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Thread: What constitutes a person?

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    tWebber Pentecost's Avatar
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    What constitutes a person?

    So as not to derail a certain other thread, and because it deserves it's own thread, here we are. Biblically speaking, what exactly is a person? Do we mean the same thing when we talk about human persons and the persons of the Trinity? How is being a human different from being a person?
    Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    I think what constitutes a person made in the image of God is his spirit, assuming that humans are body/spirit, or body/soul/spirit beings.

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    tWebber Pentecost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    I think what constitutes a person made in the image of God is his spirit, assuming that humans are body/spirit, or body/soul/spirit beings.
    For what makes a human, I told Siam in a thread in Islam that:

    If it does not have a body, mind, and sprit it cannot be human. A person without a spirit is trapped inside the body unable to control it. A person without a mind could perhaps describe a lunatic and is almost an animal. A person without a body is simply not human. The spirit is made in the image of God. You need all three to be a human.
    I have not studied the topic much, but he asked me a direct question, and that was the best I could come up with at the time. I still think it makes sense, but am not sure it's entirely Biblical.
    Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pentecost View Post
    For what makes a human, I told Siam in a thread in Islam that:

    I have not studied the topic much, but he asked me a direct question, and that was the best I could come up with at the time. I still think it makes sense, but am not sure it's entirely Biblical.
    Well, we definitely seem familiar with the body aspect of our being. That's the easy one. But the distinction between a soul and a spirit is a little more complicated. Some Christians believe we are only body/spirit beings, but others see a trinitarian sort of aspect to humanity in the concept of a body soul and spirit, and there seems to be scriptural evidence that we are (1 Thessalonians 5:23, and maybe Matthew 22:37).

    I've often heard that our soul is that aspect of our being that is the seat of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I've also heard it explained as that aspect of our being that is what brings life to our bodies and animates us. In that way, animals could be said to have bodies and souls.

    So then, the spirit would be that aspect of our being that is unique and uniquely made in the image of God. I think hypothetically, it could be our mind distinct from our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Maybe its the heart of man that knows God's will. That part of mankind that even the unregenerate has that allows them to know the law of God (Romans 2:15). Its that part of our being that the Holy Spirit communicates with when we are born again (Romans 8:16).

    But if soul and spirit are one in the same, then it seems to me that we can put the thought/feelings/emotions aspect of our being into the spirit side, and the life/animation aspect of our being into the body side. I'm okay with both, though I lean towards body/soul/spirit.
    Last edited by Adrift; 12-29-2014 at 10:47 PM.

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    God, family, chicken! Bill the Cat's Avatar
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    A "person" is a unique center of consciousness that is made in the image of God, who is 3 distinct centers of consciousness. It does not necessarily imply humanity or even corporeality, although possessing them does not invalidate personhood, nor does lacking them invalidate it.


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    tWebber
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    Pneuma is the Greek word for spirit and it is what happens when you gain life, are plugged in. Psuche is the Greek word for soul and is how the spirit is manifested by each person through his life experience.

    In other words you have a spirit, but ARE a soul.

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    I don't think its quite that simple. Or at least, not in Paul's writings.

    Source: Paul's Narrative Thought World: The Tapestry of Tragedy and Triumph by Ben Witherington

    Paul uses the term pneuma of the human spirit sparingly. Normally pneuma means Holy Spirit in Paul. First Corinthians 14:14 (32?) speaks about "my spirit," and in 14:15 spirit and mind are contrasted. Some have suggested, however, that spirit here refers to something God gives the Christian, not something inherent in human nature (i.e., the spiritual agency that activates gifts). Against this, however, Paul speaks only of the Holy Spirit in these terms, not my "spirit." Further, 2 Cor. 7:1 speaks of defilers of the spirit and of the flesh. It is hard to see how one could defile the Holy Spirit, but the human spirit is another matter. Thus spirit seems to refer to a part of one's being that involves the suprarational or noncognitive aspects of human experience--broadly speaking, that which goes beyond the material and empirical. Paul, however, does not seem to see the human "spirit" as a material part of a person. We can only conjecture that he associates it perhaps with something like the image of God in humanity, that which makes possible relationships and communion with God, who is Spirit.

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    Source: Paul's Narrative Thought World: The Tapestry of Tragedy and Triumph by Ben Witherington

    Paul uses the term psuche sparingly as well, and its cognate psuchikos. It clearly does not mean soul for Paul. Thus, for instance at Romans 1, quoting the Old Testament, he uses psuche in its Old Testament sense of life or self (the Hebrew nephesh). So too at Rom. 16:4 Paul speaks of those who risked their "lives" for his life (similarly at Phil. 2:30). In 1 Cor. 15:45 in the Old Testament quotation, Adam is said to become a living being (a living psuche). At times then, the term psuche is simply synonymous with human being (cf. Rom. 2:9; 13:1), without stress on one's being alive, though that is necessarily implied. First Thessalonians 5:23 has sometimes been used to argue that Paul had a trichotomous view of human nature: body, soul, spirit. Against this, however, psuche likely means here the life principle that animates the body. Psuchikos as an adjective is used by Paul in its normal sense to mean physical (just the opposite of soul) or natural, or possibly even unspiritual (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 15:44, 46). This term describes the natural human being (i.e., a person without the Holy Spirit) over against a person who has the spirit.

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    Theologyweb's Official Grandfather
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    I fail to see any distinction between a human being and a person. Any application to the persons of the Trinity is really not comprehensible to us.

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    tWebber Obsidian's Avatar
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    The spirit is the non-physical core of a person that gives him life.

    James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

    The "soul" is a somewhat ambiguous term that usually means the sum of the spirit plus the body, synonymous with "person" or personality.

    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.

    But sometimes "soul" seems to refer primarily or exclusively to the spirit, apart from the body.

    Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Also, animals seem to have spirits, too, but of a different kind.

    Ecclesiastes 3:21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

    The word soul can apply to the life or personality of animals as well, not just humans.

    Revelation 16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

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    tWebber
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    No, they don't mean the same thing. In both the incarnation and the trinity, the nature has a will and other things that we think of as characterizing a person. Thus the Trinity has a single will. The Catholic Encyclopedia maintains that the Trinity has a single mind, which knows itself with a three-fold consciousness. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm) In most contexts that would make him (them? it?) closer to one person than three, I think. Similarly, it was ruled a heresy to deny that Christ has two wills: human and divine. I think you can substantiate that he has separate consciousness, memory, etc. Thus from a typical modern point of view Christ is two persons.
    Last edited by hedrick; 12-31-2014 at 01:43 PM.

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