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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 36

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 36 [XXII.]—He Passes on to the Second Question About the Soul, Whether It is Called Spirit.

It now remains for me to show how it is that while the designation spirit is rightly predicated of a part of the soul, not the whole of it,—even as the apostle says, “Your whole spirit, and soul, and body;” 2507 or, according to the much more expressive statement in the Book of Job, “Thou wilt separate my soul from my spirit,” 2508 —yet the whole soul is also called by this name; although this question seems to be much more a question of names than of things. For since it is certainly a fact that there is a something in the soul which is properly called “spirit,” while (this being left out of question) it is also designated with equal propriety “soul,” our present contention is not about the things themselves; 2509 mainly because I on my side certainly admit, and you on your part say the same, that that is properly called spirit by which we reason and understand, and yet that these things are distinguishingly designated, as the apostle says “your whole spirit, and soul, and body.” This spirit, however, the same apostle appears also to describe as mind; as when he says, “So then with the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”  2510 Now the meaning of this is precisely what he expresses in another passage thus: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” 2511 What he designates mind in the former place, he must be understood to call spirit in the latter passage. Not as you interpret the statement, “The whole mind is meant, which consists of soul and spirit,”—a view which I know not where you obtained. By our “mind,” indeed, we usually understand nothing but our rational and intellectual faculty; and thus, when the apostle says, “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind,” 2512 what else does he mean than, Be ye renewed in your mind? “The spirit of the mind” is, accordingly, nothing else than the mind, just as “the body of the flesh” is nothing but the flesh; thus it is written, “In putting off the body of the flesh,” 2513 where the apostle calls the flesh “the body of the flesh.” He designates it, indeed, in another point of view as the spirit of man, which he quite distinguishes from the mind: “If,” says he, “I pray with the tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my mind is unfruitful.” 2514 We are not now, however, speaking of that spirit which is distinct from the mind; and this involves a question relating to itself which is really a difficult one. For in many ways and in divers senses the Holy Scriptures make mention of the spirit; but with respect to that we are now speaking of, by which we exercise reason, intelligence, and wisdom, we are both agreed that it is called (and indeed rightly called) “spirit,” in such a sense as not to include the entire soul, but a part of it. If, however, you contend that the soul is not the spirit, on the ground that the understanding is distinctly called “spirit,” you may as well deny that the whole seed of Jacob is called Israel, since, apart from Judah, the same appellation was distinctly and separately borne by the ten tribes which were then organized in Samaria. But why need we linger any longer here on this subject?



1 Thess. v. 23.


Job vii. 15.


[Compare On the City of God, xiv. 2, 6, and On the Trinity, x. 11, 18. Augustin denied the trichotomy of the Greek Fathers before Appollinaris, and held that the soul and spirit constituted a single substantial unity, and this one spiritual essence was “soul” (anima) so far as it was the informing and vivifying principle of the body, and “spirit” (spiritus) so far as it was the power of rational thought.—W.]


Rom. vii. 25.


Gal. v. 17.


Eph. iv. 23.


Col. ii. 11.


1 Cor. xiv. 14.

Next: Chapter 37

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