Table of Contents
Part I: Embodiment and The
The Constitution of Man:
Where One + One = One
A Human Spirit + A Human Body = A
It has often
been observed that the Hebrew people were intensely religious
by inclination but never felt any need to structure their faith
or systematize it as a theology. Of commentaries they wrote many,
and the Talmud grew apace year by year. But despite its great
volume of traditional law, it contained little that could qualify
as theology in the Gentile sense. Strict adherence to logical
systematization of their beliefs did not seem to interest them,
though they did systematize their practices.
This still seems to be essentially
true. A recent edition of The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
which runs to very nearly 2000 pages, under the heading Theology
simply says: See God, Judaism, etc. The entries under
God and Judaism bear little resemblance to our
theologies, being more history than anything. And what the et
cetera means is hard to say, since obviously one cannot find
it anywhere in the Encyclopedia!
Although in the Gentile world we
have, since the earliest days of Christianity, continually produced
and refined Creeds, Definitions, and Statements of Faith, we
founded the substance
of these formulations on the Old Testament but on the New, especially
upon Paul's Epistles. The fact is that Hebrew disinterest in
such formulations is reflected in their Scriptures.
And it should be borne in mind
that these Old Testament Scriptures strictly include part of
the New Testament, namely, the Gospels. Because, until Calvary,
the statutes and ordinances and rituals, and the Abrahamic promises
to Israel which relate to earthly matters, were all still in
The consequence of this is that
when we try to construct a biblical theology (or psychology?)
of the constitution of man, we find little precision in the Old
Testament or in the Gospel records. Precision belongs chiefly
One can appeal to passages in the
Old Testament that often strongly support a New Testament theology,
but they are also sometimes contradicted by other passages in
the Old Testament and are thus of only slender evidential value.
This brief chapter is therefore essentially a New Testament construct,
but it is both revealing and satisfying in its simplicity. And
as will be noted later by reference to Barton Payne's writings,
there is a comfortable agreement between the Old and the New
Testaments in this biblical anthropology even though it could
not have been constructed on an Old Testament basis alone.
There has always
been a debate as to whether man is composed of two distinct components
a body which is physical and a spirit or soul which is
not or whether man is composed of three distinct components
as seems clearly to be implied in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The first
formulation is referred to as a
dichotomy and the second as a trichotomy.
Sometimes the three component
advocates (trichotomists) feel they have support also from Hebrews
4:12. However, if one wants to insist on a strict literalism
in this passage, one could argue for four components,
made up of
soul, spirit, joints,
and marrow: which would, I suppose, be a quadrichotomy.
Interestingly, some versions reduce this quadrichotomy not merely
to a trichotomy by counting joints and marrow as one element,
but to a dichotomy by taking soul/spirit as one component or
simply what is non-physical, and joints/marrow as the equivalent
of flesh and bone or simply what is physical. They thus argue
that the writer is saying that the Holy Spirit is able to set
the spirit against the body.
The situation is complicated by
the fact that in addressing a Jewish audience (as the Epistle
to the Hebrews does), the Lord Himself used a number of terms,
each of which might be taken as a separate component of man's
constitution: strength, spirit, soul, heart, and mind (see. Matthew
22:37 and Mark 12:30). This could, I suppose, be called a quinquichotomy!
Really, we are left with only one
passage clearly contending for a trichotomy (1 Thessalonians
5:23), the rest of the New Testament strongly suggesting that
man is simply a dichotomy of body and spirit. And for purposes
of ordinary discussion, few will challenge the convenience of
being able to view man as an embodied spirit, a created spirit
in a procreated body. When the God-given spirit is infused into
the body, the soul emerges. As the simplest of all equations,
spirit + body = soul, for the soul is the person, the whole
man, the self. For you it is "your self," for me
it is "my self," body and spirit.
Let us look,
then, at some of the evidence that the New Testament (especially
the epistles of Paul) almost always speaks of the non-physical
component of man as spirit not soul, in spite of popular opinion
to the contrary. Whenever we find a clear reference to man as
a dichotomy, it is always as a dichotomy of body and spirit,
not a dichotomy of body and soul.
James 2:26 tells us that the body
is dead without the spirit. No hint of departure of the
soul is present in this
simple observation. Jesus
in his 'departing' commended not his soul but his spirit
into the Father's care (Luke 23:46), as did also Stephen (Acts
Accordingly when resuscitation
takes place, it is not the soul but the spirit that rejoins
the body (Luke 8:55 and Revelation 11:11). And this is also true
in Ezekiel 37:5, 810 where the word for spirit in
Hebrew is here, however, rendered 'breath' in the King James
Version, although there is a perfectly good word in Hebrew for
what we mean by breath namely, neshamah a
word which was not used in the original though it could have
been had this been the intention of the Author.
It is significant that John 3:6
speaks of the rebirth of the spirit, not the soul. And
in 1 Corinthians 5:5 we are told of the saving of the spirit
rather than of the saving of the soul. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 it
is the spirit not the soul that is given to the new-born,
after being presumably pre-formed by God (Zechariah12:1). And
it is the spirit not the soul that is surrendered by Ananias
and Sapphira (Acts 5:5,10); it is the spirit not the soul
that is willing though the body is weak (Matthew 26:41); that
is finally to be made perfect (Hebrews 12:23); and that cannot
be retained by man when the time comes to surrender it back to
God (Ecclesiastes 8:8).
In all these important passages,
and often contrary to the way they are quoted, it is the spirit
and not the soul that is spoken of. We speak easily of the saving
of the soul. And while this is perfectly justified, as will be
seen later, it is not strictly biblical. Passages where spirit
is used instead of soul can be multiplied greatly by careful
attention to the wording of Scripture. Thus it is both body and
spirit that need cleansing (2 Corinthians 7:1). Mystically,
the Church is one body and one spirit (Ephesians 4:4).
And we are called upon to glorify God in our spirit and
our body (1 Corinthians 6:20).
of the soul? Where does it enter the picture? Surely,
the soul is the end result of the fusion of
body and spirit, an entity,
a reality, generated by the fusion of two elements just
as salt is generated from sodium and chlorine gas, or as the
colour green is generated by the fusion of yellow and blue. When
the two components are separated by death, one component returns
to the earth and the other to heaven into God's keeping, until
reunion of the two at the raising of the body brings about the
reconstitution of the person. The soul is the result of a union,
an entity which comprehends the whole man.
Such a view can be supported both
from the Old and the New Testaments. J. Barton Payne has written
a most useful volume entitled The Theology of the Older Testament.
In his chapter on "The Nature of Man," he proposes
that in the Old Testament we have the following progressive equation:
DUST + BREATH = FLESH (as the living organism)
and FLESH + SPIRIT = SOUL (Heb. nephesh, i.e., the person)
of this arrangement commends itself highly since it seems to
meet many of the apparently conflicting relevant passages in
the Old Testament, and virtually all of the New. Passages not
satisfied are usually poetry or analogy or an accommodation to
common parlance. Basically it presents us with a physical body
and a non-physical spirit which together constitute the soul,
We can compare with this a recent
equally satisfying study of the biblical view of human constitution
by Robert H. Gundry titled Soma in Biblical Theology.
This makes an excellent companion volume on the New Testament
evidence to that by Barton Payne on the Old.
Gundry concludes, on the basis
of the New Testament, that man is a body plus spirit entity which,
when fused, becomes a soul. Notice that we are talking about
fusion, not mere addition. Soul is something which neither body
nor spirit alone can ever be. Man thus can be said to have
a body and to have a
spirit: but he does not have a soul. Man IS a soul.
66. Payne, Barton J., The Theology of the
Older Testament, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1962, p.225
Without the spirit the body is like a car without
a driver: without the body the spirit is like a driver without
a car. A brief quotation from Gundry nicely indicates his overall
The biblical touchstone for truly human life is not consciousness
of the spirit, let alone the material being of a physical object
such as the body. Rather, man is fully himself only in the unity
of his body and spirit in order that the body may be animated
and the spirit may express itself in obedience to God.
Both parts of the human constitution share in the dignity of
the divine image. That dignity lies in man's service to God as
a representative caretaker over the material creation. For such
a task man needs a physical medium of action as much as an incorporeal
source for the conscious willing of action.
Neither spirit nor body gains precedence over the other. Each
gains in union with the other: each loses in separation from
We seem therefore
to be nearest to the truth when we formulate the simplest equation
BODY + SPIRIT = SOUL.
This does not
really make man a duality, except for purposes of analysis and
discussion. Man does not exist as a person when body and spirit
are separated, and therefore it is only in a manner of speaking
that we can talk about the body as half the man and the spirit
as the other half, since there is no such thing as half a man.
When separated, the body at once ceases to be a body and becomes
merely a purposeless conglomerate of chemicals: and the spirit
appears to lose all contact with physical reality and all
67.Gundry, Robert H., Soma in Biblical
Theology, Cambridge University Press, 1978, p.160.
means of expression.
Consciousness is almost certainly lost.
Only the resurrection of the body
and its re-fusion with the spirit can reconstitute the whole
man, the person, the soul. A SOUL is therefore a monad,
that is, an absolute singular reality, by nature indivisible.
It comes into being as an entirely "new thing" as a
consequence of the fusion of two elements. It is thus apparent
that we can re-state the equation above in a new form:
ONE + ONE = ONE.
such an equation means that "one and one makes one,"
not TWO: and the secret of the resolution of such an odd equation
then lies in the meaning of the little word "and."
What do we mean by and? In this case, not merely plus
but "fused with," "made one with" in the
most literal sense.
We are by no means without scriptural
analogies for this form of equation. The most obvious one is
to be found in Genesis 2:24. When God brought Eve to Adam (the
Father bringing the bride to the groom!), He said, "They
shall be one flesh." One plus one equals one.
We find the analogy again in the
unification of the Body and its members (i.e., the Church) and
the Head (which is Christ) becoming a single functioning organic
unity. "For as the body is one and has many members, and
all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so
also is Christ . . . you are the body of Christ . . . and
He is the head of the body" (1 Corinthians 12:12 and 27,
and Colossians 1:18). Likewise, Jew and Gentile are so joined
as to "make of the two one new man" (Ephesians 2:15).a
Thus though it takes two partners
to MAKE the "marriage," it is not the partners who
ARE the marriage. The marriage which is thus generated by the
partners becomes a reality all of its own. As yellow and blue
MAKE green, neither the yellow or the blue by themselves ARE
green. Side by
side they remain yellow
and blue: fused they become green.
In an analogous way, the body and
the spirit do indeed MAKE the soul, but it is the soul that is
made, which in this analogy is the MARRIAGE, not one of the partners.
It exists in its own right, just as the resulting soul exists
in its own right.
An evil spirit may take over a
human body, or even a dead one as Satan tried to do with
the body of Moses (Jude 9). But this does not generate another
human soul, nor would it have done so if Satan had succeeded.
In the latter instance, it would have generated only a monster.
What constitutes a human
soul is the unification of a human body with a human spirit.
In terms of his constitution, man
is a body and a spirit: in terms of his soul, man is "simple
and indivisible" as the theologians have it. The soul of
man cannot be divided and survive as a soul. If the two components
are separated, which is the only division that can be made, the
soul no longer exists. What God planned was not just the components
of man by which He created him in two stages, first the body
and then the spirit. When the spirit was infused into the body
which had been prepared to receive it, then man "became
a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). The living soul is
what God created "in his own image."
The union of the spirit and the
body is a "marriage by appointment" since each spirit
is created specifically for each body, and it was never God's
intention that this union should be dissolved in death. Although
through sin it will be dissolved, reunion will occur when the
resurrected body is joined by the spirit. It is not our
"hope of glory" to be merely a redeemed ghost but to
be a redeemed soul.
Even this is not a sufficient statement,
because it suggests a spirit consciously in search of its body.
I believe there is no such thing as a conscious spirit without
a body. It needs the body's brain to have consciousness of the
real world and even of itself. Moreover, I am confident that,
the Christian, there
is no lapse into unconsciousness when we pass into the presence
of the Lord, for our spirit is instantly rejoined to its resurrected
body. In short, death becomes our resurrection.
The soul, therefore, is in the
strictest sense indivisible, for the only division that can be
made results in the dissolution of the soul. Meanwhile the spirit
that has departed from the body passes directly into God's keeping
until the body is resurrected to form its proper home.
Between the departure of the spirit
and the resurrection of the new body, however, there is no experienced
lapse of time because there is no "time" to lapse.
Thus we are never, at any stage in the life of the world to come,
reduced to the status of a mere ghost. We pass into the presence
of the Lord clothed, not naked
(2 Corinthians 5:4), and to be rid of this body is to be clothed
in a new body suited to a royal reception.
I have spelled this out very carefully
and fully in my book Journey Out of Time, a book which
sheds a new light on a number of passages of Scripture that bear
directly upon the circumstances in which this journey into eternity
will be made. The Lord's promise that the believer will not "taste"
of death (John 8:52) will be literally and wonderfully fulfilled.
There will be no experienced loss of consciousness when this
journey is made.
So what we really
have is this. A human being is by definition a human spirit fused
with a human body, not a mere combination of spirit and body
but a fusion in the most absolute sense.
In view of this equation, it is
therefore quite proper to speak of the saving of the soul, i.e.,
the whole person because with every assurance of the rebirth
of the spirit and every assurance of the redemption of the body,
we do indeed have, effectively, every assurance of the saving
of the soul. This is not the saving of half the man, but the
saving of the whole.
The evolutionary view of the origin of the soul has
to be, in the final analysis, a kind of spin-off or epiphenomenon
that emerges directly from the material of the body and will
last only as long as the body lasts. It is a philosophy which
holds out no transcendental value for the human spirit so long
as its own interpretive canons are faithfully applied to the
evidence it admits. The Christian evolutionist appears to me
either inconsistent in his theology as a Christian, or inconsistent
in his philosophy as a Scientist.
A Footnote to this Chapter
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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The reader who prefers to view man's spiritual nature as composed
of more than one element (heart and mind, or soul and spirit,
or mind and will) need not feel offended. The only point that
I feel is quite crucial to my thesis is that man is not man
at all without his body. His spirit is, in fact, not more
important to his future life hereafter than his body is.
Man is a dichotomy in the sense that he is composed of
a non-physical part of his being which is his spirit and a physical
part of his being which is his body, and he cannot be whole without
the total fusion of the two. The resurrection of his body is
every whit as important to his future identity as the preservation
of his spirit. Together they constitute the survival of his person.