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 theand the ; 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:
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(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
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
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,
The next text to which an appeal is made is
The ground is now cleared for a fuller investigation of the meaning of these terms:
6. Scriptural Terms:
(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 (
(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" (
(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" (
7. Pauline Expressions:
He exhorts them to be "of the same mind" (sumpsuchoi,
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
8. Monism and Other Theories:
Other questions call for discussion here: they may be briefly touched upon. Scripture acknowledges a dualism, which recognizes the separate existence of Soul and body. It rejects a monism, which makes man but "a doublefaced unity" (Bain); or considers mind and body as equally unreal, and as "aspects," "appearances," "sides" of one and the same reality (scientific monism). It knows nothing of mere idealism, which makes mind the only reality, of which matter is but a manifestation, nor of materialism, which considers matter as that which alone is substantial, while mind is a mere product of the brain (Haeckel). It does not support theory of harmonia praestabilita--pre-established harmony, whereby
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,"
soul and body were united in harmonious action before the individual was called into active being, body and soul acting in harmony after creation like two clocks accurately regulated, pointing to the same hour on the dial plate, though driven by different springs (Leibnitz). Scripture has no theory. It deals with facts and facts only in so far as they bear upon the history of man’s sin and man’s redemption. It throws no light on many problems raised by science or philosophy. It does not discuss origins--the origin of evil, of matter, of mind. "All is of God" is the Scriptural answer to many questions. Thus, the relation of mind to body is and remains a mystery--as great as the relation between the forces in Nature, to which the names of light and electricity have been given. Science has attempted to explain that mystery and has failed. The words of Shenstone (Cornhill Magazine, 1907) may be applied to all psychical problems, outside of Holy Writ, which by him were applied to those scientific questions which remain unanswered in spite of all our efforts at solution: "We are still very far from knowing definitely that atoms are composed entirely of electrons or that electrons are nothing else than electric charges; and though electrons have been shown to exhibit electric inertia, it has not been proved that the inertia of atoms also is electrical." The mystery of matter is great; that of soul is greater still.
9. The Fall of Man:
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. Professor Driver, writing under the strong influence of the evolutionary theory, and accepting as "the law stamped upon the entire range of organic nature, progress, gradual advance from lower to higher, from the less perfect to the more perfect," has wisely remarked that "man failed in the trial to which he was exposed, that sin has entered into the world .... and that through the whole course of the race it has been attended by an element of moral disorder, and thus it has been marred, perverted, impeded or drawn back" (Driver, Genesis, 57).
See The Fall.
10. Effects of the Fall:
An equally serious question arises as to the effects of the fall of man. Shame, corruption, death is the answer given by the Old Testament and New Testament. "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (
11. Death as a Problem:
With modern evolutionists death is an unsolved problem. Weissmann (Essays on Heredity) maintains on the one hand that "death is not an essential attitude of matter" (p. 159), and on the other, "it is only from the point of view of utility that we can understand the necessity of death" (p. 23), and again "death is to be looked upon as an occurrence which is advantageous to the species as a concession to the outer conditions of life, and not as an absolute necessity, essentially inherent in life." He even speaks of "the immortality of the protozoa," because "an immense number of the lower organisms" are not subject to death (ibid., 26). Death therefore according to him has been "acquired secondarily as an adaptation," and must in a certain sense be unnatural. It is indeed "one of the most difficult problems in the whole range of physiology." If this be so, we may safely turn to Scripture for an explanation of the problem, which has a value peculiarly its own. "By man came death" is the authoritative declaration, because by man came sin. "In Adam all die," because through Adam came sin. Here we may safely leave the problem, because "by man" will come "resurrection from the dead."
12. Immortality of the Soul:
But if the body is mortal, is the soul immortal? On this point the New Testament gives no uncertain sound, and though the doctrine be not as clearly expressed in the Old Testament, yet even there kinship with God is man’s guaranty for everlasting communion with Him (compare
Beck, Umriss der biblischen Seelenlehre, English translation; Hofmann, Schriftbeweis; Delitzsch, System of Biblical Psychology; Oehler, Old Testament Theology; Wendt, Die Begriffe Fleisch u. Geist, etc.; Dickson, Paul’s Use of the Flesh and Spirit; Cremer, Bibl.-theol. Worterbuch, etc.; Herzog, RE, articles "Geist" and "Seele"; Laid-law, Bible Doctrine of Man; Orr, God’s Image in Man; Davidson, Old Testament Theology.