The "Afterlife" in Early Christian Views (Quotations)


Walter Balfour, Three Essays. On the Intermediate State of the Dead. The Resurrection from the Dead. And On the Greek Terms Rendered Judge, Judgment, Condemned, Condemnation, Damned, Damnation, etc. in the New Testament, published by G. Davidson, Massachussets, USA, 1828 (This cover is from 2010 edition):

The only thing which remains to be shown is – how these heathen traditions came to be incorporated with the Christian religion. It is evident they prevailed many ages before Christ appeared, and prevailed both among Jews and Gentiles at the commencement of the gospel dispensation. See a quotation in my First Inquiry, from Dr. Campbell, where he shows the Jews had imbibed many of the heathen opinions, ch. i. sect. 3. When the gospel began to be preached among all nations, the converts made to it had imbibed such heathen traditions, and in fact, susceptible of the most satisfactory proof, that the first fathers of the church were all attached to the Platonic philosophy, which then generally prevailed. Some of those fathers spoke in the highest terms of Plato and his doctrines, and it is said Plato perfected the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Augustine confessed, that the books of the philosophers were very useful to him in facilitating his understanding of some orthodox truths. Eusebius avers, that Plato even penetrated into the doctrine of the Trinity. The early fathers, such as Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertulian, Origen, are all allowed to have been Platonists. That Christianity soon became corrupted from the philosophy of the times is universally allowed by all sects of Christians in the present Day. I have only room for one brief extract from Enfield’s History of Philosophy, p. 13, 14. “Among the first Christians, who were industriously employed in disseminating the divine doctrine of their máster, the subtilties of Gentile philosophy obtained little credit. But very soon after the rise of Christianity, many persons, who had been educated in the schools of the philosophers becoming converts to the Christian faith, the doctrine of the Grecian sects, and especially of Platonism, were interwoven with the simple truths of pure religion. As the Eclectic philosophy spread, heathen and Christian doctrines were still more intimately blended, till, at last, both were almost entirely lost in the thick clouds of ignorance and barbarism which covered the earth; except that the Aristotelian philosophy had a few followers among the Greeks, and Platonic Christianity was cherished in the cloisters of monks. About the beginning of the eleventy century, a new kind of philosophy sprung up, called the scholastic, which, while it professed to follow the doctrine of Aristotle, corrupted every principle of sound reasoning, and hindered, instead of assisting, men in their inquiries after truth.”

Such being the fact, that Christianity became corrupted from the philosophy of the times, let us now notice, that from this very source the apostles forewarned Christians, errors should arise among them. Paul said to the Collosians, ch. 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” See also 1 Tim. 6:20, 21. 1:4, 6. And 4:7. 2 Tim. 2:16-18. These errors were not introduced without opposition, for it required ecclesiastical authority to establish in some places the immortality of the soul. Accordingly Eusebius testifies, that A.D. 249, the doctrine that “the souls of men perish with their bodies,” was condemned in na Arabian council. No wonder the Arabian Christians opposed the doctrine of the immortality of the soul even in the third century, for by Dr. Good’s own showing, it was not found in the writings of Job, their ancestor, nor taught them by Christ their máster. This doctrine however being once established, laid a foundation for a superstructure of priestcraft and superstition in the Catholic church, which for many ages was the admiration of the nations, but the curse of the world. Its very ruins excite our astonishment. At the Reformation, many things were reformed, but all will admit, many things were left unreformed. For example, saving immortal souls after death was laid aside, but the reformers still went on to save them before death. Whether men had immortal souls to save from endless misery was never made a question with them; and from their day to this few Protestants have suspected the unscriptural nature of this doctrine.

– pp. 94-96.


Constantin Ackermann, Das Christliche im Plato und in der platonischen Philosophie entwickelt und hervorgehoben, Hamburg, Germany, 1835 (In English: The Christian Element in Plato and the Platonic Philosophy. Translated from German by Samuel Ralph Asbury, 1861. This cover of English edition is from 2010 Edition):

Plato stood high in the regard of the ancient Christian Church, especially so long as the Greek Church Fathers were peculiarly the formers and leaders of theology. This was induced, partly by the custom of the times of deriving philosophical instruction principally from Plato, and they attached themselves to him in preference to any other, partly from conviction, because they found in him more Christian elements than in Aristotle. The remark of Patricius is, in the main, correct, that the elevation of Aristotle by scholasticism and the University of Paris, was in exact opposition to the reigning view concerning him in the ancient Christian Church...

It was especially Clement of Alexandria, who sought to derive the true and beautiful in Greek philosophy, particularly in Plato, from the original source of highest wisdom. He was a decided Platonist, although he called himself an Eclectic. His writings are full of quotations from Plato, and of comparisons between Platonic and Christian doctrines... His Platonico-Christian way of thinking, and the endeavour to represent Platonism and Christianity as friendly to each other, Clement handed down to his spirited and fertile pupil, Origen, to whom also Platonism came from another source, namely, from Ammonias Saccas, his instructor in philosophy. There are, indeed, in Origen fewer single passages than in the other Church Fathers, in which he mentions the Christianity of Plato with commendation, he often comes out even in decided opposition to it. But, notwithstanding this, Origen must be accounted one of the greatest admirers of Plato, in the Christian Church. His Platonising is seen less in the details than in the whole of his teaching, which is organically penetrated with Platonic ideas, and in part rose out of them....

None [Church Father], however, instituted so thorough a comparison between Platonic and Christian dogmas, and brought out the harmonious relation of Platonism to Christianity, so industriously as Eusebius of Caesarea.

Theodoret also labours to show this in his interesting work on ‘The healing of the Grecomania.’ In this work, he gives the Platonic philosophy preference above every other, because it comes nearest to the chief doctrines of Christianity.

It is well known, and as easily understood, in how commendatory and appreciative a manner the great Augustine expresses himself concerning Plato and his philosophy, especially in his celebrated work, ‘De civitate Dei,’ which a modem investigator calls the ripest fruit of the inward union of Christian and Platonic wisdom...

There was, in general, in Christian antiquity, a great and decided disposition to bring Plato within the circle of the Gospel, and to represent his teaching as similar to the evangelical. Hence the younger Apollinaris made the remarkable attempt to recast the New Testament into Platonic dialogues. Hence, also, the legend arose, and became widely diffused, that Plato came into immediate contact with Christ on His descent into hell, and was by Him redeemed and raised to heaven...

– Excerpts of Chapter 1, pp. 17-29.

The Hopes of the Church of God – In Connection with the Destiny of the Jews and the Nations. As Revealed in Prophecy – Eleven Lectures Delivered in Geneva, 1840. G. Morrish, 20, Pathernoster Square, E.C. London, 1840 (Image: John Nelson Darby’s scrapbook. This scrapbook contains personal memorabilia relating to the life and travels of the Christian evangelist John Nelson Darby (1800-82). It has been placed online by the Library’s Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care. [University of Manchester, England]).

Lecture 4
Read Luke 20:17.

First Resurrection; or, Resurrection of the Just.

The subject which I propose for this evening's lecture, is the resurrection, and particularly the resurrection of the church apart; that is, the resurrection of the just as altogether distinct from that of the unjust.

We have already spoken of Christ, the Heir of all things; of the church as co-heir with Him; and of the coming of Christ to reign before the thousand years - an event which we must not confound with the day of the resurrection of the unjust, and of the judgment before the great white throne, which will not take place until after the millennium. We have now to see that the church will participate in this coming of Christ; it does so as the subject of the first resurrection.

There is no need to speak to you of the resurrection of Jesus as being the seal of His mission; it is an admitted truth; it is enough to quote Romans 1:4, where the apostle tells us that "Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection of the dead."* This resurrection was the great fact which demonstrated that Jesus is the Son of God; but it was likewise, for other reasons, the great theme of the preaching of the apostles, the basis of their epistles, and of all the New Testament.

*It is not exclusively by His own resurrection, though there was the first and most important proof. The reader will do well to pay attention to the expression, "from among the dead," employed elsewhere. It is an expression distinct from the present, and indicates the introduction of a divine power into the realm of death - a power which withdraws some from it in such a sort as to distinguish them completely from others. This it was that astonished the disciples (Mark 9:10). Resurrection was the faith of every orthodox Jew; but what they did not understand was a resurrection from among the dead.

Let us commence by saying, that the difficulty people find in the subjects of which we are treating do not arise from the word of God not being simple, clear, and convincing; but from this - that preconceived ideas often rob us of its natural sense. We have habits of thinking apart from the Scripture, before we know it; then it is we find inconsistencies - incompatibility - in that which presents itself to us, not suspecting that this incompatibility belongs alone to human preconceived opinions.

The doctrine of the resurrection is important under more views than one. It links our hopes to Christ and to the whole church, in one word, to the counsels of God in Christ; it makes us understand that we are entirely set free in Him, by our participation in a life in which, united by the Holy Ghost to Him, He is also the source of all strength for glorifying Him, even from the present time; it sustains our hopes in the most solid manner; finally, it expresses all our salvation, inasmuch as it introduces us into a new creation, by which the power of God places us, in the second Adam, beyond the sphere of sin, of Satan, and of death. The soul in departing goes to Jesus, but is not glorified. The word of God speaks of men glorified, of glorified bodies; but never of glorified souls. But, as before observed, prejudices and human teachings have taken the place of the word of God, and the power and expectation of the resurrection has ceased to be the habitual state of the church.

The resurrection was the foundation of the preaching of the apostles, Acts 1:22. "One must be with us a witness of his resurrection." This was the constant subject of their testimony. Let us now see in what terms they testified.

Acts 2:24. "Whom God hath raised up." So verse 32: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses."

Acts 3:15. "And killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses."

Acts 4:2. This doctrine of the resurrection was acknowledged as the doctrine publicly preached by the apostles; it was not that the soul in dying went to heaven, but that the dead shall live again. As the Pharisees were the greatest enemies of the Lord whilst He was upon earth - that is to say, the falsely righteous ones, as opposed to the truly Righteous One - so in like manner, Satan, after His death, raised up the Sadducees, who were enemies to the doctrine of the resurrection; Acts 4:1; 5:17.

Acts 10:38, 40, 41. Peter testifies to this same fundamental truth before Cornelius the centurion and his friends. Paul preached it to the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia, saying (Acts 13:34), "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead . . . he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David."

Acts 17:18-30. He announces, in the midst of the learned Gentiles, this doctrine, which was the stumbling-stone of their carnal wisdom. Socrates and other philosophers believed, after a fashion,* in the immortality of the soul; but when these men, curious in science, heard of the resurrection of the dead, they mocked. An unbeliever is able to discourse about immortality; but if he hears about the resurrection of the dead, he turns the subject into derision. And why? Because in virtue of the immortality of the soul he may exalt himself, he can elevate his own importance. There is something in the idea which can ally itself to man such as he is; but to think of dust raised again - of a living and glorious being made out of it - this is a glory which belongs only to God, a work of which God alone is capable. For if a body reduced to dust can be reconstituted by God into a living and glorified man, nothing is hid from His power. With the immortality of the soul man can still connect the idea of self - of power in the body; but when the leading truth is the resurrection of the body, and not the immortality of the soul, man's impotency becomes glaring.

*It was in metempsychosis, or transmigration to other bodies, after all.

See again (whether the apostle was right or not in appealing to the prejudices of the Pharisees), Acts 23:6: where Paul directly affirms, that it was for the preaching of this doctrine he was called in question In chapter 24:15, he tells the same truth. In chapter 26 he gives it to king Agrippa as the reason of his detention; so also verse 23. From these passages it is easily seen, that the resurrection was the basis of the preaching of the apostle and of the hope of the faithful.

We now come to the second part of our subject, the resurrection of the church apart, or the special resurrection of the just.

"There will be," says the apostle, "a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust"; but the resurrection of the just, or of the church, is a thing altogether apart - which has no relation with that of the wicked, which does not take place at the same time with this last, nor after the same principle. For, although both the one and the other are to be accomplished by the same power, there is in the resurrection of the just, a particular principle, namely the habitation of the Holy Ghost in them, which is foreign to the resurrection of the wicked; Rom. 8:11.

The virtue of the resurrection embraces the life, the justification, the confidence, the glory, of the church. God Himself is made known unto us by the name of "God who raiseth the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9), who introduces His power into the last depths of the effects of our sin - into the domain of death - to bring men out of it by a life from which that moment puts them outside the reach of all the dreadful consequences of sin - a life close to God.

Romans 4:23-25. It is in "God who quickeneth the dead" that we are called upon to believe; it is the resurrection of Jesus which is the power - the efficacy - of our justification. This is the truth presented in the passage before us. Our union with Jesus raised gives us acceptance with God. We ought to see ourselves already as beyond the tomb.

On this account the faith of Abraham was a justifying faith "He considered not his own body now (already) dead", but he believed in a God "who quickeneth the dead"; for this reason his faith "was counted to him for righteousness."* The resurrection of Jesus was the great proof, and as to all its moral effects, the establishment of this truth, that the object of our faith is that God raises the dead. This truth is pointedly expressed in the first epistle of Peter (1 Peter 1:21). The application is made to us by our union with the Lord.

*Remark the difference: he believed God was able to perform it, we, that He has done so. Through it we believe on Him.

Colossians 2:12. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." The church is raised now, because Christ is raised as its Head. The resurrection of the church is not a resurrection whose object is judgment, but simply the consequence of its union with Christ, who has been judged in its stead.

We may observe in this passage how these truths hang together. The resurrection of the church is a thing of itself, because the church participates in the resurrection of Christ we are raised, not only because Jesus Christ will call us from the grave, but because we are one with Him. It is by reason of this unity, that, in partaking of faith, we are already raised with Christ, raised as to the soul, but not as to the body. The justification of the church is, that it is risen with Christ.

The same fact is expressed in Ephesians 1:18, etc., and Ephesians 2:4-6. Paul never said, "If I am saved, I am content." He knew that it is hope that makes the soul active, which excites the affections, which animates and directs the whole man; and he desired that the church should have the heart full of this hope. Nor is it enough for one of us to say, "I am saved"; it is not enough for the love of God, which is not satisfied unless we are participators of all the glory of His Son; and we ought not to be indifferent to His will.

Ephesians 2:6 shews forth the same truth. The presence of the Holy Ghost in the church is that which characterises our position before God. As the Spirit of Christ is our consoler, and helps us in our infirmities, testifying withal that we are children of God, and making us able to serve God, so it is on account of the Holy Spirit who is in us that we shall be raised; and it is on account of the Holy Spirit also that the principle of the resurrection of the church is quite other than that of the resurrection of the wicked. Our resurrection, we say, is the consequence of the abiding of the Holy Ghost in us (Rom. 8:11) - a very essential difference. The world does not receive the Holy Ghost, "because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him," John 14:27. Now, "our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor. 6:19); our soul in consequence is filled, or at least it ought to be, with the glory of Christ. Our body, also, which is the temple of the Holy Ghost, will be raised according to the power of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us; a thing which can never be said of the wicked.

It is the resurrection which, having introduced us into the world of the last Adam (even now as partaking of this spiritual life), will introduce us in fact into a new world, of which He will be the Head and the glory, since He has acquired it and will reign there as the risen Man.

Observe, in the passages concerning the resurrection, not one speaks of a simultaneous rising of just and unjust; and those which refer to the resurrection of the just speak of it always as of a thing distinct. All will rise. There will be a resurrection of the just, and a resurrection of the unjust, but they will not take place together. I will cite the passages successively, which refer to it. It is at the coming of Christ that the church will rise; Phil. 3:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:23.

The idea of a resurrection of the just was familiar to the disciples of Christ; and such is represented as to happen in Luke 14:14, "Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."

But before coming to direct proofs, I would express the conviction that the idea of the immortality of the soul,* although recognised in Luke 12:5 and 20:38, is not in general a gospel topic; that it comes,** on the contrary, from the Platonists; and that it was just when the coming of Christ was denied in the church or at least began to be lost sight of, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul came into displace that of the resurrection. This was about the time of Origen. It is hardly needful to say that I do not doubt the immortality of the soul; I only assert that this view has taken the place of the doctrine of the resurrection of the church, as the epoch of its joy and glory.

*In the expression (2 Tim. 1:10): "Brought life and immortality to light," - "immortality" signifies the incorruptibility of the body, and not the immortality of the soul.

**i.e., the propagation of this as a special doctrine comes from them.

Luke 20:35, 36. "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead." The resurrection, then, mentioned here, belongs only to those who shall be made worthy of it. "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age," that is to say, this world of joy, of the reign with Christ. That resurrection of the dead, then, belongs to the period spoken of, and not only to eternity. "Neither," adds the Saviour, "can they die any more . . . for they are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." The wicked shall be raised to be judged, but those others shall be raised because they have been accounted worthy to obtain the resurrection which Jesus has obtained. We see, in the passage quoted, the proof of a resurrection which concerns the children of God alone; they are the sons of God, being the sons of the resurrection. To be a son of God, and to have part in this resurrection, is the title and inheritance of the same persons.

John 5:25-29. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." It is customary to oppose the latter part of this passage to a view of the resurrection of the just apart; but we shall see that the whole passage enunciates, and even explains and strengthens, the truth which is occupying us.

Two acts of Christ are presented as the attributes of His glory; one, to make alive; the other, to judge. He gives life to those whom He will, and all judgment is entrusted to Him; in order that all, even the wicked, should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. Jesus has been shamefully entreated here below; God the Father takes care that His claim of glory shall be recognised: He (Christ) gives life to whom He will - to their souls first, and then to their bodies. These glorify Him of good will. As to the wicked, the way of obliging them to recognise the rights of Jesus, is to judge them; and this judgment is in the hands of Jesus. In the work of vivification, the Father and Son act together, because those to whom life is given are put into communion with the Father and Son. But as to judgment, the Father judgeth no man, because it is not the Father that has been wronged, but the Son. The wicked will own Jesus Christ in spite of themselves when they are judged. At what epoch will these things be accomplished? For the wicked, at the time of the judgment - the judgment both of the living, and of the dead before the great white throne; for the just, the children of God, when their bodies shall participate in the life already communicated to their souls (the life of Christ Himself) at the resurrection of the just. The resurrection for these is not a resurrection of judgment, but simply, to repeat it again, the exercise, towards the bodies of God's children, of that quickening power of Jesus, in which He has already worked upon their souls, and which, in God's good time, shall work upon their bodies. "They that have done good," says our text, "unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment."*

*Really, judgment (see Greek); which is said before to be committed to Christ.

But the objection is made, Jesus has said (v. 28), "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice." The wicked and the just will then evidently rise together. But three verses before (v. 25) it is said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Hour comprehends here all the space of time which has elapsed since the coming of the Saviour; and under this word is contained two states of things quite different, seeing that the dead heard the voice of the Son of God during the time He was living on earth, and that they have been hearing it for eighteen centuries since. Thus, then, is the interpretation. The hour* for giving life to the soul is an hour which has lasted eighteen centuries already. And the hour is also coming for the judgment. The word hour has the same sense in the two passages. That is to say, there is a time of quickening and a time of judgment; there is a period during which souls are quickened, and a period when bodies shall be raised. For us, the resurrection is only the application of the quickening power of Jesus Christ to our bodies. We shall be raised, because we are already quickened in our souls. The resurrection is the crowning of the whole work, because we are children of God, because the Spirit dwells in us, because (as far as our souls are concerned) we are already risen with Christ.

*For the use of this word, see (in the Greek) John 5:35; John 16:4, 25, 26; Luke 22:53; 1 John 2:18; 2 Corinthians 7:8; Philemon 15.

There will be a resurrection of life for those who have been already quickened in their souls; and a resurrection of judgment for those who have rejected Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, sets forth very clearly the connection which exists between the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. The order of the resurrection is explicitly shewn. "Christ is become the firstfruits of them that slept" (v. 20); "of those which slept," and not of the wicked. They that are Christ's shall rise at His coming; then cometh the end, the time when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God the Father. When He comes, He will take the kingdom, but at the end He will deliver it up. The appearing of Christ will therefore take place before the end; it will be for the destruction of the wicked. He will come to purify His kingdom. "Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ's, at his coming. Then cometh the end."

1 Thessalonians 4:14-16. "Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him"; "and the dead in Christ shall rise first." It is the complement - the filling up - of our hopes; it is the fruit of our justification, the consequence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

The righteous dead shall rise first; then the living righteous shall be changed, and "shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord." All this is a matter which belongs exclusively to the saints - to those who, sleeping or living, are Christ's, and who will be, from that moment, for ever with the Lord.

Philippians 3:10, 11. "To know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means, I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead."

Why speak thus, if it be true that good and bad must rise together, and in the same manner? This resurrection from among the dead is just this first resurrection which Paul had before his eyes. I am willing, he says, as it were, to lose all, to suffer all, if, cost what it may, I arrive at the resurrection of the just: such is my desire. Evidently the resurrection from among the dead was a thing that concerned the church exclusively. I might say, like the apostle, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

As to the period or interval which elapses between the resurrection of the faithful and the wicked, it is a circumstance altogether independent of the principle itself, that is, of the distinction of the two resurrections. Our faith on this point depends upon a revelation, which has only importance, because God has so chosen to order it for His own glory. The period is only mentioned in the book of Revelation under the expression, "a thousand years." Between the two resurrections a thousand years elapse. The only point then on which I cite the book is upon the length comprised in the reign of the Son of man on the earth. The passage is found in Revelation 20:4, "And I saw thrones . . . ."

The world will then know that we are the objects of grace, that we have been loved as Jesus Himself has been loved by the Father.

If the first resurrection - that of the just - is not to be taken literally, why should the second - that of the unjust - be so taken? As the object of our hope, and source of our consolation and of our joy, it is but a small thing to know that the unjust shall be raised; but the precious thing - the essential - is to know that the resurrection of the just will be the consummation of their happiness; that in it God will accomplish His love towards us; that, after having given life to our souls, He will give life to our bodies, and will make of the dust of the earth a form suitable to the life which has been given to us on the part of God. We never read in the word of God of glorified spirits, but always of glorified bodies. There is the glory of God, and the glory of those who will be raised.

I desire, dear friends, that the knowledge of this truth, by the power of Christ, on which depends its entire accomplishment, may strengthen us in our hearts unto all perfection. For this knowledge in all its extent is that to which the scripture applies the word "perfection." Christ was thus made perfect as to His state and position before God; we, also, ourselves are now perfect by faith, in acknowledging that we are raised with Him, as we shall be later as to our bodies. May your bodies, souls, and spirits, be preserved blameless until the coming of our Well-beloved! May this truth of the resurrection of the church become bound up, in our minds, with all the precious truths of our salvation consummated in Christ, and may it be accomplished in the plenitude of our salvation in our bodies also!

– pp. 39-54.

Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche (1853-1868). In English: The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1908-1914 (The cover of English version is from 2012 Edition):

6. Merits and Defects [in Plato’s philosophy]. ... But a passing glance may be given to the radical defects and imperfections of Plato's best teachings—his inadequate conception of the nature of sin as involuntary, the result of ignorance, a misfortune, and a disease in the soul, rather than a transgression of the divine law; his consequent erroneous ideas of its cure by successive transmigrations on earth, and protracted pains in purgatory, and by philosophy; his philosophy of the origin of evil, viz., in the refractory nature of matter, which must therefore be gotten rid of by bodily mortification, and by the death of the body without a resurrection, before the soul can arrive at its perfection; his utter inability to conceive of atonement, free forgiveness, regenerating grace, and salvation for the masses, a fortiori for the chief of sinners; the doubt and uncertainty of his best religious teachings, especially about the future life ("Apology," 40 E, 42; Phædo, 107 C); and the utter want in his system of the grace, even more than of the truth, that have come to us by Jesus Christ, for, after all, Platonism is not so deficient in the wisdom of God as it is in the power of God unto salvation. The "Republic," for example, proposes to overcome the selfishness of human nature by constitutions and laws and education, instead of a new heart and a new spirit, by community of goods and of wives, instead of loyalty and love to a divine-human person like Jesus Christ.

7. Later Platonic Schools. In the Middle and the New Academy, there was always more or less tendency to skepticism, growing out of the Platonic doctrine of the uncertainty of all human knowledge except that of "ideas." The Neo-Platonists (see Neo-Platonism), on the other hand, inclined toward dogmatism, mysticism, asceticism, theosophy, and even thaumaturgy, thus developing seeds of error that lay in the teaching of their master. After the Christian era, among those who were more or less the followers of Plato, were, at one extreme, the devout and believing Plutarch the author of "Delay of the Deity in the Punishment of the Wicked," and the practical and sagacious Galen, whose work on the "Uses of the Parts of the Human Body" is an anticipation of the Bridgewater Treatises, both of whom, as also Socrates, would have accepted Christianity if they had come within the scope of its influence; and, at the other extreme, Porphyry and the Emperor Julian, who wielded the weapons of philosophy in direct hostility to the religion of Christ; while intermediate between them the major part of the philosophers of the Neo-Platonic and eclectic schools who came in contact with Christianity went on their way in indifference, neglect, or contempt of the religion of the crucified Nazarene. But not a few of the followers of Plato discovered a kindred and congenial element in the eminent spirituality of the Christian doctrines and the lofty ethics of the Christian life, and, coming in through the vestibule of the Academy, became some of the most illustrious of the Fathers and Doctors of the early Church. And many of the early Christians, in turn, found peculiar attractions in the doctrines of Plato, and employed them as weapons for the defense and extension of Christianity, or cast the truths of Christianity in a Platonic mold. The doctrines of the Logos and the Trinity received their shape from Greek Fathers, who, if not trained in the schools, were much influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Platonic philosophy, particularly in its Jewish-Alexandrian form. That errors and corruptions crept into the Church from this source can not be denied. But from the same source it derived no small additions, both to its numbers and its strength. Among the most illustrious of the Fathers who were more or less Platonic, may be named Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Irenæus, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Minutius Felix, Eusebius, Methodius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Augustine. Plato was the divine philosopher of the earlier Christian centuries; in the Middle Ages Aristotle succeeded to his place. But in every period of the history of the Church, some of the brightest ornaments of literature, philosophy, and religion—such men as Anselm, Erasmus, Melanchthon, Jeremy Taylor, Ralph Cudworth, Henry More, Neander, and Tayler Lewis — have been "Platonizing" Christians.

– Vol. IX (1911), p. 91.


Ethelbert William Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Longmans, Green & Co., London, England, 1895 (This cover is from 2014 reprint):

2 – άδης, HADES. This is a heathen word and comes down to us surrounded with heathen traditions, which had their origin in Babel, and not in the Bible, and have reached us through Judaism and Romanism.

As Hades (a word of human origin) is used in the New Testament, is the equivalent for the Hebrew sheol (a word of divine origin), its meaning can be gathered not from human imagination, but from its Divine usage in the Old Testament. If we know this, we know all that can be known. We therefore give a complete list of all its sixty-five occurrences in the Old Testament. We give the list, complete, from the A.V., with the R.V. variations; calling attention to the fact that the American R.V. does not translate the word at all, but simply transliterates it thus: “Sheol.”

Then, after listing all those 65 uses of Sheol in the Old Testament, he continues:

On a careful examination of the above list, a few facts stand out very clearly.

(i.) It will be observed that in a majority of cases Sheol is rendered "the grave." To be exact, 54 per cent.: while "hell" is 41 ½ per cent.; and "pit" only 4 ½ per cent. The grave, therefore, stands out on the face of the above list as the best and commonest rendering.

(ii.) With regard to the word "pit," it will be observed that in each of the three cases where it occurs (Num. 16:30, 33; and Job 17:16), the grave is so evidently meant, that we may at once substitute that word, and banish "pit" from our consideration as a rendering of Sheol.

(iii.) As to the rendering "hell," it does not represent Sheol, because both by Dictionary definition and by colloquial usage "hell" means the place of future punishment. Sheol has no such meaning, but denotes the present state of death. "The grave" is, therefore, a far more suitable translation, because it visibly suggests to us what is invisible to the mind, viz., the state of death. It must, necessarily, be misleading to the English reader to see the former put to represent the latter.

(iv.) The student will find that "the grave," taken literally as well as figuratively, will meet all the requirements of the Hebrew Sheol: not that Sheol means so much specifically A grave, as generically the grave.

Holy Scripture is all-sufficient to explain the word Sheol to us.

(v.) If we enquire of it in the above list of the occurrences of the word Sheol, it will teach

(a) That as to direction it is down.

(b) That as to place it is in the earth.

(c) That as to nature it is put for the state of death. Not the act of dying, for which we have no English word, but the state or duration of death. The Germans are more fortunate, having the word sterbend for the act of dying.

Sheol therefore means the state of death; or the state of the dead, of which the grave is a tangible evidence. It has to do only with the dead. It may sometimes be personified and represented as speaking, as other inanimate things are. It may be represented by a coined word, Gravedom, as meaning the dominion or power of the grave.

(d) As to relation it stands in contrast with the state of the living, see Deut. 30:15, 19, and 1 Sam. 2:6-8. It is never once connected with the living, except by contrast.

(e) As to association, it is used in connection with

mourning (Gen. 37:34-35),

sorrow (Gen. 42:38; 2 Sam. 22:6; Ps. 18:5; 116:3),

fright and terror (Num. 16:27, 34),

weeping (Isa. 38:3, 10, 15, 20),

silence (Ps. 31:17; 6:5; Eccles. 9:10),

no knowledge (Eccles. 9:5-6, 10),

punishment (Num. 16:27, 34; 1 Kings 2:6, 9; Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17, R.V., RE-turned, as before their resurrection).

(f) And, finally, as to duration, the dominion of Sheol or the grave will continue until, and end only with, resurrection, which is the only exit from it (see Hos. 13:14, etc.; and compare Ps. 16:10 with Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35).

If now the eleven occurrences of Hades in the New Testament be carefully examined, the following conclusions will be reached:

(a) Hades is invariably connected with death; but never with life: always with dead people; but never with the living. All in Hades will “NOT LIVE AGAIN,” until they are raised from the dead (Rev. 20:5). If they do not “live again” until after they are raised, it is perfectly clear that they cannot be alive now. Otherwise we do away with the doctrine of resurrection altogether.

(b) That the English word “hell” by no means represents the Greek Hades; as we have seen that it does not give a correct idea of its Hebrew equivalent Sheol.

(g) That Hades can mean only and exactly what Sheol means, viz., the place where “corruption” is seen (Acts 2:31; compare 13: 34-37); and from which, resurrection is the only exit.

– pp. 367-369 (from 1999 edition).


Ethelbert William Bullinger, How To Enjoy The Bible: or, The “Word,” and “The Words,” How To Study Them, London: Eyre & Spottiswoode (Bible Warehouse), Ltd. 33, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1910 (This cover is from a 2007 edition):

“Absent from the Body.” — 2 Cor. v. will furnish us with another illustration of the importance of the Structure in determining the Scope. And we have seen, under Canon I., the necessity of the Scope to give us the meaning of the word, and to show us how indispensable it is for a right understanding of the whole.

The Structure will show us how much we lose by the break between the fourth and fifth chapters of the second Epistle to the Corinthians. Chapter v. commences as though it began an entirely fresh subject, whereas it begins with the word “FOR,” which shows that it is the conclusion of what had been begun towards the end of ch. iv. That subject is Resurrection as our blessed hope in view of the perishing of our outward man day by day. As a comforting conclusion it is added, "FOR we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens." This is one of the "things unseen," and which are "eternal"; at which, and for which, we are to "look."

Where the real literary and logical breaks occur can be discovered only from the Structure.

As a matter of fact, 2 Cor. v. forms part of a member which runs from 2 Cor. iii. 1—vi. 10; but we must not make such an arbitrary statement without producing the evidence, so that others may judge for themselves as to its accuracy.

To prove this we must first give the Structure of 2 Cor. as a whole.

... We can see very clearly now, that the wonderful ground of support of Paul and Timothy in their afflictions was the consideration of the "unseen" things, as outweighing the "things seen"; so that though the "earthen vessels" of their bodies were dissolved there was the "excellency of the power" of God which would be put forth in Resurrection.

It is thus seen how the break between chapters iv. and V. destroys the connection; in fact, breaks in two the one member, "h2" (ch. iv. -16—v. 5), which has only one subject, viz., Resurrection, as the ground of the confidence, and the reason for not fainting in their labours of ministry.

We might have included this under the head of rightly dividing the Word of truth as to its literary form, as shown by the division into chapters (pages 34, 35). We might also have included it under the heading of the importance of the Scope of a passage (Canon I.). We might have included it under the heading of the importance of the Context (see below, Canon III.). It belongs to all three; but considering that the Structure is necessary to the crowning proof, we have given this illustration here.

It is little less than a crime for anyone to pick out certain words and frame them into a sentence, not only disregarding the scope and the context, but ignoring the other words in the verse, and quote the words ‘absent from the body present with the Lord’ with the view of dispensing with the hope of Resurrection (which is the subject of the whole passage), as though it were unnecessary; and as though ‘presence with the Lord’ is obtainable without it!

Apart from the doctrine involved, and apart from the teaching of Tradition (true or false), it is a literary fraud thus to treat the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.

We see therefore, for it must be clear to us, that the Scope of a passage is the key to its words; and that the Structure of a passage is the key to its Scope.

This will show us the importance of our second Canon.

How great must be our loss if we fail to use this key to the wonderful words of God.

Like all His works they bear the minutest searching out.

All the works of God are perfect. And the microscope and telescope can both be used to examine them; though neither of them can ever exhaust the wonders of God's works. In both directions an increase of the power of the lens will reveal new beauties and fresh marvels.

The Word of God, being one of His works, must have the same phenomena: and nothing exhibits these phenomena like the Study of its Literary Structure.

To us, God's Word is the greatest and most important of all His works. If we understand all His other works (which no one does or can) and yet know not His Word, our knowledge will not carry us beyond the grave.

But we must not lose sight of the great underlying lesson, and the great outcome of the whole of this subject, which is this : If the external form be so perfect, what must the inward truth be: if the setting be so valuable, how valuable must be the jewel: if the literary order be Divine, how solemn must be the warnings, how important the truth, how faithful the promises, how sure the words of which the Word is made up.

– pp. 223-226.


William Ralph Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus: The Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews, 1917-1918, Longmans, Green and Co., London, Vol. 1, 1918 (This cover is from a  Kindle Edition, with Volumes 1 and 2, 2014):

Those who sympathise with this anti-Hellenic  movement are not likely to welcome my exhortations to read Plotinus. But if they would do so, they would understand better the real continuity between the old culture and the new religion, and they might realise the utter impossibility of excising Platonism from Christianity without tearing Christianity to pieces.

The Galilean Gospel, as it proceeded from the lips of Christ, was doubtless unaffected by Greek philosophy; it was essentially the consummation of the Jewish prophetic religion, but the Catholic Church from its very beginning was formed by a confluence of Jewish and Hellenic religious ideas, and it would not be wholly untrue to say that in religion as in other things Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit [Captive Greece conquered her savage victor]. Catholicism, as Troeltsch says, is the last creative achievement of classical culture. The civilisation of the Empire, on its moral and religious side, expired in giving birth to the Catholic Church, just as on the political side the Caesars of the West handed over their sceptre, not so much to the Holy Roman Emperors as to the priestly Caesar on the Vatican.

I regret that the scope of these lectures cannot be enlarged so as to include a survey of the development of Christian Platonism. Valuable books on the subject already exist; but none of them, so far as I know, treats this school of Christian thought as a continuation, under changed conditions, of the latest phase of Greek philosophy. The assumption is that the Christian religion may be traced from the Old Testament Scriptures, through the canonical books of the New Testament, and so to the Councils of the Catholic Church. This is like tracing a pedigree from one parent only, for the Hellenic element in the New Testament is usually almost ignored.

– pp. 13, 14.

Paul Althaus, Die Letzten Dienge: Lehrbuch der Eschatologie, C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Gütersloh, Germany, 1922. (This cover is from Third Edition [1926]):

Death is more than a departure of the soul from the body. The person, body and soul, is involved in death... The Christian faith knows nothing about an immortality of the person. That would mean a denial of death, not recognizing it as judgment of God. It knows only an awakening from the real death through the power of God. There is existence after death only by an awakening of the resurrection of the whole person.

– Seventh Edition, 1957, p. 157.


Norman Henry Snaith, Life After Death – The Biblical Doctrine of Immortality, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, Vol 1, nº 3, July, 1947:

What is the biblical doctrine concerning life after death? The historic creeds of the church use the phrase “the resurrection of the body.” What does this mean? Many Christians believe in the immortality of the soul. Does this, in practice and in interpretation, come to the same thing as the phrase in the creeds? In any case, is it the biblical doctrine?...

Neither here nor anywhere else in the Bible is there any suggestion of an immortal soul which survives death. Nothing survives unless it be raised up by God, and the condition is that the man must be ‘in Christ’ and so ‘born of the spirit.’”.

– pp. 309, 324.


Gustaf Aulén, The Faith of the Christian Church (translated from the Swedish by Eric Wahlstrom and Everett Arden). The Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, USA, 1948 (this cover is from 2002 edition).

When the argument relating to condemnation and annihilation is examined, it is evident at the outset that the discussion all too often rests upon postulates foreign to Christian faith, especially the theory maintaining that the “immortality of the soul” is something axiomatically given. This line of thought, which has emanated from a philosophical and idealistic matrix, stands in sharp contrast to the characteristic viewpoint of Christian faith. For Christian faith ‘eternal life’ is not a self-evident prerogative of man, but is rather a gift which is given in and with man’s fellowship with God and is realized in and through the “resurrection.”

… It is entirely outside the sphere of systematic theology to make decisions in regard to those historical and exegetical questions which are connected with the resurrection faith of the first disciples, or with the empty tomb, or with the manner in which Christ made himself known to his own. Theology can state only that, according to the evidence, different conceptions of how the resurrection took place were current in primitive Christianity. Sometimes it is asserted that the risen Christ appeared to his own in virtually the same form as in the days of his flesh, and at other times it is said that one body is buried in the earth an another, a spiritual organism, arises (I Cor. 15). Paul does not conceive of a continued bodily existence of the same nature as the earthly. But in neither case do we find a purely spiritualized conception. It is evident that the primitive Christian resurrection faith is of a different nature from the philosophical doctrine which regards the ‘soul’ as immortal in itself, and immortality as the liberation of the soul from the prison house of the body. Such a distinction between ‘soul’ and ‘body’ is absolutely foreign to the resurrection faith of the early church. It is evident that in the New Testament we meet various ideas of the manifestation of the risen Christ, but it is also evident that the disciples regarded him as having a certain “corporeality,” however spiritualized and “transfigured” this might have been. These ideas emphasize the contrast to the philosophical and idealist conception of immortality.

– pp. 154, 220.


Robert Paul Ramsey, Basic Christian Ethics, Westminster John Knox Press, 1950 (this cover is from 1993 edition).

The third image of God, immortality, man possesses neither by creation nor by acquirement. Man is not inherently immortal, as he is now inherently rational and as he was completely happy as long as he remained obedient. Immortality comes as an eschatological gift, always more God’s possession than man’s even when it is given him.

… In the first place, from viewing man as a theological animal we are driven to regard all truly human worth as derivated, not inherent. Christian interpretations of man’s dignity affirm something about man in relation to God, not just something about man per se. The Platonic doctrine of the inherent, substantial immortality of the soul endowed the soul with such power of outwearing bodies as to amount to divinity, and the early Christians quite properly regarded this viewpoint as a species of robbery of God. The same is true of many of our notions of the inherent sacredness of human personality. For the Christian both ‘the immortality of a mortal’ and his personal worth are derivative, derivative from God’s appointment.

–  pp. 263, 277

A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson (Ed.), The MacMillan Company, New York, USA, 1951. (This cover is from 1962 Edition):


This is not a very common word int the Bible, since the Apostolic preaching bore witness to an event which was described as the Resurrection... and not as the survival of the soul of Jesus after bodily death. In the G[reek] doctrine of immortality the body dies, but the soul, set free from the restrictions imposes by the body, continues its life. Immortality is held to be one of the distinctive qualities of a truly human life, so that there is no real death but only a discarding of the outworn envelope of the body. ‘In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died’ (Wisd[om] 3.2, showing G[reek] influence). The Bible writers, holding fast to the conviction that the created order owes its existence to the wisdom and love of God and is therefore essentially good, could not conceive of life after death as a disembodied existence (‘we shall not be found naked,’ 2 Cor. 5:3), but as a renewal under conditions of the intimate unity of body and soul which was human life as they knew it. Hence death... was thought of as the death of the whole man, and such phrases as ‘freedom from death,’ ‘imperishability’ or ‘immortality’  could only properly be used to describe what is meant by the phrase the eternal or living God (v. LIFE, LIVING) ‘who only has immortality’ (1 Tim. 6:16). Man does not possess within himself the quality of deathlessness, but must, if he is to overcome the destructive power of death, receive it as the gift of God who ‘raised Christ from the dead,’ and put death aside like a covering garment (I Cor. 15:53-54). It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that this possibility for man (II Tim. 1:10) has been brought to life and the hope confirmed that the corruption (Rom. 11:7) which is a universal feature of human life shall be effectively overcome. (V. also HELL, RESURRECTION.)

– pp. 111, 112.

John Burnaby, Christian Words and Christian Meanings, Hodder and Stoughton, London, UK, 1955:

Greek philosophers had argued that the dissolution which we call death happens to nothing but bodies, and that the souls of men are by their native constitution immortal. The Greek word for immortality occurs only once in the New Testament, and there it belongs to none but the King of Kings... The immortality of the soul is no part of the Christian creed, just as it is no part of Christian anthropology to divide soul and body and confine the real man, the essence of personality, to supposedly separable soul for which embodiment is imprisonment... Jesus taught no doctrine of everlasting life for disembodied souls, such as no Jew loyal to the faith of his fathers could have accepted or even understood. But Jewish belief was in the raising of the dead at the Last Day.

– pp. 148, 149.

[Text on cover sheet: “Whether it is possible to ‘translate’ religious language into non-religious, I do not know. I am only sure that I could not do it for myself. But it is both possible and obligatory for Christians at all times to know and to be ready to say what they mean by the words which have been, perhaps irrevocably, consecrated to Christian use.” – From the Preface.].

Carroll Eugene Simcox, The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting (The Doctrines of the Apostles' Creed Series, Number 6), Forward Movement Publications, USA, 1955.

Our first logical step is to make a distinction between two very different things: immortality and resurrection.

… Most non-Christians have always believed in some kind of immortality of man and hence in some life beyond the grave. Many have envisioned a life to come that is indeed beautiful and glorious. But they have based their hope for this life to come entirely on the theory of the immortality of man. The essence of this theory is that there is some imperishable something in man himself which death cannot destroy: so long as this something cannot die, man himself cannot die. This theory of the imperishable-something in man has commended itself to the reason of most of the wisest men. Yet it can never be anything more than a theory. If the theory is false, man’s hope for life beyond death is grounded in a bad guess.

… the Christian has an entirely different reason for believing in the life to come. He believes in resurrection, and he believes that he has sufficient reason to consider resurrection not so much a theory as an established fact.

… [According to this theory of immortality] while man is in this present life, his soul and his body are in a temporary working partnership. Soul is by its very nature immortal: it cannot die. It is the imperishable-something. Body is mortal and must die. What happens, then, at death? The partnership of soul and body is dissolved. The body disintegrates into dust, and for all practical purposes ceases to be.

… Nevertheless, it is all a guess about the Grand Perhaps, whether we think it a reasonable guess or not. It can never be established as a certainty. We must understand that it may be nothing more than what the psychologists call a wish-projection: a fantasy of pure wishful thinking.

… This doctrine of immortality is not distinctly Christian. Most Christians have believed it, but not on Biblical and Christian grounds. The Bible does not teach it. The Bible knows no such sharp distinction and radical cleavage between soul and body. This doctrine in its familiar form comes down to us, not from the people of Israel and the early Christians, but from the philosophers of Greece: the most brilliant guessers in all history, but still guessers.

… One important difference between it [resurrection] and the immortality doctrine is this: the resurrection doctrine thinks of the whole man as a whole. It does not divide man into two or more parts. It allows us to call something in man ‘soul,’ something else in man ‘mind,’ something else ‘body’; but the Bible never theorizes about that. If man lives, the whole man lives; if man dies, the whole man dies; if man suffers, the whole man suffers-soul, mind, body, all of him. Whatever elements together make up a human life, their togetherness – rather than their differentness – is the important fact about them. Man is a single being, in life and in death.

… If we base our hope for life after death on the theory of immortality, we are putting our faith in man, in this immortal something in man. If we base our hope on the Christian ground of resurrection, we are placing our faith in God rather than in man, in the divine power and goodness rather than in human nature. Surely this makes a tremendous difference, if we believe in God at all. The theory of immortality says that we shall live beyond the grave because we are incapable of dying. The Christian claim of resurrection (it is a claim, not a theory, as we shall see later) asserts that we shall live beyond the grave because God, in His mighty love and loving might, raises us from death to life. In whom do we put our trust: in God, or in ourselves?

… I affirm that the whole person – as we might say today ‘the complete personality’ – is raised by God’s power from death to life eternal.

– excerpts from pp. 3-8.

Derwyn Randulp Grier Owen, Body and Soul: A Study on the Christian View of Man, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, USA: 1956 (this is not the actual book cover):

If we turn to the Bible, however, as we shall later, we find that a quite different view of man is assumed throughout. Here there is no dualism and scarcely any idea of the immortality of a detached and independent soul...

Plato remains to the end an antiphysical dualist. It is he, and his followers, who most of all are responsible for imposing the "religious" anthropology on Western thought...

This latter belief especially - the idea that the soul can exist apart from the body – obviously implies some form of body–soul dualism... This body-soul dualism was a necessary implicate of the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul...

Now there are a few isolated Scriptural passages that may suggest the idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense, but the normal Biblical point of view is quite different: in the New Testament it is the resurrection of the body that is stressed, and this doctrine is almost a direct contradiction of the "Orphic" eschatology. Why, then, did the Fathers lean toward this largely un-Biblical notion?...

The fact is that the Fathers' adoption of the "religious" idea of the immortality of the detachable soul forced them into the doctrine of body-soul dualism...

The idea of the intermediate state eventually developed into the doctrine of purgatory...

The Fathers were no doubt impressed by the force of the arguments advanced by Greek philosophy to prove the immortality of the soul. And, finally, of course, the idea of an intermediate state gave the human being another chance to be purged of his sins before the last judgment. It was the development of this notion that led to the doctrine of purgatory, with all the superstitions and objectionable practices that eventually made up the purgatorial system and, in the end, furnished part of the immediate cause of the Reformation...

Their (Church Fathers) resulting anthropology was a mixture of Biblical and Greek ideas. They added to the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection of the body the idea of an intermediate state in which the soul exists apart from the body, awaiting its recovery at the end...

The "religious" anthropology, as far as Western thought is concerned, is Greek and not Biblical in origin. It is also typical of Eastern religions in general, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It seems to be characteristically "religious," and for this and other reasons has tended to creep into and corrupt the Christian view of man. This happened, as we saw, in the patristic and medieval periods, and modern Catholicism and Protestantism have tended to perpetuate this early mistake...

The Biblical view of man is entirely different from the `religious'...

The points at issue revolve around the concepts of "body" and "soul." The "religious" anthropology (in contradistinction to the Biblical) adopts an extreme dualism, asserting that the body and the soul are two different and distinct substances. It claims that the soul is divine in origin and immortal by nature and that the corruptible body is the source of all sin and wickedness. It recommends the cultivation of the soul in detachment from the body, and advocates the suppression of all physical appetites and natural impulses. It regards the body as the tomb or prison of the soul from which it longs to get free. Finally, it tends to suppose that the soul, even in its earth-bound existence, is entirely independent of the body and so enjoys a freedom of choice and action untrammeled by the laws that reign in the physical realm...

The Hebrews had no idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense... It was impossible for them even to conceive of disembodied human existence...

The idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense may be suggested in some passages in the wisdom literature and is definitely found in places in the Apocrypha. This line of thought was later developed in the Hellenistic Judaism of the Alexandrine School, in the inter-testamental period, of which the religious philosopher Philo is the outstanding example.

– pp. 29, 41, 59, 61, 62, 77, 163, 164, 177 and 178.


The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, 1957 (This cover is from 3rd Edition Revised, 2005):

immortality. Though in no sense a specifically Christian doctrine, the hope of immortality is an integral element in Christian belief, where it receives emphatic insistence and a characteristic shape. In pre-Christian times, the Greeks esp. developed a reasonned doctrine on the subject. The rationality of the human intellect seemed to imply an essntial kinship of the soul with the principles of reason, so that it partook of their eternity. From this kinship Plato inferred the existence of the soul before birth as well as its survival of death and saw in the process of learning the reminiscence (αναμνήσις) of knowledge possessed in a previous life. The striving of the virtuous man after the eternally valid principles of morality also pointed to the same belief. Plato and other Greeks insisted on the limitations which matter imposed on the soul. The body was an impediment, even a prison-house, from which death brought to the soul release into a fuller existence.

Such philosophical conceptions of immortality have commonly been confined to the few. In early times Hebrew thought about the next world hardly exceeded the conception of a very shadowy [unreal, insubstantial, intangible] existence in Sheol. In later pre-Christian Judaism a greater sense of the reality of the future life developed, partly through reflection on the problem of suffering, partly from the ardent desire for abiding communion with God, partly through the recasting of the Messianic expectation. The Jewish hope became increasingly bound up with belief in the resurrection of the body, esp. in the Apocalyptic writers. Esp. outside Palestine, Judaism borrowed extensively from Greek thought; in the Book of Wisdom, e.g., the doctrine of immortality has a strong Platonic bent...

soul. The idea of a distinction between the soul, the immaterial principle of life and intelligence, and the body is of great antiquity, though only gradually expressed with any precision. Hebrew thought made little of this distinction, and there is practically no specific teaching on the subject in the Bible beyond an underlying assumption of some form of afterlife (see IMMORTALITY). Greek thought, on the other hand, developed various ways of understanding the relation of body and soul: from the Platonic idea that the immortal soul is the true self, imprisoned for a time in an alien body, to the Stoic view of the soul as the ‘leading element’ (ἡγεμονικόν [hégemonikon]) of a unity which includes the body. No precise teaching about the soul received general acceptance until the Middle Ages.

This uncertainty is reflected in the writings of the Fathers. Tertulian, supporting his view by the material imagery of the parable of Dives and Lazarus and influenced by Stoic notions, held the corporeity of the soul, an error from which even St Ireaneus does not seem to have been entirely free. Origen, on the other hand, was led by his strongly Platonist learnings to affirm its pre-existence and explained its confinement in a body as a punishment for sins commited in its previous incorporeal state. In the post-Nicene period these divergences largely disappeared, and a modified Platonic view, seeing the soul as the true self, immortal but not pre-existent, won acceptance. The soul came to be universally regarded as an image of God (cf. Gen. I:26). St Augustine gave this doctrine a novel turn by seeing the soul (consisting of memoria, intelligentia, and voluntas) as an image of the Trinity; this formulation was destined to have great influence in the W. Nemesius and St Maximus the Confessor provide the most elaborate statement of the Greek patristic position.

Acc. to St Thomas Aquinas, who follows Aristotle in his definition of the human soul, the soul is an individual spiritual substance, the ‘form’ of the body. Both, body and soul together, constitute the human unity, though the soul may be severed from the body and lead a separate existence, as happens after death. The separation, however, is not final, as the soul, in this differing form the angels, was made for the body. As it is purely spiritual, the soul is not, as Traducianism affirms, a product fo the generative, and therefore entirely material, powers of man, but each individual soul is a new creation of God, infused into the body destined for it (‘Creationism’).

From the 17th cent. R. Descartes oversimplified dichotomy between soul and body (res cogitans and res extensa) has had a marked effect on subsequent theological thought. In more recent times, philosophical perplexities over such a dichotomy and the recovery of the biblical insight into the unity of man have meant that the doctine of the soul, if considered at all, is thought of in relation to the whole biblical doctrine of man

– 3rd Edition, Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, 1997, pp. 822, 1520, 1521.

Roger Lincoln Shinn, Life, Death and Destiny, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, USA, 1957:

Children ask difficult questions about cemeteries. Maybe we all do, but children do it out loud. Grandmother has been sick, then has died. Someone tells the child that Grandmother has gone to God. But someday the child asks about the graveyard. Is Grandmother in the cemetery or with God?

One answer is: Grandmother’s body is in the grave, but her soul is with God. With luck that answer stops questions.

Someday, then, the child hears the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in … the resurrection of the body.” His question usually brings the answer: “That really means the soul.” Now and then someone insists that in really does mean the body. Maybe he opposes cremation, because he wants his body ready for God to raise in the Last Days – though why God should have more trouble with ashes than with decomposed flesh is not clear.

Pretty soon a nonsensical argument is under way. Notice how the New Testament dismisses these futile guesses:

1 - The bickering Sadducees ask Jesus about the widow who remarries. (Just to be smart alecks, they give her seven successive husbands.) Who will be her husband in heaven? Jesus, who never avoids a sincere question, gives this one the brush-off. You can’t answer questions about heaven in earthly terms, he tells them. You don’t understand the power of God. (See Mark. 12:18-27).

2 – Someone presses Paul with a question about the bodies of those raised from the dead. The apostle, who always likes a good question, explodes, “You foolish man!” (I Cor. 15:36).

Some questions are just futile. Whenever we use words out of common experience to describe the works of an infinite God, the words don’t quite fit. Literal answers to questions about life after death are mostly foolishness.

Once we realize this, we can go a step farther. An artist spreads pigments on a flat canvas to suggest not only dimensions of depth but hidden experiences of the human spirit. A musician uses vibrating strings from animal intestines to convey joy, humor, or grief. Words similarly have symbolic power. They may tell us more when we realize their inadequacies than we think they give us literal truth.

When the early Christians said “resurrection of the body”, they were not kidding themselves. They were not slow-witted people who had not thought of the question the child asks about the cemetery. They said clearly that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Decay of corpses was no problem for them. Yet they found reason to hang onto this idea of a body – a “spiritual body”, they called it. (You can find all this discussed in I Cor., ch. 15.).

The New Testament could have used different language. All the educated people had heard the theory that at death the soul soars to heaven while the body goes to the grave. But that language did not click with the Jewish Christians who wrote the New Testament.

The Jews just never had believed that a person is a soul plus a body – a detachable combination temporarily hooked up. Today practically every psychologist agrees with the Jews on this issue. When we talk wisely of psychosomatic medicine or trace a person’s disposition to the activity of his glands, we are doing (with more or less scientific precision) what the Biblical writers did intuitively. In Christian history, Augustine did the same thing when he said, in words that all our modern knowledge vindicates, “For the body is not an extraneous ornament or aid, but a part of man’s very nature.”

Some very “spiritually minded” people argued against this Christian belief. They quoted Plato’s, Phaedo: “Whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? Whence but from the body and the lusts of the body?... And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body?” For Christians this was an utter evasion. It meant unhealthy abhorrence of the body and blindness to the sins of the spirit.

So the Church hung onto its concern for a complete person, not for a soul plus a detachable body. It preached God’s salvation of real people, not of mystic souls that might get absorbed in some divine soul. It taught God’s concern for history, realizing that most history is connected with human bodies. So, at the risk of being misunderstood, it kept talking of a resurrection of the body – meaning not the chemical components of the body but the wholeness of the human being.

None of this tells us literally and exactly what is going to happen. Of course not. “O foolish man!” We cannot know. Christian Faith, we have seen, talks of a new creation as miraculous as the first creation. The only basis for belief in it is trust in God. If that does not convince us, neither will any enticing preview of coming attractions.

– pp. 81-84.

Alec Roper Vidler, Christian Belief: An Exposition of the Basic Christian Doctrines, SCM Press, United Kingdom, 1957:

The immortality of the soul – if it means that there is a part of every man, a kind of soul-substance, that is immortal – is not a Christian doctrine, though it has often been supposed to be and is still frequently confused with the Christian doctrine. The expression ‘immortality of the soul’ does not occur in the Bible. The Bible is preoccupied with God and his relation to mankind. It does not speak about any inherent capacity of the human soul to survive death

It is not of the immortality of the soul but of the resurrection of the body that Christian belief, like the Bible, speaks. In God’s new, immortal creation men are not ghosts; they are not disembodied spirits; they are not absorbed into an unconscious cosmic soul. They retain their personal identity, for God’s purpose for them is an inheritance in which nothing will be lacking to a fully personal relationship. The work of Christ is to bring not only souls but whole men into a complete and eternal relationship with God…

There is another point about the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, as distinguished from that of the immortality of the soul, which should not be overlooked. The word ‘immortal’ means not subject to death, and applied to man it must mean that there is at any rate part of a man which need not and in fact cannot die. The word ‘resurrection’ on the other hand presupposes the death of the whole man, every part of him. And this is in line with the whole tenour of the New Testament, for there the fact of universal death is taken seriously. ‘In Adam all die.’ It does not use euphemisms such as ‘passing on’ or ‘passing over’ which are popular nowadays. Death with all that it entails of separation, tragedy and mystery is a bitter necessity. The death of a man is not only natural like the death of animals or vegetables; it is also unnatural. We rebel against it.


– excerpts from pp. 110-113.

Oscar Cullmann, Mélanges offerts à KARL BARTH à l’occasion de ses 70 ans, Reinhardt, Bâle, 1956. (In French: Immortalité de l'âme ou résurrection des morts?; in English: Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? The Witness of the New Testament, Epworth Press, England, 1958. This cover is from 2000 edition, Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, USA):

If one recognizes that death and eternal life in the New Testament are always bound up with the Christ-event, then it becomes clear that for the first Christians the soul is not intrinsically immortal, but rather became so only through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through faith in Him. It also becomes clear that death is not intrinsically the Friend, but rather that its ‘sting’, its power, is taken away on/y through the victory of Jesus over it in His death. And lastly, it becomes clear that the resurrection already accomplished is not the state of fulfillment, for that remains in the future until the body is also resurrected, which will not occur until ‘the last day’...

The answer to the question, ‘Immortality of the soul or resurrection of the dead in the New Testament’, is unequivocal. The teaching of the great philosophers Socrates and Plato can in no way be brought into consonance with that of the New Testament. That their person, their life, and their bearing in death can none the less be honoured by Christians, the apologists of the second century have shown.

– Excerpts from Introduction and Conclusion. See here a “compact edition” in Portuguese.

Dana Prom Smith, Biblical and Classical Views of Personality. (thesis of Master of Arts) – University of Arizona, USA, 1958:

What happens to the israelite when he dies? What is his ultimate destiny? Death is seen as a weak form of life. Man becomes a mere shadow of his former self. There is a relative weakness on the part of the dead as compared with the vitality of the state of the living. This is precisely why the Israelite yearned for a long life. It was a sign of the Lord’s favor. “In short, the normal Israelite view, which dominates the conception of man in the Old Testament, is that to be in sickness of body or weakness of circumstance is to experience the disintegrating power of death, and to be brought by Yahweh to the gates of Sheol; but to enjoy good health and material prosperity is to be allowed to walk with Him in fullness of life.” Therefore it is not quite proper to say that the Israelite had no conception of life after death. He had one. Life after death was weakness and lack of vitality. This is a far cry from the idea of the indestructibillty of an immortal soul which leaves the body at death to enjoy perpetual bliss.

This brings us to the New Testament and the view of man that prevails there. It is quite proper to begin with St. Paul, for here we find a certain body of beliefs attributable to one man. The rest of the New Testament, especially the Gospels, will be related to Paul’s thought...

It is easy to see how confusion has arisen about Paul's thinking about body and soul. People see the word sarx used in this latter sense [the physical], and they identify it with the physical body. Paul, being a good Hebrew, could never say that anything God had made was intrinsically evil. In this usage of the word sarx we still see the same unity of the personality. The personality has set itself over against God. The conflict in man between spirit and sarx is a moral conflict and not a metaphysical clash...

Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection bears directly upon our problem. We saw how the Old Testament did not have very much to say about the ultimate destiny of man. Paul does not state in his doctrine of the resurrection that the soul and the body separate. He states that the physical body is changed into a spiritual body, the mortal body is changed into a body immortal (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

In other words, man as a whole does not divide into two or three parts at death with some continuing and others ceasing to exist. Man as a whole personality continues his existence. Man is not a metaphysical dualism but a unity and this unity is not broken by death. The unity is changed from physical to spiritual, and Paul admits, that this is a mystery. The important point for our consideration is that man does not possess an indestructible soul that survived death, while the destructible body perishes. It is the sarx or the alienation that dies, not the soma or personality. There is not an immortality of the soul but the resurrection of the body.

– pp. 12-17.

Georges Auzou, La Parole de Dieu. Approches du mystère des Saintes Écritures, Editions de l’Orante, Paris, France,1960:

Le concept d’‘âme’ au sens d’une réalité purement spirituelle ou immatérielle, distincte du ‘corps’,… n’existe pas dans la Bible.

– p. 128.


Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer, Studies In Dogmatics. Man: The Image of God, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1962:

“It appears clearly, then, that Scripture never pictures man as a dualistic, or pluralistic being, but that in all its varied expressions the whole man comes to the fore, in all his guilt and sin, his need and oppression, his longings and his nostalgia. Ant it is thus a priori unlikely that the Biblical view of man will distinguish a higher and a lower part in man implying that the higher part is holier than the lower and stands closer to God, the lower as such then being impure and sinful and further away from the God of life. Such a view of higher and lower in man usually forms the background for anthropological dualism and often also manifest itself in theology. The soul then comes to be thought of as closer to God than the body, which forms the lower part of man. And though the creation of the whole man is not denied, nevertheless it often becomes difficult to honor man’s body as part of his full and genuine creatureliness and humanness. We shall not here analyze more closely this depreciation of man’s body, which came to the fore in theology under the influence of Greek thought, and which showed itself not only in the theory of salvation from the body as from a lower form, but also in the practice of ascetism. It is clear that there is no room for such a conception of a higher and lower part in the Biblical view of man. This is especially apparent from the fact that sin, the evil and apostate in man, is never related to one or another part of man in the sense of an anthropologically distinct part, and is never localized in man, as though evil has its seat here or there – though there have often been attempts to find such localizations in the Scripture.

... It has been pointed out, in the first place, that the contrast between sarx (and sooma) and pneuma in Paul’s thought is not a contrast between body and spirit. This is clear from Rom. 8:6, where Paul speaks of the mind of the flesh, and I Cor. 3:3, where carnality is associated with such spiritual matters as jealousy and envy, and Galatians 5:19ff., where the “works of the flesh” include similar spiritual things such as idolatry, sorcery, envy, and so forth. And furthermore, Paul speaks not only of psyche and sooma as needing sanctification, but also of pneuma (I Thess. 5:23). He exhorts the Christian community to “cleanse” themselves form “all defilemente of flesh and spirit” (sarx and pneuma) (II Cor. 7:1). The contrast is thus clearly not one between the body, as the seat of sin, and the spirit, above sin. Paul does not view the body as of lesser worth; indeed, he exhorts the church to “presente your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1). His concern is not with vilifying the body, but rather in seeing that sin is not master in the body (Rom. 6:12). His struggle is not against the body, but for the body, that it might be directed rightly: “Neither present yours members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but... as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). Thus the body is not na instrument of whoredom, but for the Lord, and our bodies are members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:13, 15; cf. 19).

Further evidence of the impossibility of Paul’s seeing in sarx, in the body, an evil and sinful bodiliness, is the fact that he also uses the term “sooma” for body – and this is a term closely bound up with man’s true humanness. Thus Paul’s thought is far removed from a gnostic dualism, in which the soul is imprisoned in the body and longs for its escape.”

– pp. 203-205.


Herman Ridderbos, Paulus, Ontwerp van zijn theologie, Kampen, Netherlands, 1966 (Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Translator: John Richard de Witt. Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1975):

Psyche in Paul is neither, after the Greek-Hellenistic fashion, the immortal in man as distinct from the soma, nor does it denote the spiritual as distinct from the material. Psyche stands in general for the natural life of man (cf. Rom. 11:3; 16:4; 1 Thess. 2:8 – to give his “soul,” that is, his life for someone – et al.) This is is most clearly evident in the well-known pronoucements in 1 Corinthians 15:44ff., where Paul places the first man Adam as “living soul” over against Christ as “life-giving Spirit” and speaks of the “physical body” (soma psychikon) sown in weakness and perishablenes as distinguished from the spiritual  body that is to be raised. Psyche and psychical here plainly mean the natural and earthly life, which has no subsistence in itself but is subject to death and destruction; it is here used all but synonymously with “flesh and blood” in verse 50, that which has been taken form the earth (v. 47). In conformity with this Paul speaks as well of the “psychical man,” who cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14), and whom he places over against the spiritual, pneumatic man. In 1 Corinthians 3:1 he equates psychical with sarkic, carnal. It is evident, therefore, that psychical in this context denotes the limited-human that in itself is incapable of grasping or understanding the divine wisdom, of which Paul has said in the preceding chapter that it is the object of God’s special announcement. Psychic and sarkic thus approximate each other very closely here, in that they both denote man in his limitedness and humanity over against the divine possibilities an realities. Otherwise psychical and psyche is not in itself a disqualification. Other than sarx it does not have the special pregant significance of the natural man in his having turned-away-from-God, in his sin. Even when it is not set over against the pneuma given by God it describes man in his natural life, especially according to his inner existence, as may appear in particular from the combinations “of one soul” (= of one mind; Phil. 2:2), “of like soul” (= of one spirit; Phil. 2:20), “well of soul” (= cheerful; Phil. 2:19, et al.).

Paul speaks of pneuma in much the same sense as of psyche, at least so long as he intends the human spirit and not the Spirit of God given to believers (as is usually the case when he speaks of pneuma). Just as psyche, pneuma denotes man in his natural existence, approached from within. The clearest evidence for this is surely the parallel use of pneuma in 2 Corinthians 2:13 (I had no rest for my pneuma) and of sarx in 2 Corinthians 7:5 (our sarx had no rest). Both times it is a matter simply of man in his natural condition, which can be denoted by spirit as well as by flesh. Here again there is no trace of the spirit as a supersensual divine principle inherent in man. Accordingly when Paul says elsewhere: the grace of Christ be with “your spirit” (Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4:23; Phlm. 25), this means the same thing as “with you” (Rom. 16:20; Eph. 6:24, et al.). In the same sense as “one of soul,” etc., the apostle speaks of “in one spirit” (Phil. 1:27), “fellowship of the spirit” (Phil. 2:1, et al.). Nothing else is denoted by all this than man in his natural, inner existence. Accordingly when it is said in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord...,” in all probability one is not to think here of a trichotomistic representation, in which three parts are to be exactly distinguished from each other in man, and in which the pneuma denotes a separate, higher area of life, distinct from the psyche. Rather, we have to do here with a (perhaps traditional) plerophoric mode of expression in which the inner life of man is denoted in two different ways, buto to which no particular psychological or anthropological significance can be ascribed. Paul speaks of the inner man in more ways than one. He uses the word “soul” as well as “spirit” for this without it always being possible to distinguish between them in a technical sense.

– English edition, pp. 120, 121.


Dom Wulstan Mork, The Biblical Meaning of Man, Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 1967:

“Man is seen in the Bible as whole. There is no dividing him into body and soul, or body, soul, and spirit. Man divided against himself is straight Platonism; it is never the thought of revelation. The dichotomy of body and soul either springs from or ends up as body versus soul. The body conceived as the prison of the soul – a concept which has done so much harm to Christian spirituality – is platonic not Christian, and certainly not Hebrew.”

– p. 14.


Guthrie, Shirley C., Jr. Christian Doctrine, USA, 1968 (This cover is from the Revised Edition, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, USA, 1994):

We have been talking about a point of view that from the perspective of Christian faith is falsely pessimistic because it takes death too seriously: it has no hope for the future because it either does not know about or does not believe in a God Who is stronger than death. Now we have to talk about a point of view that from the perspective of Christian faith is falsely optimistic because it does not take death seriously enough. Its hope for the future is based on confidence in a capacity we have within ourselves to survive death rather than on confidence in God’s power over it. Because the position we are about to criticize and reject is just what many believe is the very foundation of Christian hope for the future, we emphasize from the very beginning that we criticize and reject it not to destroy hope for eternal life but to defend an authentically biblical-Christian hope for it that is far better and far more trustworthy.

We refer to belief in the immortality of the soul. This doctrine was not taught by the biblical writers themselves, but it was common in the Greek and oriental religions of the ancient world in which the Christian church was born. Some of the earliest Christian theologians were influenced by it, read the Bible in the light of it and introduced it into the thinking of the church. It has been with us ever since. Calvin accepted it (Institutes 1.15.2,6), and so did the classical confession of the Reformed churches (Scots Confession, 17; Westminster Confession, 34).

According to this doctrine my body will die, but I myself will not really die. My body is only the shell around my true self. It is not me; it is only the earthly-physical house in which I live temporarily, or the earthly-physical prison in which I am trapped for a while. My true self is my soul, the spiritual part of me that is like God and therefore shares God’s immortality (inability to die). What happens at death, then, is that my immortal soul escapes from my mortal body. My body dies, but I myself live on and return to the spiritual realm from which I came and to which I really belong.

If we follow the Protestant Reformation in seeking to ground our faith on “scripture alone”, we must reject this traditional hope for the future based on belief in the immortality of the soul (even if the Reformers did not follow their own advice at this point). There are several reasons why it is unacceptable from a biblical point of view.

1. Bible-believing Christians must reject the doctrine of the soul’s immortality because it is based on an unbiblical understanding of what the soul is. According to scripture, the soul is not the inward divine (and therefore immortal) part of us that comes from God and returns to God; is simply the God-given “breath of life” that makes us living creatures (see our discussion of body and soul in chapter 10). It is true, then, that when we die the soul “departs” and is “gone”. But that does not mean that the immortal divine part of us has departed to live on somewhere else. It means that life has left us, that our lives have come to an end, that we are “dead and gone”. According to scripture, in other words, my soul is just as human, creaturely, finite – and mortal – as my body; it is simply the life of my body. This does not mean that there is no hope for “life after death”, but it does mean that we have no hope at all if our hope is in our own built-in immortality.

2. We say the same thing in another way when we say that biblically based Christian faith rejects hope in the immortality of the soul because that doctrine denies the terrible reality of death. The Bible does not pretend that death is not bad after all because we do not actually die at all but only “pass on” to a new form of existence when our souls escape our bodies. According to scripture, death is real, total, and dreadful. Jesus himself did not face death with the calmness o fone only “passing over to the other side.” He faced it with “loud cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7) and blood-sweating anguish (Luke 22:44)...

The Bible does not teach that the body is an inferior, worthless shell or prison in which we are trapped and from which we long to escape. It teaches that we were created and are body (male or female body!) as well as soul, and that bodily as well as spiritual life is willed and blessed by God. It also teaches that our hope for the future is not for the soul’s escape from bodily-physical life into some higher and better spiritual realm but for renewal for total human existence as embodied souls and besouled bodies. So it was with Jesus: The New Testament does not tell us that his soul left his body and “went home” to be with God; it tells us that God raise him bodilyfrom the dead and that the same earthly Jesus his disciples had known before (to be sure with a transformed “new” body) returned to the God from whom He had come. So it will be with us: We do not look forward to a finally bleak future in which our “naked” souls live on forever; we look forward to a future in which we, the body-creaturely persons we are now, will live (to be sure in a new way) in communion with God and other people. Whether we think about life in this world or in the world to come, contempt for our own (or any other person’s) bodily life is unbiblical and unchristian. Biblical-Christian hope for the future is hope for human beings who are body and soul in their inseparable unity.

Here we have run into the very heart of the Christian hope for the future. We will ask presently what it means more specifically. The point now is that for the sake of a genuinely biblical-Christian hope for the future we must reject hope in the immortality of the soul. On the one hand, Christians are far more honest than that about the total threat and reality of death. On the other hand, Christian hope is far greater than that. Our hope is not in our own deathless spirituality but in the God who creates and re-creates whole human beings. When Christians confess their hope for the future, they say that they believe in “the ressurrection of the body.”...

In the writings of the Old Testament for the most part there is no hope at all for life beyond life in this world. Individuals may hope that God will bless the righteous and punish the unrighteous in this life, but after this life there is no heaven and no hell, nor any real life at all. Everyone who dies goes to the same place, Sheol, “the land of gloom and deep darkness” (Job 10:21), a region where all the dead have a kind of shadowy existence completely CUT off from God and forgotten by God (Ps. 88:4-6, 10-12; 115:17). Israel’s hope for the world is not hope for a new heaven and earth that will come at the end of world history but hope for the coming of a new king like David (a “Son of David” ) who will bring a political kingdom of prosperity, justice, peace, and true religion for all people within history.

Toward the end of the Old Testament period, Israel’s hope for the future changed when the people were carried off into exile. It became clear that in this life it is not the godly who prosper and the ungodly who suffer but just the opposite. There was no longer any realistic hope for a Davidic kingdom before which the nations of the earth would bow. There arose na “apocalyptic” hope for a great cosmic battle between God and all the demonic forces of evil at the end of history, at the end of which God will be victorious. At that time all de dead will be raised to “everlasting life” or to “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2) to receive the reward or punishment they did not receive in this life, and God (not this or that political leader) will establish na eternal kingdom of righteousness beyond history.

In the New Testament, the book of Revelation develops this apocalyptic hope for the future in greatest detail, but it is also the framework for Jesus’ own proclamation of the coming of the kingdom of God and for the theology of the New Testament writers. As a result of Jesus’ preaching and especially his death and resurrection hope for a final world judgment, the resurrection of the dead and the coming of “a kingdom not of this world” became the foundation of Christian faith...

The Resurrection of the Body

We have said that hope for the resurrection of the body is the Christian alternative to hope for the immortality of the soul. If we are to make this Christian alternative our own, we must answer three questions: Why do we confess it? What does it mean: When does it happen?

1.  Why hope for bodily resurrection? The Idea of the resurrection of de dead did not originate with Jesus or the early church. It originated in the apocalyptic eschatology of late Judaism. Jesus’ ministry took place in the midst of a hot debate already going on between the Pharisees who affirmed it and the Sadducees who rejected it. But the first Christians did not hope for resurrection of the dead because Jesus and they agreed with the arguments fo the Pharisees. Nor did they hope for it because they preferred it to speculations and theories about the immortality of the soul. They hoped for it because they believed that it had happened: a dead man actually lived again! Not just a man (so that the event could be considered a freak exception to the rule that dead people stay dead), but one in whom they believed God’s plan for the future of all human beings was revealed. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, we may be sure that God will do the same for everyone. How is this connection between what happened to Jesus and what will happen to all of us made in 1 Cor. 15:12-22 and Rom. 8:11? Once again we see that Christian hope for the future is based on what hás already happened in the past.

2. What does it mean? We began to answer this question in our discussion of the ressurrection of Jesus. We take up here where we left off there. The key to understanding hope for bodily resurrection lies in the fact that for the biblical writers “body,” or “flesh” is a synonym for “human being” Resurrection of the body means resurrection of a person. To hope for it is to hope that my human self, the person that “I” am, will live again. I will not be someone or something different from who and what I am now. I will be myself. The same holds true, of course, for other people.

Now for the biblical writers (as for realistic modern people), it is impossible to think of a human being without a body. How can anyone be a disctint, recognizable individual person without a body? Without ears, eyes, mouths, hands, feet, and the male or female identity that make us the men or women we are, how could we Love, praise, serve, and live in communion with God? How could we recognize, communicate with, and relate personally to other people? Resurrection of persons means necessarily resurrection of their bodies.

This does not mean hope for the revivification or resuscitation of our present physical bodies. The writers of the New Testament knew as well as we do that these bodies may be deforme dor disabled, and that in any case after death they decompose and “return to dust.” Straining to Express the inexpressible, Paul Said that we will have perfect “spiritual bodies” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). We cannot and need not try to conceive exactly what that might mean. But if we follow the rule that our Best clue to what is going to happen to us is what happened to Jesus, we may say that our resurrected body. First John 3:2 says that we do not know what we will be, but we do know that we will be “like him.”

According to the Gospel stories of Jesus’ postresurrection appearances (Matt. 28:9, 10; Luke 24:13-50; John 20:11-29; 21:1-13), the disciples recognized the risen Jesus as the same earthly Jesus they had known before. He was no disembodied ghost. He walked and talked, ate and drank, and could be touched. He had a body. But is was a mysteriously different body. It was so transformed that even those who knew him best did not always recognize him. He could suddenly vanish from sight or appear in a room with locked doors. Whatever we make of the detais of these strange stories, they tell us that there was both continuity and discontinuity between the physical-earthly and the spiritual-resurrected Jesus. He was the same person in a different way.

... In Luke 23:42 Jesus says to the dying thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” In Philippians 1:3 Paul expresses his longing do “depart and be with Christ.” On the other hand, Paul tells us that there is something like a waiting sleep of all the dead until they are all raised at the same time in what was later called a “general resurrection” at the end of history (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Classical Protestant tradition neatly solved this problem by combining the doctrines of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. When we die, God assigns each of us our eternal destiny. Our souls go immediately to heaven or hell, whereas our bodies remain in the grave. On the last day our bodies are raised and reunited with our souls for a final judgment and assgnment to heaven or hell (see chap. 34 of the Westminster Confession). This explanation can be criticized for several reasons: (1) Its separation of body and soul, even temporarily, is unbiblical. (2) The final judgment seems superfluous if the souls of the righteous and the wicked have have already been assigned their permanent places immediately after their death. Why do it all over again? (3) The traditional  explanation confuses the categorias of time and eternity. After death a person is beyond our creaturely categories of space and time. Our distinctions between present and future and the time between them (as well as our categories of up and down) are no longer applicable. The Bible recognizes this when it says that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8). Events that from our point of view are widely separated in time may happen simultaneously from the standpoint of “God’s eternal Now,” which includes past, present, and future at once. (4) Although the traditional explanation does combine two expressions of the New Testament hope for the future, the New Testament itself does not seek to reconcile or combine them but is content to let them stand in their seeming contraditiction and leaves unanswered our questions about exactly when and how it will all happen. Should we not do the same?

– pp. 378-381, 384, 392-394.


Basil Ferris Campbell Atkinson, Life and Immortality: An Examination of the Nature and Meaning of Life and Death as they are revealed in the Scriptures, E. Goodman & Son Ltd., The Phoenix Press, Taunton, England, 1969:

Psychee and Man

There are fourteen occurrences in the New Testament of the word psychee meaning a human being exactly in the same sense as the Hebrew nephesh, four of which are in quotations from the Old Testa­ment. The first two, which appear in the same verse, are the most important and require special examination. In Matthew 10.28 we read, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”. In this text we find the contrast between soul and body which sometimes occurs in the New Testament, though very seldom in the Old under the form of soul and flesh. Our text here taken in isolation is easily capable of implying the survival of the soul after the death of the body and our friends who believe that the soul survives normally take it in this sense. If there were any word in either Old or New Testament to connect survival or immortality with the soul, they would undoubtedly be right. But a careful study of the meaning of the word “soul” in the original language of the Old Testa­ment, and also as we shall see of the New, shows that it is always connec­ted with a human being who is alive on earth and that it dies or is destroyed when death comes to him in the way that is so familiar to our experience. When we bear this in mind, the meaning of the Lord’s words here becomes clear. To kill the body here means to take the present life on earth. But this does not kill the soul or person himself. It only puts him to sleep. He is finally destroyed in the second death, when his person or self is killed for ever. All will agree that destruction in hell is the second death, though we leave the discussion of its exact nature to our fourth section. Parallel to this verse is the Lord’s declaration that Jairus’ daughter was not dead but asleep (Matt. 9.24). She was actually dead (“kill the body”), but as she was going to wake up she could rightly be said to be asleep. In the same way all the dead will rise on the last day, so that as they now lie in their graves their souls, that is to say themselves, may rightly be said not to have been finally killed or destroyed The death which we all know is, as we have seen, the death of the soul, but is not final.

Further examples of  psychee meaning “person” are found in Acts 2.41,43, in Acts 3.23 and 7.14, both in quotations from the Old Testament, in 1 Peter 3.20; 2 Peter 2.14; Romans 2.9; 13.1; 1 Corinthians 15.45 in a quotation from Genesis 2:7; Revelation 18.13 in a quotation from Ezekiel 27.13, and Revelation 20.4. The remaining case is Revelation 6.9, which needs special study. The souls spoken of here are often thought of as the disembodied spirits of the martyrs. A difficulty lies in their strange position underneath the altar and a great difficulty in the fact that they are heard crying for vengeance as if their whole character and principles had been changed by their death. These verses are all symbolic in keeping with the whole of the Apocalypse. The key to their meaning lies in Leviticus 17.14, where the soul is identified with the blood. The passage is parallel with Genesis 4.10, “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground”. The souls are the dead persons of the martyrs (see Numbers 5.2 and other passages in Numbers). The souls in Revelation 20.4 have also been occasionally taken to be disembodied spirits, but the word emphasises the opposite. The souls of the martyrs and the righteous are themselves restored in resurrection from the dust of death and it is the use of the word which brings out this fact and draws attention to it.

– pp. 12, 13.



El Hombre y Su Cuerpo, Xavier Zubiri, Asclepio, 25, 1973, pp. 5-15. Asclepio es una revista electrónica en historia de la medicina. Publica artículos originales sobre historia de la ciencia, haciéndose eco de las diversas corrientes historiográficas de la disciplina (periodicidad semestral):

El hombre, pues, no “tiene” psique y organismo sino que “es” psico-orgánico, porque ni organismo ni psique tienen cada uno de por sí sustantividad ninguna; sólo la tiene el sistema.  Pienso por esto que no se puede hablar de una psique sin organismo.  Digamos, de paso, que cuando el cristianismo, por ejemplo, habla de supervivencia e inmortalidad, quien sobrevive y es inmortal no es el alma sino el hombre, esto es, la sustantividad humana entera.

– Reimpresión en Salesianum (Roma, Itália), 36, 1974, p. 481.

I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, George Eldon Ladd, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, USA, 1975:

To understand the Old Testament hope, we must first of all understand the Old Testament concept of man. It stands in sharp contrast to the Greek view of man. One of the most influential Greek concepts of man stems from Platonic thought and has often had a strong influence on Christian theology. It is that man is a dualism of body and soul. The soul belongs to the real, permanent, noumenal (abstract thought) world; the body belongs to the visible, transitory, temporal, phenomenal world. The body is not thought to be ipso facto evil, as was the case in later Gnostic thought, but it is a hindrance to the cultivation of the mind and the soul. The wise man is he who learns how to discipline the body so that it is held in control and does not impair the cultivation of the soul. In this view, the soul is immortal, and "salvation" means the flight of the soul at death to escape the burden of the phenomenal world and find fulfillment in the world of eternal reality.

A verse in Paul, taken out of context, can be interpreted in this light. "We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). This sounds like Platonic dualism; but in the context of Pauline thought, the eternal "things that are not seen" means the world of God which eventually will break into this world and transform it. This includes the resurrection of the body. Paul never conceives of the salvation of the soul apart from the body. Salvation means the redemption of the body and of the whole created order as well (Rom. 8:21-23).

Paul's view is based upon the Old Testament view of man, in which man's "soul" (nephesh) is primarily his vitality, his life — never a separate "part" of man. "Spirit" is first of all God's spirit (ruach), his breath, his power (Isa. 31:3; 40:7) which created and sustains all living things (Ps. 33:6; 104:29-30). God's spirit creates the human spirit (Zech. 12:1), but neither man's soul nor spirit is viewed as an immortal part of man which survives death. Man's death occurs when his spirit — his breath — is withdrawn (Ps. 104:29; Ecc. 12:7), and his soul — his nephesh — may be said to die (Num. 23:10, literally, "let my soul die the death of the righteous"; Jud. 16:30, "let my soul die with the Philistines"). In other places, the soul (nephesh) is said to depart to Sheol (Ps. 16:10, "For thou dost not give up my soul to Sheol"; cf. Ps. 30:3; 94:17). In these last references, nephesh is practically synonymous with the personal pronoun; there is no thought of an immortal soul existing after death. In sum, the Old Testament view of man is that he is an animated body rather than an incarnated soul. "Life" in the Old Testament is bodily existence in this world in fellowship with the living God (Deut. 30:15-20). "Death" means the end of life but not the cessation of existence. The dead exist in Sheol as "shades" (Prov. 9:18; Isa. 14:9; 26:19). A "shade" is not man's soul or spirit; it is man himself, or rather a pale replica of a man. It is man stripped of his vitality and energy — a shadow of his earthly self. The evil thing about Sheol is that in death, man is cut oft from fellowship with God (Ps. 6:5; 88:10-12; 115:17).

– pp. 44-49.

Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, Frederick Fyvie Bruce, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 1977:

Paul evidently could not contemplate immortality apart from resurrection; for him a body of some kind was essential to resurrection. Our traditional thinking about the `never-dying soul,’ which owes so much to our Greco-Roman heritage, makes it difficult to appreciate Paul’s point of view. Except when immortality is ascribed to God Himself in the New Testament, it is always of the resurrected body that it is predicated, never of the soul. It is no doubt, an over-simplification to say that while for the Greeks that man was an embodied soul, for the Hebrews he was an animated body; yet there is sufficient substance in this statement for us to say that in this as in other ways Paul was a Hebrew born and bred. For some, including several of his Corinthian converts, disengagement from the shackle of the body was a consummation devoutly wished; but if Paul longed to be delivered from the mortality of this present earthly “dwelling,” it was with a view of exchanging it for one that was immortal; to be without a body of any kind would be a form of spiritual nakedness or isolation from which his mind shrank.

– p. 311.

Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Deutschland, 1977-2004:

Die Rezeption des platonischen Theorems zur Unsterblichkeit der Seele durch Theologie und kirchliche Lehräußerungen sicherte ihm auch in der Geschichte des bisherigen Christentums einen überragenden Einfluss. Dieser ist auch heute noch so bedeutend, dass er für viele Menschen die biblische Hoffnung auf die Auferweckung des ganzen Menschen überlagert und sie die platonische Lehre mit dem Kern der christlichen Botschaft vom zukünftigen Leben verwechseln. Die Reformatoren erkannten allerdings, dass diese Lehre von der Unsterblichkeit philosophischen und nicht biblischen Ursprungs ist

– Stichwort “Unsterblichkeit”.


Indian Journal of Theology 27.3-4, July-Dec. 1978. (Indian Journal of Theology [1952-2004] was a bi-annual scholarly journal published jointly by SeramporeCollege [Theology Department] and Bishop’s College, Calcutta, India – photos above).

Gnana Robinson, The Biblical View of Man, (excerpts from pp. 137-149):

God created man as an unitary being; there is not in him a dichotomy of body and soul or a trichotomy of body, soul and spirit. He is not an incarnated soul, but an animated body or flesh. The anthropological terms used both in the Old and the New Testaments present the different aspects of man.

The word 'adam (from 'adamah – ground) refers to man as belonging to the human species; 'ish refers to man as one endowed with power, perhaps the power of the will and choice; 'anash (from 'enosh – weak) stresses the feeble nature of man (Pss. 8:5; 90:3), geber points to man as one with manly vigour as against a woman (Exod. 10:11; 12:37; Josh. 7:14).

Several other words are used to refer to the constituent parts of the human faculty – soul(nepesh), flesh (basar), spirit (ruah), heart (leb/lebab). As seen above, basar represents man in his creaturely nature and more frequently it refers to the entire body (1 Kgs. 21:27; 2 Kgs. 6:30; etc.) or to mankind in general. Nepesh has been variously translated as soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, appetite, emotion and passion. It distinguishes man's inner being from his external body or flesh. It is the seat of emotion and personal desires. Nepesh is not a soul which is imprisoned in a body, as later Greek thought took it, but it is the final result of the creative activity of God which is physical and spiritual at the same time. It is not that man has a soul, but man himself is a soul. It represents the whole man as a living being; in several places it means life (Exod. 4:19; 21:23; 1 Kgs. 19:2).

The word ruah (wind), when used of man, has a wide range of meanings, from 'breath' to 'the spirit of prophecy'. It is the gift of God (Zech. 12:1, 10). It is that element in man which is most closely connected with the nature of God. When basar is animated by ruah it becomes nepesh, a living being (Gen. 2:7). The spirit creates life when it acts; the life reveals itself in various degrees of intensity according to the level the spirit is active in that man. Special gifts of the spirit are given to persons to fulfil extraordinary purposes (Jud. 13:20; 14:6; etc.). Man's spirit is to be controlled by God.

Heart (leb) is the seat of will or the decision making faculty in man (2 Sam. 7:3; 1 Chron. 22:7; Ps. 20:5 [E.4]; Isa. 63:15). Associated with the heart are the kidneys (kilyoth) which have the thinking capacity (Pss. 7:10; 26:2; Jer. 11:20; 20:12). Some other internal organs of the body are also thought to be the seats of different feelings and emotions of man – bowels (me'im) – seat of sorrow and yearning (Isa. 16:11; 3:15; Jer. 31:20); liver (kabed) – seatof grief (Lam. 2:11); womb (rehem, rahamim) – seat of compassion or mercy (Jer. 31:20; Pss. 40:12
[E.11]; 103:4).

Though different functions are ascribed to the different parts of the body, man is considered to be an unitary being. Though dualistic elements under Greek influence are found in some of the late writings of the Old Testament (Eccles. 3:21; 12:7), the main crux of Old Testament anthropology speaks of man as an unitary being. The idea that flesh is opposed to the spirit and is the cause of sin is foreign to the Old Testament. The body and the breath of life, both coming, as they do, from God, are not two elements that they may be isolated and treated separately. The divine life penetrates the total being to such a degree that each organ of the body can express the life of the whole. ‘Man is a psycho-physical being and psychical functions are bound so closely to his physical nature that they are all localised in bodily organs which themselves draw their life from the vital force that animates them.’ Man is, thus, body (flesh), spirit, soul, feeling, mind and heart. He is all these, yet none of these in particular if one tries to identify him with any single category. They are not contrasting elements, but different aspects of one vital personality. Whatever activity a man is engaged in, the predominant aspect, be it soul, heart, face or hand, represents the whole person and induces the other aspects.

This unitary nature of man is preserved in the New Testament as well. According to the Gospel writers, Jesus Christ is the true man whose unitary being is not destroyed even in death; St Paul, too, sees man as an unitary being. Though he uses some of the anthropological terms – soul (psyche), flesh (sarx), body (soma), spirit (pneuma), mind (nous) – common among the Greeks, he uses them more as a Jew with his Old Testament background. Flesh and body are not used in Paul in relation to matter and form as in Aristotelian philosophy. Nor is flesh or body seen as the prison for the soul or the spirit from whose bondage the latter has to be freed.

Soul is less frequent in the New Testament (13 times), compared with its frequency in the Old Testament (756 times). On the other hand, the word spirit is used here more often (146 times). There is no evidence in the New Testament for the pre-existence of soul. The New Testament uses soul in the Old Testament sense to designate man as a living being (Matt. 10:28; 16:26; Luke 9:56; 12:19f.; John 12:27). The existence of the soul without flesh or body is impossible.

With his theocentric faith, Paul sees man in his relation to God, and realises that the highest and best is derived from God. This is why spirit becomes central in his thinking. The word pneuma is used with different shades of meaning – Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ, the divine influence in the life of the believers, the seducing evil spirits, the spirit of bondage, the spirit in a Christian which holds communion with God (1 Cor. 2:11-12), a personal spirit, the natural possession in every man, which, of itself, is neither good nor bad (cf. 1 Cor. 2:11a) and which can be defiled (2 Cor. 7:1). The Spirit of God gives rise to a new spirit in man – the spirit of faith, of adoption, of prophecy etc. (Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 1:17; 1 Cor. 4:21). The Spirit of God recreates the spirit of the natural man, so that the Christian posseses only one spirit, different in quality from that of an unbeliever or natural man. Paul's pneumatic man never loses his own identity; he is never absorbed in the Spirit; he only shares in the fellowship of the Spirit. He is still human, and he shares human weakness, being liable to temptation (1 Cor. 3:1-4; Gal. 6:1). He remains still within the bonds of humanity. As E. Kasemann notes, ‘The terms used in Pauline anthropology all undoubtedly refer to the whole man in the varying bearings and capacities of his existence.’   

Lynn A. De Silva, The Problem of the Self in Buddhism and Christianity, Palgrave Macmillan, London (England) and New York (USA), 1979:

There are however a few instances [in the Bible] which seem to suggest a dichotomy or thichotomy. In this connection the verse most often quoted is Mat. 10:28, where Jesus says: ‘Do not fear those who kill the body; rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.’ Oscar Cullmman’s comment on this verse is as follows:

It might seem to presuppose the view that the soul has no need of the body, but the context of the passage shows that this is not the case. Jesus does not continue: ‘Be afraid of him who kills the soul’; rather: ‘Fear him who can slay both soul and body in Gehenna.’ That is, fear God, who is able to give completely to death; to wit, when He does not resurrect you to life. We shall see, it is true, that the soul is the starting-point of the resurrection, since, as we have said, it can already be possessed by the Holy Spirit in a way quite different from the body. The Holy Spirit already lives in our inner man. ‘By the Holy Spirit who dwells in you (already)’, says Paul in Romans 8:11, ‘God will also quicken your mortal bodies.’ Therefore, those who kill only the body are not to be feared. It can be raised from the dead. Moreover, it must be raised. The soul cannot always remain without a body. And on the other side we hear in Jesus’ saying in Matthew 10:28 that the soul can be killed. The soul is not immortal. There must be resurrection for both; for since the Fall the whole man is ‘sown corruptible’.

Referring to this verse J. Barr says:

This is hardly a statement of the natural immortality of the disembodied soul, but means rather the life of the self is a matter between man and God or man and devil.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 is another verse often quoted in this connection: ‘May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ W. D. Stacey comments on this verse as follows:

The words holoteles and holokleros point to the real meaning. Paul is emphasizing the entirety of the preservation. The whole man is preserved, and spirit, and soul, and body, simply underline the inclusiveness of the conception. Man in every aspect, man in his wholeness, is to be preserved.

Revelation 6:9 (cf. 20:4) also needs to be looked at. ‘And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.’ This picture is taken directly form the sacrificial ritual of the Temple where the blood of the sacrificial animal was offered at the foot of the altar. So the souls of the martyrs ‘beneath the altar’ (mark the phrase) means the life-blood of the martyrs which has been poured out as an offering and a sacrifice to God. It was the Hebrew belief that life was in the blood, so that Deuteronomy 12:23 and Leviticus 17:14 say that ‘blood is the soul.’ In this light the ‘souls of the martyrs’ means their life-blood shed at the altar.

– pp. 82, 83.


The Parables of the Kingdom, Robert Farrar Capon, Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1985:

“Perhaps the biggest obstacle to our seeing the judgment of Jesus as the grand sacrament of vindication is our unfortunate preoccupation with the notion of the immortality of the soul. The doctrine is a piece of non-Hebraic philosophical baggage with which we have been stuck ever since the church got into the wide world of Greek thought. Alone with the concomitant idea of [immediate] ‘life after death ,’ it has given us almost nothing but trouble: both concepts militate against a serious acceptance of the resurrection of the dead that is the sole basis of judgment.

– p. 71.



Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1985. (This cover is from 1991 Edition.):

‘Soul’ in the OT, then, does not indicate some immaterial part of human beings that continues after death. Nepeš essentially means life as it is uniquely experienced by personal beings

As with many biblical terms, the basic meaning of psyche is established by its OT counterpart [nepeš], rather than by its meaning in Greek culture. "Soul" refers to personal life, the inner person. Of its over one hundred NT uses, psyche is rendered by the NIV as "soul(s)" only twenty-five times... While there is much overlap in the NT uses of psyche and pneuma (spirit), there seems to be some areas of distinction as well. Often the focus of contexts in which these terms appear overlaps. Thus, both are used in speaking of personal existence, of life after death, emotions, purpose, and the self. But psyche is also used of one's physical life and of spiritual growth, while pneuma is associated distinctively with breath, worship, understanding, one's attitude or disposition, and spiritual power.

– 1991 Edition, p. 576.



Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon, E. Fahlbusch, J. M. Lochman, J. Mbiti, J. Pelikan, Lukas Vischer,  G. W. Bromiley and D. Barret, Göttingen, Germany, 1986. (Translated into English as Encyclopedia of Christianity, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001):

All Christians believe in immortality, understood as a final resurrection to everlasting life. The majority have held that immortality also includes continuing existence of the soul or person between death and resurrection. Almost every detail of this general confession and its biblical basis, however, has been disputed.

The debate has been fueled by the development of beliefs about the afterlife within the Bible itself and the variety of language in which they are expressed. The Hebrew Bible does not present the human soul (nepeš) or spirit (rûah) as an immortal substance, and for the most part it envisions the dead as ghosts in Sheol, the dark, sleepy underworld. Nevertheless it expresses hope beyond death (see Pss. 23 and 49:15) and eventually asserts physical resurrection (see Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2).

Intertestamental Judaism includes several accounts. The Sadducees emphasized the dissipation of life in Sheol and sometimes adopted Greek materialism, which denied the afterlife altogether. Others, such as Philo, were strongly influenced by Plato and stressed the immortality of the soul rather than physical bodily resurrection. The Pharisees embraced both, the Sheol and the resurrection texts of the OT, affirming an intermediate state, a future bodily resurrection at the coming of the Messiah, and immortality in his kingdom.

The NT develops a position most like the Pharisees (see Acts 23:6–8). While its greatest stress is on the resurrection of the body, which is explicitly identified as “immortal” (see 1 Cor. 15:53–54), it also envisions personal communion with Christ immediately upon death (Luke 23:43, 46; 2 Cor. 5:1–10; Phil. 1:20–24). It uses “soul” (psychē) and “spirit” (pneuma) in largely synonymous, nontechnical senses and does not explicitly describe either as “immortal.” On the basis of this reading of Scripture, most Christians have understood immortality as “everlasting life,” a gift of God to the individual believer that is given already in this life (John 6:47), continues after death in an “intermediate state” until bodily resurrection, and endures forever with God in his eternal kingdom, the new heaven and new earth. The other minority view is implicitly materialistic. It is found mainly among 16th‐century → Anabaptists and later sects, such as Seventh‐day → Adventists. Held in England by Thomas Hobbes and John Milton, it has gained popularity among intellectuals in the 20th century. It holds that a person cannot exist without a body and denies the immortality of the soul. It thus rules out the intermediate state, although it may speak of “soul sleep,” and affirms only the resurrection of the body to immortality at Christ’s second coming. It denies that the OT envisions an afterlife and that the NT teaches an intermediate state. It believes that the majority Christian view results mainly from Platonism, not the Bible. Both the Platonist and materialist minorities agree with the majority that the resurrection will occur at Christ’s return.

In contrast, spiritists, appealing to parapsychological phenomena and near-death experiences, have continued to assert immortality understood literally as personal survival of death.

Christians who find moderns idealism, romanticism, naturalism, - spiritism, or reincarnation more compelling than the traditional biblical worldview often replace the historic Christian view of immortality or attempt to harmonize it with another notion. However, the majority view of the Christian tradition – that personal immortality is a gift of God in Christ already in this life, continues between death and resurrection, and is completed with the resurrection of the body to life in God’s everlasting kingdom – remains the teaching of most churches, and the belief of most Christians worldwide, whether Orthodox, Roman Caholic (see Catechism of the Catholic Church [1994]), or traditional Protestant.

– English Edition, Vol. 2, excerpts from pp. 668-670.


Allen C. Myers, John W. Simpson, Jr., Philip A. Frank, Timothy P. Jenney and Ralph W. Vunderink (eds.), The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1987:

“Indeed, the salvation of the “immortal soul” has sometimes been a commonplace in preaching, but it is fundamentally unbiblical. Biblical anthropology is not dualistic but monistic: human being consists in the integrated wholeness of body and soul, and the Bible never contemplates the disembodied existence of the soul in bliss.”

– p. 518.

SOUL. The usual translation of Heb. nep̱eš and Gk. psychḗ (though most translations retain considerable freedom in their renderings of these terms). As with other terms such as “body,” “heart,” and “spirit,” “soul” does not designate a part of a human being, but rather the whole person considered from one particular aspect of its functioning. As such, it represents primarily the life force of the body (cf. Gen. 2:7) or the inner life of the person, encompassing desires and emotions.

– p. 964.

Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 1987 (This cover is from 2003 edition):

For Plato the soul is immortal, possessing both preexistence and continued postexistence. The Phaedo, set as a conversation between Socrates and his friends in his last hours, is an argument for the immortality of the soul. By definition the soul is life (psyche), and life is antithetical to death. The soul, therefore, does not die but survives the body. Plato draws on the older ideas of transmigration, rewards, and punishment. The real self possesses something divine. The home of the soul is not earth but the sphere of the planets. Plato’s immortality of the soul is a natural immortality, something that is true of the soul by reason of its very nature. This philosophical doctrine of the immortality of the soul is to be distinguished from the Jewish and Christian doctrine of a resurrection of the body and from the patristic doctrine of a created or a conditional immortality of the soul dependent on the Grace and Power of God.

Plato’s theory of knowledge (epistemology) is related to his view of the soul. Knowledge is recollection. Persons can have concepts only because they had them previously. Ideas are a priori, known independently of experience. The soul saw and learned the ideas before it came to dwell in a body. Experience reminds, but it does not prove and validade. Knowledge is innate and must be evoked by the teacher as a mdwife drawing it out of a person.

Plato divided the soul into three parts: the intellectual or rational, the vibrant or spirited, and the desirous or appetitive. His ethics is related to this threefold analysis, as he saw a virtue for each part: wisdom for the intellectual part, courage for the spirited part, and self-control for the desirous part. When there is harmony and balance between the three parts of the soul, with the rational in firm control, then the person reflects the virtue of justice. These four virtues – justice, self-control, courage, and wisdom – were given prominence in the Hellenistic age and became the four natural virtues to which were added the three supernatural virtues (faith, hope, and Love) to form the seven cardinal virtues of the Middle Ages.

Plato’s Influence

Although Plato did not hold a dominant place in the philosophy of the Hellenistic age, he came to that position in the early centuries of the Christian era. Patristic theology took shape largely in the framework of Platonic philosophy. Not only Christian thought but also some Jewish (notably Philo) and later Islamic philosophy owed much to him. Plato’s emphasis on nonmaterial reality, a deathless soul distinct form the body, the idea of a cosmic religion (beauty of the celestial order above), and a just society has been enormously influential.

– p. 335.



Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ, Eerdmans, 1989:

What may be deduced from the Biblical revelation? First of all, that man as originally created was both potentially immortal and potentially mortal. In close association with this is his having been created potentially sinless, but also potentially sinful. The possibility of his sinning involved the possibility of his dying, just as the possibility of his not sinning involved the possibility of his not dying. As we have remarked earlier, this does not mean that man was originally created in a state of neutrality between righteousness and sinfulness and between living and dying; for, on the contrary, his creation in the divine image, which is the bond of his personal fellowship with his Maker, placed his existence quite positively within the sphere of godliness and life. His loving and grateful concurrence with the will of God, who is the source of his life and blessedness, would have ensured the continuation of his existence in unclouded blessing as he conformed himself to that image in which he is constituted. It was by his rebellion against his Creator that he passed from a positive to a negative relationship and brought the curse upon himself. His death, which is the sum of that curse, is also the evidence that man is not inherently immortal.

To contend that only the human soul is innately immortal is to maintain a position which is nowhere approved in the teaching of Scripture, for in the biblical purview human nature is always seen as integrally compounded of both the spiritual and the bodily. If this were not so, the whole doctrine of the incarnation and of the death and resurrection of the Son would be despoiled of meaning and reality. Man is essentially a corporeal-spiritual entity. God's warning at the beginning, regarding the forbidden tree, 'In the day that you eat of it you shall die,' was addressed to man as a corporeal-spiritual creature - should he eat of it, it as such that he would die. There is no suggestion that a part of him was undying and therefore that his dying would be in part only.

The immortality, accordingly, of which the Christian is assured is not inherent in himself or in his soul but is bestowed by God and is the immortality of the whole person in the fulness of his humanity, bodily as well as spiritual.

– p. 400.

Richard Tarnas, Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, 1991 (This cover is a from 1993 edition, Ballantine Books, New York, USA):

The Neoplatonic philosophical structure, developing simultaneously alongside early Christian theology in Alexandria, seemed to offer an especially fitting metaphysical language within which could be better comprehended the Judaeo-Christina vision. In Neoplatonism, the ineffable transcendent Godhead, the One, had brought forth its manifest image – the divine Nous or universal Reason – and the World Soul. In Christianity, the transcendent Father had brought forth his manifest image – the Son or Logos – and the Holy Spirit. But Christianity now brought dynamic historicity into the Hellenic conception by asserting that the Logos, the eternal truth which had been present from the creation of the world, had now been sent forth into world history in human form to bring that creation, by means of the Spirit, back to its divine essence. In Christ, heaven and earth were reunited, the One and the many reconciled. What had been the philosopher’s private spiritual ascent was now, through the Incarnation of the Logos, the historical destiny of the entire creation. The Word would awaken all mankind. Through the indwelling  of the Holy Spirit would occur the world’s return to the One. That supreme Light, the true source of reality shining forth outside Plato’s cave of shadows, was now recognized as the light of Christ. As Clement of Alexandria announced, “By the Logos, the whole world is now become Athens and Greece.”

It is indicative of this intimacy between Platonism and Christianity that Plotinus and Origen, the central thinkers, respectively, of the last school of pagan philosophy and the first school of Christian philosophy, shared the same teacher in Alexandria, Ammonius Saccas (a mysterious figure about whom virtually nothing is known). Plotinus’s philosophy, in turn, was pivotal in Augustine’s gradual conversion to Christianity. Augustine saw Plotinus as whom “Plato lived again,” and regarded Plato’s thought itself as “the most pure and bright in all philosophy,” so profound as to be in almost perfect concordance with the Christian faith. Thus Augustine held that the Platonic Forms existed within the creative mind of God and that the ground of reality lay beyond the world of the senses, available only through a radical inward-turning of the soul. No less Platonic, although thoroughly Christian, was Augustine’s paradigmatic statement that “the true philosopher is the lover of God.” And it was Augustine’s formulation of Christian Platonism that was to permeate virtually all of medieval Christian thought in the West. So enthusiastic was the Christian integration of the Greek spirit that Socrates and Plato were frequently regarded as divinely inspired pre-Christian saints, early communicators of the divine Logos already present in pagan times – “Christians before Christ,” as Justin Martyr claimed. In ancient Christian icons, Socrates and Plato were portrayed among the redeemed whom Christ led forth from the underworld after his storming of Hades. In itself classical culture may have been finite and perishable, but from this view it was being reborn through Christianity, endowed with new life and new meaning. Thus Clement declared that philosophy had prepared the Greeks for Christ, just as the Law had prepared the Jews.

– pp. 102-104.


Pedro Laín Entralgo, Cuerpo y Alma, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, España, 1991 (En portugués, Corpo e Alma, 2003 - Ediciones Almedina, Portugal):

Ni Jesús ni San Pablo dicen que la muerte humana consista en la separación de un alma inmortal y un cuerpo mortal. La tan sabida distinción paulina entre "sarx" (carne), "psykhé" (alma) y "pneuma" (espíritu) no es mencionada ni aludida en los textos que hablan de la resurrección de los muertos. ¿Cómo, pues, ha surgido y se ha hecho tradicional y punto menos que canónica la concepción del hombre como la unión de un alma y un cuerpo?...

El "alma separada" – el alma tras la muerte del cuerpo – existe en una situación "inconveniente" a su naturaleza, e incluso "contra su naturaleza". Su estado en el cuerpo es más perfecto que fuera de él; unida al cuerpo se asemeja más a Dios que separada de él...

Esta concepción estructurista de la entera realidad del hombre conduce necesariamente a la idea de la ‘muerte total’ o Ganztod, como la llaman los actuales teólogos tudescos. Al morir, todo el hombre muere. Ante su muerte física, y más allá de la pervivencia en el mundo — fama, recuerdo y afecto de los que nos amaron — a que exclusivamente se refería la sentencia horaciana, todo hombre puede decir: omnis moriar. Pero, tras la muerte física, un misterioso designio de la sabiduría, el poder y la misericordia infinitas de Dios hace que el hombre que murió, el hombre entero, resucite a una vida esencial y misteriosamente distinta de la que en este mundo se mostraba como materia, espacio y tiempo. Más allá de la materialidad, de la espaciosidad y la temporeidad, el hombre vivirá según lo que su vida en el mundo hubiese sido. En esta vida perdurable tiene su objeto más propio la esperanza del cristiano. Por lo cual, después de haber dicho ese radical omnis moriar, moriré todo yo, el cristiano dice de sí mismo y piensa que pueden decir todos los hombres: omnis resurgam, todo yo resucitaré.”


– págs. 284, 286, 289.


Jürgen Moltmann, Der Geist des lebens, Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Germany, 1991. (English: The Spirit of Life, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, USA, 1992):

In the degree to which Christianity cut itself off from its Hebrew roots and acquired Hellenistic and Roman form, it lost its eschatological hope and surrendered its apocalyptic alternative to this world of violence and death. It merged into late antiquity’s gnostic religion of redemption. From Justin onwards, most of the Fathers revered Plato as a “Christian before Christ” and extolled his spiritual world. God’s eternity now took the place of God’s future, heaven replaced the coming kingdom, the spirit that redeemed the soul from the body supplanted the Spirit as “the well of life,” the immortality of the soul displaced the resurrection of the body, and the yearning for another world became a substitute for changing this one.

– p. 89 (from English version).


George Bradford Caird and L. D. Hurst (Ed.), New Testament Theology, 1994:


'Eschatology' is a nineteenth-century German term which was introduced into English as early as 1845. Its classical definition is found in the Oxford English Dictionary (1891 and 1933): 'The department of theological science concerned with the four last things, death, judgement, heaven and hell.' In this sense 'eschatology' deals with the ultimate destiny of the individual. Since the beginning of this century, however, the word has been used in the sense we all now take for granted, to cover the biblical teaching about the destiny of the world and the working out of God's purposes in and through his holy people. 16 These two distinct types of eschatology may be called 'individual' and 'historical'…

The historic is almost the only kind of eschatology we find in the Old Testament — hardly surprising when it is remembered that almost all the books of the Old Testament were already written before the Jews achieved a belief in an afterlife (below). It is regrettable, however, that the one word ever came to be used to cover two such divergent forms of future hope, for its use has almost inevitably led to the quite baseless assumption that the finality which attaches to death, judgement, heaven, and hell must be characteristic also of national eschatology, and therefore to an intolerable kind of literalism in the interpretation of the imagery used by prophet and apocalyptist to describe the Day of the Lord. The complexity of the issue is exacerbated in the New Testament, since by this time both Jews and Christians hold a well-established belief in life after death. It is therefore not always easy to tell whether we are dealing with national or individual eschatology, and, as the Church moved more and more away from its original Palestinian setting into the Gentile world, there must have been a tendency to reinterpret the national in terms of the individual.

16 In I. Singer et al. (eds.), The Jewish Encyclopaedia (New York, 1901-6) v. 209, Kaufmann Kohler wrote: 'Jewish Eschatology deals primarily and principally with the final destiny of the Jewish nation and the world in general, and only secondarily with the future of the individual: the main concern of Hebrew legislator, prophet, and apocalyptic writer being Israel as the people of God and the victory of His truth and justice.'


The distinction between the two senses is well illustrated by a passage in the Revelation of John:

When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of these who had been slaughtered for God's word and for holding to the testimony. They cried aloud, 'How long, sovereign Lord, holy and true, is it to be before you pass sentence and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of earth?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait patiently for a little while longer, until the roll of their brothers should be complete, those who were to be killed in Christ's service as they had been ( Rev. 6:9-11).

The question 'how long?' takes us straight to the heart of all eschatology, whether personal or national; for, as we have seen, eschatology arises out of the clash between faith in a benevolent purpose of God and the harsh facts of a ruthless world. 'If only we knew,' say the martyrs, 'where it is all going to end.' But the point is that these martyrs are given a double answer to their question. First, 'each of them was given a white robe'. These robes are unquestionably the symbol of eternal life; they have already been promised to the conqueror, along with other symbols of heavenly bliss, in the letters to the seven churches; and in the next chapter John is to see the white-robed throng of victorious martyrs led by the Good Shepherd into the green pastures beside the still waters of the spring of life. But the gift of immortality is not in itself an adequate answer to the cry of the martyrs. They have died for God's word, and no theodicy can justify their death except the triumph of the cause for which they gave their lives. It is for the vindication of God's justice within earthly history that they are 'told to wait patiently a little while longer'. The initial victory of God over the powers of evil has been won by Christ on the Cross. But that victory must be repeated over and over again in the victory of the conquerors, and only when the full tally of martyrs is complete will the final victory be won.

That during the formative period of Jewish eschatology the Hebrew people had no belief in the afterlife is a fact which can hardly be overstressed. Sheol, like the Hades of the Greeks, was the land of the dead, the final dumping-ground, and was usually associated with such terms as death, oblivion, darkness, the grave, and the pit. Its inhabitants were shades, wraiths, pale photocopies relegated to the subterranean filing cabinet. 18 The individual only survives via a good name and progeny. It was national survival that counted; and as late as the second century BC Jesus ben Sira still understood the reward of pious Jews to be the continuance of their children 'within the covenants, where their name lives for ever' (Ecclus. 44:12-14).

When belief in an afterlife finally began to emerge, it was as a byproduct of a belief in a new age of world history dawning for the nation of Israel. The idea of resurrection, which we automatically associate with personal immortality, was first used by Hosea and Ezekiel figuratively of a national revival, and only four centuries later did it come to be used literally by Daniel of the resuscitation of the righteous dead, who would need their bodies to join in the glorious future of the nation, to which God had at last entrusted world dominion ( Dan. 12:2). Through the doctrine of the remnant another element of individualism was injected into the national hope, because it became a matter of individual faith and loyalty who did and who did not belong to the holy people of God. This dawning perception of the worth of the individual to God, often associated with Jeremiah, achieves full expression in some of the later psalms, the idea now being that the righteous have a communion with God that even death cannot destroy. When the author of the Wisdom of Solomon claims that 'the souls of the just are in God's hand . . . for though in the sight of men they are punished, they have a sure hope of immortality... because God tested them and found them worthy to be his' (3:1-5), he may be using language borrowed from the Hellenistic world, 19 but his ideas are a bequest from his Jewish ancestors.

Yet in spite of a number of such points of contact, personal eschatology and national eschatology must remain distinct, and much of our difficulty with New Testament eschatology arises out of a confusion between the two. The situation is not helped by the fact that even within each of these two separate types, New Testament eschatology exhibits a bewildering variety. If we restrict ourselves to personal eschatology, what are we to make of the promise to the penitent thief, 'Today you shall be with me in Paradise' (Luke 23:43), which appears to conflict so strikingly with the doctrine that Jesus himself rose on the third day, and also with the widespread belief that the dead sleep until the resurrection at the last day? We cannot avoid the difficulty by demoting Paradise to the status of a waiting room, for then the promise would be less, not more, than the thief had asked. In any case we have the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) to reckon with; for they appear to be already assigned at death to their respective destinations of torment and bliss. When we turn to the Epistles of Paul, we receive the general impression that the resurrection of the body is to take place only at the last trumpet. Yet in his first letter he can say that whether we wake or sleep we shall be alive with Christ (1 Thess. 5:10), and in his last letter he can speak of being ready to depart to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23; below). In the Revelation there is the passage already mentioned, in which the martyrs are given the white robes which equip them for eternal life in the celestial city. Yet at a later stage in the story, after they have waited the 'little while longer', they are said to be the only ones to participate in 'the first resurrection', which enables them to share the millennial reign of Christ (20:4-6).

18 According to Ezek. 32:22-30 the dead in Sheol are arranged in nations. Cf. also the beginning of Homer Iliad, which depicts the bodies of the soldiers littering the field of battle while their shades are in Hades.

19 The Greeks, no longer content with the drabness of the classical Hades, came under the influence of the philosophers to believe that the body is a tomb and the earth a prison house from which the pious soul must strive to escape at death.

This handful of examples will be amplified below, but at this point it may serve to illustrate the problem. In the past there has been a tendency to treat these varieties of eschatology as evidence either for a steady growth from primitive naïveté to ultimate sophistication, or for a decline from a hypothetical norm, the teaching of Jesus, which the early Church -whether from weakness of intellect or through a misguided zeal for applying that teaching to a new Sitz im Leben totally misunderstood.

– pp. 243-245.


7.4.1. The Redemption of the Body

We have allowed the New Testament authors to discuss the universal aspects of salvation, but this is not the whole story. Salvation must also extend to the individual. And for Paul, the earliest New Testament writer to discuss the resurrection of Jesus, the most obvious aspect of salvation which is still to come is the redemption of the body. Here we concentrate totally on Paul, for the simple reason that this is one of his unique contributions to the conference table.

After his conversion Paul accepted the early Church's account of what happened to Jesus on Easter Sunday and rapidly built it into the structure of his theology. He believed that when Christ left the tomb his physical body was transformed into a spiritual or glorious body (Phil. 3:21), just as a seed when planted in the ground dies and is given a new body (1 Cor. 15:36-8). So too the Christian must undergo a future transformation. In 1 Corinthians this is envisaged as happening suddenly, 'in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye' ( 1 Cor. 15:52). A slightly different picture of the process emerges in the second letter, where Paul assures his readers that the Christian life is a steady transfiguration into the likeness of Christ. This metamorphosis goes on through a daily renewal of the inner nature, even as the outward appearance is decaying ( 2 Cor. 4:16). Some modern interpreters would have been happier if at this point Paul had said that the outer husk drops away and leaves the inner self unhampered by its weakness. But the Jew did not believe that human beings consist of an immortal soul entombed for a while in a mortal body. What happened to the body happened to the person. If there is to be eternal life, then this lowly body of humiliation must be changed even as Christ's has been.

The New Testament writers have often been accused of treating human beings as brands plucked from the burning and the world in general as a grim vale of soul-making, with the brilliant achievements of human labour, skill, and thought as nothing more than the expendable backdrop for the drama of redemption. This was hardly the view of the Hebrews of the Old Testament. We have seen that most of the books of the Old Testament were written at a time when the Hebrew people had no belief in an afterlife for the individual. For them life meant this life. Like the God of the Creation story, they looked at the world, and behold, it was very good. Their eschatology was concerned with the vindication in history of the truth and justice of God and of His purpose for Israel and the world. The end they looked for might be described as a new heaven and a new earth, but this was figurative language, and what they meant was the present heaven and earth renewed by the transfiguring radiance of God. Their belief in an afterlife for the individual was grafted somewhat uneasily on to the older and more earthly hope. Paul's views on this point were partly the result of this Jewish background, and partly the result of his own experience. We saw above how his critics at Corinth had tried to use his battered, unimpressive physical condition to undermine his authority, implying that if he were a real apostle God would take better care of him. Paul counters this charge by making capital of his weakness, notwithstanding his old horror of decay inherited from a Greek background. The critics, he claims, are basing their judgement on what is visible and transient (2 Cor. 4:18), just as he had once judged Christ by outward and worldly standards; but when on the Damascus Road he saw the glory of the Son of God revealed, he was never again able to view any human being on the same superficial basis ( 2 Cor. 5:16). The Christian life is therefore a steady process, the goal of which for the believer is to be transformed into the image of Christ from one stage of glory to another ( 2 Cor. 3:18); or, as he puts it elsewhere, 'to experience the power of the resurrection, and to share his sufferings, in growing conformity with his death, if only I may finally arrive at the resurrection of the dead' ( Phil. 3:10). In the latter passage resurrection, sufferings, and death are not seen as episodes in the story of Jesus, nor as future experiences in which Christians are one day to share, but as forces present in the Christian life now (otherwise Paul would hardly have put resurrection first). It is his belief in, and hope of, the resurrection which forms the starting point of all Christian experience. Such knowledge, on the other hand, might well lead to pride; thus to protect against it God has provided that the transformation be concealed within 'an earthenware vessel', a perishable body subject to pain and decay ( 2 Cor. 4:7, cf. 12:7-9); it is a treasure hid with God in Christ (Col. 3:2; cf. 2:3). Later God will clothe Christians with a new body, corresponding to the secret, inner life which God has built up within them and ready to be put on like a suit of clothes. This is so that when we appear before him we will not be 'naked' (gymnos), i.e. bodiless. While to the Greek this might be expected, to the Jew it is unthinkable.45

As to where this resurrection life is to be lived, Paul's thinking may have undergone some development. When he wrote his earliest letter, he gave no hint concerning the question; believers, whether dead or alive at the coming of Christ, would be caught up to meet him in the air ( 1 Thess. 4:17). But years later in his letter to Rome he gives the impression that the life everlasting is to be lived on a transformed earth. It is likely that between the two writings he had wrestled with the question of the relation of the human physical body to the physical cosmos of which it is a part, and had concluded that the redemption of the body was unthinkable apart from the transformation of the universe as a whole (Rom. 8:18-25). Paul shared the commonly held view that the subhuman creation had been involved in the fall of the human race; the ground had been cursed for Adam's sake, and, deprived of its proper control, nature had become red in tooth and claw. Thus for Paul the whole natural order is subject to the law of decay. The human body, which links the human race with animals that are perishing, must therefore be transformed 'by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to himself' ( Phil. 3:21). Paul here alludes to Psalm 8 ( Rom. 8:20 46 --cf. 1 Cor. 15:26; Eph. 1:22), where God's purpose is that the universe should be subject to humanity. Paul's whole doctrine of the End, and his vision of a universe redeemed, whatever minor factors may have contributed to it, is in the main a logical development of his belief that Christ is the second Adam, the one who truly reflects God's rule over the cosmos (Col. 1: 15 ff.). Paul was certainly not dependent in this view on any literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2; there did not actually have to be a time when Adam exercised that dominion over all creation which he now attributes to Christ. All he needed to believe was that God had deliberately left creation incomplete, in order that it might be completed by the co-operation of the human race, His image in this world, and that with the coming of Christ this co-operation had become a genuine possibility. In this astonishingly modern view of the relation of human beings to their cosmic environment, they are part and parcel of the created order and must be saved in their integrity if they are to be saved at all.

45 On 'naked' in 2 Cor. 5:3 cf. Jean Héring, The Second Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (London, 1967), 37: 'Never at any time did the Apostle envisage taking possession of the glory-body before the parousia. This is precisely why the state intermediate between death and resurrection is characterized as "nakedness".'

46 At first blush Rom. 8:20 does not appear relevant to Ps. 8. Yet who is the 'subjector' (hypotaksanta)? Humankind, Satan, and God are possibilities (cf. W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Edinburgh, 1902), 208, and G. W. H. Lampe, "The New Testament Doctrine of Ktisis", SJT 17 ( 1964), 458). But that the subjection is performed 'in hope' is decisive--God must be the subjector, which makes Rom. 8:20 almost certainly an echo of Ps. 8:6.


A large part of our difficulty with New Testament eschatology continues to be caused by our attempts to force it into an alien dogmatic mould. Along this line it may be surprising to note that there are few, if any, passages in the New Testament that promise that people will go to heaven when they die. It is true that their inheritance or treasure or new life is frequently said to be laid up for them in heaven; but those who inherit a fortune do not have to live in the vaults of their father's bank in order to enjoy it.

For Paul the 'down-payment' (arrabōn) 47 of this future inheritance is the Spirit which God has given the Christian, a spirit not of slavery but of sonship, crying, 'Abba, father' ( Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). This enables the Christian to enter into the relationship which Jesus has with God as Father: Jesus is leading many sons to His own glory ( Rom. 8:19), although we groan along with the rest of the universe waiting for it to happen. The truly surprising feature of Paul's theology on this point is not the groaning of the universe 48 but the equation of sonship with the redemption of the body ( Rom. 8:23).

Elsewhere Paul relates the future redemption of the body to the resurrection of Christ by an appeal to the Jewish calendar: Jesus has been raised from the dead, the 'firstfruits of them that sleep' (1 Cor. 15:20). The imagery is drawn from the ecclesiastical year which began Nissan 1 (late March), with the first festival, Passover (Nissan 15) coinciding with the first of the eight days of Unleavened Bread. On the third day of the eight the priests offered a wave offering of the first sheaf of the harvest, and seven weeks later they celebrated the ingathering of the grain harvest at Pentecost. Paul's vivid analogy, in which the Church is living between Passover and Pentecost, with the firstfruits already offered but the harvest yet to come, might naturally give rise to imminent expectations: Passover had happened, and now Pentecost is not far off. But in another sense Pentecost had happened.

The imagery was not intended to produce a logical conceptual unity such as we might insist upon today. The Spirit came, in accordance with the scriptures; and this was also an event of the last days (cf. Acts 2:16 ff.)

47 On this term see above, p. 128 n. 22.

48 See above, p. 105, for the Jewish view that the whole universe fell with Adam. This shows that on this point Paul was not innovating.


7.4.2. Death and Eternity

One of the great perplexities surrounding the future hope in the New Testament is the fact that alongside the traditional Jewish belief in the resurrection of the body at the Last Day lie statements which seem to imply that the future life begins immediately at death. In Mark 12: 18 ff. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob already enjoy eternal life in the presence of God. According to Luke 16:19 ff. the future punishment and reward of the rich man and Lazarus, respectively, are experienced at a point when there is still the opportunity for messengers of warning to be sent to living relatives. As we have seen, the difficulty of harmonizing the promise to the penitent thief ('Today you shall be with me in Paradise', Luke 23:43) with the traditional Jewish expectation of 'a resurrection of good and wicked alike' (Acts 24:15) is not eased by demoting Paradise to the status of a waiting room. And when John of Patmos looks under the heavenly altar and sees the souls of those who have suffered for their testimony, and hears their plea for vindication, he gets a twofold response. All the martyrs are to be given a white robe, the token of eternal life, but the final triumph of the cause for which they died must be delayed until the filling up of the full tally of those who are to die in God's cause. Here entry into the presence of God and the partaking of 'the springs of the water of life' (7:17) are not delayed until the final denouement of history.

The problem presents itself in its most acute form in Paul, who appears to speak in both ways, sometimes in the confines of a single letter. It has already been noted that in Philippians 3:20 f. Paul expresses belief in a future bodily transformation at the day of Christ.

But in the same letter his desire is 'to depart and be with Christ; that is better by far; but for your sake there is greater need for me to stay on in the body' (1:23). And in his second letter to the church at Corinth, in a discussion ringing with echoes of his earlier comments in 1 Corinthians 15 concerning the future resurrection, he says, 'We know that as long as we are at home in the body we are exiles from the Lord ... We are confident, I repeat, and would rather leave our home in the body and go to live with the Lord' ( 2 Cor. 5:6-8).

This dilemma has led interpreters to extremely diverse solutions. Philippians 1:23, for instance, has been construed variously to mean:
(1) Paul thinks that he would experience a special bodily translation, as had happened in the case of Enoch and Elijah. (2) He is thinking of the particular reward reserved only for martyrs. (3) He is not thinking of life after death but of the identity with Christ in martyrdom. (4) He is thinking of a bodiless intermediate state in which the dead wait for the final resurrection. (5) In true Hebrew fashion he is using parataxis, in which mutually irreconcilable views are held without any attempt to reconcile them.

Such views are obviously not of the same weight. With reference to (1), for instance, if Paul were thinking of a special case, whether himself alone or the category of martyrs, it is hardly likely that he would have addressed his comments to the entire Corinthian church in the first person plural ('We are confident . . .', 2 Cor. 5:6-8). 49 Nor does it make much sense that he would have viewed the sleep of death as far better, or that Christians who are slumbering in their tombs are 'with Christ', who has long since left the tomb.

There is one other option to consider before we dissolve into exegetical despair. Paul may have thought of death in a very real sense as sleep. When one is asleep time is, from our conscious perspective, suspended. The next thing one is consciously aware of is waking. Along the same lines after falling asleep in death the next thing the Christian is aware of is the Day of Christ. Thus it could be equally truethat one enters the presence of Christ at the moment of death and that this is experienced by everyone simultaneously.

Such a potentially ingenious solution to the problem of relating time and eternity should not be dismissed by twentieth-century sophisticates as too 'modern'. If the apostolic conference finds itself at an impasse on this point, perhaps it should allow a voice from the gallery to enter the discussion. While younger than the New Testament writers and not in their canonical league, the writer of 2 Esdras has an interesting solution to the problem we are considering:

49 It also runs counter, incidentally, to Paul's emphasis on salvation sola fide.


I said, 'But surely, lord, your promise is to those who are alive at the end. What is to be the fate of those who lived before us, or of ourselves, or of those who come after us?'

He said to me, 'I will compare the judgment to a circle: the latest will not be too late, nor the earliest too early.' (2 Esd. 5:41 f.)

The idea is that in a circle all points on the circumference are equidistant from the centre. Could one ask for a better analogy to the problem of death and resurrection, in which every person's death is equidistant from the Day of the Lord?

– pp. 266-272.



Jürgen Moltmann, Das Kommen Gottes: Christliche Eschatologie, Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Germany, 1995 (English: The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, USA, 1996):

The immortality of the soul is an opinion – the resurrection of the dead is a hope. The first is a trust in something immortal in the human being, the second a trust in the God who calls into being the things that are not, and makes the dead live. In trust in the immortal soul we accept death, and in a sense anticipate it. In trust in the life-creating God we await the conquest of death - 'death is swallowed up in victory' (I Cor. 15.54) - and an eternal life in which 'death shall be no more' (Rev. 21.4). The immortal soul may welcome death as a friend, because death releases it from the earthly body; but for the resurrection hope, death is 'the last enemy' (I Cor. 15.26) of the living God and the creations of his love.

– pp. 65, 66.

Samuelle Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? - A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, Biblical Perspectives, USA, 1997:

“To Depart and Be With Christ.” In writing to the Philippians, Paul says: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Phil 1:22-23). Dualists consider this text one of the strongest proofs that at death the soul of the saved immediately goes into the presence of Christ. For example, Robert Morey states: “This is the clearest passage in the New Testament which speaks of the believer going to be with Christ in heaven after death. This context deals with Paul’s desire to depart this earthly life for a heavenly life with Christ. There is no mention or allusion to the resurrection in this passage.”

The fundamental problem with this interpretation is the failure to recognize that Paul’s statement, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ” is a relational and not an anthropological statement. By this I mean, it is a statement of the relation that exists and continues between the believer and Christ through death, not a statement of the “state” of the body and soul between death and the resurrection.

Helmut Thielicke correctly points out that the New Testament is not concerned about a ‘state’ which exists between death and resurrection, but for a relation that exists between the believer and Christ through death. This relationship of being with Christ is not interrupted by death because the believer who sleeps in Christ has no awareness of the passing of time. As Thielicke puts it, “The removal of a sense of time means for those who are awakened that the long night of death is reduced to a mathematical point, and they are thus summoned out of completed life.”

The attempts to extract from Paul’s statement support for the belief in the transit of the soul to heaven at death are unwarranted because, as Ray Anderson rightly observes, “Paul did not think the question of the status of the person between death and resurrection was a question that needed to be considered.” The reason is that for Paul those who “die in Christ” are “sleeping in Christ” (1 Cor 15:18; 1 Thess 4:14). Their relation with Christ is one of immediacy, because they have no awareness of the passing of time between their death and resurrection. They experience what may be called “eternal time.” But for those who go on living on earth-bound temporal time there is an interval between death and resurrection. The problem is that we cannot synchronize the clock of eternal time with that of our temporal time. It is the attempt to do this that has led to unfortunate speculations and controversies over the so-called intermediate state.

By expressing his desire “to depart and be with Christ,” Paul was not giving a doctrinal exposition of what happens at death. He is simply expressing his longing to see an end to his troubled existence and to be with Christ. Throughout the centuries, earnest Christians have expressed the same longing, without necessarily expecting to be ushered into Christ’s presence at the moment of their death. Paul’s statement must be interpreted on the basis of his clear teachings regarding the time when believers will be united with Christ.

With Christ at His Coming. Paul addresses this question in his letter to the Thessalonians where he explains that both the sleeping and living believers will be united with Christ, not at death, but at His coming. “The dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). The “so” (houtos) refers to the manner or way in which believers will be with Christ, namely, not by dying, but by being resurrected or translated at His coming. Basil Atkinson notes that the word “so” in Greek houtos “means ‘in this way.’ Its place here at the beginning of the sentence makes it emphatic, so that the meaning of the sentence becomes: ‘And this is the way that we shall be for ever with the Lord,’ implying that there is no other way and leading us to conclude that we shall not be with the Lord till the day of the resurrection.”

It should be noted that in describing the union with Christ which believers will experience at His coming, Paul never speaks of disembodied souls being reunited with resurrected bodies. Rather, he speaks of “the dead in Christ” being risen (1 Thess 4:16). Obviously, what is risen at Christ’s coming is not just dead bodies but dead people. It is the whole person who will be resurrected and reunited with Christ. Note that the living saints will meet Christ at the same time “together with” the resurrected saints (1 Thess 4:17). Sleeping and living saints meet Christ “together” at His coming, not at death.

The total absence of any Pauline allusion to an alleged reunion of the body with the soul at the time of the resurrection constitutes, in my view, the most formidable challenge to the notion of the conscious survival of the soul. If Paul knew anything about this, he would surely have alluded to it, especially in his detailed discussion of what will happen to sleeping and living believers at Christ’s coming (1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:42-58). The fact that Paul never alluded to the conscious survival of the soul and its reattachment to the body at the resurrection clearly shows that such a notion was totally foreign to him and to Scripture as a whole.

G. C. Berkouwer correctly observes that “New Testament believers are not oriented towards their ‘private bliss’ so that they forget the coming Kingdom, but they do indeed await being ‘with Christ,’ for in Him they acquired a new future.” The eschatological hope of being with Christ is not an individualistic hope realized at death by disembodied souls, but a corporate hope realized at Christ’s coming through the resurrection, or translation, of the whole person and of all the believers.

Paul’s desire “‘to depart and be with Christ’ does not reflect a wish for an intimate ‘entre nous [between us experience]’ in heaven, because the phrase is integrally related to cosmic redemption at the end of time.”57 The cosmic, corporate dimension of the “with Christ” experience is clearly evident in the same epistle to the Philippians, where Paul speaks repeatedly of the consummation of the Christian hope on the day of Christ’s coming. He reassures the Philippians that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ’s coming” (Phil 1:6). The completion and consummation of redemption takes place not by going to be with Christ at death, but by meeting with Christ on the glorious day of His coming.

It is Paul’s prayer that the Philippians “may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Phil 1:10). On that day, Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil 3:21). It is this change from mortality to immortality that makes it possible for believers to be with Christ. This is why in the same epistle Paul tells that he was “straining forward” toward that day because he knew that he would receive “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14), not at death, but at the glorious day of Christ’s coming.

“At Home With the Lord.” In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Paul expresses again the hope of being with Christ by using several striking metaphors. This passage is rightly regarded as the “crux interpretum,” primarily because the figurative language is cryptic and open to different interpretations. Unfortunately, many interpreters are eager to derive from this passage, as from Philippians 1:22-23, precise anthropological, chronological, or cosmological definitions of life after death. Such concerns, however, are far removed from Paul, who is using the poetic language of faith to express his hopes and fears regarding the present and future life, rather than the logical language of science to explain the afterlife. All of this should put the interpreter on guard against reading into the passage what Paul never intended to express.

The passage opens with the preposition “for – gar,” thus indicating that Paul picks up from chapter 4:16-18, where he contrasts the temporal, mortal nature of the present life which is “wasting away” (2 Cor 4:16) with the eternal, glorious nature of the future life, whose “eternal weight of glory [is] beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). Paul continues in chapter 5 developing the contrast between temporality and eternity by using the imagery of two dwelling places representative of these characteristics.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared for us this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:1-5).

In this first section of the passage, Paul uses two sets of contrasting metaphors. First, he contrasts “the earthly tent,” which is subject to destruction, with the “building from God, a house not made with hands,” which is “eternal in the heavens.” Then Paul highlights this contrast by differentiating between the state of being clothed with the heavenly dwelling and that of being found naked.

The second section, verses 6 to 10, is more straightforward and contrasts being in the body and therefore away from the Lord, with being away from the body and at home with the Lord. The key statement occurs in verse 8 where Paul says: “We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

The enormous variety of interpretations of this passage can be grouped into three main views, each the direct result of some presuppositions.

The history of interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 clearly shows how much exegesis and interpretation are influenced by presuppositions. We briefly state and evaluate each of the three main views which may be called: (1) the intermediate state, (2) the resurrection of the body after death, and (3) the resurrection of the body at Christ’s coming.

The Intermediate State. Most past and present scholars maintain that in this passage Paul describes the existence of the believer in heaven with Christ during the intermediate state between death and resurrection.58 Briefly stated, this interpretation runs as follows: The tent and the present clothing are the earthly existence. Being unclothed represents dying and the resulting state of nakedness signifies the disembodied existence of the soul during the intermediate state. The building we have in heaven represents, for some, the body that will be reattached to the soul at the resurrection, while for others, it is the soul itself that dwells in heaven.

Robert Morey defends the latter view, saying: “Where in Scripture are we told that our resurrection body is already created and waiting in heaven for us? The only rational answer is that Paul is speaking of the soul’s dwelling in heaven.” 59 On the basis of these verses, Morey argues that “The place of dwelling [of the soul] while [the person is] alive is on earth, while the place of dwelling after death is in heaven.”60

Three major problems exists with the intermediate-state interpretation of this passage. First of all, it ignores that the contrast between the heavenly building and the earthly tent is spatial and not temporal. By this we mean that Paul is contrasting the heavenly mode of existence with the earthly mode of existence. He is not discussing the disembodied state of the soul between death and resurrection. Now, if the apostle had expected to be with Christ at death in his disembodied soul, would he not have alluded to it in this context? Would he not have said, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed . . .” we shall be with our souls in the presence of God in heaven. But, in all of his writings, Paul never alludes to the survival and existence of the soul in the presence of Christ. Why? Simply because such a notion was foreign to Paul and to Scripture.

Second, if the state of nakedness is the disembodied existence of the soul in the presence of Christ during the intermediate state, why does Paul shrink back at the thought of being “found naked” (2 Cor 5:3)? After all, this would have fulfilled his earnest desire to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). The fact is the notion of nakedness as the state of the soul stripped from the body is found in the writings of Plato and Philo, but not in Paul’s writings.

Third, if the heavenly building is “the soul’s dwelling in heaven,” then believers must have two souls, one on earth and the other in heaven because Paul says that “we have a building from God.” The present tense indicates a present possession. How can the believer’s soul be in heaven with Christ and on earth with the body at the same time?

A Resurrection Body After Death. A number of scholars argue that the heavenly building is the resurrected body, which believers receive immediately at death. Allegedly, Paul teaches that life in the earthly body, which is represented by the “earthly tent” (2 Cor 5:1, 4), is followed immediately by the acquisition of the resurrection body, represented by “the building from God, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). Thus, Paul is supposed to reject altogether an intermediate disembodied condition of “being naked” or “unclothed” (2 Cor 5:3-4). This view rests on the premise that during the interval between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul had some close brushes with death that caused him to give up his earlier hope of surviving the Parousia and came to believe, instead, that believers receive their resurrection bodies at the moment of their death.

A fundamental problem with this interpretation is the assumption that Paul in later years abandoned the hope of the resurrection at the Parousia in favor of an immediate resurrection at death. If that were true, Christians would face the dilemma of not knowing which Paul to believe: the earlier or the later Paul? Fortunately, such a dilemma does not exist because Paul never changed his view on the time of the resurrection. This is indicated by the immediate context of the passage under consideration, which specifically mentions the resurrection at the Parousia: “Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us into his presence” (2 Cor 4:14). Paul could hardly have stated it more clearly that Christ will raise us and bring us into His presence at His coming and not at death.

If Paul had modified his views of the resurrection time since he wrote 1 Corinthians 15, it is doubtful whether he would have said, “we know” (2 Cor 5:1), which implies a known teaching. Furthermore, even in his later writings, Paul explicitly links the resurrection with the glorious return of Christ (Rom 8:22-25; Phil 3:20-21). It is hard to believe that Paul would have altered his eschatology twice.

Resurrection Body at the Parousia. In recent years, a number of scholars have defended the view that the heavenly building is the “spiritual body” given to believers at the time of Christ’s coming.64 There are, indeed, elements in this passage which support this view. For example, the idea of putting on the heavenly dwelling (2 Cor 5:2) and the statement that when we are further clothed, the mortal will be swallowed up with life (2 Cor 5:4).

These statements are strikingly similar to the imagery found in 1 Corinthians 15:53, where Paul discusses the change that believers will experience at Christ’s coming: “For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.”

The proponents of this view rightly protest against an eschatology of heaven which focuses on the individual bliss experienced immediately after death. Their strongest argument is that “if Paul expected to receive the spiritual body at once [at death] then a resurrection at the Last Day would no longer be necessary.”

Tostate it simply, the proponents of this view interpret Paul’s metaphors as follows: While living on this earth we are clothed with the “earthly tent” of our mortal body. At death we are “unclothed” when our bodies are “destroyed” in the grave. At Christ’s coming, we will “put on the heavenly dwelling” by exchanging our mortal bodies for the glorious immortal bodies.

Overall, we lean toward this interpretation. Yet there is a major weakness in all three interpretations, namely, they interpret the passage by focusing primarily on the body, whether it be the “spiritual body” given to individual believers at death, or to all the believers together at Christ’s coming. But Paul here is not trying to define the state of the body before death, at death, or at Christ’s coming, but two different modes of existence.

Heavenly and Earthly Modes of Existence. After rereading the passage countless times, I sense that Paul’s primary concern is not to define the state of the body before and after death, but rather to contrast two modes of existence. One is the heavenly mode of existence which is represented by the “building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). The other is the earthly mode of existence which is typified by “the earthly tent” which is “destroyed” at death.

The meaning of the imagery of “putting on” or “being clothed” with “our heavenly dwelling” may have more to do with accepting Christ’s provision of salvation than with “the spiritual body” given to believers at the Parousia. We find support for this conclusion in the figurative use of “heavenly dwelling” with reference to God and of “being clothed” with reference to the believer’s acceptance of Christ.

Paul’s assurance that “we have a building from God” (2 Cor 5:1) reminds us of such verses as “God is our refuge and strength” (Ps 46:1), or “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place” (Ps 90:1). Christ referred to Himself as a temple in a way that is strikingly similar to Paul’s imagery of the heavenly dwelling “not made with hands.” He is reported to have said: “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands” (Mark 14:58). If Paul was thinking along these lines, then the heavenly dwelling place is Christ Himself and the gift of eternal life He provides to believers.

How, then, does a believer put on “the heavenly dwelling”? A look at Paul’s use of the metaphor of clothing may provide an answer. “As many as were baptized into Christ were clothed with Christ” (Gal 3:27). In this text, the clothing is associated with the acceptance of Christ at baptism. Paul also says: “This perishable being must be clothed with the imperishable, and what is mortal must be clothed with immortality” (1 Cor 15:53, NEB). Here the clothing represents the reception of immortality at Christ’s coming. These two references suggest that the “clothing” can refer to the new life in Christ, which is accepted at baptism, renewed every day, and consummated at the Parousia, when the final clothing will take place by means of the change from mortality to immortality.

In the light of the above interpretation, to “be found naked” or “unclothed” (2 Cor 5:3-4) may stand in contrast with being clothed with Christ and His Spirit. Most likely “naked” for Paul stands not for the soul stripped from the body, but for guilt and sin which results in death. When Adam sinned, he discovered that he was “naked” (Gen 3:10). Ezekiel allegorically describes how God clothed Israel with rich garments but then exposed her nakedness because of her disobedience (Ez 16:8-14). One may also think of the man without “the wedding garment” at the marriage feast (Matt 22:11). It is possible, then, that being “naked” for Paul meant to be in a mortal, sinful condition, bereft of Christ’s righteousness.

Paul clarifies what he meant by being “unclothed” or “naked” versus being “clothed” when he says: “So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4). This statement is interpreted in the light of 1 Corinthians 15:53 to mean that our mortal bodies will be changed into spiritual bodies. But is Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:53 primarily concerned with the body as such? A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 15 suggests that Paul addresses the question of the body parenthetically, merely to answer the question, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body?” (1 Cor 15:35). After showing the continuity between the present and the future body, Paul moves to the larger question of the transformation that human nature as a whole will experience at Christ’s coming: “For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:53).

The same holds true of 2 Corinthians 5. Paul is not concerned with the state of the body or the soul as such before or after death. Incidentally, he never speaks of the soul nor of the “spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 5. Instead, Paul’s concern is to show the contrast between the earthly mode of existence, represented by “earthly tent,” and the heavenly mode of existence, represented by the “heavenly dwelling”. The former is “mortal” and the latter is immortal (“swallowed up by life;” 2 Cor 5:4). The former is experienced “at home in the body” and “away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6). The latter is experienced “away from the body” and “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).

The failure to recognize that Paul is speaking about two different modes of existence and not about the state of the body or soul after death, has led to unneccesary, misguided speculations about the afterlife. A good example is Robert Peterson’s statement: “Paul confirms Jesus’ teaching when he contrasts being ‘at home in the body’ and ‘away from the Lord’ with being ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:6, 8). He presupposes that human nature is composed of material and immaterial aspects.”

This interpretation is gratuitous, because neither Jesus or Paul are concerned with defining human nature ontologically, that is, in terms of its material or immaterial components. Instead, their concern is to define human nature ethically and relationally, in terms of disobedience and obedience, sin and righteousness, mortality and immortality. This is Paul’s concern in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, where he speaks of the earthly and heavenly modes of existence in relationship to God, and not of the material or immaterial composition of human nature before and after death.

The Souls Under the Altar. The last passage we examine is Revelation 6:9-11, which reads: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’ Then they each were given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

This passage is often cited to support the notion that the “souls” of the saints exist after death in heaven as disembodied, conscious spirits. For example, Robert Morey emphatically states:

“The souls are the disembodied spirits of the martyrs who cry out to God for vengeance on their enemies.... This passage has always proven a great difficulty to those who deny that believers ascend to heaven at death. But John’s language is clear that these souls were conscious and active in heaven.”

This interpretation ignores that apocalyptic pictures are not meant to be photographs of actual realities, but symbolic representations of almost unimaginable spiritual realities. John was not given a view of what heaven is actually like. It is evident that there are no white, red, black, and pale horses in heaven with warlike riders. Christ does not appear in heaven in the form of a lamb with a bleeding knife wound (Rev 5:6). Likewise, there are no “souls” of martyrs in heaven squeezed at the base of an altar. The whole scene is simply a symbolic representation designed to reassure those facing martyrdom and death that ultimately they would be vindicated by God. Such a reassurance would be particularly heartening for those who, like John, were facing terrible persecution for refusing to participate in the emperor’s cult.

The use of the word “souls – psychas” in this passage is unique for the New Testament, because it is never used to refer to humans in the intermediate state. The reason for its use here is suggested by the unnatural death of the martyrs whose blood was shed for the cause of Christ. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the blood of animals was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offerings (Lev 4:7, 18, 25, 30). The blood contained the soul (Lev 17:11) of the innocent victim that was offered as an atoning sacrifice to God on behalf of penitent sinners. Thus, the souls of the martyrs are seen under the altar to signify that symbolically they had been sacrificed upon the altar and their blood has been poured at the base. In chapter 2 we noted that in the Old Testament the soul is in the blood. In this instance, the souls of the martyrs are under the altar because their blood had been symbolically poured at the base of the altar.

The language of sacrificial death is used elsewhere in the New Testament to denote martyrdom. Facing death, Paul wrote: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed” (2 Tim 4:6). The apostle also says that he was glad “to be poured out as a libation” for Christ (Phil 2:17). Thus, Christian martyrs were viewed as sacrifices offered to God. Their blood shed on earth was poured symbolically at the heavenly altar. Thus their souls are seen under the altar because that is where symbolically the blood of the martyrs flowed.

No Representation of Intermediate State. The symbolic representation of the martyrs as sacrifices offered at the heavenly altar can hardly be used to argue for their conscious disembodied existence in heaven. George Eldon Ladd, a respected evangelical scholar, rightly states: “The fact that John saw the souls of the martyrs under the altar has nothing to do with the state of the dead or their situation in the intermediate state; it is merely a vivid way of picturing the fact that they had been martyred in the name of God.”

Some interpret the “white robe” given to the martyrs as representing the intermediate body given to them at death.70 But in Revelation, the “white robe” represents not the intermediate body, but the purity and victory of the redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice. The redeemed who come out of the great tribulation “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). “The church at Laodicea is counseled to buy gold, white robes, and eyesalve (Rev 3:18), a strange suggestion if white robes are glorified bodies.”71 The “souls” being clothed with white robes most likely represent God’s recognition of their purity and victory through “the blood of the Lamb” in spite of their ignominious deaths.

The souls of the martyrs are seen as resting beneath the altar, not because they are in a disembodied state, but because they are awaiting the completion of redemption (“until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete” Rev 6:11) and their resurrection at Christ’s coming. John describes this event later on, saying: “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.... This is the first resurrection” (Rev 20:4). This description of the martyrs as “beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God” is very much like that of Revelation 6:9. The only difference is that in chapter 6 the deceased martyrs are told to rest, while in chapter 20 they are brought to life. It is evident that if the martyrs are brought to life at the beginning of the millennium in conjunction with Christ’s coming, they can hardly be living in heaven in a disembodied state while resting in the grave.

To sum up, the function of the vision of the martyrs under the heavenly altar is not to inform us on the intermediate state of the dead, but to reassure believers, especially the martyrs who in John’s time and later centuries gave their lives for the cause of Christ, that God ultimately would vindicate them.

Conclusion. Our study of the state of the dead during the interim period between death and resurrection has shown that both the Old and New Testaments consistently teach that death represents the cessation of life for the whole person. Thus, the state of the dead is one of unconsciousness, inactivity, and sleep that will continue until the day of the resurrection.

Our analysis of the usage of the word sheol in the Old Testament and of hades in the New Testament has shown that both terms denote the grave or the realm of the dead and not the place of punishment for the ungodly. There is no bliss or punishment immediately after death, but an unconscious rest until resurrection morning.

The notion of hades as the place of torment for the wicked derives from Greek mythology, not Scripture. In mythology hades was the underworld where the conscious souls of the dead are divided in two major regions, one a place of torment and the other of blessedness. This Greek conception of hades influenced some Jews during the intertestamental period to adopt the belief that immediately after death the souls of the righteous proceed to heavenly felicity, while the souls of the godless go to a place of torment in hades. This popular scenario is reflected in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The popular view of hades as a place of torment for the wicked crept into the Christian Church and eventually even influenced Bible translators. In the KJV, for example, hades is translated “hell” instead of “grave” in 10 of the 11 occurrences of the term. This inaccurate translation has misled many uninformed Christians into believing that at death the souls of the wicked are thrown into hellfire, where they await the resurrection of their bodies which will only serve to intensify their agony in hell.

Our study of all the relevant Biblical passages has shown that the notion of the intermediate state in which the souls of the saved enjoy the bliss of Paradise, while those of the unsaved suffer the torments of hell derives not from Scripture, but from Greek dualism. It is most unfortunatethat during much of its history, Christianity by and large has been influenced by the Greek dualistic view of human nature, according to which the body is mortal and the soul immortal. The acceptance of this deadly heresy has conditioned the interpretation of Scripture and given rise to a host of other heresies such as Purgatory, eternal torment in hell, prayer for the dead, intercession of the saints, indulgences, and etherial view of paradise.

It is encouraging to know that today many scholars of all religious persuasions are launching a massive attack against the traditional dualistic view of human nature and some of its related heresies. We can only hope that these endeavors will contribute to recovering the Biblical wholistic view of human nature and destiny, and thus dispel the spiritual darkness perpetrated by centuries of superstitious beliefs.

– pp. 179-190 (footnotes ommited).



James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul The Apostle, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, USA and Cambridge, UK, 1998:

Psyche and Pneuma

The only other pairing which calls for some attention is psyche, "soul," and pneuma in the sense of "(human) spirit." Both terms are little used by Paul, but their usage has some significance for our appreciation of his anthropology and of how Paul conceived of the interface between the divine and the human.

Paul uses psyche just 13 times, 4 of them in Romans. This itself is in striking contrast to the regular use of the term in classical Greek and of nephesh in the OT (756 times). The difference between Hebraic and Greek anthropology becomes as clear here as anywhere. For in classical Greek usage the psyche is "the essential core of man which can be separated from his body and which does not share in the body's dissolution." Here is the origin of the concept of "the immortality of the soul," as the continuing existence of an inner, hidden part of the human person after death. In contrast, in Hebrew thought, nephesh denotes the whole person, the "living nephesh" of Gen. 2.7.*

* [NOTE] BDB, nephesh 4. Striking here is the fact that nephesh can be used of the dead person shortly after death, while the corpse still has the person's distinguishing features (see Jacob, TDNT 9.620-21).

Paul's usage clearly echoes the typical Hebraic mind-set. Psyche denoting the person is clear in several passages. Elsewhere the sense slides into "life," or psyche as the focus of human vitality.

The number of uses of pneuma denoting human spirit in Paul is uncertain, since it is unclear in several passages whether the divine Spirit or the human spirit is referred to. In any case, it will be significant that the number of references to the (Holy) Spirit far outweigh those to the (human) spirit. The immediate inference which can fairly be drawn is that for Paul the gospel is not about an innate spirituality awaiting release, but about the divine Spirit acting upon and in a person from without. More to the point here, the spirit is evidently that dimension of the human person by means of which the person relates most directly to God. Hence passages like Rom. 1.9 ("I serve God with my spirit") and 8.16 ("the Spirit bears witness with our spirit"), the analogy between the Spirit of God and the human spirit in 1 Cor. 2;11, and the idea that the person "who is united with the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6.17), not to mention the ambiguous references noted above. Indeed there has been a persistent view that for Paul the human spirit is but a manifestation of the divine Spirit. This could well reflect the influence of Hebraic thought. And though it would not be inconsistent with Stoic (and subsequently Gnostic) anthropology in particular, it marks a further difference between characteristic Hebraic and Hellenistic thought in that it is the pneuma which is the highest (or deepest) dimension of the person rather than the nous.

As with the two previous anthropological pairs there is evidendy an overlap of meaning in the respective usage ranges of psyche and pneuma. This reflects the origins of both terms in Greek and Hebrew usage, but in Paul's developed usage the influence is predominantly from Hebrew anthropology. For both terms (psyche/nephesh and pneuma/ruach) express an original identification of "breath" as the life force. In the Hebrew scriptures the overlap is evident in a number of texts. Most striking is Gen. 2.7 — "God breathed into his nostrils the breath (nesamah) of life; and man became a living nephesh" — since wsamah and ruach are close synonyms (e.g., Job 27.3; Isa. 57.16). But in the interval between that earlier usage and Paul a distinction becomes clearer — pneuma denoting more the Godward dimension of the human being, psyche limited more to the vital force itself. We need not attempt to trace the development. Its outcome is clear enough in Paul's own usage, which is all that need concern us here. I refer once again to 1 Cor. 15.44-46, but also 2.13-15. For in 15.44-46 psyche and psychikos clearly denote the living person, but one limited to the present bodily existence (in contrast to the soma pneumatikon, the "spiritual body"). And in 2.14 the psychikos person is by definition one who is unable to receive or appreciate the things of the pneuma.

Where this observation may be of wider relevance is in the insight that for Paul the human being is more than "soul." Psyche is not sufficient to describe the depths of the individual. Persons exist on and are related to fuller dimensions of reality than just the psychical. At the end of a century which has grown to appreciate the insights of Freud and Jung, then, Paul's anthropology may carry a salutary lesson for us. That lesson would be to warn against thinking that the psyche can reveal everything of importance about the inner life of a person. Paul, once again in line with his Jewish heritage, also speaks of the human spirit, a still deeper depth or higher reality of the person. Moreover, he both implies and teaches that it is only by functioning at that level and by opening the human spirit to the divine Spirit that the human being can be whole. At least, that is an important feature of his theology and gospel — as we shall see...

The process of salvation has a goal and an end. Paul had no thought of existence as a repeating cycle of birth and rebirth. Human life climaxed in death, either as the victory of sin and death or as their defeat and destruction. Except for the favoured few (only Enoch and Elijah come to mind), the process had to be worked right through. The fact of Jesus' own death made that clear: if that one died, then none could escape death. The resurrection of Jesus was so central to the gospel because the good news included the fact and promise of triumph over death. So too with the principal aspects of salvation's beginnings in human life. Justification would only be complete in the final vindication. Participation in Christ would achieve its goal in the complete transformation of believers into the image of God in Christ. The work of the Spirit would be finished when the glory lost and the image disfigured by human disobedience were wholly renewed (2 Cor. 3.18; 4.4, 6). Salvation was not, could not be, complete within this life. The realization of hope lies beyond the confines of present existence: "If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people the most pitiable" (1 Cor. 15.19); the Christian hope focuses on what cannot yet be seen (Rom. 8.25); it is "laid up for you in the heavens" (Col. 1.5).

All this we have picked out and highlighted at various points in the preceding pages. But we could hardly end this section without gathering together the various aspects and emphases of Paul's hope of complete salvation. As with his parousia hope (§12), the individual elements are clear enough. How they hang together is less clear.

The most obvious element is what follows from § 18.5 — the resurrection of the body. The importance of that hope lay not least in the fact that so many aspects of Paul's theology come together in it. It is the immediate consequence of cross and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), is integral to the gospel (15.12-19), and confirm that victory over death is central to the gospel (15.21-22, 26, 54-57). It resolves forever the tension between flesh and body (15.42-54). It completes God's purpose in creating humanity by renewing the image of God in resurrected humanity (15.45-49). It is the final outworking of the process of inner renewal and outward decay (2 Cor. 4.16-5.5). It includes the renewal of creation as a whole (Rom. 8.19-23). And all was made possible by Christ's resurrection as the "firstborn" and prototype — resurrection "with Christ" (2 Cor. 4.14), resurrection body conformed to his glorious body — and by the activity of God's Spirit, the firstfruits of the Spirit as only the beginning of the harvest of resurrected bodies (Rom. 8.23).

On this subject the most intriguing paragraph composed by Paul must be 2 Cor. 5.1-5:

'For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in the heavens, not made with hands. For in this one we groan, longing to be overclothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that having stripped off [or having put it on] we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, in that we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be overclothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. And he who has made us for this purpose is God, who has given to us the first instalment of the Spirit.

The passage is evidently the climax of a larger unit of exposition (2 Cor. 4.16-5.5). It contains a number of unresolved issues of exegesis, particularly in 5.2-4. But its most obvious function is to express Paul's confidence (4.16) that the present process of wasting away ("outer nature") and renewal ("inner nature") will climax in the transformation into the resurrection body (4.17-5.4), of which the Spirit is already the first instalment and guarantee (5.5). In its basic affirmation, then, the expectation is the same as in 1 Cor. 15.53-54, though here the hope of resurrection is imaged as putting on a further garment (2 Cor. 5.2, 4).*

*[NOTE:] Despite N. Walter, "Hellenistische Eschatologie bei Paulus?Zu 2 Kor. 5.1-10," ThQ 176 (1996) 53-64, the absence of soma ("body") in 2Cor. 5.1-5 (contrast 1 Cor. 15.35-44) has no significance, as the later Rom. 8.11, 23 confirms. See also Penna, "The Apostle's Suffering: Anthropology and Eschatology in 2 Corinthians 4.7-5.10," Paul 1.232-58 (particularly 246-54), who notes the absence of any reference to "soul," indicating that any echo of a more dualistic Hellenistic conceptuality is hardly more than that; and above §3.2.

Whether we should talk of a development in Paul's thought — Paul now envisaging an "intermediate state" (between death and parousia), where previously he expected to be alive at the parousia (1 Cor. 15.51-52) — is a moot question. All we need note is the possibility that Paul envisaged an intermediate state ("naked," "unclothed" — 5.3-4) in which the groaning caused by the already-not yet tension (Rom. 8.23) might continue beyond death and up to the parousia (2 Cor. 5.2, 4). Either way, however, Paul envisages an incompleteness in the process of salvation which can only be resolved by the new body of resurrection.*

*[NOTE:] Hence the impossibility of translating Paul's hope into a belief in "the immortality of the soul"; see also O. Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? The Witness of the New Testament (London: Epworth, 1958).

The other most clearly set out feature of Paul's eschatological expectation is the final judgment. We have already noted that this conviction was part of Paul's Jewish inheritance. Also that Paul's christology of exaltation fully embraced the thought of Christ fulfilling God's role (acting as his representative?) in that final judgment. Here we need simply to observe that Paul did not envisage believers as exempt from that final judgment. "All of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, in order that each might receive the things done through the body, with reference to what each has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5.10).

– pp. 76-78, 487-490.

Edward Earle Ellis, Christ and the Future in New Testament History(Brill Academic Publishers Inc., Boston , MA, USA, 2000):

The Platonic view that the essential person (soul/spirit) survives physical death has serious implications for Luke's Christology and for his theology of salvation in history. For christology it finds its logical outcome, for example, in a Gnostic exegesis of Lk 23:46: The earthly man died, ‘but [Jesus] himself, yielding the spirit into the hands of the Father, ascended to the Good One’. For eschatology it represents a Platonizing of the Christian hope, a redemption from time and matter. Luke, on the contrary, places individual salvation (and loss) at the resurrection in time and matter at the last day. He underscores that Jesus was resurrected in ‘the flesh’ and makes him ‘the first to rise from the dead,’ the model on which all ‘entering into glory’ is to be understood.

An anthropological dualism did enter the thought of the Patristic church, chiefly, I suppose, with the grandiose synthesis of Christianity and Greek philosophymade by Clement and Origen. It brought into eclipse the early Christian hope of the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. But it did not characterize the Christianity of the New Testament, and can be found in Luke only if one reads the texts, as those Christian fathers did, with lenses ground in Athens.

…while death is not an individual fulfillment of salvation, during death one remains under Christ’s Lordship and in his care...(but) while the Christian dead remain in time, they do not count time. The hiatus in their individual being between their death and their resurrection at the last day of this age is, in their consciousness, a tick of the clock. For them the great and glorious day of Christ’s Parousia is only a moment into the future. The ‘intermediate state’ is something that the living experience with respect to the dead, not something the dead experience with respect to the living or to Christ.

Those with lenses ground in Athens, numerous in Christian tradition, see a quite different picture. They posit that a part of the person, the soul, is not subject to a cessation of being (and thus is not an element of the natural world) but that at the death of the body it is ‘separated’ to bodiless bliss or, in a variation on the theme, that there is a resurrection at death in which the physical body is exchanged for a spirit body already being formed within [this would destroy the program given in 1 Cor. 15 and many times elsewhere].

Although they have many traditional roots and attachments, such theologies have, I think, seriously misunderstood Paul’s salvation-in history eschatology. It is because Paul regards the body as the person and the person as the physical body that he insists on the resurrection of the body, placing it at the Parousia of Christ in which personal redemption is coupled to and is part of the redemption-by transfiguration of the whole physical cosmos. The transformed physical body of the believer will be called forth from the earth by God’s almighty creative word [at the Parousia], no less than were the transformed physical body of Christ and the originally lifeless body of the Genesis creation.

– pp. 127, 177, 178.



Mark R. McMinn & Timothy R. Phillips (Eds.) Care for the Soul: Exploring the Intersection of Psychology & Theology, 2001:

“A broad consensus emerged among biblical and theological scholars that soul-body dualism is a Platonic, Hellenistic idea that is not found anywhere in the Bible. The Bible, from cover to cover, promotes what they call the "Hebrew concept of the whole person." G. C. Berkouwer writes that the biblical view is always holistic, that in the Bible the soul is never ascribed any special religious significance. Werner Jaeger writes that soul-body dualism is a bizarre idea that has been read into the Bible by misguided church fathers such as Augustine. Rudolf Bultmann writes that Paul uses the word soma (body) to refer to the whole person, the self, so that there is not a soul and body, but rather the body is the whole thing. This interpretation of Pauline anthropology has been a theme in much subsequent Pauline scholarship.”

– pp. 107, 108.

Essentials of Christian Theology, William C. Placher (Ed.), Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, USA, 2003:

Death as the Destruction of Evil

What about death? Is death just a blemish on God’s otherwise good creation? Or does death have positive theological significance?

The biblical story of the garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3 introduces us to the tension between knowing that we must die yet imagining life without dying. The fall into sin that subjects us to mortality was precipitaded by the violation of God’s command to avoid the knowledge of good and evil. Reacting to this disobedience, God threw Adam and Eve out of the garden and placed the cherubim at the gate with a flaming sword, preventing the man and woman from returning. Why did God react with such force? Was it due to a divine temper tantrum? Could God plead temporary insanity, claiming that it was blind rage that drove him to pull the trigger that led to the death of Adam and Eve? No, the expulsion from the garden expresses the same abiding love of God that leads to redemption and salvation.

The reason for the expulsion from the garden of Eden has to do with the second special tree. Although Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they had not yet tasted fruit from the tree of life. This is theologically important. Had they eaten fruit form the tree of life, then they would “live forever” (Gen. 3:22). What we now call the fall introduced into God’s otherwise good creation such things as enmity between humans and wild beasts, the sweat of the brow by which a living must be wrested from nature, pain in childbirth, and all manner of suffering. None of us, not even God, wants the items on this list to continue forever. It is redemptive love, then, that motivates God to separate Adam and Eve from the tree of life. In its own way death becomes a gift of divine grace; it marks the point at which the consequences for sin come to an end. There is no suffering in the grave. Death is the door that God slams shut on evil and suffering within his creation.

“The wages of sin is death,” writes Paul (Rom. 6:23). What does this mean? We may interpret this negatively to mean that death is the appropriate penalty for disobedience. Yet we might consider another interpretation as well. Might we say, in light of Genesis 3 and in light of Easter, that death plays an important role in the divine plane of salvation? Could we think of death as a necessary step down the path toward resurrection to new life, to a new life immune from the sufferings of this fallen world?

If this interpretation holds, then we need to emphasize the totality of death. The Bible severely affirms that we humans are mortal. We really do die and cease to exist. There is no salvation by heroic soulechtomy. The understanding of sin with which we work is that sin is a virus which eats away at the totality of human existence, leaving no organ, whether physical or spiritual, uninfected. The resulting death means full extinction.

Curiously, this appears to come close to the model of scientific naturalism. Death, theologically understood, puts an end to all that we are and have on this side of mortality. It puts an end to all evil. It also puts an end to all that is good, mortally good. We do not possess an intrinsically good, immortal soul that is somehow exempt from the disease of sin so that it can simply shed the body like a shelled oyster and go on to a heavenly plane of disembodied souls. And certainly there is no room for an evil, immortal soul that similarly sheds the body so that its evil existence will continue on everlastingly. Whoever and whatever we are dies totally and completely. Death symbolizes that end, the termination.

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

The result of the Adam and Eve story applies to Jesus. The messiah is born a mortal and dies a mortal, and he knows it. Death for Jesus is the end. In Gethsemane he is “greatly distressed and troubled,” saying to his disciples, “my soul is sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:33-34). In agony Jesus prays “with loud cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7), and his sweat becomes like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). Jesus petitions God, “Remove this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). “Jesus is afraid,” writes Oscar Cullmann. “He is afraid in the face of death itself. Death for him is not something divine; it is something dreadful.” Jesus cries from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). This is death in all its frightfull horror. It is what Paul calls the “last enemy” of God (1 Cor. 15:26).

Does this suggest that Jesus is cowardly? By no means. His courage is stalwart. Despite his petition in the Gethsemane prayer that he not have to drink the cup of death, he still concludes his prayers, “Yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). And despite his agonizing sense of abandonment on the cross, he still cries out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Death is terrible, but Jesus’ faith is strong.

The death Jesus dies on Good Friday is the death of Adam, the death of us all. Yet this is not the end of the story. On Easter, God raises the dead Jesus to new and everlasting life. Jesus dies a mortal, but God the creator of the old creation acts with the power of the new creation. God bestows new life.

This new life – the life of the new creation – is different from the old life which Jesus gave up. The new life is no longer subject to sin, suffering, or death. It is this that makes Jesus’ resurrection salvific. In this regard we see a contrast between Jesus’ Easter resurrection and other resurrection miracles, such as the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-43), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). In these miracles we find the resuscitation of a corpse. Three persons were raised, but they were not raised to immortality. They were simply returned to mortal life. They would all have to face death again just like the rest of us. But Jesus’ corpse was not merely resuscitated, not merely restored to ordinary life. No one expected Jesus to return to Nazareth to resume his duties as a carpenter. Jesus’s resurrected existence had become eschatological. Jesus will not have to die again. When  those who enjoyed fellowship with the risen Jesus reported what they saw, they did not say, “Wow, the Nazarene is back!” Rather, they reported that they had seen “the Lord” (Luke 24:34; John 20:18).

Easter opens the gate so that as we share in Jesus’ resurrection we pass through to a new and everlasting life. Jesus is the “first fruits” of those who have fallen “asleep” in their graves (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus is the anticipation, the prefiguration, the prolepsis of what we will become in our resurrection. As he rose on Easter, so will we rise into the new creation. As we turn and look backward, we see Jesus’ death standing like the angel with the fiery sword at the garden of Eden, preventing suffering and death from following us into the new creation.

The Spiritual Body

At this point we will turn to more detail regarding the nature of the resurrected body. As we proceed, it will become clear that we are working with a new model, on quite different form those discussed earlier.

The image Paul employs is that of a seed planted in the ground. The flower or tree that grows up looks quite different from what had been planted. However, in order to guard against any possible misinterpretation in terms of soulechtomy, he explits the deadlike appearance of the typical seed to say, “What you sow does not come to life unles it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36). This analogy is delicate. Paul wishes to affirm continuity and discontinuity between the present and future realities. Resurrection is not exactly creation out of nothing, but creation of something out of something else. In contrast to the creation of the world out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo, resurrection  is transformation or  creatio ex vetera (“creation out of something old”); yet the power of God’s creation is at work in both instances. This is the point Paul is making: A dead seed is sown, but what is harvested is new life.

Paul describes this eschatological harvest in terms of four complementary contrasts:

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable [corrupt, phthora], what is raised is imperishable. [incorrupt, aphtharsia]. It is sown in dishonor [atimia], it is raised in glory [doxa]. It is sown in weakness [astheneia], it is raised in power [dynamei]. It is sown a physical body [soma psychikon], it is raised a spiritual body [soma pneumatikon]. (1 Cor. 15:42-44)

To be raised “imperishable,” whether applicable to Jesus or to us, is to be raised to everlasting life. One’s body would not be resuscitated for the purpose of simply returning to one’s daily toil. Doxa, which in reference to the heavenly bodies usually means “luster,” here means we are raised in “honor.” The “power” into which we will be raised, dynamis, is the same power by which miracles of healing are performed (1 Cor. 12:28).

It is theologically important, I thinik, to give special attention to the contrast between the earthly and the spiritual bodies. Paul does not describe the dead earthly body as a “body of flesh” (soma sarkikon). Literally, this is the ensouled body which we would associate with the Greek philosophical tradition. This notion of a human being was commonly known among Greek-speaking Jews such as Paul. The important is this: For Paul, the soul dies. As as if to rub it in, Paul says it is not the psyche which we find in the resurrection, it is the soma. The resurrected body is a “spiritual body” that rises into the new creation, into God’s kingdom.

The Coming New Creation: Cosmic Eschatology

As I have been suggesting, human destiny is inseparable from cosmic destiny. One element in common among the various models of immortality – scientific naturalism, immortality of the soul, reincarnation with absorption into the infinite, astral projection, ancestral presence, and life after life – is this: They all deal with the question of human destiny in isolation from that of cosmic destiny. All assume the natural world will remain basically what it is. Not so with the Christian vision. What happens to us depends on what happens to the universe. The resurrection to a spiritual body can only occur at the advent of the eschaton, the “end time.” If there is no cosmic transformation, then there is no resurrection, and if there is no resurrection, then our faith is in vain and we of all people are most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:14, 19).

This means that your resurrection and my resurrection are indispensably tied to the eschatological parousia, the second coming of Christ. Paul suggests an order of things. First comes Christ, the first fruits (1 Cor. 15:23). This probably refers to Easter. Then at his coming, “the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). He “will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory” (Phil. 3:21; see Rom. 8:29). “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power... The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:24-26). To understand the resurrected body, we need to place it within the broader horizon of God’s promised new creation. As the creation is transformed, so are we.

The Conflict between Entropy and Eschatology

Yet contemporary theologians are confronted with an immense challenge at this point, a challenge coming form physical cosmology in the natural sciences. The reigning theory of the origin of the universe it the big bang theory. According to this theory, the universe is drenched in temporality; it has a finite past with a beginning perhaps 13.7 billion years ago. At the beginning point, an unfathomably dense singularity exploded. The big bang sent matter and energy hurling outward, and we on earth now find ourselves flying outward and away from the original cosmic bang. This scientific theory looks consonant with the fundamental biblical commitments to a divine creation out of nothing. It appears that science provides an indirect testimony to what Christians claim to be the character of God’s creation.

Theologians may cheer about what science tells us about the past. Not so about the future, however. The second law of thermodynamics, otherwise known as entropy, raises questions for Christian eschatology. This law states that energy flows in only one direction, from hot to cold, not the reverse. Entropy is the level of disorder in the universe, and the second law declares that entropy, overall, is always increasing. If the big bang back at the beginning was the hottest moment in the history of the cosmos, then the future we look forward to is one of increased entropy, of dissipation into equilibrium. What this means it that the universe is destined to freeze itself out of existence. Even if along the way gravity causes it to colapse into another dense fireball and explode again, the present cosmos will still come to an end. Whether freeze or fry, the future of life in our world is not endless. Like individuals, the cosmos as a whole is destined for death. At least, this is the scientific prophecy of physical cosmologists.

Does this prophecy look like the one announced by Christians eschatology? No. Entropy and eschatology appear to be locked in conflict. Christian eschatology does not prophesy a far future at equilibrium whict has forgotten its past. Rather, it looks now through a mirror dimly at a bright shining future, the future of the new creation promised by God in the Easter resurrection of Jesus. The present creation is marked for transformation, and Jesus’ Easter resurrection is the microcosm of the promised macrocosmic transformation. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” writes Paul, “the first fruits of those who have died” (1 Cor. 15:20). As he rose, so will we. And what we rise into is the new creation.

We would like to see consonance, but, instead we see dissonance between physical cosmology and Christian eschatology. In principle, then, physical cosmology as scientists pursue it has the potential for falsifying Christian belief in the resurrection. For Christians, the very notion of the Easter resurrection implies the divine promise for the renewal of the whole of creation. The failure of the creation to undergo transformation would invalidade the Christian claim. If scientific naturalism wins – meaning that Jesus remained dead and so will we – then the Christian faith is in vain.

Theologians need not rush to the unemployment window. Even though we may say that the Christian claim is falsifiable in principle, this is not empirically achievable. Any final disproof of the Christian claim would require observing the actual dissipation of the universe in 65 billion years or so in the far distant future. No laboratory of the present generation is expected to last that long, and no scientist will live long enough to see it.

Nevertheless, this challenge has a message for theological methodology. Eschatological forecasting, so it appears, ought not rely upon the present state of natural science for conceptual support. If a future new creation actually arrives as God has promised, then its arrival will have to be due to a divine intervention. God will have to act. The natural world will not evolve into a new creation on its own. If such a transformation is to take place, it will have to come as a gift from our creative God. No one can predict a creative act of God; hence, it will remain unforeseeable by scientific investigation.

– pp. 350-355.


The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Donald E. Gowan (Ed.), Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA, 2003:

Immortality, Immortal (see also Resurrection) “Immortality” is the translation of two nouns that appear ten times in the New Testament: athanasia (“deathlessness”), which occurs three times and denotes the immunity from death enjoyed by God (1 Tim 6:16) and resurrected believers (1 Cor 15:53-54); and aphtharsia (“incorruptibility” or “imperishability”), which occurs seven times and signifies the immunity from decay that characterizes the divine state (1 Cor 15:42, 50, 53-54). The adjective aphthartos (“immortal,” “incorruptible,” or “imperishable”) occurs four times and describes the quality of the divine nature (Rom 1:23; 1 Tim 1:17), the Christian’s reward (1 Cor 9:25), and the future state of resurrected believers (1 Cor 15:52). All these terms occur only in the Pauline letters – mostly in 1 Cor 15.

Inherent human immortality, however, is an idea alien to Jewish Scriptures, and there is no equivalent term in the OT to athanasia (“deathlessness”). Only God is “living” (Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10; Pss 42:2; 84:2; Jer 10:10) and the possessor of “life” (Ps 36:9). In fact, in the OT, as in all ancient Near East literature, it is the mortality of humans that separates them from deity or the gods. Though some mortals have been thought to have crossed that boundary, and so admitted directly into the divine world (e.g., Utnapishtim in the Gilgamesh Epic; apparently also Enoch of Gen 5:24 and Elijah of 2 Kgs 2:3-12), such instances were considered exceptions and the intrinsic immortality of humans rejected.

It was only during the period of Second Temple Judaism (ca. 200 B.C. – A. D. 120), when the Greek concept of immortality was fused with the Hebrew concept of humans having been created int “the image of God” (Gen 1:27), that Jews began to distinguish between body and soul (1 En. 22:7; 102:5; Wis 9:15; 2 Macc 7:37; 14:38; Let. Aris. 139; 236; Josephus, Contra Apionem 2.203) and to regard the soul as inherently immortal (Josephus, Jewish War 1.84; 2.154-55, 163; 6.46; 7.341-48; Jewish Antiquities 17.354; 18.14, 18). Some of these Jewish immortality concepts were clothed in resurrection language, others in astral imagery, others in terminology drawn from ideas about reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, and still others in distinctly Grecian anthropological forms of expression.

Likewise, a Greek understanding of the immortality of the soul is alien to the NT. It is only God who possesses life in himself (John 5:26; 6:57) and is inherently immortal (1 Tim 6:16). He makes alive through his spirit, and so his spirit is called “life giving” (John 6:63; 1 Cor 15:45). It was Christian writers of the late first and second centuries who, attempting to make the gospel palatable to the Greek mind and defend it against false accusations, took up again the thesis that the human soul (psyche) is inherently immortal (athanatos, “deathless”), comparing it, for example, to the mythological phoenix, a bird that every five hundred years died but reconstituted itself from its decomposed material remains to continue for another five-hundred-year period, ad infinitum (1 Clement 24-27; Justin Martyr, First Apology 44:9; Dialogue with Trypho 4:5; 124:4; Tatian, Addres to the Greeks 13:1; 15:4; and the anonymous Epistle to Diognetus 6). And though these early apologist used such analogies to support a Christian doctrine of resurrection, they failed to distinguish between Christian teaching on immortality, which is given to believers by God at their resurrection, and Greco-Roman beliefs in the natural immortality of the soul.

Immortality and resurrection. The terms for immortality in the NT – whether athanasia (“deathlesnness”), aphtharsia (“incorruptibility” or “imperishability”), or aphthartos (“immortal,” “incorruptible,” or “imperishable”) – are never used in connection with the word “soul” (psyche), but always associated only with the resurrection and transformation of persons (eight times, all in 1 Cor 15). And never do we find Paul (or any other NT writer) using the noun athanatos (“immortal”) or the verb athanatizo (“I make immortal” or, in the passive voice, “I become immortal”), which were the common terms for immortality in the Greek world – even though the verb would have been suitable in such passages as Rom 8:11 and 2 Cor 5:4. It may plausibly be argued that these latter terms were avoided by Paul and other NT writers because they could so easily have been misunderstood as implying that immortality was natural to the human condition and existed apart from resurrection.

In speaking of the uniqueness of God, 1 Tim 6:16 states, “It is he alone who has immortality.” The corollary of God being the only one inherently immortal is that any immortality ascribed to humans must be seen as a gracious gift of the divine will (Rom 2:7; 6:23). Humans can be immortal only derivatively. Their immortality is not essential or intrinsic, but derived or extrinsic.

First Corinthians 15 clearly places the reception of immortality at the time of the resurrection, for it juxtaposes resurrection and immortality in such phrases as “what is raised is imperishable” (v. 42) and “the dead will be raised imperishable” (v. 52). This does not mean that the dead will be raised and thus be seen to be already immortal, but that the dead will be raised and thus become immortal. Far from already possessing immortality, believers in Christ Jesus are described as those who “seek” for immortality (Rom 2:7) and receive it at the time of their resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23, 42-53).

From a Christian perspective, the doctrines of “immortality” and “resurrection” stand or fall together. It is a case of “resurrection to immortality” and “immortality through resurrection” – or, as expressed by Paul and rephrased by Murray Harris, “raised immortal.” To deny resurrection is to deny immortality, since the embodiment involved in the event of resurrection is necessary for the enjoyment of the meaningful existence implied by immortality. On the other hand, to deny immortality is to deny resurrection, since the permanent supply of the divine life pledged by immortality is necessary to sustain the resurrection life of transformed persons. Each involves the other, so that choosing between them is not only unnecessary but also impossible.

– pp. 225-227.


John Anthony McGuckin, The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology, SCM Press, England, 2004:

Soul – The soul (Latin: anima; Greek: psyche) was a fundamental concept for patristic thought, foundational, in a sense, for its mystical, anthropological, and soteriological schemas, but one where a number of unresolved issues can be witnessed in most of the writers. This is partly because in this aspect the Christian intellectual tradition involved a very mixed prior heritage. The biblical data on soul, and that of the various Greek philosophical schools, accumulated to a very disparate body of teaching. The earliest centuries of the patristic era were spent trying to synthesize much of this body of evidences. In the Old Testament the concept of soul is broached in a variety of ways. The texts often use the word nephesh to describe the breath of life in a human being, as that distinctive life force which God inspirated into clay to make a living creature (Gen. 2:7). But most commonly, Christian writers wished to use the term spirit (Greek: pneuma) to connote this aspect of the divinely graced life force within, that element which distinguished a living human being from, say, animals. This aspect is not apparent in much of early Hebraic theology, necessarily, or in the majority of New Testament references to “soul,” which simply use it in biblical fashion to refer to the creature, but it became a notable aspect of later Christian reflections that were being articulated in a context of Greek thought, which had long speculated on the inner makeup of human consciousness. The distinction of soul and spirit remained always a tenuous one in Christian reflection. In regard to the influence of Hellenism, three great schools had, long before Christianity’s appearance, elevated a distinct rivalry in regard to the question fo the human soul. Plato taught that the psyche tragically fell into a material embodied existence from a previous spiritual life, where it was able, with unwavering clarity, to behold the Ideal Forms. Trapped in a body (“the body a prison” was the Platonic motto), the soul suffered all manner of ills, not least the inability to perceive truth with any surety. Its basic task was to transcend material illusion and return to its former dignity by asserting control through its rational power (soul as to logistikon) over the “lower soul,” which was the aesthetic center of life. The soul, for Plato, was eternal and self-moving (at least in its superior aspects as to logistikon). Aristotelianism had, in distinction, argued strongly that the soul was a fundamental part of the inner entelechy of the human nature, not a separate alien spark trapped within a material form. It was born along with the body and was the life force that made the whole organism grow to its determined end. As an acorn has an inner force to drive it to its natural telos (the oak tree), so did the human soul serve to guide the development of a human through the stages of embryo to that of thinking, rational being. Stoicism, in turn, argued that the soul was the life principle (comparable to the “directive” aspect of Platonism: to hegemonikon), which originated from the reconstitution of cosmic elements after great cyclical conflagrations. The soul was the locus of the divine spark of Logos, which permeated each living being endowed with reason. It was thus the principle of reason within a human and the seat of divinity within the mortal form. It was material in nature, as Aristotle had said, but not material in the sense that base matter was, insofar as the soul had a special “fiery nature,” which was refined and subtle. Each approach to soul from the various schools held attractions for different patristic theologians. Plato gave a strong focus on the inherent immortality of the soul. At first this was resisted by many Christians as incompatible with the gospel message, and the concept of the “conditional immortality” of the soul was preferred: namely, that God would elevate the human being into immortal life (and not merely the soul but the body too), if (and only if) the creature was obedient to the covenant. Only after the third century did the presupposition of the soul’s immortality became more commonly accepted in the Christian world.The dominant figures of Augustine and Origen were very influential for this development. In its turn, Stoicism gave to the church an attractive basis for refleting on the manner in which the soul was the inner locus of the divinity: the place where the spark of Logos resided. It was not a far step to connect this with the vibrant New Testament image of the soul as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place within where God indwelt the creature. Paul himself had seen the connection, and many of his own reflections on the psyche and the soul were influenced by that same mix of philosophical ideas current at the time, which would be available to the patristic theologians after him. For their part, they were the additional heirs of that Pauline synthetic language of soul-spirit-body (cf. 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:34; 1 Thess. 5:23), and even thought it may have been a somewhat naive attempt by Paul to reconcile some of the fluid ideas of his time on spiritual anthoropology, nevertheless, because it was from an apostle it immediately became authoritative to the patristic tradition and shaped it to a degree. For its part, Aristotelianism gave to the church a strong sense of the soul as dynamic life force, directing the development of a whole organism, that is, its physical and emotional as well as its intellective and moral progress. The soul as an integrative center of moral awareness and choice was thus taken in form Aristotelianism and heavily used in Christian ethics, as well as in the later monastic writings on ascetical purification of the heart as a primary preparation for mystical apprehension of God. All of this Christian articulation of a doctrine of soul was a vast philosophical and religious synthesis. It did not happen consciously, or with refined systematical coherence, perhaps, but nevertheless evolved over several centuries as significant Christians intellectuals tried to make interventions in the great disputes about the origin and nature of the soul as they were playing out in the ancient world. Justin Martyr was one of the first of the Fathers to take up specific interest in question. He criticized Platonic immortality theory by arguing that God created souls, they did not eternally preexist, and that the soul would be immortal only by God’s gift, not because of its own life force (Dialogue with Trypho 4-5). Ireaneus, noting this, underlined the theology as a sharp characteristic dividing the biblical sense of creaturehood from the Platonic sense of the soul’s self-subsistence (Haer. 2.19, 29, 33-34). Irenaeus also made moves to synthesize aspect of Stoicism,  by arguing that the soul is the directive force (hegemonikon) in a human life, but not as Plato thought, for it is an integral function of the entire soul to be directed to God, not a separate aspect of a mere part of the soul (Plato’s to logistikon). The Ireanean exegesis of the Pauline tripartite psychology of soul, body, and spirit interpreted it emphatically that spirit in this instance (1 Thess. 5:23) means the indwelling divine Spirit, not a separate humano-divine spirit as the Stoics (and perhaps some of his contemporary Christians gnostics) had suggested (Haer. 5.6.9). Tertulian was soon to put most of this Christian theology together in a compact treatise entitled On the Soul. He thought, from biblical premises, that the soul did not preexist at all but was transmitted to the child through the semen of the father in the act of conception, a view (Traducianism) that thereafter fought with the alternative Christian belief that it was directly created by God at conception (Creationism) and put into the conceived embryo as God’s direct consecration of each life. It was this Creationist presupposition that made abortion so evil an act in the mind of the early church. Tertullian also thought that the Stoics were probably right that this human soul was a very refined and ethereal substance, but not wholly “spirit” (that is, immaterial). It was the work of Origen that dramatically challenged Tertullian’s view. He was vividly aware that the soul was one of the great philosophical problems of the age, and outlined the varieties of belief on the subject in his Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles 1.8, and also in the preface to his De principiis. Origen taught that the soul was wholly incorporeal in its nature, had preexisted the material world, and was sent to earth, embodied, to fulfill its punishment for earlier sins in the heavenly domain. As such, it had the task of disciplining the body and thereby fixing its own reorientation to the divine. The soul was the seat and center of the creature as a spiritual entity, and was itself the locus of the image of God within mankind. After Origen the idea that the soul was a refined material substance more or less evaporated from Christian theology (cf. Origen, Dialogue with Heracleides). His ideas on the soul preexistence were rejected soon after his time, but his thesis that the soul was the inner icon fo God, immortal and ascentive, became the substrate for all later reflections, as it was perceived to be a brilliant synthesis, not only of the best of the various Greek schools themselves, but also a reconciliation of the philosophical problem of the soul with the overall thrust of the biblical account of the creature under God.

– pp 316-318.


The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology Since 1918 – Edited by David F. Ford with Rachel Muers (3rd ed.), Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2005:

De Silva’s engagement with Buddhism focused on the “problem of the self.” According to him, the Buddhist doctrine of “non-self” (Pali anatta; Sanskrit anātman) enshrines an essential truth about human existence, which is in accord with not only contemporary science, but also the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. While the idea of an immortal soul is an established belief for most Christians, it cannot be supported by biblical texts. Furthermore, biblical images of selfhood are corroborated by the Buddhist doctrine of non-self. It other words, the Buddhist doctrine of non-self reveals the meaning of selfhood in the biblical texts — meanings that are lost when biblical texts are read through the lenses of Greek philosophical notions about the soul. In the biblical tradition, the self is an interdependente psycho-physical unity of “soul” (psychē), “flesh” (sarx), and “spirit” (pneuma) that bears close resemblance to the Buddhist analysis of the self by means of the Five Skandhas or constituents of existence (form, feeling, perception, impulses, and consciousness). Consequently, Buddhist and biblical views of the self agree that there exists no immortal soul that remains self-identically permanent through time.

Not only does the Buddhist notion of non-self clarify biblical notions of selfhood, it also clarifies the doctrine of the resurrection. For if persons are constituted by non-self, the question remains: what continues after death? In contrast to the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation, the biblical answer is the doctrine of resurrection. Resurrection does not mean the survival of an immortal soul or a reconstituted corpse. For if the doctrine of non-self corresponds to reality, transience and mortality are cosmic facts and death is the end of existence. There cannot be survival after death unless, and only if, God re-creates a new being. This, according to de Silva, is the truth of the biblical teaching of resurrection interpreted through the lenses of the doctrine of nonself. Resurrection is an act of God by which he creates what St. Paul called a “spiritual body.” To explain the meaning of “spiritual body” de Silva employed a “replica theory,” according to which at the moment of death, God creates an “exact psycho-physical replica of the deceased person.” It is a new creation. But because it is a re-creation, the spiritual body is not identical with the self that existed in an earthly body. It is an exact psychophysical replica. The doctrine of the resurrection as a “replication” is, he believed, a way of meaningfully reconceiving “the hereafter while accepting the fact of anātta.”

– p. 693.


David P. Gushee, Only Human: Christian Reflections on the Journey Toward Wholeness (San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass, 2005):

Many elements of the biblical account also seem to point in the direction of a single unified self. In the creation story, for example, we are told that “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The man (Hebrew, adam) is formed out of the ground (Hebrew, adamah), establishing the intimate connection between hamanity and the earthly materials from which we come. We are flesh, we emerge from flesh, we live enfleshed, we die as flesh, and we are returned to the ground from which we came. God gives life to us by breathing life into us – the soil-creature, one might say, is animated by the breath of God, and so we live until that animation ceases and we return to the soil. But this does not make us dualistic selves. A living human being is a physical-spiritual creature in a single self – a psychosomatic (soul-body) unity, as it is sometimes put.

But if this is the case, what happens when we die? Unlike the Greek notion that the body decays while the self floats off to heaven, a biblical (especially a Jewish) understanding seems to envision no such separable existence between body and soul or spirit. When we die, all of us dies. If there is to be any continued existence after death, it will have to be in a reanimated or re-created body that God simply chooses to make live again. This is how Paul put it in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16: “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died [Greek, koimenthentas, literally ‘fallen asleep’]. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left behind until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself... will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

The nature of this resurrected body is very difficult for us to understand or describe. Paul depicts it as a spiritual body, an imperishable kind of body that will never taste death again (1 Corinthians 15:35-53). And yet it is a body, and it maintains continuity with the earthly body that was either buried in the ground when we died or, if we are alive when Jesus comes, will be transformed in the process of the ultimate transfiguration of all things (15:52-54). The historic Christian creeds all envision the “resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting,” but this is a belief that has subtly faded in the past few centuries in the direction of a body-soul dualism in which the immortal soul goes to heaven and the body is left entirely behind.

This leaves a final problem for a unified view of the self, at least from a biblical perspective. What are we to make of the various labels given in the Bible to the spiritual part of the self? As we have seen in the sketch of other views, there certainly are biblical references to the soul or spirit, not to mention the mind, heart, emotions, will, and so on. These references cannot merely be dismissed.

Biblical vocabulary for the spirit or soul denotes aspects, dimensions, or facets of the one self, rather than fundamental distinctions within a multipart self. The Bible knows and communicates that there is a spiritual dimension to human persons and in various contexts labels these dimensions in various ways. For example, Jesus calls his listeners to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strenght (Mark 12:30). Just as no one seriously suggests that the self be divided into these four elements, so we should not subdivide the human self using any other scheme (even those devised from various biblical accounts). We are one self, with various facets almost too mysterious to name, and with the whole of this one self we are to worship and serve the one God.

– pp. 49-51.



Jaime Clark-Soles, Death and the Afterlife in the New Testament, T&T Clark, New York and London, 2006:

Our only source for Israelite anthropology pertinent to life and death is the OT. Greek thought does not heavily influence Hebrew or Jewish thinking until the Hellenistic period. For ancient Israel, nepes seems to combine functions of the Greek thymos (intense feeling) and psyche (inner self) of the living. Nep̄es never means the soul. Israelite anthropology, according to Jan Bremmer, was “strictly unitarian and remained so until the first century AD, when the Greek belief in an immortal soul started to gain ground in Palestine and the Diaspora.” Not surprinsingly, two Hellenized Jews, Josephus and Philo, are the first to demonstrate this transition.

– p. 14.

Explorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and Religion, Kevin S. Seybold, Ashgate Publishing Limited, England, 2007.

Obviously, the words used in a particular language are crucial in conveying the message the writer or speaker wishes to send. As the message is translated from one language to another, it can be altered because of the choice of words used in the translation. When we read the Bible, we must keep in mind that the original language of scripture was not what we read today. The writers of the New Testament used Greek when they wrote; the writers of the Old Testament used Hebrew. Much of the Old Testament, however, comes to us in written form after being conveyed verbally from one generation to the next. So, in order to begin to determine what the Old Testament or the New Testament has to say about human nature, we need to look at what the significant Hebrew and Greek words are and how they were understood by the writers and readers (or hearers) of the original culture.

In the Old Testament, there are a number of words that are used when making reference to human nature. For example, the word nephesh (meaning ‘throat’ or ‘neck’) is often translated as ‘soul’ or ‘life’. Another word used in this context is basar, which means ‘flesh’ and ‘embodiedness’, and is sometimes used to refer to kinship relationships (for example, Genesis 37:27). The Hebrew word leb means ‘heart’ or the ‘center of activity of the self’, and ruach is often translated as ‘person’, ‘breath’ or ‘spirit’. Each of these words can be used to refer to that aspect of our existence we call soul, self or spirit, and suggests the notion of the unity of the person. Each term indicates wholeness, not division, and implies that we are not bodies with souls (or bodies with souls and spirits), but are unified persons. We are, in other words, embodied souls. A key scripture passage in this regard is Genesis 2:7, which reads (in the Revised Standard Version): ‘then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [nephesh]’. Here, the word nephesh is translated as ‘soul’ in the King James Version of the Bible, as being in the RSV, and as ‘person’ in the New Living Translation (Stone, 2004, p. 53).  

In the New Testament, Greek words for heart, spirit, body, soul are all used to refer to the whole person (Shults, 2003, p. 175). Pneuma means ‘spirit’ in Greek, and psychē is translated as ‘soul’, but these words are used in ways that, like the Hebrew Old Testament words, suggests a unity and holism. Other Greek words typically used in the context of the person are kardia (2 Corinthians 3:14–16, 2:4, 7:3) and nous (Romans 12:1), which also refer to the whole person. Soma (which means ‘body’ in Greek) is used to refer to humans as embodied persons. The body is the person, and Paul in 1 Corinthians emphasizes the resurrection of the body, the whole being or person. In Romans 8:19–23, the terms ‘flesh’ (sarx) and ‘spirit’ (pneuma) do not suggest a dualism of substances. Living in the spirit suggests a person whose whole being is oriented toward the spirit; the fleshly person one whose whole being is oriented toward earthly, fleshly desires (Shults, 2003, p. 178).

The scriptures, these biblical scholars tell us, depict the human person as a whole, a unity, not as a material body with an immaterial soul or spirit. These various terms (such as body, soul, spirit, heart, mind) are different perspectives one can bring when looking at the individual, not different substances. As Shults puts it, the Bible is concerned with the whole person, particularly the salvation of the whole person (p. 178). Dualism, these scholars suggest, comes not from the Bible, but from Greek philosophers such as Plato, whose influence on the early Church contributed to a mistranslation of the original New Testament manuscripts. Instead of understanding psychē, for example, as a holistic term for ‘personhood’, the term was misinterpreted (under the influence of Plato’s philosophy) to mean a ‘disembodied, immaterial and immortal soul’. This understanding was consistent with Greek philosophy (for example, Platonism), but not with the intended meaning of the original scriptural passage.

– pp. 49, 50.



Harold Coward, The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought, Albany: State University of New York Press, USA, 2008:

The biblical period in Hebrew thought runs from the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and God’s establishing of a covenant with Moses in 1447 BCE to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. In biblical thought scholars identify four basic notions about human nature. First, a person is regarded as a living body with various qualities, but with no sharp distinction between body and soul. The Hebrew word meaning “flesh” is often used for humankind in general or human nature in particular. For example, in Genesis the idea of all humankind as a collective is expressed by “all flesh” an by the word adam (man). Second, consciousness was not centralized in the brain, as it is in modern thought. For the Hebrews, human consciousness, with its ethical qualities, was thought to be diffused through the whole body, so that the flesh and bones, as well as the mouth, eye, ear, hand, and so on, had a quasiconsciousness of their own. Third, these “separate consciousnesses” are thought of as being easily accesible to all kinds of outside influences, from possession by demons (as in the case of a toothache) to invasion and control by God’s Spirit (as in the case of the prophets). Fourth, there is also the idea of a ghost or double (not necessarily to be identified with the soul) – a faint and shadowy replica fo the self, such as the ghost of Samuel described by the “witch of Endor” (1 Sam 28:14) as “an old man,” wrapped in the ghostly counterpart of the familiar cloak of life. This fainter self or “shade,” as in Hebrew called it, can be detached even from the living and is seen by others in theirs dreams, while after death it passes to the cave of Sheol under the earth.

In addition to these four basic notions, biblical Hebrew uses certain key terms to describe human nature. The Hebrew word nephesh is usually translated into English as “soul” but this is inadequate and misleading. Literary analysis of the usage of nephesh in the Hebrew Bible shows three distinct meanings. First, nephesh is commonly the principle of life, with breath as the underlying meaning – for example, in 2 Kings 1:13 the Israelite captain, threatened with death, says to the prophet Elijah, “Let my nephesh and the nephesh of these fifty servants be precious in thy sight.” Here the best translation is simply “life.” Second, nephesh is “self” or “person,” as in Psalm 3:2 “Many are saying of my nephesh [self], there is no deliverance for him in God.” Here there is no reference to the psalmist’s inner life as distinct from his outer body, and therefore “soul” is a wrong translation. Third, nephesh is also used to denote “human consciousness” in its full extent, as in Job 16:4; “I could speak like you if your nephesh were instead of my nephesh.” Here Job is speaking to God. Of these three usages, the most common would seem to have been nephesh as “breath-soul” or the “life principle.” This “breath-soul” is considered to be the animating principle of human life and its essential constituent. Death is understood as the departure of nephesh or breath-soul from the body. Momentary unconsciousness is described in the same way, as a brief loss of nephesh. And life is described as being returned to someone thought dead by breathing in nephesh. For example, in 2 Kings 4:34 we are told that Elisha stretches himself over a dead boy’s body and places his mouth to the boy’s mouth to breath life into it. Throughout the biblical usage nephesh is strongly identified with the body, its organs, especially the heart, and its blood as the animating principle of life.

Ruach is a second key Hebrew term. It is especially important for the biblical understanding of how God communicates with the prophets. Wheeler Robinson notes that ruach has three main usages in the Hebrew Bible. First, ruach is “wind,” either the natural wind or the “wind of God” – God’s energy or angry breath. In Hosea 13:15 we are told that the Lord’s ruach comes up out of the desert and dries everything up. Second, ruach is “inspirational wind,” the spirit of God. In his activity as a prophet, Jeremiah is infused with God’s ruach, which speaks through him. And in Ezekiel, chapter 37, it is the ruach of the Lord that gives new psychical and physical life to the dry bones of the valley in Ezekiel’s vision. Finally, in biblical thought after the exile in Babylon (c. 598-515 BCE), ruach becomes almost equated with nephesh as the principle of life in humans and animals, but it is also signals an origination of life from God. Whereas nephesh is sometimes translated as “soul,” ruach is translated as “spirit,” which connotes a sense of divine energy acting on human nature from without – implying that the life of humans or animals is drawn from God.

Robinson warns we must not be swayed by the body-soul dualism of Greek thought. For the biblical Hebrew, nephesh (breath-soul), ruach (spirit), and basar (flesh) are together conceived of as a psychophysical unity – the human personality as an animated body. This includes one’s central organs, to which the Hebrews ascribed psychical functions. The heart (leb), for example, is identified with mental rather than emotional activities – the opposite of the way it is often used today when it is contrasted with the mind. In its biblical use, special emphasis is placed upon the volitional role of the heart. This is important, since the will is primary in Hebrew ethics – one chooses with one’s heart. Other organs, such as the kidneys, are also given psychophysical function. Emotion that urges the heart to action is seen to be located in the kidneys. Robinson points out that this atribution of psychical functions to parts of the body is not restricted to organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, but also extends to the ear, eye, mouth, hand, and so forth. The eye, for example, is described in Psalm 131:1 as having the qualities of “pride” or “humility.” Ancient thought lacked knowledge of a central nervous system, and the biblical Hebrews (like others of their day) distributed the psychic powers we localize in the mind to various parts of the body, including all aspects of “flesh” and “bone.” So the psalmist says “All my bones shall say, Yahweh [Lord], who is like thee?” (Ps. 35:9-10). Robinson concludes that for the biblical Hebrews, human nature is understood as a complex of parts drawing their life and activity from a nephesh/ruach, which has no existence apart from the body. The most important aspect of human nature, other than its psychosomatic unity, is its constant openness to “spiritual” influence from without...

The rabbis speculated that while the first human was created entirely by God, all others are born from parents who contribute various parts: “The white is from the male, out of which brain and bones and sinews are formed; and the red is from the female, out of which the skin and the flesh and the blood are made; and the spirit and the life and the soul are from the Holy One [God], blessed be He.” At death God takes back his share and leaves the portion of the parents. Because the father and mother had a share, with God, in creating the child, so parents are to be honored. This idea of humans as constituted by three parts opened the way for the Hebrew psychosomatic view of human nature to begin to more closey approximate the Greek body/soul dualistic understanding. For example, Rabbi Simai suggests that in the creation of a human, the soul is drawn from heaven and the body from the earth. And Philo, following Plato, describes human nature as having three parts: “the body that is from clay, the animal vitality that is linked to the body, and the mind that is instilled in the soul, that being the Divine mind.” Humans are thus a synthesis of earthly parts and the Spirit of God. The human soul, composed from God’s spirit, includes the mind and is the immortal part. Trapped within the body, the soul experiences the miseries that arise from the human failings of frailty and sin. But the soul also inspires and directs the body toward perfection. Ultimately, however, the soul requires release from the body. This is Philo’s view, and it is dualistic and Greek in nature. The rabbis reject such an extreme move and view the relationship between the earthly parts (from the parents) and the divine part of human nature more positively. For the Greeks the ultimate goal is the release of the soul from the body, but for the rabbis, human perfectibility and ascent are achieved by following the laws of the Torah and by the performance of good deeds...

In the New Testament, human nature is described as having intelligence, emotions, free will, moral responsibility, and the possibility of eternal life. The Gospels indicate that the views of Jesus regarding human nature are essencially those of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament (see chapter 3). The concept of the physical body, expressed by either “body” or “flesh”, represents the whole person or personality, with no sharp distinction between body and soul as in Greek thought. When Jesus says in Mark 14:38 “The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak,” it seems as if he is adopting a dualistic view of human nature. But this is not the case. Jesus fully adopts the Hebrew approach of thinking of the whole personality – mind, body, and spirit – as a psychosomatic unity. Jesus frequently uses the terms “flesh” and “body” to represent the whole personality, as for example in Matthew 5:29 “that your whole body be thrown into hell.” When Jesus uses the word “life” as in Mark 8:35, “Whoever would save his life will lose it,” or the word “soul” as in Mark 14:34, “My soul is sorrowful,” it is the Hebrew term nephesh (life or self including the body, its organs and blood) that is meant. In his teachings the most basic aspect of Jesus’ view of human nature is his assumption of intelligence, free will, and emotions that require discipline. Human intelligence enables on to understand God’s will, and human freedom gives one the opportunity to choose to follow it. These qualities of intelligence, freedom, and responsibility are seen in Jesus’s sayings such as Matthew 5:28, “[E]very one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committee adultery with her in his heart.” Here Jesus assumes that all moral actions are the responsibility of the self. “Heart” is uses here by Jesus in the typical Hebrew sense that the heart is the seat of will and free choice, rather than the mind is, as in modern thought. Jesus knows that human nature is capable of good acts as well as bad, and so he says in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Humans have the ability to choose rightly because, as in the Hebrew Bible, they are understood to be created in the image of God. This responsibility is at the heart of Jesus’s parables. For example, in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) the father, who represents God, allows his son the freedom to leave home, and the son returns only after he has freely decide that it is best for him to go back. The understanding of human nature that runs throughout Jesus’ teachings is that of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Although the idea of life after death is not found throughout most of the Hebrew Bible, it did appear in the final writers of the Old Testament such as in the book of Daniel. Jesus adopted this thinking. “There is hardly a word in his teaching which does not presuppose that the possibility of eternal life belongs to the nature of man”. As in the case with Hebrew thought, it is clear that Jesus had in mind a bodily resurrection and not, as in the Greek idea on afterlife, a disembodied soul.

Paul, like Jesus, adopts the basic Hebrew or Old Testament view of human nature. Humans are created by God as a mind-body-spirit unity, and in the image of God. Further, all humans have God’s natural law within as a kind of innate conscience written upon their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15). While God’s requirements are made explicit to the Jews in the Torah, Gentiles have the natural law within, so no one has an excuse for disobeying God’s requirements. In spite of this, there seems to be some inherent perversity in human nature that causes humans to sin. Paul introspectively searches within to identify what it is that causes himself to do this. While he is not a technical psychologist, Paul uses key words in conducting his analysis. He uses several words for “desire,” which he frequently pairs with “flesh” to get “desires of the flesh.” Here is important to note that Paul is not separating the body from the soul or spirit and identifying one’s evil desires with this separate body as Greek dualistic wiews of human nature do. Rather, Paul uses “desires of the flesh” in a poetic manner as a way of speaking of all desires – as if they are a sort of alien person residing within. In Galatians 5:16-21 Paul speaks of one’s life (personality) as under the domination of either “flesh” or “Spirit.” He says, “Walk by the Spirit and do not gratify desires of the flesh... for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you would.” He goes on to identify the works of the flesh as including such things as immorality, impurity, idolatry, strife, jealousy, anger, selfshness, envy, and drunkenness, and concludes in verse 24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Paul’s emphasis on desire in his analysis of human nature is reminiscent of the Buddhist approach, which we examine in chapter 8.

Paul also uses the term “body” in a similar poetic sense. In Romans 6:12, for example, he says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.” Here “body” has much the meaning of “flesh” as described above. Indeed, Paul uses the terms “flesh,” “body,” and “sin” interchangeably to mean essentially the same thing – namely, living under the domination of desire in one’s whole personality. In Romans 8:13, Paul says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Here “flesh,” “body,” and “desires” are equated and put in opposition to living according to the dictates of the Spirit in one’s body and mind. So in Romans 7:20 Paul says that when he is under the domination of desires of the flesh, “It is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.” He states the dilemma of human nature as follows: “I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:22-25). Paul states clearly that although he wants to do the good that he finds within, without the grace of God he has received through his Lord Jesus Christ he remains under the domination of the sinful desires of the flesh. Although Paul does not use the technical term “will” in the above analysis of the human  condition it is clearly implied. With his reason a man understands the law of God either through revealed Torah, if a Jew, or through his innate conscience, if a Gentile. But his ability to obey is obstructed by the desires of the flesh. In between is a conscious “I” that has free will at its disposal. But the ability to choose to obey is constantly obstructed by desire. This leads Paul to conclude in Romans 7:25, “So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Only by bringing his will into harmony with the will of God can Paul find freedom from sin and experience salvation.

– pp. 30-32, 37, 56-58.


Larry R. Helyer, The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology, InterVarsity Press, Illinois, USA, 2008:

The problemmatic text is 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. This text, however, coheres nicely with the first two when we unpack what is actually describe. In order to do this, I lay out in chart form the essential points that Paul makes in this passage:

This Life


The “Intermediate State”

The “Life to Come”

“we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (v. 2); “at home in the body” (v. 6); “away from the Lord” (vv. 6, 9)

“if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed” (v. 1); “to be unclothed” (v. 4)

“be found naked” (v. 3); “unclothed” (v. 4); “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v. 8)

“a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v. 1); “our heavenly dwelling” (v. 2); “to be further clothed” (v. 4); “swallowed up by life” (v. 4); “for all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (v. 10)

Paul actually describes four possible states that a believer may experience. The first is life in physical bodies marked by frailty and mortality. The image of a tent effectively portrays this condition. The experience of death, the second possibility, is alluded to under the metaphors of the tent being destroyed or of suddenly being without clothes. The grim reality behind the metaphors is separation of spirit and body at death. What is not so clear, but I think is essencial for grasping Paul’s thought, is a fleeting reference to the third possibility: an intermediate state, a disembodied existence after death and before the parousia. Paul uses the metaphor of nakedness to make the point. Finally, he describes the fourth possibility: the grand consummation of redemptive history, resurrection life in the age to come, where what is mortal is “swallowed up by life.”

In short, Paul does not teach that a believer receives the resurrection body at death. But he is so sure that believers will receive a new body at the parousia that he uses the present tense “we have [echomen]” in 2 Corinthians 5:1. This is futuristic use of the present tense, a usage common to both Greek and English. At death, one is away from the body – that is, in the intermediate state. On the one hand, Paul much prefers this state to being in the body because it is “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). To this we compare Philippians 1:23, where he says that “to depart and be with the Christ... is far better.” On the other hand, this is not the final state. Paul most desires to be with Christ in his heavenly house (i. e., possessing a resurrection body). In keeping with Paul’s Hebraic heritage, God’s ultimate purpose for human beings involves corporeal existence. The resurrection body is an imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual and heavenly body – an enormous advance over a mere physical body – but it is still a very concrete and real body.

– pp. 299, 300.



Christianity: History, Belief, and Practice, The Britannica Guide to Religion, Matt Stefon (ed.), Britannica Educational Publishing in association with Rosen Educational Services (New York, NY, USA), 2012:


Human beings seem always to have had some notion of a shadowy double that survives the death of the body. But the idea of the soul as a mental entity, with intellectual and moral qualities, interacting with a physical organism but capable of continuing after its dissolution, derives in Western thought from Plato and entered into Judaism during approximately the last century before the Common Era and thence into Christianity. In Jewish and Christian thinking it has existed in tension with the idea of the resurrection of the person conceived as an indissoluble psychophysical unity. Christian thought gradually settled into a pattern that required both of these apparently divergent ideas. At death the soul is separated from the body and exists in a conscious or unconscious disembodied state. But on the future Day of Judgment souls will be re-embodied (whether in their former but now transfigured earthly bodies or in new resurrection bodies) and will live eternally in the heavenly kingdom.

Within this framework philosophical discussion has centred mainly on the idea of the immaterial soul and its capacity to survive bodily death. Plato, in the Phaedo, argued that the soul isinherently indestructible. To destroy something, including the body, is to disintegrate it into its constituent elements; but the soul, as a mental entity, is not composed of parts and is thus an indissoluble unity. Although  Thomas Aquinas' concept of the soul, as the “form” of the body, was derived from Aristotle rather than Plato, he too argued for its indestructibility (Summa theologiae, I, Q. 76, art. 6). The French philosopher  Jacques Maritain (1882–1973), a modern Thomist, summarized the conclusion as follows: “A spiritual soul cannot be corrupted, since it possesses no matter; it cannot be disintegrated, since it has no substantial parts; it cannot lose its individual unity, since it is self-subsisting, nor its internal energy since it contains withinitself all the sources of its energies”. But though it is possible to define the soul in such a way that it is incorruptible, indissoluble, and self-subsisting, critics have asked whether there is any good reason to think that souls as thus defined exist. If, on the other hand, the soul means the conscious mind or personality —something whose immortality would be of great interest to human beings — this does not seem to be an indissoluble unity. On the contrary, it seems to have a kind of organic unity that can vary in degree but that is also capable of fragmentation and dissolution.

Much modern philosophical analysis of the concept of  mind is inhospitable to the idea of immortality, for it equates mental lifewith the functioning of the physical brain. Impressed by evidence of the dependence of mind on brain, some Christian thinkers have been willing to accept the view — corresponding to the ancient Hebrew understanding — of the human being as an indissoluble psychophysical unity, but these thinkers have still maintained a belief in immortality, not as the mind surviving the body, but as a divine resurrection or re-creation of the living body-mind totality. Such resurrection persons would presumably be located in a space different from that which they now inhabit and would presumably undergo a development from the condition of a dying person to that of a viable inhabitant of the resurrection world. But all theories in this area carry with them their own difficulties, and alternative theories emerged.

– pp. 177, 178.


Norman H. Althausen, Implications of the Nature of Immortality for the Final Judgment(thesis), Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA, 2014:


One of the foundations for the traditionalist‘s doctrine of conscious, eternal torment for the wicked is the belief that the human soul is immortal and thus, after judgment, must go somewhere. This is occasionally denied, and the scriptures are appealed to as the only basis for the doctrine. Nevertheless, this section will show that the immortality of the soul is indeed an important piece of the foundation. The scriptural evidence for conscious eternal torment will be examined in a later section. Apart from a few possible references, the Old Testament does not have any well-developed teaching about life after death. The Hebrew view of death centered around the nature of Sheol:

What, then, has the Old Testament to say concerning life after death? The Hebrews of Old Testament times had no positive ideas about Sheol. Everything was negative rather than positive. If Sheol is to be thought of as evidence of the persistence of anything, it is  better to think of it as the persistence of death rather than of life.

Snaith summarizes by saying,  “There is no reference to life after death in the Old Testament apart from two instances only, Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2.” The intertestamental period saw a development of a belief in a resurrection of the dead, so that by the time of the New Testament, there is a diversity of opinions as represented by the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The Greek philosopher Plato (429-347 BC) developed the idea of the immortality of soul based on the concept that the soul was simple and indivisible:

Ungenerated and eternal, it existed before the body did that it inhabited, and it would survive the body as well. To be apart from the body was the soul‘s natural and proper state; to be imprisoned in the body was its punishment for faults committed during a  previous incarnation.

The Apologists of the second and third centuries, like Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, borrowed certain aspects of Plato‘s immortal soul, with modifications, as they attempted to demonstrate the rationality of the Christian faith to the pagan culture they lived in.  According to Jaeger:

The Christian fathers rejected the story of the transmigration of the soul, but they accepted the immortality of the individual soul, since they found it reconcilable with Paul's notion of the resurrection and with Jewish-Christian angelology, i.e., the existence of a world of immaterial beings.

Through these developments, the idea of the inherent immortality of the soul became incorporated to eschatological theology.

As logical as this idea may seem, the important factor is whether Scripture teaches the inherent immortality of the soul. The first point to make is that God is the only one who possesses inherent immortality. 1 Timothy 1:17 states: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:15-16 is even more emphatic: “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” Immortality belongs to God alone, but he will share it with the redeemed in Christ: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom 2:7). To the Christian is given the promise of immortality: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54). Nowhere in Scripture is immortality given to unbelievers. As Snaith observes, “Neither here nor anywhere else in the Bible is there any suggestion of an immortal soul which survives death. Nothing survives unless it be raised up by God, and the condition is that the man must be “in Christ” and so “born of the spirit.” Immortality is not inherent, but is conditioned on faith in Christ.

Despite the clear scriptural teaching, traditionalists continue to insist on this belief even if not found in the Bible because it is necessary to establish the doctrine of hell being conscious eternal torment. W. G. T. Shedd stated in the late nineteenth century:

But irrepressible and universal as it is, the doctrine of man‘s immortality is an astonishing one, and difficult to entertain. For it means that every frail finite man is to be as long-enduring as the infinite and eternal God; that there will no more be an end to the existence of the man who died today than there will be of the Deity who made him... Yes, man must exist. He has no option. Necessity is laid upon him. He cannot extinguish himself. He cannot cease to be.”

The following quotes prove that this position is based more on assumption than demonstration from Scripture. Lehman Strauss asserts, “The Word of God assumes the eternal existence of every soul regardless of its destiny. Every man‘s soul is immortal and can never be annihilated (emphasis added).” Shedd has emphasized that the immortality of the soul “is nowhere formally demonstrated, because it is everywhere assumed”, Goulburn insists that it “seems to be graven on man‘s heart almost as indelibly as the doctrine of God‘s existence,”  and Herman Bavinck insists that immortality of the soul is a biblical doctrine, but it is better demonstrated by reason than by revelation. Clearly, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul lacks biblical support, but since it is a necessary component of the traditionalist position, it must be retained. Before moving to a consideration of the scriptural data both for and against annihilationism, it is necessary to examine the meaning of the Greek word αιωνιος (aionios), most commonly translated as eternal.


Aionios is an adjective derived from the noun aion, which means age or eternity. It is most often translated as eternal or everlasting. According to the TDTNT (Kittel, ed.), aionios is used in the sense of eternal in three ways: 1) as a predicate of God in which case it “contains not merely the concept of unlimited time without beginning or end, but also of the eternity which transcends time;” 2) “it is also used of divine possessions and gifts;” and 3) “as a term for the object of eschatological expectation,” and its meaning “extends beyond the purely temporal meaning.”

The question is, does aionios always mean temporal eternity, or everlasting time, or can it also have a qualitative aspect, such as pertaining to the age to come? Fudge cites Emmanuel Petavel as stating that at “at least seventy times in the Bible, this word qualifies ‘objects of a temporary and limited nature,’ so that it signifies only ‘an indeterminate duration of which the maximum is fixed by the intrinsic nature of the person or things.’” He then cites a number of things in which aionios (and its Hebrew equivalent, olam) refers to things which have come to an end:

the sprinkling of the blood at the Passover was an “everlasting” ordinance (Exodus12:24); 2) the Aaronic priesthood (Lev 3:17) ; 3) Caleb‘s inheritance (Josh 5:17); 4) Solomon‘s temple (1 Kings 8:12-13); 5) The period of a slave‘s life (Deut 15:17) ; 6) Gehazi‘s leprosy (2 Kings 5:27). These things did not last “forever” in the sense of “time extended without limitation.” They did last beyond the vision of those who first heard them called “everlasting.” And no time limit was then set at all.

According to Fudge, aionios clearly means everlasting in its temporal sense, but also can have a qualitative sense. This is related to the “Jewish attitude about history and last things, in which time is divided into two ages – the present age and the age to come.” Bruce Milne, a traditionalist, observes, “The word commonly rendered ‘eternal’ in our New Testament translations is in fact literally ‘of the age (to come)’ Thus it refers in the first instance to a  particular quality of life, rather than to its durational quantity.” This does not negate the temporal aspect. Thus eternal life can mean, the life characteristic of the age to come, which will also be everlasting. Eternal judgment and eternal punishment can mean the judgment and  punishment pertaining to the age to come. J. C. Davis, in his analysis of the use of “eternal life” in the writings of John, examines the question of whether eternal life is something for the future or something the believer possesses now. He concludes that this is another example of the “now,  but not yet” aspect of the Christian life, and that eternal life comes in two stages: the future, when Christ returns, and the right now, where we already have eternal life. John 17:3 emphasizes the qualitative aspect of eternal life: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

A final aspect of the use of eternal, is when the adjective modifies a noun that names the result of an action (usually with the suffix –ment or  –tion). There are five uses of this kind in the  New Testament: eternal salvation (Heb 5:9); eternal redemption (Heb 9:12); eternal judgment (Heb 6:2); eternal punishment (Matt 25:46); and eternal destruction (2 Thess 1:9). Fudge comments:

Here we see again the other-age quality of the “eternal.” There is something transcendent, eschatological, divine about this judgment, this sin, this punishment and destruction, this redemption and salvation. They are not merely human, this-age matters,  but are of an entirely different nature. Yet the contexts and contents of Scripture passages in which aionios modifies the words judgment, sin, punishment, destruction, redemption, and salvation justify the conclusion that something about each of these will never come to an end.

In all of these cases eternal modifies a noun that is the result of an action, not an action itself. Thus eternal salvation does not mean that God is forever saving his people, but that the result of this salvation will have no end. Similarly, eternal redemption does not mean redeeming forever,  but that the results last forever. Likewise, eternal judgment, punishment, and destruction do not mean that God will be judging, punishing, and destroying forever, but that the results of these actions will last forever.

– pp. 5-10.