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A common belief regarding the nature of mankind is that we have a body, a soul and a spirit. This is known as the Tripartite Nature of Man. Some, however, hold to only a Dual nature of man.

What is the essential argument in favor of the Dual Nature of Man? It would be interesting to see how the evidence for the Tripartite Nature of Man is explained as well, especially a verse like Hebrews 4:12.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV

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+1, interesting question, I have never heard mankind has either a soul and a spirit. In fact I supposed they were the same thing. – Elberich Schneider Jan 8 '14 at 19:51
Low on time so I'll give a short answer. We are mud. God Breathed into our nostrils (Gen). That breath is translated as soul. When I look at my hand I so much more then clay. Spirit also means breath. A careful look at Hebrews 4:12. divide the "psychēs" (mind)[Like Psych-ology] and the "pneumatos" (breath). {discerning the thoughts}. Therefore the Truth (Word of God) can read the mind through the breath (Sigh). Therefore Discernment is found in listening to the breath. For unbelief has its own sound. And it occurs directly before Anger or Depression (Stages of Grief). – Decrypted Jun 27 '14 at 20:56
"God is Breath, and those who worship Him must worship in breath and truth." (John 4:24) For the Word is the Son of the Breath. He dwells in us, and the flesh opposes the breath. For even when I swallow I can not breath. "We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the breath of truth and the breath of error." (1 John 4:6) – Decrypted Jun 27 '14 at 21:01

The argument for the dual nature of man is based on 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. Genesis 2:7

This would imply dust of the ground (body) + breath of life (spirit) = a living soul. Both of the body and spirit must be present for there to be life at least for humans.

In death there is a separation from the spirit which returns to God and the dust which returns to the earth. Neither the spirit or body are conscious in death.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:5,6

The spirit that returns to God seems individual. This would seem to indicate that the spirit contains what we are as individuals probably our memories and character.

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 23:46

In Hebrews 4:12 the emphasis is in the sharpness of God's word and how it can penetrate the inseparable. In this case the soul and spirit are inseparable because there is no soul without the spirit. Also there is no joint without the marrow.

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Interesting answer. I'm wondering if the concept of being inseparable necessitates that they are the same and not distinct. Any thoughts? – Narnian Jan 8 '14 at 23:04
I think there might have been a case for them being the same if it only had "soul and spirit". The author adds "joints and marrow" for more emphasis and they are distinct. – Jason Jan 8 '14 at 23:18

This is the best explanation of the duality of man I have found. in the second part it assumes that the soul and spirit are the same entity.

quoted from

The Duality of Man

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).

When theologians explore what it means to be in the image of God after the fall, typically there is a distinction made between the imago Dei in the narrow sense and the imago Dei in the wider sense. In the wider sense, we can say that after the fall we are still in the image of God because we still retain our humanity. Although sin has corrupted all of our physical, mental, and spiritual faculties, we still make use of them. Because we can still think, formulate plans, and the like, we retain the image of the Lord in the wider sense. However, in Adam we have lost the image of God in its narrower aspect. The imago Dei in this sense is conformitas — the ability to obey God. After the fall, man, of his own volition, can no longer conform to the Lord’s will.

Christianity confesses that God is Spirit and does not possess a physical body (John 4:24). The Lord’s moral attributes, such as faithfulness and intelligence, are not in any way dependent on physical corporeality, even though they were fully manifested in the life of Jesus. Similarly, these faculties remain present in us apart from the body. For example, we are still moral beings even if we happen to lose an arm and our bodies become incomplete. All of this is not to say that for human beings, the body is not essential to being made in the image of God. It is the unified body and soul that is made in His image (Gen. 1:26–27). Furthermore, if we hope to be righteous we must obey our Creator with our physical flesh. Though we can distinguish between body and soul, we cannot separate them. What we do to one affects the other. The false teachers John confronted in his first epistle may have believed what they did to the body was of no consequence as long as the soul was in order, but the Bible knows of no such view.

We are the image of God physically, not in the sense that God has a human body but in the sense that we can use our bodies as instruments of holiness. We must be careful not to think the body is inherently evil. It too is “good” (Gen. 1:31), and though presently marred by sin, it will be redeemed at the resurrection (Dan. 12:2). Coram Deo

The Bible teaches duality — man is composed of body and soul that exist together harmoniously. This is different from dualism — body and soul are opposed to one another. We must be careful to take care of our bodies by eating well, exercising, and such things, because how we care for ourselves reflects what we think about God’s image. Consider how you care for yourself and what you must do to be healthy and glorify God with your lifestyle.

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