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Origin of the Human Soul
By Gary F. Zeolla
"The main event of conception is the uniting of the mother and father's chromosomes to form a new, unique human being" (In-Gender.com). Specifically, the 26 chromosomes in the mother's egg unite with the 26 chromosomes in the father's sperm to form a new human body containing 26 pairs of chromosomes.
But what about the soul? In Scripture Study #16 in Volume I of my new Scripture Workbook it is shown that the Bible teaches there is an immaterial part of humans that is distinct from the body. But when and how does this immaterial soul originate?
There are two Christian positions in this regard. The first is called "Creationism." It is "The belief that God brings individual human souls into existence at conception or birth" (Dictionary.com). The second is called "Traducianism." It is, "The doctrine that the human soul is propagated along with the body" (Dictionary.com).
In other words, the Creationist position is that God uniquely creates a new human soul to inhabit every new human body. But there is a debate within this position as to exactly when this creation and insertion of the soul occurs. Most say it is at the moment of conception. But some place it later in pregnancy, at what is called "quickening," which is defined as, "(of the mother) to enter that stage of pregnancy in which the fetus gives indications of life… (of a fetus in the womb) to begin to manifest signs of life" (Dictionary.com). Some creationists place the creation of the soul as late as birth.
Meanwhile, the Traducianism position is that the human soul originates in the same manner as the human body, through a combining of elements of the mother's soul and of the father's soul, thus forming a new and unique soul but with properties of both parents.
What is the Biblical support for each position? And what are the implications of each? Those questions will be addressed in this article.
This article is adapted from Scripture Study #31: "Human Nature" in the forthcoming Volume II of my new Scripture Workbook.
In this article, the word "soul" will be used to refer to the soul/ spirit, the one immaterial part of human beings. However, there are some Christians who believe the "soul" and the "spirit" are two distinct immaterial entities. That debate will also be addressed in the study on "Human Nature" in the forthcoming Scripture Workbook: Volume II.
Also, do not confuse the term "Creationism" here with the word as used in the creation vs. evolution debate. That is a separate though somewhat related issue.
1) The origin of the soul is distinct from that of the body:
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it,
The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:
2) Zechariah 12:1:
This verse deserves special notice. It specifically says God creates the soul within the person.
3) God says He creates souls and that they are His:
For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made.
So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, "As the LORD lives, who made our very souls, I will not put you to death, nor will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life."
Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.
Furthermore, we indeed have had fathers of our flesh [fig., earthly fathers] [as] discipliners, and we were respecting [them]. Will we not much rather be subjected to the Father of spirits, and we will live?
Do you think that the Scripture speaks for no purpose, "He yearns jealously over the spirit which He caused to dwell in us?"
Note: The translation of this verse is very difficult. Quoted here is the alternate translation from ALT3. In the main text of the ALT and in some other versions "spirit" here is taken as a reference to the Holy Spirit.
The Traducianist would respond to the above points by saying that yes, the soul is distinct from the body, but that does not mean they both cannot originate in a similar fashion. Moreover, yes, God is the creator of soul, but only in an indirect sense. And of course, all souls are His, but the same is true of all things in the universe, but God does not directly create each new thing.
1) Genesis 2:7; 5:3:
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 (Gen 2:7; KJV)..
And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth (Gen 5:3).
Of the first man, it is said God breathed into Adam's body the "breath of life" and Adam became a "living soul" (KJV). But this is not said of any other person. Of Adam's children, it is said that Adam "begot" them "after his image." This "image" would have to include the soul, thus Adam's children receive their souls from their parents.
2) Genesis 2:2f:
2And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
God had finished His works of creation by the seventh day. If He were still creating new souls every time a human was conceived, then His creative work would not be finished.
3) Hebrews 7:1-10:
1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, the one having met Abraham while returning from the defeat of the kings and having blessed him, 2to whom also Abraham divided a tenth of all [the spoils] ([his name] first on the one hand being interpreted "king of righteousness," and on the other hand, "king of Salem," which is, "king of peace"), 3without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but having been made like to the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
4But notice how great this one [was], to whom even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth out of the best of the spoils. [see Gen 14:17-20] 5And indeed the ones receiving the priesthood from the sons of Levi have a commandment to be collecting tithes from the people according to the Law, that is, [from] their brothers [and sisters], even though they have come out from the reproductive organs of Abraham [fig., they have descended from Abraham].
6But the one not having [his] descent traced from them has received tithes from Abraham, and he has blessed the one having the promises. 7But without any dispute, the lesser is blessed by the better. 8And here on the one hand dying [fig., mortal] men receive tithes, there on the other hand [it is] being witnessed that he lives. 9And as a word to say [fig., so to speak], through Abraham even Levi, the one receiving tithes, has paid tithes. 10For he was still in the reproductive organs of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Adam offered tithes to Melchizedek. The Writer to the Hebrews uses this incident to demonstrate that the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of Levi, who was a descendant of Abraham. The reasoning is that Levi "was still in the reproductive organs of his father when Melchizedek met him" (v.10). For this argument to hold up, in some way, Levi's body and soul had to be "in" Abraham. Otherwise, it cannot be said that Levi offered tithes to Melchizedek.
In Scripture Study #14 in Volume I of my new Scripture Workbook, the concept of "original sin" was presented. This doctrine teaches that our souls are inherently corrupt. But how does this corrupt nature originate?
If the creationist position is true, then God would have to be creating corrupted souls. But that would have God being the author of our sinful natures, which seems contrary to His nature (James 1:17; 1John 1:5). However, with the Traducianism position, we would inherit our sinful natures from our parents in the same way we might inherit some physical defect from them.
"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." "A chip off of the old block." Such sayings indicate that very often children act like their parents, in both good and bad ways. Personality traits, skills, interests, addictions, criminal behavior, and the like often run in families.
The atheist would explain such inherited traits via genetics and environment. And there is no doubt such factors are at work. But if the souls of children originate from elements of the souls of the parents, then you have an even better explanation for such inherited tendencies. The creationist position cannot offer any such explanation.
But an important note needs to be added here. If you are in a family with a history of some type of self-destructive or criminal behavior that does not mean you are "destined" to be enslaved by that behavior. One important point of the Gospel and faith in Christ is that by being "born again" you can be freed from such tendencies, as God will re-create you, changing your inherited nature (John 3:3; 8:36; 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).
"With identical twins, one egg (zygote) from the mother is fertilized by one sperm from the father, and then very early in development the embryo splits and two fetuses grow" (Baby2See.com). As a result, you have two distinct human beings with identical genetic codes, which is to say, identical bodies.
But do identical twins have identical souls? Identical twins often experience very close affinities and connections with each other and share similar personality traits, much more so than regular siblings.
With the Traducianism position of the soul originating the same as the body, then yes, identical twins would have identical souls. This would explain their very close affinities. But with the creationist position, their souls might have been created sometime after the splitting of the embryo, thus the souls of identical twins should not have any more affinities than any other two persons.
At the moment of conception you have a uniquely new genetic code for a human body. If the same is true of the soul, then an abortion is the taking of a full human life, which is to say, a person. In the Traducianism position, this is always the case, so it provides the strongest argument against abortion.
However, the creationist position leaves open the possibility that the soul originates sometime after conception. It this is the case, then abortion would only be the killing of human flesh, not of a person.
Conclusion on the Origin of the Soul
The Biblical arguments for creationism can be explained by the Traducianism perspective, but the reverse is not the case. Moreover, when you consider the implications, Traducianism seems to best explain the human condition.
ALT3 - Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament: Third Edition. All New Testament quotations are from ALT3.
KJV – King James Version.
NKJV – New King James Version. Unless otherwise indicated, all Old Testament quotations are from the NKJV.
Baby2See: Types of Twin Pregnancy –
Got Questions? "How are human souls created?" –
In-Gender: The Straight Truth About Gender Selection –
Origin of the Human Soul. Copyright © 2010 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article was published in Darkness to Light
and posted on this Web site September 4, 2010.
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