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What constitutes a person?

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  • What constitutes a person?

    So as not to derail a certain other thread, and because it deserves it's own thread, here we are. Biblically speaking, what exactly is a person? Do we mean the same thing when we talk about human persons and the persons of the Trinity? How is being a human different from being a person?
    Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

  • #2
    I think what constitutes a person made in the image of God is his spirit, assuming that humans are body/spirit, or body/soul/spirit beings.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Adrift View Post
      I think what constitutes a person made in the image of God is his spirit, assuming that humans are body/spirit, or body/soul/spirit beings.
      For what makes a human, I told Siam in a thread in Islam that:

      If it does not have a body, mind, and sprit it cannot be human. A person without a spirit is trapped inside the body unable to control it. A person without a mind could perhaps describe a lunatic and is almost an animal. A person without a body is simply not human. The spirit is made in the image of God. You need all three to be a human.
      I have not studied the topic much, but he asked me a direct question, and that was the best I could come up with at the time. I still think it makes sense, but am not sure it's entirely Biblical.
      Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
        For what makes a human, I told Siam in a thread in Islam that:

        I have not studied the topic much, but he asked me a direct question, and that was the best I could come up with at the time. I still think it makes sense, but am not sure it's entirely Biblical.
        Well, we definitely seem familiar with the body aspect of our being. That's the easy one. But the distinction between a soul and a spirit is a little more complicated. Some Christians believe we are only body/spirit beings, but others see a trinitarian sort of aspect to humanity in the concept of a body soul and spirit, and there seems to be scriptural evidence that we are (1 Thessalonians 5:23, and maybe Matthew 22:37).

        I've often heard that our soul is that aspect of our being that is the seat of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I've also heard it explained as that aspect of our being that is what brings life to our bodies and animates us. In that way, animals could be said to have bodies and souls.

        So then, the spirit would be that aspect of our being that is unique and uniquely made in the image of God. I think hypothetically, it could be our mind distinct from our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Maybe its the heart of man that knows God's will. That part of mankind that even the unregenerate has that allows them to know the law of God (Romans 2:15). Its that part of our being that the Holy Spirit communicates with when we are born again (Romans 8:16).

        But if soul and spirit are one in the same, then it seems to me that we can put the thought/feelings/emotions aspect of our being into the spirit side, and the life/animation aspect of our being into the body side. I'm okay with both, though I lean towards body/soul/spirit.
        Last edited by Adrift; 12-30-2014, 01:47 AM.

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        • #5
          A "person" is a unique center of consciousness that is made in the image of God, who is 3 distinct centers of consciousness. It does not necessarily imply humanity or even corporeality, although possessing them does not invalidate personhood, nor does lacking them invalidate it.
          That's what
          - She

          Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals
          - Manya the Holy Szin (The Quintara Marathon)

          I may not be as old as dirt, but me and dirt are starting to have an awful lot in common
          Stephen R. Donaldson

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          • #6
            Pneuma is the Greek word for spirit and it is what happens when you gain life, are plugged in. Psuche is the Greek word for soul and is how the spirit is manifested by each person through his life experience.

            In other words you have a spirit, but ARE a soul.

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            • #7
              I don't think its quite that simple. Or at least, not in Paul's writings.

              Source: Paul's Narrative Thought World: The Tapestry of Tragedy and Triumph by Ben Witherington

              Paul uses the term pneuma of the human spirit sparingly. Normally pneuma means Holy Spirit in Paul. First Corinthians 14:14 (32?) speaks about "my spirit," and in 14:15 spirit and mind are contrasted. Some have suggested, however, that spirit here refers to something God gives the Christian, not something inherent in human nature (i.e., the spiritual agency that activates gifts). Against this, however, Paul speaks only of the Holy Spirit in these terms, not my "spirit." Further, 2 Cor. 7:1 speaks of defilers of the spirit and of the flesh. It is hard to see how one could defile the Holy Spirit, but the human spirit is another matter. Thus spirit seems to refer to a part of one's being that involves the suprarational or noncognitive aspects of human experience--broadly speaking, that which goes beyond the material and empirical. Paul, however, does not seem to see the human "spirit" as a material part of a person. We can only conjecture that he associates it perhaps with something like the image of God in humanity, that which makes possible relationships and communion with God, who is Spirit.

              © Copyright Original Source



              Source: Paul's Narrative Thought World: The Tapestry of Tragedy and Triumph by Ben Witherington

              Paul uses the term psuche sparingly as well, and its cognate psuchikos. It clearly does not mean soul for Paul. Thus, for instance at Romans 1, quoting the Old Testament, he uses psuche in its Old Testament sense of life or self (the Hebrew nephesh). So too at Rom. 16:4 Paul speaks of those who risked their "lives" for his life (similarly at Phil. 2:30). In 1 Cor. 15:45 in the Old Testament quotation, Adam is said to become a living being (a living psuche). At times then, the term psuche is simply synonymous with human being (cf. Rom. 2:9; 13:1), without stress on one's being alive, though that is necessarily implied. First Thessalonians 5:23 has sometimes been used to argue that Paul had a trichotomous view of human nature: body, soul, spirit. Against this, however, psuche likely means here the life principle that animates the body. Psuchikos as an adjective is used by Paul in its normal sense to mean physical (just the opposite of soul) or natural, or possibly even unspiritual (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 15:44, 46). This term describes the natural human being (i.e., a person without the Holy Spirit) over against a person who has the spirit.

              © Copyright Original Source

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              • #8
                I fail to see any distinction between a human being and a person. Any application to the persons of the Trinity is really not comprehensible to us.
                Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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                • #9
                  The spirit is the non-physical core of a person that gives him life.

                  James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

                  The "soul" is a somewhat ambiguous term that usually means the sum of the spirit plus the body, synonymous with "person" or personality.

                  Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

                  But sometimes "soul" seems to refer primarily or exclusively to the spirit, apart from the body.

                  Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

                  Also, animals seem to have spirits, too, but of a different kind.

                  Ecclesiastes 3:21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

                  The word soul can apply to the life or personality of animals as well, not just humans.

                  Revelation 16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

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                  • #10
                    No, they don't mean the same thing. In both the incarnation and the trinity, the nature has a will and other things that we think of as characterizing a person. Thus the Trinity has a single will. The Catholic Encyclopedia maintains that the Trinity has a single mind, which knows itself with a three-fold consciousness. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm) In most contexts that would make him (them? it?) closer to one person than three, I think. Similarly, it was ruled a heresy to deny that Christ has two wills: human and divine. I think you can substantiate that he has separate consciousness, memory, etc. Thus from a typical modern point of view Christ is two persons.
                    Last edited by hedrick; 12-31-2014, 04:43 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by hedrick View Post
                      No, they don't mean the same thing. In both the incarnation and the trinity, the nature has a will and other things that we think of as characterizing a person. Thus the Trinity has a single will. The Catholic Encyclopedia maintains that the Trinity has a single mind, which knows itself with a three-fold consciousness. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm) In most contexts that would make him (them? it?) closer to one person than three, I think. Similarly, it was ruled a heresy to deny that Christ has two wills: human and divine. I think you can substantiate that he has separate consciousness, memory, etc. Thus from a typical modern point of view Christ is two persons.
                      I can see merit in the points made by everyone up until your post... I'm sure it's because I don't understand it then. Can you elaborate? It sounds to me like you're advocating Nestorianism.
                      Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
                        I can see merit in the points made by everyone up until your post... I'm sure it's because I don't understand it then. Can you elaborate? It sounds to me like you're advocating Nestorianism.
                        No. If you look at Christology you will find that the orthodox position has always maintained that Christ had all the functions of a human. This includes a separate human soul (denying it is Apollinarianism) and will (denying it is the monothelite heresy). I don't believe consciousness was part of the patristic discussion, but I think it's a reasonable extension to assume a separate consciousness to go with the separate will.

                        The question is whether this means that there is a separate person. Obviously not as orthodox Christian theology uses "person." But most people I know would consider something with a soul and a will to be a person. I don't think the classical hypostasis is the same thing as the modern concept of personality. That was the original question, whether person as used in theology means the same thing as the modern concept of person. I think the answer is no.

                        As I understand the discussion of the Incarnation in Aquinas' Summa, the human nature is exactly like a normal human person, except that it is not "complete." That is, a normal human exists on its own. But Christ's human nature, although identical to a normal human person, exists only as the way for the Logos to be present in human form.
                        Last edited by hedrick; 01-01-2015, 04:38 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by hedrick View Post
                          No. If you look at Christology you will find that the orthodox position has always maintained that Christ had all the functions of a human. This includes a separate human soul (denying it is Apollinarianism) and will (denying it is the monothelite heresy). I don't believe consciousness was part of the patristic discussion, but I think it's a reasonable extension to assume a separate consciousness to go with the separate will.
                          I do not. Will: "the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action."
                          Consciousness: "the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world." Are the two dictionary definitions Google provided that seem relevant. A will may be a product of a consciousness, but two consciousnesses seems to be two people, the question of what makes up a person is unsettled, but the basic secular understanding involves being self-aware, which is only half of the definition of consciousness, using non-idiosyncratic definitions, you have described two people in one Christ. (And to be contrarian) Having a human soul does not necessitate having a divine soul as well. And how are you meaning soul? From my understanding of Apollinarianism the divine Logos replaced the human soul, so does that make soul equivalent to nature?

                          The question is whether this means that there is a separate person. Obviously not as orthodox Christian theology uses "person." But most people I know would consider something with a soul and a will to be a person. I don't think the classical hypostasis is the same thing as the modern concept of personality. That was the original question, whether person as used in theology means the same thing as the modern concept of person. I think the answer is no.
                          Do you agree with most people you know? Why did you group the idea of personality=hypostasis with the other statements in this paragraph? They do not seem connected.

                          As I understand the discussion of the Incarnation in Aquinas' Summa, the human nature is exactly like a normal human person, except that it is not "complete." That is, a normal human exists on its own. But Christ's human nature, although identical to a normal human person, exists only as the way for the Logos to be present in human form.
                          I am not sure it follows that you can be fully man, without having a "complete" human nature. For what it's worth, I think there is miscommunication here, because it seems like you're clearly expressing Nestorianism in your first paragraph of the quoted post, but then in the second it seems that you're denying your own point. I'm left confused about what you actually believe.

                          You mentioned earlier the Catholic encyclopedia, are you Catholic, or were you just using that as a resource? I ask because the councils are usually quite irrelevant to my faith, and I'm not sure how far I'd be willing to accept them. I can positively affirm the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed (without the Filioque), but beyond that? I am not sure. If the Eastern Orthodox are being ecumenical with the Miaphysites how do they understand the councils that they consider part of infallible church history? I do not know.

                          I refreshed myself on the relevant heterodoxies and the councils, although I confess, I've never extensively studied them, so that I could give a proper response, and I am just left puzzled by your seeming position of yes, all that leads to Nestorianism, but not. I feel I am missing something.
                          Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Interestingly the word 'person' came into being when trying to describe what there were three of in the trinity. Three 'persona' one God.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Pentecost View Post
                              I do not. Will: "the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action."
                              Consciousness: "the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world." Are the two dictionary definitions Google provided that seem relevant. A will may be a product of a consciousness, but two consciousnesses seems to be two people, the question of what makes up a person is unsettled, but the basic secular understanding involves being self-aware, which is only half of the definition of consciousness, using non-idiosyncratic definitions, you have described two people in one Christ. (And to be contrarian) Having a human soul does not necessitate having a divine soul as well. And how are you meaning soul? From my understanding of Apollinarianism the divine Logos replaced the human soul, so does that make soul equivalent to nature?

                              Do you agree with most people you know? Why did you group the idea of personality=hypostasis with the other statements in this paragraph? They do not seem connected.

                              I am not sure it follows that you can be fully man, without having a "complete" human nature. For what it's worth, I think there is miscommunication here, because it seems like you're clearly expressing Nestorianism in your first paragraph of the quoted post, but then in the second it seems that you're denying your own point. I'm left confused about what you actually believe.

                              You mentioned earlier the Catholic encyclopedia, are you Catholic, or were you just using that as a resource? I ask because the councils are usually quite irrelevant to my faith, and I'm not sure how far I'd be willing to accept them. I can positively affirm the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed (without the Filioque), but beyond that? I am not sure. If the Eastern Orthodox are being ecumenical with the Miaphysites how do they understand the councils that they consider part of infallible church history? I do not know.

                              I refreshed myself on the relevant heterodoxies and the councils, although I confess, I've never extensively studied them, so that I could give a proper response, and I am just left puzzled by your seeming position of yes, all that leads to Nestorianism, but not. I feel I am missing something.
                              I used the Catholic Encyclopedia because it expresses a traditional Western understanding. My own Christology is different, but I thought the question here was with respect to typical Christian theology.

                              I refer to typical understanding of person because I thought the question was about the meaning of the word. Words are defined by how they are commonly used. If the question was about "person" as used in the Trinity and Incarnation, that's a different question.

                              I believe Aquinas meant "complete in itself" or perhaps "self-contained." Obviously he would not say that Christ's human nature was incomplete, since that would violate Chalcedon.

                              I don't think any classical creeds spoke of consciousness. However the canons against monothelites say that Christ had a distinct human will and took distinct human actions. Previously he was decided to have a human soul. Obviously he had a human body. This seems to constitute him a human person within the common-language meaning of person. You may, of course, disagree.

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