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Problem Verses for Dichotomy

In the following correspondence, the e-mailer's questions are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My replies are in red.

Dear Gary F. Zeolla:

>I read your articles on the soul and the spirit and find them very interesting. Your explanation makes a very good case for a dichotonomy instead of trichotonomy view of the Bible concerning the internal being. However, there are certain passages that seem to also give support to the trichotonomy view. The apostle Paul mentions "spirit, soul and body" in:

1Thes 5:23:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you state, he may just be making a reference to the total completion of the person and not necessarily two separate parts of the inner self. Now, that would be true if that verse was the only one in which Paul refers to the inner self of the Christian. Paul seems to be making a clear distinction between the mind (soul/understanding) and the spirit of the person in the following verses:

I Corinthians 14
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

The apostle makes a difference between the activity of the Spirit and the activity of the Mind. From the context it seems that the spirit acts "independently" of the soul (understanding, mind) and vice-versa.

How can you explain this clear distinction used by Paul to refer to the spirit and the mind acting individually from each other with your dichotomy position?

Thanks for your answer, and Blessings to you and your ministry.


This is an admittedly difficult verse for the dichotomist. But the first thought that comes to mind is that Paul does not say "soul." He says "mind." The trichotomist is just assuming mind=soul.

Otherwise, I guess I never really looked at this verse as Paul dividing the human psyche into parts. He's just making a contrast between the emotional feelings that speaking in tongues generates versus one's intellectual understanding.

>Hi Gary,

Thanks for your response. I do not want to bug you too much but here is another verse that just came to mind and does not have to do with speaking in tongues which not all are participants of. This one has to do with prayer and it gets even better because it talks about the "mind of the spirit" as if the spirit has it's own mind.


Romans 8
25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.


And another...
Romans 8
16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children

But as you say, if we assume that the mind is the soul (soul=mind) then there are some vss. that seem to separate them as not being the same.

Matthew 22
37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

Mark 12
30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'

Luke 10
27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Yesterday I heard Kenneth Hagin talking on the radio and He said that "the human being is a spirit who posesses a soul". So here we have that the soul is possesed by the spirit and yet the spirit can be doing things that the soul knows nothing of, but now, How can the soul do something that the spirit who possesses it does not know about? (This sounds a bit different than what Watchman Nee taught- or is it the same?).

Just a thought. I find this is a kind of difficult topic as I am trying to come to biblical conclusions but your studies have definitively helped.

In Christ,

Note that in the first verse you cite, it is "the mind of the Spirit" not "spirit." It's a reference to God the Father knowing the thoughts of God the Holy Spirit. The human mind/ spirit are not in view.

As for the other verse, you're correct that one could take these verses as indicating the mind and soul are distinct, or you could simply look at it as different words for the one immaterial self, with each word maybe placing an emphasis on a different aspect of the self. I opt for the latter.

I'm not sure if Hagin's and Nee's positions are different or not. They sound rather similar.

But you are correct; this is a difficult subject. I believe I read somewhere that Augustine tried coming to a decision on it but wasn't able to. So if such a great mind as Augustine wasn't able to "solve" this issue, don't feel bad if you can't!

BTW, Gordon Clark comments about 1Cor 14:15 that you originally asked about, "... Paul's point is that when one prays with, in, or by the spirit, one ispo facto prays with the mind" (First Corinthians, p.235).

So Clark believes that Paul is simply saying that when one prays with the spirit, of course, he prays with the mind since the mind is a part of the spirit. I would tend to agree with Clark.

God bless,
Gary Z.

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