designate the bodily appetites, propensities, and passions, which draw men away from yielding themselves to the Lord and to the things of the Spirit. The flesh, or carnal principle, is opposed to the spirit, or spiritual principle,  Romans 8:1-39   Galatians 5:17 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [17]

Flesh. See Flood .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [18]

I. בָּשָׂר , Basar [Chald. בִּשִׂר , Besar'] (so called from its Plump freshness), Σάρξ , terms of extensive application in the O. and N.T. (see Gesenius, Heb. Lex.; Robinson, N.T. Lexicon; Wemyss, Clavis Symbolica). They are applied generally to the whole animal creation, whether man or beast; or to all beings-whose material substance is flesh ( Genesis 6:13;  Genesis 6:17;  Genesis 6:19;  Genesis 7:15-16;  Genesis 7:21;  Genesis 8:17); and to the flesh of cattle, meat, as used for food ( Exodus 16:12;  Leviticus 7:19;  Numbers 11:4;  Numbers 11:13). (See Food). Specially:

1. All flesh, i.e. all men, the human race, mankind ( Genesis 6:12;  Psalms 6:2;  Psalms 145:21;  Isaiah 40:5-6;  Luke 3:6;  John 17:2;  Acts 2:17;  1 Peter 1:24;  Matthew 24:22;  Romans 3:20;  Galatians 2:16);

2. " Flesh," or the body, as distinguished from " soul" or " spirit" ( Job 14:22;  Job 19:26;.  Proverbs 14:30;  Isaiah 10:18;  John 6:52;  1 Corinthians 5:5;  2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 7;  Colossians 2:5;  1 Peter 4:6); so also "flesh and blood", (See Blood) as a periphrasis for the whole animal nature or man ( Hebrews 2:14);

3. Human nature, man ( Genesis 2:23-24;  Matthew 19:5-6;  1 Corinthians 6:16;  Ephesians 5:29-31); spoken also of the incarnation of Christ ( John 1:14;  John 6:51;  Romans 1:3;  Ephesians 2:15;  Colossians 1:22;  1 Timothy 3:16;  Hebrews 5:7;  Hebrews 10:20;  1 Peter 3:18;  1 John 4:2-3;  2 John 1:7);

4. As the medium of external or natural generation, and of consequent kindred, relationship ( Genesis 29:14;  Genesis 37:27;  Judges 9:2;  2 Samuel 5:1;  2 Samuel 19:13;  John 1:13;  Romans 9:8;  Hebrews 2:11-14;  Hebrews 12:9); of one's countrymen ( Romans 9:3;  Romans 11:14;  Acts 2:30;  Galatians 4:23); also of any other person, a fellow-mortal ( Isaiah 57:17);

5. "Flesh" is also used as a modest general term for the secret parts ( Genesis 17:11;  Exodus 28:42;  Leviticus 15:2-3;  Leviticus 15:7;  Leviticus 15:16;  Leviticus 15:19;  Ezekiel 23:20;  2 Peter 2:10;  Judges 1:7); in  Proverbs 5:11, the "flesh" of the intemperate is described as being consumed by infamous diseases;

6. Spoken of circumcision in the flesh, the external rite ( Genesis 17:11;  Romans 2:28;  2 Corinthians 11:18;  Galatians 3:3;  Ephesians 2:11);

7. Spoken figuratively of human nature as opposed to the Spirit of God ( Genesis 6:3;  Job 10:4;  Isaiah 31:3;  Psalms 56:4;  Jeremiah 17:5;  Matthew 16:17;  2 Corinthians 10:4;  Galatians 1:16); the unregenerate nature, the seat of carnal appetites and desires (Meth. Quart. Rev. April, 1861, p. 240 sq.), whether physical or moral ( Romans 7:5;  Romans 8:1;  Romans 8:4-5;  Romans 8:8; Galatians v, 16,17;  Ephesians 2:3); and as implying weakness, frailty, imperfection, both physical and moral ( Psalms 78:39;  Matthew 26:41;  Mark 14:38;  John 3:6;  Romans 6:19;  1 Corinthians 15:50;  2 Corinthians 10:3;  Ephesians 6:12).

Other terms occasionally rendered "flesh" in the O.T. are שְׁאֵר , Sheer (from a similar idea of fulness),  Psalms 73:26;  Psalms 78:20;  Psalms 78:27;  Proverbs 11:17.;  Jeremiah 51:35;  Micah 3:2-3 (elsewhere "food," "body," "kin"), which has more especial reference to the Muscle or physical element, as food or a bodily constituent (see Weller, Erklarung D. Zwei Hebr. W"Srter. בָּשָׂר Und שְׁאֵר , Lpz. 1757); also טִבְחָה , Tibchah', a Slaughtered carcase ( 1 Samuel 25:11; i.e. "laughter," i.e. slaughter- house,  Psalms 44:22;  Jeremiah 12:3); and לִהוּם , Lechum, Food ( Zephaniah 1:17; " eating,"  Job 20:23).

'''Ii.''' Eshpar' ( אֶשְׁפָּר ), an obscure Heb. word, found only in  2 Samuel 6:19;  1 Chronicles 16:3. The Sept. appears to understand by the term some peculiar sort of bread ( Ἐσχαρίτης , Ἀρτοκοπιακός v. ar. Ἀρτοκοπικός ), and the Auth. Vers., following the Vulg. (Assastura Bebulce Carnis, Pars Assae Carnis Bubulae, apparently with the absurd derivation from אֵשׁ , fire, and פָּר , A Bullock), renders it " A Good Piece Of (Roasted) Flesh." But there, can be little doubt that it was a certain measure of wine or drink (for שְׁפָר 'with א prosthetic), a Measure, Cup., An approach to the truth was made by L. de Dieu, who, following the same etymology, understands a portion of thee sacrifice measured out (Gesesius, Heb. Lex. s.v.)- (See Meat).

FLESH. The word flesh ( בָּשָׁר , Σάρξ ) is used both in the O. and N.T. with a variety of meanings, physical, metaphysical, and ethical, 'the latter occurring especially in the writings of St. Paul.

I. Old Testament. In the O.T. it designates

(1.) a particular part or parts of the body of man and of animals ( Genesis 2:21;  Genesis 41:2;  Job 10:11;  Psalms 102:6);

(2.) is a more extended sense, the Whole Body ( Psalms 16:9;  Psalms 84:2) in contradistinction from the heart ( לֵב ) Ar soul ( נֶפֶשׁ )-the body, that is, as - possessed of a soul or spirit - ( Leviticus 17:11;  Job 12:10). Hence it is also applied

(3.) to All Living Things having flesh ( Genesis 6:13), and particularly to man and humanity as a whole, which is designated as "All Flesh" ( Genesis 6:12). It is often connected

(4.) with the ideas of mutability,' of degeneracy, and of weakness, which are the natural defects of the flesh proper. It is thus represented as the counterpart of the divine strength, as the opposite of -God or of the Spirit, as in  2 Chronicles 32:8, " With -him is An -Arm Of Flesh, But With As Is The Lord Our God To Help Us" (see also  Isaiah 31:3;  Psalms 78:39). To this we can also add  Genesis 6:3 the only passage in the O. T. in which the word approaches to an ethical sense, yet without actually acquiring it. The peculiar Softness of the flesh is also

(5.) the basis of the expression "Heart Of Flesh" ( לכ בָּשָׂר , as opposed to "heart of stone" ( Ezekiel 11:19).

(6.) The expression "My Flesh" (oftener "My Flesh and bone"), to indicate relationship '( Judges 9:2;  Isaiah 58:7), evidently refers to the physical and corporeal connection between persons sprung from a common father. In all these cases the 0. T. only uses the word flesh in the physical and metaphysical senses.'

II. New Testament.-These senses of the word "flesh" are also found in the N.T.

(1.) As a same for the body, the exterior appearance of humanity, it easily passes on also to denote External Phenomena in general, as opposed to what is inner and spiritual. So, when Christ says to the Jews, "I Judge Not After The Flesh," he means "the flesh is the rule by which you judge" '( John 7:15; compare also  Philippians 3:3;  2 Corinthians 5:16). In  Romans 4:1, the Ethical sense appears. The word "flesh" here denotes man's incapacity for good apart from divine aid. This impotence, both practical and spiritual is also expressed in other passages, as ins  Romans 6:19;  Matthew 16:17; and in  Matthew 26:41, where the lower, earthly and sensual element in humanity, as opposed to the "spirit," is, as such, incapable of bearing trial and temptation. The root of this weakness Is In Dwelling In The Flesh ( Romans 7:18;  Romans 16:20), by which man is divided within himself as well as separated from God, inasmuch as he -has, on the one side, the self-conscious spirit ( Νοῦς ), which submits to the divine law, and takes pleasure in this obedience, desiring all that is commanded, and avoiding all that is forbidden; and, on the other hand, thee flesh, which, being inhabited by sin, seeks only for the lower satisfactions, thus inclining to evil rather than good, and opposed to thee divine law (see  Romans 7:7-25;  Romans 8:3). The "Sinful Flesh" ( Σὰρξ Ἁμαρτίας ) hinders the efficacy' of the divine law, so that, although it (the law) gains the assent of the "inner man," it is not fulfilled, because of this tendency of the flesh towards what is forbidden. Hence the " Being In The Flesh" means. in fact, such activity of the sinful passions ( Παθήματα Ἁμαρτιῶν ) of the organism ( Ἐν Τοῖς Μέλεσιν ) as results in death ( Romans 8:8-9). To live and act " According To The Flesh" is to live and act sin-fully; the "carnal mind is enmity against God" ( Romans 8:4-5;  Romans 8:7;  Romans 8:12).

The "Wisdom According To The Flesh" is a mistaken, Godless wisdom ( 1 Corinthians 1:26). All efforts, boasts, etc., having the flesh for object or for motive ( Βουλεύεσθαι Στρατεύεσθαι , Καυχᾶσθαι Κατὰ Σάρκα ,  2 Corinthians 1:17;  2 Corinthians 10:2;  2 Corinthians 11:18), are foreign- to the life of the true Christian. The lusts, desires, and works of the flesh are sinful, and opposed to holy, divine impulses and actions ( Galatians 5:16;  Ephesians 2:3). To Crucify The Flesh and the works of the flesh is the great object of the Christian, which he attains through the power of the spirit of Christ which dwells in him ( Galatians 5:25;  Romans 8:11). The fleshly mind is the mistaken mind, leading away from Christ to pride, and consequently to error ( Colossians 2:18-19). Finally, to act according to the flesh is called to " be sold under sin" ( Romans 7:12; comp.  1 John 2:16;  Romans 8:3). But "flesh" does not always denote sinfulness (see  Romans 1:3;  Romans 9:5;  1 Timothy 3:16;  John 1:14). The flesh, in Christ, was not sinful; God sent him only " in the Likeness of sinful flesh" ( Έν Ὁμοιώματι Σαρκὸς Ἁμαρτίας ,  Romans 8:3). This sinless flesh, as the organ of the 'Word of life, contains the divine life, which is communicated to, men also living in the flesh, to redeem them from the death of sin, and to make them partakers of everlasting life ( John 6:51).

We see, then, that the meaning of the word flesh was, on the one hand, gradually extended from a physical to a metaphysical, and finally to an ethical senses In the ethical use in thee N.T., moreover, of the term "flesh," we do not find the idea of essential sin as lying in the flesh.. Flesh in itself is neither bad nor sinful. It is the living body the casket of the soul, containing within itself the interior and exterior organism of the senses, which, by its union with the spirit, conceives ideas, sensations, desires, and contains the so-called faculties of the soul with their divers functions. In the normal state, its whole activity is governed by the spirit, and in so far as the latter remains in unison with God from whom it proceeds, it is in turn governed by him. But sin, which disturbs this unison of the spirit with God, alters also the power of the spirit over the body. The ego oversteps the bounds of the divines life, moves no longer in harmony with the divine spirit, and, being no longer supported by the divine power, gradually becomes earthly and worldly, and all its functions partake of this character. The spirit endeavors, it is true, to bring the flesh under subjection to the higher laws, but does not succeed. It may, under the form of conscience, succeed in regaining some ground, but not in bringing back the state of abnegation and of detachment from the world, It is only through an immediate action on the part of God that the original relation of the flesh to the spirit is restored, the lost power regained, and the flesh brought back to its normal condition (And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, fell of grace and truth, John i, 14).

The original source of sin in man is neither to be found in the spirit, the organ of God's revelation within us, nor in the flesh, which is in turn the physical organ of the spirit. According to Scripture, it is the heart, the centre of our personality, in which all the influences, both godly and ungodly, meet-in which the choice between them is made. If the heart then gives entrance to sin, permits any doubt of God's truth, any mistrust of his love and kindness, and thus lowers him to put self in his place (Genesis 3), the union between God and man ceases; the inner man loses his energy to govern the Σάρξ ; the flesh starts s-p in opposition to the divine commands in its feelings and its desires. It asserts its independence. Self is made the centre. Hence hatred, strife., desire for worldly superiority. creating envy, and giving rise to all the "Lusts of the flesh." That both selfishness and sensualism have their seat in the Σάρξ , and that the actions of men are guided By one or the other, is clearly shown in the enumeration given by the apostle of the works of the flesh ( Galatians 5:19), which are clearly the effects of selfishness and of sinful passions; and that the word flesh, as used by Paul, is intended to signify both, is proved by the apostle's warning ( Galatians 5:13) not to use Christian liberty for "an occasion to the Flesh," i.e. to satisfy the desires of the flesh, adding to it the recommendation " But By Love Serve One Another." Whichever of the two is then especially alluded to when .he Scriptures, and especially St. Paul, speak of the nature, the life, or the works of the flesh, the context will show. Sometimes. both are equally active, sometimes the one only to the exclusion of the other. This is the only way in which we can arrive at a true appreciation of the meaning in each case. Those interpreters who, in view of the substitution of Σάρξ for Σῶμα and Μέλη , consider it as meaning exclusively the bodily, sinful side of human nature, fall into the errors of the Manichoeans. See Tholuck, Erneute Untersuchung i. Σάρξ Als Quelle D. Siinde (Theol. Stud. u. Kritiken, 1855, 3); Stirm, ''I. D Tiib. Zeitschr. 1834 (i. d. n. t. Anthropol.); Neander, Planting And Training, vol. ii; Kling, in Her Zog. Rerl-En2Cyklopddie; Campbell, On Four Gospels, diss. i, § 2.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [19]

@בּשׂר , bāsār , שׁאר , she'ēr ):

1. Etymology

Used in all senses of the word, the latter, however, most frequently in the sense of kin, family, relationship (compare שׁארה , sha'ărāh , "kins-woman,"  Leviticus 18:17 ):  Leviticus 18:6;  Leviticus 25:49;  Proverbs 11:17;  Jeremiah 51:35 , and probably  Psalm 73:26 . In all other places she'ēr means "flesh" = body ( Proverbs 5:11 ) or = food ( Psalm 78:20 ,  Psalm 78:27;  Micah 3:2 ,  Micah 3:3 ). טבחה , tibhḥāh , is "(slaughtered) flesh for food," "butcher's meat" ( 1 Samuel 25:11 ). The word אשׁפר , 'eshpār , found only in two parallel passages ( 2 Samuel 6:19 =   1 Chronicles 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 ad) with "a piece of roast meat," others with "a portion of flesh" and "a measure of wine." It probably means simply "a measured portion." לחם , לחוּם , laḥum , literally, "eaten," then food (compare לחם , leḥem , "bread"), has been rarely specialized as flesh or meat (compare Arabic laḥm , "meat," "flesh," so in  Zephaniah 1:17 , where it stands in parallelism with "blood"). The Greek terms are σάρξ , sárx , and κρέας , kréas , the latter always meaning "butcher's meat" ( Romans 14:21;  1 Corinthians 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 ( Genesis 2:21;  Exodus 21:10 m;   Isaiah 31:3;  Ezekiel 23:20;  1 Corinthians 15:39;  Revelation 19:18 ,  Revelation 19:21 ).

3. The Body

The whole body. This meaning is the extension of the preceding ( pars pro toto ). This is indicated by the Septuagint, where bāsār is often translated by the plural ἁι σάρκες , hai sárkes ( Genesis 40:19;  Numbers 12:12;  Job 33:25 ), and occasionally by σῶμα , sō̇ma , i.e. "body" ( Leviticus 15:2;  1 Kings 21:27 ). This meaning is also very clear in passages like the following:  Exodus 4:7;  Leviticus 17:14;  Numbers 8:7;  2 Kings 4:34;  Proverbs 5:11 , where bāsār and she'ēr are combined; and  Proverbs 14:30;  Ecclesiastes 12:12 .

4. The Term "All Flesh"

Flesh, as the common term for living things, animals and men, especially the latter ( Genesis 6:13 ,  Genesis 6:17 ,  Genesis 6:19;  Numbers 16:22;  Jeremiah 12:12;  Mark 13:20 ); often in the phrase "all flesh" ( Psalm 65:2;  Isaiah 40:5 ,  Isaiah 40:6;  Jeremiah 25:31;  Ezekiel 20:48;  Joel 2:28;  Luke 3:6 ).

5. As Opposed to the Spirit

Flesh as opposed to the spirit, both of which were comprised in the preceding meaning ( Genesis 6:3;  Psalm 16:9;  Luke 24:39 , where "flesh and bones" are combined;  John 6:63 ). Thus we find in  John 1:14 , "The Word became flesh";  1 Timothy 3:16 , "He who was manifested in the flesh";  1 John 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  Philippians 1:22 ,  Philippians 1:24 , "to live in the flesh," "to abide in the flesh"; compare  Philippians 1:16 and perhaps   2 Corinthians 5:16 . Under this meaning we may enumerate expressions such as "arm of flesh" ( 2 Chronicles 32:8;  Jeremiah 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 ( Isaiah 31:3;  Matthew 26:41;  Mark 14:38;  Romans 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" ( Matthew 16:17 ). Similarly the kingdom of God, being a realm of perfect spiritual submission to God, cannot be inherited by flesh and blood ( 1 Corinthians 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" ( Galatians 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 ( Ephesians 6:12;  Hebrews 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 (σάρκικος , sárkikos , "carnal"; the King James Version uses sarkinós in  Romans 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 ( Genesis 6:3 ,  Genesis 6:12;  John 1:13;  Romans 7:14;  1 Corinthians 3:1 ,  1 Corinthians 3:3;  Colossians 2:18;  1 John 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 ( Romans 8:3 ), if we manifest a deep desire and an earnest endeavor to overcome ( Galatians 5:17 ,  Galatians 5:18 ).

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'ēr ̌ . The following passages are a few of those in which bāsār is used:  Genesis 2:24;  Genesis 37:27;  Job 2:5; compare the New Testament passages:  Matthew 19:5 ,  Matthew 19:6;  Romans 1:3;  Romans 9:3 ,  Romans 9:5 ,  Romans 9:8 . The expressions "bone" and "flesh" are found in combination ( Genesis 2:23;  Genesis 29:14;  Judges 9:2;  2 Samuel 5:1;  2 Samuel 19:12 ,  2 Samuel 19:13;  Ephesians 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  Colossians 2:1 : "as many as have not seen my face in the flesh," i.e. have not known me personally, or   Colossians 2:5 , "absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit," etc.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [20]

This word bears a variety of significations in Scripture:—

1. It is applied, generally, to the whole animated creation, whether man or beast; or, to all beings whose material substance is flesh (;;; , etc.).

2. But it is more particularly applied to 'mankind;' and is, in fact, the only Hebrew word which answers to that term . In this sense it is used somewhat figuratively to denote that evil principle which is opposed to the spirit, and to God, and which it is necessary to correct and subdue (;;;; , etc.)

3. The word 'flesh' is opposed to 'soul,' or 'spirit,' just as we oppose body and soul (;; ).

4. The ordinary senses of the word, namely the flesh of men or beasts (;; ), and flesh as used for food , are both sufficiently obvious; and with respect to the latter see Food.

5. The word 'flesh' is also used as a modest general term for the secret parts, in such passages as;;;;;; . In , the 'flesh of the intemperate' is described as being consumed by infamous diseases.