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Doctrine of Man: Origin of the Soul

April 11, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Genesis 2

Scripture Reading -> Genesis 2


Last week we began our discussion on the Doctrine of Man by looking at the composition of man: body and soul.

We reviewed two predominate theories:

  • Dichotomy
  • Trichotomy

Dichotomy, which teach the essential elements of man are Body and Soul.

Trichotomy teaches there are 3 essential elements: Body, Soul, and Spirit.

Dichotomy, we said, was the traditional Biblical view.

Trichotomy allows and encourages the idea of the “Carnal Christian” and allows the so-called regenerated Christian to live in a state of lawlessness and unrepentance and unrestrained free will--- as if he was his own god.


Today, we are continuing the discussion of the Doctrine of Man by looking at the origin of man’s soul.

As good Christians and good Dichotomists, since we know the Scripture teaches that man is essentially comprised of a Body and a Soul,

We naturally want to see what the Scriptures teach about the origin of these.

The Body, we know from Genesis 2, was formed of the dust of the ground.

The Soul, from the same section in Genesis 2, tells us that it was created by God.

It should be simple from here…right? Well, not exactly.

There are actually 3 different theories on the creation of the soul.

Three Theories on the Creation of the Soul

  1. Pre-Existentialism
  2. Traducianism
  3. Creationism

We will first look at pre-existentialism (Pre-existence)

  • The view that
    • the souls of men existed in a previous state
    • man’s present material existence, with all its inequalities and irregularities, physical and moral, are a punishment for sins committed in a previous existence

Doctrine of Man: Pre-Existentialism

In essence, pre-existentialism, “Pre” and “Exist”

  • Meaning the soul existed before, in a previous state
  • That, in a previous life, the experiences (the empirical happenings and the thoughts and everything that took place) was the essential essence of the soul as it existed in the former life
  • Those former lives made up a new knowledge of a new soul that is going to be placed back into man.

Thus, it teaches of a reoccurrence of a life pattern

  • believing that people die and come back to life again – through the soul.

Plato said that this is how man accumulates knowledge

  • Each time a soul enters into a man:
    • he has knowledge from the previous life
    • and through his experiences and empirical relationships with the world in which he lives these ideas break loose
    • and they come to the forefront of man's being
    • and thereby the knowledge that man has is from these former experiences.

This is, in essence, the idea of reincarnation—that the soul of man gains knowledge throughout previous life experiences…you’ve the phrase, “that person is on old soul?”….this is where that comes from.

But there is no biblical basis in the scripture for this theory.

Doctrine of Man: Pre-Existentialism - Investigation

There are many objections:

  1. We’ve already mentioned the most important one: No Scriptural Support
  2. It is based on a dualism of matter, elevating the importance of the soul above the body...similar to trichotomy. (Scientology and Islam)
  3. It destroys the concept of the human race as it believes souls have always existed long before man was created.
  4. Man doesn’t possess the knowledge of a prior existence(s)
  5. Nor do sane people feel the body is prison that needs to be escaped but rather, men dread the separation of the body and soul. (Scientology and Islam)

The next theory of the origination of the soul is what known as Traducianism.

  • The souls of men are propagated along with the body by generation
    • Thus, they are translated from the parents to the children

Traducian comes from the Latin tradux, which means “branch of a vine.

Therefore, every human being is a “branch” off of his or her parents.

Both soul and body are generated by father and mother, of their substance.

Charles Hodges adds:

Some go further: that the soul is susceptible of “abscission and division,” so that a portion of the soul of the parents is communicated to the child (abscission is the cutting off, separation of one thing from another)

Thus, Traducianism teaches:

  • when Adam and Eve had children
  • part of what resulted was physical (the body)
  • and part of what resulted was spiritual (the soul)

Both are derived from mother and father.

Let’s spend some time discussion the arguments in favor of this view.

Argument: God only breathed into man’s nostrils and left to him to propagate the species as for the soul of, Eve, it was included in that of Adam.

This view helps explain/ support the inheritance of mental peculiarities and family traits which exist in the soul rather than in the body

Scripture: Gen 1:23-28; 2:7

Counter Argument: There are many assumptions being made.

The Bible never speaks, specifically, about the creation of Eve’s soul.

In Genesis 1:27: nothing here is said about the creation of man’s soul

Yet, we know the soul, the breath of life, was given to man.

It not being expressly described in the creation of Eve is not proof that it did not occur since we know the breath of life is required to be animated…to live.

A response to this counter-arguement is it assumes that the same breath of life was required to be given by God to Eve and, it must be noted that Eve was created differently than Adam.

It either makes the parents creators of the soul of the child

  • Or assumes that the soul of the parents can split itself into pieces of souls.

But from whom does the soul proceed?

  • From the father? From the mother? From both and they merge into one?

In an effort to resolve this confusion, some will resort to arguments such as:

  • The soul pre-existed and just propagated at generation
  • The soul somehow present as part of the parent’s soul (materialism)
  • Or that the parents created the soul, giving them, in a sense, the power of creating life (although several Traducianists will credit God with creation)

There is nothing in Scripture that teaches a uniting of two different souls together with in the child to create one soul.

Argument: God, after creation, works only in a “mediate” sense and no longer is involved in any aspect of creation.

Scripture: Genesis 2:2

  • It assumes that after creation, God no longer creates
  • That after the act of creation, God stops all creating activities

Counter Argument: It is true that he does not create new, original generations or new species because each species comes after its own kind. (Gen 1.21, 24)

But there is not one passage of scripture that supports the idea that when God created, stopped and rested from his creation AND…

  • that it meant that all aspects of his work of Providence in time and space ceased – but the counter is, why cannot Providence exist w/o creating?

We do not know how the agency of God is connected with the operation of second causes

  • Or how far that agency is mediate, and how far it is immediate
  • We do know that God has not bound himself to mere providential direction

But, the question must be asked, how do we understand the creative effects of regeneration which, as Scripture tells us, is the direct work of God?

(2 Cor. 5:17,  John 3:3, Ezekiel 36:26, Eph. 2:1, 4–5).

There is no place in scripture that such a cessation of his creation work is taught….not in this manner.

It assumes that God has, in his divine providence, determined that he would not place within each and every person who was born a living soul created by Him.

Argument: It seems to offer the best basis for the explanation of the inheritance of moral and spiritual depravity

  • which is a matter of the soul rather than of the body.

It is true that Adam’s sin has been transmitted to all of mankind. (Rom 5:12)

It is true that we derive our sinful nature, our corruption from him. (Rom 5:18)

It is true that we are born in sin. (Psalm 51:5)

Counter Argument: But this truth is not sufficient to conclude that this must mean Adam’s soul is propagated to mankind.

Argument: The doctrine of the incarnation supports this theory.

Christ was born of a woman. He was the seed of the woman. Unless both as to soul and body derived from his human mother, it is said, He cannot truly be of the same race with us.

  • Christ, in His human nature, must have both a body and a soul
  • Because he must be as Scripture says like us in every manner that we are to be our Redeemer (Hebrews 2:7)

Therefore, if Christ did not derive both body and soul from Mary, then He cannot be truly like us.

Counter Argument:  This makes it very difficult to guard the sinlessness of Jesus

Doctrine of Man: Traducianism

It is true that Jesus Christ is both God and man and He does have a soul.

(John 1:14, Matt. 26:38)

If he derived both his body and soul from the sinful Mary…

  • And His mother is sinful in her whole being (as is every human)
  • Then Jesus himself, in His humanity, must also be sinful himself
    • then Jesus would have part of a sinful soul


  • Because He has a part of Mary’s sinful soul within His very essence

Scripture doesn't teach that about Christ.

It teaches us that he is absolutely sinless as the God-Man. (Heb 4:15)

But, would we say that man sins only in his soul? And not His body?


If Mary gave Christ his body, and her body was sinful, would not also Christ’s body be sinful as well?

This, then, may not be the silver bullet to prove that Christ’s soul must have been created.

Could not the overpowering of the Holy Spirit over Mary prevented all sinful elements from being imparted to Christ?

The idea of the pre-existence of souls and reincarnation receives very little attention among orthodox Christians.

There are several Reformed believers that hold to traducianism.

The best advice – search the Scriptures.

See what is has to say about Traducianism and what it doesn’t.

Next week, we’ll look at the third view of the origination of the soul:Creationism.


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