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Home Forums General Forums Engage The Faith Q&A: The Five Verses Almost Universally Misunderstood by Christians Today. Reply To: Q&A: The Five Verses Almost Universally Misunderstood by Christians Today.

  • David Bercot

    July 30, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Charles, you’ve asked a lot of good questions (as have the other participants). Let me briefly address your question about the “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.” The writer of Hebrews (which the early Christians almost universally believed to be Paul) does not speak of the division of the soul from the spirit, but the division of soul and spirit. I wasn’t able to find a specific discussion of the division of the spirit, but there are quite a few passages where the early Christians talk about the dividing or division of the soul. Here are a few quotations:


    “For since the Logos of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12), this Logos especially now awards our souls the prize of the peace that passes understanding, which He left to His apostles (cf. Phil. 4:7; Jn 14:27). And He draws a sword between the image of the man of dust and the image of the Man of heaven (1 Cor. 15:49), so that by taking our heavenly part at this time He may later make us entirely heavenly, if we are worthy of not remaining cut in two. And He came to bring on earth not only a sword, but also fire (Lk 12:49; Mt 10:34).” Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom, ch. XXXVII.

    XV. Those who by using their great love for God have broken and torn apart such worldly bonds as these in addition to their love of the body and of life, and who have truly borne the Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4: 12)–these have been able to return like an eagle to the house of their master (Prov 23:5 LXX) by breaking apart such bonds and by fashioning wings for themselves. (Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom, ch. XV.)

    So Origen understands the “division of the soul” to be talking about separating the soul from the attractions and desires of this life. The quote below is from John Chrysostom:

    Then, lest any think that they will simply be deprived of rest only, he adds also the punishment, saying [Hebrews 4:12], For the Logos of God is quick, and powerful; and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow: and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Here he is speaking of hell and of punishment. It pierces (he says) into the secrets of our heart, and cuts asunder the soul. Here it is not the falling of carcasses nor, as there, the being deprived of a country, but of a heavenly kingdom; and being delivered to an everlasting hell. (John Chrysostom, Sixth Homily on Hebrews, section 8)

    So Chrysostom understands the “division” of the soul to mean the “cutting asunder” of the soul in punishment.