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Wordwise Insight, Issue #153
April 14, 2017


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): "Are humans two-part beings (spirit and body) or three-part beings (spirit, soul and body?"

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Two Parts or Three

QUESTION: Are humans two-part beings (spirit and body) or three-part beings (spirit, soul and body?

ANSWER: This has long been debated. I have always taken a tripartite position, though there actually may be a way in which both views are correct, depending on how you look at it. Some of what is below is, I believe, indisputably biblical. But, admittedly, I also venture into the area of the theoretical. I think the ideas are logical, and possible, but cannot be dogmatic about them.

The words for spirit (ruwach in Hebrew, and pneuma in Greek) are found many times in the Bible, as are the words for soul (nephesh in Hebrew, and psuche in Greek). The Hebrew and Greek words have a greater variety of meanings than soul and spirit do in English, allowing for different uses. For example, both ruwach and pneuma can mean wind or breath, as well as spirit. And there are times when they seem to be used generally or interchangeably, to represent the immaterial part of man.

However, there are certainly several Scriptures which suggest a distinction between the soul and the spirit. In his letter to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul prays, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it" (I Thess. 5:23-24).

Unlike the NKJV (above) which omits the word "and" between spirit and soul, it is there in the Greek original: "your spirit and soul and body.” Interestingly, the original KJV of 1611 retained the double “and,” so why it was dropped from the modern revision I'm not sure.

There is great specificity in that description–your whole (entire, complete) spirit and soul and body. It will not do, I believe, to say the Apostle is simply throwing a bunch of words together to ...

To read the remainder of this article, click on Two Parts or Three


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I have developed a blog that is called Wordwise Hymns. As the title suggests, it is about hymns, and church music in general.

But as many of you will know, a blog is especially designed to facilitate a conversation on its particular subject. Readers can easily post comments about what they see, and I'm able to reply. I hope you will take part in the discussion!

Through 2010, almanac entries dealt with what happened in hymn history on each day of the year. Beginning in 2011, I hope to analyze hymns from a biblical standpoint, linking to the material that has come before.

My hope is that the blog will add to the value of the website and this newsletter, and promote some profitable exchanges on the subject of sacred music.

What happened on this day in hymnology? To find out, click Wordwise Hymns.

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