Joseph Benson’s Commentary

On Thessalonians 5:23-26. And the very God of peace…sanctify you wholly — That is, may he carry on and complete the work of purification and renovation begun in your regeneration, redeeming you from all iniquity, Titus 2:14; cleansing you from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1; stamping you with his whole image…and may the whole of you, ολοκληρον υμων, your whole constitution, the whole frame of your nature, all belonging to you, all of and about you, be made and preserved blameless.

And what the apostle means by this whole constitution, or frame, of their nature, he immediately specifies, mentioning the spirit, the soul, and the body. Here, says Whitby, “the apostle justifies the ancient and true philosophy, that man is, as Nemesius styles him, τριμερης υποστασις, a compound of three differing parts. This was the doctrine of the Pythagoreans, and also that of the Platonists, who held that there is in man a soul irrational, which includes the affections of the body; and a mind, which uses the body as its instrument, and fights against it. This also was the doctrine of the Stoics, whence Antoninus saith, “The three constituent parts of man are σωμα, ψυχη, νους, the body, soul, and mind. Irenæus, and Clemens of Alexandria, and Origen, say the same.” He adds, “those two excellent philosophers, Gassendus and Dr. Willis, have established this philosophy beyond all reasonable contradiction.” It appears also, as the learned Vitringa has very accurately shown, a notion prevailed among the rabbis, as well as the philosophers, that the person of a man was constituted of three distinct substances; 1st, the rational spirit, which survives the death of the body, and is immortal; 2d, the animal soul, which man has in common with the beasts, and which dies with the body; and, 3d, the visible body.

[Benson conceded that other scholars interpreted man as dichotomous. Then he continued…]

“To comprehend,” says Macknight, “the distinction between soul and spirit,” which the sacred writers seem to have intimated in some passages, “the soul must be considered as connected both with the body and with the spirit. By its connection with the body, the soul receives impressions from the senses; and by its connection with the spirit, it conveys these impressions, by means of the imagination and memory, to the spirit, as materials for its operations. The powers last mentioned, through their connection with the body, are liable indeed to be so disturbed by injuries befalling it, as to convey false perceptions to the spirit. But the powers of the spirit not being affected by bodily injuries, it judges of the impressions conveyed to it as accurately as if they were true representations, so that the conclusions which it forms are generally right.” It may not be improper to add here, that the spirit, as distinguished from the two other parts included in the human constitution, seems to be supposed by the apostle (Hebrews 4:12) to be capable of being separated from the soul, his expression being, The word of God is quick, &c., piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit; and some have thought that he intimates, (1 Corinthians 14:14-15,) that the one may know what the other does not.


from Joseph Benson’s Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Joseph Paul Benson was “One of the most eminent of the early Methodist ministers in England…In 1766 Mr. Wesley appointed him classical master at Kingswood School. He devoted himself closely to philosophy and theology, studying constantly and zealously… After the death of John Wesley, Joseph Benson took over the Methodist/Wesleyan movement and the organization that Wesley created…The circulation of The Methodist Magazine rose from ten thousand to twenty-four thousand per issue on his watch, and it was one of the most widely read periodicals in pre-Victorian England. He was an able writer, serving as apologist against Joseph Priestley, as biographer of John Fletcher, and as author of a multi-volume commentary on the Bible.”

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