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The doctrine of humanity, also called anthropology, is an area of Christian theology that studies various topics related to mankind based on the teaching of Scripture.

For example, a biblical anthropology maintains as a basis, that:

  • Man was created in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27).
  • Man is a fallen creature (Romans 5:12), and born in a corrupt state.
  • Man has a material aspect (the body) and a non-material aspect, his spirit (Jas. 2:26).
  • Though marred by the Fall, man retains remnants of God's image in his non-material nature (Gen. 9:6).

Some differentiate the soul from the spirit of man resulting in a trichotomous view of his nature (body, soul, and spirit). Others see the soul as essentially synonymous with the spirit resulting in a dichotomous view of man's nature (material and immaterial), which may be expressed as either "body and soul" or "body and spirit."

Created humanity

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). Human beings are crated in God's image in which they were made to coexist as man and woman in community. As created beings, humans are finite and dependent on God for all things.

See main pages: Image of God, Nature of humanity, Gender roles

Body, soul, and spirit


Trichotomy is the view that humanity is composed of three distinct parts: body, soul, and spirit. Some adherents to this view believe the spirit a range of capacities within the soul. The primary text used by proponents of the trichotomous view of man is Genesis 1:26-27, where God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," thus appealing to the analogy of the Trinity (comparing the three natures of man with the three persons of God).

The biblical languages make a distinction between soul and spirit, using two totally different words, meaning two totally different things. The Hebrew word translated spirit, ne shamah ("wind"), corresponds to the Greek word for spirit, pneuma ("breeze"), while the Hebrew word translated soul, nephesh ("living (thinking) being") corresponds to the Greek word, psuche (also "living (thinking) being").

Other Scriptures which seem to make the distinction between spirit and soul include Luke 1:46-47, where Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior," and Matthew 26:38-41, where Jesus said "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death..." when exhorting the disciples to watch and pray with Him, and then upon returning to find them sleeping said, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."


"In contrast to trichotomy, the view accepted by most scholars is that man is dichotomous, or consists of two parts; a material aspect, and a non-material aspect. The non-material part is called by many different names; soul, spirit, mind, life force, or any of a dozen or more equivalent Scriptural words. These are not separate parts of a person, but are just different words for the different aspects of the non-material aspect of man." [1]

Relevant passages

  • "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23
  • "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
  • "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful." - 1 Corinthians 14:14
  • "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." - Matthew 10:28

Views on the Origin of the Soul


"Some advocated the idea that the souls of men existed in a previous state, and that something that happened then accounts for their present condition. A few found in this an explanation of the fact that man is born as a sinner. This view finds no favor now." Berkhoff


"According to this View men derive their souls as well as their bodies from their parents. This is the common view in the Lutheran Church. Support for it is found in the fact that nothing is said about the creation of Eve's soul, and that descendants are said to be in the loins of their Fathers, Gen. 46:26; Heb. 7:9, 10. Furthermore, it seems to be favored by the fact that in the case of animals both body and soul are passed on from the old to the young, by the inheritance of family traits and peculiarities, and by the inheritance of sinful corruption, which is a matter of the soul more than of the body. However, it is burdened with serious difficulties. It either makes the parents creators, or assumes that the soul of man can be divided into various parts. Moreover, it endangers the sinlessness of Jesus." Berkhoff


"This holds that each soul is a direct creation of God, of which the time cannot be precisely determined. The soul is supposed to be created pure, but to become sinful even before birth by entering into that complex of sin by which humanity as a whole is burdened. This view is common in Reformed circles. It is favored by the fact that Scripture represents the body and the soul of man as having different origins, Eccl. 12:7; Isa. 42:5; Zech. 12:1; Heb. 12:9. Moreover, it is more in harmony with the spiritual nature of the soul, and safeguards the sinlessness of Jesus. It is not free from difficulties, however. It does not explain the inheritance of family traits, and may seem to make God the Creator of sinful souls." Berkhoff

Fallen humanity

After the Fall, sin entered the world and effected the human condition. Both sin and guilt were now inherited and resulted in death.

Total depravity (also called total inability or total corruption) is a biblical doctrine closely linked with the doctrine of original sin as formalized by Augustine and advocated in many Protestant confessions of faith and catechisms, especially in Calvinism. The doctrine understands the Bible to teach that, as a consequence of the the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.

See main pages: The Fall, Original sin, Death, Total depravity

New humanity

While the effects of the Fall left humanity in a sinful condition, freedom from the bondage of sin was accomplished on the cross and through Jesus' resurrection. Those who have been united with Christ are new creatures and await the complete restoration of their humanity at the final resurrection.

See main pages: Sanctification, Resurrection, New creation
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  • Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible. Studies in Theological Interpretation. Baker Academic, 2008. ISBN 9780801035951

External links

Soul-creationism and traducianism

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