a reply to: backcase
The Hebrew word translated "soul" in the Old Testament is nephesh, which simply means "a breathing creature." Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary
of Old and New Testament Words defines nephesh as "the essence of life, the act of breathing, taking breath ... The problem with the English term
'soul' is that no actual equivalent of the term or the idea behind it is represented in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew system of thought does not
include the combination or opposition of the 'body' and 'soul' which are really Greek and Latin in origin" (1985, p. 237-238, emphasis added).
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible makes this comment on nephesh: "The word 'soul' in English, though it has to some extent naturalized the
Hebrew idiom, frequently carries with it overtones, ultimately coming from philosophical Greek (Platonism) and from Orphism and Gnosticism which are
absent in 'nephesh.' In the OT it never means the immortal soul, but it is essentially the life principle, or the living being, or the self as the
subject of appetite, and emotion, occasionally of volition" (Vol. 4, 1962, "Soul," emphasis added).
That nephesh doesn't refer to an immortal soul can be seen in the way the word is used in the Old Testament. It is translated "soul" or "being" in
reference to man in Genesis:2:7, but also to animals by being translated "creature" in Genesis:1:24. Nephesh is translated "body" in Leviticus:21:11
in reference to a human corpse.
The Hebrew Scriptures state plainly that, rather than possess immortality, the soul can and does die. "The soul [nephesh ] who sins shall die"
The Old Testament describes the dead as going to sheol, translated into English as "hell," "pit" or "grave." Ecclesiastes:9:5-6 describes sheol as a
place of unconsciousness: "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is
forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished ..."
King David laments that death extinguishes a relationship with God. "For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You
The immortal-soul concept isn't part of the Old Testament, but it began to make inroads into Jewish thought as Jews came in contact with Greek
culture. In the first century the Jewish philosopher Philo taught a Platonic concept: "... The death of a man is the separation of his soul from his
body ..." ( The Works of Philo, translated by C.D. Yonge, 1993, p. 37). Philo followed the Hellenistic view that the soul is freed upon death to an
everlasting life of virtue or evil.
The Apostles' View
In the New Testament the Greek word translated "soul" is psuche, which is also translated "life."
In Psalm:16:10 David uses nephesh ("soul") to claim that the "Holy One," or Messiah, wouldn't be left in sheol, the grave. Peter quotes this verse in
Acts:2:27, using the Greek psuche for the Hebrew nephesh (notice verses 25-31).
Like nephesh, psuche refers to human "souls" (Acts:2:41) and for animals (it is translated "life" in the King James Version of Revelation:8:9 and
Revelation:16:3). Jesus declared that God can destroy man's psuche, or "soul" (Matthew:10:28).
If the Old Testament describes death as an unconscious state, how does the New Testament describe it?
No one wrote more about this subject than the apostle Paul. He describes death as "sleep" (1 Corinthians:15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians:4:13-18).
Many people are surprised to find that the term immortal soul appears nowhere in the Bible. However, though the Scriptures do not speak of the soul as
being immortal, they have much to say about immortality. For example: "You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John:3:15).
Paul told the members of the congregation in Rome to "seek" immortality (Romans:2:5-7). He taught Christians at Corinth that they must be changed and
"put on" immortality (1 Corinthians:15:51-55). Paul proclaimed that only God and His Son possess immortality (1 Timothy:6:12-16) and that eternal life
is a "gift" from God (Romans:6:23).
The most powerful words come from Jesus Himself: "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have
everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John:6:40).
We've seen in this brief look at the supposedly immortal soul that the Bible teaches no such concept. The idea filtered into Western thought through
Greek philosophy. Its origins are older than Athens, in fact as old as man.
The concept of the immortal soul was introduced into man's thinking at the earliest beginnings of human history. God told the first human beings, Adam
and Eve, that if they sinned they would die and return to the dust from which He had created them (Genesis:2:17; Genesis:3:19). Satan, the embodiment
of evil, the powerful entity who opposes God, assured them they wouldn't die (verses 1-5).
Satan slyly injected into Eve's consciousness the notion that God was lying and that she and her husband would not die, thus ingraining the
unscriptural teaching of the immortality of the soul into human thought. Satan has since deceived the world on this important understanding as well as
many other biblical truths (Revelation:12:9). Much of the world, including millions of people in religions outside of traditional Christianity, are
convinced they have—or are—immortal souls and hope they will go to a happy place or state of being immediately after they die.
Yet the Bible plainly teaches that the dead lie in the grave and know nothing, think no thoughts, have no emotions, possess no consciousness. Does
this mean death, the cessation of life, is final, the end of everything?
The Bible answers this question too. Although mankind is physical, subject to death, the good news is that God promises a resurrection to eternal life
to everyone who repents, worships God and accepts Jesus as the Messiah and His sacrifice.
edit on 13-1-2015 by OpinionatedB because: (no reason given)