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§ 2. Trichotomy.

It is of more consequence to remark that the Scriptural doctrine is opposed to Trichotomy, or the doctrine that man consists of three distinct substances, body, soul, and spirit: σῶμα, ψυχή, and πνεῦμα; corpus, anima, and animus. This view of the nature of man is of the more importance to the theologian because it has not only been held to a greater or less extent in the Church, but also because it has greatly influenced the form in which other doctrines have been presented; and because it has some semblance of support from the Scriptures themselves. The doctrine has been held in different forms. The simplest, the most intelligible, and the one most commonly adopted is, that the body is the material part of our constitution; the soul, or ψυχή, is the principle of animal life; and the mind, or πνεῦμα, the principle of our rational and immortal life. When a plant dies its material organization is dissolved and the principle of vegetable life which it contained disappears. When a brute dies its body returns to dust, and the or principle of animal life by which it was animated, passes away. When a man dies his body returns to the earth, his ψυχή ceases to exist, his πνεῦμα alone remains until reunited with the body at the resurrection. To the πνεῦμα, which is peculiar to man, belong reason, will, and conscience. To the ψυχή which we have in common with the brutes, belong understanding, feeling, and sensibility, or, the power of sense-perceptions. To the σῶμα belongs what is purely material.7373August Hahn, Lehrbuch des christlichen Glaubens, p. 324. According to another view of the subject, the soul is neither the body nor the mind; nor is it a distinct subsistence, but it is the resultant of the union of the πνεῦμα and σῶμα.7474Göschel in Herzog's Encyklopädie, Article “Seele.” Or according to Delitzsch,7575Biblische Psychologie, § 4, p. 128. there is a dualism of being in man, but a trichotomy of substance. He distinguishes between being and substance, and maintains, (1.) that spirit and soul (πνεῦμα and ψυχή) are not verschiedene Wesen, but that they are verschiedene Substanzen. He says that the נֶפֶשׁ חַיָה, mentioned in the history of the creation, is not the compositum resulting from the union of the spirit and body, so that the two constituted man; but it is a tertium quid, a third substance which belongs to the constitution of his nature. (2.) But secondly, this third principle does not pertain to the body; it is net the higher 48attributes or functions of the body, but it pertains to the spirit and is produced by it. It sustains the same relation to it that breath does to the body, or effulgence does to light. He says that the ψυχή, (soul) is the ἀπαύγασμα of the πνεῦμα and the bond of its union with the body.

Trichotomy anti-Scriptural.

In opposition to all the forms of trichotomy, or the doctrine of a threefold substance in the constitution of man, it may be remarked, (1.) That it is opposed to the account of the creation of man as given in Gen. ii. 7. According to that account God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life, and he became נֶפֶשׁ חַיָה i.e., a being (אֶשֶׁר־בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָה) in whom is a living soul. There is in this account no intimation of anything more than the material body formed of the earth and the living principle derived from God. (2.) This doctrine (trichotomy) is opposed to the uniform usage of Scripture. So far from the נֶפֶשׁ, ψυχή, , anima, or soul, being distinguished from the רוּחַ, πνεῦμα, animus, or mind as either originally different or as derived from it, these words all designate one and the same thing. They are constantly interchanged. The one is substituted for the other, and all that is, or can be predicated of the one, is predicated of the other. The Hebrew נֶפֶשׁ, and the Greek ψυχή, mean breath, life, the living principle; that in which life and the whole life of the subject spoken of resides. The same is true of רוּחַ and πνεῦμα, they also mean breath, life, and living principle. The Scriptures therefore speak of the נֶפֶשׁ or ψυχή not only as that which lives or is the principle of life to the body, but, as that which thinks and feels, which may be saved or lost, which survives the body and is Immortal. The soul is the man himself, that in which his identity and personality reside. It is the Ego. Higher than the soul there is nothing in man. Therefore it is so often used as a synonym for self. Every soul is every man; my soul is I; his soul is he. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul. It is the soul that sins (Lev. iv. 2): it is the soul that loves God. We are commanded to love God, ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ. Hope is said to be the anchor of the soul, and the word of God is able to save the soul. The end of our faith is said to be (1 Peter i. 9), the salvation of our souls; and John (Rev. vi. 9; xx. 4), saw in heaven the souls of them that were slain for the word of God. From all this it is evident that the word ψυχή, or soul, does not designate the mere animal part of our nature, and is not a substance different from the πνεῦμα, or spirit. (3.) A third remark on this subject is that all 49the words above mentioned, רוּחַ ,נֶפֶשׁ , and נְשָׁמָה in Hebrew, ψυχή and πνεῦμα in Greek, and soul and spirit in English, are used in the Scriptures indiscriminately of men and of irrational animals. If the Bible ascribed only a ψυχή to brutes, and both ψυχή and πνεῦμα to man, there would be some ground for assuming that the two are essentially distinct. But such is not the case. The living principle in the brute is called both נֶפֶשׁ and רוּחַ, ψυχή and πνεῦμα. That principle in the brute creation is irrational and mortal; in man it is rational and immortal. “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” Eccles. iii. 21. The soul of the brute is the immaterial principle which constitutes its life, and which is endowed with sensibility, and that measure of intelligence which experience shows the lower animals to possess. The soul in man is a created spirit of a higher order, which has not only the attributes of sensibility, memory, and instinct, but also the higher powers which pertain to our intellectual, moral, and religious life. As in the brutes it is not one substance that feels and another that remembers; so it is not one substance in man that is the subject of sensations, and another substance which has intuitions of necessary truths, and which is endowed with conscience and with the knowledge of God. Philosophers speak of world-consciousness, or the immediate cognizance which we have of what is without us; of self-consciousness, or the knowledge of what is within us; and of God-consciousness, or our knowledge and sense of God. These all belong to one and the same immaterial, rational substance. (4.) It is fair to appeal to the testimony of consciousness on this subject. We are conscious of our bodies and we are conscious of our souls, i.e., of the exercises and states of each; but no man is conscious of the ψυχή as distinct from the πνεῦμα, of the soul as different from the spirit. In other words consciousness reveals the existence of two substances in the constitution of our nature; but it does not reveal the existence of three substances, and therefore the existence of more than two cannot rationally be assumed.

Doubtful Passages Explained.

(5.) The passages of Scriptures which are cited as favouring the opposite doctrine may all be explained in consistency with the cur-rent representations of Scripture on the subject. When Paul says to the Thessalonians, “I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians v. 23). he only uses a periphrasis for 50the whole man. As when in Luke i. 46, 47, the virgin says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” soul and spirit in this passage do not mean different things. And when we are commanded “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind” (Luke x. 27), we have not an enumeration of so many distinct substances. Nor do we distinguish between the mind and heart as separate entities when we pray that both may be enlightened and sanctified; we mean simply the soul in all its aspects or faculties. Again, when in Heb. iv. 12, the Apostle says that the word of God pierces so as to penetrate soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, he does not assume that soul and spirit are different substances. The joints and marrow are not different substances. They are both material; they are different forms of the same substance; and so soul and spirit are one and the same substance under different aspects or relations. We can say that the word of God reaches not only to the feelings, but also to the conscience, without assuming that the heart and conscience are distinct entities. Much less is any such distinction implied in Phil. i. 27, “Stand fast in one spirit (ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι), with one mind (μιᾷ ψυχῇ).” There is more difficulty in explaining 1 Cor. xv. 44. The Apostle there distinguishes between the σῶμα ψυχικόν and the σῶμα πνευματικόν; the former is that in which the ψυχή is the animating principle; and the latter that in which the πνεῦμα is the principle of life. The one we have here, the other we are to have hereafter. This seems to imply that the ψυχή exists in this life, but is not to exist hereafter, and therefore that the two are separable and distinct. In this explanation we might acquiesce if it did not contradict the general representations of the Scriptures. We are constrained, therefore, to seek another explanation which will harmonize with other portions of the word of God. The general meaning of the Apostle is plain. We have now gross, perishable, and dishonorable, or unsightly bodies. Hereafter we are to have glorious bodies, adapted to a higher state of existence. The only question is, why does he call the one psychical, and the other pneumatic? Because the word ψυχή, although often used for the soul as rational and immortal, is also used for the lower form of life which belongs to irrational animals. Our future bodies are not to be adapted to those principles of our nature which we have in common with the brutes, out to those which are peculiar to us as men, created in the image of God. The same individual human soul has certain susceptibilities and powers which adapt it to the present state of existence, 51and to the earthly house in which it now dwells. It has animal appetites and necessities. It can hunger and thirst. It needs sleep and rest. But the same soul has higher powers. The earthly body is suited to its earthly state; the heavenly body to its heavenly state. There are not two substances ψυχή and πνεῦμα, there is but one and the same substance with different susceptibilities and powers. In this same connection Paul says, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. Yet our bodies are to inherit that kingdom, and our bodies are flesh and blood. The same material substance now constituted as flesh and blood is to be so changed as to be like Christ's glorious body. As this representation does not prove a substantial difference between the body which now is and that which is to be hereafter, so neither does what the Apostle says of the σῶμα ψυχικόν and the σῶμα πνευματικόν prove that the ψυχή and πνεῦμα are distinct substances.

This doctrine of a threefold constitution of man being adopted by Plato, was introduced partially into the early Church, but soon came to be regarded as dangerous, if not heretical. It being held by the Gnostics that the πνεῦμα in man was a part of the divine essence, and incapable of sin; and by the Apollinarians that Christ had only a human σῶμα and ψυχή, but not a human πνεῦμα, the Church rejected the doctrine that the ψυχή and πνεῦμα were distinct substances, since upon it those heresies were founded. In later times the Semi-Pelagians taught that the soul and body, but not the spirit in man were the subjects of original sin. All Protestants, Lutheran and Reformed, were, therefore, the more zealous in maintaining that the soul and spirit, ψυχή and πνεῦμα, are one and the same substance and essence. And this, as before remarked, has been the common doctrine of the Church.7676See G. L. Hahn, Theologie des N. T. Olshausen, De Trichotomia Naturæ Humanæ, e Novi Testamenti Scriptoribus recepta. Ackermann, Studien und Kritiken, 1839, p. 889. R. T. Beck. Umriss d. biblischen Seelenlehre, 1843.


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