This verse seems to be enough to answer the question for most people. But listening to the explanation always puzzled me. So I decided to dive deeper into the scripture for a more definitive explanation of this verse. And what I discovered changed everything I thought I knew about how God created man. We will revisit this verse later. For now, let us begin at the most logical place, in my opinion, the beginning.
“But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 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.” ~ Genesis 2:6-7
When God created man, He created him from the substance he was to have dominion over; the earth.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” ~ Genesis 3:19
He reached down with His hands and formed man, with ever so much love, care, and attention to detail. God formed Adam Himself. There is no other creature that can boast of such. God made us with such fine detail and perfect craftsmanship. Every cell is identical until the time of differentiation. Then they begin to fulfill their unique and lifetime roll. Every single cell has a place and purpose, whether we understand that purpose or not. The Master Builder left nothing to chance. He made us pure, powerful, purposeful and perfect. David said:
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:” ~ Psalm 139:14
All this wonder and marvel from the dust. Since that time man understood how he is made. Abram spoke of himself in this manner:
“And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:” ~ Genesis 18:27
Here are Job's thoughts:
“How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?” ~ Job 4:19
David, from whom our Lord and Savior came forth, understood the truth.
“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” ~ Psalm 103:14
Even Solomon, a man filled with wisdom knew his beginning…
“All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:20
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:7
All tell us that everyone is from the dust.
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” ~ Psalm 8:4-5
Yet, when we leave this world, Solomon reminds us of our former state. But something seems to be missing. Let’s look back to the beginning of man. God formed Adam from the dust. This is the creation of our body. Then what happens? Genesis says that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life. At that point, man becomes a living soul. The question is, where is the rest of him as taught? When did Adam become a spirit? When did God place Adam into the body He formed? When did He give him a soul?
I am Three
Many teach when God created Adam, He created a spirit being. He lives in a body and possesses a soul. This view of man is the trichotomy or tripartite view. Tripartite is from the Latin tripartitus, from tri, meaning three and partitus, meaning divided.
The Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary defines tripartite as – 1: divided into or composed of three parts. The first known use of the word was around the 15th century. The most used reference for this explanation is in the Bible.
Seems simple enough, right? That seems plain and clear. Or is it? Let’s look at the spirit, soul and body in scripture for the proper interpretation of the text. First, there is the body. This does not need much research except that the word body changes depending on the context. But for the most part, the body is flesh. It is what we see when we look in the mirror or at others.
Now before you say this is man’s spirit, take a look at this verse…
“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:” ~ Genesis 5:3
Do you think this verse is there by coincidence or design? It is often debated that God created man’s spirit in His own image and likeness. When God formed man, what did he form? Well, being that He used the dust to form it, it must have been our bodies! Think about this. What can we say about Seth in Genesis 5:3? Seth was begotten in the likeness and image of his father, Adam. Does this mean that Adam begot a spirit? Or does it mean that Seth looks like Adam? I would think the latter. The body of Seth looked like Adam’s!
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:” ~ Exodus 20:4
We see statues everywhere. Most are in the image and likeness of people. When God created Adam’s body, he created it to look like His. When we take a photograph, the result is what? An image of the object we photographed! When we look in a mirror, what do we see? We see our own image and likeness. It the same thing when we see our shadow. We see an outline of our shape on the surface. Because God the Father wanted children, it would make sense to create us to look like Him!
I’m a Soul Man
We began to cover the soul back in 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.”
This verse states that man became a living soul. To some people, this might be enough to cause questions. If Adam became a living soul, it should stand to reason that man is a soul! But many have a problem with that, even though that is what the bible reveals. Let’s see if we can find confirmation in scripture.
“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:45
Here we find again where Adam was ‘made a living soul’. Notice it does not say he possesses a soul. Some say that man’s soul consists of three parts; mind, will and emotion. If this is the case, then why would the bible mention the death of a soul? Does this mean your mind, your will, and your emotions will die? Are these elements living things?
“For thou hast delivered my soul from death…” ~ Psalm 56:13
“…and every living soul died in the sea.” ~ Revelation 16:3
Many verses mention the soul living, dying, longing, thirsting, hungry, rejoicing, mourning, etc. Can we contribute these feeling and states of being to an abstract like the will of man? The will of man usually means the desire or choice or someone's determination. There is nothing alive to die here. The emotions are feelings, such as being happy, sad, angry or melancholy. Still, nothing living, just an abstract. When I use the word abstract, I mean expressing a quality apart from an object. The object here is something alive.
To hunger or thirst, there must be life. To hunger after knowledge, to thirst after righteousness, for instance, does not engage mortality. It is a mental (hence the mind) or emotional desire, not a need for existence.
So, if a soul can indeed live and die, what is a soul? Well, look again to Genesis 2:7 and 1 Corinthians 15:45. A soul was not made for Adam. So a man does not own a soul. Adam himself was made a soul thus, Adam IS a soul! Every verse where the soul is mentioned speaks in the context of the person being in that state, not it being a part of them. If so, what is the rest of the person (body and spirit) doing in the meantime?
We will continue this discussion in Part 2 of Body, Soul, and Spirit.
The Holy Bible – King James Version
Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary