Question: There are numerous passages in Scripture that refer to a person’s heart, soul, spirit, and/or mind. Are these four things the same?


There are two ideas of thought on this question: dichotomy and trichotomy. Dichotomists say that man consists of body and soul/spirit, while trichotomists say that man is made up of three separate entities: body, soul and spirit. It seems the difference lies in the definition of the immaterial part of a person, whether ther is any difference between the soul and spirit.

Man first appears in the Bible in Genesis 1:26 where God contemplates the creation of man, after which God forms man from the dust of the ground and breathes the “breath of life” into him. Only two aspects of man are described ther, the physical body and the breath, ther is no reference to a third part of man. Later in Ecclesiastes 12:7 Solomon says “the dust will return to the earth as it was and the spirit to God who gave it”. Here also only two parts of man are described, body and spirit.

Later in the New Testament Jesus says in John 10:28, talking to His disciples, “fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but ratherfear him who is unable to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus was talking about eternity and it seems if there was another part that might be eternally destroyed by God, Jesus would have mentioned it. Some people believe the body, soul and spirit are three parts because of the way in which they interpret Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, where he prays that the sanctification of the Thessalonians be whole, which includes the material part (body) and the immaterial part (whether it is called body or soul). Complete sanctification is the central issue. This is similar to 1 Thessalonians 3:13 where Paul prays for the purity of their hearts. The heart controls the life of a person,the mind, the intellect and the emotions of a person; all these should be holy.

Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 when talking to the lawyer, to “love God with all your heart, with all you soul, and with all your mind”. These verses seem to me to emphasize the wholeness of a person. If division was the focus, then we could derive five or even six parts in man: body, soul, spirit, min, strength, heart. I don’t believe Jesus was dissecting the man but rather teaching us that our love for God must flow out of every part of our being, all of our parts, what ever we call them.

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