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By Spencer D Gear PhD
The Bible tells us that there is one God. The Bible also tells us there is one spirit. Now God is spirit. Yet the Bible also speaks of the Spirit of God, and the spirit of Christ. Do they have a spirit each? So if God is spirit, and the father and son both have spirits…
I do wish you would reference your statements with biblical quotes (with an Aussie accent, of course). I’ll try to examine this:
The doctrine of God
‘There is one God’ (Isa 44:6, NIV):
This is what the LORD says—?Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God’. There are many verses like this throughout the OT, some comparing the one true God with the other gods. How does this one God act in the universe?’
‘There is one Spirit’ (1 Cor 12:13 NIV):
‘For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink’. Obviously this refers to the one Holy Spirit, one member of the Trinity.
‘God is spirit’ (John 4:24 ESV)
, ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’.) The one God cannot be seen in a body as he is an unseen spirit. Notice the translator have spelled “spirit” without a capital “Spirit.”
We also have statements about:
‘The Spirit of God’ (1 Cor 3:16 ESV),
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” This plural for “you” has led to translations such as the NIV, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” What an amazing reality that God’s Spirit lives among Christians.
- We are taught about “
The Spirit of Christ (1 Pet 1:10-11 NET):
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory.
So the OT prophets had the Spirit of Christ in them directing their writings and predictions concerning how salvation would come. The human Christ had not been born but His Spirit was within the prophets predicting the person and time of Christ’s sufferings.
Here we have specific actions by the Spirit of Christ.
- Does each person have a spirit if the Father and Son both are spirits and these spirits live in believers (1 Cor 3:16)?
As has been discussed, the soul and spirit in people is used interchangeably in biblical exposition (see below). The spirit tends to be the language when discussing how individuals communicate with God.
The doctrine of human beings
There are two main views: Trichotomy and Dichotomy
The trichotomous view states that human beings consist of three distinct parts, body, soul, and spirit. “The body is the material part of our constitution; the soul is the principle of animal life; and the spirit is the principle of our rational life” (Thiessen 1949:226).
What biblical support is there for this position? Some theologians rely on Gen 2:7 (KJV): “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” However, contemporary Bible versions, including the NKJV, translate “soul” more accurately: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Soul (nephesh in Heb., psuche in Greek) in the Bible is often used of more than the spiritual dimension, e.g. Gen 2:7; Ps 16:10. However, the soul is distinguished from the body in a passage such as Gen 35:18 (ESV), “And as her [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.”
However, 1 Thess 5:23 (ESV) differentiates soul from the body: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thiessen’s exposition is observed:
We note, however that it is not said that man became spirit and soul; but rather, that God “inbreathed spirit, and man became a living soul, i.e., God’s life took possession of clay, and as a result man had a soul” (quoting Strong’s Systematic Theology, p. 483 in Thiessen 1949:226).
Let’s summarise. “Soul’s” basic meaning is “life” and refers to “the principle of life in a human being, or to that which animates the body. . . . The primary meaning of soul can most often be captured best by translating it as person, which usually is embodied but is sometimes disembodied” (Geisler 2004:46-47).
The word is from the Hebrew ruach and the Greek, pneuma. ‘Almost always [it] refers to “the immaterial dimension of a human being.” It is often used interchangeably with the word soul, as is indicated in many verses (e.g., cf. Luke 1:46). The body without the soul is dead (James 2:26); at death, Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).’ (Geisler 2004:47).
So, spirit is immaterial. Remember what Jesus said to his disciples, recorded in Luke 24:38-39 (ESV):
And he [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
As ‘di’ indicates two, the dichotomous theory is that
The immaterial part of man [is] viewed as an individual and conscious life, capable of possessing and animating a physical organism, is called psuche; viewed as a rational and moral agent, susceptible of divine influence and indwelling, this same immaterial part is called pneuma. The pneuma, then, is man’s nature looking Godward, and capable of receiving and manifesting the Pneuma hagion [Holy Spirit], the psuche is man’s nature looking earthward, and touching the world of sense. The pneuma is man’s highest part, as related to spiritual realities or as capable of such relation; the psuche is man’s higher part, as related to the body, or as capable of such relation. Man’s being therefore is not trichotomous but dichotomous, and his material part, whial possessing duality of powers, has unity of substance (Strong 1903:486, in Thiessen 1949:225-226).
This theology is backed up by the following biblical facts:
See my articles:
One of the key verses that troubles this discussion is Heb 4:12 (ESV):
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
This is the Mounce Interlinear translation (I hope you can discern between the Greek and English:
For gar the ho word logos of ho God theos is living za? and kai effective energ?s, · kai sharper tomos than hyper any pas two-edged distomos sword machaira, · kai cutting through diikneomai so as to achri divide merismos soul psych? from kai spirit pneuma, joints harmos from kai marrow myelos. It is even kai able to discern kritikos the thoughts enthum?sis and kai deliberations ennoia of the heart kardia.
What does it mean that God’s Word can pierce human soul and spirit? This seems to suggest the soul and spirit can be clearly differentiated. Is that the meaning?
As Alford has stated in his Greek-based commentary,
The logos pierces to the dividing, not of the psuche from the pneuma, but of the psuche itself and of the pneuma itself: the former being the lower portion of man’s invisible part, which he has in common with the brutes. . . . the latter the higher portion, receptive of the Spirit of God . . . both which are pierced and divided by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. . . . and on the other hand, the harmoi and mueloi could not be thus said to be separated, having never been in contact with one another (Alford: Hebrews 4:12).
Therefore, “it is probable we should think of human beings’ immaterial nature to be composed of a lower and higher portion (Alford on Heb. 4:12).” Thiessen prefers Strong’s language of “higher and lower power”(Thiessen 1949:227).
We are still left with the meaning of logos in Heb 4:12. Does the “word of God” refer to Scriptures, the messages received through meditating on Scriptures, or the subjective word (intuition) received by individuals? This word of God is an “authentic command” that is not just a sharp sword but also “a two-edged sword,” that occur several times in the OT. The language of ‘piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow”—is to be understood as a “rhetorical accumulation” to express the whole mental nature of man on all its sides”’ (Bruce 1964:81-82).
The human constitution is that of body and soul/spirit. Soul and spirit are often used interchangeably, but the soul can refer to bodily life while the spirit focuses on the relationship of the person with God. My examination of the biblical material favors a dichotomous conclusion.
Hebrews 4:12 identifies the “word of God” as God speaking to the whole human being. There is no sense of soul and spirit being divided as they weren’t joined in the first place.
Alford, Henry. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary, Hebrews, StudyLight.org, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/hebrews-4.html.
Bruce, F F 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.
Strong, Augustus Hopkins 1903. Systematic Theology (3 vols), public domain: http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books%20II/Strong%20-%20Systematic%20Theology.pdf.
Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Also available online at: http://media.sabda.org/alkitab-2/PDF%20Books/00045%20Thiessen%20Lectures%20in%20Systematic%20Theology.pdf.
 #1471 at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/trinity-vs-tritheism-understanding-the-trinity.27750/page-74 (Accessed 18 July 2019).
 This editing and transliteration of the Greek words were given by Thiessen (1949:227).
Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 October 2021.