Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Soul, Spirit, Body

I use this chart all the time as an easy way of explaining the process of salvation. I posted it in response to a question on a pastor's forum and was asked where the mind came in for my theory of man being body/soul/spirit. I posted it as a Facebook comment but thought it might be helpful and more readable in this format since you can mouse over Scripture references to easily see them.

Short answer: I do not think the mind is a distinct part of man but is a description of his rational faculties. I think it may be associated with soul or spirit, depending on the situation. The lengthy proof which I should not have spent an hour studying just now, but did (Edit: Actually, it ended up being two hours, because I felt compelled to do a second part), follows:

One difficulty with a firm answer to that is the loose way the KJV translates the relevant terms. Psyche (soul) is translated as "mind" in the KJV three times. On the other hand, the regular Greek word for mind (nous) is used in the LXX to translate ruah (spirit - normally pneuma) and nous is never translated as "soul." The English is just not consistent on the way it handles these questions, so we really do have to look at the original languages.

Mind is not a distinct idea in the OT. Leviticus 24:12, for example, is translated mind, but is really "mouth" as a figure of speech for "word" or "command." Numbers 16:28 is "leb," otherwise translated "heart." In Proverbs 29:11, where a fool uttereth all his mind, the word is ruah - spirit. In Ezekiel 23, it is nepesh (soul). There is no Hebrew word that means "mind" the way we use it. That was pretty shocking to me, but a concordance or Bible software will prove it pretty quickly.

That has something to do with why Deuteronomy 6:5 does not exactly match Jesus' quotation in Mark and Luke. The Hebrew says heart/soul/strength, the LXX says mind/soul/strength and Jesus adds them together. Does this mean that heart and mind are equivalent since the LXX translators handled it that way? Does it mean they were not equivalent since Jesus adds both words (although not in Matthew)? Does it mean nothing and Jesus is just quoting both common translations from His day to show how complete our love of God should be? I am not sure, but this does show that using the shema to answer these questions is harder than it seems.

Anyway, in the NT, mind is certainly a unique idea, although still a pretty rare one. The three "mind" words dianoias, nous and phroneo are translated as "mind" a total of 33 times. The other 50 times that some form of "mind" occurs in the KJV, it is something else, like "being of one mind" or remembering something - in the English "mind" was broken out as a unique word, but it is not useful for our purposes. The same word family is translated as Satan's devices, as understanding, as carefulness, etc. So it is really close to our word mind.

As I mentioned earlier, the word "mind" in the LXX often translates ruah (spirit). This fits nicely with passages like Romans 7:23, where the mind and the flesh are set at odds, the same way that the spirit and flesh usually are. In the same way, the passages about having the mind of Christ fit in well with us having the Spirit of Christ. In Romans 1:28, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, which sure feels like the partial withdrawal of His restraining Spirit.

Yet, a total equivalency does not make sense of several passages."Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" doesn't work if it means "Spirit," because as Christians we have the Spirit no matter what. Even stronger, in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, Paul says that is he prays in an unknown tongue, his spirit prays but his mind does not (translated "understanding" here, but the same word). In Colossians 2:18, there are these people with "fleshly minds," while a "fleshly spirit" is an oxymoron like a heavenly devil or an honest politician.

Some passages seem to blur the edges. Ephesians 4:23 says to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, Romans 8:5 talks about either minding the flesh or the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3 says that the minds of the Jews are veiled until the Spirit of the Lord comes. To me, these uses have to control the passages where things seem interchangeable.

Maybe "spirit" is sometimes used broadly to refer to both the soul and the spirit in distinction from the physical (the way that "soul" is sometimes used to refer to the whole person), and sometimes used more technically. But I think it is clear that the mind has some independence of the spirit, is influenced by the spirit and has some control over the spirit. This is where my chart comes in, where the war between the two natures is fought in the soul. 

Since the formal concept of a "mind" is absent in the Old Testament and is clearly ambiguous in the New, I think that the mind is a description of a characteristic of man (reason) as opposed to a technical subdivision. I think that heart is the same way (although it is a much more common word), referring to the deepest desires of a person (sometimes emotional, but usually not), but not really a technically precise term. Generally, I think that "mind" was we use it, it closely linked with the soul and "heart" is linked with the spirit, but that pressing this distinction too firmly loses sight of the way the Bible uses the language. The New Testament fits this technical distinction better than the old.

Here is a fuller argument for distinguishing spirit and soul: I should not have spent another hour on this, and I am probably incoherent at this point, but I have been studying and want to organize my thoughts.

"Spirit" is clearly the word used to refer to an impersonal entity. There are familiar spirits, God sends an evil spirit on Abimelech and the spirit of the Lord comes on people. I also take it, that spirit can be used of moods (probably as a figurative derivative of the first usage). So husbands can have a spirit of jealousy, the men of Jericho's spirits left them, The spirit of God is linked with the breath in Job 27:3 (a natural thing, since the word is the same in both testaments) and spirit does seem to be generally linked with "life" in places like Psalm 76:12 and Ecclesiastes 8:8. Animals and men both have spirits (Ecclesiastes 3:21) and the spirits of men return to God when the body goes to the dust (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and children are imbued with the spirit before they are born (Ecclesiastes 11:5 - so obviously it is not simply breath after all, cf Zechariah 12:1). The general dichotomy is obviously between flesh and spirit (Isaiah 31:3).

Deuteronomy 2:30 says that God hardened Pharaoh's spirit and made his heart obstinate. At least on first appearances, this makes spirit and heart synonymous. Likewise, your spirit can be merry, broken, humble or proud. Extremely important are the new covenant passages about receiving a new heart and a new spirit (When he repents, David asks for a clean heart and a renewed spirit (Psalm 51:10) ).A man should rule over His spirit according to Proverbs, and in Malachi 2:15-16, God tells the people to listen to the spirit they have (which apparently was instrumental in being married), so they will be faithful to their wives. So, if we are to rule over our spirits and listen to them, obviously there is some part of us distinct from our spirit. Jeremiah 17:9 calls the heart deceitful, wicked and unknowable, which implies there is some part of me distinct from my heart which could hypothetically know my heart.

In the NT, spirit does not seem any different. One important verse is probably Romans 8:27, where the one who searches hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. Likewise, 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Galatians 4:6 both say that the spirit is in our hearts. It is our hearts which are circumcised by the Spirit, never our souls (Romans 2:29).

Soul is generally equivalent to "person" in the OT. I think this is synecdoche (like "two hundred head of cattle" when you actually mean two hundred cows, but refer to the whole by the key part), but I guess that remains to be proven. Adam was a body, got ruah (breath/spirit) and became a living soul. When Lot ran away, he said that his soul would live if God delivered him (cf 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Samuel 17:55). When Elijah raises the boy from the dead, his soul is what returns to him. Job 27:8, which Jesus famously quoted, is similar. It is the soul which would not be left in hell (Psalm 16:10, Psalm 49:15). In the sense of the second death, the soul that sinneth shall die in Ezekiel 18. Your soul sins, grieves, worships, loves and hates (Micah 6:7: "The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul").

It is the "soul" that blesses Isaac and it is the soul that sins and is cut off from his people. Fasting is afflicting your soul, and God's soul abhors the wicked (Leviticus 26:30). Soul in Numbers 11:6 does seem an awful lot like the spirit leaving in the men of Jericho, which is interesting. Someone you are very close to is "as your own soul" and God's soul was grieved for the plight of Israel when they repented (Judges 10:16 - whether this should be compared or contrasted with our sin grieving God's Spirit depends on how we answer the broader question). In Isaiah 42:1, God's soul delights in His elect, so He puts his spirit on him. In Isaiah 53:10, Jesus' soul is the offering for sin, that travails and is poured out to God's satisfaction. In Jeremiah 32:41, God returns Israel to the land with His whole heart and His whole soul.

A lot of these seem to indicate that things are not interchangeable: you do not ever see anyone making atonement for spirit or their spirit sinning. Yet, passages like Job 7:11 use soul and spirit in an apparently parallel language. Isaiah 10:18 puts soul and body in contrast (which God will destroy) rather than body and spirit (Jesus, of course, quotes this in Matthew 10:18 - I had never noticed that before). Isaiah 57:15-16 seems to poetically equate heart and soul.

In the New Testament, not a whole lot has changed (although soul is kind of an uncommon word); a lot of the uses seem to closely echo the OT usage. Possessing your soul refers to final salvation (Luke 21:19) or to physical death (Luke 12:20; Heb 10:39). Like in the OT passages, Jesus' soul did not stay in hell and his flesh did not see corruption. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us that Adam became a living soul and Jesus became a life-giving spirit. This is interesting, but I think that Paul is probably doing some wordplay here on the natural vs spiritual body (for the sake of my own sanity, I am not going to try and bring the idea of a spiritual body into this and I am also not going to try and deal with the translation of logikon in Romans 12:1).

Revelation talks about the souls of the righteous (but not their spirits) and the spirits of devils (but not their souls).

To get to the famous ones, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 prays for the preservation of body, soul, and spirit. Hebrews 4:12 talks about the Word of God dividing soul and spirit. On that note, there are only 9 verses that include both soul and spirit. Matthew 12:18 is a quotation of Isaiah 42:1, Leviticus 20:6 is irrelevant and 1 Peter 1:22 links your soul to the hold spirit, so it is also not helpful. I have already listed the others, but there are 6: Job 7:11, Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 57:16, 1 Corinthians 15:45, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:23.

The contrasts are important. There is never a holy soul moving across the face of the waters or an unclean soul possessing a man, souls die but spirits never do, We get a new spirit, but never a new soul. Souls sin, but spirits never do.

They are not used interchangeably in the Bible and heart/mind do not fit neatly with either. I think a good overview is that the soul is the personality and the spirit is the God-given life. Both seem to exercise something like a mind and a heart, but the mind functions are primarily in the soul and the heart primarily in the spirit. When we are saved, the Spirit comes into our hearts and we have a daily responsibility to renew our minds by that spirit.

In some ways, I think 1 Peter 1:13-24 brings it all together. We need to take control of our minds, he says, by remembering our salvation. Verse 22 says that we do this by purifying our souls by the power of our spirits to love the brethren from our pure heart, in the expectation that when our flesh dies, we will be made like Jesus.