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Re: [GTh] Re: the division of the soul

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  • sarban
    ... From: Peter Novak To: Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 7:02 PM Subject: [GTh] Re: the division of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 13, 2004
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Peter Novak" <novak@...>
      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 7:02 PM
      Subject: [GTh] Re: the division of the soul

      > We can be fairly sure that the early Christian church continued to more or
      > less openly subscribe to some form of the binary soul doctrine at least
      > the fourth century. While addressing the Apollinarius controversy during
      > 2nd Ecumenical Council of 381 AD, the church again accepted and
      > (albeit implicitly) the dogma that human beings are comprised of three
      > parts: body, soul, and spirit. (Henry R. Percival, ed., "The Seven
      > Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church", Vol XIV of Nicene and Post
      > Nicene Fathers, snd series, edd. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, repr.
      > Edinburgh: T&T Clark; Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988.) However,
      > when the 4th Ecumenical Council rolled around 500 years later, the church
      > made an explicit about-face on this point, bluntly declaring:
      > "Though the old and new Testament teach that a man or woman has one
      > and intellectual soul, and all the fathers and doctors of the church, who
      > are spokesmen of God, express the same opinion, some have descended to
      > a depth of irreligion, through paying attention to the speculations of
      > people, that they shamelessly teach as a dogma that a human being has two
      > souls, and keep trying to prove their heresy by irrational means using a
      > wisdom that has been made foolishness. Therefore this holy and universal
      > synod is hastening to uproot this wicked theory now growing like some
      > loathsome form of weed."
      > - 11th Canon, 4th Ecumenical Council
      > Perhaps without intending to, however, the above statement no less bluntly
      > declared that the BSD managed to survive inside Christianity for eight
      > centuries, apparently finding the intellectual culture of the church a
      > consistently warm and nurturing home in which to grow. Indeed, this
      > was thriving in the church even as late as 869 AD, having become so
      > and widely accepted by that time that it seemed to be "growing like a
      By 4th Ecumenical Council you mean the 4th Ecumenical Council
      OF CONSTANTINOPLE otherwise known as the 8th
      Ecumenical Council 869 (The 4th Ecumenical Council was
      Chalcedon 451).

      The 4th Ecumenical Council of Constantinople was called to
      depose Photius the controversial Patriarch of Constantinople.
      The condemnation of the idea of two souls was probably
      directed against recent theological speculations by Photius rather
      than against a still-surviving ancient belief.

      Andrew Criddle
    • fmmccoy
      ... From: Peter Novak To: Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 1:02 PM Subject: [GTh] Re: the division of the
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 17, 2004
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Peter Novak" <novak@...>
        To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 1:02 PM
        Subject: [GTh] Re: the division of the soul

        > By the time Christianity arrived on the scene, Greek ideas about a
        two-part soul comprised of psuche and thumos had saturated the entire
        Mediterranean area. Those Greek cultural ideas were the soil in which
        Christianity arose.
        > And while most Christians today assume that the terms soul and spirit are
        synonyms, Christianity was originally in accord with Greek thought on this
        issue, distinguishing between these two parts of the self just as
        unequivocally as the rest of the Hellenized world. Further agreeing with the
        Greek model, one New Testament passage reveals that it was openly taught
        in the early days of the church that the soul and spirit were capable of
        dividing from each another:
        > The word of God is living and active and more powerful than any two-edged
        sword, and cuts so deeply it divides the soul from the spirit.- Hebrews 4:12

        Dear Peter:

        I suggest that your phrase, "Christianity was originally in accord with
        Greek thought on this issue", over-generalizes.

        Certainly, a distinction between spirit and soul is found in a number of
        early Chrsitian documents, so that it is safe to say that some circles of
        early Christianity were in accord with Greek thought on this issue.

        However, since such a distinction is not found in many early Christian
        documents, I think it over-reaching to say that there was a unanimity on
        this point in early Christianity.

        Also, I think it important to note that those early Christians who did make
        a distinction between the spirit and the soul generally believed that a
        human being consists of a spirit-soul-body/flesh triad.

        So, in Hebrews, we not only have the spirit and the soul in 4:12, but also
        the flesh in 10:20.

        Again, in I Thess 5:23, Paul and Silvanus refer to "your whole spirit and
        soul and body".

        Too, in the Markan account of the agony of Jesus at Gethsemane, he has Jesus
        not only refer to the soul ("My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death."),
        but to the spirit and flesh as well ("Indeed, the spirit is ready, but the
        flesh is weak.").

        Also, in Thomas thought, there is the body/flesh, the soul, and the spirit
        (e.g., see 112, "Jesus said, 'Woe to the flesh that depends on the soul; woe
        to the soul that depends on the flesh.'", and 29. "Jesus said, 'If the flesh
        came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if spirit came into
        being because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders.").

        Finally, there is the body/flesh, the soul, and the spirit in the Epistle of
        James (see 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead,", and 5:20,
        "save his soul from death".).

        So, to focus only on the spirit and soul is to over-look a third key player
        in this conceptualization of a human being held by some early Christians,
        i.e., the body/flesh.

        >Yet another early Christian work, The Gospel of Mary, was unearthed in 1896
        after also having been lost for nearly 2000 years. And again, just like the
        Nag Hammadi scriptures, The Gospel of Mary also seems to reflect the binary
        soul doctrine (BSD):
        > "Peter said to Mary : "Sister, we know that the Teacher loved you
        differently from other women. Tell us whatever you remember of any words he
        told you which we have not yet heard." Mary said to them: "I will now speak
        to you of that which has not been given to you to hear. I had a vision of
        the Teacher, and I said to him: 'Lord, I see you now in this vision.' And
        he answered: 'You are blessed, for the sight of me does not disturb you.
        There where is the nous, lies the treasure.' Then I said to him: 'Lord, when
        someone meets you in a moment of vision, is it through the soul that they
        see, or is it through the spirit?' The Teacher answered: 'It is neither
        through the soul nor the spirit, but the nous between the two which sees the
        > Nous, of course, is the ancient Greek term often translated as 'intellect'
        or 'mind'. Its use here clearly shows that at least one branch of early
        Christian anthropology included a BSD system of two primary souls with a
        third element in-between them. .

        In The Gospel of Mary of Magdalene (p. 66), Karen L. King states, "According
        to the Gospel of Mary, however, it is not the soul that sees the vision, but
        the mind acting as a mediator between the sensory perceptions of the soul
        and the divine spirit."

        So, according to her, the "spirit" in the passage from GMary you cite is not
        a human spirit, but the divine Spirit.

        Accordingly, then, she thinks that, in GMary, a human being consists of the
        mind, the soul, and the body/flesh. So, she (p. 65) states, "For the
        Gospel of Mary, a human being is composed of body, soul, and mind. The mind
        is the most divine part of the self, that which links it with God. The mind
        rules and leads the soul, so that when the mind is directed toward God, it
        purifies and directs the soul toward spiritual attainment. As the Savior
        said, 'Where the mind is, there is the treasure' (GMary 7:4)."

        Indeed, in a Nag Hammadi text, the Teaching of Silvanus, we find a similar
        division of a human being into a mind, a soul, and a body/flesh. So (92) we
        read, "The divine mind has substance from the Divine, but the soul is that
        which he (God) has formed for their own hearts. For I think that it (the
        soul) exists as wife of that which has come into being in conformity with
        the image, but matter is the substance of the body which has come into being
        from earth."

        What I suspect is that, in Silvanus and GMary, what we have is a later
        variation on the earlier spirit-soul-body/flesh triad in which the spirit is
        replaced by the mind, so that it becomes a mind-soul-body/flesh triad.


        Frank McCoy
        1809 N. English Apt. 15
        Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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