International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Introduction: Scope of Biblical Psychology
2. Nature and Origin of the Soul
3. False Theories
4. Creationism and Traducianism
6. Scriptural Terms
7. Pauline Expressions
8. Monism and Other Theories
9. The Fall of Man
10. Effects of the Fall
11. Death as a Problem
12. Immortality of the Soul
1. Introduction: Scope of Biblical Psychology:
The extravagant claims made by some writers for a fully developed system of Biblical psychology has brought the whole subject into disrepute. So much so, that Hofmann (Schriftbeweis) has boldly asserted that "a system of Biblical psychology has been got together without any justification for it in Scripture." At the outset, therefore, it must be borne in mind that the Bible does not present us with a systematized philosophy of man, but gives in popular form an account of human nature in all its various relationships. A reverent study of Scripture will undoubtedly lead to the recognition of a well-defined system of psychology, on which the whole scheme of redemption is based. Great truths regarding human nature are presupposed in and accepted by the Old Testament and the New Testament; stress is there laid on other aspects of truth, unknown to writers outside of revelation, and presented to us, not in the language of the schools, but in that of practical life. Man is there described as fallen and degraded, but intended by God to be raised, redeemed, renewed. From this point of view Biblical psychology must be studied, and our aim should be "to bring out the views of Scripture regarding the nature, the life and life-destinies of the soul, as they are determined in the history of salvation" (Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, 15).
2. Nature and Origin of the Soul:
As to the origin of the soul, Scripture is silent. It states very clearly that life was inbreathed into man by God (wayyippah; Septuagint enephusesen; Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) inspiravit). The human being thus inspired by God was thereby constituted a nephesh chayyah ("living soul"), because the nishmath chayyim ("breath of lives") had been imparted to him (Genesis 2:7). Beyond this the first book of the Bible does not go. In later books the doctrine is taught with equal clearness. Thus, in the Book of Job: "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty giveth me life" (Job 33:4). The difference in expression should be carefully noted. The "living soul" Septuagint psuche zosa) is made to depend upon, as it has its origin in, the "breath of lives" the Septuagint pnoe zoes). The neshamah ("breath") is characteristic of man-though it is very rarely, if ever, attributed to animals; man is described as a being `in whose nostrils is but a breath' (neshamah) (Isaiah 2:22). That "breath" is `God's breath in man' (Job 32:8; Job 34:14), or, as it is represented in Proverbs 20:27, "The spirit of man (nishmath) is the lamp of Yahweh." In the New Testament Paul evidently refers to this view of man's origin in the statement that "the first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam.... a life-giving (quickening) spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45). This too agrees with what Christ has said: "It is the spirit, that giveth life (quickeneth)" (John 6:63), and with what Paul himself has stated elsewhere in the Epistle to the Romans (8:2): "The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death."
3. False Theories:
Scripture therefore repudiates all doctrines of emanation, by which is meant a natural, forth-flowing life from God into the human sphere; it teaches a doctrine of creation, whereby it declares that the Almighty acts with deliberation and design, in free choice, and not of necessity. "Let us make man" is the sublime utterance of divine wisdom and power. Nor does Scripture teach the pre-existence of the soul-a doctrine found in the extra-canonical, platonically-inspired Book of Wisdom (Wisd 8:19, 20), For I was a child of parts, and a good soul fell to my lot; nay rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled." This doctrine was well known to Jewish writers, and was taught in Talmud and Kabbalah.
"All souls were, according to the Talmud, created and kept in secret from the first moment of creation. As creatures of the highest sphere they are omniscient; but at the moment of birth in a human body an angel touches the lips of the child, so that he forgets whatever has been" (Emanuel Deutsch, The Talmud). The doctrine, however, must be a later importation into Jewish theology through Plato and Philo. It reminds us of Vergil (AEneid vi.713), who makes the souls-destined by the Fates to inhabit new bodies on earth-drink of the waters of Lethe (forgetfulness), so as to remove all remembrance of the joys of Elysium:
"The souls that throng the flood,
Are those to whom by Fate are other bodies owed;
In Lethe's lake they long oblivion taste
Of future life secure, forgetful of the past."
According to the Kabbalah, souls are supposed to have an ideal as well as a real pre-existence: "ideal as emanations from the cephiroth, which are themselves emanations from the infinite real, as having been `created' at a definite time" (compare Eric Bischoff, De Kabbala).
The doctrine with some modifications passed into the Christian church, was accepted by Justin Martyr, Theodoretus, Origen and others of the church Fathers, but became obsolete by the latter part of the 4th century (compare Shedd, History of Christian Doctrine, II, 9). It was formally condemned by a synod held at Constantinople in the 6th century. In later times it was accepted in modified form by Kant, Schelling and others, and was specially defended by Julius Muller, who held that the soul had a timeless preexistence and underwent a fall before the final act, whereby it was united in time to the body as its temporary home (Ein ausserzeitlicher Urzustand und Urfall). Reference is sometimes made to Jeremiah 1:5, where Yahweh addresses His servant: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; I have appointed thee a prophet unto the nations." But this text gives no warrant to the doctrine as taught by the writers mentioned. All that may be conceded is, what Delitzsch has termed "an ideal pre-existence," i.e. "a pre-existence, not only of man as such, but also of the individual and of all: a preexistence in the divine knowledge, which precedes the existence in the individual consciousness" (Biblical Psychology, 46).
4. Creationism and Traducianism:
A new question arises at this point, namely, Is the soul a special creation? Is it derived from the parents? Opinions are and have been divided on this point. Many have supported theory of Creationism, by which is meant that in every instance where a new individual comes into being a soul is specially created by God, de nihilo, to inhabit the new-formed body. This view of the soul's birth found great favor in the early church. It was dominant in the East and was advocated in the West. "Jerome asserts that God quotidie fabricatur animas, and cites Scripture in proof" (Shedd, op. cit., II, 11). Scholastic theologians in the Middle Ages, Roman Catholic divines, Reformed orthodoxy upheld theory. Though finding little support in Scripture, they appealed to such texts as the following: "He fashioneth their hearts alike" (Psalm 33:15 the King James Version); Yahweh "formeth the spirit of man within him" (Zechariah 12:1); "The spirit returneth unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7; compare Numbers 16:22 Hebrews 12:9); "God, the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numbers 27:16)-of which Delitzsch declared: "There can hardly be a more classical proof-text for creationism" (Bibl. Psych., 137).
Traducianism again has found equal support in the Christian church. It declared that the parents were responsible, not merely for the bodies, but also for the souls of their offspring-per traducem vel per propaginem (i.e. by direct derivation, in the ordinary way of propagation). Tertullian was a strong supporter of this view: "The soul of man, like the shoot of a tree, is drawn out (deducta) into a physical progeny from Adam, the parent stock" (Shedd, History of Doctrine, II, 14). Jerome remarked that in his day it was adopted by maxima pars occidentalium ("the large majority of western theologians"). Leo the Great (died 461) asserted that "the Catholic faith teaches that every man with reference to the substance of his soul as well as of his body is formed in the womb" (Shedd). Augustine, however, though doctrinally inclined to support the claims of Traducianists, kept an open mind on the subject: "You may blame, if you will, my hesitation," he wrote, "because I do not venture to affirm or deny that of which I am ignorant." And, perhaps, this is the safest attitude to assume; for there is little Scriptural warrant for either theory. Birth is a mystery which baffles investigation, and Scripture throws no light upon that mystery. Yet some who have discussed this subject have tried actually to calculate the very day on which the soul is created or infused into the body, as it is being formed in the mother's womb-in boys on the 40th day after pregnancy and in girls on the 80th day. This indeed is the reductio ad absurdum of Creationism.
Whichever theory we accept, the difficulties are great either way. For if God creates a soul, that soul must be pure and sinless and stainless at birth. How then can it be said that man is "conceived" as well as "born in sin"? If the impure, sin-stained body contaminates the pure, unstained soul by contact, why cannot the stainless soul disinfect the contaminated body? And again, if every individual soul is a special creation by direct interposition of the Almighty, what becomes of the unity and solidarity of the race? Is its connection with Adam then purely one of physical or corporeal generation? Creationism cannot account for the birth of the soul. Nor can Traducianism. For it can account neither for the origin, nor for the hereditary taint of the soul. It lands us in a hopeless dilemma. In the one case we fall back upon Creationism with its difficulties; in the other, we plunge into a materialism which is equally fatal to theory (compare Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, II, 626). Perhaps the words of Petrus Lombardus, though frequently misunderstood and misapplied, throw most light on the subject-a light, however, which is little more than "darkness visible"-creando infundit eas Deus, et infundendo creat ("in creating God infused (the soul); and in infusing He creates"). The problem is and remains insoluble.
Passing allusion may be made to another very curious theory, to which reference is made by Martensen (Christliche Ethik, I, 107). It bears upon human individuality, as impressed not only upon the soul, but also upon the body. The soul and the body are represented as arising at the same moment, but the latter (not in regard to its physico-chemical composition, but in other respects) is the resultant of soul-influences, whatever these may be. The soul therefore exercises a formative influence upon the body, with which it is united. This theory is attributed by Martensen to G.E. Stahl, who died in Berlin in 1734, as physician to the royal family. We are here in a region where the way is barred-"a palpable obscure" without the light of day.
The next important question which has occupied many minds is equally difficult of solution-theory of Tripartition. Is man composed of "body" and "soul" (dichotomy) only, or is a third to be added to the two, so that "spirit" is another element in the constitution of human nature (trichotomy)? Either theory is supposed to be supported by Scripture, and both have had their defenders in all ages of the church. Where the tripartite division has found favor, soul and spirit have been distinguished from each other, as man's lower is distinguished from his higher nature; where dichotomy prevailed, soul and spirit were represented as manifestations of the same spiritual essence. Under the influence of Platonic philosophy, trichotomy found favor in the early church, but was discredited on account of the Apollinarian heresy. The threefold division of human nature into soma ("body"), psuche ("soul"), pneuma ("spirit") had been accepted by many when Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea (died 382), attempted to explain the mystery of Christ's person by teaching that the Logos (or second person of the Trinity) had taken the place of the rational soul in Christ, so that the person of Christ on earth consisted of the Divine Logos, a human body, and a soul (psuche) as the link between the two.
For the tripartite division of human nature two texts are specially brought into the discussion: namely, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame"-a text which is popularly interpreted as conveying that "soul" stands for "our powers natural-those we have by nature," and that by "spirit" is meant "that life in man which in his natural state can scarcely be said to exist at all, but which is to be called out into power and vitality by regeneration" (F.W. Robertson, Sermons). There is very little warrant in Scripture for such interpretation. "The language does not require a distinction of organs or substances, but may be accounted for by a vivid conception of one substance in different relations and under different aspects. The two terms are used to give exhaustive expression to the whole being and nature of man" (Davidson, Old Testament Theology, 135). There is evidently no distinction of essence here-namely, of a soul distinct from the spirit, and a body distinct from either. In his "fervid desire for the complete and perfect sanctification of his disciples, the apostle accumulates these terms" in order to emphasize the doctrine of an entire renewal of the whole man by the working of the Holy Spirit. It has been pointed out (A. Kuyper, Het werk v. d. Heiligen Geest, III, 101)-and this must be carefully borne in mind-that "the apostle does not use the word holomereis, `in all your parts,' and then summarize these parts in body, soul and spirit, but holoteleis, a word that has no reference to the parts, but to the telos, the end or aim. Calvin interprets `soul' and `spirit' here as referring to our rational and moral existence, as thinking, willing beings, both modes of operation of the one, undivided soul."
The next text to which an appeal is made is Hebrews 4:12: "The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." Here spirit, soul and heart are brought into close correspondence, with heart evidently as the center of personality, manifesting itself in soul and spirit. The only question is, whether the dividing which takes place by the piercing word of God is one within the soul and spirit, causing a complete exposure of the inner man, a cutting asunder of all that composes his nature, or one between the soul and spirit, causing a division between them as separate parts of human nature. The probability lies with the first of these two contradictory views. The writer evidently meant that, as a sharp two-edged sword pierces to the very marrow in its sundering process, so the sword of the spirit cuts through all obstacles, pierces the very heart, lays bare what hitherto was hidden to all observers, even to the man himself, and "discerns" the "thoughts and intents," which in the unity of soul and spirit have hitherto been kept in the background. "The meaning is rather, that the word of God pierces and dissects both the soul and spirit, separates each into its parts, subtle though they may be, and analyzes their thoughts and intents" (Davidson, op, cit., 187). At any rate, to found a doctrine of Trichotomy on an isolated, variously interpreted text is dangerous in the extreme. The language of metaphor is not the language of literal speech; and here evidently we are in the region of metaphor.
The ground is now cleared for a fuller investigation of the meaning of these terms:
6. Scriptural Terms:
(1) The terms are used inter changeably, though they are not synonymous. Lebhabh ("heart"), nephesh ("soul"), ruach ("spirit") are very closely connected in the Old Testament. The heart is there represented as "the organ, the spirit as the principle, the soul as the subject of life" (Cremer, Lexicon). Hence, we read that "out of it (the heart) are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Dying is represented as the surrender of soul (Genesis 35:18 Job 11:20), but also of spirit (Psalm 31:5; Psalm 146:4). The dead are called souls (Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4), and also spirits (Hebrews 12:23 1 Peter 3:19). In the last mentioned text the "spirits in prison" are also called "souls." The living are described as "disturbed" or "grieved" in soul (Judges 10:16), "vexed" (Judges 16:16), "discouraged" (Numbers 21:4), "weary" (Zechariah 11:8); but also as in "anguish of spirit" (Exodus 6:9), "impatient in spirit" (Job 21:4, in the Hebrew), `straitened in spirit' (Micah 2:7). At death the "spirit" departs (Psalm 146:4, in the Hebrew), but also the "soul" (Genesis 35:18). As in the Old Testament so in the New Testament, our Lord "sighed" or "was troubled in the spirit" (John 13:21)?, but we also read that His soul was "exceeding sorrowful," or troubled (Matthew 26:38 John 12:27).
SeeSPIRIT; SOUL; HEART. (2) And yet there is a distinction, whatever the real nature of it may be. In Mary's Magnificat, e.g., we find the two combined in an interesting manner: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:46, 47), the one clause "referring to the personal emotions of Mary, to her feelings as a woman and a mother, all of which find an outlet in adoration," the second clause "appearing to indicate the moment when, in the profoundest depths of her being, by the touch of the divine spirit, the promise of the angel was accomplished in her" (Godet, in the place cited.). A like contrast meets us in the story of Gethsemane. The Master was `exceeding sorrowful in soul' (i.e. the emotional, sensitive center of His being was in deep sorrow), the disciples were `willing in spirit,' but `weak in the flesh' (Matthew 26:38, 41). In the Old Testament we find that when a man dies his "soul" departs, and when he is restored to life his "soul" returns (1 Kings 17:22); but when consciousness or lifepower returns to one not dead, "spirit" is used (Genesis 45:27 Judges 15:19 1 Samuel 30:12 1 Kings 10:5). Even in popular language the distinction is recognized: we speak of so many "souls," not "spirits," as having perished.
(3) From all this it would appear that philosophic distinction or scientific accuracy of expression is not met with in Scripture. Man is there represented as a unity, and the various terms employed to indicate that unity in its diversity of activities or passivities do not necessarily imply the existence of different essences, or of separate organs, through which these are realized. Psychical action is sometimes ascribed to the body, as well as to the soul, for soul and body are inseparably united to each other. It is the possession of a soul which makes the body what it is; and on the other hand, a soul without a body is unthinkable. The resurrection of the body therefore is no mere figment of the creeds. The body is God's work (Job 10:8), inseparable from the life of the soul. In the New Testament it is spoken of as "the house on earth" (epigeios oikia), the "tabernacle" or tent prepared for the occupant (skenos) (1 Corinthians 12:18 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1). In the Old Testament "we have such metaphorical expressions as `houses of clay'; or, as in post-Biblical writings, `earthly tabernacle.' In the latest, we have words which suggest a hollow, a framework, or a sheath, favoring the Greek idea of the body as the husk or clothing of the soul" (Laidlaw). Hence, in Scripture, spirit and soul are interchangeably used with body for human nature in general, not as though indicating three separate entities, but as denoting a parallelism which brings out the full personality of man. Soul and body are threatened with destruction (Matthew 10:28); body without spirit is a corpse (James 2:26); soul and spirit are interchangeably united: "Stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving," etc. (Philippians 1:27).
(4) Gathering all together, the Scriptural position seems to be as follows: The Divine Spirit is the source of all life, and its power is communicated in the physical, intellectual and moral sphere. That Spirit, as the spiritus spirans, the inspiring spirit, by its very breath makes man a living soul: "The spirit (or breath) of God is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3); "Thou takest away their breath (ruach, "spirit", they die, and return to their dust" (Psalm 104:29). Hence, God is called "God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16). Soul, though identical with spirit, has shades of meaning which spirit has not; it stands for the individual. "Man is spirit, because he is dependent upon God. Man is soul, because, unlike the angels, he has a body, which links him to earth. He is animal as possessing anima, but he is a reasoning animal, which distinguishes him from the brute" (Bavinck, German Dogm., II, 628).
(5) In this connection stress may be laid upon some of Paul's expressions. He exhorts the Philippians to "stand fast in one spirit (pneuma), with one soul (psuche) striving for the faith" (Philippians 1:27).
7. Pauline Expressions:
He exhorts them to be "of the same mind" (sumpsuchoi, Philippians 2:2); he hopes to be "of good comfort" (eupsucho, Philippians 2:19); he knows of `no man likeminded, (isopsuchon), who (would) care truly for (their) state (Philippians 2:20). Everywhere therefore we have "soul" in various combinations to indicate the mental attitude, which in the "fellowship of the Spirit" he would assume toward his readers, and his readers would adopt toward himself. There cannot be therefore that subtle distinction which men have found in the terms "spirit" and "soul," as though two separate essences were housed in one body. The text in Job (33:4), "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty giveth me life," is the key to the whole problem. The spiritus spirans becomes the spiritus spiratus-the inspiring spirit becomes in man the life which is expired, outbreathed by man, in both soul and spirit. "Soul," therefore, may well stand for the personal, living, animated being-the suffering, acting, thinking, reasoning, dying creature, "whose breath is in his nostrils." Christ gave His `soul' (psuche) for His sheep (John 10:11). On the cross He Himself exclaimed: "Into thy hands I commend my spirit" (pneuma) (Luke 23:46). Spirit may therefore indicate the all-embracing power, guiding the inward and the outward life-principium illud internum ex quo fluunt actiones, is Bengel's comment on Ephesians 2:2 (compare Luke 9:55 the King James Version; Luke 4:36). Hence, by an easy gradation it may stand for the abysmal depths of personality; while "soul" would express man's individuality in general.
Pauline phraseology has somewhat confused the issue; at any rate, new meanings, not obvious to the reader, have been assigned to various terms. Paul contrasts the psychical and the pneumatic, the man under the influence of the divine pneuma, and the man as influenced by his own psuche. The psychical man is man in his natural, unregenerate state, psychical in this connection being almost equivalent to carnal; while the pneumatic man would be the man guided and directed by the Spirit from on high. Nature and grace are contrasted in the two terms as the first and second Adam are contrasted in 1 Corinthians 15:45 -the first Adam being described as a living psuche ("soul"), the second as a life-giving pneuma ("spirit"). Even so the psychical body is the body intended, fitted to bear the psuche, while the pneumatic body is evidently the body capable of bearing the p Romans 11:11, 12, where allusion is made to the fall (paraptoma) of Israel. With the origin of evil Scripture apparently does not concern itself, though it clearly states that man's sinful condition stands in direct connection with the transgression of Adam, as in Romans 5:12, where the introduction of sin (hamartia) into the world (kosmos) is spoken of as the act of one man (s.c. Adam), hamartia being evidently taken as a power of evil working in the world of men. The Old Testament allusion in Hosea 6:7 can hardly be referred to Adam's transgression; at any rate the reference is doubtful. the King James Version renders the passage: "They like men have transgressed the covenant," though the revisers have translated: "But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant." The German and Dutch versions give the same interpretation to the verse: "like Adam." The Septuagint takes the term as an appellative (hos anthropos, "as man"), but the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) refers the transgression to Adam (sicut Adam transgressi sunt). The other allusions in the Old Testament to this event are slight, as in Job 31:33 Ezekiel 28:13, 15. In the New Testament, however, the references are much more frequent, especially in the writings of John and of Paul (compare John 8:44 1 John 3:8 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14). The strong parallelism between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21, the obedience of the one bringing freedom, while that of the other brought woe, and the contrast in 1 Corinthians 15:22 between Adam and Christ throw sufficient light on the question at issue.
Modern science, under the influence of the evolutionary hypothesis, has eliminated or at least has attempted to eliminate the factor of the Fall. That "fall" has been interpreted as a "rise," the "descent" is supposed to have been a real "ascent." Far down the ages, millenniums ago, "a miserable, half-starved, naked wretch, just emerged from the bestial condition, torn with fierce passions, and fighting his way among his compeers with low-browed cunning" (Orr, Christian View of God, 180) must have emerged somehow out of darkness into light. "We are no longer," says Professor J. A. Thomson, "as those who look back to a paradise in which man fell; we are as those `who, rowing hard against the stream, see distant gates of Eden gleam, and do not dream it is a dream' " (Bible of Nature, 226). If science definitely teaches that man has arisen by slow, insensible gradations from the brute, and no further word may be said on the subject, then indeed the problem of human sin is utterly inexplicable. There can then be no agreement between the Biblical conception and the evolutionary theory as so presented. For primitive man's transgression would under such circumstances be but the natural expression of brute passion, to which the name of sin in the Christian sense can hardly be applied. But if for "minute" and "insensible" gradations in the evolutionary process be substituted the "mutations," "leaps" or "lifts," to which an increasing number of evolutionists are appealing; if primitive man be not pictured as a semi-animal, subject to brutish impulse and passion; if with man a new start was made, a "lift" occurred in the process of development under the guiding and directing influence of Almighty power, the problem assumes a different shape. A sinless creature, transgressing the moral law, is then not an unscientific assumption; conscience asserting itself as the voice divine within the human soul is then not only possible, but actual and real, in the history of man's earliest progenitors. The Biblical narrative will after all remain as the most reasonable explanation of man's original condition and his terrible fall. In that narrative will be found enshrined the "shadowing tradition" of a real, historic event, which has influenced the human race through all the ages.
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