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My personal understanding is that plants have a body, animals have both a body and a soul, and mankind has a body, a soul and a spirit. However, angels, as I understand, do not have a body that is physical. Jesus seems to have indicated this after His bodily resurrection.

See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. Luke 24:39 ESV

Are angels, then, classified as spirits, having no flesh and bones? If so, are they spirits with souls or just spirits?

I would like an answer from the perspective of those who hold to the tripartite nature of mankind (body, soul and spirit). I do not know if positions differ between the traditions of Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic. If they do, I am specifically interested in what Protestants believe on this issue and and in what ways this is distinct.

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This will depend a lot on how you define soul and spirit! –  curiousdannii Jan 8 '14 at 23:51
@curiousdannii ...and what it means to "possess" one. –  Andrew Jun 6 at 5:32

7 Answers 7

Body? yes. 1) Abraham fed them, and 2) Lot took them into his house, 3) they bow down and worship God.

Spirit? yes. 1) evil spirits are fallen angels.

Soul? biblically yes. from the Biblical definition of soul.

Biblically soul = body + breath of life

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. Gen 2:7

If they are alive, they are a living soul. There is no dead soul in the Bible.

"the dead know nothing" Ecclesiastes 9:5

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I believe the catholic understanding is, that Angels do not have a body, just spirit, which is the soul.

We have bodies + soul(spirit)

I think Jesus' words, are to suggest that he is fully human, meaning that he took on corporeal form thus reaffirming that body is equally good or holy in comparison to spirit, that body and spirit, are inseparable in some sense(1) ie, that body is not something that a soul is "trapped in" in a Cartesian sense, or as claimed by eastern spirituality or Christian puritanism.

(1) this is why the Catholics believe in resurrection of the body; a very strange, archaic concept to many, because gnostic "spirit good, body bad" and infiltrated out thinking in many ways.

RE animals and plants having souls; don't know much about this, but could it be an Aristotelian-scholastic view/way of reasoning about things without necessarily the same meaning as human soul?

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I have taken a lot of help on this very issue from Ray Stedman and Arthur Custance.
All God's creations that move have tripartite existence: spirit, body and soul.

First, there is the unmistakable lesson from the order the Bible relates to us Noah's sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth; i.e., the spiritual, physical and intellectual. We are first a spirit given a body to develop our minds--the order of existence. We exercise our minds to control our bodies imprinting our spirits--the order of reason.

Second, there is the observation that we are a spirit married with a body that forms a soul as in a gestalt. If the body returns to dust, the soul vanishes; and the spirit is at the mercy of God. Until the end of times when the body is returned, the soul must be gone. So, spirit is life. Body is flesh and bone. Soul is thoughts, feelings and will.

I tried to use my own words to explain the relationships, so that I could be sure I was saying what I thought I had learned. So, please, be charitable in your interpretation of my meaning. Hope I was helpful.

Ps. Just a word about spirit vs. soul. I believe soul means mind, intellect, our consciousness of ourselves. (So, to speak of "mind, body and soul" is either redundant or a misnomer.) Often when we speak of the soul, we must discern from context whether we meant the "breath of life," our spirits; or if we are talking about our conscious experience of life, our souls. Custance gave a great analogy that I will adapt to my own: our bodies are a machine, our spirits the electricity, and our souls the purpose we put them to. Absent the spirit, the machine is still; and the soul simply disappears.

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Hah, what you call an 'unmistakable lesson' is something that would never have entered my mind from the passage itself, and it's not something I've ever heard anyone else either. Very allegorical actually. –  curiousdannii Jun 6 at 4:06

a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:39 ESV)

This may refer to an apparition or ghost, which the disciples first suspected. Scripture clearly demonstrates and personal experience further confirms that many angels do indeed have full and tangible bodies.

It is a misunderstanding of the spirit realm and of angelic beings to assume that they can not materialise and even function as a human being, (this can be seen early in the book of Genesis).

The spirit realm is much more "real" than the material world we live in. God is a SPIRIT, do you assume he has less substance than yourself or all of His glorious creation?

It is probably counterproductive to rationalise as to whether angles have the specific qualities you enquire about. We cannot begin to imagine Heaven. We cannot grapple with the absence of time and without it, we have barely a notion of what eternity is. Yet, eternity is that which born again believers have already entered! We can sit in our office, drive our cars, dig ditches and yet at the same time be seated in Heavenly places in Christ!

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What is a "misunderstanding of the spirit realm"? –  Andrew Jun 6 at 5:37
If God is a spirit, what makes you say he has any substance at all? –  Andrew Jun 6 at 5:38

We as men and women have had flesh and blood (bodies) created for us.

Flesh and blood (body) were created for The Christ.

Flesh and blood (bodies) have been and still are created for Angels.

Creating life, be it spirit, soul and/or flesh is not difficult for the God of Creation.

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Why do you think angels have bodies? You haven't explained anything, you've just said what you believe. Is this just your personal opinion? Because this question is looking for mainly protestant answers. –  curiousdannii Jan 25 at 22:51

Through my studies (and with out taking time to add the sources to back my belief), I have found that angels are spirits and have no physical form. They, like "demons" (fallen angels for this meaning of demon) must possess a human body to have a "physical form" as the Watcher angels from Enoch 1 and when the angel possessed Jacob. Angels were created to do God's will with out question, so mixing in a previous question topic on who are the fallen angels, I believe that when an angel possesses a human, they are then as susceptible to corruption by the free will of the soul in as much as they control the body of the possessed. Hence the fall of the Watchers in Enoch 1 when the sons of God laid with the daughters of man.

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Are angels, then, classified as spirits, having no flesh and bones? If so, are they spirits with souls or just spirits?

How you define spirit?
What is the difference between soul and spirit?

In the Bible sometimes soul and spirits seems refers to same thing, the life of a entity.
Spirit, the life of a entity of the other world.
Soul, the life of animals.

Spirit: demons, angels, God.
Soul: animals and human

When the Bible refers the spirit on the human, apparently it talks about how is converted. The trends of decisions in soul.

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This is better than the other one, but there still needs to be much more. –  fredsbend Jan 29 '14 at 5:16

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