William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Creationism or Traducianism?

by Francis Turretin

Thirteenth Question: The Origin of the Soul
Are souls created by God, or are they propagated? We affirm the
former and deny the latter.

I. Although there are various opinions of theologians and
philosophers about the origin of the soul, yet principally there are
two to which the others can be referred: one asserting the creation,
the other the propagation, (traducem) of the soul. The former holds
all souls to have been immediately created by God and by creating
infused; thus to be produced from nothing and without any
preexisting material. The latter, however, maintains that souls are
propagated. The former is the opinion of almost all the orthodox
(with many of the fathers and Scholastics). The latter is embraced
by the Lutherans. Tertullian was the author of propagation
(traducis) in Treatise on the Soul (ANF 3:181-235), whom the
Luciferians and many of the Latins followed. Augustine suspends his
judgment (epechei) on this point and, although often discussing the
question, still would not determine anything about it (cf. Letter
166 "To Jerome" [FC 30:6-31]; Letter 190 "To Optatus" [FC
30:271@881; The Retractions 1.1 [3] [FC 60:9@101). He testifies
that "he still did not know what was to be held" (ibid., 2.82 [561
[FC 60:244; PL 32.653]).

II. Those who believe in propagation do not all think and speak
together. Some hold the soul to be propagated from the semen of the
parents and produced from the potency of matter. But this is
rejected by most as less likely because if it de, pended upon the
virtue of the semen, it would also be corporeal and subject to
corruption. Others hold it to be from the soul of the father by
propagation, yet in a manner inscrutable and unknown to us
(Martinius, Miscellanearum Disputationum, Bk. 3, Disp. 7 [1603], pp.
541-42). Others maintain that the soul of the father procreates the
soul of the son from a certain spiritual and incorporeal seed (as
Timothy Bright). Finally, others (the more common opinion) think
the soul is propagated by the soul, not by a decision and partition
of the paternal soul, but in a spiritual manner, as light is kindled
by light (so Balthasar Meisner and most Lutherans).

III. However, we endorse the creation of the soul: (1) from the law
of creation; (2) from the testimony of Scripture; (3) from reasons.
(1) From the law of creation, because the origin of our souls ought
to be the same as of the soul of Adam; not only because we ought to
bear his image (1 Cor. 15:47, 48), but also because his creation (as
the first individual of the whole species) is an example of the
formation of all men (as the wedlock of our first parents was an
example for the rest). But the soul of Adam was created immediately
by God, since "he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life"
(Gen. 2:7). Thus it is evident his soul was not produced from
potent material, but came to him extrinsically through creation and
was infused into the body by the breath of God himself. Nor ought
it to be objected that we cannot argue from Adam to ourselves
because the same thing might be said of the origin of the body
(which nevertheless is not the case, since ours is generated from
seed, while that of Adam was created from the dust of the earth).
Although there may be a disparity by reason of the efficient cause
on account of the diversity of the subjects (because as the body is
elementary and material, it can be produced by man through
generation; but the soul, being immaterial and simple, cannot spring
from any other source than God by creation), yet with respect to the
material cause a comparison may rightly be made. For as the soul of
Adam was created out of nothing, so also are the souls of his
posterity; and as his body was formed of the dust of the earth, so
also our bodies from seed (which itself also is earthly and
material). Therefore the mode of action with respect to Adam was
also singular, yet the nature of the thing is the same in both
cases. This is confirmed by the production of Eve herself whose
origin as to the body is described as from a rib of Adam, but of the
soul no mention is made. Hence it is plainly gathered that the
origin of her soul was not different from that of the soul of Adam
because otherwise Moses would not have passed it over in silence
(his purpose being to describe the origin of all things). And Adam
himself would have mentioned this origin, yea he would have declared
it specially; he would have said not only "this is bone of my
bones," but "soul of my soul" (Gen. 2-23). This would have set
forth more strongly the bond of wedlock, which should be not only in
the bodies, but also in the souls. Finally, if Adam's soul and ours
had a different origin, they could not be said to be of the same
species because his was from nothing. Ours, however, would be from
some preexisting material wholly dissimilar.

IV. Second, from the testimony of Scripture, in which God is
spoken of as the author and Creator of the soul in a peculiar manner
distinct from the body: Then shall the dust return to the earth as
it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecc.
12:7). Here a manifest difference is marked between the origin and
the destruction of the body and the soul. The one is said to return
to the dust (whence it was taken); the other, however, to return
unto God (who gave it). Therefore since the body returns thither
whence it had its origin, so also the soul. This is more clearly
confirmed by the fact that God is said to "give the spirit" (which
cannot be understood of the common giving by concourse with second
causes). For he also gives the body itself no less than the soul
because he is the first cause of both (nor would he well be said by
antithesis [kat'antithesin] to have given the spirit). Rather this
is understood concerning the proper and peculiar mode of origin
(which does not belong to the body). Nor ought it to be said that
this is to be referred to the first creation of Adam. The scope,
the words and circumstances of the text prove that it treats of the
ordinary birth and destruction of men. Accordingly their bodies
return to the dust (i.e., to the earth) whence they were taken,
while their spirits return unto God, the judge, who gave them
(either for glory or for punishment).

V. "The word of the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and
layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man
within him" (Zech. 12:1). Whence a multiple argument is drawn for
the creation against the birth of the soul (psychogonian). (1) He is
said to form the spirit of man within him; therefore he ought to
produce it immediately without the intervention of man. (2) The
formation of the spirit is joined with the stretching out of the
heavens and the founding of the earth, as of the same order and
grade. Therefore since the former two are works of omnipotence,
made immediately by God and without second causes, so the last ought
to be also. Nor can this be referred to the mediate production of
God because thus man would be admitted to a participation of
causality, which the text does not allow (since it asserts the
production of the soul as well as that of the heaven and earth to be
peculiar to God). However, this is falsely restricted to the first
production of man since it ought to be extended equally to all.
Hence when it speaks of the production of the soul elsewhere, the
Scripture does not use the singular (as if referring to the one soul
of Adam), but the plural (Ps. 33:15; Is. 57:16). But man here is
not taken individually for Adam, but specifically for any man.

VI. "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we
gave them reverence:shall we not much rather be in subjection unto
the Father of spirits, and live?" (Heb. 12:9). And Peter calls him
in a peculiar manner a "faithful Creator of souls" (I Pet. 4:19).
In Num. 16:22, God is called 'the God of the spirits of all flesh.'
So too Is. 57:16: "For I will not contend forever, neither will I be
always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls
which I have made.' Now why should God be called "the Father of
spirits" in contradistinction to "the fathers of the flesh unless
the origin of each was different? And yet if souls are propagated,
the parents of the body and the soul should be the same. Indeed
"the flesh" here cannot signify the old man or inborn corruption
because then it would not be opposed to spirits (pneuniasi) in the
plural, but to spirit (pneumati) in the singular. Rather it
designates the body, and they are called 'fathers of the flesh" who
generate the flesh. So the word "spirit" ought not to be referred
to spiritual gifts (which are not treated of here), but to the other
part of man opposed to the body. Nor can the omission of the
pronoun hamon (with respect to the flesh) be a hindrance because it
is to be repeated apo koinou (since he speaks about the same
according to the principles and origin of the diverse parts). Hence
in Num. 16:22, he is called "the father of the spirits of all flesh"
(i.e., of all men). Again he cannot be called "the Father of
spirits" mediately, as he is called "the father of the rain" (job
38:28) because he is its author (although not immediately). Thus
the antithesis between the fathers of the flesh and the father of
spirits would not stand, and the force of the apostolic exhortation
to afford greater obedience to God than to earthly fathers would
fall. Nor if the concourse of God is not excluded from the
production of the flesh (although attributed to earthly fathers
because he is the universal first cause), ought the concourse of man
in the production of the spirit to be excluded (because he is the
particular second cause).

VII. Third, the same thing is proved by arguments from reason. The
soul is propagated by generation, either from both parents or from
one only; either as to its totality or only as to a part. But
neither can be said. Not the former because thus two souls would
coalesce into one and be mingled. Not the latter, for if from one
(either the father or the mother only) no reason can be given why it
should be propagated by the one rather than by the other (since both
parents are equally the principle of generation). If the whole is
propagated, then the parents will be without it and so will be
deprived of life. If a part, it will be divisible and consequently
material and mortal. Nor can it be reasonably replied here that
neither the whole soul nor a part of it is propagated, but a certain
substance born of the soul and (as it were) an immortal seed of the
soul. For it is taken for granted that there is a seed of the soul
by which it either generates or is generated; yet such a seed cannot
be granted (which does not fall from the soul), and therefore proves
it to be material and divisible.
VIII. Again, all modes of propagation are pressed by the most
serious difficulties; nor can they be admitted without overthrowing
the spirituality of the rational soul. Not the first, which is held
by those who consider the soul to be produced from the power of seed
so that it is begotten with the body. For the effect cannot (in the
total genus) be more noble than its cause; nor can things corporeal
and elementary be so elevated as to produce a spiritual and rational
thing. If generated from seed, with the seed also it will be
corrupted. Men and brutes would have the same origin and
consequently the same destruction. Not the second, which is held by
those who think the soul of the son to be from that of the father in
a manner inscrutable and unknown by us. This entangles rather than
unfolds the matter. For the father produces the son either from
some preexistent matter or from none; not from none because he would
thus create; not from some because either it would be the corporeal
substance of a seed (which has just been proved to be false) or it
would be a certain spiritual substance of the soul (which again
cannot be said). This is true because that spiritual substance is
made either from the whole soul of the father or from a part only.
Not from the whole because thus the soul of the father would vanish
and be converted into that spiritual seed. Not from a part because
thus the soul of the father would be divisible into parts, and
because that substance is corruptible and perishes in the very
instant the soul is produced. But then it will no longer be a
spiritual or incorruptible substance. Thus it would follow that
there are two spirits in the begotten man: the soul of the son and
the spiritual substance from which his soul was produced. Besides,
it is repugnant to the nature of seed for it to remain after the
generation of the thing (because it ought to be transmuted into what
springs from the seed).

IX. Not the third even though it may seem preferable to others.
They hold that it is said to be propagated not by alienation, but by
communication (as when light is kindled from light without any
division of the other). (1) But the communication made of one and
the same thing and without any alienation occurs only in an infinite
and not in a finite essence (in which the same numerical essence
cannot be communicated to another, but a similar only is produced).
(2) The soul of the son cannot be produced from that of the father;
neither terminatively (because the terminus a quo perishes, the
terminus ad quem being produced), nor decisively (because the soul
is without parts [ameristos]), nor constitutively (because the soul
of the father is not a constitutive part of the soul of the son).
(3) The similitude of the light does not apply. Besides the fact
that the flame and candle are corporeal substances (while here the
subject is a spiritual), it is certain that light is produced from
the potency of the material. Nor can it be kindled without a
decision of fiery particles transmitted from the lighted to the
extinguished torch (which cannot be said of the soul).

X. Since, therefore, the opinion of propagation labors under
inextricable difficulties, and no reason drawn from any other source
forces us to admit it, we deservedly embrace the option of creation
as more consistent with Scripture and right reason. This was also
evidently the opinion of most of the heathen philosophers
themselves. Hence the following expression of Zoroaster according
to Ficinum: "You must hasten to the sunlight and to the father's
sunbeams: thence a soul will be sent to you fully enslaved to mind"
(Chre speudein se pros to phaos, kai pros patros augas Enthen
epemphthe soi psyche! polyn hessamenif noun, Theologia Platonica de
immortalitate animorum 10 [1559], p. 160). Aristotle asserts that
"the mind or intellect, and that alone enters from without, and is
alone divine" (ton noun thyrathen epeisienai kai theion einai monon,
Generation of Animals 2.3.27-28 [Loeb, 170-711). Cicero says, "No
origin of the soul can be found upon earth for there is nothing in
the soul mixed and concrete that seems to be or born from the earth
and made.... Thus whatever that is which perceives, knows, wishes
and flourishes, is heavenly and divine and on that account must
necessarily be eternal" (Tusculan Disputations 1.66 [Loeb, 76-791).
XI. God is said to have rested from all his work (Gen. 2:2), not by
retiring from the administration of things, but by ceasing from the
creation of new species or individuals (which might be the
principles of new species). Thus he works even now (Jn. 5:17) by
administering the instituted nature and multiplying whatever was;
not, however, by instituting what was not. Now the souls which he
creates every day are new individuals of species already created.
XII. Although the soul is not propagated, the divine blessing given
at first (Gen. 1:28) does not cease to exert its power in the
generation of men. For God always cooperates with the generators
and the generation, not only by preserving man's prolific power, but
also by infusing the soul into the disposed body.

XIII. It is not necessary in order that man may be said to generate
man that he should generate all natures or essential parts of the
compound. Otherwise, the blessed virgin did not beget true God and
man. Rather it suffices that he prepares and works up the material
and renders it fit for the introduction of form and attains the
union of the soul with the body (by which man is constituted in his
being as man and is made such a physical compound). For generation
tends to the compound, not however to the production of both parts.
As man is said to kill a man (who dissolves the union of the soul
with the body although he does not even touch the soul), so man
generates man because he joins together those parts from which man
springs although not a soul-begetter (psychogonos). Nor ought he
who generates the whole man to be forthwith the producer of the
whole of man.

XIV. Adam can be said to have begotten man after his own image,
although he did not produce the soul. The cause of the similitude
is not the propagation of the soul, but the production of bodies of
the same temperament with the parents. For from the different
temperament and humors of the body, different propensities and
affections are also born in our souls.

XV. When souls are said to have "gone out of the loins of Jacob"
(Gen. 46:26), they are not understood properly, but synecdochically
for the "persons" (a most usual manner of expression with the
Scriptures). Moreover, there was no need that Jacob should
contribute anything to the production of these souls. It suffices
that he concurred to their conjunction or subsistence in the body
mediately or immediately. Therefore they are said to have gone out,
not as to being or substance simply, but as to subsistence in the
body and union with it.

XVI. Although Christ was no less in Abraham (according to the
flesh) than Levi (who was tithed in his loins, Heb. 7:9-10*), it
does not follow that Levi was in him according to his soul (so that
the soul of Levi was propagated and that a distinction may be
preserved). Rather Levi (with respect to person) was in Abraham
according to seminal mode and the natural powers of the father and
mother (from whom he was to be bom). But Christ was in him only as
to the human nature with regard to the mother; not, however, as to
his divine nature and person. Thus his person could not be tithed;
but as a superior he tithed Abraham and blessed him in Melchizedek
(his type), not as man, but as the Mediator, God-man (theanthropos),
performing a kingly and priestly office.

XVII. The propagation of original sin ought not to cause a denial
of the creation of souls and the adoption of propagation because it
can be sufficiently saved without this hypothesis (as will be
demonstrated in its place). Although the soul is not materially
from Adam (as to substance), yet it is originally from him as to
subsistence. And as man is rightly said to beget man (although he
does not beget the soul), so an impure progenerates an impure,
especially (the just judgment of God intervening) that by which it
was established that what he had bestowed upon the first man, he
should at the same time have and lose for himself as well as his
posterity. Now although it is curious to inquire and rash to define
why God infuses a soul tainted with sin and joins it to an impure
body, it is certainly evident that God did not will (on account of
the sin of man) to abolish the first sanction concerning the
propagation of the human race by generation. Thus the order of the
universe and the conservation of human nature demanded it.


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