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The Imago Dei and Tripartite Anthropology: Defining and Justifying Anthropological Trichotomy from Scripture Using the Principles of Augustine and Frame2 min read

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Yes, that is the sesquipedalian title of my Master’s thesis, and what was funny is that our final paper’s title was read out loud at graduation. They told me I had to walk slowly across the stage during graduation so that I would not be off the stage before it was read. Enjoy.


Support for the trichotomic model of human anthropology can be argued from exegetical, biblical, and historical theology, as well as philosophical/scientific viewpoints. This paper argues mainly from the second and third viewpoints, leveraging the writings of Augustine and John Frame’s triperspectivalist framework. The writings of Augustine of Hippo have had an outsized influence on Christian theology, not only due to their appearance early in Christian history, but due to their insight, uncanny accuracy despite his relatively poor access to the entire Canon and Greek writings (he could only read Latin works), and his groundbreaking approaches to writing such as his confessional narrative. His main labor of love, as opposed to merely responding to contemporary heresies as he did in the majority of his written works, was his lengthy exploration of the Trinity.

In the latter half of The Trinity, Augustine looked for triads in anthropology, based on the assumption that a reflection of the Trinity must be in man as part of the imago Dei (iD). Augustine’s principles for examining worthy analogs to the Trinity in the makeup of man are used herein to justify the tripartite structural anthropology of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes. 5:23). Additionally, John Frame’s triperspectivalism is used as a model, not only for understanding the tripartite structure of man, but the proposed triads of function (a.k.a. capacities or faculties) within each of the three structural components (e.g. the soul’s three major functions of will, intellect, and emotion). I conclude with a summary of how this might impact the major doctrines of humanity, including the creation, fall, regeneration, sanctification, intermediate state, and bodily resurrection of man, being clarified using a tripartite model.

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