The Human Soul:
Three Persons or One?
NCW 75, April-June 2002
Q. I know questions about the Elohimhead/Godhead probably can't be answered fully since NCAY, I know, doesn't make any absolute sort of pronouncement. But do you think that the way the human soul is constructed reflects the way Yahweh is, since we are made in His image?
A. You are right, the question cannot possibly be answered to everyone's satisfaction! However, I would like to offer some insights which may be helpful. The object must, of course, be to tie all scriptures on the subject together and ignore none. What I offer here is not so much a substitute to prototrinitarian NCCG teachings but an "extra dimension" which perhaps some aspiring theologian in NCAY may wish one day to analyse and integrate.
Both Rabbinic Judaism and orthodox Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern) have tended to see human beings as "bipolar", namely, consisting of essentially two "parts" - spirit and body (though sometimes the word "soul" is erroneously used in place of "spirit" - biblically, a soul is usually seen as body + spirit). Much ado is made about 1 Thessalonians 5:23 which, alone amongst the corpus of Biblical scriptures, suggests that humans are 'tripolar' - to pneuma kai e psike kai to soma/the spirit and the soul and the body (The N.T., Alland´s Third Edition). One Messianic writer concludes from this that as humans have three parts - body, soul, and spirit, so does Elohim: Yahweh is the soul of Elohim, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is the spirit of Elohim, and Yah'shua (Jesus) is the body of Elohim. I have many problems with this comparison, not least of which is the fact that 1 Thessalonians 5:23 appears to contradict the universal biblical formula of Soul = body + spirit, and the fact I would have problems envisioning Elohim's body ('Yah'shua') praying to his soul (Yahweh) in Gethsemane - it is the old Unitarian dilemma with is many contradictions. And in actual fact Paul is neither contradicting the biblical witness on the nature of the soul nor even talking about it (see Body, Soul and Spirit: The Teachings of Kenneth E. Hagin Compared with the Bible - Hagin, and many other leading charismatics, have evolved a whole heretical theology and practice based on a misunderstanding of one verse).
Bearing these things in mind, consider the ingenuity of Julio Dan of Congregacion Bethshalom who wrote on a Message Board:
The soul is made up of: the right hemisphere, where all the non-linear functions are: intuition, inference, non-sequential thinking, paradox understanding, "Hegelian", i.e., Elohim´s triadic logic, etc; and the left hemisphere, where all the linear functions are: (classical) logic, sequential thinking, etc. Feelings, volition, ethics, moral, memories; soulish heritages (from both parents), curses, etc. The soul has the same organs, systems and organization as our physical body.
The spirit also has the same organs, systems and organization as our physical and psychical body, and that is precisely why in the Tanak Yahveh is said to have arms and feet and hands. Contrariwise to Maimonides, who is the guilty party for having filled Judaism with a non-physical impression of Elohim, we must start from a right premise, not from a wrong one: If Scripture says Elohim does have a hand and an arm, He does, Maimonides notwithstanding! Those of us who are in spiritual warfare can see the spirit in greater or lesser detail and we can corroborate the accuracy of Scripture when it says that Yahveh does have limbs and hands.
Our immortal soul is the only one of our parts to have a connection with either the body or the spirit through the right hemisphere, where all spiritual connections are made. Our equally immortal spirit and body are extensions, or especializations of our soul to meet different spheres, i.e, the spiritual and the earthly mode of living. Thus, it happens with Elohim: His Soul Part is Yahveh, the source and Fountain of Everything. From His mouth comes out Holy Wind/Ruach (the Spirit Part of Elohim) which congeals into a Word, which is the Rabbi Yeshuah, the Body Part of Elohim. Only seen from this perspective can Scripture match 1st Thess. 5:23 and still maintain Judaism's most sentencious prayer, the Shmah: "Shmah, Israel...Yahveh ONE is."
Even mathematics match: 1/3 (Yahveh) + 1/3 (Yeshuah) + 1/3 (Holy Wind)=1. Thus, we can elaborate that when out earthly body dies, our spirit and soul parts merge completely and take their appointed place: either we go to heaven or to hell in a conscious state (viz. Lk. 16:19) or some will sleep until Judgment Day to be woken up and tried.
Let me conclude by adding that this knowledge should come only as Rabbi Shaul said: "For I neither received it of man (or denominations), neither was I taught (it), but by the revelation of Yeshuah Mashiach." (Gal.1:12)
Whilst Messianic Evangelicals long ago also came to the conclusion that Yahweh physically resembles us in some way, it would be wrong to use Tanakh (Old Testament) passages about hands and feet as concrete proof that He is anthropomorphic, for other passages describe Him as having feathers, breasts, and other features which can only possibly be understood symbolically (though Percy Collet claimed that he saw God's feathers).
There are many other problems with Dan's model. The Ruach (Spirit) is not only female but consists (if you believe in the Book of Revelation) of seven entities. And if Yahweh is in the Shematic sense then it is hard to imagine that He is in trilogue with His three parts or that He would intimate that He considers of more that one Person when in the creation narrative He speaks of man being made in "our" (plural) image.
The author is very much trapped in the Talmudic mindset from which he has extrapolated his very interesting (and insightful) theory. The key to understanding the Elohimhead (Godhead) and to harmonising all scriptures on the subject is in the nature of its oneness or echad which is uniplurality - namely, simultaneous oneness and plurality. Thus Dan's suggestion that Yahweh (and from our perspective, each of the members of the Elohimhead/Godhead) is in someway tripolar I would not necessarily challenge or disagree with, though to equate this tripolarity with supposedly body, soul and spirit elements I would certainly reject. We have many levels of being, three being the primary division.
Interestingly enough many years ago Yahweh showed me in vision which confirms Dan's assertion that some spirits enter a state of unconsciousness at death until the Judgment and Resurrection, whereas others are conscious in their disembodied state. I saw millions and millions of spirits seemingly asleep. However, the reason I was given for this condition was that there was so little spiritual light in these persons that there was not enough to maintain them in a state of consciousness. They were rather like flat or almost flat batteries, never having been sufficiently leavened by the Light of Christ in mortality to make a significant enough impact on their spiritual part. In a parallel vision seen at another time I was shown how demons maintain a state of consciousness by plundering light from human beings who release it through sinful behaviour, the amount of light being released in proportion to the evil of their crimes. Without this spiritual parasitism, demons would lose all consciousness. And indeed I was shown in one vision one class of demons who were almost unconscious and who had been reduced to the pitiful state of ingesting vast amount of spiritual refuse in order to gather what little light was in them. That was all they ever did, for were they to stop for one moment, they might not obtain sufficient quantities and so pass out. They reminded me of worse than cattle chewing the cud, for most herbivores must continually eat to obtain the nourishment they need. They were grey and the spiritual refuse they were eating in handfuls was of the same colour.
Concerning the tripolar nature of the spirit of man, perhaps a little more should be added, as I know this will interest our readers.
This spirit (some would use the word 'soul' again erroneously, for it does not include the body) consists of three parts which are called by the Hebrew names, Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah. The word Neshamah is a cognate of Neshimah, which literally means "breath". Ruach means "wind". Nefesh comes from the root Nafash, meaning "rest", as in the verse, "On the seventh day Elohim (God) ceased work and rested (Nafash)" (Exodus 31:17).
Of these three levels of the soul, Neshamah is the highest and closest to Elohim (God), while Nefesh is that aspect of the soul residing in the body. Ruach stands between the two, binding man to his spiritual Source. It is for this reason that 'Divine Inspiration' is called Ruach haQodesh in Hebrew.
The Neshamah is exhaled from Elohim (God), travels as a wind (Ruach) and comes to rest in the vessel (Nefesh). This concept is best seen in Genesis 2:7: "Yahweh breathed (Neshamah) into his (Adam's) nostrils the breath (Neshamah) of chayim (life) and man became a living soul (nefesh)".
The Neshamah is affected only by thought, the Ruach by speech and the Nefesh by action.
Before Yah'shua (Jesus) returned to the Father, he told His talmidin (disciples) to wait in Jerusalem till they received Ruach haQodesh (Divine Inspiration) from on high.
Nefesh (also spelled nephesh) should not be confused with the body or belem. Neshamah-Ruach + belem = nefesh. The nefesh or "living soul" is the whole person. It appears three times in Genesis before Adam was created and refers to animal life.
The Pharisees believed in the "immortality of the soul" and resurrection of the dead, whereas the Saducees did not. This is why the 'cohenim/priests' (Saducees at that time) wanted to conceal Yah'shua's (Jesus') resurrection. Many Pharisees, on the other hand, became believers because they had no problem with the resurrection.
Not all Jews, Messianic Jews, or Christians, for that matter, believe in the immortality of the soul (Seventh Day Adventists, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses and the old Worldwide Church of God and its split-offs would be included). They believe that immortality is conferred by emunah (faith) in Messiah but is not actually inherent. All of them believe that humans have no spirit of their own and that the spirit that is within them is Elohim's (God's), and returns to Him at death, leaving them no more than a corpse in the grave. They believe therefore that they have no consciousness whatsoever at death and are literally "in the grave" rotting away (the doctrine called 'soul-sleeping'). They exist only in Yahweh's memory, to be recreated later at the Judgment. This erroneous doctrine has arisen out of a misunderstanding of Hebrew poetry and assumes that the pre-Messianic Hebrews had a knowledge of life after death, of which they had almost none. Not until the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) do we find a fresh revelation on the nature of the soul and the next life.
They are, however, partly right, I believe, for there is a sense in which we have no immortality apart from Yahweh. To suggest that a soul has inherent immortality is to suggest that it can exist without Elohim (God), which it cannot. Hence the need of Satan and demonic powers to cannibalise the spirit substance of humans and animals. Were a spirit/soul to try and exist without Yahweh it would simply be rendered unconscious in the process of time and remain asleep. Where Messianic Evangelicals differ with the "soul-sleepers" is our belief that humans do have their own spirits which we can rightly call "ours". Having myself seen my own spirit, which in every way resembled outwardly by physical form, I have no doubt whatsoever as to its existence.
Dan's discourse is an interesting piece of speculative theology that contains some useful insights. However, it is based on a number of false premises which have, I believe, led him to some fundamentally erroneous conclusions. He, and indeed all of us, ought to be slower in invoking a Galatians 1:12 imprimatur, especially in such a notoriously difficult area as the Elohimhead (Godhead). The spiritual anatomy of man, let alone the Elohim, is not something we are ever likely to full understand in this life, which is why we ought to remain undogmatic and give people the freedom to explore.
Accordingly, we have a two-tier doctrine, both of which are left undeveloped, so as not to add beyond what it clearly stated in the Bible. The first, which we call "prototrinitarianism" (perhaps an unfortunate term in some respects because of associations with neo-pagan Trinitarianism), simply states that there is one God (Elohim) consisting of three Persons - the Father (Yahweh - El), Son (Yah'shua/Jesus) and Holy Spirit (Ruach haQodesh/Hochmah), the Father being the Head, and Yah'shua (Jesus) being full Deity, and the Spirit being female. This is the doctrine that is taught in NCAY.
In the Chavurat Bekorot (Holy Order), the Priesthood Order of NCAY, we take this a bit further by qualifying that that the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is, in fact, seven female Personages who are our uniplural (echad - 7-in-1) Heavenly Mother like the Elohimhead (Godhead) itself (which is 3-in-1). Furthermore, the Elohim is being added to and will consist, ultimately, of not only the Father-Son-Holy Spirit, but all the faithful malakim (angels) and redeemed men and women on a lower level. The CB has quite a developed Elohimhead (Godhead) theology (see Yah'shua the Messiah and His Place in the Godhead).
So long as the deity of Messiah is accepted, and that He is separate from the Father as a Person, which is a key doctrine of the emunah faith, we have no problems fellowshipping with other believers who accept differing Elohimhead (Godhead) doctrines and who respect our differences. As to your implied question, Are we three persons in one? I rather think not. That we are in some way tripolar as the Godhead consists of three Persons, would, however, seem to be a reasonable postulate ... but with an interesting twist and a challenge: might it be, in view of the sevenfold nature of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), that women are constructed a little differently to men? (What is so special about this 7:1 ratio - Isa.4:1?) And is this not born out in the very different natures of the two genders? And mightn't marriage be the means to recreate the kind of echad that obtains in the Elohimhead (Godhead), bringing a wholeness and harmony that is absent in the single estate? How does this relate to Shavu'ot (Weeks, 'Pentecost') and to the spiritual birth and experience of the Church/Messianic Community? What is the spiritual synergy between male and female? Something to think about.
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