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Genesis 2:7 gives the idea that a human being is the combination of a physical body (from dust) and a spirit (God's breath of life):

7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. [Genesis 2:7, ESV]

Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 seems to defend the same dualistic nature (body + spirit):

5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. [Ecclesiastes 12:5-7, ESV]

In contrast, Paul appears to believe in 3 components: spirit + soul + body.

23 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. [1 Thessalonians 5:23, ESV]

Question: What is the makeup of man? Body and spirit? Or body and soul and spirit? How do we solve the apparent contradiction?

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  • This is a theological synthesis question.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 24 at 21:52
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King James Bible Genesis 2:7

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 [nephesh].

When the breath of God (spirit) interacted with dust (physical body), life (soul) was produced.

The Hebrew word for "soul" is nephesh; in Greek, it is psuche. These two words appear eight hundred times. It is an extremely common concept in the Bible.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Soul and spirit can be divided. They are distinct even though they are tightly linked.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 affirms this distinction:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your entire spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the tripartite view. Human is a composite of three distinct components: body, spirit, and soul.

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  • a human being (living soul) is the combination of a physical body (from dust) and a spirit (God's breath of life). - so are you saying here that a human being is a soul (identity), rather than having a soul (inclusion)? Apr 24 at 16:19
  • 1
    Good question. The Hebrew term is ambiguous. That's why there are differences in the translations.
    – Tony Chan
    Apr 24 at 16:28
  • Sword cutting asunder soul and spirit, joints and marrow. 'Joints' is from a mechanical root (see 'chariot'). Marrow is the living tissue inside a bone. So, joints/bone : a structure with function and 'mobility' (or a purpose). And marrow, the living tissue (red blood cells, the life is in the blood). So spirit is the living presence and soul is the (immaterial) 'structure'. Peter says spirit, soul and body. Soul has immaterial spirit. Body has material spirit, organic 'life'. Life in the blood. (Up-voted +1.) 'Spirit ; soul and body' He is applying 'spirit' to both soul and body.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 24 at 17:15
  • @Tony Chan - This is an excellent discussion. In Luke 23:43, "[Jesus cried out] 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'" As well, in Acts 7:59: "[Stephen called] on the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!'" I have often wondered if the word "soul" is merely a combination of body and spirit, since it's omitted in these two verses (and elsewhere). But, as you say, "soul" is used enough to question that assumption. I too appreciate Spirit Realm Investigator's question: "Are you saying that a human being is a soul ([as in an] identity)?..."
    – Xeno
    Apr 24 at 20:56
  • Sorry, I don't know. I modified some.
    – Tony Chan
    Apr 24 at 21:14

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