The Tripartite Human Nature

image of ancient cross


In opposition to countless notions to the contrary that have been entertained over the centuries, and the great confusion that still exists on the matter, it is of vital import to attempt to clarify, from the Word of God itself, what the human condition actually consists of. Bishop Nemesius of Emesa, writing over 16 centuries ago, did convey to us the true apostolic interpretation of the subject at hand, and confirmed the ancient belief in a TRIPARTITE constitution of man; that of Spirit ( ego), Soul and Body, in opposition to the prevailing Dualistic and merely Animistic interpretations of the human constitution.
In our search for the use of an equivalent term/word in the Hebrew for the eternal ” human soul”, we may find that indeed there IS such a word which the Hebrew renders as ” NSHMTH” ( nishmah) without the use of any points. It is found in Genesis 2:7 and refers to the ” breath/soul of life” which God inbreathed into Adam. It is used only @ 24 times in the Scriptures of the Old Testament and Job in 27:3; 32:8, and 33:4 refers to this human soul as an abiding/eternal principle. The word/term ” anima” ( Latin, ” moving” or animated soul), which both animals and humans share in common, is a completely different word which in Hebrew is styled ” NAPHASH” ( nephesh). The human Spirit ( ego, intellectual personality, sentient understanding) is a THIRD principle and translates into Hebrew as ” RUACH”. NSHMTH is the definite term which encapsulates the Christian ( AND ancient Hebrew) understanding of the eternal human SOUL, as a different principle to the eternal intelligent SPIRIT ( Ruach, which is also used severally to describe other actions or aspects of intelligent spirit, including the Holy Spirit of God).
The Greek word PSUCHE encompasses all three meanings in a corporate concept when allied with PNEUMA ( spirit), and may at times include the animal soul also, whereas the Hebrew NSHMTH never refers to animals. This is totally contrary to the Pantheistic notions of the Greek Pagan Philosophers as well as most modern exegetes who follow suit in their misconceptions, . In sum, sentience in humans with understanding and reason is NEVER applied to animals, and the commonly translated Hebrew word for soul; NEPHESH, may indeed be used of animal souls ( which expire) as well as the human animal soul, but NOT the human ETERNAL soul: the NSHMTH ( nishmah).
The tendency to a pantheistic interpretation of the human soul based upon an error in assigning and confusing the ” nephesh” ( animal soul) with the ” nishmah” ( the human eternal, reasonable soul) is a very serious consequence of allowing the ancient Philosophers credence that they do not deserve. This error is by far the most common interpretation among modern Christians, and underpins some pseudo-Pythagorean theories on transmigration of souls in animals as well as men, and the confusion between the two. The Pythagoreans and the pagan Orphics also confused the nephesh with the nishmah. This error leads to a world view which is thoroughly a pantheistic one, and falsely equates the ” spirit of the flesh and matter” with the principle of eternity; giving, in theological terms, a false union of soul with body that by inference and extension confuses time-bound matter with the eternal, and going even further, makes no distinction between the sacred and the profane. This was the common teaching of 19th century English Reformed and proto-Pentecostals, such as the British-Israelites, as well as the older German Rosicrucians/ Theosophers and their NeoPlatonic predecessors. Today, nearly one and all claim that the animal soul is the same as the human soul, which is false, and, like many false teachers, claim that the ancient Hebrews had no further knowledge or distinctions between the animal and an eternal soul.. This is not the case, since the ancient Hebrews had EXACTLY the same tri-partite division of man as the early Greek Christian Church ( as confirmed by St Paul), of an eternal SPIRIT ( egotic ” ruach”), SOUL( ” nishmah”), and a temporal BODY with its ANIMA ( soma and nephesh) ( capable of being made eternal).

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