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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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DUALISM . The belief in, or doctrine of, two ultimate conflicting principles, powers, or tendencies in the universe. Haeckel describes as dualism the distinction between God and the world, and between matter and mind, and opposes to it his monism, which identifies both ( Riddle of the Universe , ch. 1, p. 8). In this sense of the word the Bible teaches dualism. It does distinguish God as Creator from the world as created ( Genesis 1:1 , Isaiah 40:26 , John 1:3 ), and describes God as Spirit in contrast with matter ( John 4:24 ). In man it distinguishes the body taken from the dust, and the spirit given by God ( Genesis 2:7 , Ecclesiastes 12:7 ). This conclusion need not be proved further, as this view is implied in all the teaching of the Bible about God, world, man. But, setting aside this new sense of the term, we must consider whether the Bible gives evidence of dualism in the older sense, as opposing to God any antagonist or hindrance in His creating, preserving, and ruling the world. It is held that dualism in three forms can be traced in the Bible (1) the mythical, (2) the metaphysical, (3) the ethical. Each must be separately examined.

1. Mythical dualism . In the Babylonian cosmology, Marduk , the champion of the upper deities, wages war against Tiamat , who leads the lower deities; at last he slays her, divides her body, and makes part a covering for the heavens to hold back the upper waters. There is little doubt that the account of the Creation in Genesis 1:1-31 reproduces some of the features of this myth, but it is transformed by the monotheism of the author (see Bennett’s Genesis , pp. 67 72). Tiamat appears under the name Rahab in several passages ( Job 9:13 [RV [Note: Revised Version.] ] Job 26:12-13 [see Davidson’s Job , p. 54], Isaiah 51:9 ; cf. Isaiah 27:1 ‘leviathan the swift serpent,’ ‘leviathan the crooked serpent,’ ‘the dragon that is in the sea’). See Cheyne’s notes on these passages in the Prophecies of Isaiah , i. 158, ii. 31. In illustration of Isaiah 51:9 he quotes the address to Ra in the Egyptian Book of the Dead: ‘Hail! thou who hast cut in pieces the Scorner and strangled the Apophis ’ [ i.e. the evil serpent, Psalms 89:10 , cf. Psalms 74:13-14 ‘the dragons,’ ‘leviathan’]. This name is used as a symbolic name of Egypt ( Psalms 87:4 , Isaiah 30:7 ), probably on account of its position on the Nile, and its hostility to the people of God. The sea is regarded as God’s foe ( Daniel 7:3 ‘four great beasts came up from the sea’; Revelation 13:1 ‘a beast coming up out of the sea,’ Revelation 21:1 ‘the sea is no more,’ that is, the power hostile to God has ceased), a conception in which the myth survives. The influence of the myth is seen only in the poetical language, but not in the religious beliefs of the Holy Scriptures.

2. Metaphysical dualism . Greek thought was dualistic. Anaxagoras assumed hylç , ‘matter,’ as well as nous , ‘mind,’ as the ultimate principles. Plato does not harmonize the world of ideas and the world of sense. Aristotle begins with matter and form. Neo-Platonism seeks to fill up the gulf between God and the world by a series of emanations. In Gnosticism the plçrôma and the logos mediate between the essential and the phenomenal existence. St. John ( John 1:1 ; John 1:14 ) meets this Greek thought of his environment by asserting that Christ is the Word who is with God and is God, and who has become flesh. Against Gnostic heretics St. Paul in Colossians ( Colossians 1:19 ; Colossians 2:9 ) asserts that the plçrôma , the fulness of the Godhead, dwells bodily in Christ; to this dualism is opposed the union of Creator and creation, reason and matter in Christ.

From this metaphysical there resulted a practical dualism in Greek thought, between sense and reason. While Aristotle thought that reason might use sense as an artist his material, Neo-Platonism taught that only by an ascetic discipline could reason be emancipated from the bondage of sense; and Stoicism treated sense as a usurper in man’s nature, to be crushed and cast out by reason. Holsten has tried to show that this dualism is involved in St. Paul’s doctrine of the flesh , and Pfleiderer also holds this position. It is held that St. Paul, starting from the common Hebraic notion of flesh ( sarx ), ‘according to which it signifies material substance, which is void indeed of the spirit, but not contrary to it, which is certainly weak and perishable, and so far unclean, but not positively evil,’ advances to the conception of the flesh as ‘an agency opposed to the spirit,’ having ‘an active tendency towards death.’ ‘From the opposition of physically different substances results the dualism of antagonistic moral principles’ (Pfleiderer’s Paulinism , i. 52 ff.). This conclusion is, however, generally challenged with good reason, and cannot be regarded as proved. The question will be more fully discussed in art. Flesh.

3. Ethical dualism . In Persian thought there are opposed to one another, as in conflict with one another, Ormuzd and Ahriman , the personal principles of good and evil. While the OT recognizes the power of sin in the world, yet God’s ultimate causality and sole supremacy are affirmed. In post-exilic Judaism, however, there was a twofold tendency so to assert the transcendence of God that angels must be recognized as mediating between Him and the world, and to preserve His moral perfection by assigning the evil in the world to the agency of evil spirits under the leadership of Satan , the adversary. While these tendencies may be regarded as inherent in the development of Hebrew monotheism, both were doubtless stimulated by the influence of Persian thought with its elaborate angelology and demonology. In the Apocalyptic literature the present world is represented as under Satan’s dominion, and as wrested from him only by a supernatural manifestation of God’s power to establish His Kingdom. This dualism pervades the Apocalypse. In the NT generally the doctrine of the devil current in Judaism is taken over, but the Divine supremacy is never denied, and the Divine victory over all evil is always confidently anticipated. (See artt. Apocalyptic Literature, Devil, Eschatology.)

While in the Bible there are these traces of the threefold dualism, it is never developed; and monotheism is throughout maintained, God’s sole eternity, ultimate causality, and final victory being asserted, while God is distinguished from the world, and in the world a distinction between matter and mind is recognized.

Alfred E. Garvie.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Dualism'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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