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Composition of Man


Man, meaning mankind, was created by God during the sixth 24-hour day (Genesis 1:26, 27, 31) of the restoration of earth from its chaotic condition as depicted in the first chapter of the book of Genesis, the result of the catastrophe that befell it upon the rebellion and fall of Satan and its resultant angelic conflict (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19).


Two Theological Debates on Creation


This of course immediately brings up the two age-long theological debates as to how the opening two chapters of Genesis should be understood. 


(Note:  Should the reader not be interested in this section but only in the “composition of man,” then skip over it to the next section.) 


The two major views of the first debate regarding the matter are:


  1. The six days in chapter one describe God’s creative activity from verse one.


  1. The six days in chapter one describe the restoration process performed by God (vss. 2b ff) upon a prior perfect creation of the universe (vs. 1), which had come to ruin (vs. 2a).


Then there is the debate on the length of each day in chapter one, i.e., a 24-hour or longer (eons) length of time.  And the arguments on both counts may be made from the basis of linguistics (original language) or from how the whole of Scripture can be shown to support one view alone.


The linguistic controversy is centered in verse two.  Grammarians of the Hebrew text deal with two areas:  (1) the relationship of the three circumstantial clauses that form the second verse to that stated in the first verse; and (2) the meaning of the Hebrew word hayah in verse two (translated “was”).  As to the linguistic arguments, grammarians reach different conclusions.  But the one favored by this commentator, which is expressed in brief by Robert B. Thieme, Jr. follows:


The ominous and foreboding tone of verse two is in marked contrast to the straightforward statement of verse one.  Since we know God is perfect and His work is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4; Matthew 5:48), then we know the earth was not created imperfect.  Yet Genesis 1:2 evokes an image of an earth that had become a different place than what God originally created.


Most English versions wrongly translate verse two as sequential, “and the earth was,” instead of as a contrast to verse one. (footnote:  In Hebrew syntax a sequential construction is expressed by a “waw” + verb + noun word order.  A disjunctive or contrastive construction is expressed by a “waw” + noun + verb word order as in Gensis 1:2. . . . Grammatically, this introduces three circumstantial clauses in verse two that describe the circumstances that preexisted verse three when God spoke and began the first day of restoration)  If verse two were sequential, “formless and void” (“tohu wabohu”) would be connected with the initial creation of the universe.  The first verse would then be a description of God’s creation of an imperfect and defective universe.  Verse one would depict only raw materials that were “formless and void.”  This contradicts the perfect character of God.


But verse two actually begins with a disjunctive clause, “but,” followed by the Hebrew verb (“hayah”) “became,” in the qal perfect.  When correctly translated, “But the earth became,” it is clear the earth had undergone a cataclysmic change.  The contrast emphasizes the dramatic and total transformation from a fully formed and perfect planet to barren waste.  “Tohu wabohu” always depicts the results of divine judgment (Jeremiah 4:23-26; Isaiah 34:11).  “Tohu” means “waste, desolation, a disorderly muddle.”  “Bohu” means “empty, void.” (Creation, Chaos, & Restoration, Robert B. Thieme, Jr., R. B. Thieme, Jr. Ministries, Houston, Texas, 1995)


But the final authority and interpretation, following the rule specified in 1 Corinthians 2:13b, i.e., “comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” is best seen from how the whole of Scripture can be shown to support one view alone, a position best presented by Arlen L. Chitwood, as follows:


However, there is another way to approach the matter; and that other way is to see how the whole of Scripture deals with the issue at hand.  If the whole of Scripture can be shown to support one view alone—which it can— then the correct linguistic understanding of Genesis 1:2 and the corresponding correct interpretation of chapter one can easily and unquestionably be demonstrated.

This is not to say that Genesis 1:2 or the first chapter of Genesis as a whole cannot be understood correctly apart from first going to the remainder of Scripture, for that cannot be the case.  God would not have begun His revelation to man after a fashion which man could not have understood apart from subsequent revelation (requiring approx. 1,500 years to complete).  But this is to say that the correct linguistic position for Genesis 1:2 and the correct corresponding interpretation of the entire chapter—which can be shown by going to the remainder of Scripture—is a position which God would have expected man to see as evident when he began reading at this point in Genesis, though man many times does not do so.

Thus, in this respect, knowledge of the way in which the Hebrew text is structured is really not going to resolve the issue at hand.  And time has been spent in the Hebrew construction of Genesis 1:2 and other related passages, not in an attempt to resolve the issue, but to demonstrate two basic things:  a) There are good, reputable Hebrew scholars who hold varying views on the opening verses of Genesis, which are many times based strictly on their understanding of the structure of the Hebrew text, apart from contextual considerations; and b) though the linguistics of the Hebrew text (within the different ways scholars understand the linguistics of the text) will support any one of these views, all but one are out of line with the remainder of Scripture and are, consequently, wrong.

That is to say, though it may be possible to support different views from the structure of the Hebrew text alone, different views cannot be supported when the remainder of Scripture is taken into consideration—with or without the Hebrew text.  Scripture will support only one view and that one view is the position alluded to in the opening portion of this chapter.

Scripture will support "Creation" (an absolute creation [v. 1]), a "Ruin" of the creation (which means that the "waw" beginning v. 2 must be understood in a disjunctive sense ['But'], and the Hebrew word “hayah” must be understood in the sense of "became [or 'had become']" [v. 2a]), a "Restoration" of the ruined creation (performed entirely through Divine intervention [vv. 2b-25]), and "Rest" (six days of restorative work, followed by one day of rest [1:2b-2:3]).

And to illustrate this is not difficult at all.  In fact, the opposite is true.  It is a very simple matter to illustrate, from other Scripture, exactly how the opening verses of Genesis must be understood.


In this respect, first note the words “tohu wavahu” from the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:2.


The words “tohu wavohu” from the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:2 are translated "without form and void" in the KJV English text ("formless and void," NASB; "formless and empty," NIV; "waste and void" ASV).  These two Hebrew words are used together only two other places throughout all of the Old Testament—in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23.  And both of these passages present a ruin of that previously seen existing in an orderly state.


In Isaiah 34:11, Edom (v. 6) was destined to become “tohu wavohu” (translated "confusion" and "emptiness" [KJV], "desolation" and "emptiness" [NASB]; and in Jeremiah 4:23-28, there is a comparison of that which had previously occurred relative to the earth in Genesis 1:2a to that which was about to occur relative to the land of Israel.


The land of Israel was about to become “tohu wavohu.”  That is, as seen in Jeremiah 4:23-28, God was about to do the same thing to the land of Israel (cf. vv. 14:22) that He had previously done to the earth in Genesis 1:2a


And the reason for both of these actions—that which God had done to the earth, and that which He was about to do to the land of Israel—was the same.  Sin had entered (sin on the part of Satan in the former, and sin on the part of the Jewish people in the latter). 


And, in complete keeping with this type understanding of the use of “tohu wavohu” in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23, Isaiah 45:18 (where the Hebrew word “tohu” is used, translated "in vain") clearly states that God did not create the earth (in Genesis 1:1) in the manner described in Genesis 1:2aIsaiah 45:18 states that God "created it [the earth] not in vain [not 'tohu,' not 'without form,']." 


Thus, if Genesis 1:2a is to be understood in the light of related Scripture bearing on the subject, there can be only one possible interpretation—the ruin of a prior existing creation (from v. 1) because of sin.  The earth from verse one "became" “tohu wavohu.”


The ruin seen in both Genesis 1:2a and Jeremiah 4:23, for a purpose is with a view to eventual restoration.  And the restoration seen in the continuing text of Genesis 1:2 (vv. 2b-25) and in the overall passage of Jeremiah 4:23ff (v. 27b), as well as in related Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 35:1ff), is also for a purpose.


Then, the whole of subsequent Scripture is perfectly in line with this type understanding of the opening section of Scripture.  The whole of subsequent Scripture is built on a septenary structure, with the foundation established and set in an unchangeable fashion at the beginning, in Genesis 1:1-2:3.


That is to say:


The heavens and the earth were created, there was ruin of the material creation (because of sin), God took six days to restore the ruined creation, and He rested the seventh day.


Man was created on the sixth day, man fell into a state of ruin (because of sin), God is presently taking six days [6,000 years] to restore man, and God will rest the seventh day (the seventh 1,000-year period [cf. 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:3-8]).


And the latter, patterned after the former, is what the whole of Scripture is about.  The whole of Scripture is about the same thing initially introduced and established in an unchangeable fashion in the opening thirty-four verses of Genesis (1:1-2:3).  The whole of Scripture is about the creation of man, his ruin, his restoration over a six-day period (over a 6,000-year period), followed by a seventh day of rest (a seventh 1,000-year period—the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God [Hebrews 4:9; cf. vv. 3, 4], the Messianic Era).


As previously stated, man would have been expected to understand this opening section of Scripture after the preceding fashion at the time it was written.  And subsequent Scripture simply verifies the correctness of the way man would have been expected to understand these verses, apart from other revelation at the time Genesis was written. (The Study of Scripture, Arlen L. Chitwood, The Lamp Broadcast, Inc. 2005)


And as to the second debate regarding the length (time) of the days, and even though the word day in Scripture can designate extended periods of time, the way it is used in Genesis 1:5 refutes the theistic evolutionist notion that the six days of Genesis one equates to geologic ages.


The Hebrew literally reads “then it became dusk and then it became morning, day one.”  Whenever the word yom, “day,” occurs in the Old Testament with a numeral, this grammatical construction always describes a twenty-four-hour solar day.  Further, a literal understanding of Exodus 20:11 confirms a sequence of six, twenty-four-hour days in the Genesis account of restoration (Genesis 1:2-2:4).


Composition of Man


Scripture is clear on the subject.  God created man “in His own image,” which was an agreement between all three Persons of the Triune Godhead (Genesis 1:26, 27).  For a more comprehensive discussion of the one God who is evident in three distinct Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), please see the study/article entitled “Trinity” in the topical section of  And although the “image of God” involves more than the tripartite aspect of His composition, which is the cornerstone of His image, this discussion will limit itself to this facet of man’s composition.


The first mention of God’s creative act pertaining to man is found 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 being.


Man was formed of the dust of the ground.  It is interesting to note that human bodies are made up of the very same 17 elements that make up the dust of the ground.  The atoms that make up human molecules are fungible, that is, the carbon atoms needed are readily available and chemically interchangeable with any other carbon atoms (suggested reading:  Cosmic Codes by Chuck Missler, or visit his web site, 


Following the formation of the body, God “breathed into” man the “breath of life,” which transformed him into a “living being” (Hebrew:  literally a “living soul”) in the image of God Himself.  And subsequent to this, God placed the man into “deep sleep,” while he withdrew a rib from him and formed it into woman (Genesis 2:21, 22).  This action is the type of which the anti-type in the New Testament will be the “bride of Christ” that will come from the “body of Christ” and will co-reign with Him during the Messianic Era (a subject and study for another time).  But on a practical plain, this early account of the formation of man and woman teaches that marriage (the uniting of a man and a woman) is a God-ordained institution, which requires (1) that they ideally should see themselves and act “as one” and (2) that the husband ideally should place priority on his wife over every other human in his life (Genesis 2:23, 24).


For greater clarification as to the components of man, attention is directed toward two verses in the New Testament, as follow:


Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23)


For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow [body], and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)


(In the above scriptures the Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma; the Greek word for “soul” is psyche; and the Greek word for “body” is soma)


Numerous Bible scholars insist that man is really only dualistic in nature, i.e., composed only of body (material) and soul (immaterial).  They do so from their evaluation of how the Hebrew word nephesh, which basically means “life” or “living being,” is translated in the Old Testament; and how the Greek word psyche with its corresponding meaning is utilized in the New Testament — an involved discussion/study for another time.


But the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica and the author of Hebrews makes it quite clear that there is a distinction between “soul” (psyche) and “spirit” (pneuma) and “body” (soma).  And as for this commentator, it is impossible to believe that the Holy Spirit intended no distinction between the soul and the spirit of man, especially in light of the tripartite image of God in which man was made in the likeness thereof.


From these verses it is clear that man is a tripartite being, i.e., he is composed of three parts:  body, soul, and spirit.  Then the question arises as to how to understand the nature and function of these parts.


Body — this is man’s link to the physical world, is fully functional at birth and involves physical sensations (“feelings”).  Within its cell structure is the “sin nature,” i.e., the propensity to sin, that was the result of man’s fall due to his disobedience in the Garden of Eden and which was passed down genetically by means of procreation through males (the male sperm) to all of Adam’s ancestors (Christ being the only exception since there was no human male involved in His birth).


For the believer in Christ (Christian), the body will eventually be transformed into a resurrection body, which will be like that of Christ’s resurrection body and which will no long possess the sin nature (1 Corinthians 15:42-54; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).


Soul — this is man’s link to self-consciousness (self-awareness), reason, mentality, volition, emotion and conscience; all of which are located in man’s cerebral hemispheres (brain).  The “soul” is what makes a person a “living being.”  Although no person can see the “soul,” it is the souls that communicate among the human race.


This component is developed through time and exposure to its environment.  A newborn is not aware of his existence, but eventually becomes aware of his existence and individuality.  A newborn is ignorant, but eventually becomes educated and rational.  A newborn cannot make decisions, but eventually becomes decisive.  A newborn has limited emotion, but quickly develops to a more sophisticated degree the feelings of anger, sadness, happiness, etc.  A newborn can’t distinguish right from wrong, but eventually develops norms and standards.


Although this component is an immaterial part of man, it is not to be confused with the spirit.  The soul provides life to man and will function even after physical death in the corridors of eternity in one location or another, i.e., heaven or hell.


(It is interesting to note that when Christ was speaking to His twelve disciples in order to prepare them to preach the gospel of the kingdom [which is different from the gospel of grace] not to Gentiles but only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:5-7], He cautioned them to not “. . . fear those who kill [Gk: apokteino] the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy [Gk: apollumi] both soul and body in hell [Gk: geenna] — Matthew 10:28.”   Geenna (Gehenna) appears to be analogous to the “furnace of fire” where there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth” as seen in the parables of Matthew 13.


This was specific advice to these disciples, as well as to believers in any age, to fear God who is able to punish (not extinguish) the believer for a specific period of time [one thousand years] because of the believer’s wasted life in faithlessness to Him.  This corresponds with the New Testament’s prolific teaching that even though eternal [spirit] salvation for the believer is secure, should he not persevere in a life of faithfulness during this lifetime [soul salvation] he will face a “just recompense” at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which will result in both a lack of rewards and a non-participatory position in the “bride of Christ” during the Millennial Kingdom.)


Spirit — this is man’s link to God as seen in Romans 8:16, which is a feature, upon installation or activation (depending upon one’s view) that allows man’s soul to be permanently united with God in time and throughout eternity.


This component is “dead on arrival.”  Man’s spirit died as a result of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12; 6:6; 7:5, 18; Ephesians 2:1, etc.).  An alive spirit becomes either instilled within man or, if a “dead spirit” is already resident within him, is activated for all eternity at the “Second Birth” (John 3:5-7) when a person accepts by faith alone Christ alone for his own personal salvation.


Sin Nature


The sin nature is the core of man’s rebellion toward God, i.e., a predisposition to sin — to be rebellious toward God in thought, word, and deed.  In the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible it is designated as “sin” (the singular noun) in Romans 7:4-23, as “flesh” in Galatians 5:13-21, and as the “old man” in Ephesians 4:22.  In other translations, particularly in the New International Version (NIV), the term, “sin nature” or other similar designations are used.


The sin nature was generated in Adam at his fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17) and was subsequently transmitted genetically by males through procreation (Genesis 5:3; Romans 5:12).  With the exception of Jesus Christ, who was conceived without the participation of a human male, the sin nature is an integral part of the cell structure of every human being.  At the moment of birth, God imputes both “soul life” and Adam’s original sin (sin nature) to the new born; therefore, every person is born physically alive but spiritually dead.


The sin nature is in control of a person’s life prior to the person’s new (spiritual) birth, and with the cooperation of the person, it may also be in control even after the new birth (Romans 6:12; 7:5, 14-19)—although, this does not need to be the case.  The sin nature is the source of a person’s temptation to sin, but the person’s volition is the source of sin.  When a person chooses to succumb to the sin nature, he is in a state of carnality (i.e., a state of “walking according to the flesh”) — Romans 8:5-7.  The lost person has no power to overcome the sin nature.  But the saved person through the grace of God is given resident-power (Holy Spirit) to overcome the sin nature (Romans 8:5).  He only needs to avail himself of it by (1) confessing (accept responsibility for) any known sins in his life (1 John 1:9) and (2) accepting it in the same manner that he accepted eternal salvation—by faith (Colossians 2:6).


The sin nature was condemned by Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  He became our sin on the cross, as a substitution-sacrifice, and died in our place to pay the penalty required by a Holy God for our sin (both our sin nature and individual acts of sin).  Once a person understands this fact and by his conscious act of will accepts by faith this sacrifice (Jesus on the cross) as full payment for his sins, the person is immediately born into eternal life.  This is being “born again” as explained in John 3:3-7.  Upon physical death (or the Rapture) this person will permanently be free of the sin nature.  After death the believer will be provided a new sin-nature-free body, his resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15:42-54; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).