Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'd like to know where to look for scholarly articles that could help elucidate unclear points in ancient writings. For instance, Desert Fathers speak a lot about "heart", "spirit", "mind", "thoughts", etc., and consider all to be different.

Specifically, I fail at mapping those notions to something more understandable in modern terms. Meister Eckhart, in particular, clearly separates "ground" of the soul ("spark", "castle") from "powers" of the soul (higher intellect, will, lower intellect, emotions, etc.). I don't clearly understand the difference.

Moreover, I sometimes fear that the difference cannot be grasped in verbal terms, because analytical thinking might be constricted to "powers" of the soul in Eckhart's terms. That said, any direction in helping to describe these otherwise ineffable concepts would be useful.

share|improve this question
Welcome to [Christianity SE], glad you're excited. I don't think this question fits this site because it seems too broad to me, "any writings". Please check out the tour page and try again. – Wikis Oct 7 '13 at 14:44
Thanks for reply! I've just edited the question slightly so that it's more specific. – siphiuel Oct 7 '13 at 15:27
We have a meta site where we discuss site policy. I have made a meta post that links to many of the other good meta posts we have. In short, this site is about Christian doctrines of specific christian groups, such as Catholic, Lutheran, etc. or history that pertains to Christianity. This is more like a general philosophy question. I'm not sure how you might edit this to bring it into sight guidelines. – fredsbend Oct 7 '13 at 16:43
@siphiuel I've edited your question down to the parts that really are most on topic here. We focus on academic questions, and yours is a pretty good one. The parts I edited out all fall under "pastoral advice," "shopping list questions," and pleasentries - all of which are nice, but not really our focus here. – Affable Geek Oct 7 '13 at 19:33
@affable-geek Thank you so much! – siphiuel Oct 8 '13 at 15:20

One thing I like to point out in discussions like this one is that we are often talking in English about words and ideas from languages that we do not speak. For example where the word SPIRIT is used in the new testament passages and in the writings of many early Writers after that time it is the Greek word Pneumos which literally means air but also breath, vital essence, mind-set and a few other things dependant on context. So for example the Holy Spirit is literally renderable as The Fearsome Breath of God. When they spoke of evil spirits this was sometimes a reference to the bad smell on the breath of a sick person (literally bad breath).

My point here is that it is helpful to understand the word usage from the original language and where these ideas have come from as we hold them today. Some ideas like Spirit and Thoughts might well have been seen as synonyms or something close to that back when they were first penned and definitely the word choice in many cases would have been to underscore a particular aspect of what the writer was saying.

It might be easier to try and understand these ideas in terms of the gist of what the writer was trying to convey first and then drill down to the specifics later. Of course that is only my own approach.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to the site. However, it seems you've mistaken the purpose of this site. (It's not a discussion forum.) I hope you choose to participate further, but before you do, you should read How we are different than other sites? and then the help page and What makes a good supported answer? – David Mar 16 '14 at 19:22

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.