Larger font
Smaller font
Copy
Print
Contents

Man’s Nature and Destiny

 - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents

    06 WHAT IS SOUL? WHAT IS SPIRIT?

    THE discussion of Genesis 2:7 (as in the preceding chapter) brings directly before us for solution the question, What is meant by the terms “soul” and “spirit,” as applied to man? Believers in unconditional immortality point triumphantly to the fact that the terms “soul” and “spirit” are applied to human beings, and seem to regard that as settling the question, and placing an insuperable quietus upon all further discussion. This arises simply from their not looking into this matter with sufficient thoroughness to see that all we question in the case is the popular definition that is given to these terms. We do not deny that there is a soul and spirit pertaining to man; we only say that if our friends will show that the Bible anywhere attaches to them the meaning with which modern theology has invested them, they will supply what has thus far been a perpetual lack, and forever settle this controversy.MND 42.2

    What do theologians tell us these terms signify? Buck, in his theological dictionary, says: “Soul, that vital, immaterial, active substance or principle in man whereby he perceives, remembers, reasons, and wills.” On spirit, he says: “An incorporeal being or intelligence; in which sense God is said to be a spirit, as are the angels and the human soul.” On man, he says: “The constituent and essential parts of man created by God are two, - body and soul. The one was made out of dust; the other was breathed into him.” This soul, he further says, “is a spiritual substance;” and then, apparently feeling not exactly safe in calling that a substance which he claims to be immaterial, he bewilders it by saying “subsistence,” and then adds, “immaterial, immortal.”MND 43.1

    This position strikes us as considerably open to criticism. On this definition of “soul,” how can we deny it to the lower animals? for they “perceive, remember, reason, and will.” And, if spirit means the “human soul,” the question arises, Has man two immortal elements in his nature? for the Bible applies both terms to him at the same time. Paul, to the Thessalonians, says: And I pray “God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Does Paul here use tautology, by applying to man two terms meaning the same thing? That would be a serious charge against his inspiration! Then has man two immortal parts, soul and spirit both? This would evidently be overdoing the matter; for, where one is enough, two are a burden. And further, on this hypothesis, would these two immortal parts exist hereafter as two independent and separate beings?MND 43.2

    This idea being preposterous, one question more remains: Which of these two is the immortal part? Is it the soul or the spirit? It cannot be both; and it matters not to us which is the one chosen. But we want to know what the decision is between the two. If they say that what we call the soul is the immortal part, then they give up such texts as Ecclesiastes 12:7: “The spirit shall return to God who gave it;” and Luke 23:46: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” etc. On the other hand, if they claim that it is the spirit which is the immortal part, then they give up such texts as Genesis 35:18: “And it came to pass as her soul was in departing (for she died);” and 1 Kings 17:21: “Let this child’s soul come into him again,“MND 44.1

    And, further, if the body and soul are both essential parts of man, as Mr. B. affirms, how can either exist as a distinct, conscious, and perfect being without the other?MND 44.2

    Foreseeing these difficulties, Smith, in his Bible Dictionary, distinguishes between soul and spirit thus: “Soul (Heb. nephesh, Gr. psuche). One of three parts of which man was anciently believed to consist. The term psuche is sometimes used to denote the vital principle, sometimes the sentient principle, or seat of the senses, desires, affections, appetites, passions. In the latter sense, it is distinguished from pneuma, the higher rational nature. This distinction appears in the Septuagint, and sometimes in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 5:23.” Then he quotes Olshausen on 1 Thessalonians 5:23, as saying: “For whilst the psuche (soul) denotes the lower region of the spiritual man, - comprises, therefore, the powers to which analogous ones are found in the animal life also, as understanding, appetitive faculty, memory, fancy, - the pneuma includes those capacities which constitute the true human life.”MND 44.3

    So it seems that, according to these expositors, while the Hebrew nephesh, and Greek psuche, usually translated “soul,” denote powers common to all animal life, the Hebrew ruahh, and the corresponding Greek pneuma, signify the higher powers, and consequently that part which is supposed to be immortal.MND 45.1

    Let us now inquire for the true definition of these terms.MND 45.2

    Hebrew, nephesh, )
    ) SOUL.
    Greek, psuche, )
    Hebrew, ruahh, )
    ) SPIRIT.
    Greek, pneuma, )

    To these no one is at liberty to attach any arbitrary meaning. We must determine their signification by the sense in which they are used in the sacred record; and whoever goes beyond that, does violence to the word of God.MND 45.3

    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents