The "Afterlife" in the Conception of the Hebrews of Biblical Times (Quotations)

A Hebrew and English Lexicon Without Points: In Which the Hebrew and Chaldee Words of the Old Testament Are Explained in Their Leading and Derived Senses,... to This Work Are Prefixed, a Hebrew and a Chaldee Grammar, Without Points, W. Faden, London, 1762 (This cover is from 2015 Edition):

As a N. נֶ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] A living creature, a creature or animal that lives by breathing. Gen. 1:20, 21, 24... Particularly a human creature, being, or self, as being the principal of animal frames, a person...

As a N. נֶ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul: I must for myself confess, that I can find no [biblical] passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning. Gen. xxxv. 18. 1 K. xvii. 21, 22. Ps. xvi. 10, seem fairest for this signification. But may not נֶ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] in the three former passages be most properly rendered breath, and in the last, a breathing or animal frame?

– 6th Edition, 1811, pp. 459, 460. (About the meaning of the word נֶ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh]).

Encyclopædia Britannica, 1768-1771:

SOUL – in religion and philosophy, the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, that which confers individuality and humanity, often considered to be synonymous with the mind or the self. In theology, the soul is further defined as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity and often is considered to survive the death of the body.

Many cultures have recognized some incorporeal principle of  human life or existence corresponding to the soul, and many have attributed souls to all living things. There is evidence even among  prehistoric peoples of a belief in an aspect distinct from the body and residing in it. Despite widespread and longstanding belief in the existence of a soul, however, different religions and philosophers have developed a variety of theories as to its nature, its relationship to the body, and its origin and mortality.

Among ancient peoples, both the  Egyptians and the Chinese conceived of a dual soul. The Egyptian  ka (breath) survived death but remained near the body, while the spiritual  ba proceeded to the region of the dead. The Chinese distinguished between a lower, sensitive soul, which disappears with death, and a rational principle, the  hun, which survives the grave and is the object of ancestor worship.

The early  Hebrews apparently had a concept of the soul but did not separate it from the body, although later Jewish writers developed the idea of the soul further. Old Testament references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body.  Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St.  Gregory of Nyssa and by St.  Augustine.

Ancient Greek concepts of the soul varied considerably according to the particular era and philosophical school. The  Epicureans considered the soul to be made up of atoms like the rest of the body. For the Platonists, the soul was an immaterial and incorporeal substance, akin to the gods yet part of the world of change and becoming.  Aristotle's conception of the soul was obscure, though he did state that it was a form inseparable from the body.

In Christian theology, St. Augustine spoke of the soul as a “rider” on the body, making clear the split between the material and theimmaterial, with the soul representing the “true” person. However, although body and soul were separate, it was not possible to conceive of a soul without its body. In the European Middle Ages, St. Thomas  Aquinas returned to the Greek philosophers' concept of the soul as a motivating principle of thebody, independent but requiring the substance of the body to make an individual.

From the Middle Ages onward, the existence and nature of the soul and its relationship to the body continued to be disputed in Western philosophy. To  René Descartes, man was a union of the body and the soul, each a distinct substance acting on the other; the soul was equivalent to the mind. To Benedict de Spinoza, body and soul formed two aspects of a single reality.  Immanuel Kant concluded that the soul was not demonstrable through reason, although the mind inevitably must reach the conclusion that the soul exists because such a conclusion was necessary for the development of ethics and religion. To  William James at the beginning of the 20th century, the soul as such did not exist at all but was merely a collection of psychic phenomena.

Just as there have been different concepts of the relation of the soul to the body, there have been numerous ideas about when the soul comes into existence and when and if it dies. Ancient Greek beliefs were varied and evolved over time. Pythagoras heldthat the soul was of divine origin and existed before and after death. Plato and Socrates also accepted the immortality of the soul, while Aristotle considered only part of the soul, the noûs, or intellect, to have that quality. Epicurus believed that both body and soul ended at death. The early Christian philosophers adopted the Greek concept of the soul's immortality and thought of the soul as being created by God and infused into the body at conception.

– Digital Edition, 2005, Entry "Soul".


Judaism. The canonical writings of biblical Judaism record the relations between certain outstanding individuals and their god. The events described are perceived as landmarks in the unfurling of a national destiny, designed and guided by that god. Jewish eschatology is in this sense unique: its main concern is the fate of a nation, not what happens to an individual at death or thereafter.

In classical Judaism death closes the book. As the anonymous author of Ecclesiastes bluntly put it: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward” (Eccles. 9:5). The death of human beings was like that of animals: “As one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts . . . all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Eccles. 3:19–20). Life alone mattered: “A living dog is better than a dead lion” (Eccles. 9:4). Even Job, whose questioning at times verges on subverting Yahwist doctrine, ends up endorsing the official creed: “Man dies, and is laid low... As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, So man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake, or be roused out of his sleep” (Job 14:10–12).

Yet such views were far from universal. The archaeological record suggests that the various racial elements assimilated to form the Jewish nation each had brought to the new community its own tribal customs, often based on beliefs in an afterlife. Both Moses (Deut. 14:1) and Jeremiah (Jer. 16:6) denounced mortuary practices taken to imply such beliefs. Necromancy, although officially forbidden, was widely practiced, even in high places. Saul's request to the witch of Endor to “bring up” the dead prophet Samuel for him (I Sam. 28:3–20) implied that the dead, or at least some of them, still existed somewhere or other, probably in Sheol, “the land of gloom and deep darkness” (Job 10:21). In Sheol, the good and the wicked shared a common fate, much as they had in the Babylonian underworld. The place did not conjure up images of an afterlife, for nothing happened there. It was literally inconceivable, and this is what made it frightening: death was utterly definitive, even if rather ill-defined.

Many were unsatisfied by the idea that individual lives only had meaning inasmuch as they influenced the nation's destiny for good or ill. There was only one life, they were told, yet their everyday experience challenged the view that it was on earth that Yahweh rewarded the pious and punished the wicked. The Book of Job offered little solace: it was irrelevant that the good suffered and that the wicked prospered. One did not pray to improve one's prospects. The worship of God was an end in itself; it was what gave meaning to life. Against this backdrop of beliefs, the longing for personal significance was widespread.

It is difficult to determine when the notion of soul first emerged in Jewish writings. The problem is partly philological. The word nefesh originally meant “neck” or “throat,” and later came to imply the “vital spirit,” or anima in the Latin sense. The word ruach had at all times meant “wind” but later came to refer to the whole range of a person's emotional, intellectual, and volitional life. It even designated ghosts. Both terms were widely used and conveyed a wide variety of meanings at different times, and both were often translated as “soul.”

The notion of a resurrection of the dead has a more concrete evolution. It seems to have originated during Judaism's Hellenistic period (4th century BC – 2nd century AD). Isaiah announced that the “dead shall live, their bodies shall rise,” and the “dwellers in the dust” would be enjoined to “awake and sing”(Isa. 26:19). Both the good and the wicked would be resurrected. According to their deserts, some would be granted “everlasting life,” others consigned to an existence of “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). The idea that a person's future would be determined by conduct on earth was to have profound repercussions. The first beneficiaries seem to have been those killed in battle on behalf of Israel. Judas Maccabeus, the 2nd-century-BC Jewish patriot who led a struggle against Seleucid domination and Greek cultural penetration, found that his own supporters had infringed the law. He collected money and sent it to Jerusalem to expiate their sins, acting thereby “very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead” (II Macc. 12:43–45).

Sheol itself became departmentalized. According to the First Book of Enoch, a noncanonical work believed to have been written between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD, Sheol was composed of three divisions, to which the dead would be assigned according to their moral deserts. The real Ge Hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”), where the early Israelites were said to have sacrificed their children to Moloch (and in which later biblical generations incinerated Jerusalem's municipal rubbish), was transmuted into the notion of  Gehenna, a vast camp designed for torturing the wicked by fire. This was a clear precursor of things to come — the Christian and Islāmic versions of hell.

Orphic and Platonic ideas also came to exert a profound influence on the Judaic concept of death. These were perhaps expressed most clearly in the apocryphal text known as the Wisdom of Solomon, written during the 1st century BC and reflecting the views of a cultured Jew of the Diaspora. The author stressed that a “perishable body weighs down the soul” (Wisd. Sol. 9:15) and stated that “being good” he had “entered an undefiled body” (Wisd. Sol. 8:20), a viewpoint that was quintessentially Platonic in its vision of a soul that predated the body.  Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian of the 1st century AD, recorded in Bellum Judaicum (History of the Jewish War) how doctrinal disputes about death, the existence of an afterlife, and the “fate of the soul” were embodied in the views of various factions. The Sadducees (who spoke for a conservative, sacerdotal aristocracy) were still talking in terms of the old Yahwist doctrines, while the Pharisees (who reflected the views of a more liberal middle class) spoke of immortal souls, some doomed to eternal torment, others promised passage into another body. The Essenes held views close to those of the early Christians.

Following the destruction of the Temple (AD 70) and, more particularly, after the collapse of the last resistance to the Romans (c. 135), rabbinic teaching and exegesis slowly got under way. These flowered under Judah ha-Nasi (“Judah the Prince”), who, during his reign (c. 175–c. 220) as patriarch of the Jewish community in Palestine, compiled the collection of rabbinic law known as the  Mishna. During the next 400 years or so, rabbinic teaching flourished, resulting in the production and repeated reelaboration first of the Palestinian (Jerusalem) and then of the  Babylonian Talmuds. These codes of civil and religious practice sought to determine every aspect of life, including attitudes toward the dead. The concepts of immortality and resurrection had become so well established that in the Eighteen Benedictions (recited daily in synagogues and homes) God was repeatedly addressed as “the One who resurrects the dead.” Talmudic sources warned that “anyone who said there was no resurrection” would have no share in the world to come (tractate Sanhedrin 10:1). Over the centuries, a radical doctrinal shift had occurred. One would have to await the great political volte-faces of the 20th century to witness again such dramatic gyrations of decreed perspective.

– Digital Edition, 2005, Entry “Death”

Human substance and nature. The conception of death in most religions is closely related to the particular view held about the constitution of human nature. Two major traditions of interpretation have provided the basic assumptions of religious  eschatologies and have often found expression in mortuary rituals and funerary practice. The more primitive of these interpretations has been based on an integralistic evaluation of human nature. Thus, the individual person has been conceived as a psychophysical organism, of which both the material and the nonmaterial constituents are essential in order to maintain a properly integrated personal existence. From such an evaluation it has followed that death is the fatal shattering of personal existence. Although some constituent element of the living person has been deemed to survive this disintegration, it has not been regarded as conserving the essential self or personality. The consequences of this estimate of human nature can be seen in the eschatologies of many religions. The ancient Mesopotamians, Hebrews, and Greeks, for example, thought that after death only a shadowy wraith descended to the realm of the dead, where it existed miserably in dust and darkness. Such a conception of man, in turn, has meant that, where the possibility of an effective afterlife has been envisaged, as in ancient Egyptian religion, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islām, the idea of a reconstitution or resurrection of the body has also been involved; for it has been deemed essential to restore the psychophysical complex of personality. In Egypt, most notably, provision was made for the eventual reconstitution in an elaborate mortuary ritual which included the mummification of the corpse to preserve it from disintegration.

The alternative view of human nature may be termed dualistic. It conceives of the individual person as comprising an inner essential self or soul, which is nonmaterial, and a physical body. In many religions based on this view of human nature, the soul is regarded as being essentially immortal and as existing before the body was formed. Its incarnation in the body is interpreted as a penalty incurred for some primordial sin or error. At death the soul leaves the body, and its subsequent fate is determined by the manner in which it has fulfilled what the particular religion concerned has prescribed for the achievement of salvation. This view of human nature and destiny finds most notable expression in Hinduism and, in a subtly qualified sense, in Buddhism; it was also taught in such mystical cults and philosophies of the Greco-Roman world as Orphism (an ancient Greek mystical movement with a significant emphasis on death), Gnosticism (an early system of thought that viewed spirit as good and matter as evil), Hermeticism (a Hellenistic esoteric, occultic movement), and  Manichaeism (a system of thought founded by Mani in ancient Iran).

Forms of survival. The conception of human nature held in any religion has, accordingly, determined the manner or mode in which postmortem survival has been envisaged. Where the body has been regarded as an essential constituent of personal existence, belief in a significant afterlife has inevitably entailed the idea of the reconstitution of the decomposed corpse and its resurrection to life. In turn, a dualistic conception of human nature, which regards the soul as intrinsically nonmaterial and immortal, envisages postmortem life in terms of the disembodied existence of the soul. This dualistic conception, in many religions, has also involved the idea of rebirth or  reincarnation. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Orphism this idea has inspired a cyclical view of the  time process and produced esoteric explanations of how thesoul becomes reborn into a physical body, whether human or animal.

– Digital Edition, 2005, Entry “Death Rite”

RESURRECTION, the rising from the dead of a divine or human being who still retains his own personhood, or individuality, though the body may or may not be changed. The belief in the resurrection of the body is usually associated with Christianity, because of the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ, but it also is associated with later  Judaism, which provided basic ideas that were expanded in Christianity and Islām.

Ancient Middle Eastern religious thought provided a background for belief in the resurrection of a divine being (e.g., the Babylonian vegetation god Tammuz), but belief in personal resurrection of humans was unknown. In Greco-Roman religious thought there was a belief in the immortality of the soul, but not in the resurrection of the body. Symbolic resurrection, or rebirth of the spirit, occurred in the Hellenistic mystery religions, such as the religion of the goddess Isis, but postmortem corporeal resurrection was not recognized.

The expectation of the resurrection of the dead is found in several Old Testament works. In  the Book of Ezekiel, there is an anticipation that the righteous Israelites will rise from the dead.  The Book of Daniel further developed the hope of resurrection with both the righteous and unrighteous Israelites being raised from the dead, after which will occur a judgment, with the righteous participating in an eternal messianic kingdom and the unrighteous being excluded. In some intertestamental literature, such as The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, there is an expectation of a universal resurrection at the advent of the Messiah.

– Digital Edition, 2005, Entry "Resurrection".

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1829-1833:

Resurrection, an article of belief contained in all the formularies of the Christian faith, namely, that at the last day all the human creatures that shall have lived on earth will rise from their graves in the bodies which they had in life. It is a doctrine peculiar to the Christian religion, one not entertained by the pagan nations of antiquity nor by the Hebrews till the latter period of their history as a nation. In the Hebrew scriptures are many passages which favor more or less the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; but such passages are in no instance free from ambiguity; and even were it to be granted that they unequivocally assert a resurrection, they do not accord with the doctrine that is taught in all the creeds of Christendom, namely, that when the period of man's life upon the earth is closed then the entire human race, not the good alone, but the wicked, not the blest alone, but those also who are destined to everlasting punishment shall arise from the grave with the bodies which they had in life and appear before the supreme tribunal. The passages of Hebrew Scripture that have been regarded as intimating this doctrine are chiefly Isaiah xxvi. 19, Job xix. 23-27, and Daniel xii.

2. The passage of Isaiah, as rendered in the Authorized Version is, "Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise." The words italicized are supplied by the translators. In the Septuagint the latter half of the passage is rendered, "and those in the graves shall arise." If this is unequivocally a declaration of the resurrection of the bodies of men, at least it does not assert that there will be such a resurrection of the entire human race. Job xix. 25-27 reads : "I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." Again a mutilated Hebrew text, with variant readings and variously translated in the versions: but granted that it tells of a resurrection on the last day, it says at most only that Job will then appear in his body as when he lived — one man, not all mankind. Much clearer and stronger is the passage, Daniel xii. 2, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt": this is explicit, but it does not say that all the dead will arise clothed in their bodies; and this becoming "awake" does not necessarily imply reassumption of the bodies at all. Toward the time of the downfall of the Jewish nation the belief in the resurrection of the body was generally entertained among the Jews: in the apocryphal book 2 Maccabees the doctrine of the resurrection is strongly asserted, yet even there nothing is said about a resurrection of all the dead; and though the resurrection of all the dead is now the 13th article of the Jewish creed, it is a doctrine that cannot be proved from the Talmud or the Midrashim, according to which only the just will rise again. But in the books of the New Testament the resurrection of all on the last day is explicitly declared, and in all the formularies of Christian belief, beginning with the Apostles' Creed, this doctrine is most distinctly asserted. That not only the just but also the wicked shall rise again is explicitly taught by the Founder of Christianity in Matt. v. 29, x. 28, and particularly in John v. 28, 29, "The hour is coming in 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." — The Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion is by Saint Paul made the very basis of Christian faith: “If Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." The evidence of the truth of Christ's resurrection, for those who were to form the first nucleus of his church was the fact that on eleven different occasions between the resurrection and the ascension into heaven he manifested himself to his apostles and others, his companions and friends: and these testify to the truth of this resurrection in clear, definite, positive state ments. Those who deny the objective reality of Christ's resurrection — and it was denied in the very first age of the Church  attempt to explain it away on various grounds: but his disciples distinctly testified that it was Jesus himself, in corporeal presence, who conversed with them at sundry times during the 40 days preceding the ascension.

– 1904 Edition, entry "Resurrection".

IMMORTALITY. … Belief in some form of immortality is widespread, although not universal. It is found in all stages of civilization from the lowest form of aboriginal life to the highest Occidental culture. The doctrine varies from a belief in an indefinite survival-period after death to the belief in eternal personal life, the latter being the legitimate use of the term Immortality...

Hebrews. — Sheol, or the realm of shadows, appears in the early history of the Jews to be an amplification of the idea of the grave, as the dark abode of departed spirits, where souls dwell bodiless, unconscious, without feeling. The references in the early part of the Old Testament Scriptures to a future life are rare and vague, and the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is nowhere explicitly taught in the early books. The rites of necromancy were discouraged by the prophets and lawgivers of ancient Israel as antagonistic to belief in the God of life, whose realm excluded Sheol (or the realm of the dead), until post-exilic times. Eternal life belongs to God alone, and to those celestial beings who have eaten of the tree of life and live forever. In connection with the Messianic hope and under the influence of Greek and Persian ideas, the later Jews adopted a doctrine of resurrection of the body which made room for belief in the soul's continuous life. The Cabalists took up the doctrine of transmigration (Gilgul, “rolling on” of souls) according to which the soul of Adam passed into David and shall pass into the Messiah, as is mystically set forth in the letters of that name (Ad[a]m). The Platonic doctrine of pre-existence is also found in the rabbinical philosophy. Immortality conjoined with the dogma of the resurrection is the prevailing conception in the post-exilic literature, the latter (resurrection) becoming fixed in the Mishna and liturgy. Since the time of Moses Mendelssohn, who rehabilitated the doctrine of Plato in his “Phædon,” progressive Judaism tends to lay less emphasis on the resurrection of the body, and greater emphasis on a purely spiritual immortality, the former dogma being discarded in the Reform rituals.

The Greeks.— The origin of the doctrine of immortality amongst the Greeks is lost in the remotest antiquity. It is found in the early traditions of the Orphic and Dionysiac mysteries, in the poems of Homer and Hesiod, and forms a central tenet in the philosophy of Pythagoras, a contemporary of Buddha-Siddhartha and Lao-Tze. The view of Pythagoras includes the doctrine of transmigration, which may have been suggested to him by the theology of the Orphic mysteries or by Pherecydes, rather than by the Egyptians (Zeller, ‘Pre-Socratic Philosophy,’ Vol. I, pp. 71, 514). The great problem of a man's life is moral purification, which he pursues in a divinely governed Cosmos, where his chief end is to become like God. The soul is imprisoned in the body because of sins committed in a pre-existent state, and after death passes into a superior or inferior state. According as it has served Good or Evil. In the ascending stages of metempsychosis the soul is prepared for moral redemption. Although the belief in some form of immortality prevailed amongst the Greeks throughout their history, and probably came into their philosophy from their religion, it was not until Plato that a philosophic basis was furnished to the doctrine. The Platonic arguments for the immortality of the soul may be summarily stated as follows:…

The views of the Greeks, and especially the views of Plato, have had a profound, an incalculable influence on Christian thought, on early theological formulæ and on the sum of Occidental philosophy. Plato was not merely a framer of philosophy, an intellectual interpreter of reality, but still more a man of religion, a seer.

– 1959 Edition, Vol. XIV, pp. 716-718.

RESURRECTION, … I. Pagan Traces. — In pagan religions, degenerated from God's primitive revelation to the human race, there is a common and definite belief in the survival of human personality after death; but the traces of a hope of a future resurrection are not universal nor distinct. Many savage tribes witness to a crude belief in metempsychosis. Such theories of reincarnation and transmigration of souls may readily be distortions of a primitive revelation of the resurrection of the body. The totemistic worship of the bear, the beaver, etc., which is found among the Sioux, Iroquois and other American Indians, follows upon the idea that the souls of the tribal ancestors have been reincarnated in those animals. Among the Egyptians, reincarnation was a purification of the soul and a preparation for final and separate existence…

II. Old Testament Teaching.— 1. Genesis. The human race, at its creation, was endowed with the preternatural gift of immortality. At the dawn of human life, the separation of soul from body in death was precluded by God's special providence. The tree of life stood in the midst of Eden (Genesis 3); and the eating of the fruit of that tree was somehow associated with the immortality of Adam's animated body. Jahweh intended to perpetuate this preternatural and deathless union of man's soul with his body, had Adam not sinned. But Adam sinned. He and the human race lost the preternatural gift of immortality. God had threatened: “Dying thou shalt die, if thou disobey” (Genesis ii, 17 and iii, 3). After the disobedience, that threat was fulfilled: ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return' (Genesis iii, 19). “By one man the sin entered into the world; and by the sin entered death. And in this wise death passed unto all men, for as much as all sinned” (Romans v, 12). However, the final triumph over death is implied in the promised victory of the seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent (Genesis iii, 15).

2. Job. — It is not certain how this revelation of the triumph over death was evolved into a clear belief in the resurrection of the body. All at once we come upon that belief in its full evolution about the 10th century B.C. Our witness is the dramatic epic called the Book of Job. Without any prospect of human comfort, the patient sufferer looks forward to the unending joy of an eternal reunion of his soul and body. The Masoretic, Septuagint and Vulgate traditions of the text are slightly variant, though substantially the same. To the scepticism of Bildad and the Shuhite, Job makes reply:

I know that my Redeemer liveth:
And on the Last Day from the dust shall I rise.
Yea, again shall I be clothed with my skin; And in my flesh shall I see God.
Him I shall see for myself,
Yea, mine eyes shall look on, not another’s.
Full fraught is this hope in my bosom.

(Job xix: 25-27)

3. Hosea. — During the dreadful times that preceded the Assyrian exile, Hosea, a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel, about B.C. 750, foretold the triumph of the chosen people in terms that clearly refer to the resurrection, especially to that of the Messias:

Come, let us go back to Jahweh.
For He hath bruised, that He may heal us; He bath smitten, that He may cure us.
After two days He will quicken us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live before His face.

(Hosea vi, 1-2)

The triumph of Israel over death is a resurrection hope, bound up in the promise of national redemption that Jahweh makes through His prophet:

From the power of She'ol shall I free them;
From death shall I redeem them.
Where is thy sting, O death? Where is thy doom, O She'ol?

(Hosea xiii, 14)

This prophecy, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians (1, Cor. xv, 54-55), is to be fulfilled at the resurrection of the flesh.

4. Isaiah. — Shortly before the fall of Samaria B.C. 722, Isaiah, a prophet of the southern kingdom of Judah, intermingled thoughts of the resurrection with his Messianic prophecies. By means of the Messianic triumph Jahweh of hosts “shall cast death down headlong for ever” (xxv, 8). In that day of complete redemption,

Thy dead shall come to life again;
My slain shall rise up again.
Awake and shout for soy,
Ye that dwell in the dust.
For thy dew is a dew of light;
Yea, the earth shall forth her dead.
The earth shall unveil her blood;
She shall cover her slain no more.

(Is. xxvi. 19-21)

In the prophets of both the Assyrian and the Babylonian period the redemption of Israel from thraldom in Assyria, and of Judah from Babylonian bondage, is a type of the resurrection of the world from slavery to sin. The sacred manumission of the slave to sin, by means of the mediatorship of the Messias, is completed in the glorious resurrection of the body. That is why Isaiah now and then is inspired to shift his thought from the salvation of Israel or of Judah to that of the soul of man by reunion with its body in glory.

5. Ezechiel. — Coming to the Babylonian period of prophecy, we find Ezechiel (B.C. 592-586) foretelling the salvation of Judah in terms that vividly picture the resurrection. The prophet in vision stood in the midst of a vast plain “full of bones… and, lo, they were very dry.” Then Jahweh prophesied to the bones:

Lo, within you I shall put spirit,
And ye shall live.
I shall grant you sinews.
I shall raise up for you flesh,
I shall set over you skin,
Within you I shall put spirit,
And ye shall live.

(Ezech. xxxvii, 5,6)

Straightway “there was a noise... and a rattling; and the bones moved nigh, each bone to its own bone.” Lastly “came into them the spirit; and they lived, and they stood upon their feet. They were an army exceeding great” (xxxvii, 10). The belief in the resurrection must have been real and universal in Judah; else Ezechiel would not have received and set forth, in terms of that figure, the revelation of the ultimate triumph of his people.

6. Daniel. — Throughout the Babylonian Exile (B.C. 586-536) and thereafter, the prophet Daniel is a clear witness to that part of Jewish eschatology, which has to do with the fact of a future resurrection of the body. “At that time Michael, the great leader, who stands for the sons of thy folk, will rise up; and there will be a time of anguish, such as never has been since nation was even until then. At that time shall thy folk be saved,— all that are found to be written in the book. And the multitude of those that sleep in the dust of the ground shall awake,— some unto life eternal, others unto reproach and unto shame eternal. Yea, they that teach wisdom shall shine like the refulgence of the firmament; they that bring many to justice shall be like stars forever and beyond” (xii, 1-3).

7. The Psalms. — The Book of Psalms, in its present state, is likely the result of a series of inspired redactions, dating from the time of David (B.C. 1017-977) up to the time of the close of the canon of Esdras (B.C. 444). The soul's longing for immortality is clear, and the resurrection-hope at least faintly glimmers throughout this long period of liturgical evolution of Israelitic hymnody. The Davidic Psalm 16 (15):9, 10 proclaims the immortality of the pious:

Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue exults;
Surely my flesh now abides in hope.
For thou wilt not give over my soul to Sheol;
Nor suffer thy pious one to see corruption.

A later Psalm 49 (48):14-15, of the Psalter of the Sons of Korah, consigns the wicked to She'ol and redeems the just:

Like sheep to She'ol they are driven; Death shepherds them;
The just shall rule over them in the morning;
Their beauty is for She’ol to waste out of its dwelling.
Surely God will save my soul from the power of She’ol;
For He will take me.

Asaph's Psalm 73(72):24, 25, yearns for immortality. David sings that his joy will be complete in the beatific vision of God, after his awaking from the sleep of death (Psalm 17:15)…

III. New Testament Teaching. — The time and details of the Parousia are treated elsewhere. (See ESCHATOLOGY). This article is limited to the fact and manner of the resurrection. The current Jewish eschatological belief, at the beginning of the Christian era, is manifested by Martha in regard to her brother Lazarus: “I know that he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day” (John xi, 24).

1. Doctrine of Jesus. — Our Lord repeated the Old Testament teaching in this matter. The Sadducees “said there was no resurrection,” and denied even the immortality of the soul (Josephus, ‘Antiquitates Judaicae’, XVIII, i, 4). They proposed to Jesus the case of a woman, who by the Mosaic law of go'el had married seven brothers, one after the other. “At the resurrection, to whom of the seven will she be wife?” In reply, our Saviour blamed them because of ignorance of Scripture. “For at the resurrection there will be no marrying nor being married; but they will be as angels in heaven.” The glorified body will not be subject to the appetites of the flesh. The Sadducees grossly caricature the glory of the resurrected body. Its joy is of God. “He is not a God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. xxii, 23-32; Luke xx, 28-38). Besides, Jesus claimed that, as Son of Man, He would be the Judge of men (John v, 23-27). He added: “A time is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live... A time is coming when all who are in their graves shall hear His voice. And they shall come forth — they that have done good, unto a resurrection of life; they that have done evil, unto a resurrection of condemnation” (John v, 28, 29). This resurrection unto life, Jesus promises, He Himself will accomplish in the case of those that believe in Him (John vi, 39, 40); follow the impulses of God's grace (John vi, 44); eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man (John vi, 45). He said to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me shall live, though he die; yea, he shall never die, who lives and believes in me” (John xi, 25, 26). The charitable shall receive their “reward at the resurrection of the good” (Luke xiv, 14). The unjust also will rise from the dead to be punished for their sins (Matt. v, 29, 30; Mark, ix, 43-49); they will go soul and body to hell (Matt. x, 28). At the Parousia, the risen just will stand at the right, and the risen unjust at the left of the Judge. He will pronounce sentence of damnation of the latter to eternal fire, and of welcome of the former to everlasting bliss (Matt. xxv, 31-46)…

– 1959 Edition, Vol. XXIII, pp. 422-425.

The Old Testament concept of man is that of a unity, not a union of soul and body. Although the Hebrew word ne'phesh is frequently translated as ‘soul,’ it would be inaccurate to read into it a Greek meaning... Ne'phesh is never conceived of as operating separately from the body. In the New Testament the Greek word psy·khe' is often translated as ‘soul’ but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means `life,' or `vitality,' or, at times, “the self.” While most Christians believe in a life after death, the Bible does not provide a clear description of how a person survives after death. Christian theologians have had to resort to the discussions of philosophers for an adequate means of describing survival of the individual after death, and philosophers have traditionally utilised the concept of the soul as the vehicle of immortality.

– 1977 Edition, Vol. XXV, p. 236.

Synonyms of the Old Testament, Robert Baker Girdlestone, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1871. (These covers are from 1983 and 2000 editions):

“When the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that the word of God pierces ‘to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit’ (Heb. 4.12), and when St. Paul prays that the ‘body, soul, and spirit’ of his converts may be preserved blameless (1 Thess. 5. 23), a psychological division of the immaterial part of human nature is drawn which is exactly similar to what we find running through the whole Old Testament. The Bible proceeds upon the supposition that there are two kinds of existence, which, for the convenience of the moment, may be called mind and matter; it appears to teach that matter originally proceeded from mind, not vice versa; it tells us that the key to the mystery of the universe is to be found, not in the material substance of which it is composed, nor in the agents or influences which cause the phenomena of nature to follow one another in regular sequence, and which give rise to what we call Laws of Nature, but to a Master-mind, who plans all things by His wisdom, and sustains them by His power. The Scriptures bring the immaterial world very close to every one of us; and whilst we are all only too conscious of our relation to things fleeting and physical, the Sacred Record reminds us on every page that we are the offspring of the absolute and unchanging Source of all existence. A man is sometimes tempted to say, ‘I will believe only what I see’; but the first puff of wind or the first shock of electricity tells him that he must enlarge his creed. If he still stops short by asserting his faith only in the forces which affect matter, he will find himself confronted by the fact that the matter which composes the human frame becomes by that very circumstance subject to forces and influences to which all other matter is a stranger. He finds a world within as well as a world without, and he is compelled to acknowledge that his physical frame is the tenement of a super-physical existent being which he calls self, and which is on the one hand a recipient of knowledge and feeling obtained through the instrumentality of the body, and on the other hand an agent, originating and, as it were, generating a force which tells upon the outer world, and enables him to play a part in existence.

It is in respect to this inner life and its workings that man is the child of God. His structure is of soil, earth-born, allied with all physical existence, and subjected to the laws of light, heat, electricity, gravitation, and such like, as much as if it were so many atoms of vegetable or mineral matter. But the immaterial existence which permeates that structure, investing it with consciousness, flooding it with sensibilities, illuminating it with understanding, enabling it to plan, to forecast, to will, to rule, to make laws, to sympathise, to love, – this ego, this pulse of existence, this nucleus of feeling and thought and action, is a sunbeam from heaven, a denizen of an immaterial sphere of being, ordained by God its Father to live and grow and be developed within the tabernacle of flesh.

The Hebrew equivalent for the word ‘soul’ is Nephesh (נֶפֶש), which answers to ψυχή in the Greek. The cognate verb Naphash, to refresh, is found in Exodus 23.12, 31.17, and 2 Sam. 16.14. Nepheshhas various shades of meaning and of rendering, which must be gathered as far as possible under one or two heads. The soul is, properly speaking, the animating principle of the body; and is the common property of man and beast. Thus, in Lev. 24.18, we read, ‘He that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast’; this is literally, ‘He that smiteth the soul of a beast shall recompense it; soul for soul.’ It is also used with respect to the lower animals in Gen. 1:21, 24; 2.19, 9.10, 12, 15, 16, and Lev. 11.46; in theses passages it has been rendered creature.

In some passages in the Pentateuch nepheshhasbeen rendered ‘anyone’; the word is thus used in an indefinite sense, the soul representing the person, as when we speak of a city containing so many thousand ‘souls.’ Perhaps, however, we should do wrong if we were to attribute an indefinite sense to the word in Scripture. The following are instances which may enable us to decide the point: – Lev. 2.1, 'When any (lit. ‘a soul’) will offer a meat offering’; Lev. 24.17, ‘He that killeth any man,’ lit. ‘that smiteth any soul of man’ – the soul representing the life; Nu. 19:11, ‘He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days,’ lit. ‘he that toucheth the dead (part) of any soul of a man (Adam) shall be unclean seven days’; verse 13, ‘Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead,’ lit. ‘the dead (part) of a soul of a man that has died,’ ‘and purifieth not himself  defileth the tabernacle of the Lord’; 31.19, ‘Whosoever hath killed any person,’ lit. ‘whosoever hath slain a soul’; see also Nu. 35. 11, 15, 30. In all these passages a dead body is regarded as that which ought properly to be animated by the soul, but owing to the law whereby man has to return to the dust, the spectacle is seen of a soulless body, and therefore of an object which (as representing sin) is to be regarded as ceremonially unclean.

This idea is borne out by other passages where contact with the dead is referred to. Thus, Lev. 21.11, ‘Neither shall he go in to any dead body,’ is literally, ‘neither shall he go in to a dead soul’; so Num. 6:6, ‘He shall come at no dead soul’; see also chap. 9.6, 7, 10, where ‘dead body’ is literally ‘soul,’ the idea of death being understood from the context. The same is the case in Nu. 5.2, ‘Whosoever is defiled by the dead,’ lit. ‘by the soul’; and 6.11, ‘He hath sinned by the dead,’ lit. ‘with respect to the soul.’

In Psalms 17.9, ‘deadly enemies’ are literally ‘enemies of my soul or life.’ In Job 11.20, ‘the giving up of the ghost’ is ‘the puffing forth of the soul.’ So also in Jer. 15.9, the literal rendering is ‘she hath puffed forth the soul.’

The soul is thus the source of animation to the body; in other words, it is the life, whether of man or beast. Accordingly, Nephesh is rendered ‘life’ in Gen. 19.17, 19, where we read of Lot’s life being saved; Gen. 32.30, ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’; Gen. 44.30, ‘His life is bound up in the lad’s life’; Ex. 21.23, ‘Thou shalt give life for life’; verse 30, ‘He shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid up on him.’

In Deut. 24.7, we read, ‘If a man be found stealing any (lit. ‘a soul’) of his brethren,’ &c.; so in Ez. 27.13, ‘They traded the persons (lit. ‘the souls’) of men.’ By the use of the word Nepheshhere the wickedness of treating men as goods and chattels to be bought and sold is practically reprobated. This doubtless is the crime referred to in Revelation 18:13. Too much stress, however, must not be laid upon the fact that the soul is mentioned in these places. Perhaps the word ‘person’ in the sense in which we speak of an offence against a man’s person, or of a personal injury, is the real meaning in such passages. This rendering is adopted in Gen. 14.21; Lev. 27.2 (where both men and beasts are referred to); Nu. 5.6, 19.18, and Ez. 16.5 (where perhaps ‘soul’ would be better). A similar rendering is self, which is found in Lev. 11.43, ‘Ye shall not make yourselves (lit. ‘your souls’) abominable, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean’; 1 Kin. 19.4, ‘He requested for himself (or with respect to his soul) that he might die.’ It is used figuratively in this sense in Is. 5.14, ‘Therefore hell hath enlarged herself’ (lit. ‘her soul’).

The emphasis laid on the word soul in Gen. 27.31, &c., ‘that thy soul may bless me.’ Is remarkable, and perhaps may be explained in accordance with the passages last referred to. The blessing, though it came out of the mouth proceeded from the living man, – from his personal self.

In Hebrew, as in most other languages, the shedding of a man’s blood was a phrase used to represent the taking of his life, for ‘the blood is the life.’ in this oft-repeated phrase (e.g. Lev. 17.11,14) we see that the blood is (i.e. represents) ‘the soul’; and if the one flows out from the body, the other passes away too. In Prov. 28:17, we read lit. ‘The man that doeth violence to the blood of a soul shall flee into the pit’; so in Ez. 33:6, ‘If the sword come and take away a soul (Authorized Version, ‘person’) from among them… his blood will I require at the watchman's hands’; Jonah 1:14, ‘Let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood.’

This mystical identification of the blood and the life is of great interest as bearing up on the atoning work of Christ. We are told that He poured out his soul unto death, and that He shed his blood for the remission of sins. Evidently the shedding of the blood was the outward and visible sign of the severance of the soul from the body in death; and this severance effected as a voluntary sacrifice by the Divine Son, in accordance with his Father's will, was the means of putting away sin.

But the Nephesh or soul is something more than the bare animating principle of the body; at least, if it is regarded in this light, a large view must be taken of that mysterious organisation which we call the body, and it must include the appetites and desires. The word is rendered ‘appetite’ in Prov. 23.2, and Ecc. 6.7. Compare the words of Israel, ‘our soul loatheth this light food’, Num. 21.5. Other passages in which a similar idea is presented are as follows: –

Ecc. 6.9, ‘Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire’ (lit. ‘the soul’). Isaiah 56.11, ‘Greedy dogs’ (lit. ‘dogs strong of soul and appetite’). Hab. 2.5, ‘Who enlargeth his desire as hell, an cannot be satisfied.’ Micah 7.3, ‘He uttereth his mischievous desire.’ Jer. 22.27,44.14, ‘The land to which they desire to return.’ Jud. 18.25, ‘Angry fellows’ (lit. ‘bitter of soul’). 1 Sam. 22.2, ‘Discontented’ (lit. ‘bitter of soul’). Exod. 15.9, ‘My lust (i.e. soul) shall be satisfied upon them.’ Ps. 78.18, ‘They tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.’ Ps. 105.22, ‘To bind his princes at his pleasure.’ Deut. 23.24, ‘Thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure.’ Deut. 21.14, ‘Thou shalt let her go whither she will.’ Ps. 27.12, 41.1, ‘Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies.’ Ez. 16.27, ‘I have delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee.’

Nephesh is also rendered mind and heart in several places where these words are used in the sense of desire and inclination. Thus, Gen. 23.8, ‘If it be your mind that I should bury my dead’; 2 Ki. 9.15, ‘If it be in your minds, let none escape’; Deut. 28.65, ‘Sorrow of mind’; 1 Sa. 2.35, ‘According to that which is within my heart and in my mind’; Ez. 36.5, ‘Despiteful minds.’

In a few passages where Nephesh has been rendered heart, the meaning is evidently the same as in the passages last quoted, i.e. desire and inclination. Thus, Ex. 23.9, ‘Ye know the heart (i.e. the nature, sentiments, or desires) of a stranger’; Lev. 26.16, ‘Sorrow of heart’ (lit. ‘pining away of life or desire’); Deut. 24.15, ‘He setteth his heart upon it,’ i.e. he desires it; compare Hos. 4.8; 2 Sam. 3.21, ‘All that thy heart desireth’; Ps. 10.3, ‘The wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire’; see also Prov. 23.7, 27.9, 28.25, and Ez. 25.6,15. In Jer. 42.20, and Lam. 3.51, the heart signifies ‘the self,’ as in passages already noticed.

In Job 41.21, Nephesh has been rendered breath; in Isaiah 19.10, we find it rendered fish, and in Is. 3.20, there is the still stranger rendering tablet. In the second passage, instead of ‘ponds for fish,’ modern critics usually render the words ‘grieved in mind’; and in the latter some sweet and desirable perfume is supposed to be signified.

The renderings of Nephesh have now all been referred to except the most common of any, namely, soul. Wherever this word occurs in the Authorised Version, it stands for Nephesh, except in Job 30.15, where another word (נְדִבָתִ֑י) is used, which might be rendered freedom or nobility, and in Is.  57.16 (‘the souls that I have made’), where the word neshamah (נְשָׁמָה) probably signifies a breathing being.

If it be asked what the soul is, the answer from the Old Testament would be that the soul is the source of desire, inclination, and appetite, and that its normal condition is to be operating in or through means of a physical organisation, whether human or otherwise. Hence, when we read that man or Adam became a living soul (Gen. 2.7), we are to understand that the structure which had been moulded from the dust became the habitation and, to a certain extent, the servant of an ego or centre of desire or appetite. When the soul departs (Gen. 35.18), the body becomes untenanted, and the ego which has grown with the growth of the body amidst the circumstances of earthly life is dislodged from its habitation. It may, however, return again to its old home through the operation of God, as was the case with the widow's child (1 Ki. 17.21).

The fact that the desires to which the soul gives birth are often counter to the will of God fixes sin up on the soul; thus we read, ‘if a soul shall sin,’ &c.; and the consequence to the soul is death – ‘the soul that sinneth it shall die’, Ez. 18.4. Hence the need of atonement for the soul (Lev. 17.11), and of its conversion or restoration to a life of conformity with God's law (Ps. 19.7, 34. 22). According to the law of substitution, the Messiah was to make His soul an offering for sin, and to pour it out unto death (Is. 53. 10, 12), but it was not to be left amongst the dead (Ps. 16.10); and the resurrection of the Saviour gives a sure ground of confidence that God will answer the prayer of the penitent, ‘heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.’

In the N.T. ψυχὴν often signifies life, as in Mat. 2.20, ‘Those who seek the life of the young child’; Mat. 6.25, ‘Be not solicitous for your life’ (or animal existence). In Mat. 10.28, a distinction is drawn between the destruction of the body, which man can effect, and the perdition or ruin of the soul in Gehenna, which only God can bring about. Sometimes there seems to be a play upon the word, as when the Saviour says ‘he that loseth his life or soul (in the ordinary sense of the word) shall find it’ (in a new and higher sense), Mat. 10.39, 16.25. When describing his mission, our Lord plainly said that He came to give his soul or life a ransom for many (Mat. 20.28). In Mat. 22.37, the Lord, quoting from Deut. 6.5, says, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart (or feeling), and with all thy soul (or desire), and with all thy mind’ (or power of appreciation). In John 10.24, we read, ‘How long dost thou make us to doubt?’ but a more literal and at the same time better rendering would be, ‘How long doest thou keep our souls in suspense?’(Ἕως πότε τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν αἴρεις).

In Acts 2.27, Peter quotes the Psalm (16.10), ‘Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades.’ This passage certainly might be taken to signify, ‘thou wilt not leave my dead body in the grave’; but it is far more in accordance with the usage of the two important words soul and Hades to understand that the animating principle, the ego, of our Saviour was not consigned to the nether world as a permanent place of abode.

With regard to other passages, it may suffice to say that the word soul is used in the New Testament in the same sense as in the Old, but that there is a greater predominance of passages in the New in which it receives the deeper meaning of the ego, or seat of desire and inclination and hidden life, which is redeemed through faith in Christ (Heb. 10.39).”

– pp. 92-100.

Commentary Critical, Practical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments, Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset and David Brown, 1871 (This cover is from Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset and David Brown, Volume 3 – Matthew to Ephesians, 2013 Edition, Delmarva Publications, Harrington, DE, USA.):

[Job 15]:22. "Flesh" and "soul" describe the whole man. Scripture rests the hope of a future life, not on the inherent immortality of the soul, but on the restoration of the body with the soul.

– Vol. I, p. 789 (Commentary on Job 15:22)

[Ezekiel 37:]1-28. THE VISION OF DRY BONES REVIVIFIED, SYMBOLIZING ISRAEL'S DEATH AND RESURRECTION ... Though this chapter does not directly prove the resurrection of the dead, it does so indirectly; for it takes for granted the future fact as one recognized by believing Jews, and so made the image of their national restoration (so Isaiah, 25. 8 ; 26. 19 ; Daniel, 12. 2 ; Hosea, 6. 2 ; 13, 14; Cf. Note, v. 12).

– Vol. II, pp. 564, 565 (Commentary on Ezekiel 37:1-28).

[Mark 12:]27. He is not the God of the dead but [the God] of the living — not ' the God of dead but [the God] of living persons.’ The word in brackets is almost certainly an addition to the genuine text, and critical editors exclude it. " For all live unto Him " Luke, xx. 38—' in His view,' or ' in His estimation.' This last statement — found only in Luke — though adding nothing to the argument, is an important additional illustration. It is true, indeed, that to God no human being is dead or ever will be, but all mankind sustain an abiding conscious relation to Him; but the "all" here mean "those who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world." These sustain a gracious covenant relation to God which cannot be dissolved. (Cf. Romans, vi. 10, 11.) In this sense our Lord affirms that for Moses to call the Lord the "God" of His patriarchal servants, if at that moment they had no existence, would be unworthy of Him. He "would be ashamed to be called their God, if He had not prepared for them a city" (Hebrews, xi. 16). It was concluded by some of the early fathers, from our Lord's resting His proof of the Resurrection on such a passage as this, instead of quoting some much clearer testimonies of the Old Testament, that the Sadducees, to whom this was addressed, acknowledged the authority of no part of the Old Testament but the Pentateuch ; and this opinion has held its ground even till now. But as there is no ground for it in the New Testament, so Josephus is silente upon it, merely saying that they rejected the Pharisaic traditions. It was because the Pentateuch was regarded by all classes as the fundamental source of the Hebrew Religion, and all the succeeding books of the Old Testament but as developments of it, that our Lord would show that even there the doctrine of the Resurrection was taught. And all the rather does He select this passage, as being not a bare annunciation of the doctrine in question, but as expressive of that glorious truth out of which the Resurrection springs.

– Vol. III, pp. 212, 213 (Commentary on Mark 12:27).

[I Corinthians 15:]53. this — pointing to his own body and that of those whom he addresses, put on — as a garment (2 Corinthians, 5. 2, 3). Immortality — Here only, besides I Timothy, 6. 16, the word “immortality” is found. Nowhere [in Scripture] is the immortality of the soul, distinct from the body, taught: a notion which many erroneously have derived from heathen philosophers. Scripture does not contemplate the anomalous state brought about by death as the consummation to be earnestly looked for (2 Corinthians, 5. 4), but the resurrection.

– Vol. III, p. 784 (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:53).

Immortality: A Clerical Symposium on What Are the Foundations of the Belief in the Immortality of Man, James Nisbet & Co., Londres, 1887 (this cover is from 2010 edition):

In the scriptural account of the creation and fall of man there is nothing to indicate that man was by creation an immortal being. On the contrary, his immortality is represented as depending, not on his condition by creation, but on something outside of him, his right to the use of which was contingent on his obedience, and from which he was cut off at his fall, "lest he should live for ever." There is nothing to indicate that the "death" which his disobedience entailed affected one part only of his nature, or was anything short of utter abolition. In the declaration made to the woman there is indeed a dim indication of some victory over the serpent to be achieved in some way through the seed of the woman. But what should be the nature of this victory, or how it should be brought about, could not be gathered from so brief a hint; and if a fuller revelation were then made, at least we are not informed of it.

Accordingly it is not to be wondered at that in the records we possess of the Patriarchal and Jewish dispensations (at least till towards the close of the latter), so very little indication appears of any undoing of that special result of the Fall, that "death passed upon all men." Prebendary Row has clearly pointed out how little, compara tively speaking, the thoughts of even good men in those ages were exercised by the contemplation of a future life, and how vague were their ideas respecting it. They died, we are told, in faith. But faith, we are at the same time told, may be of a very elementary character, consisting of a belief that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Some such kind of faith, more or less definite according to the extent of what was revealed to the individual or generally to the men of his time, constituting a view from afar of promises not received, may have led good men to a more or less confident anticipation that in some way God would not leave His servants to be triumphed over by death, but that there must be something in store for them beyond.

It is not proposed here to trace the origin of the far more definite views respecting a future life entertained by the Jews, or at least by a large party among them, before the Christian era. Let us pass on to consider the evidence of immortality which we find in the clearer light of the Christian dispensation.

Now, over and over again in the New Testament we find the offer of what is called eternal life to those who will accept it on the conditions on which it is offered. Those persons who bring to the in terpretation of such passages a preconceived notion of man s natural immortality are obliged to give to the expression "eternal life" a figurative meaning, and to eliminate from it the ordinary idea of life as living existence. For clearly that would not be offered as a gift which is already in possession, nor would that be spoken of as attained to by some which is the common lot of all. All, it is true we are told, are to be raised again, but not to all will it be a resurrection of eternal life. To the wicked it will only be a resurrection of judgment. Their fate is one over the details of which a veil is cast, but the language in which it is spoken of and the imagery by which it is illustrated seem to point to a miserable destruction, and in any case indicate something very terrible.

To the Christian, then, it is contended, the evidence of immortality rests upon its promise as a gift — a gift supernatural in its nature, and one the promise of which is attested by supernatural evidence. It involves resurrection, though resurrection alone does not guarantee it; and even the most strenuous advocates of a natural immortality, if they admit a resurrection at all, do not maintain that it is other than supernatural. Indeed, whatever may be thought of the condition of man between death and resurrection, in Scripture the question of a future life is bound up with that of the resurrection. Thus our Lord infers the resurrection, and implies that the Sadducees themselves might have inferred it from the words [to Moses] at the bush; and St. Paul, in contending that the doctrine of the resurrection belongs to the essentials of the faith, boldly uses the argument that its denial logically leads to the adoption of the manifestly unchristian maxim that we had best make the most of this life while we have it, for it is our all —  "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." The doctrine of a natural immortality irrespective of resurrection would have led to a very different conclusion.

Let it not be thought that to rest our hopes of immortality on the promise of the gift of eternal life lowers our idea of what this expression conveys; that those who attach a purely figurative interpretation to it understand by it something far higher. The notion that to base our hopes of immortality on the promise of eternal life involves any degradation of the meaning of the term merely arises from the previous divorce of the idea of immortality from that of obedience and concurrent happiness. Once accept the scriptural account of the Fall in what appears at least to be its straightforward interpretation that man by disobedience forfeited immortality — and it stands to reason that immortality would only be restored in connection with a scheme where by the moral effects of the fall should be remedied, and man restored to a condition of complete righteousness. Thus the promise of eternal life as involving eternal living existence carries with it even in idea, as it does by the express declarations of Scripture, all that the advocates of a purely figurative interpretation put upon it ; but it carries something more, namely, living existence itself. 

In this view, then, which, though evidently entertained in very early times, has only of late years been revived to any great extent, and which involves a more simple and straightforward interpretation of the declarations of Scripture on the subject than that which half a century ago was commonly received, the teaching of Scripture, the moral sense, the indications of science so far as they bear on the question, are all in harmony. The highest aspirations of those good men of old, who, though they "looked for a city which hath foundations," yet "died in faith, not having received the promises," are fulfilled, and more than fulfilled. The ominous forebodings of the wilful wrongdoer are met by the express proclamation of a very fearful and final doom, of "judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries," but we are not involved in the tremendous ethical difficulties which beset the supposed necessity of attaching an absolutely infinite, positive punishment to the sins of a finite life. Lastly, if a difficulty be felt in believing in a future life on the ground that the keenest scientific investigation fails to give the slightest indication of anything beyond the grave, which is contrary to what might be expected in the case of a naturally immortal being, the reply is That is precisely what was to have been expected a priori on purely theological grounds. Man s whole being was forfeited by the Fall, and the future life is not his birthright, but depends on a supernatural dispensation of grace. To look to man s bodily frame for indications of immortality, to look even to his lofty mental powers — lofty indeed, but sadly misused — is to seek the living among the dead. Man must look not into himself but out of himself fur assurance of immortality. "Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." [1 Cor. 15:20-22].

– pp. 118-124.


The Jewish Encyclopedia, New York and London, Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1901-1906:

IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL (late Hebrew, "hasharat ha-nefesh"; "haj'ye 'olam"): The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture. As long as the soul was conceived to be merely a breath ("nefesh"; "neshamah"; comp. "anima"), and inseparably connected, if not identified, with the life-blood (Gen. ix. 4, comp. iv. 11; Lev. xvii. 11; see SOUL), no real substance could be ascribed to it. As soon as the spirit or breath of God ("nishmat" or "ruaḥ ḥayyim"), which was believed to keep body and soul together, both in man and in beast (Gen. ii. 7, vi. 17, vii. 22; Job xxvii. 3), is taken away (Ps. cxlvi. 4) or returns to God (Eccl. xii. 7; Job xxxiv. 14), the soul goes down to SHEOL or Hades, there to lead a shadowy existence without life and consciousness (Job xiv. 21; Ps. vi. 6 [A. V. 5], cxv. 17; Isa. xxxviii. 18; Eccl. ix. 5, 10). The belief in a continuous life of the soul, which underlies primitive ANCESTOR WORSHIP and the rites of necromancy, practised also in ancient Israel (I Sam. xxviii. 13 et seq.; Isa. viii. 19; see NECROMANCY), was discouraged and suppressed by prophet and lawgiver as antagonistic to the belief in Yhwh, the God of life, the Ruler of heaven and earth, whose reign was not extended over Sheol until post-exilic times (Ps. xvi. 10, xlix. 16, cxxxix. 8).

As a matter of fact, eternal life was ascribed exclusively to God and to celestial beings who "eat of the tree of life and live forever" (Gen. iii. 22, Hebr.), whereas man by being driven out of the Garden of Eden was deprived of the opportunity of eating the food of immortality (see Roscher, "Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie," s.v. "Ambrosia"). It is the Psalmist's implicit faith in God's omnipotence and omnipresence that leads him to the hope of immortality (Ps. xvi. 11, xvii. 15, xlix. 16, lxxiii. 24 et seq., cxvi. 6-9); whereas Job (xiv. 13 et seq., xix. 26) betrays only a desire for, not a real faith in, a life after death. Ben Sira (xiv. 12, xvii. 27 et seq., xxi. 10, xxviii. 21) still clings to the belief in Sheol as the destination of man. It was only in connection with the Messianic hope that, under the influence of Persian ideas, the belief in resurrection lent to the disembodied soul a continuous existence (Isa. xxv. 6-8; Dan. xii. 3; see ESCHATOLOGY; RESURRECTION).

The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended, as the Semitic name "Minos" (comp. "Minotaurus"), and the Egyptian "Rhadamanthys" ("Ra of Ament," "Ruler of Hades"; Naville, "La Litanie du Soleil," 1875, p. 13) with others, sufficiently prove. Consult especially E. Rhode, "Psyche: Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen," 1894, pp. 555 et seq. A blessed immortality awaiting the spirit while the bones rest in the earth is mentioned in Jubilees xxiii. 31 and Enoch iii. 4. Immortality, the "dwelling near God's throne" "free from the load of the body," is "the fruit of righteousness," says the Book of Wisdom (i. 15; iii. 4; iv. 1; viii. 13, 17; xv. 3). In IV Maccabees, also (ix. 8, 22; x. 15; xiv. 5; xv. 2; xvi. 13; xvii. 5, 18), immortality of the soul is represented as life with God in heaven, and declared to be the reward for righteousness and martyrdom. The souls of the righteous are transplanted into heaven and transformed into holy souls (ib. xiii. 17, xviii. 23). According to Philo, the soul exists before it enters the body, a prison-house from which death liberates it; to return to God and live in constant contemplation of Him is man's highest destiny (Philo, "De Opificio Mundi," §§ 46, 47; idem, "De Allegoriis Legum," i., §§ 33, 65; iii., §§ 14, 37; idem, "Quis Rerum Divinarum Hæres Sit," §§ 38, 57).

It is not quite clear whether the Sadducees, in denying resurrection (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 1, § 4; idem, "B. J." ii. 12; Mark xii. 18; Acts xxiii. 8; comp. Sanh. 90b), denied also the immortality of the soul (see Ab. R. N., recension B. x. [ed. Schechter, 26]). Certain it is that the Pharisaic belief in resurrection had not even a name for the immortality of the soul. For them, man was made for two worlds, the world that now is, and the world to come, where life does not end in death (Gen. R. viii.; Yer. Meg. ii. 73b; M. Ḳ. iii. 83b, where the words , Ps. xlviii. 15, are translated by Aquilas as if they read: , "no death," ἀθανασία).

– Vol. VI, 1903, pp. 564-566.

RESSURRECTION – Biblical Data: Like all ancient peoples, the early Hebrews believed that the dead go down into the underworld and live there a colorless existence (comp. Isa. xiv. 15-19; Ezek. xxxii. 21-30). Only an occasional person, and he an especially fortunate one, like Enoch or Elijah, could escape from Sheol, and these were taken to heaven to the abode of YHWH, where they became angels (comp. Slavonic Enoch [a pseudephigraphic written late in 1st century CE], xxii.). In the Book of Job first the longing for a resurrection is expressed (xiv. 13-15), and then, if the Masoretic text may be trusted, a passing conviction that such a resurrection will occur (xix. 25, 26). The older Hebrew conception of life regarded the nation so entirely as a unit that no individual mortality or immortality was considered. Jeremiah (xxxi. 29) and Ezekiel (xviii.) had contended that the individual was the moral unit, and Job's hopes are based on this idea.

A different view, which made a resurrection unnecessary, was held by the authors of Ps. xlix. and lxxiii., who believed that at death only the wicked went to Sheol and that the souls of the righteous went directly to God. This, too, seem based on views analogous to those of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and probably was not widely held. In the long run the old national point of view asserted itself in the form of Messianic hopes. These gave rise to a belief in a resurrection in order that more might share in the glory of the Messianic kingdom. This hope first finds expression in Isa. xxvi. 19, a passage which Cheyne dates about 334 B.C. The hope was cherished for faithful Israelites. In Dan. xii. 1-4 (about 165 B.C.) a resurrection of "many . . . that sleep in the dust" is looked forward to. This resurrection included both righteous and wicked, for some will awake to everlasting life, others to "shame and everlasting contempt.”

– Vol. X, 1905, p. 382.

George Waller, The Biblical View of the Soul, Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York and Bombaim, 1904 (this cover is from 2013 edition):

‘THE Immortality of the Soul’ is a doctrine of Heathen Origin. It was held by the Pagan Priests of Chaldea, Babylonia, and Egypt, centuries before the Christian Era; and by Pythagoras the Philosopher, who taught the pre-existence and transmigration of souls. After him it was taught by Socrates, a most celebrated heathen philosopher, and after him by Plato and the Platonists, from which sect sprang some of the earliest heresies of the Christian Church of the first four centuries. The doctrine of the existence of the soul or spirit of man in happiness or misery after death, independent of the body, is nowhere to be found in the Old or New Testament Scriptures; whilst in the New Testament the Resurrection of the body is everywhere held up as the great central hope of the Christian Church...

From the above quotation [Gen. 3:19-24], we learn that man was created from dust, a material Organism or body, perfect in every part, fitted for the exercise of all the powers and faculties of mind and body for which he was created, through the means of the senses, of seeing, hearing, &c., with which he was endowed, and which were in the body; but, different from all the lower animals, he was gifted with the power of Reason, by which he would be able to know and understand, and follow the will of his Creator, when revealed. But this Organism or body was lifeless, until God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life; then, and not till then, life and motion be came apparent in every part, and man became a ‘living soul’, or person; capable of exercising all those powers of mind and body with which God had endowed his Organism, and would have continued to use them, and forever, but for the sin of disobed ience, by reason Of which he was to be deprived of the perpe tual use and exe rcise of them , and was to realise the dreadful sentence of the curse, in being driven out of the Paradise of Eden, with death and mortality begun...

The Biblical view of death, therefore, is a perfect cessation of all the powers and faculties of mind and body, as they have been exercised in a living material organism or body, when ‘the dust shall return to the earth as i t was; and the spirit’, that is the breath or life of all men (good or bad), shall return unto God who gave it’, Eccl. xii. 7.

– pp. 65, 67, 68.

The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, 1907 (this cover is from New Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic University of America e McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967):

IV. The Platonic School. — Plato's School, like Aristotle's, was organized by Plato himself and handed over at the time of his death to his nephew Speusippus, the first scholarch, or ruler of the school. It was then known as the Academy, because it met in the groves of Academus. The Academy continued, with varying fortunes, to maintain its identity as a Platonic school, first at Athens, and later at Alexandria until the first century of the Christian era. It modified the Platonic system in the direction of mysticism and demonology, and underwent at least one period of scepticism. It ended in a loosely constructed eclecticism. With the advent of neo-Platonism (q. v.), founded by Ammonius and developed by Plotinus, Platonism definitively entered the cause of Paganism against Christianity. Nevertheless, the great majority of the Christian philosophers down to St. Augustine were Platonists. They appreciated the uplifting influence of Plato's psychology and metaphysics, and recognized in that influence a powerful ally of Christianity in the warfare against materialism and naturalism. These Christian Platonists underestimated Aristotle, whom they generally referred to as an "acute" logician whose philosophy favoured the heretical opponents of orthodox Christianity. The Middle Ages completely reversed this verdict. The first scholastics knew only the logical treatises of Aristotle, and, so far as they were psychologists or metaphysicians at all, they drew on the Platonism of St. Augustine. Their successors, however, in the twelfth century came to a knowledge of the psychology, metaphysics, and ethics of Aristotle, and adopted the Aristotelean view so completely that before the end of the thirteenth century the Stagyrite occupied in the Christian schools the- position occupiedin the fifth century by the founder of the Academy. There were, however, episodes, so to speak, of Platonism in the history of Scholasticism — e. g., the School of Chartres in the twelfth century — and throughout the whole scholastic period some principles of Platonism, and especially of neo-Platonism, were incorporated in the Aristotelean system adopted by the schoolmen. The Renaissance brought a revival of Platonism, due to the influence of men like Bessarion, Plethon, Ficino, and the two Mirandolas. The Cambridge Platonists of the seventeenth century, such as Cudworth, Henry More, Cumberland, and Glanville, reacting against humanistic natural naturalism, "spiritualized Puritanism" by restoring the foundations of conduct to principles intuitionally known and independent of self-interest. Outside the schools of philosophy which are described as Platonic there are many philosophers and groups of philosophers in modern times who owe much to the inspiration of Plato, and to the enthusiasm for the higher pursuits of the mind which they derived from the study of his works.

– 1911 Edition, Vol. XII, pp. 161, 162.


Soul in the OT is nepeš, in the NT, ψυχή. The definitions and the use of these terms will be treated in this article.

In the Old Testament. Nepeš comes from an original root probably meaning to breathe. Thus the noun form means neck or throat opened for breathing, thence, breath of life. Since breath distinguishes the living from the dead, nepeš came to mean life or self or simply individual life. Nepeš is used in regard to both animals and humans. If life is human, nepeš is equivalent to the person, the "I." After death, the nepeš goes to Sheol.

The above summary indicates that there is no dichotomy of body and soul in the OT. The Israelite saw things concretely, in their totality, and thus he considered men as persons and not as composites. The term nepeš, though translated by our word "soul," never means soul as distinct from the body or the individual person. Other words in the OT such as spirit, flesh, and heart also signify the human person and differ only as various aspects of the same being.

In Ps 68 (69).2, the phrase, "the waters threaten my life," is literally "waters come up to nepeš" (cf. Jn 2.6; Is 5.14; Prv 23.2). The sense of throat for nepeš is apparent in these places. The word nepeš means breath in Jb 41.21: "His breath [nepeš] sets coals afire; a flame pours from his mouth." In 1 Kgs 17.22, it means breath of life, "And the soul [nepeš] of the child returned into him and he revived" (cf. 2 Kgs 17.21; 2 Sm 1.9; Jer 38.16).

In Gn 9.4, "But flesh with its life [nepeš ]—that is, its blood—you shall not eat," the comparison shows more of an abstract meaning for nepeš as life in general without signifying breath or breathing (cf. Lv 17.11; Dt 12.23). Finally, nepeš means the individual being itself whether of animals or men. In Gn 2.7, "Then the Lord God… breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being," the Hebrew word for being is nepeš. Of animals, Prv 12.10 says, "The just man takes care of his beast," literally, "the nepeš in his beast."

As a human life, nepeš can be identical with the personal pronoun or the reflexive pronoun (Gn 27.4, 25; Lam 3.24, where "says my soul" could be just as correctly translated "say I," etc.). As the "I," the nepeš performs all the sensations of an individual. The nepeš hungers, thirsts, hopes, longs, loves, and hates.

At death, the nepeš goes to Sheol, a place of an insensitive, shadowy existence. Many psalms pray for the rescue of one's nepeš from death, where the rescue means to be saved from dying, not to be raised from the dead. Happiness after death is known only in late OT revelation.

In the New Testament. The term ψυχή is the NT word corresponding with nepeš. It can mean the principle of life, life itself, or the living being. Through Hellenistic influence, unlike nepeš, it was opposed to body and considered immortal.

The psyche in Mt 10.28, "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [psyche]; but rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," means a life that exists separately from the body. The meaning of psyche in our Lord's statement, "[T]he Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life [psyche] as a ransom for many," is obviously His mortal existence (Mt 20.28; Jn 10.11). As a living being, subject to various experiences, it can refer to animals, "And every live thing [psyche] in the sea died" (Rv 16.3), or to humans, "Fear came upon every soul [psyche]" (Acts 2.43; Rom 2.9; 13.1). Thus the psyche feels, loves, and desires. In this connection it can be used to mean the personal or reflexive pronoun, as in Jn 10.24, "How long dost thou keep us [our psyches] in suspense?"

Thus far, ψυχή is quite similar to the Hebrew nepeš, except for Mt 10.28. Under the Greek influence, however, it was gradually opposed to body and was used for the immortal principle in man (Rv 6.9; 20.4).

In summary, the Hebrew nepeš generally is connected with the concrete sign of life in the individual, the "I" that feels, wills, pants for, etc. Its end is Sheol. The Greek counterpart, ψυχή, includes many of the meanings of nepeš; but it has added to the concept "I," the immortality of later philosophy and revelation.

– 1967 Edition, Vol. XIII, pp. 449, 450.


Henry Wheeler Robinson, The Religious Ideas of the Old Testament, T. and A. Constable, Ltd., UK, 1913. (This cover is from a reprint of Second Edition, 1968):

The Psychology of the Hebrews

There is a logic in primitive thought which is often obscured to modern eyes because it works from premises so different from our own. We are apt do dismiss as fanciful metaphor much that was simple realism; in fact, the science of the ancient world has often become the poetry of the modern. This is evident in regard to those speculations about human nature which the Hebrews, or their ancestors, shared with primitive peoples in general. The obvious explanation of the difference between a dead and a living man was the respective absence or presence of breath, and in consequence there is no more common theory of the soul than that which identifies it with the breath. To the Hebrew, the soul is not an esoteric and mystical abstraction; it is the breath, and the breath which is the principle of life naturally comes to be regarded as the centre of the consciousness of life, and of all its physical or psychical phenomena. The Hebrew word for this breath-soul is nephesh, and the best translation of it is often simply ‘life’. When the prophet Elijah has prayed for the restoration to life of the child of the widow of Zarephath, ‘the child’s nephesh returned upon his inward parts, and he lived’. The idea is clearly that of the breath as animating the physical organs of the body, almost as materialistically conceived as when we think of steam setting an engine in motion. Equally obvious as natural is the extension of the term nephesh to cover the inner consciousness of life. The early ‘Book of the Covenant’ says ‘a sojourner thou shalt not oppress, for ye know the nephesh of the sojourner, since ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt’. The usage of nephesh could extend to

‘All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame’,

but, in practice, for reasons to be given, it was chiefly used of the emotional life, and, in particular, of physical appetite, or psychical desire. All this is perfectly straightforward, and raises no problems. The complications that have arisen for the study of Hebrew psychology are due to a feature common to much primitive thought. That thought does not start from one centre only in its explanation of phenomena, but from several independent ideas. Thes distinct explanations eventually converge on the fact to be explained, and are reconciled by some form of syncretism, which continues to puzzle the modern investigator until he ceases to expect a systematic arrangement, an looks simply for the different lines to approach. The second line of approach to the problem of life adopted by Hebrew thought is also shared with primitive peoples in general. It sets out from the different organs of the body, both central and peripheral. These are credited with different contributions to the conscious life, because ancient and primitive thought has not learnt to distinguish between the physical and the psychical. Thus the Hebrews spoke of the (physical) heart as the actual centre of the conscious life in general, and of both its emotional and intellectual aspects. The term is as general in its original  scope as was nephesh. But, as a result of the syncretism of these two parallel ideias, ‘heart’ and nephesh come to denote predominantly the intellectual and the emotional aspects of consciousness respectively, without complete surrender of their more comprehensive usage. This is the explanation of such words as those of the Deuteronomic appeal: ‘Thou shalt love Yahweh thy God with all thy heart and with all thy nephesh, and with all thy might’ (vi. 5). This sentence covers the conscious life of the whole personality, in both its thought and its feeling.

There is also, however, in the Old Testament, a third line of approach to the mystery of human personality – viz. that afforded by the term ruach, or ‘spirit’. This forms one of the most fascinating and important subjects of Biblical theology, and the ideas which cluster around it are the most characteristic of Old Testament ideas in regard to human nature. It is often said, by those who have not studied the history of the usage in its chronological development, that ruach is simply another term for the breath-soul, a synonym of nephesh, though with a higher range of meaning. To say this is to neglect the important fact that ruach is not used of the breath-soul in man, or with psychical predicates, in any pre-exilic passage. The original meaning of the term, a meaning it retains throughout all periods of Hebrew literature, is ‘wind’. From that usage it passed over to denote the mysterious wind-like influences, the demonic forces, which were supposed to account for what is abnormal and strange in human conduct. We have to remember that primitive thought, to a degree we find it hard to imagine, supposes man to be constantly accessible to such influences. The quarrel that arose between Abimelech and the men of Shechem is ascribed to an evil ruach sent by God; the madness of Saul and the remarkable strenght of Samson are similarly explained. But that which was more or less abnormal before the Exile comes to be more or less normal after it; by the time of Ezekiel, ruach is used of the breath-soul in man, as was nephesh. Yet it always retains – and this is a most important point to notice – the ‘higher’ associations of its origin. It stands for those more exceptional and unusual endowments of human nature which suggest God as their immediate source, the more normal nephesh being taken for granted. It links man to God, as though it were a door continually open to His approach. The function which Professor James ascribed to the ‘sub-consciousness’ was fulfilled by the idea of ruach to the spiritually-minded Israelite. Thourgh his own ruach, that is, through his conscious life viewed in its highest possibilities, he was in touch with the ruach of God, the source of man’s greatest achievements. The nature of man, regarded as in contrast with the nature of God, might be called ‘flesh’, as the divine nature was called ‘spirit’; yet man could pray, ‘with my ruach within me, I seek longingly for Thee’.

If we bring together these threee chief terms – nephesh, ‘heart’, and ruach – in the working syncretism of their ultimate usage, we shall see that there is before us a striking theory of human nature, which may be taken as characteristic of the Old Testament. The idea of human nature implies a unity, not a dualism. There is no contrast between the body and the soul, such as the terms instinctively suggest to us. The shades of the dead in Sheol, as we shall see, are not called ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’ in the Old Testament; nor does the Old Testament contain any distinct word for ‘body’, as it surely would have done, had this idea been sharply differentiated from that of soul. Man’s nature is a product of the two factors – the breath-soul which is his principle of life, and the complex of physical organs which this animates. Separate them, and the man ceases to be, in any real sense of personality; nothing but a ‘shade’ remains, which is neither body nor soul. If this seems but a poor idea of human nature, we must set over against it the great redeeming feature, that there is an aspect of this nature which relates man to God, and makes man accessible to God. Man had only to find along this line the fulfilment of the deepest moral and religious demands of his life, to be lifted into a realm where personality is victorious over death...

The Future Life

Just because the sense of corporate personality was so strongly developed in early Israel, the idea of a future life for the individual was hardly reach within the Old Testament... This would explain the opposition of the prophets to some of these customs [funereal], as well as to the practice of consulting the dead for information unattainable by natural means. ‘Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes, for the dead’, says the Book of Deuteronomy (xiv. 1), whilst Isaiah speaks contemptuously of those who resort ‘unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter’ (viii. 19). An instructive example of such necromancy is afforded by the well-known visit of Saul to the witch of Endor, when ‘Yahweh answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’. The shade of Samuel, attired as of old, is represented as asking, ‘Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?’

The dead are thus supposed to go on existing in some sense or other, even by the early thought of Israel. But it is an existence that has no attraction for the Israelite, and falls outside the sphere of his proper religion. It is not his soul that survives at all; the dead are called ‘shades’ (rephaim), not ‘souls’, in the Old Testament. The (subterranean) place of their abiding is called Sheol, and in many particulars it is like the Greek Hades. Sheol seems to be an outgrowth of the family grave, probably under the influence of Babylonian ideas. It is ‘the house of meeting for all living’, ‘the land of darkness, and of the shadow of death’, where the distinctions of earth, even its moral distinctions, cease to operate:

‘There the wicked cease from raging,
And there the weary are at rest.
The prisoners are at ease together;
They do not hear the voice of the taskmaster.
The small and the great are there,
And the slave is free from his master.’

The most vivid description of Sheol, however, is that which is found in the Book of Isaiah, describing the fall of a tyrant:

Sheol beneath is thrilled at thee,
Meeting thine advent;
Arousing for thee the shades,
All the bell-wethers of Earth,
Making rise up from their thrones
All the kings of the nations.
They shall all of them answer
And say to thee,
“Thou, too, art made weak as we,
Unto us art made like.”
Brought down unto Sheol is thy pomp,
The music of thy lutes;
Beneath thee maggots are spread,
And (of) worms is thy coverlet’.

This give the characteristic feature of Sheol for Hebrew thought – ‘made weak as we’. The same note echoes through the literature of the Old Testament, as in the Song of Hezekiah, and in many of the Psalms. To pass into Sheol is to pass from life into death, for ‘in Sheol who shall give Thee thanks?’ Sheol is a survival of the pre-Yahvistic beliefs of Israel, and is not usually conceived as lying within the jurisdiction of Yahweh.

It will be apparent that so cheerless an outlook as this could provide no doctrine of a future life worthy of the name. Israel remained content with it so long because as we have seen, the hope of Israel lay with the future of the family or of the nation, a future to be realised on earth. But, with the failure of the national hope, involved in the destruction of the Judaean kingdom, and with the rise of the new individualism, the outlook on the individual future beyond death was necessarily affected...

[Nota:] 2) The suggestion that the tree of life in Eden might have conferred immortality on Adam (Gen. iii.22), and the translations of Enoch (v.24), and Elijah (2 Kings ii.11), are exceptional cases, and simply prove the rule for the common man, that no real life beyond death awaited him.

The important point to notice in this, and in other possible references, is the particular quality of the hope resulting from the way in which it was reached. The hope of a future is made to depend on the relation of the soul to God. That relation is felt to have a mystical value, transcending the fact of death. We have here, as as been truly said, ‘a strenght of conviction of the reality of personal union with God, under which the thought of death as it were fades into the background and is ignored... This conviction of a personal relation to God independent of time and change, and not any particular theory as to the character of the life after death, is the lasting contribution of the Old Testament to the doctrine of a Future Life’. The fact that this belief appeared so late gave it the opportunity, when it did come, to absorb the noblest moral and spiritual elements in Israel’s religion, and to transcend all the ideas of the future held by contemporary nations.

But such a faith in the future as this perhaps demanded too high a degree of spiritual development for it ever to become the faith of the average man. To translate it into his vernacular, moreover, would have required the philosophical outlook of the Greek world, with its characteristic doctrine of the immortality of the soul. This Greek doctrine, is, in fact, borrowed by the author of the Apocryphal book known as the Wisdom of Solomon.

[Note:] 3) On the other hand, a ‘natural’ immortality (on Greek lines) would have made man too independent of God for Hebrew-Jewish thought.

But Hebrew psychology pointed along another line, that leading to the idea of the resurrection of the body. We have seen that human nature was conceived by the Hebrew as a unity requiring both elements, body and soul, to constitute it. Existence in Sheol lacked vitality, because it lacked both body and soul. If the Hebrew was to acquire any idea of life after death which possessed a real vitality, according to his native conceptions of life, there would have to be a resurrection of the dead body for the recovered soul to animate it. This is the line along which the thought of Palestinian Judaism, as distinct from the Alexandrian or Graecised Judaism, actually developed in the period between the two Testaments. The beginning of this idea of a resurrection of the body is already found in two passages of the Old Testament, both of them connected with the Messianic hope of Judaism...

All that we have to note is that the Old Testament lays the foundation for the doctrine of future life given in the New, both on the cruder side of a Messianic resurrection, and on the finer, more spiritual side, which is represented in the ultimate outlook of the Apostle Paul...

As we look back on the Old Testament ideia of human nature and destiny, we see that man stands out in clear distinction from both Nature and God. Man is no mere item in the natureal world, but is separately created by God, who controls Nature in the interests of His pursoes for man. Man is linked to god by the moral law which God has made known to him; in the companionship for which this law is the condition, man and God stand together far above Nature’s level. In fact, there is no ‘Nature’, written with a capital letter, as a unity apart from God, but simply a world of natural phenomena entirely in god’s hand, and made the arena for human history. But, in contrast with God, man is characterised by his utter dependence on Him, both for his existence and for his destiny. If that destiny is to be achieved, it will be only by the help of God... The intensity with which the Israelite clings to the present life corresponds to his belief that personality is a unity, demanding both soul and body, and that there is no life, worthy of the name, beyond death.

– pp. 79-83, 91-99.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr (Ed.), Chicago, USA, The Howard-Severance CompanyUSA, 1915:

1. Conception of Sin and Death: ... Death, though come into the world through sin, is nevertheless at the same time a consequence of man's physical and frail existence now; it could therefore be threatened as a punishment to man, because he was taken out of the ground and was made a living soul, of the earth earthy (Gen 2 7; 1 Cor 15 45.47). If he had remained obedient, he would not have returned to dust (Gen 3 19), but have pressed forward on the path of spiritual development  (1 Cor 15 46.51); his return to dust was possible simply because he was made from dust (see Adam in the NT). Thus, although death is in this way a consequence of sin, yet a long life is felt to be a blessing and death a disaster and a judgment, above all when man is taken away in the bloom of his youth or the strength of his years. There is nothing strange, therefore, in the manner in which Scripture speaks about death; we all express ourselves daily in the same way, though we at the same time consider it as the wages of sin. Beneath the ordinary, everyday expressions about death lies the deep consciousness that it is unnatural and contrary to our innermost being.

2. The Meaning of Death: This is decidedly expressed in Scripture much more so even than among ourselves. For we are influenced always more or less by the Greek, Platonic idea, that the body dies, yet the soul is immortal. Such an idea is utterly contrary to the Israelite consciousness, and is nowhere found in the Old Testament. The whole man dies, when in death the spirit (Ps 146:4; Eccl 12:7), or soul (Gen 35:18; 2 Sam 1:9; 1 Ki 17:21; Jon 4:3), goes out of a man. Not only his body, but his soul also returns to a state of death and belongs to the nether-world; therefore the Old Testament can speak of a death of one's soul (Gen 37:21 (Hebrew); Nu 23:10 m; Dt 22:21; Jdg 16:30; Job 36:14; Ps 78:50), and of defilement by coming in contact with a dead body (Lev 19:28; 21:11; 22:4; Nu 5:2; 6:6; 9:6; 19:10 ff; Dt 14:1; Hag 2:13). This death of man is not annihilation, however, but a deprivation of all that makes for life on earth. The Sheol (she'ol) is in contrast with the land of the living in every respect (Job 28:13; Prov 15:24; Ezek 26:20; 32:23); it is an abode of darkness and the shadow of death (Job 10:21,22; Ps 88:12; 143:3), a place of destruction, yea destruction itself (Job 26:6; 28:22; 31:12; Ps 88:11; Prov 27:20), without any order (Job 10:22), a land of rest, of silence, of oblivion (Job 3:13,17,18; Ps 94:17; 115:17), where God and man are no longer to be seen (Isa 38:11), God no longer praised or thanked (Ps 6:5; 115:17), His perfections no more acknowledged (Ps 88:10-13; Isa 38:18,19), His wonders not contemplated (Ps 88:12), where the dead are unconscious, do no more work, take no account of anything, possess no knowledge nor wisdom, neither have any more a portion in anything that is done under the sun (Eccl 9:5,6,10). The dead ("the Shades" the Revised Version, margin; compare article DECEASE) are asleep (Job 26:5; Prov 2:18; 9:18; 21:6; Ps 88:11; Isa 14:9), weakened (Isa 14:10) and without strength (Ps 88:4).

– Vol. II, pp. 811, 812.

IMMORTAL, i-môr'-tal, IMMORTALITY, im-or-tal'-i-ti (ἀθανασία, athanasia, 1Co 15:53; 1Ti 6:16, ἀφθαρσία, aphtharsia, literally, "incorruption," Ro 2:7; 1Co 15:1-58; 2Ti 1:10, ἄφθαρτος, aphthartos, literally, "incorruptible," Ro 1:23; 1Co 15:52; 1Ti 1:17):

1. Preliminary – Need of Definition and Distinction: In hardly any subject is it more necessary to be careful in the definition of terms and clear distinction of ideas, especially where the Biblical doctrine is concerned, than in this of "immortality." By "immortality" is frequently meant simply the survival of the soul, or spiritual part of man, after bodily death. It is the assertion of the fact that death does not end all. The soul survives. This is commonly what is meant when we speak of "a future life," "a future state," "a hereafter."

Biblical Conception: It will be seen as we advance, that the Biblical view is different from all of these. The soul, indeed, survives the body; but this disembodied state is never viewed as one of complete "life." For the Bible "immortality" is not merely the survival of the soul, the passing into "Sheol" or "Hades." This is not, in itself considered, "life" or happiness. The "immortality" the Bible contemplates is an immortality of the whole person – body and soul together. It implies, therefore, deliverance from the state of death. It is not a condition simply of future existence, however prolonged, but a state of blessedness, due to redemption and the possession of the "eternal life" in the soul; it includes resurrection and perfected life in both soul and body. The subject must now be considered more particularly in its different aspects.

II. The Biblical Doctrine – the OT.

1.  Starting-Point – Man's Relation to God: The Biblical view of immortality starts from man's relation to God. Man, as made in the image of God (Ge 1:27), is fitted for the knowledge of God, for fellowship with Him. This implies that man is more than an animal; that he has a life which transcends time. In it already lies the pledge of immortality if man is obedient. 

Man's Nature. – With this corresponds the account given of man's creation and original state. Man is a being composed of body and soul; both are integral parts of his personality. He was created for life, not for mortality. The warning, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Ge 2:17), implies that if man continued obedient he would live. But this is not an immortality of the soul only. It is a life in the body (compare Ge 3:22). Its type is such cases as Enoch and Elijah (Ge 5:24; 2Ki 2:11-12; compare Ps 49:15; 73:24). 

2. Sin and Death: The frustration of this original destiny of man comes through sin. Sin entails death (see DEATH). Death in its physical aspect is a separation of soul and body – a breaking up of the unity of man's personality. In one sense, therefore, it is the destruction of the immortality which was man's original destiny. It does not, however, imply the extinction of the soul. That survives, but not in a state that can be called "life." It passes into Sheol – the sad, gloomy abode of the dead, in which there is no joy, activity, knowledge of the affairs of earth, or (in the view of Nature) remembrance of God, or praise of His goodness (on this subject, and the Hebrew belief in the future state generally, see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT; DEATH; SHEOL). This is not future "life" – not "immortality."

It is the part of grace and redemption to restore immortality in the true sense. Had the world been left to develop in sin, no further hope could have come to it. The picture of Sheol would have become ever darker as the idea of retribution grew stronger; it could never become brighter. 

3. Grace and Redemption – the True Immortality: But God's grace intervened: "Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom" (Job 33:24). God's mercy breaks in on the hopelessness of man's lot. He gives to man His promises; makes His covenant with man; admits man to His fellowship (Ge 3:15; 4:4; 5:24; 6:8-9; 12:1-3; 15:1-21, etc.). In this fellowship the soul was raised again to its true life even on earth. But this held in it also a hope for the future. The promises placed in the forefront as tokens of God's favors were indeed predominatingly temporal – promises for this life – but within these (the kernel within the shell) was the supreme possession of God Himself (Ps 4:6 f; Ps 16:2). This held in it the hope of redemption and the principle of every good. 

Deliverance from Sheol. – Here we reach the core of the Old Testament hope of immortality. Such fellowship as the believer had with God could not be lost, even in Sheol; beyond that was deliverance from Sheol. In their highest moments it was this hope that sustained patriarchs, psalmists, prophets, in their outlook on the future. Doubt might cloud their minds; there might be seasons of darkness and even despair; but it was impossible in moments of strong faith to believe that God would ever really desert them. The eternal God was their dwelling-place; them were everlasting arms (De 33:27; compare Ps 90:1). Their hope of immortality, therefore, was, in principle, the hope not merely of an "immortality of the soul," but likewise of resurrection – of complete deliverance from Sheol. Thus it is clearly in the impassioned outburst of Job (Ps 19:14; compare Ps 14:7 ff), and in many of the psalms. The hope always clothes itself in the form of complete deliverance from Sheol. Thus in Ps 17:14 f, the wicked have their portion "in this life," but, "As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (the American Standard Revised Version "with beholding thy form"); and in Ps 49:14 f, the wicked are "appointed as a flock for Sheol," but "God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; for he will receive me" (same expression as that regarding Enoch, Ge 5:24; compare Ps 73:24). It will be remembered that when Jesus expounded the declaration, "I am the God of Abraham," etc., it was as a pledge of resurrection (Mt 22:31 f). The idea comes to final expression in the declaration in Dan of a resurrection of the just and unjust (Mt 12:2). For further development and illustration see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

– Vol. III, pp. 1458-1460.


Jewish Theology: Systematically and Historically Considered, Kaufmann Kohler, 1918 (several republishings):

According to the Biblical view man consists of flesh (basar) and spirit (ruah). The term flesh is used impartially of all animals, hence the Biblical term "all flesh" includes both man and beast. The body becomes a living being by being penetrated with the "breath of life" (ruah hayim), at whose departure the living body turns at once into a lifeless clod. This breath of life is possessed by the animal as well as by man, as both of them breathe the air. Hence in ancient tongues "breath" and "soul" are used as synonyms, as the Hebrew nefesh and neshamah, the Latin anima and spiritus, the Greek pneuma and psyche. A different primitive belief connected the soul with the blood, noting that man or beast dies when the hot life-blood flows out of the body, so that we read in the Bible, "the blood is the soul." In this the soul is identified with the life, while the word ruah, denoting the moving force of the air, is used more in the sense of spirit or soul as distinct from the body.

Thus both man and beast possess a soul, nefesh. The soul of man is merely distinguished by its richer endowment, its manifold faculties by which it is enabled to move forward to higher things. Thus the animal soul is bound for all time to its destined place, while the divine spirit in man makes him a free creative personality, self-conscious and god-like. For this reason the creation of man forms a special act in the account in Genesis. Both the plant and animal worlds rose at God's bidding from the soil of mother earth, and the soul of the animal is limited in origin and goal by the earthly sphere. The creation of man inaugurates a new world. God is described as forming the body of man from the dust of the earth and then breathing His spirit into the lifeless frame, endowing it with both life and personality. The whole man, both body and soul, has thus the potentiality of a higher and nobler life.

Accordingly Scripture does not have a thorough-going dualism, of a carnal nature which is sinful and a spiritual nature which is pure. We are not told that man is composed of an impure earthly body and a pure heavenly soul, but instead that the whole of man is permeated by the spirit of God. Both body and soul are endowed with the power of continuous self-improvement. In order to see the great superiority of the Jewish view over the heathen one, we need only study the old Babylonian legend preserved by Berosus. In this the deity made man by mixing earth with some of its own life-blood, thus endowing the human soul with higher powers. In the Bible the difference between man and beast does not lie in the blood, although the blood is still thought to be the life. The distinction of man is in the spirit, ruah, which emanates from God and penetrates both body and soul, lifting the whole man into a higher realm and making him a free moral personality.

Still the Bible makes no clear distinction between the three terms, nefesh, neshamah, and ruah. Philo first distinguished between three different substances of the soul, but his theory was the Platonic one, for which he simply used the three Biblical names. The Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages, beginning with Saadia, took the same attitude, even though they realized more or less that the division of the soul into three substances has no Scriptural warrant.

– pp. 212-214 (footnotes omitted).

“The first clear idea of the nature of the soul came with the philosophically trained [Jewish] thinkers, who were dependent either on Plato, main founder of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, or on Aristotle, who ascribes immortality only to the creative spirit of God, the supreme Intelligence as a cosmic power. The nearest approach to Plato was Philo, who saw in the three Biblical names for the soul, nefesh, ruah, and neshama, the three souls of the Platonic system, — the sensuous soul, which has its seat in the abdomen; the courageous or emotional soul, situated in the breast; and the intelectual soul, which dwells in the brain and contains the imperishable divine nature. This last is kept in its physical environment as in a prison or a grave, and ever yearns for liberation and reunion with God. The soul of the righteous enters the world of angels after death; that of the wicked the world of demons.

Saadia, who was under the influence of Aristotle interpreted from the neo-Platonic viewpoint, did not share the Platonic dualism of matter and spirit, nor did he divide the soul into three parts, seated in various parts of the human body. He finds the soul to be a spiritual substance created simultaneously with the body, and uniting the three forces of the soul distinguished in Scripture into one inseparable whole, the seat of which is in the heart, — wherefore soul and heart are often synonymous in the Bible. This indivisible substance possesses a luminous nature like that of the spheres, but is simpler, finer, and purer than they, and endowed with the power of thought. It was created by God out of the primal ether from which He made the angels, simultaneously with the body and within it. By this union it was qualified to display that moral activity prescribed for it in the divine teaching, the neglect of which would defile and tarnish it. According to Saadia some kind of material substance adheres to the soul as well as to the angels, and on that account he does not hesitate to accept the Talmudic expressions about the abode of the soul after death, or the last judgment which is to take place as soon as the appointed number of souls shall have made their entrance into their earthly bodies, when the souls of the righteous will have their angelic nature recognized, and those of the wicked will have their lower character revealed. However, Saadia combats with so much greater fervor the Hindu teaching of metempsychosis, which had been adopted by Plato and Pythagoras.

Bahya connects his theory with the three souls of Plato, and likewise ascribes to the soul an ethereal essence. He holds that its destiny is to raise itself to the order of the angels through self-purification, and finally to return to God as the divine Source of light. To this end the intellectual soul, which has its being from the primal light, must overcome the lower sensuous soul which leads to sin.
The conception that the soul is a substance derived from the luminous primal matter, like the heavenly spheres and the angels, was now persistently retained by the Jewish thinkers, who explained thereby its immortality. In adopting the Aristotelian theory that the soul is the form-principle of the body, the Platonic doctrine of its preexistence was gradually relinquished, and its existence ascribed to a creative act of God at the birth of the child or at its conception. But Jehuda ha-Levi, the most pious of all the philosophers, emphasized vigorously the indivisibility of the soul, its incorporeality and its reality apart from the condition of the body, and — in opposition to the Aristotelian free-thinkers, who expected the human soul to be absorbed into the divine soul, the active intellect, — he declared the immortality of the individual a fundamental article of faith.

Now some of the Jewish thinkers, following Jehuda ha Levi, Ibn Daud, and others, though Aristotelians, shrank from the logical conclusion of denying all individuality to the soul, and attributed to it rather a process of purification, which ends with the elevation of the soul-essence to angelic rank and thus guarantees its immortality. Not so Maimonides, who accepted with inexorable earnestness the Aristotelian idea of form as the perfection of matter. The essence of the human soul is, for him, that force or potentiality which qualifies it for the highest development of the intellect, and is alone capable of grasping the divine. Yet it can acquire a part in the creative World-spirit only in the same degree as it unfolds this potentiality to share the divine intellect, whose seat is the highest sphere of the universe. By dint of this acquired intelligence it can live on as an independent intellect, in the image of God, and thus attain beatitude in the contemplation of Divinity.

... Besides the philosophic doctrine of the immortality of the soul, however, the traditional belief in the resurrection of the body demanded some consideration on the part of these philosophers. Saadia defends the latter with all his might, endeavoring to reconcile the two as best he can. All the rest leave us in doubt whether resurrection is to be understood literally or symbolically. Maimonides especially involves himself in difficulties, inasmuch as in his commentary on the Mishna he considers the resurrection of the dead an unalterable article of faith, whereas in his Code and in the Moreh he speaks only of immortality; and again before the end of his life he wrote, obviously in self-defense, a work which seems to favor bodily resurrection, yet without clarifying his conceptions at any time. The belief in resurrection had taken too deep a root in the Jewish consciousness and had been too firmly established through the liturgy of the Synagogue for any philosopher to touch it without injuring the very foundations of faith.

– págs. 290-293 (footnotes omitted).


Charles Harold Dodd, The Authority of the Bible, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York and London, 1929. (This cover is from 1978 Edition.):

The prophets know nothing of any life but the present. The troubles of the period after the Exile raised the question of a future life for the individual, while the influence of other religions with which the Jews now came into close touch suggested an answer. Judaism was, however, strangely slow to accept a doctrine of immortality in any sense, and it is only in the Greek period that the belief became current that those whom God deemed worthy would be raised from death by His power, to share in the blessings of the Age to Come. Only such a strongly Hellenized book as the Wisdom of Solomon inculcates anything like the Platonic doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

The New Testament is full of the assurance of everlasting life. There is indeed no discussion of immortality as a philosophical theory. Paul's argument about the resurrection which we are accustomed to read at the burial of the dead [II Cor. xv. 12-58] is quite unconvincing if we suppose him to be attempting to prove the immortality of the soul. Actually that is not what he is talking about. His premises are those of contemporary Judaism: that a dead man really is dead and done for unless and until God makes him alive again by an act of creative power, and that this miracle will take place when the New Age dawns. On these premises, the fact that Jesus had been dead and was alive did afford a proof that the age of miracle had come, in which all whom God deemed worthy should receive from Him the supernatural life.

– pp. 217, 218.

Dictionnaire Encyclopedique de la Bible, Valence, France; 1932-1935, edited by Alexandre Westphal:

Résurrection et immortalité.

Avant d'aborder l'étude biblique de la résurrection, il est nécessaire de distinguer la résurrection de l'immortalité; ces deux conceptions, qui l'une et l'autre expriment la même conviction d'une survivance après la mort, sont souvent confondues. Il s'agit là cependant de deux courants de pensée très différents; la notion de l'immortalité est un produit de l'esprit grec, tandis que l'espérance d'une résurrection appartient à la pensée juive. Il faut considérer ce que représentent ces deux conceptions et comment par la suite elles se sont pénétrées l'une l'autre.


Idée juive, qui dérive de la conception juive de la personnalité humaine, dont le point de départ est l'affirmation de l'unité de cette personnalité. Pour l'Hébreu, le principe personnel de l'homme, son moi, ne réside pas dans l'esprit seul, mais dans le corps animé par le souffle de l'Éternel et devenant ainsi une âme vivante; (cf. Ge 2:7) cette âme est inséparable du corps, ce qui explique que l'A.T, désigne l'homme tantôt par le mot âme (Ps 16:10 35:3 49:16), tantôt par celui de chair (Esa 40:6, Vers. Syn., mortels; Jer 45:5, cf. Mt 16:17), sans que l'idée soit essentiellement différente.

Quand donc l'Israélite affirme la survivance, il ne peut la comprendre que sous la forme d'une survivance de l'homme, corps et âme. Mais la corruption détruit le corps après la mort; l'Hébreu affirmera donc l'existence d'un nouveau corps venant prendre la place de ce corps détruit et dans lequel l'âme trouvera son appui nécessaire. Le corps ressuscité est conçu tantôt comme exactement pareil à celui que le mort a quitté, tantôt comme différent, comme um corps glorieux, spirituel. La résurrection marque ainsi la permanence de la personnalité tout entière, corps et âme. Elle représente la complète victoire sur le sépulcre (1Co 15:54 et suivant).

Cette conception juive d'une destruction du corps suivie d'une résurrection de ce corps soulève diverses questions. Quand aura lieu la résurrection? Est-ce à l'instant de la mort, est-ce au moment du jugement dernier, est-ce plus tard encore, à la consommation des âges? Et d'ici là, que devient l'âme, si la résurrection n'est pas immédiate? Est-elle plongée dans une inconscience semblable au sommeil, ou bien subit-elle déjà le sort que lui réserve le jugement final? Peut- lle encore se perfectionner?


Idée grecque qui dérive de la conception grecque de la personnalité. Pour les Grecs, la personnalité humaine est également composée de deux parties, le corps et l'âme; mais ces deux éléments, loin de former un tout harmonieux, s'opposent l'un à l'autre. Le corps n'est due matière et constitue une entrave dans la vie de l'âme, car celle-ci est pur esprit; or l'esprit, qui vit éternellement, se passe fort bien de l'aide du corps. L'âme, créée avant le corps, subsiste lorsque celui-ci est détruit, continuant à vivre de sa vie propre; car l'âme est immortelle et la mort du corps représente dans son existence une véritable délivrance qui la libère. Puisque l'âme est capable de vivre par elle-même, sans être obligée de s'appuyer sur aucun corps matériel, on ne s'étonnera pas de ce que la notion d'une résurrection des corps n'ait eu aucune place dans la pensée grecque.


A partir des conquêtes d'Alexandre, le judaïsme se pénétra lentement d'influences helléniques, principalement en Egypte, parmi les Juifs d'Alexandrie, dont la langue habituelle était le grec. D'autre part, comme l'affirmation d'une résurrection des corps et la croyance à l'immortalité de l'âme, bien qu'étant des conceptions différentes, n'en restent pas moins deux façons d'exprimer la même conviction d'une survivance après la mort, il n'est pas surprenant que ces idées se soient combinées au sein même du judaïsme. L'historien juif Josèphe assure même que l'idée d'une transmigration des âmes aurait été professée jusque dans les écoles des pharisiens. Quoi qu'il em soit de ce renseignement, la Sapience ou Sagesse de Salomon parle d'une préexistence de l'âme (Sag 8:20); Philon développe des théories très semblables, et la théologie du Talmud enseigne à son tour que les âmes, venues d'auprès de Dieu, sont en quelque sorte prêtées aux hommes, en qui elles habitent et dont elles se séparent après la mort.

C'est surtout lorsque le christianisme se fut détaché du judaïsme, qu'on en vint à mêler étroitement les notions de résurrection et d'immortalité; à la mort, affirma-t-on, le corps se décompose, ne ressuscitant que plus tard, et l'âme, détachée du corps et immortelle de nature, vit seule jusqu'au jour de la résurrection.

– Vol. 2, p. 557.

Norman Henry Snaith, Have Faith In God, The Epworth Press, London, England, 1935:

Death is not his shepherd, for God redeems his life (the Hebrew word is nephesh as also incidentally in Gen. ii, 7 not ‘soul’ as distinct from ‘body’ in the Greek sense, but rather the Hebrew idea of the thing that has life as distinct from the thing that has not life) from Sheol...

It is true that the Hebrews of early days spoke of Sheol, the abode of the spirits of the dead, but Sheol was essentially a dead world, a world without hope and without desire.

In death there is no remembrance of thee, In Sheol who can give thee thanks? (Ps. vi, 5.)

Or again, The dead praise not Jah, Neither any that go down into silence; But we will bless Jah From this time forth and for evermore. (Ps. cxv, 17 f.)

Or yet again, For Sheol cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee; Those that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day. (Isa. xxxviii, 18 f.)

No passage shows more clearly than these verses from Hezekiah's prayer in his mortal sickness the desperate intensity of the Hebrew in the face of death. All the praise he could ever give to the God of his fathers he must offer whilst yet he is in the land of the living. All the good he could ever see he must see this side the grave.

Man's inevitable fate is at last to be consumed, and to vanish away like a cloud (Job vii, 9).

– pp. 15, 22.

Norman Henry Snaith The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, Epworth Press, London, UK, 1944. (The cover is from 1983 edition):

These [the distinctive ideas of Old Testament religion] are different from the ideas of any other religion whatsoever. In particular they are quite distinct from the ideas of the Greek religion. In particular they are quite distict from the ideas of the Greek thinkers. The aim of Hebrew religion was Da’ath Elohim (the Knowledge of god); the aim of Greek thought was Gnothi seauton (Know thyself). Between these two there is a great gulf fixed. We do not see that either admits of any compromisse. They are fundamentally different in a priori assumption, in method of approach, and in final conclusion.
Traditional Christianity has sought to find a middle way, combining Zion and Greece into what is held to be a harmonious synthesis. The New Testament has been interpreted according to Plato and Aristotle, and the distinctive Old Testament ideas have been left out of account. Here is the cause of the modern neglect of the Old Testament. The ‘righteousness’ of Aristotle has been substituted for the ‘righteousness’ of the Old Testament. The logos spermatikos of the Stoics has largely transplanted the Holy Spirit. The wholly non-Biblical doctrine of the immortality of the human soul is accepted largely as a characteristic Christian doctrine. Plato is indeed ‘divine’, and Aristotle ‘the master of them that know’...

We find two passages only which speak of a resurrection life beyond the grave, and none at all of any immortality of the soul, which is not a biblical idea at all. One passage is Isaiah xxvi. 19, where the Israelite dead are to rise from the dust and live. This passage is in Isaiah xxiv-xxvi, probably early third century B.C., of the time of the rivalries of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids in Palestine. The other is Daniel xii.2 (first half of second century B.C) where we read of a partial ‘general resurrection’, ‘some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt’...

Ruach’ [spirit] as a Psychological Term to denote dominant disposition.

The idea of power involved in the word ruach [spirit] is carried over into what we would now call psychology, to denote the dominant impulse or disposition of an individual. For instance, Genesis xxvi.35 states that the two Hittite wives of Esau were ‘bitterness of spirit’ (morath ruach) to Isaac and Rebekah...

The idea of ruach standing for that in a man which so dominates him as to ensure a particular line of action is seen in the phrase, ‘I will stir up the spirit of...’ This phrase is post-exilic, being found thrice in Haggai i. 14; four times in the Chronicler, I Chronicles v. 26; 2 Chronicles xxi. 16, xxxvi. 22, with its equivalent Ezra i. I... The remaining references to the ‘spirit of a man’ are to be found in Ecclesiastes. They are vii. 9, x. 4; and in the comparison between the spirit of a man and the spirit of a beast, iii. 18-21. In this last case the spirit is regarded as being the life-centre of the body, closely allied to the ‘soul’ in the sense in which those who believe in the immortality of the soul use the word.

This latter use of ruach as the spirit of the living being makes the word practically a synonym of nephesh, the breath-soul. God forms this ruach in man, Zechariah xii. 1; preserves it, Job x. 12; and it returns to Him at death, Ecclesiastes xii. 7. In Isaiah xxvi. 9 ruach is exactly parallel with nephesh, and so also in Job vii. II. There are some twenty-five cases altogether where ruach is equivalent to nephesh.1 But to make nephesh on that account the general equivalent of ruach is to show a complete misunderstanding of the proper significance of both words. Such an equation is wrong and can lead to nothing but error and confusion.m It is only in the cases where the meaning of the word ruach approaches the outermost fringe of the circle of its meaning that the word comes into touch with the circle of ideas represented by nephesh. Such instances are late. It happens only when ruach as controlling power in man comes to mean the man himself as a determining, active entity, and when at the same time nephesh comes to mean the same thing, it also being extended, this time from its truer meaning of that which makes the difference between the living and the dead.

[NOTA:] 1) The main meaning of nephesh is to be seen in Genesis ii.7: ‘Jehovah Elohim shaped man, earth from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils life-breath (neshamah), and man became alive (nephesh).’ It is that which makes the difference between a living being and a dead one...

The Septuagint is the Bridge between the Two Testaments

The generally accepted approach to the New Testament is to insist in the first place that the New Testament is writtten in the common (Koine) Greek of the period, and forthwith to interpret much as any other Hellenistic book. This allowed for Aramaisms, Latinisms, and the like, for Hellenistic Greek varied to this extent from place to place. But mainly it involved the study of Hellenistic Greek in the inscriptions, the papyri, and in such Hellenistic writers as Polybius and Josephus. It has not involved, to any marked extent, the study of the Greek Bible, the Septuagint, which for 400 yeras was the Bible of the Christian Church.

This procedure has been sound so far as syntax and gramar are concerned, and a great step forward from the old approach whereby New Testament Greek was compared with classical Greek, weighed in the balances, and found wanting. To have studied the grammar and the syntax of Septuaging would have been worse than useless, since Septuagin is largely translation Greek. But the neglect of the Septuagint from the point of view of the meaning of the words has been serious. It is becoming more and more clear, thanks to such studies as Dr. C. H. Dodd’s The Bible and the Greeks that considerable attention must be made to the way in which the Septuagint translators rendered the Hebrew words. The Greek word in the Septuagint tends to carry the meaning of the original Hebrew word, and not its own meaning as a normal Greek word. In many cases, perhaps in most cases, the neglect of this distinction is of little account, and entails no serious error. But the cases where it does make a very great deal of difference are precisely those cases where we are dealing with the distinctive ideas of the Old Testament. These ultimately are the only cases that matter... It is essential, especially if the word in question is a religious word, to begin with Septuagint, and to notice to what extent Septuagint used the word as the equivalent of the original Hebrew, and next to see to what extent the New Testament usage in any writer is covered by this Septuagint use, and then to examine to what extent, as e.g. Paul in the case of nomos-torah, the Greek usage also is involved.

The extent to which the Greek of the Septuagint is really Hebrew-Greek has not been recognized in time past as it ought to have been recognized. Particularly is this so, since the medium through which Old Testament ideas came to the Christians in the first place was Greek. We are of the opinion that incalculable harm has been done by this neglect. It began very early. The confusion appears as early as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and it arose from the fact that these scholars were Hellenists first and Christians second. It was furthered by the fact that all men until Jerome, tended to read the Greek Bible as a Greek book, and with Hellenistic eyes. This lasted till the fifth century, and both learned and unlearned were equally at fault. They interpreted the words as Greek words, just as if Greek had been the original tongue. Later this was done for centuries with the Latin Bible, and it has been the fate of the Bible in every language into which it has been translated. The result of this has been that from a very early stage, Christianity itself has tended to suffer from a translation out of the Prophets and into Plato. Later the master was Cicero, and with the Renaissance, Aristotle. Plato has indeed been made to be ‘divine’, and Aristotle ‘the máster of them that know’. The tragedy of Christian theology through the years is the extent to which these statements are true in the matter of ‘knowing Christ’. The Reformation was na attempt to restore the original Hebrew setting of the Gospel, and, theologically, to break the shackles of the Greeks. The Revival of classical learning was a reshackling of the Faith, to which many of the Reformers themselves succumbed...

It is generally agreed that in his antithesis between pneuma (spirit) and sarx (flesh), Paul is dependent upon Old Testament ideas, as also for his whole concept of the constitution of man. Paul makes a sharp contrast between the things of God and the things of man. In this distinction he is true to the Old Testament tradition of the ruach-adonai as that Power of God which descends upon a man, changes his heart and spirit, gives him new life and, in New Testament phrase, makes him a child of God. We do not propose to enter into a detailed discussion of the use and meaning of the term ‘Holy Spirit’ in the writings of Paul, but only with reference to the particular point of the relation between the ‘soul’ (psyche) and the pneuma (spirit) of man on the one hand, and the Spirit of God on the other. Here mostly we find, during the centuries of Christian interpretation, a marked tendency erroneously to interpret the Pauline material in a Greek rather than in a Hebrew framework.

The Spirit of Man

Paul certainly uses the word pneuma of the spirit of a man, e.g. Romans i.9, ‘whom I serve in my spirit...’, and Galatians vi. 18, ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren.’ Parallel to the cases, and more significant, since these two cases concern converted men, is I Corinthians ii. II: ‘For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man, which is in him?’ Origen held that the word pneuma (spirit) here includes both intellect and conscience, but it is better not to define the precise meaning more than to say that Paul is referring to the controlling, directive power in man. Particularly we regard it as unfortunate that the conscience should be introduced here, since the conscience is a human faculty, included in the psyche (‘soul’) and not in pneuma (spirit). We therefore deprecate such an interpretation as ‘man’s entire intellectual and moral nature’, since Paul is thinking in terms of the Hebrew ruach (spirit) rather than of Plato’s ho entos anthropos (the inner man).

Paul’s main use of the word pneuma as the spirit of man is in definite contrast to the Spirit of God, this being, as we have indicated, an inheritance from the Old Testament. The distinction  is very clear in I Corinthians ii. Here it is the Spirit of God who reveals the true wisdom of God to men. These things of God are received by the spiritual (pneumatikos) man, and not by the ‘natural’ (psychikos) man – that is, not by the human faculties. Man as man cannot know these things. They are not within the sphere of the ‘soul’ (psyche). It is clear from this that Paul does not use the word psyche either in the Homeric sense of that which survives death or the sense of the Greek philosophers as the immortal soul or spirit of man...

We find this approach of the Greeks no where in the Bible. The whole Bible, the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, is based on the Hebrew attitude and approach. We are of the firm opinion that this ought to be recognized on all hands to a greater extent. It is clear to us, and we hope that we have made it clear in these pages to others, that there is often a great difference between Christian theology and Biblical theology. Throughout the centuries the Bible has been interpreted in a Greek context, and even the New Testament has been interpreted on the basis of Plato and Aristotle. This may be justifiable, but we hold that those who adopt this method of interpretation should realize what it is that they are doing, and should cease to maintain that they are basing their theology on the Bible.

– pp. 9, 89, 146-148, 159-161, 183-185.


William Alexander Leslie Elmslie, How Came Our Faith: a Study of the Religion of Israel and Its Significance for the Modern World, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, USA, 1948 (This cover is from 1950 edition, Cambridge University Press):

When a man dies, what happens? Obviously, for the Hebrew thought his nephesh no longer exists; for that word signified only the Being caused by the coexistence of animating breath with flesh, bones and blood. His dead body of flesh and blood must be buried in the grave, and so returns to the dust of the earth. His breath-vitality (ruach or neshamah) returns to God who gave it.

– pág. 124.

Christopher North, The Thought of the Old Testament, Epworth Press, England, 1948 (This cover is from 2009 edition), Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, USA):

... it was not until after the exile that the problem of the unmerited sufferings of individuals began seriously to engage the attention of Jewish thinkers… It would seem that the first explicit statements that this present is not the only life arose out of attempts to relate the fortunes of individual Jews to the blessedness of the expected Kingdom of God. In two Old Testament passages, one of which is certainly, and the other probably, as late as the second century B.C., it is said that individuals will live again to share in the blessings of the Kingdom. One is Isaiah 26:19, which, in comparison with verse 14 of the same chapter, asserts that individual Jews will live again, whereas the godless heathen will not. The other is Daniel 12:2, where the implication is that righteous Jews will participate in the Kingdom, that the conspicuously ungodly will rise also, but to shame and everlasting contempt, while those who have been neither good nor bad are presumably to remain in Sheol. The details, you observe, are different; but both passages agree in speaking of a resurrection from the dead. That is the direction which, on Old Testament premises, anticipation of the life to come inevitably took. We have seen that the Old Testament did not think of man as an incarnated immortal soul, but as an animated body; that the body, for it, was an essential constituent in human personality. Hence, when the Jews did at last come to believe in life after death, they spoke in terms of the resurrection of the body, not (in Greek fashion) of the immortality of the soul. This is, historically, the reason why, when we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we say, not, ‘I believe in the immortality of the soul,’ but, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’. I am naturally tempted, of course, to argue the case as between the Greek and the Jewish-Christian conceptions; and I have no doubt that you would like me to. But that is a theme which lies outside the province of these brief lectures. I will content myself with one relevant observation, and that is that according to the thought of the Old Testament any life to come is of God’s grace, not an inalienable portion of human nature.

– pp. 56, 57.



Norman Snaith, I Believe In..., SCM Press Ltd., London, England, 1949:


The creeds all speak of a resurrection and not of a survival. Mostly it is ‘of the flesh’, though here in the so-called Nicene Creed it is ‘of the dead’. There seems to be little doubt that the Church for centuries thought in terms of a rekindling of life in the actual body of flesh and bone. This was the belief of Clement of Rome and of Origen, but it was Augustine who was chiefly responsible for the establishment of the traditional belief. This belief is enshrined in the paraphrase of the Authorized Version of Job 19.25-6, which is quite clearly a declaration of the resurrection of the body, and is kept fresh in public memory by the popularity of Handel’s Messiah. Augustine said that Job ‘prophesied without doubt the resurrection of the flesh’, and he declared that the passage meant ‘I shall be in my flesh when I shall see God’. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (contemporary with Augustine, and dated A.D. 390-405) reads: ‘And on the last day, I shall arise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin: and in my flesh I shall see God.’ This is the rendering of the Roman Catholic official Douai Version, and it is an interpretation, rather than a translation, of the original Hebrew. Our Authorized Version has in some respects gone still further. In the original Hebrew there is nothing at all to be found about a resurrection from the dead, and this is a fact generally accepted by Hebrew scholars.

I find two passages only in the Old Testament which speak of any life after death for anybody. These are Isa. 26.19 and Dan. 12.2 [both resurrectional passages] (I take such passages as Ps. 73. 23-26 and Ps. 139. 7-10 to be geographical, as is, I think, plain in the Hebrew.) Both verses are somewhat late, and both are in apocalypses. The former passage can be dated approximately about 300 B.C., and the latter about 165 B.C. The first declares that Israel’s righteous dead will be raised up in order to partake of the blessings of the deliverance of Israel. The second says that ‘many of them that sleep in the land of dust (so the Hebrew) will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to great shame and everlasting abhorrence’. The old idea was of Sheol, the vast, roomy underground abode of the dead, all of it negative rather than positive, and to be regarded as the persistence of death rather than of life. Attempts have been made, and sometimes still are made, to see in these shadowy thoughts of Sheol the beginnings of Hebrew ideas of a real life after death. All such attempts are misguided. The Hebrew ideas of resurrection did not come from ideas concerning Sheol, just as the Greek ideas of immortality did not arise from the traditional and popular notions of Hades. For the philosopher, the idea came through Plato, whilst for the ordinary man it came much later, and then from the mystery religions with their cults of the saviour-gods.

The Hebrew belief in life after death arose from the firm conviction that God is still the Saviour of Israel, however much the nations may rage and their rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed. There must, they believed, sometimes and somewhere, be an age of returned primeval bliss, when God shall be all in all and Israel at the head of the nations. The intense practicalness and ‘this-worldliness’ of the Jew demanded that this new world should be here on earth, a transformed earth perhaps, but certainly here and real. It would be heralded by a great Day of Judgment, and after that the life of the world to come would begin. There came a time when they began to suspect that after all the Kingdom of God might not be realized here on such an earth as this, but in heavenly places, though the idea of revived bodies never wholly died, just as the idea is still maintained among some Christians today.

The most instructive picture of what the Jews of the time of Christ (though not the Sadducees) believed to happen after death is to be found in Enoch 22 (dated about 170 B.C.). There we find an account of the threee places in Sheol where the spirits of the dead were believed to be assembled until the Day of Judgment. Between the three places great gulfs were fixed, so that any interchange was impossible. One place was for the righteous, and there they were preserved in safety until the Day of Judgment, when they were judged and entered into the bliss of the world to come which had been prepared for them. The second place was for the wicked who had suffered on earth for their sins. Nothing else happened to them. They were not raised up. They had sinned, and they had paid the penalty. That was that, and that was all. The third place was for the sinners who had not suffered on earth for their sins. This was a place of great torment; they paid the penalty for their sins. At the Day of Judgment they were judged, and destroyed.

This, as is evident, is the framework of the Dives-Lazarus story. Lazarus is in ‘Abraham’s bosom’, that is, in the abode of the righteous awaiting the Last Day. Dives is not in the hell of popular imagination, but is paying the price in Sheol for unrequited sins committed on earth. He died unrepentant, and this is where he pays. When Jesus tells the dying thief that they will be together that day in Paradise, the reference is to the abode of the righteous. His parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins emphasizes the finality of the judgment of God which comes prior to the Messianic banquet which was supposed to usher in the Messianic Kingdom. Indeed, in every way, it is evident that Jesus spoke and thought substantially as is set forth in Enoch 22. There is a Judgment Day for the righteous and for the wicked who had not repented of suffered on earth. There is a resurrection to life for the righteous and for the wicked who had not repented or suffered on earth.

In the writings of Saint Paul, there is a sharp distinction drawn between ‘the natural (psychikos) man’ and ‘the spiritual (pneumatikos) man’. Nothing of the natural man survives into the life of the world to come, but only the spiritual man, that is, the man who is born of the spirit (pneuma). The phrase ‘natural man’ includes everything which Paul regarded as belonging to the psyche. This is the word which, in Plato and amongst the Greeks, stands for the immortal soul of man, but the word is never so used in the Greek Bible, neither in the Old  nor in the New Testament. In the Greek Old Testament the word stands for the Hebrew nephesh, that livingness of appetite and desire which ceases to exist at death. In Sheol there is no nephesh, no desire, no longing, no life. This use of the Greek word psyche is carried over into the New Testament, so that nowhere at all in the English Bible should the word ‘soul’ be understood to refer to an immortal part of man which survives death. According to the Bible, there is nothing in man qua man which survives death, but if he has during life been born of the spirit, then he is raised up to be partaker in the life of the world to come.

The great difference which the New Testament makes is in the matter of merit. According to contemporary Jewish thought, a man could earn his place in the world to come by filfilling the Law. Paul makes it clear that there is no such way, but that all is of grace. What is required on man’s part is faith, a full trust on and reliance upon God.

If therefore, even in the moment of death, a sinner truly repents and trusts in God, then all is well. What was true of the dying thief can be true for every living man. And no man can say that because of what he has done, he is sure of life in heaven. We every one of us have to depend wholly upon the merits and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst it is true that faith without works is dead, the deciding factor is the faith rather than the works. The dying thief had faith, and in the nature of things he had no time in which to show any works.

But ‘how are the dead raised, and with what manner of body do they come?’ In this chapter (1 Cor. 15) Paul distinguishes between a spiritual body and a natural body. To some extent he varies from the contemporary and traditional view of the revivifying of the actual body of flesh and blood. I judge that in modern phraseology his view is: All the things which belongs to this physical life come to an end at death. This includes all emotional elements and all aesthetic and all mental qualities. But if a man is born again, if, that is, he is born of the spirit, then his ‘body’ (soma) acts as a sort of carrier, and the identity of the man is preserved. It is the same man who is raised up. The spirit persists; not a soul in the sense of something which was naturally his because he was a man, but a spirit which was born in him when he came to Christ in faith. Much the same teaching is to be found in the Fourth Gospel in respect of bios (ordinary physical life) and zoe (eternal life) is the ‘carrier’ into heavenly places. This I take to be the correct modern interpretation of the phrase in the creed.

I am quite clear myself that the biblical doctrine concerning life after death is that the final crisis takes place at death. This, as I understand the Gospels, is plain form the words of Jesus Himself, and I see no reason to suppose anything else except on a basis of wishful thinking or on the basis of some doctrine of personal merit which is excluded. This is why it is so important that sinners should be converted now, before they die. Incidentally to me, this is a final argument against hanging as a penalty for murder. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living god, and I would not cut any man from the opportunity of repentance. No man is so wicked and so thoroughly abandoned, but that the grace of God can accomplish its saving work in his heart and life. It is clear, too, to me, that there is a resurrection to eternal life for the repentant sinner who has what our fathers used to call ‘dying faith’, that is, for those who have died in the hope of the Gospel. There may be a resurrection for the unrepentant sinner, for the Bible teaching varies here, but if there is, then it is a resurrection to damnation and death. If we do depart from this doctrine, then we should recognize quite frankly that we are departing from biblical doctrine and from the teaching of the Church of the first centuries. To me it is a most remarkable thing that the early Christian thinkers kept so very clear of the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It was there, fully developed, but they kept clear of it. I think that it is significant.

What happens to the unrepentant sinner after death? I hold that either he suffers the torments of hell, or he is destroyed at death. I incline to the latter view, because I cannot conceive that God punishes any man except to bring him to repentance. If therefore there is any punishment of the wicked after death, then it must be with the object of bringing them to repentance, and the Roman doctrine of Purgatory is substantially sound.

I find nowhere in the Bible any doctrine of the necessary survival of the individual, that is, of the immortality of the soul in the sense that there is a part of every man which can never die. It certainly is the will of God that all men should be saved. It is true now as ever it was that God ‘desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live’. But it is also true, as this prayer implies, that if he does not repent, then he dies. God has given to man this freedom to choose, and it is a real freedom. It is, in fact, a freedom to live or to die. And not even God can have it both ways. It seems to me that it is nothing but muddled, sentimental thinking to say that if one man is lost, then God is defeated. God’s victory is a victory over sin. Sin will at the last be destroyed, and with it all that cling to it. No plant can live in poisoned soil, and sin poisons the life of a man so that the plant of the spirit can never grow there.

... If Christian men really understood the deadly poison of sin, they would take the words of Jesus more seriously and would realize that there is a terrible judgment ordained of God for all unrepentant sinners, and that a man can indeed die eternally.

– pp. 115-121.

George Bradford Caird, The Truth of the Gospel: A Primer of Christianity, Oxford University Press, England, 1950 (This cover is from 1956 printing):

There are many people who believe firmly in an afterlife who would rather not be troubled with so complicated a doctrine as the resurrection of the body, particularly if they have had enough trouble with the body itself through ill health. They would prefer to believe that at death the soul leaves the body behind like an old suit of clothes and goes unencumbered to heaven. Now there is plenty of support for this belief in Greek philosophy, but none in the Bible. The Greeks believed that the body is the root of all evil – a prison in which the soul is incarcerated until its release at death. But, the Hebrews believed that the body is good, since God made it. A belief in the immortality of the soul would mean that only part of the human personality survived death. In teaching the resurrection of the body, the Bible is asserting that the whole personality survives.

– p. 122.

The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, George Arthur Buttrick, Abingdom Press, USA, 1952:

1. The Problem of Death. The one área which this redemption-faith of Israel had most difficulty in penetrating was that of the suffering and death of the individual man. The views of Israel regarding death were so strongly conditioned by those of her pagan neighbors, excepting Egypt, that the invasion and transformation of this realm by the new and unique theology of Israel was a slow process, completed in the intertestamental period long after the classic age had come to an end. At death man's unity of being is destroyed and he loses vitality. The nephesh or “soul” (see above, pp. 367-68) thus does not continue to exist. It disintegrates, or as in the case of the suffering servant, it is said to be "poured out" as an offering to death (Isa. 53:12). The dead are like "water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again" (II Sam. 14:14).

This does not mean, however, that existence ceases. Man continues to live, though in a very weak state, in the underworld of Sheol, together with those who have passed into this realm before him. There he subsists in darkness (Job 10:21-22), in a kind of sleep (Nan. 3:18), in weakness (Isa. 14:10), in forgetfulness (Ps. 88:12). Existence in Sheol thus was conceived as the opposite of life. Earth is the land of light; Sheol is filled with the primordial darkness (cf. Gen. 1:2). Life means vitality and energy; death is weakness, inaction, a mere shadow of life. Since God is pre-eminently the giver of life and Lord of the living, it was something of a question to the Israelite as to what relation he had with the dead. Is not death the separation from life and thus from the God of life? Consequently, the psalmist questions whether God will show his wonders to the dead, whether his lovingkindness and his righteousness will be known in the land of forgetfulness (Ps. 88:10-12; cf. Isa. 38:18). He prays the more earnestly, therefore, to be delivered from death's power. Many of the psalmists lived in great danger of their lives or in grave illness; and any form of weakness which robbed them of the free exercise of their powers was to them a form of death, though as yet the gates of Sheol had not closed finally upon them. Their prayers were for God to save them and to bring them back from the "pit" or from the waves of the deep through which they have been forced to go in the journey to the underworld (cf. Jonah 2:2-6). In God's hands are the issues of life and death, for it is he who "killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to Sheol and bringeth up" (I Sam. 2:6; cf. Deut. 32:39).

The dominant emphasis in the prayers of sick and troubled individuals was thus on the redemptive power of God to save them from death. The greatest boon in life is to walk with God and to dwell in his presence, for there is "fulness of joy" and "pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11). The faithful man was certain, therefore, that God would redeem his life (nephesh) from Sheol's power (Ps. 49:15; Hos. 13:14). Does this mean that death will be abolished? Such a passage as Ps. 23:6 ("I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever") is somewhat ambiguous and unclear. There is no doubt, however, that during the postexilic period some believers began to answer the question in the affirmative. In God's new age there shall be no more death, and tears shall be wiped away from all faces (Isa. 25:8; cf. I Cor. 15:26, 54; Rev. 21:4). The chief difficulty which the man of faith had with death was that it separated him from life with God. Consequently, it was inevitable that sooner or later he would assert that the cause of this separation would be removed (cf. Ps. 139:8), for God in life will guide him with his counsel and afterward receive him with glory (Ps. 73:24). Illustration of the thought in the last passage was at hand in the cases of Enoch and Elijah, neither of whom suffered death but was taken directly to God's heavenly abode (Gen. 5:24; II Kings 2:11). This made it easier for some to believe that God would send Elijah back to earth again as the forerunner of the new age (Mal. 4:5; cf. Mark 9:11-13). Yet if death is to be abolished by God in the new age so that redeemed man need never be separated from him, what about those who have died before that time? Two late passages affirm their resurrection: Isa. 26:19 and Dan. 12:2. In keeping with the unitary view of man, this doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is the only one which would be congenial to the biblical point of view. Many people under the ultimate influence of Greek thought have felt it simpler to believe in the immortality ol the soul, though from the standpoint of reason this separation of soul from body appears as difficult as the belief in the resurrection of the body, i.e., of the complete person. The later view, however, excludes all thought of a natural immortality and focuses attention upon the gracious miracle of God to raise the departed into fellowship with himself in the new age on earth. It was in this context that the doctrine became widespread in the intertestamental period, though there continued to be those who retained the position of the earlier literature of the Old Testament and who thus did not believe it (cf. Eccl. 3:20-21; and the Sadducees of the New Testament time, Matt. 22:23). Yet for the majority of the Jews the faith in God's redemptive power had finally won its victory over death.

– Vol. I, 1952, pp. 370, 371

The traditional rendering of the Hebrew néphesh by soul led the older commentators to associate this verse [1 Sam. 25:29] with a belief in an afterlife, and this interpretation is still accepted by some modern Jews.  But the idea of man as consisting of body and soul which are separated at death is not Hebrew but Greek.  According to the Hebrew creation story God breathed the breath of life into Adam’s clay and he became a néphesh ḥayyāh – a living creature (Gen. 2:7).  The néphesh, then, is not the soul but the life, and Abigail is promising David a long life under the protection of God.  The figure is that of precious possessions wrapped up in a bundle so that they shall not be lost.  It was not for many a long year after this that Israel had any intimation of immortality.”

– Vol. II, 1953, p. 1015.

“The departure of the nephesh must be viewed as a figure of speech, for it does not continue to exist independently of the body, but dies with it (Num. 31:19; Judg. 16:30; Ezek. 13:19). No biblical text authorizes the statement that the ‘soul’ is separated from the body at the moment of death.”

“… In the Old Testament man is regarded as a “psychosomatic” whole. The idea of a disembodied spirit, or a soul separated from its body, was not congenial to Jewish thought. And it was not until the Persian and Hellenistic periods that Jewish writers were able to entertain a doctrine of pre-existence of the soul.”

– Vol. I, 1962, pp. 802, 870.

“The word 'soul' in English, though it has to some extent naturalized the Hebrew idiom, frequently carries with it overtones, ultimately coming from philosophical Greek (Platonism) and from Orphism and Gnosticism which are absent in 'nephesh.' In the OT it never means the immortal soul, but it is essentially the life principle, or the living being, or the self as the subject of appetite, and emotion, occasionally of volition.”

– Vol. IV, 1962, p. 428.

John A. T. Robinson, The Body – A Study in Pauline Theology, SCM Press, England, 1952 (This cover is from 2012 Edition (Hymns Ancient & Modern Limited, England):

It follows from this that the third and perhaps most far-reaching of all the Greek antitheses, that between body and soul, is also foreign to the Hebrew. The Hellenic conception of man has been described as that of an angel in a slot machine, a soul (the invisible, spiritual, essential ego) incarcerated in a frame of matter, from which it trusts eventually to be liberated. The body is non-essential to the personality: it is something which a man possesses, or, rather is possessed by. ‘The Hebrew idea of personality,' on the other hand, wrote the late Dr. Wheeler Robinson in a sentence which has become famous, 'is an animated body, and not an incarnated soul' (The People and the Book, 362). Man does not have a body, he is a body. He is flesh-animated-by-soul, the whole conceived as a psycho-physical unity: ‘The body is the soul in its outward form’ (J. Pedersen, Israel, I-II, 171). There is no suggestion that the soul is the essential personality, or that the soul (nephesh) is immortal, while the flesh (basar) is mortal. The soul does not survive a man it simply goes out, draining away with the blood.

– p. 14.

Claude Tresmontant, Essai sur la pensée hébraïque, éd. O.E.I.L., Paris, France, 1953. (This cover is from a 2017 edition. In English : A Study in Hebrew Thought,  New York: Desclee, 1960):

... we must be careful to avoid interpreting the Hebrew notion of soul in terms of Platonic dualism. Because they recognized no body-soul dichotomy, the Hebrews did not consider the soul the discarnate thing that we imagine it to be. And it is just because we oppose it to 'body' that we think of it in this way. In Hebrew the soul is the man. Indeed we should  not say that man has a soul, but that he is a soul; nor consequently that he has a body, but that he is a body.      

– p. 94 (English edition).

Basil Ferris Campbell Atkinson, The Pocket Commentary of the Bible, Part 1, Book of Genesis, publ. by Henry E. Walter, England, 1954:

It has sometimes been thought that the impartation of the life principle, as it is brought before us in this verse, entailed immortality of the spirit or soul. It has been said that to be made in the image of God involves immortality. The Bible never says so. If it involves immortality, why does it not also involve omniscience, or omnipresence, or any other quality or attribute of the Infinite? Why should one alone be singled out? The breath of life was not breathed into man’s heart, but into his nostrils. It involved physical life. Throughout the Bible man, apart from Christ, is conceived of as made of dust and ashes, a physical creature, to whom is lent by god a principle of life. The Greek thinkers tended to think of man as an immortal soul imprisoned in a body. This emphasis is the opposite to that of the Bible, but has found a wide place in Christian thought.

– p. 32.

The Pauline View of Man in Relation to its Judaic and Hellenistic Background, David Stacey, MacMillan & Co, London, England, 1956:

...  nephesh met in Nu. 6.6 does not refer to a dead body, but implies that the soul was still present though death had taken place. He quotes Job 14:22, ‘But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn,’ to prove that corruption afflicted both body and soul together.

Dr. Oesterley argues that the nephesh could ‘slip in and out of the body at will.’ He points out that the departure of Rachel soul meant death (Gen. 35:18) and the return of the child’s soul (1 Kin. 17:22) meant life. This cannot be gainsaid, but we must beware of inferring from these references a dualistic notion of body and soul which is at variance with the fundamental inclusiveness which is the key to Hebrew psychology. These references show that the nephesh can leave the body and return, but beside them must be set references such as Prov. 25.25 and 27.7, where water and honey delight the soul, showing that body and soul are inextricably bound up. The only solution is that the Old Testament is not entirely consistent in its understanding of nephesh. It is nourished through the body, yet can depart from it. It does not, however, follow that nephesh could conduct an independent existence outside the body. The departure of nephesh coincided with the cessation of life, which only means that nephesh was the vital force. Incorporeal life for the nephesh was never visualized. Death afflicted soul (Nu. 23.10) as well as body, and if the nephesh appears again in Sheol, it is only for an inferior existence, and even this existence is not immaterial.

– p. 88 (Hebrew words transliterated).

Samuel Henry Hooke, The Siege Perilous: Essays in Biblical Anthropology and Kindred Subjects, S.C.M. Press, London, England, 1956:

What has Christianity Inherited from Judaism?...

The form in which the Church received and has continued to hold the belief in resurrection was, and has remained, Jewish.   The late Professor H. Wheeler Robinson has well remarked in this connexion:

‘It is a life on earth, however new its conditions, and it is a resurrection-life, involving the restoration of the dead body.   This form of belief is seen to have been inevitable, once we have grasped the Hebrew idea of personality; a resurrection of the body was the only form of triumph over death which Hebrew psychology could conceive for those actually dead.   Even St. Paul shrinks from the thought of bodiless existence.’ (Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament, p. 101-2.).

The Greek doctrine of immortality, which finds its first Jewish expression in the Wisdom of Solomon, and which conceives of an immortality of the soul apart from the body, does not occur in the New Testament, nor in the Creeds.   Even the Alexandrian Fathers appear to assume the identity of the ‘spiritual body’ spoken of by St. Paul with the earthly body, without, however, explaining the nature of the identity.   The permanent value of this element of the Jewish heritage is, to say the least, open to question, and the Fourth Gospel seems to represent an attempt to reinterpret early Christian eschatology, and especially the Parousia expectation, in such a way as to remove some of its less desirable aspects.

– pp. 201, 202.



A Murtonen, The Living Soul: A Study of the Meaning of the Word Næfæš in the Old Testament Hebrew Language, Studia Orientalia Edidit Societas Orientalis Fennica XXIII:1, Helsinki, Finland, 1958:

We have established already that it is quite natural that the soul dies. In the OT the word næfæš appears expressly in this connection 46 times. In the versions – older as well new ones – it is usually rendered in these cases by the words “dead”, “body”, a pronoun, or something like that. In the following we give some characteristic examples:

Lv xxii 4 states that any priest who touches anything that is unclean through the contact with a soul will be unclean until the evening. AV and ARV translate næfæš here “dead”. But how can næfæš, the usual meaning of which it “the living being of man”, have acquired the meaning “dead”? It should be observed, that the Bible nowhere speaks of a dead soul. The death of a soul and the soul of a dead are spoken of, but never a dead soul. With other words, the soul is, according to the ancient Israelitic conception, able to die, but the result is not a dead soul, but the soul of a dead. This makes it probable that when næfæš appears meaning “dead”, an abbreviation is in question, the longer equivalent of which is just “the soul of a dead”, nefes met. Most complete this expression appears Nm xix 13: “Whoever touches a dead, the soul of the man that is dying...” AV translates: “... who is dead...”, ARV: “... who had died...”, but the Hebrew text has the imperfect yamût “dies, is dying”. This, I believe, gives us the solution of the riddle. Apparently the dying was conceived as a more or less long process during which man was still called nefes on account of the “life” or action which took place in his corpse; perhaps even the smell departing from the corpse had some influence on the matter (cf. I: 1:c).

It was possible to use the abbreviation, because man (and many animals) only when dying was in such a state that touching him normally caused uncleanness. Thus everybody understood without further explanations what the expression “unclean through a soul” meant. Similarly, the translation “body” is correct; as Johs. Pedersen says, the body is the soul in its outward form, its form of manifestation of full value, and in this case it is just the body the touching of which makes unclean. Consequently, we can say that in these cases soul is = body, or perhaps more appropriately – considering the functional nature of the soul – that the body represents soul in them.

Nm xxxv 9 sqq. cities of refuge are ordered for those that without intention have killed a soul, and Josh xx we read how this commandment is carried into effect. The context shows clearly that soul here, also, means man as an individual being (cf., e.g., Nm xxxv 16 sqq.); AV and ARV translate accordingly: “person”. Balaam’s wish Nm xxiii 10: “May my soul die the death of the upright...” shall apparently be interpreted in accordance with this, particularly since the following verse which is in paralllelism with this, supports this interpretation in every respect: “may my end be like his”. The same category is further represented by Pr xxviii 17 which speaks of man who is appressed because of the blood of a soul, i.e., because he has killed somebody, as also by other passages in which the blood of souls is mentioned, Jer ii 34 etc.

Job’s word vii 15 is very illuminative and concrete: “Therefore my soul would choose strangling...” At the first glance it might seem as if soul here could mean “neck, throat”, but the word “choose” makes it impossible. Apparently man as a bodily being is meant. Ez xxii 27, also, seems to have næfæš in this meaning, when the LORD says of Israel’s princes that they “shed blood, destroy souls to get dishonest gain”, similarly xvii 17: “to cut off many souls”, but in xiii 19 the spiritual meaning seems to be prevalent (cf.p.55 sq.).

The conception “living and dying soul” becomes considerably more interesting and at the first glance contradictory in itself when næfæš appears – seen in the aspect of life – in its normal meaning “the living being of its possessor” or “its possessor as a living being”. The contradiction would be inevitable, if the Bible would with the word “death” mean what we – at least in the everyday use – mean with that word, viz. that death would be the contrast of life, and accordingly the absolute end of the latter. When speaking so we mean the so-called bodily death which might be best defined by the statement that the human body in it ceases to live and to act. Because body it the soul’s form of manifestation of full value and necessary for the existence of the soul – without that soul would never existed, Gn ii 7 –, we have reason enough to say that bodily death is at the same time de death of the soul. The same is meant by the words in Dt xix 11: “... and smites him in the soul, so that he dies...” The text speaks no more of the striking of a man so that he dies. It is a man who is struck, but he is not struck as a mere man, but as a soul, a living being. The stroke has hit his soul; in consequence thereof he dies, and therefore his death is the death of a soul. It must be kept in mind that the conception “the living and acting being of man” must not be conceived too spiritually. It comprises even and above all the human body through which man chiefly acts.

But there are passages in the OT which show that a man’s existence as an individual being was not finished at death. 1 S xxviii 7 sqq. tells us that Saul receives information from Samuel at En-Dor through a ba’alat ‘ob, “mistress of revenant”. However the story might be interpreted in other respects, in any case it shows that according to the OT conception a man’s individual existence continues after his death. As a proof of the commonness of this belief we quote Dt xviii 10.11: “There shall not be found among thee... who asks revenant, nor a wizard, nor a necromancer”.

1 S xxviii 3 also tells that Saul had driven the mediums and wizards out of the country. These – and other – passages show that among the people there were persons who – in spite of the prohibitions – practised this kind of sorcery, and accordingly others who used their services, which again indicates that they believeth the existence of men to continue after their death, and because in no OT passage (not even Eccl iii 19, cf. v. 21, nor Ps xlix 12, cf. v. 15.20) this belief is expressly denied – only the consultation of the dead is forbidden – we have reason enough to suppose that it is the opinion of the whole OT, also. Moreover, 1 S xxviii 15.20 presupposes that the writer really believed Samuel to have arisen, and not only that saul or the medium believed so.

A further question, however, is still left: is the form of existence in which the dead are of such a kind that it can be called life? With other words: does the existence of the soul continue after death according to the Bible? As we know, the residence of the dead is in the OT commonly called seol. This word, which may mean “a hollow, cavity, pit”, means sometimes a single grave, sometimes the whole of all the graves or the “underworld”, to judge from the context. This is by no means exceptional in the language of the OT; as a parallel we may mention such a word as 'es, which sometimes means a single tree (e.g. Gn ii 17), sometimes the whole of several, or of all the, trees (e.g. Gn i 11, iii 8). Modern man who does not live in the world of ideas of the OT has a difficult task when trying to understand how the graves the location of which sometimes was very far from one another could form an organic whole in which real unity was thought to exist, because modern man is used to the individual way of thinking. The Bible, however, does not think individually, but collectively, as the ancient Semites in general. All the words that can be used as names of species are potentially collective, i.e. they can mean as well a single individual as a whole of several individuals without changing their outward form, e.g. 'ådåm, båqår, zera’, næfæš, 'es, and so seol, also. Arabic plurales fracti are a kind of parallel, also. This linguistic usage would be inexplicable, if it had not it correspondence in the world of ideas.

According to the same principle the graves were conceived as an organic whole, which united all the single graves with one another in some way which was perhaps not quite exactly defined.

Ez xxxii l8 sqq. seems to give us a detailed account of this “kingdom of the dead”. It seems as if there were some kind of action there, since v. 21 states: “The mighty of the heroes will speak of him from the midst of sheol...”, but it must be observecl that a parable is in question, and even as such the situation is quite exceptional. He who enters Sheol is Egypt, and the mighty ones among the heroes already dwelling in sheol are Assyria, Elam, Meshech and Tubal, Edom etc., countries and kingdorns altogether. Accordingly their speech shall be understood so that when Egypt sees destruction coming, it understands that its fate will be the same as that of those other mighty countries, and in any case the exceptional character of the situation prevents us from using this passage to describe the state of the dead. The same applies to Is xiv 9 sqq. in which the descent of the king of Babel to sheol is described. That the description is a parable the purpose of which is to illustrate the powerfulness of Babel's destruction is best proved by the v. 8: “Even cypresses rejoice at thee, the cedars of Lebanon: ‘since thou hast lied down, the woodcutter is not coming up against us’”. Nobody might state that the prophet has meant literally just that. Moreover, the situation is even here described as exceptional, to judge from v. 9: “Sheol there beneath is stirred up for thee... it arouses refaim (= “the faint, feeble”) for thee...” Babel's destruction is so remarkable an event that even the dead must be awakened to behold it.

From Is xiv 9 sqq. we can, however, draw a conclusion concerning the normal condition among the dead. Since this parable describes the awakening of the dead as exceptional, the greater reason we have to suppose that normally they are thought to be in the state of unconsciousness or sleeping, as it usually is expressed. Other OT passages in which the state of the dead is spoken of, corroborate this conclusion. E.g. Is xxxviii 18: “For sheol does not thank thee, nor does death praise thee...”, Ps vi 6: “For in death there is not thy remenbrance, in Sheol who thanks thee?”, lxxxviii 11-13: “Dost thou work wonder to the dead? or do refaim rise up (and) praise thee? Selah. Is thy mercy told in the grave, thy faithfulness in destruction? is thy wonderfulness made known in darkness, or thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” The questions are obviously rhetorical. In Ps cxv 17 the actual condition is stated directly again: “The dead do not praise Yah, nor anybody who is going down to silence.” The last word describes picturesquely the condition among the dead: it is dominated by silence.

Consequently, it seems that we cannot regard the state of the dead in Sheol as real life. That the opinion of the ancient Israelites was the same is shown by the fact that the dead in Sheol are never called souls in the OT. As a matter of fact, the most usual name of the inhabitants of sheol, refaim, seems to be quite opposite to the word næfæš, since the latter implicitly expresses that its possessor has vital and acting power, while the former are “deprived of power”. The conclusion is that according to the opinion of the OT the soul did not continue its life – or existence, which for the soul is the same as life – in Sheol after the death.

– pp. 29-34.


Lester I. Newman, The Concept of the Soul in Plato and in Early Judeo-Christian Thought, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA, 1958:


Chapter I: Introduction The purpose of this thesis is to study two great historical concepts of the soul and to show them to be, not only in marked contrast to one another, but also in strong opposition to one another. These two important historical concepts of the soul are; the Platonic concept , as found in the writings of Plato; and the early Judeo-Christian concept, as recorded in the canons of the Old and New Testaments. They represent two entirely different religious and ethical worlds; yet have come into contact with one another, have mingled together freely, and have greatly influenced one another. Certain of the very early Church Fathers saw the tremendous distinction between the Platonic concept of the soul and the early Judeo-Christian concept, and expressed strong opposition to the encroachment of the Platonic concept of the “soul” into the life and teachings of the early Christian community. These men, however, were replaced by other Church Fathers who employed Platonic philosophy to interpret Christian theology to the early Christian Church, a process still going on in this modern era. This thesis is concerned with a careful study of all the writings of Plato and to seek out from the original sources; themselves, exactly what Plato taught concerning the soul. In order to ascertain the true Platonic concept of the “soul,” in his writings have been studied according to the various periods of his writings. According to the eminent Platonic scholar, Lutoslawski, Plato's writings can be divided into four very definite periods: the Socratic period, the first Platonic period, the middle Platonic period, and the latest Platonic period. The purpose of this thesis has been to study the use of the term “soul” in each one of the periods of his writings to determine how he commonly uses the word “soul,” how consistent he is in his use of the term, and how his use of “soul” in the latest of his writings compares with the earliest of his works. From this study, this thesis has sought to define the Platonic concept of “soul” from its most consistent, most common, and latest usage. This thesis has also been concerned with and equally meticulous study of the early Judeo-Christian concept of the term “soul.” In order to get an understanding of its usage in the early writings of the Jews and Christians, the canons of both the Old and New testaments were studied book by book. In the canon of the Old Testament, every occurrence of the Hebrew word for “soul,” nephesh, was studied in its context, and in the canon of the New Testament every occurrence of the Greek word for “soul,” psuche, was studied within its context. Certain related Hebrew terms were also studied, such as, ruach, neshamah, and leb to see their relatedness to nephesh. Also studied were certain related Greek terms to psuche, such as pneuma and zoe to ascertain their usage and their relatedness to psuche. It was found that these terms cannot be used interchangeably, for their meanings are very different.

Chapter II: The Platonic Concept of The Soul In the four periods of Platonic though: the Socratic Period, the early period, the middle period, and the latest period, a study of Plato's usage of the term “soul” reveals that he uses “soul” in at least six philosophical ways: (1) “soul” used in an ethical-moral-philosophical sense, 308 times; (2) “soul” used in a philosophical-religious sense, 66 times; (3) “soul” used in an epistemological sense, 36 times; (4) “soul” used in a socio-politico sense, 17 times; (5) “soul” used in a metaphysical sense, 354 times; (6) “soul” used in an aesthetic sense, 19 times. There were a number of times when “soul” was used in such an obscure sense it was impossible to classify its philosophical meaning. The frequent use of the term “soul” and the many philosophical uses that Plato has for it, indicates its importance to Platonic thought. In fact, this study reveals that the metaphysics, the ethics, and the epistemology of Plato are based squarely on his definition of psuche. In light of Plato's philosophical uses of the term “soul,” it is possible to define the term from its most common, consistent, and latest usage. Plato defines the soul as a simple, pure, unorganized, uncompounded, invisible, rational entity. He says that the soul is simple in its true nature and cannot be composed of many elements, that the soul is pure in its original, divine state, and that any impurity in the soul is from its contact with the earth. The soul is not visible, only to mind. It is rational, for it is that which true knowledge is concerned. Plato describes the soul as divine intelligence nurtured upon true knowledge. Plato, through usage, also defines the soul as pre-existent, supreme, and self-moving. Plato's theory of knowledge is based upon the reminiscence of the soul of its former existence, for, to Plato, the soul is before all things and, has a first hand knowledge of the world of Pure Forms. Plato defines the soul, through usage, in still another way; as being immaterial, fixed, divine, indestructible, and immortal. Plato argues that the soul is of such and indestructible nature that not even evil can destroy the soul, for the soul, in its very essence, is immortal, and, hence, indestructible. Plato also maintains that souls are fixed, so that the number always remains the same; therefore, the soul must be immortal by nature. In this connection, he also stresses the simple, pure, uncompounded nature of this soul and its pre-existence before all things.

Chapter III: The Biblio-Judeo Concept of the Soul. The Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh. This word is used over 700 times in the thirty-nine books of the canon of the Old Testament. Every occurrence of the word “soul in the Revised Standard Version is the Hebrew word nephesh, but with four exceptions: Psalm 57:8, 108:1, Proverbs 23:16, and Lamentations 1:20. The reader can know that he is reading the Hebrew word nephesh each time he reads the word “soul,” outside of the four mentioned passages, but what he does not know is that the word nephesh in over three hundred occurrences, is not translated “soul” but is rendered by over thirty different words and phrases, such as “life,” “breath of life,” “person,” “persons,” “self,” “heart,” “mind,” “creature,” and a host of other such words and expressions. Within the same verse nephesh will often be translated two or three different ways, making it extremely difficult for the average reader to know that the same terms is being used each time. If the term were translated consistently each time by the word “soul,” it would be possible for the English reader to come to a better understanding as to its definition by its usage, but, under the circumstances, this is very difficult, if not impossible. The careful reader of the Bible should have the right and privilege of coming to his own conclusions, determining his own definitions, and formulating his own doctrine as to the Biblical use of the term “soul.” This opportunity afforded the interested reader in this thesis, through the listing of all the occurrences of the Hebrew word for “soul,” nephesh, in the Old Testament of the Revised Standard Version. From a careful study of all 754 occurrences of nephesh in the Old Testament, the reader observes that the soul is to be defined by the following terms: (1) As being created a moving, living organism by God. This is in direct contrast to the uncreated, self-moving, unorganized Platonic soul. (2) As being the highest creation of God--the whole man. All moving, living organisms are souls, but the highest organism created by God is man. This created man, “soul,” is spoken of as being created a complex, compounded, rational, organized entity, in direct contrast to the Platonic simple, uncompounded, unorganized soul. The Old Testament canon also defines the soul, through usage, as being material substance, mortal, and destructible in nature, but also a candidate for resurrection and eternal life. This is in direct contrast to the immaterial, immortal, indestructible soul of Plato's. The though of a bodily resurrection of life everlasting, through a might act of God, is also completely foreign to Platonic thinking.

Chapter IV: The Biblio-Christian Concept of the Soul The Greek word for “soul” is psuche. The word is used 111 times in the canon of the New Testament, following the manuscript Codex Vaticanus. In Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible there is no other word, other than psuche, that is translated “soul.” However, the word psuche is not always translated “soul,” but, rather, in a great number of ways. Some of the words and phrases used to translate psuche, other than “soul,” are: “life,” “lives,” “mind,” “minds,” “persons,” “us,” and “human being.” Out of the 111 times that psuche is used in the New Testament, it is translated “soul” only forty times. The remaining seventy-one times the English reader is left uninformed that the word he is reading is the Greek word psuche. Since the translation of the Greek word, psuche, is done in so many different ways, it is of real help to the English reader to have a complete listing of each occurrence of psuche, as in this thesis. A study of them shows that psuche, from its usage, defines itself as being created a moving, living organism by God, the same as in the Old Testament. Usage also defines psuche as the highest creation of God--the whole man. This man is created, complex, compounded, material, organized, and rational. It is also mortal, subject to death, but is also a candidate for resurrection and eternal life through a mighty act of God. As can readily be seen, the definition of “soul” in both the Old and New Testaments are the same and in strong opposition to the Platonic soul.

Chapter V: The Platonic and Early Judeo-Christian Concept of “Soul” Compared and Contrasted. In the writings of the early Church Fathers, of the first two centuries of the Christian era, we find strong opposition to the Platonic concept of “soul” as it tried to creep into the theology of the early Christian church. They withstood the Platonic philosophy of the soul being subversive to the very essence of Christianity, with its doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, as compared to the Christian belief of mortality of each soul and each soul in need of a bodily resurrection in order to obtain eternal life. Words and phrases which came into common use later in the history of the Christian church, were not used by the very early Church Father. We refer to such familiar terms as “the immortal soul,” “the immortal man,” “the never-dying soul,” “the deathless being,” “endless sin and misery,” “unending torment,” “the death that never dies,” and other such familiar expressions that clearly have their roots in Platonic thought. It is thought by many that the Platonic doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul came into the teachings and theology of the early Christian church naturally and easily, but this is not so, for the opposition was great to begin with from the early Church Fathers, whose keen insight saw that it was subversive to the basic doctrines of the Christian Church and that its philosophy belonged to an entirely different religious and ethical world. The chief media, for the entrance of Platonism into Christianity, was through the voluminous writings and great preaching of the Bishop of Hippo, Aurelius Augustine, in the fourth century. Augustine took Plato's doctrine of the inherent immortality of the soul, disengaged it from the metempsychosis and transmigration and gained for it that general credence which it has held to this day.

Chapter VI: Conclusions. When Plato speaks of the soul, the thought of the immortality of the soul is always present, immortality being the natural endowment of the soul, due to its divine origin having been eternally pre-existent. All that is required of the soul, once it has entered the prison of the body, is to purify itself and set itself free from its bondage of the sense world and return back to its divine origin in the super-sensible world. The world of natural immortality, then, is its true home and its normal condition. The natural immortality of the soul was also the basis upon which Plato based his metaphysics, ethics, and his theory of knowledge. It lay at the heart of the Platonic concept of the soul. This study has also shown that the idea of the natural immortality of the soul is completely foreign to the use of nephesh and psuche in the Bible. Here on reads that the soul was created out of dust by its Creator and returns to dust at its death. The very fact that God called the first man Adamah, “earth-made,” indicates the earthly nature of the Biblical soul, as contrasted to the heavenly origin of the Platonic soul. If man was made a living soul by his Creator out of dust and the “breath of life,” and if at death he returns to the ground from whence he was taken, and his “breath” (spirit) goes back to God from whence it came, then it must be necessary for the two to be reunited in order that man might live again. Not only resurrection, but resurrection of the body for life everlasting, is central to the teachings of the Christian faith. The thought of a bodily resurrection to life everlasting is completely foreign and unnecessary to Platonic thought. It is at this point that the two great concepts of “soul” meet and forever part company.

(The Boston University Institutional Repository [] contains documents and publications authored or co-authored by BU faculty, students, and staff. The entire thesis [whose summary has been presented above] is available in this link:


The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, Cecil Roth (Ed.). Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York, USA, 1959 (This cover is from The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, Virgin Books, 1970):

IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL: In religion, the direct belief in a continued existence after death; in philosophy, the idea that there is some part of the human personality the eternity of which can be proved or at least made acceptable to reason. Primitive religions generally consider life as whole and indivisible; their concept of an after-life therefore refers to the personality as a whole and not to the SOUL in the narrower sense. The dead exist in a state of lowered vitality; this kind of bleak shadow-life in the underworld was known, for instance, to the Greeks (Hades) and the ancient Hebrews (Sheol). When the spirit of life has departed, man continues to exist in the land of the shadows, but “the dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Ps 115:17). On the other hand the soul is regarded as an immaterial substance whose relation to a particular body is more or less incidental. According to this view, existence before birth and after death is a matter of course and it is the soul’s descent into matter and the mortal body that requires explanation. The moral and religious task of life it then to protect the soul from losing its purity while in the material world. These ideas were already current in Hellenism and appear as commonplaces [or: cliches] in rabbinic literature. A further possibility within this range of ideas is METEMPSYCHOSIS. Another approach to immortality, preserving the older conception of life as a totality of body and soul, is manifest in the belief of the RESURRECTION of the body, which became an article of faith in Judaism and was incorporated into Maimonides’ 13 Articles. The conflation of the two kinds of belief yielded the traditional Jewish concept of a Hereafter where the departed souls are rewarded (paradise, garden of Eden, etc.) and the wicked punished (hell, Gehinnom) for their deeds in this life until the great day of the Resurrection when the final judgment will be followed by a completely new era (olam-ha-ba).

SOUL: The biblical expressions denoting s. (nephesh, ruah, neshamah) all understand life as the animation of the body and derive from roots meaning “wind,” “breath,” etc. (cf. Gen. 2:7); after death there is merely a shadowy existence in the underworld (sheol). Only in the last century BCE did the soul-body dualism and the concept that the s. was an independent substance joined to the body gain general credence; the s. originates in heaven and descends to earth, joining a material body at the moment of conception or birth and losing its original perfection. This dichotomy, fully developed in hellenistic literature (Philo, etc.), is also accepted by the Talmud where it is said that all s.’s exist from the creation of the world and are stored in heaven until their time comes to join the bodies destined for them. The rabbis do not merely equate s. and body with good and evil; it is always the s. which sins and not the body. In medieval philosophy the main problem concerning the s. was that of IMMORTALITY. The Neoplatonic tradition which assumed an independent spiritual soul-substance could entertain a belief in immortality more easily than the Aristotelian philosophers for whom s. was the “form” of the organic body. Maimonides and other Jewish Aristotelians assumed that only that part of the s. which man develops by his intellectual efforts (the “acquired intellect”) is immortal; other thinkers defined the s. in such a way as to extend immortality also to non-philosophers. Kabbalists generally accepted the belief in METEMPSYCHOSIS (gilgul). The desire to express one’s love for departed s.’s and, if possible, to improve their lot in the hereafter has given rise (to a large extent under non-Jewish influence) to various rites, some of which (e.g. YIZKOR, HASHKAVAH, KADDISH) have become permanent features of the synagogue service.

– Revised Edition, 1966, Cols. 955, 956 and 1743.



J. D. Douglas, The New Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London, 1962:

1. Inherent in 'life' (hayyim) is the idea of activity. Life is 'that which moves' (Gn.7:21 f.; Ps.69:34) in contrast to the relaxed, dormant, or inert state of non-life. Running water is 'living' (Gn.26:19), and rapid labor in childbirth indicates the mother's 'aliveness' (Ex.1:19). The word's frequently used plural form emphasizes the intensity of the concept. Life is associated with light, gladness, fullness, order, and active being (Ps.27:1; Jb.33:25 ff.; Pr.3:16; Gn.1) and contrasted with the darkness, sorrow, emptiness, chaos, and silence which are characteristic of death and inanimate being (Ec.11:8; Ps.115:17).

2. Soul (nepes), as 'being' or 'self,' is common to man and beast, living and dead (Lv.21:11; Job.12:10). But its meaningful state is 'living soul' (nepes hayya, Gn.2:7) and, therefore, may simply mean 'life.' To die is to breathe out one's soul, and to revive is to have it return (Je.15:9; 1Ki17:21); or, seated in the blood, it is 'poured out' at death (Lv.17:11; La.2:12; Is. 53:12). … 'life' and 'self' are so closely parallel that to lose one's life means literally to lose one's self (Pedersen, Israel, I, 1926, 151 ff.; Jb.2:4; Ezk.18).

3. Similarly, spirit (ru'ah) or breath (nesama), as the principle which distinguishes the living from the dead, often may be rendered life (1 Sa.30:12; Jb.27:3 f.). To die is to lose one's breath or spirit (Jb.27:3; Ps.104:29f.); to revive is to 'have it come again'.

4. Life is given to man as a psycho-somatic unity in which 'our own distinctions between physical, intellectual, and spiritual life do not exist' (von Allmen, pp. 231 f.); and the Old Testament view of man my be described as 'animated body' (Robinson, p.27). Thus soul may be paralleled with flesh (Ps. 63:1), life (Jb.33:28), or spirit (Ps. 77:2f.), and all terms viewed as the self or 'I'. It is the 'I' which lives – and which dies (cf. Gn.7:21; Ezk.18:4).

– p. 735

George Angus Fulton Knight, Law and Grace: Must a Christian Keep the Law of Moses?, SCM Press (Series: Religious Book Club 146), London, England, 1962:

In the Old Testament man is never considered to be a soul dwelling in a body, a soul that will one day be set free from the oppression of the body, at the death of that body, like a bird released from a cage. The Hebrews were not dualists in their understanding of God’s world.

– p. 79.

E. W. Marter, The Hebrew Concept of “Soul” in Pre-Exilic Writings, Helderberg College, Cape, South Africa, 1964.

The Soul That Man Has

In about fifty per cent of the instances where nep̄eš appears as something a man has (this means in 40 passages in the writings under review) the KJV gives the rendering "life." Who can doubt the correctness of this translation in the following examples? Nathan advised Bathsheba to report Adonijah's attempted coup d'état in order to "save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon.'' Elijah fled from Jezebel's murderous designs and complained, "I only am left and they seek my life." Benhadad's servants advised him to throw himself on the mercy of Ahab, "peradventure he save thy life." The third captain sent with his men to arrest Elijah "fell on his knees . . . and said. . . O man of God) I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight" (1 Ki 1:12; 19:10, 14; 20:31; 2 Ki 1:13).

The student of Scripture will probably agree also with the remainder of the forty such instances; but when he reads Hezekiah's words of gratitude for the fifteen years added to his life, "For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee... as I do this day," he will wonder how it came about that the KJV does not make him say, as the RSV, "thou hast held back my life from the pit of destruction," but instead reports him as saying "thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit" (Is 38:17, 18). He may also wonder why Jeremiah, according to the KJV, should promise King Zedekiah that if he would surrender to the Babylonians "thy soul shall live" instead of "your life shall be spared" (Jer 38:17, RSV). There are a dozen such instances. This would bring the total to fifty-two. In several of these other twelve instances, as already noted, the RSV has changed “soul” to "life," thereby supporting our conclusions, – and yet not in all. For instance, in the very verse preceding the last mentioned instance, where the KJV has "who made us this soul" the RSV has "who made our souls," whereas both Moffatt and Powis Smith have "who made this life of ours" (Jer 38:16).
The Soul Can Die

In the literature under review nep̄eš occurs 124 times. Of these occurrences, 109 refer to the human nep̄eš. Of these 109 instances, no less than 48 plainly indicate that the human nep̄eš dies. In other words, 44 per cent of the occurrences of the word nep̄eš in reference to man show that the soul of man is mortal. This evidence is overwhelming. We have already cited Benhadad's suit for his "life," Jeremiah's complaint against conspirators, the advice that saved Bathsheba's "life," and the miracle that prolonged the "life" of Hezekiah (1 Ki 20:32; Jer 18:20, 22; 1 Ki 1:12; Is 38:17, 18).

Of the 48 instances, the one that is most likely to perplex the modern Bible reader is the story of the raising of the Phoenician widow's son by Elijah. The RSV still uses the identical words of the KJV, "the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived." How much more clear the rendering of Moffatt, "the child's life came back and he revived," or that of Powis Smith, "the life of the child came back to him again, so that he lived' (1 Ki 17:22). Expressed in connection with this very text and the similar passage in Gn 35:18 the opinion of a thorough scholar of earlier days is significant: "נֶ֫פֶשׁ hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul: I must confess, that I can find no passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning.”

The nep̄eš can die whether it is the soul a man has or the soul he is. In the story of Elijah the word is rendered both ways with reference to the same event in a single verse: "And he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life" (1 Ki 19:4). The RSV does not materially change this two-fold rendering, nor is there need to do so. Only when nep̄eš is rendered by the English word "soul” do these become obscure. The popular and theological accretions in meaning that have become attached to the English word are a hindrance to a proper understanding of the Hebrew word under consideration.

A recent Oxford publication expresses the common popular – and erroneous – view when it says: “The Scriptures are explicit . . . on . . . the distinction between soul and body, the creation of the soul of the first man . . . and its immortality.” This work is much nearer the truth when it goes on to say that the early Fathers reflect the confusion of pagan philosophies on this subject, and that the definition of the soul by Thomas Aquinas as “an individual spiritual substance” that “may be severed from the body and lead a separate existence... after death” was taken over from the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Consistant with the findings of the present survey, more and more scholars are recognizing the truth of the claim made by N. H. Snaith that "immortality of the soul... is not a Biblical idea at all.” “To the Hebrews, man is a body animated by a life-soul (nephesh), and when the man is dead, there is no life-soul anywhere.”

What Does Nep̄eš Mean?

The soul that a man is is simply the living being a man is. The soul that a man has is simply his life, in any manifestation of that life. In the Hebrew concept the nep̄eš a man is and the nep̄eš a man has are one and the same; namely, the life that constitutes a man a living being and the living being so constituted. It is but a trick of language, accentuated by the difficulties of idiomatic translation, that appears to separate this comprehensive meaning into two. In the original accounts of the creation of every living soul, the word nep̄eš is qualified by the word hayyâh (חַיָּֽה "living" or "life", Gn 1:20, 21, 30; 2:7, 19). In the basic Hebrew concept every nep̄eš on earth had its origin in the gift of "life" (חַיִּ֣ים ḥayyîm, Gn 2:7; 7:15, 21, 22). Every manifestation of activity in that newly constituted being called a nep̄eš, whether physical, mental, moral, or emotional, was a manifestation of that life, and hence nep̄eš itself became a synonym for "life," as well as the name of the "total psychophysical organism" thereby constituted. The Living God created all other living beings. God, the great nep̄eš, created every other nep̄eš. As He, the Great Living One, is a nep̄eš in His higher sphere of existence and activity, so man, is creature, is a nep̄eš in his sphere. Man has life; he is a living being. When his life ceases, he ceases: the nep̄eš, both as life and as living being, is no more. This is the pre-exilic Hebrew concept of the human "soul." It comprehends man in all his powers of mind and body, manifesting life, not in one aspect of being, but in the total self, whether appetite or emotion, reason or purpose, consciousness or conscience. It is life as it appears in man, or it is the man himself as long as he has life.

– pp. 104-108.


Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), USA, 1964-1976:

The deciding mark of the living creature is breathing, and its cessation means the end of life. Hence the root נפשׁ in the form of the noun נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh], which occurs 755 times in the Hbr.Bible, denotes “life” or “living creature,” the special sense of “breath” being expressed by נְשָׁמָה [neshamah], although often this shares the development of נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh].  Dt. 20:16; Jos. 10:40; 11:11, 14; 1K. 15:29; Ps. 150:6; Is. 57:16. One might say that נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] always includes נְשָׁמָה [neshamah] but is not limited to it. In 1 Kings 17:17 lack of נְשָׁמָה [neshamah] causes the departure of נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh], which returns when the prophet gives the child breath again, for נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] alone is what makes a living creature into a living organism.

...Yet one should not conclude that the נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] is an immaterial principle which can be abstracted away from its material sub-structure and which can lead an independent existence. The departure of the נְשָׁמָה [nephesh] is a metaphor for death; a dead man is one who has ceased to breathe...

נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] is the usual term for a man’s total nature, for what he is and not just what he has. This gives the term priority in the anthropological vocabulary for the same cannot be said of either spirit, heart, or flesh. The classical text in Gn. 2:7 clearly expresses this when it calls man in his totality a נפש חיה [nephesh hayyah]. Perhaps in view of its over-logical formulation this passage never became normative for the OT as a whole. It should be noted that it expresses the external aspect of a man rather than the modalities of his life. The word נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] developed in two main directions which correspond more to structures of thought than to a chronological sequence. The two directions might be defined in terms of form and movement. The נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] is almost always connected with a form. It has no existence apart from a body. Hence the best translation in many instances is “person” comprised in corporeal reality. The person can be marked off and counted, Gn. 12:5; 46:18; Jos. 10:28; 11:11. Each individual is a נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh], and when the texts speak of a single נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] for a totality, the totality is viewed as a single person, a 'corporate personality.' Hence נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] can denote what is most individual in human nature, namely, the ego, and it can become a synonym of the personal pronoun, Gn. 27:25: “that my נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh] (I) may bless thee” and Jer. 3:11: “Unfaithful Israel has justified its נָ֫פֶשׁ [nephesh]i. e. has shown itself to be righteous.”

– Vol. 9, 1974, pp. 618-620. Hebrew words transliterated.

Dictionary of the Bible, The Bruce Publishing Company, New York, USA and Collier MacMillan Ltd., Toronto, Canada, 1965. (This cover is from Reprint Edition, 1995):

Death. 1. OT. The OT exhibits a certain development in the Israelite ideas of death. This development is not progressive; one may find in BS a concept of death which scarcely differs from the concept found in the Pnt. The prevailing view in the OT is that death is terminal. One's concept of death is ultimately determined by one's concept of life; hence the Hb concept of the human person as an animated body rather than an incarnated spirit made the end of animation appear to be the cessation of all vital activity. When a person died, the "spirit" departed; the deceased continued to exist as a "self" (nepeš) in Sheol', but was incapable of any vital activity or passivity. The dead take no part in divine worship (Pss 6:6; 30:10; 88:11; 115:17; cf also Is 38: 11, 18). It is against this background of OT belief that Jesus said that God is not the God of the dead but of the living (Mt 22:32; Mk 12:27; Lk 20:38). Death is accepted as the natural end of man (2 S 14: 14). The ideal death was attained in the fullness of old age with undiminished powers (Gn 25:8; Jb 21 :23 f; 29: 18-20). One who dies such an ideal death dies easily and quickly; he goes down to Sheol "in a moment" (Jb 21: 13) and is not the victim either of a premature death or of a lingering wasting disease. Such a death "embitters" one (Jb 21: 15). The sense of the story of Paradise (Gn 2-3) is that death is the consequence of the primeval fall and that man was not created by God to be mortal. In the imagery of the Paradise story immortality is attained by eating the fruit of the tree of life, from which man is now excluded. This story has some resemblance to the Mesopotamian account of the search of Gilgamesh for the plant of life, which Gilgamesh found only to lose it by theft at once, as well as to the story of Adapa. Adapa was admitted to the presence of the gods but warned against accepting the food of death and the water of death, which would be offered him. Actually he was offered the food of life and the water of life. The that death came as the consequence of a primeval fall is not reflected elsewhere in the OT before BS 25:24. There are occasional expressions in the OT of a strain of hope that death is not as terminal as it seems. Thus in Ps 16:9 the poet rejoices that Yahweh will not abandon him to Sheol nor permit him to see the pit. In Ps 49: 16 the poet is assured that God will redeem him from Sheol. Similar expressions are not uncommon in the Pss and usually signify no more than preservation from sudden or premature death. The context of these Pss seems to go beyond this, since the whole problem of life and death generally is involved particularly in Ps 49. Even clearer is the assurance of the poet in Ps 73:23 ff that he has no portion except Yahweh in heaven or in earth. If Yahweh's promises and His loving kindness are everlasting, then there must be some way in which the loyal Israelite will experience them. How he shall do it is not formulated in this early phase of Israelite belief. The Israelite conception of death was affected by the underlying cosmic myth of creation in which so much Israelite thought was cast. The struggle between order and chaos, light and darkness, was also a struggle between life and death. In the ancient Semitic myths of creation life and death were alternately victorious. As Hb belief in Yahweh did not permit them to accept the idea that His power and will for good were not suficient to overcome the forces of evil, so also they could not believe that He was not victorious over death; at least death could not touch Him. Obviously, however, as they developed a belief in a final victory of Yahweh over the forces of darkness, evil and chaos, so likewise the logic of their faith demanded that He overcome death also. This development appears rather late in OT belief; we find no certain trace of a clear belief in the resurrection of the dead before the 2nd century BC in Dn. The immortality of the soul as proposed in WS, a product of Alexandrian Judaism, was really an element foreign to Hb belief and Hb psychology which was never assimilated into the OT or NT.

– Vol. 1, pp. 183, 184.



George Eldon Ladd, The Pattern of New Testament Truth, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 1968:

The Old Testament View

The Old Testament view of God, man, and the world is very different from Greek dualism. Fundamental to Hebrew thought is the belief that God is the creator, that the world is God's creation and is therefore in itself good. The Greek idea that the material world is the sphere of evil and a burden or a hindrance to the soul is alien to the Old Testament.

When God created the world, he saw that it was good (Gen. 1:31). The world was created for God's glory (Ps. 19:1); the ultimate goal and destiny of creation is to glorify and praise its creator (Ps. 98:7-9). The Hebrews had no concept of nature; to them the world was the scene of God's constant activity. Thunder was the voice of God (Ps. 29:3, 5); pestilence is the heavy hand of the Lord (I Sam. 5:6); human life is the breath of God inbreathed in man's face (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 104:29).

To be sure, the world is not all it ought to be. Something has gone wrong. But the evil is not found in materiality, but in human sin. In creation, God displayed his goodness by making man the chief of all his creatures and by subjecting the created world to man's care (Gen. 1:28), entrusting to him dominion over all other creatures. When man in proud self-assertion refused to accept the role of creaturehood, when he succumbed to the temptation to "be like God" (Gen. 3:5) and fell into sin, God placed the curse of death upon man and the burden of decay and evil upon the entire world, so that man might be continually reminded of the fundamental fact that sin disrupts the enjoyment of God's gifts, even in the physical realm. Life and happiness are God's gifts; pain, toil and death are the toll of sin.

The Old Testament never views the earth as an alien place nor as an indifferent theater on which man lives out his temporal life while seeking a heavenly destiny. Man and the world together belong to the order of creation; and in a real sense of the word, the world participates in man's fate. The world is affected by man's sin. Although the world was designed to reflect the divine glory and still does so, it is a tainted glory because of sin. This intimate relationship is sometimes expressed poetically. Because of human wickedness, “the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, also the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and, even the fish of the sea are taken away.” (Hos. 4:3).

Behind this concept of man and the world is the God's theology that both man and the world are God's creation, and that man's true life consists in complete obedience to and dependence upon God. This can and be illustrated by the Old Testament concept of life. There is no antithesis between physical and spiritual life, between the outer and the inner dimensions in man, between the lower and higher realms. Life is viewed in its wholeness as the full enjoyment of all of God's gifts. Some Christian theologies would consider this crassly materialistic; but a profound theology underlies it. Life, which can be enjoyed only from the perspective of obedience to God and love for him (Deut. 30:6), means physical prosperity, productivity (Deut. 30:9), a long life (Ps. 34:12; 91:16), bodily health and well-being (Prov. 4:22; 9:23; 22:4), physical security (Deut. 8:1); in brief, the enjoyment of all of God's gifts (Ps. 103:1-5). However, the enjoyment of these good things by themselves cannot be called life, for life means the enjoyment of God's gifts in fellowship with God. It is God alone who is the source of all good things, including life itself (Ps. 36:9). Those who forsake the Lord will be put to shame, for they have abandoned the fountain of life (Jer. 17:13). While health and bodily well-being are included in life, man does not live by bread alone; and the enjoyment of God's gifts apart from obedience to the word of God is not life (Deut. 8:3). Life, therefore, can be simply defined as the enjoyment of God's gifts in fellowship with the God who gives them. God alone has the way of life; it is only in his presence that there is fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures (Ps. 16:11).

Behind this understanding of life is a profound theology. Man shares with nature the fact of creaturehood. But man stands apart from all other creatures in that he was created in the image of God. For this reason, he enjoys a relationship to God different from that of all other creatures. However, this does not mean that men will ever transcend creaturehood. Indeed, the very root of sin is unwillingness to acknowledge the reality and implications of creaturehood. The fact that man is a physical creature in the world is neither the cause nor the measure of his sinfulness and thus a state from which he must be delivered. Sin does not result from the body's burdening down the soul or clouding the mind; it results from rebellion of the will, the self. The acceptance of man's creaturehood, the confession of complete and utter dependence upon the Creator God, is essential to man's true existence. Man truly knows himself, recognizes his true self, only when he realizes that he is God's creature. Then he accepts the humble role of one whose very life is contingent upon God's faithfulness and whose chief joy is to serve and worship his Creator. The root of sin is found not in succumbing to the physical side of his being, but in the intent to lift himself out of his creaturehood, to exalt himself above God, to refuse to give God the worship, praise, and obedience that are his due.

For this perspective salvation does not mean deliverance from creaturehood, for it is an essential and permanent element to man's essential being. For this reason the Old Testament never pictures ultimate redemption as a flight from the world or escape from earthly, bodily existence. Salvation does not consist of freeing the soul from its engagement in the material world. On the contrary, ultimate redemption will involve the redemption of the whole man and of the world to which man belongs. This is the theology behind the doctrine of bodily resurrection, which only begins to emerge in the Old Testament but which is clearly developed in Judaism and the New Testament.

The same basic theology is seen everywhere in the prophets in their hope of the redemption of the world. While the prophets in only a few places speak of resurrection (e.g., Isa. 25:8; Ezek. 37; Dan. 12:2), they constantly look forward to the consummation of God's redemptive purpose on a transformed earth. The nature of this transformation is diversely described. Sometimes the new world is depicted simply in terms of material abundance. The land will become so fruitful that there will be no lapse between the seasons. The grape harvest will be so prolific that the hills will be inundated in rivers of wine. War and devastation will be replaced by peace and security (Amos 9:13-15). On other occasions the transformation will be more radical. Isaiah describes it as new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22), where premature death will be banished, peace and security enjoyed, and the curse of violence lifted from nature. "The wolf and the Iamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like an ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord" (Isa. 65:25).

The world is to be redeemed from its bondage to evil not by any process of gradual evolution nor through any powers resident in the world, but by a mighty act of God — a divine visitation. Some scholars have held that two different kinds of eschatology are to be found in Judaism: an authentic prophetic Hebrew hope that looks for an earthly kingdom arising out of history, and a dualistic hope that resulted from despair of history as the scene of God's Kingdom and in its place looked for a transcendental order to be inaugurated by an irruption into history of the heavenly order. We believe this critical theory to be unsupported by our sources, and we have argued at length that the prophetic hope never looks for the establishment of God's Kingdom to result from forces imminent within history but only by a divine visitation—an irruption from outside into history. Even in the oldest conceptions, God's kingship could be absolutely established only at the cost of a great change that would make an end of the present state of things and witness the establishment of something new. "There is no eschatology without rupture. In the careful words of H. H. Rowley, the Day of the Lord was conceived "as the time of the divine inbreaking into history in spectacular fashion. While God was believed to be always active of the plane of history, using nature and men to fulfill his ends, the Day of the Lord was thought of as a day of more direct and clearly manifest action."

While the prophets looked forward to a final visitation of God to redeem both God's people and the physical world, they were not pessimistic about the nature of historical existence before the coming of the Day of the Lord. One of the wholesome emphases of modern biblical theology is the acting of God in history. G. Ernest Wright has promoted the view that biblical theology is the recital of the redeeming and judicial acts of God in history; and perhaps the greatest contemporary work on Old Testament theology — that of Gerhard von Rad — is a theology of the kerygma: the proclamation of the mighty deeds of God in history. James Barr has provided a healthy emendation of the view by insisting that in the thought of the Old Testament revelation does not occur in events alone but also in words. von Rad recognizes that the acts and the words belong together. "History becomes word, and word becomes history." Several years ago, the present author expounded a similar view. God does reveal himself in events; but the events do not speak for themselves. Their inner meaning must be set forth in words. Thus revelation occurs in an event-word complex, the prophetic interpreting word being an integral part of the event.

Back of this concept of revelation is a profound theology of God: a living, personal God who is known to man because he chooses to reveal himself by visiting man in history. The God of the Old Testament is always "the God who comes." "Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together—before the Lord, for he comes to rule the earth" (Ps. 98:8). "The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned from Sinai upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran, he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand" (Deut. 33:2). "For behold, the Lord is coming forth out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will be cleft like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place" (Mic. 1:3-4). He came to Israel in Egypt to make them his people; he came to them again and again in their history; he will come again in a final eschatological visitation in the future to judge wickedness and to establish his Kingdom.

For our present purpose, the important thing to note is the difference between the Hebrew and the Greek views of reality. For the Greek, the world, nature, human history — in sum, the sphere of the visible — formed the realm of flux and change, of becoming, of the transient. Reality belonged to the realm of the invisible, the good, the unchanging, which could be apprehended only by the mind of the soul transcending the visible. Thus salvation was found in the flight of the soul from the world to the invisible world of God.

For the Hebrew, reality was found in God who makes himself known in the ebb and flow of both nature and historical events by his acts and by his words. God comes to men in their earthly experience. Thus the final redemption is not flight from this world to another world; it may be described as the descent of the other world  — God's world — resulting in a transformation of this world.

The contrast between the Greek and Hebrew views of God and the world is reinforced further by the Old Testament anthropology. Hebrew man is not like the Greek man — a union of soul and body and thus related to two worlds. He is flesh animated by God's breath (ruach), who is thus constituted a living soul (nephesh) (Gen. 2:7; 7:22). Nephesh (soul) is not a part of man; it is man himself viewed as a living creature. Nephesh is life, both of men (Ex. 21:23; Ps. 33:19) and of animals (Prov. 12:10). If nephesh is man as a living creature, it can be used for man himself and indicate man as a person, and also become a synonym for "I," "myself." By an easy extension, nephesh is man seen in terms of his appetites and desires (EccI. 6:2, 7) or in terms of his emotions or thoughts (Hos. 4:8; Ps. 35:25; Gen. 34:8; Ps. 139:14; Prov. 19:2).

If nephesh is man's life, it can be said to depart at death (Gen. 35:18; I Kings 17:21) or return if a person revives (I Kings 17:22). If the nephesh stands for man himself, it can be said that his nephesh departs to the underworld or sheol at death (Pss. 16:10; 30:3; 94:7). However, the Old Testament does not conceive of disembodied souls existing in the underworld after departing from the body, as do Homer and other early Greek writers. The Old Testament does not see souls in sheol, but shades (rephaim), which are a sort of pale replica of man as a living creature. These shades are not altogether different from Homer's souls in Hades, and both represent a common conviction of natural theology, namely, that death is not the end of human existence, but that life in its fullness must be bodily life.

However, in following the course of their development, the Greek and the Hebrew thought sharply diverge. The Greeks, as we have seen, came to believe that there was something divine about the soul and that it must find release from bodily existence to take its flight to the stars. Hebrew thought developed very differently. There began to emerge, even in the Old Testament, the conviction that if men enjoy fellowship with God in life, this fellowship could not be broken by death. "For thou dost not give me [lit., my soul] up to sheol, or let thy godly one see the pit. Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:10-11). "But God will ransom my soul from the power of sheol, for he will receive me" (Ps. 49:15). "Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory" (Ps. 73:24). While such sayings hardly provide us with material for a doctrine of the intermediate state, they do express the undying conviction of the "imperishable blessedness of the man who lives in God." They cannot conceive of this fellowship being broken, even by death. As Martin-Achard says, "Without actually being aware of it, the Hasidim are battering the gates of the kingdom of the dead; without reaching the positive assertion of the immortality or resurrection of the believer. . . they are preparing the way for future generations to proclaim that death is impotent against those who are living in communion with the living God." Later Judaism developed the idea of an intermediate state and sometimes identified the dead as souls, or conceived of the soul as existing after death.112 However, unless there is Greek influence, as in the Wisdom of Solomon (8:19), the continuing existence of the soul in sheol is not due to some intrinsic quality of immortality which it shares with God but to the conviction that since God is the living God and master of both life and death, there must be a blessed destiny for individuals as well as for the nation. Almost always in Judaism, the individual hope finds its realization in bodily resurrection. In only a few places do we find the idea of a blessed immortality of the soul in heaven.113


112 Josephus War ii. 156; Enoch 9:3,10; Wis. 15:8,14; iv Macc. 18:24.

113 See Enoch 9l:16; 103:4; 104:2; Jub. 23:31; IV Macc. 18:23; Wis. Sol.3:4.

We may now summarize our findings as to the difference between the basic Greek and Hebrew dualism. Greek dualism is that of two worlds, the visible and the invisible, the phenomenal and the noumenal, becoming and being, appearance and reality. Man belongs to both worlds by virtue of the fact that he is both body and soul or mind. "God" can be known only by the control of the bodily appetites, that the mind may be free from material pollutions to contemplate the divine realities. Finally, the soul must escape from the wheel of bodily existence to return to the divine world where it really belongs.

The Hebrew view is not a dualism of two worlds, but a religious dualism of God versus man. Man is God's creature; creation is the realm of God's constant activity; and God makes himself known and speaks to men in the ebb and flow of history. Man is not a bipartite creature of the divine and human, of soul and body; in his total being he is God's creature and remains a part of creation. Therefore the redemption of man and the redemption of creation belong together. Salvation consists of fellowship with God in the midst of earthly existence and will finally mean the redemption of the whole man together with his environment. At the heart of the Old Testament view is God — a living personal being — who visits man in earthly existence to establish fellowship with himself and who will finally visit man to establish his perfect rule and redemption in the world.

In sum, the Greek view is that "God" can be known only by the flight of the soul from the world and history; the Hebrew view is that God can be known because he invades history to meet men in historical experience.

– pp. 31-40.



Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropologie des Alten Testaments [The Anthropology of the Old Testament], Gütersloher Verlagshaus Mohn, Gütersloh, Germany, 1973:

When the most frequent substantives are as a general rule translated by ‘heart’, ‘soul’, ‘flesh’, and ‘spirit’, misunderstandings arise which have importante consequences. These translations go back to the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation, and they lead in the false direction of a dichotomic or trichotomic anthropology, in which body, soul and spirit are in opposition to one another. The question still has to be investigated of how, with the Greek language, a Greek philosophy has here supplanted Semitic biblical views, overwhelming them with foreign influence. Old Testament linguistic usage must be clarified at this point.

– p. 7

The traditional English Bible generally translates nepes, one of the basic words of Old Testament anthropology, as ‘soul’. In so doing it goes back, like the French âme and the German Seeley to the Greek Bible's most frequent translation of nepes, psyche, and to the Latin Bible's rendering, anima. nepes occurs 755 times in the Old Testament and on 600 occasions the Septuagint translates it by psyche.

... Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living nepes.

“What does nephesh mean here [in Gen. 2:7] (which we shall from now on be referring to as n.)? Certainly not soul. n. was designed to be seen together with the whole form of man, and especially with his breath; moreover man does not have n., he is n., he lives as n.

– p. 10

This use of nephesh in the legal precepts about the safeguarding of life corresponds to a usage that is very widespread linguistically. When anyone asks for his own or another man's life, he asks for the nephesh (2Kings 1:13; Esth. 7:3; 1Kings 3:11); if he asks for death, he says, take my nephesh from me (Jonah 4:3; cf. 1Kings 19:4)."

... Rich and abundant though this use of nephesh for life is, we must not fail to observe that the nephesh is never given the meaning of an indestructible core of being, in contradistinction to the physical life, and even capable of living when cut off from that life.  When there is mention of  the ‘departing’ (Gen. 35:18) of the  nephesh  from a man, or of its ‘return’ (Lam. 1:11), the basic idea, as we saw on p. 13 above, is the concrete notion of the ceasing and restoration of the breathing. When Yahewh leads up the nephesh from the underworld (Ps. 30:3; 86:13), the idea is the return to healthy life of the  whole man who has, through his illness, already been exposed to the power of death. Though  much is said about  nephesh  as the life, any cult of life or death is lacking, and with it also every  speculation about the fate of the ‘soul’ beyond the borders of life.

– p. 20

In the Yahwist's account of the creation (Gen. 2.7) we saw man expressly defined as n. hayyä; he is so not simply on the basis of his creation out of the dust of the earth; he only becomes so because the God Yahweh breathes the breath of life into his nostrils. It is only the breath produced by the Creator that makes him a living n., which is to say, therefore, a living being, a living person, a living individual. It is under this aspect, then, that man is here more closely defined. According to the tendency of the statements in Gen.2.7, n. hayyä introduces no differentia specifica for animal life; then the subsequent definition in 2.19 of animal life as being n. hayyä as well would hardly be possible. But at the same time man is, through God's endowment with the breath of life, distinguished as living individual from the n. met, as a lifeless structure or corpse.

– p. 22

[Quoted here from English version: The Anthropology of the Old Testament, SCM Press Ltd, London, England & Fortress Press, Philadelphia, USA, 1974].



George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1974. (This cover is from Revised Edition, 1993):

In order to appreciate Pauline psychology, we need to have in mind the chief elements in the Greek and Hebrew concepts of man. One of the most influential thinkers for the subsequent history of Greek philosophy was Plato. Plato held to a dualism of two worlds, the noumenal and the phenomenal, and to an anthropological dualism of body-soul. The body was not ipso facto evil, but it was a burden and hindrance to the soul. The wise man cultivated the soul so that it might rise above the body and at death be freed from the body and escape to the world above. In Hellenistic times, the body, belonging to the world of matter, was thought to be ipso facto evil by the gnostics. Stacey has pointed out that most of the philosophers of Greece followed Plato in his view of soul and body, and that it was so impressed upon the civilized world that "no man can discuss the relation of soul and body today without encountering some resurgence of the Platonic view." (D. Stacey, The Pauline View of Man, p.74. Stacey gives an excellent brief history of the Greeks' view of man.).

The Hebrew view of man is very different from the Greek view. There is no trace of dualism. The Hebrew word for body occurs only fourteen times in the Old Testament and never stands in contrast to the soul (nephesh). More often, the word for flesh (basar) is used to designate the body (23 times). This word carries primarily a physical meaning. One significant usage is "flesh" as a symbol of human frailty in relation to God. Basar appears as something that men and animals possess in their weakness, which God does not possess. "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh" (Gen. 6:3). "The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit" (Isa. 31:3). Basar refers to human beings in their frailty and transience, to man in his limitations, as distinct from the infinite God.

Soul (nephesh) is not a higher part of man standing over against his body but designates the vitality or life principle in man. God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living nephesh (Gen. 2:7). Body and the divine breath together make the vital, active nephesh. The word is then extended from the life principle to include the feelings, passions, will, and even the mentality of man. It then comes to be used as a synonym for man himself. Families were numbered as so many souls (Gen. 12:5; 46:27). Incorporeal life for the nephesh is never visualized. Death afflicted the nephesh (Num. 23:10) as well as the body.

A third term is spirit (ruach). The root meaning of the word is "air in motion," and it is used of every kind of wind. The word is often used of God. God's ruach is his breath — his power—working in the world (Isa. 40:7), creating and sustaining life (Ps. 33:6; 104:29-30). Man's ruach — his breath — comes from God's ruach (Isa. 42:5; Job 27:3). Thus man is conceived of as possessing ruach, inbreathed from God, as an element in his personality (Gen. 45:27; I Sam. 30:12; I Kings 10:5). God is the supreme spirit (Gen. 6:3; Isa. 31:3). Ruach in man is expanded to include the whole range of emotional and volitional life, thus overlapping with nephesh. The difference between nephesh and ruach in man is that nephesh designates man in relation to other men as man living the common life of men, while ruach is man in his relation to God. However, neither nephesh nor ruach is conceived of as a part of man capable of surviving the death of basar. They both designate man as a whole viewed from different perspectives.

– pp. 499-501.



Merrill C. Tenney & Moisés Silva  (eds.), The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1975:

b. Hebrew psychology: The Eng. tr. of נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, by the term “soul” has too often been misunderstood as teaching a bipartite (soul and body: dichotomy) or tripartite (body, soul and spirit: trichotomy) anthropology. Equally misleading is the interpretation which too radically separates soul from body as in the Gr. view of human nature. Porteous states it well when he says, “The Hebrew could not conceive of a disembodied נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, though he could use נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, with or without the adjective ‘dead,’ for corpse (e.g., Lev 19:28; Num 6:6)” (ibid). Or as R. B. Laurin has suggested, “To the Hebrew, man was not a ‘body’ and a ‘soul,’ but rather a ‘body-soul,’ a unity of vital power” (cf. BDT, s.v.). The most significant text is Genesis 2:7, “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.” Here God creates man (נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה) by breathing into his nostrils the vital life-principle (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים). The KJV rendering of the text is misleading, and the tr. “living being” seems more in line with the basic OT idea. It should be noted, however, that the Heb. phrase נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה occurs in Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30 as referring to other forms of life, but the intensive construction of Genesis 2:7 still places man in a unique position from the rest of creation, even though OT terminology lacks technical precision. For this reason, the RSV tr. makes a distinction between man as נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה, “living being,” and animals as נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה, “living creatures.” The point here is that Heb. psychology recognizes the profoundness of life; life is the mysterious reality which gives both man and animals being, but OT thought still underlines man’s distinctivenes. As such, נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, can mean simply “life” as in Joshua 2:13; Judges 5:18; 2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Kings 19:4. Similarly the term may simply be the “self” as an expression of personality. Literally “my soul” (Gen 49:6; Num 23:10) may mean only “me”; “your soul” (Isa 43:4; 51:23) prob. means “you.” (Cf. Ps 25:13; 121:7.) The soul and its relationship to life are related to two other terms, “blood” and “spirit.” נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, resides in the blood according to Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11, 14; Deuteronomy 12:23. To describe the depths of man’s being as a feeling-thinking creature, the OT uses “spirit” and “heart” as synonyms for the soul as the seat of the appetites, emotions, desires, passions and intelligence. It may be possible to conceive of the “heart” (לֵב, H4213) as the cognitive, emotive faculty of man’s נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883; whereas the “spirit” (רוּחַ, H8120) refers to the creative “life-principle” of the נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883. Such distinctions are not consistently followed throughout the OT, and the generalized psychology of OT thought should prevent the student of the Bible from identifying Heb. psychology with any particular modern school of psychology. Biblical realism is concerned to describe man’s life in relationship to Yahweh not to provide esoteric speculation about the intrinsic nature of man and the world. (Cf. Gen 6:5, 6; 41:8; 42:21; 45:27; 49:6; Exod 4:14, 21; 35:21; Lev 19:17; 26:41; Num 5:14, 30; Deut 4:9, 29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13, 18; 13:3, 6; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; 2 Sam 3:21; Job 7:11; Ps 77:3, 6; Prov 4:23; Lam 2:11; 3:20).

c. Death and the soul: The most perplexing problem of OT anthropology and psychology is the relationship of the soul to death and the afterlife. This problem centers not only on the nature of the soul, but on the meaning and significance of the term שְׁאﯴל, H8619. Genesis 35:18 and 1 Kings 17:21, 22 speak of the נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, as departing and/or returning. However, the crucial series of texts are those in which the OT writers indicate a fear of death and a fear of the loss of the self or soul through the experience of death. (Cf. Job 33:18-30; Pss 16:10; 30:3; 116:8; Isa 38:15-17.) What is essential to understanding the Heb. mind is the recognition that man is a unit: body-soul! The soul is not, therefore, unaffected by the experience of death. OT eschatology does indeed contain seminal elements of hope implying the more positive teaching of the NT, as can be seen in the OT phrase “slept with his fathers” (1 Kings 2:10; 11:21), in David’s confident attitude toward the death of his child (2 Sam 12:12-23) and Job’s hope for a resurrection (Job 19:20-29). It is this essential soul-body oneness that provides the uniqueness of the Biblical concept of the resurrection of the body as distinguished from the Gr. idea of the immortality of the soul.

– Quoted from Revised Edition, 2010, Vol. 5, pp. 586, 587.


John Patrick Donnelly, Calvinism and Scholasticism in Vermigli's Doctrine of Man and Grace, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1976:

“Twentieth century biblical scholarship largely agrees that the ancient Jews had little explicit notion of a personal afterlife until very late in the Old Testament period. Immortality of the soul was a typically Greek philosophical notion quite foreign to the thought of ancient Semitic peoples. Only the latest stratum of the Old Testament asserts even the resurrection of the body, a view more congenial to Semites. As did Calvin, Martyr [Peter Martyr Vermigli] took upon himself a Herculean task in trying to uphold the immortality of the soul with a handful of vague New Testament texts (e. g. Luke, 23:43) against the defenders of soulsleep who had a plentiful supply of denials of immortality garnered from the early strata of the Old Testament.

– pp. 99, 100.



Steven T. Katz, Jewish Ideas & Concepts, Schocken Books, New York, USA, 1977:

Nature and Purpose of Man

... A helpful way to begin to gain some substantial appreciation of the biblical idea of man is to examine briefly the most importante terms used by the Scriptures to describe different aspects of his nature. First of all there is the term adam which the Bible usually employs as a collective term meaning “men,” “human beings” or “mankind” in distinction to other creatures or to God. Secondly, there is the term ish meaning “individual (man),” “male” or “husband” (and sometimes “servant” or “soldier”). Thirdly, we find the term  enosh which is used mainly to denote the human race collectively or to indicate frailty or mortality, as opposed to the term gever, which is used to indicate a Strong man. Finally, we also find the term metim, which is used only in the plural and indicates “males” or “men” or “people.” From this variegated terminology we can see that the Bible suggests a complex image of man which recognizes and encompasses his activity as both an individual and a member of the human race, as a single person and as a member of a family, as both strong and weak (and this in both the physical and spiritual sense), and as both Lord and servant. In this way the biblical narrative does justice to the richness of human experience and also to the manifold and differing roles man is called upon to play in his concrete historical situation. The biblical authors thus avoid any simplistic rendering of the human situation or of man’s place in history and cosmos.

Further insight into the nature of man is furnished by certain terms that describe different aspects of the human personality. The term nefesh can denote the essence of any living creature and may even be equated with the life blood. It signifies the “individual,” “ego,” “person” and hence even at times the body (Exodus 21:23). Synonymous at times with nefesh but also distinguished from it is the term ru'ah, “spirit.” It represents the power and energy that come to man from without; it provides the impulse to higher life and finds expression in special skill, might, or leadership. The concept of neshamah, “breath,” is not only the vitalizing elemento breathed into man by God, but the divine spirit and lamp – the soul – within him. In contrast to these spiritual aspects of man, basar signifies his physical nature, the living body and, as such, it symbolizes human frailty, sensuality and mortality.

... This extensive nomenclature, though pointing to the complexity of the human personality, is not exhaustive. The complete picture of man’s nature as envisaged by the Bible can only be seen in the full context of scriptural evidence.

The key is to be found in the story of man’s origin. He is not a descendant of the gods (as in certain pagan mythologies); the term child(ren) used in Scripture with reference to man in relation to God (Deuteronomy 14:1; Psalm 2:7) has a metaphorical connotation. Nor is man the product (as some philosophical systems hold) of the blind forces of nature. He is the artifact of God, fashioned purposefully out of two diverse elements: his body is of the earth, but it is animated by the divine breath of life. Yet man is not a dichotomy of body and soul (a view characteristic of Orphism and Platonism), and certainly not a trichotomy of elements. His is a multifaceted unitary being – being nefesh hayyah, “a living person.” (Genesis 2:7).

– pages 99-102.



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).


G. M. Fernandez, The Old Testament View of Man (excerpts from pp. 150-159):

One cannot speak of anthropology proper in the Bible. The Bible does not consider man in himself, as an individual as such, but always in his fundamental relation and attitude to God. This is very true whichever way he is considered, whether from the point of view of creation or from the viewpoint of eschatology. Paul characterised the divine dealings with the world and man in one word: mystery. This can be said also, and pre-eminently so, of man who remains, despite very many studies and analyses, a mystery and a riddle without sufficient solution.

Man is a creature, created by the all-loving God. This creatureliness, that is the fact that God created him, makes him not only dependent on God, but also in some way similar to him. Man is the final and the best product of creation according to the biblical accounts. Everything else seems to have been made because of him. As the origin, so also the maintenance of man is dependent on the free decision of God (Job 10:12; Ps. 119:73; Job 14:4f.; Ps. 104:20f.).

Foremost in the Bible in referring to man is the word 'adam, which is a collective term which can better be rendered as humankind rather than as man. A more precise term is ben 'adam, or son of man. Another word used to denote man is 'ish, which has more the sense of an individual, or husband. A third word that signifies man is 'anosh. Man is a living organism (Gen. 2:7; 1 Sam. 18:1); the most commonly used words to denote the living man, however, is nepesh when it deals with the personality of the subject or basar when the treatment is about the weak nature of man. In Greek there is a variety of terms used in reference to man: anthropos, aner, brotos, thnetos, psyche, arsen, andreios, dunatos, gegenes, etc. However, a distinction between body and soul as the constituent elements of man is unknown to the Old Testament. The different words, such as leb or lebab, meaning heart, or basar meaning flesh, or nepesh meaning a living soul, etc., are used to describe the entire man in different aspects, and not his parts (Job 14:22; Pss. 16:9f.; 69:2). Each one of them describes the many-sided real it; that man is. Dichotomy or trichotomy is foreign to Old Testament thinking. We can say, therefore, that the conception of man is wholly and not partly treated in the Old Testament. Dualistic tendencies originate with late Judaism and the Qumran sect.

Inheriting a Greek philosophy as its substratum for a thinking process, Christianity in the past often applied its categories in an effort to understanding the Old Testament teaching. This has done violence to the oriental thought pattern and injustice to the Jewish mentality. The Old Testament considers man in his relation to God. If man is the centre of dispute and discussion in Greek philosophy, the arena· of the Old Testament world is given over to God. It is God and not man who occupies the centre of the stage. Conveying and embodying in himself the collectivity of the human race, Adam and his relationships sum up in a microcosm the entire history of all humanity...

The future haunts the present. This is nowhere truer than in human life. The uncertainty of a tomorrow and the inevitable unknown plague the human imagination and shatter any human certainty. What is the future of man? What is going to happen to me tomorrow, when I am dead? This tantalizing question plagued Israel's thinkers too. Belief in the afterlife is of a very late origin in Israel; in this they seem to have followed Canaanite and Mesopotamian beliefs rather than those of Egypt. Unlike the Egyptians, who believed in a continued but unchanged state of life after death, the Mesopotamians conceded that everything ended with death. Life is a preserve of the gods. Death is the common lot of man, which is to be met with stoic pessimism. Death is the end of life. There is a kind of food and drink that would grant man immortality; but these are jealously guarded by the gods. Death, like birth, is a natural necessity, devoid of any deeper or ulterior significance.

Israel shared this Mesopotamian concept of death. There was, however, this difference: in Mesopotamia man was mortal because the food and drink of immortality were kept away from him due to divine jealousy. Israel was convinced that man lost immortality through his own fault. Death is the limit of his horizon; there is no beyond. Nothing survives the grave. True, there is mention of a Sheol (Isa. 14; Job 10:21; 17:13-16; 3:17-19); but it is a vast tomb where the dead are stored up as inert matter. Death is the natural term of life. AII that the Israelite ever desired was a long life and a painless death. Only an early or a sudden or a painful death was looked upon as divine punishment. Otherwise death was viewed as a natural thing that put a full stop to everything. In a society where corporate personality was uppermost, where everyone believed that the father continued in his son, a specifically individual afterlife existence was not a necessity. Israel lived; the dying man was its member. As long, therefore, as Israel lived, the individual too lived. This thought is not altogether primitive or foreign. Even today parents want their children to be better off than they are financially, educationally and in any other way possible. It is the fundamental belief of their ego being continued in their children that is uppermost in this behaviour. Collective immortality, therefore, is not simply superstitious or primitive. The Psalms offer a special problem. Some of them seem to believe in an afterlife of some kind. Sometimes the enemy that is spoken of, and whom the psalmist opposes, is death (Pss. 7:6; 13: 3; 18 :4). Psalms 49 and 73 offer a vague and still unclear picture of some kind of life after death. The clear expression of a hope of resurrection occurs in Daniel 12:2 in the Maccabean period. How this idea developed in Israel we have no inkling.

We mentioned earlier that there is mention of Sheol in the Old Testament. However, it should not be concluded that Sheol is the place of afterlife. Sheol knows no retribution. A man's recompense or punishment for his good or evil ways are to be seen in this life, either in his own personal life, or in that of his posterity. The wicked are punished so that their names are blotted out altogether (Sir. 23:24-27; 41:5-11). A good reputation and worthy children follow the good deeds of a man (Sir. 30:4-6; 37:24-26; 41 :11-13; 44:10-15). Sheol has a kind of suspended existence. Even when Sheol is referred to as a place of rest (Sir. 22:11; 38:23; 30:17 uncertain text), it is not conceived in any positive sense. Man in the Old Testament view is a creature. He has no autonomous character. Considered in himself he has no worth. Man's only worth is that he is God's gift. He is given 'glory' and 'honour'; he is endowed with royal blessings (Ps. 8) and his status itself is a little less than divine. Man shares in the dignity of work which is a divine attribute (cf. Gen. 1 :28; 2:15; Ps. 104: 23). However, man is like the grass that withers away (Isa. 40:6-8). He is dust (Ps. 103:13-16) and ashes (Gen. 18:27). Nevertheless, the most tragic characteristic of man is that he is sinful. Wishing to assert his own autonomy at the expense of God, he sins. This is the lesson the author teaches by introducing the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Lamech, the Tower of Babel and the Flood. Man is corrupt from birth (Ps. 51 :5; 143 :2) and his thoughts are evil from his youth...

If creation brings a being into somethingness out of nothingness, it is promise that makes it capable of admitting to itself and experiencing within and without itself that the efficacious mainstay of its existence is the promise of God. The personal relationship God offers to man is only a part of God's self-gift which is his promise. Human response to the divine promises can and should be one of hope and absolute trust. The life of Israel shows that her· entire history is a story of dependence on God with absolute trust on the fidelity of God and his promise. The people themselves were conceived because of a promise. Her own existence was conditioned by the continued and repeated promises of Yahweh.

The Old Testament concept of man is further and fully developed in the New Testament. If it is generally true to say that almost all the themes of the Old Testament are developed in the New, concerning man it is particularly true. Christianity is convinced that the first man was not Adam but Christ. Man apart from a consideration of Christ is but a scarecrow and a caricature. This is the summary result of the Old Testament considerations about man. The emerging picture is not very promising. This picture becomes increasingly irritating and frighteningly and frightfully frustrating, when we compare it with the glory that is Christ. This we leave for another paper to consider. If man is hungry and thirsty for the absolute, this is very true of Old Testament anthropology. The whole of Old Testament history shows the ever present invitation of God to men to be his own children, and the dismal human failure to respond to that call. Objectively viewed, there is not a single figure in the Old Testament that fully filled the divine expectations. Hence the idea of man, as it passes from the Old to the New Testament, undergoes not only a development but a radical rethinking because Jesus the man was a radical rethinking of God. If the Old Testament is a promise of God to man, then Christ is the promise of humankind to its God. If the Old Testament is the history of a human 'no' to the divine 'yes', then the New Testament is the human 'yes' to the divine 'yes'; this is possible only through the man Jesus of Nazareth, the New Man.



William A. Dyrness, Themes in Old Testament Theology, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, USA, 1979  (Spanish: Temas de la Teologia del Antiguo Testamento, translated by Agustín S. Contin, Editorial Vida, Miami, Florida, USA, 1989):

La muerte y la vida futura

Nuestros comentarios sobre la esperanza profética han demostrado que la esperanza del Antiguo Testamento era de índole colectiva. Lo mismo es cierto cuando volvemos nuestra atención a la visión de la vida en el más allá: la inmortalidad es primeramente del grupo y luego del individuo. Sólo cuando una persona se encuentra dentro del pueblo de Dios puede tener la seguridad de la vida eterna.

1. La muerte y el Seol. Todos los pueblos del mundo comprenden que la muerte es el final natural de la vida en la tierra. Según lo dice el Gilgamesh Epic:

Cuando los dioses crearon al hombre, le repartieron la muerte. La vida la conservaron en sus propias manos.

Sin embargo, en el Antiguo Testamento, la muerte se relaciona con el pecado, y esto refleja algo desnaturalizado del mundo tal y como existe, algo sobre lo que sólo Dios puede triunfar.

También los hebreos entendían que el morir era algo natural. Los cuerpos hechos como los nuestros deben morir un día "como la gavilla de trigo que se recoge a su tiempo" (Job 5:26). A veces se habla de la muerte simplemente como el fin (2 Samuel 14:14). La muerte es como agua derramada en el suelo; no puede volver a recogerse. Debemos volver al polvo, porque de éste fuimos tomados (Génesis 3:19). En este punto, los hebreos compartían un gran caudal de ideas sobre la muerte que eran comunes a todo el mundo semita. Mediante la observación simple se puede ver que la muerte puede ser falta de vigor (a veces, simplemente falta de aliento, Salmo 104:29) o reducción de la vitalidad física que nos hace pensar en dormir. "Alumbra mis ojos", ruega el salmista, "para que no duerma de muerte" (Salmo 13:3). A pesar de que es natural, la muerte es algo tenebroso que la gente evita (Salmo 55:4). La vanidad melancólica de Eclesiastés reposa en el hecho de que todas las actividades concluyen en la tumba. Sólo los vivos tienen esperanza (Eclesiastés 9:4). En ninguna parte del Antiguo Testamento es simplemente la muerte la puerta al paraíso (Jacob, 299). Su carácter de enemigo resulta evidente en todas partes.

La muerte era, a la vez, un símbolo de la destrucción que el pecado trajo al mundo y una parte de la destrucción misma. En este sentido, la muerte no era una parte normal del mundo, sino algo ajeno a los propósitos de Dios. En realidad, en Génesis 2:17 se le promete al hombre que el día que coma del fruto del árbol prohibido, seguramente morirá, y Génesis 6:3 confirma que la impiedad del hombre está relacionada con ese fin. Inmediatamente antes de su entrada a Canaán, Moisés apremió al pueblo a que escogiera la vida o la muerte, tomando la decisión de obedecer los mandamientos de Jehová o volviéndose a servir a otros dioses (Deuteronomio 30:15-19). Por regla general, en el Antiguo Testamento no se hace ninguna distinción entre la muerte física y la espiritual; el hombre, en su conjunto, está sujeto a la muerte. Sin embargo, bajo el aspecto físico se encuentra la realidad más profunda de la muerte espiritual, una confirmación de la separación de Dios y del gozo de su presencia que se inició en las opciones de vivir. Así, Moisés pudo decir: "A los cielos y a la tierra llamo por testigos hoy contra vosotros, que os he puesto delante la vida y la muerte, la bendición y la maldición; escoge, pues, la vida, para que vivas tú y tu descendencia" (Deuteronomio 30:19). Aunque esto se refiere a la vida terrenal, es evidente que tiene también implicaciones para el más allá.

Los hebreos sabían que tenían que hacer esa elección porque comprendían que la vida y la muerte estaban bajo el control de Dios. Aunque el hombre podía escoger la vida, era Dios el que debía darla. Dios es el que mata y el que mantiene vivo (Deuteronomio 32:39). Es El quien hace descender al Seol y quien levanta (1 Samuel 2:6). Sin embargo, no hay nada en el Antiguo Testamento que lleve al fatalismo. Es Dios quien decide; pero el hombre debe escoger también. Además, el Dios que decide es personal y responde a las oraciones de los que se vuelven a El. Tal y como dice por boca del profeta Ezequiel: "Porque no quiero la muerte del que muere, dice Jehová el Señor; convertíos, pues, y viviréis" (18:32).

El lugar de los muertos en el Antiguo Testamento, el Seol, se representaba a menudo en términos visibles como una existencia sombría y carente de dinamismo. También a este respecto compartían los hebreos muchas de sus ideas con sus vecinos del Cercano Oriente. El Seol no se identifica con ningún lugar. En lugar de ello, se considera más bien como especie de existencia que, en el caso de los hebreos, es básicamente opuesta a Dios. El Seol es el sitio de supervivencia desnuda. Uno duerme con sus padres (Génesis 37:35 y 1 Reyes 2:10). Es un lugar donde la alabanza es imposible (Isaías 38:18 y Salmo 6:5). Está más allá del alcance de la tierra y sus instituciones; pero no está fuera del alcance de Dios (Salmo 139:7-12; Amós 9:2). Mientras que se trata de un sitio sin esperanzas desde el punto de vista humano, Dios puede rescatar del poder del Seol a quienes confían en El (Salmo 49:15).

Ahora bien, ¿cuál es el significado de la esperanza en que Dios no permitirá que su pueblo descienda al abismo? No hay convicción de que el alma sobreviva, a pesar de que el cuerpo muere. Edmond Jacob llega al extremo al decir: “No hay ningún texto bíblico que autorice afirmar que el 'alma' se separa del cuerpo en el momento de la muerte” (IDB, 1,803). No, tal y como lo observa Eichrodt, la esperanza israelita era demasiado completa para que pudiera tener una realización de cualquier índole en el campo del espíritu por sí solo. Exigía la renovación de la vida corporal y terrenal tal y como la conocía (Eíchrodt, 1, 491).

2. La resurrección del cuerpo y la esperanza de vida eterna. Las ideas de la vida eterna en el Antiguo Testamento han sido difíciles de evaluar. De modo tradicional, los eruditos han creído siempre que aunque los hebreos tenían cierto sentido vago de inmortalidad, no tenían ninguna idea clara de la resurrección. Recientemente, Mitchell Dahood utilizó paralelos ugaríticos en su estudio de los Salmos, para mostrar una esperanza mucho más llena de confianza en la resurrección y la inmortalidad. En el Salmo 16:10, 11 este autor cree que se vislumbra una suposición de Elías o Enoc (véase también Salmo 73:24 y 49:15), y traduce el Salmo 17:15b "en la resurrección", en lugar de "despierte". Considera que es "el sentido natural. .. cuando se compara con los pasajes escatológicos de Isaías XXVI 19 ... y Daniel XII 2" (Dahood, 1, 99; véase también la página xxxvi, 91 y la obra de E. B. Smick en Payne, 1970, 10410). Esto nos lleva claramente en una dirección nueva que promete una comprensión más profunda del material del Antiguo Testamento. Desde luego, es característico de la fe del Antiguo Testamento que su deleite en Dios y su providencia es tan vigorosa que no acepta ninguna limitación temporal en absoluto. La comunión con Dios es tan real que trasciende la experiencia terrenal. De modo primario, vemos esto en tres temas separados que cobran fuerza en las páginas del Antiguo Testamento y conducen, casi de modo inevitable, a la doctrina de la resurrección del Nuevo Testamento. Sin embargo, para que esto quede bien claro, necesitamos el ejemplo concreto de nuestro precursor en la muerte y la resurrección, nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

a. Fundamentos teológicos. Aun cuando sería posible desarrollar en forma amplia los fundamentos teológicos de la vida eterna, es suficiente señalar que la visión que tiene el Antiguo Testamento de Dios mismo aseguraba la supervivencia de quienes confiaban en El. Esta creencia estaba enraizada en la convicción de que Dios es la única fuente de vida, que la da y la quita (Génesis 2:7 y Salmo 36:9). La vida le pertenece esencialmente a Dios y se deriva de El. "Contigo está el manantial de la vida", dice el salmista (Salmo 36:9). Por consiguiente, cuando se encuentra a Dios y se comienza a compartir su vida, se adquiere un elemento indestructible. Esto se representa de muchos modos distintos en Salmos y Proverbios. Dios es una torre poderosa en la que los justos están a salvo (Proverbios 18:10); es una roca protectora e inamovible (Salmo 62; obsérvese en el versículo 2 que roca y salvación están en una construcción paralela) y es también una fortaleza (Salmo 46:1, 4). Así, aun cuando no hay nunca ninguna falsa ilusión respecto a la debilidad humana y su propensión a la muerte, existe una confianza firme en que Dios protegerá a todos los que confían en El. "Mi carne y mi corazón desfallecen, mas la roca de mi corazón y mi porción es Dios para siempre" (Salmo 73:26). Obsérvese el uso de para siempre. Esto quiere decir que su fuerza es tal que su protección no tiene límites. Debe tratarse simplemente de que el que teme a Jehová no verá el Seol (Salmo 16:10, 11). Esto no aparece en ninguna parte con mayor belleza que en el Salmo 23: "Jehová es mi pastor". Aunque pasaré por valles reminiscentes de muerte, confiesa el salmista, he experimentado la maravillosa providencia de Dios a tal punto - mi mesa está bien surtida y mi copa rebosa -, que creo que la bondad y la misericordia me perseguirán; no puedo huir de eso (Dahood,1,148-49). El corolario simple es que moraré seguramente para siempre en la presencia de Dios (véase un paralelo en el Nuevo Testamento, en Juan 14:1-3).

b. Fundamentos éticos. La fuente del fundamento ético para la vida eterna es la idea de la retribución del Antiguo Testamento que vimos antes y que resulta especialmente evidente en los textos sobre la sabiduría. Hay cierta clase de fruto que se deriva de una vida de justicia o de maldad. El necio sigue un camino que conduce a la muerte, y el justo una senda que lleva a la vida (Proverbios 11:30). El juicio de Dios que es siempre justo provocará con toda seguridad un final recto. Recompensará al justo y castigará al impío. El hecho de que se dice que la vida es el fruto de una vida de justicia indica lo profundamente enraizada que está la idea de justicia. Era una especie de ley de la naturaleza. Esto se expresa en el Nuevo Testamento en las palabras de Pablo: "Lo que el hombre siembra, eso también segará" (Gálatas 6:7). Así, podía darse por sentado que Dios recompensaría a los justos con la vida. La verdad debe prevalecer debido al orden de las cosas. Es el sentido de retribución el que se encuentra tras el ruego de Job, de naturaleza sumamente profética: "¡Quién diese ahora que mis palabras fuesen escritas!", clamaba. "Yo sé que mi Redentor vive y al fin se levantará sobre el polvo" (Job 19:23, 25). La palabra redentor, en este punto, se puede traducir también como "reivindicador". Job sabía que, incluso después que su carne fuera destruida (versículo 26), la reivindicación de Dios lo preservaría. Es como si, por inspiración del Espíritu, fuera más allá de lo que sabía hasta una verdad que su experiencia con Dios hacía que fuera necesaria, la verdad de que la protección de su carne por Jehová, después de su muerte, sería una reivindicación del propio orden justo de Dios. En este punto, la fe del Antiguo Testamento llega hasta el umbral mismo de la revelación adicional de Dios en Cristo.

c. Fundamentos históricos y escatológicos. Ya hicimos hincapié antes en nuestro estudio en la cualidad "terrenal" de la fe de Israel. No tenían que especular respecto a cómo trataría Dios a su pueblo, porque tenían amplia oportunidad para poder apreciarlo con sus propios ojos. Habían visto que Jehová tornó a Abraham y llevó su semilla a la Tierra Prometida. Habían visto que Jehová los había liberado de la opresión: "Vosotros visteis lo que hice a los egipcios, y cómo os torné sobre alas de águilas, y os he traído a mí" (Exodo 19:4).

Todo esto les dio confianza en que Dios los liberaría también en el futuro. La experiencia que tenían del cuidado concreto y la providencia de Jehová les hizo creer naturalmente que Dios los preservaría. La palabra de Dios dada por mediación de sus profetas confirmó esta fe y les aseguró que, a pesar de todas las pruebas que pudiera haber de lo contrario, Dios le garantizaría a su pueblo una victoria final y definitiva. Además, tenían frente a ellos los ejemplos de Enoc y Elías, hombres que habían caminado con Dios y gozaban de su protección especial. Todo esto hacía que los hebreos, cuando reflexionaban en el futuro, creían que la victoria final de Dios incluiría seguramente el triunfo definitivo sobre la muerte. No tenían ninguna idea clara respecto a cómo haría Dios esto; pero no tenían ninguna duda de que lo haría. El ajuste final de cuentas, como lo hizo notar Isaías, incluirá la destrucción de la muerte para siempre (Isaías 25:8). En forma que se asocia a la venida de Miguel y la época de la tribulación, Daniel nos dice: “Muchos de los que duermen en el polvo de la tierra despertarán (Daniel 12:2).

No se trata de negar la realidad ni el terror de la muerte, sino que, más bien, se trata de poner las cosas en perspectiva. Cuando se entiende plenamente el carácter de Dios, cuando se ve el modo en que funciona el orden moral del mundo, cuando uno ve a Dios liberar a su pueblo, se considera, después de todo, que la muerte es algo pequeño y débil, tal y como lo ve Dios. Cuando llegue la victoria final, no hay duda alguna de que la muerte misma se desplomará. Sin embargo, también en este caso, el Antiguo Testamento parece estar sobreaviso; busca un complemento y una encarnación de todo lo que sabe con toda certidumbre que es la verdad. Esta encarnación es la nueva creación que Cristo vino a revelar. La verdad que sólo conocían en parte, Cristo vino a aclarárnosla todavía más: que por su muerte y resurrección podemos ser su pueblo, y El nuestro Dios, para siempre.

– pp. 185-190 (from Spanish edition).


The Concise Jewish Encyclopedia, Cecil Roth, New American Library, 1980:

immortality of the soul: The Bible does not state a doctrine of the immortality of the soul, nor does this clearly emerge in early rabbinical literature. Opinions differed as to whether the concept of the World to Come implied immortality of the soul, while there was also confusion with regard to the relation to the Resurrection of the Dead. Maimonides came under criticism for minimizing the significance of resurrection and stressing the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Eventually the belief that some part of the human personality it eternal and indestructible became part of the rabbinical creed and was almost universally accepted in later Judaism. It wal also accepted by medieval and later Jewish philosophers. The kabbalists believed in the immortality of the soul, although they connected it with the doctrine of metempsychosis. The traditional belief that evolved was in a hereafter where departed souls are rewarded and the wicked punished for their deeds in this world, until the time of Resurrection and Last Judgment, which will inaugurate a completely new era. Reform Judaism generally denies belief in Resurrection but accepts immortality of the soul.

resurrection (tehiyyat hametim): The teaching that at some future period the bodies of the dead will be revived. Among Jews, such a belief began to develop toward the end of the biblical period, possibly under Persian influence. By the end of the Second Temple period it had become a basic belief among the Pharisees (but not among the Sadducees). The rabbis often connected r. with the messianic era, and Maimonides incorporated it as one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith, although his various pronouncements on the subject are ambivalent. Most Orthodox thinkers took it literally, but Reform Judaism has denied the literal interpretation and revised the liturgy accordingly. Other circles have tended to identify it with the immortality of the soul.

– pp. 257, 258, 450, 451 (Entries “immortality of the soul” and “resurrection”).


John C. L. Gibson, Genesis – Volume I, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA, 1981:

The word translated "being" in the RSV is in Hebrew nephesh. The AV has "soul", which the RSV wisely avoids because it might have made its modern readers think about the "immortality" of the soul. This is not a Hebrew but a Greek idea. In Hebrew the "soul" is not a part of man but the whole living person, consisting, as this verse makes clear, of his body plus the breath which gives it life. When the Psalmist says "God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol" (Ps.49:15), he is not therefore to be understood as looking forward to the survival of his soul after death. He is simply expressing his confidence that God will not let him die. And when he says "Bless the lord, O my soul" (Ps.103:1,2,22; Ps.104:1,35), he means simply that he wants to sing to God with his whole being (compare Ps.104:33).

The naiveté of this picture of God forming 'man' like a potter should not be allowed to blind us to its essential meaning. This is that we and all human beings derive our lives directly from him. Without the breath that he puts into us we are dead and our bodies dissolve into the dust from which they came. As Ecclesiastes says (12:7), "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit (or better, breath) returns to God who gave it." Or as the author of this story later has God saying, "you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (3:19). These quotations show that the origin of every human could to the Hebrews be described in the same pictorial language.

This lesson of man's utter creatureliness is even more starkly present in the Hebrew of this verse than it is in English. For the Hebrew word for "man" is adam and the Hebrew word for "ground" is adamah. The two words have no etymological connection with each other, but they were so close in sound that the author could not resist the play. Nor could he in the verses that follow resist rubbing in the lesson wherever he could by constantly using the word "ground". We have it throughout this story -– see 2:9, 19; 3:17, 19, 23 –- and we have it throughout the next story of Cain and Abel for which he was also responsible -- see 4:2,3, 10-12,14.

How different all this is from the Greek view that a person's material body may perish but that his or her "soul" will live for ever! That view only became familiar to Judaism and Christianity when in later centuries they moved into the Greek-speaking world, and it has caused untold theological damage ever since. In Hebrew thinking there is nothing of eternal Worth in human beings as such and they can only come into contact with eternity when they relate themselves humbly and in obedience to God, their Creator (see further the commentary on 1:26-31, “Man” – the creature of God).”

Can we have any doubt which view is the more realistic?

– pp. 103, 104.



Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper, & Row (Publishers), Harper’s Bible Dictionary, USA, 1985:

“For a Hebrew, ‘soul’ indicated the unity of a human person; Hebrews were living bodies, they did not have bodies. This Hebrew field of meaning is breached in the Wisdom of Solomon by explicit introduction of Greek ideas of soul. A dualism of soul and body is present: ‘a perishable body weighs down the soul’ (9:15). This perishable body is opposed by an immortal soul (3:1-3). Such dualism might imply that soul is superior to body. In the NT, ‘soul’ retains its basic Hebrew field of meaning. Soul refers to one’s life: Herod sought Jesus’ soul (Matt. 2:20); one might save a soul or take it (Mark 3:4). Death occurs when God ‘requires your soul’ (Luke 12:20). ‘Soul’ may refer to the whole person, the self: ‘three thousand souls’ were converted in Acts 2:41 (see Acts 3:23). Although the Greek idea of an immortal soul different in kind from the mortal body is not evident, ‘soul’ denotes the existence of a person after death (see Luke 9:25; 12:4; 21:19); yet Greek influence may be found in 1 Peter’s remark about ‘the salvation of souls’ (1:9). A moderate dualism exists in the contrast of spirit with body and even soul, where ‘soul’ means life that is not yet caught up in grace. See also Flesh and Spirit; Human Being.”

– pp. 982, 983.

The Jewish Study Bible, Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (eds.), Jewish Publication Society, USA, 1985 (this cover and quotation come from 2004 edition, Oxford University Press, New York, USA):

Here [in Genesis 2:7], man has a lowlier origin than in the parallel in 1.26-28. He is created not in the image of God but from the dust of the earth. But he also has a closer and more intimate relationship with his Creator, who blows the breath of life into him, transforming that lowly, earth-bound creature into a living being. In this understanding, the human being is not an amalgam of perishable body and immortal soul, but a psychophysical unity who depends on God for life itself.

– p. 15.

Brevard Spring Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context, Philadelphia, USA: Fortress, 1985 (This cover is from 1989 edition),

It has long been noticed that according to the Old Testament man does not have a soul, but is a soul (Gen. 2:7). That is to say, he is a complete entity and not a composite of parts from body, soul and spirit. Yet it is also true that the Old Testament views man from different holistic perspectives. He can be described in terms of his will, or his emotions, or his physical prowess.

– p. 199.



Ferguson, Sinclair B., Wright, David F., Packer, J. I. (eds.), New Dictionary of Theology, 1988:

“‎Gn. 2:7 refers to God forming Adam ‘from the dust of the ground’ and breathing ‘into his nostrils the breath of life’, so that man becomes a ‘living being’. The word ‘being’ translates the Hebrew word nep̄eš which, though often translated by the Eng. word ‘soul’, ought not to be interpreted in the sense suggested by Hellenistic thought (see Platonism; Soul, Origin of). It should rather be understood in its own context within the OT as indicative of men and women as living beings or persons in relationship to God and other people. The lxx translates this Heb. word nep̄eš with the Gk. word psychē, which explains the habit of interpreting this OT concept in the light of Gk. use of psychē. Yet it is surely more appropriate to understand the use of psychē (in both the lxx and the NT) in the light of the OT’s use of nep̄eš. According to Gn. 2, any conception of the soul as a separate (and separable) part or division of our being would seem to be invalid. Similarly, the popular debate concerning whether human nature is a bipartite or tripartite being has the appearance of a rather ill-founded and unhelpful irrelevancy. The human person is a ‘soul’ by virtue of being a ‘body’ made alive by the ‘breath’ (or ‘Spirit’) of God.”

– pp. 28, 29 (quoted from electronic edition, 2000).

George Wisbrock, Death and the Soul After Life, ZOE-Life Books, Oakbrook, ILL, USA, 1990 (this is not the actual book cover):

... the LORD personally told Adam and Eve that they would die in the very day they disobeyed Him… The type of death they were promised was … immediate removal from the Garden of Eden and the immediate sentence of an eventual total departure from the consciousness of life as soon as they stopped breathing the breath of life...

If they had been more disciplined and patient in their selection of menus, they would eventually have eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life and only then BECOME immortal beings who would never had died. But because they accepted Satan’s lie that they would not die if they ate from the forbidden tree… they consequently received the reality of an instant spiritual death which separated them from the presence of their God…

... man’s death, as taught in The Bible, is not immediately followed by an uninterrupted continuation of consciousness in any of his supposed realms of incorporeal or bodiless existence… God’s concept of death declares it to be the very cause of man’s departure from ALL of life, conscious or otherwise…

The Word of God does not say that at death YOU… enter into a realm of continued awareness in order to consciously await another body into which YOU will eventually reincarnate. Instead, The Bible teaches that shortly after death YOU and I and everyone else are destined to enter into the grave.

The Scriptures do not say that man’s body goes to one place and that his alleged conscious-bearing ‘immortal soul’ or ‘spirit’ goes somewhere else at death. Instead, once the breath of life fully expires from a person who dies, all mental processes completely stop and that person begins to return to the dust of the earth.

... soul, in The Bible, means something entirely different than the traditional and orthodox belief about it being an incorporeal self who separates from the body at death…
[there are] more than sufficient evidence to demonstrate the difference between the Biblical meaning of ‘nephesh’ and the contemporary meaning of soul... a human ‘nephesh’ is indeed a MORTAL person who is only alive for as long as he breathes the breath of life...

“According to [Gen 1:21], ‘nephesh’ does not refer only to man. Nor does it … have any reference to that assumed part of man which some people believe will separate from within his body at death. Instead… the created creatures of both the air and the sea have all been referred to by God as living ‘nephesh.’ … man and all of the creatures of the earth were each formed out of the dust of the ground. Then, when they received the breath of life within their flesh … both man and the creatures of the earth BECAME – not received – living ‘nephesh.’...

It is true that some Hebrews did begin to believe in the incorporeal immortality of ‘the soul’ a few centuries before the birth of Christ, but all such thoughts can be traced to the influence of the early Greek philosophers and not to a proper exegesis of The Bible. In fact, such thoughts seem to have occurred in large numbers only after those Hebrews, as subjects of the Roman Empire, began speaking and writing the Greek language...

...the Psalmist [Ps 35:3, 4]… [said], ‘… Let them be humbled and put to shame who seek after MY SOUL…’ If the human soul were an incorporeal entity dwelling within the human body, then how could that ‘immaterial soul’ be taken from someone’s body while he is still alive? Or, if the human soul were purely spiritual and not at all material in composition, how could someone else even see it in order to grasp hold of it so as to take possession of it?...

One very important piece of evidence supporting the idea of the same meaning for corresponding terms in both Covenants is that with only a few exceptions the entire Bible was written by Hebrews… all the authors of The Bible regarded corresponding words in the Old Covenant Scriptures and their own writings to be defined by the Hebrew word of the Old Covenant. So … each New Covenant Greek word of particular religious significance which has a corresponding word in the Old Covenant Hebrew Scriptures should be defined according to its corresponding Hebrew word. It is not, under any circumstances, to be given a pagan definition from an ancient Greek culture... Only by doing this can the entire Bible present us with a statement of harmonious continuity. For since Old Covenant prophecies were fulfilled through New Covenant events, all corresponding terms from both Covenants which describe those events must share the same definition...

Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ resurrection as the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s prophecy [Ps 16:10] makes a profound statement about the Biblical nature of both ‘sheol’ and the human soul. For since Jesus’ ‘psuche,’ His soul, had to be taken out of ‘hades,’ the grave, in order to prevent Him from experiencing decay, his resurrection out of ‘hades’ reinforces the Biblical concept that the human soul is subject to both death and decay. It also clearly indicates that both ‘sheol’ and ‘hades’ in The Bible equally represent the same place – the grave...

If the traditional and ‘orthodox’ beliefs in ‘sheol’ and ‘hades’ as an ‘infernal hell’ were a real place where ‘the unconverted’ are presently suffering everlasting punishment, then what purpose would there be to bring them out of ‘hell’ in order to face Judgment at the end of the age and then once again send them back down to ‘hell’ for Eternity after Judgment? I do not personally believe the God of our Creation would act in such an unjust manner by causing anyone to experience the consequence of his or her sinful actions without first allowing that person to face Judgment, an experience The Bible says no one will have until the end of time… Nor do I believe a truly loving and righteous God will cause ‘the unconverted lost’ to suffer throughout Eternity the type of hideous or macabre torments which are usually associated with modern man’s … superstitious beliefs… the modern teaching that a Loving, Just and Fair God would eternally punish ‘the lost’ in a Dantean type of ‘hell’ forever and ever is beyond question the most demeaning and degrading idea ever attributed to God!...

Unfortunately, the souls referred to in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 are often mistakenly thought of as personal ‘spirit-beings’ who had earlier separated from ‘their former physical bodies’ at death. Quite to the contrary, however, the souls mentioned by John … actually represent some of the people who will eventually enter into God’s Kingdom toward the end of time… Because there are no such things as incorporeal human ‘spirits’ or ‘souls’… in neither of these two situations did John see immaterial and therefore invisible ‘spirit entities’ who had formerly resided within the bodies of those righteous men and women … Instead, he saw IN A VISION of those things that will take place on the Last Day of some of the people who will eventually live with God throughout Eternity...

That Jesus did not go up into a Heavenly Paradise to sit at God’s right side on the day He died may also be demonstrated by another very simple to understand act. Shortly after God brought Him up out of His grave on the third day after His death and burial, He said to Mary Magdalene, ‘Do not touch Me, for I have NOT YET gone up to My Father.’

– pp. 38, 39, 43, 44, 48, 49, 55, 71, 72, 73, 92, 108, 125, 126, 131, 146, 150, 230, 231, 331.



Holman Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN, USA, 1991:

Soul.  The vital existence of a human being. The Hebrew word nephesh is a key Old Testament term (755 times) referring to human beings. In the New Testament, the term psyche retreats behind the ideas of body, flesh, spirit to characterize human existence. In the Bible, a person is a unity. Body and soul or spirit are not opposite terms, but rather terms which supplement one another to describe aspects of the inseparable whole person. See Anthropology; Humanity .

Such a holistic image of a person is maintained also in the New Testament even over against the Greek culture which, since Plato, sharply separated body and soul with an analytic exactness and which saw the soul as the valuable, immortal, undying part of human beings. In the Old Testament, the use and variety of the word is much greater while in the New Testament its theological meaning appears much stronger.

The soul designates the physical life. Vitality in all of its breadth and width of meaning is meant by the soul. The basic meaning of nephesh is throat. Thus, the Bible refers to the hungry, thirsty, satisfied, soul (Psalms 107:5, 107:9; Proverbs 27:7; Jeremiah 31:12, 31:25). The soul means the entire human being in its physical life needing food and clothing (Matthew 6:25). The breathing organs and the breath blown out from them also express individual life in animals as well as human beings (Job 11:20; Job 41:21; Acts 20:10). At times, then, soul can be interchanged with life (Proverbs 7:23; Proverbs 8:35-36) and can be identical with blood (Deuteronomy 12:23 ). A person does not have a soul. A person is a living soul (Genesis 2:7). That means a living being that owes life itself to the Creator just as does the animal (Genesis 2:19 ). For this life or soul, one gives all one has (Job 2:4 ). Satan is permitted by God to take health, that is flesh and blood, but Satan cannot take the bare life of a person (Job 2:5-6 ).

Soul designates the feelings, the wishes, and the will of humans. The work of the throat, its hunger and appetite, stands for the desire and the longing of the human being after power and sex, after satisfaction, and after even the evil (Proverbs 21:10), but also after God (Psalm 42:2-3). The soul can be incited, embittered, confirmed, unsettled, or kept in suspense (Acts 14:2, 14:22; Acts 15:24; John 10:24). The word mirrors the entire scale of feelings under the influence of the human being, even the psychological. The bitter soul of the childless, the sick, or the threatened (1 Samuel 1:10 ; 2 Kings 4:27 ; 2 Samuel 17:8) reminds us of the nephesh as the organ of taste that also stands for the entire embittered person.

The soul also knows positive emotions. The soul rejoices, praises, hopes, and is patient. Never in these cases is only one part of the human being meant. It is always the powerful soul as an expression of the entire personality (Psalm 33:20). In the command to love (Deuteronomy 6:5 ; Mark 12:30 ), the soul stands next to other expressions for the human being to emphasize the emotional energy and willpower of the human being all rolled into one.

The soul designates the human person. Soul is not only a synonym with life. One can also speak of the life of the soul (Proverbs 3:22 ). Every human soul (Acts 2:43 ; Romans 2:9 ) means each individual person. The popular expression used today “to save our souls” goes back to this biblical way of thinking (1 Peter 3:20). It means to save the entire person. In legal texts, the soul is the individual person with juristic responsibilities (Leviticus 17:10, a blood-eating soul). Connected with a figure showing statistics or numbers of people, soul becomes an idea in the arena of the statistician (Genesis 46:26-27 ; Acts 2:41). At times, soul simply replaces a preposition such as the expression “let my soul live,” which means “let me live” (1 Kings 20:32). It is even possible for all the nuances of meaning to sound forth together in the same expression. For instance, in Psalm 103:1 , we read, “Bless, Yahweh, O my soul.” This includes the throat as the organ of life, the soul as the totality of capabilities; my own personal life which experiences the saving actions of Yahweh our God; my person; my own “I”; and the vital, emotional self.

Soul designates the essential life. Physical life is given and maintained by God (Matthew 6:25-34 ). Meaningful and fulfilled life comes only when it is free to give itself to God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Life is the highest good when it is lived according to God's intentions and not used up in search for material and cultural goods (Mark 8:34-37 ). This life is stronger than death and cannot be destroyed by human beings (Matthew 10:28). The soul does not, however, represent a divine, immortal, undying part of the human being after death as the Greeks often thought. Paul, thus, avoids the word soul in connection with eternal life. There is a continuity between the earthly and the resurrected life that does not lie in the capabilities or nature of mortal humans. It lies alone in the power of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 15:44 ). According to the Bible, a human being exists as a whole unit and remains also as a whole person in the hand of God after death. A person is not at any time viewed as a bodiless soul.

Immortality. The quality or state of being exempt from death. In the true sense of the word, only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16; see 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 1:10), for only God is living in the true sense of the word (see Life). Humans may be considered immortal only insofar as immortality is the gift of God. Paul points us in this direction. In Romans 2:7 , Paul says, “To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (NRSV). Paul also explained that the perishable nature of human life will put on the imperishable and that the mortal nature of human life will put on immortality. When that happens, the saying concerning victory over death will have been fulfilled (1 Corinthians 15:53-55 ; see Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14). As it is, humans in their earthly life are mortal; they are subject to death.

Thus, eternal life is not ours because we have the inherent power to live forever; eternal life and immortality are ours only because God chooses to give them to us. Most of the time, we are given immortality after death. Those who did escape death—Enoch (Genesis 5:24 ) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:10-11 )—did so only by the power of God and not by some inherent power they had to live forever. See Eternal Life .

Resurrection. The doctrine, event, and act of persons being brought from death to unending life at the close of the age.

Old Testament. The preexilic portions of the Old Testament contain no statements which point certainly to a hope of resurrection from the dead even though some of Israel's neighbors had such a belief. Death is the end of human existence, the destruction of life (Genesis 3:19; Job 30:23 ). In isolated instances revivification occurs (being brought back to life from death but only as a temporary escape from final death; 1 Kings 17:17-22 ; 2 Kings 4:18-37 ; 2 Kings 13:21 ). In addition, God took from the earth two Old Testament figures before their deaths: Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11). The scarcity of these statements and the lack of reflection on their meanings, however, point to the absence of any consistent doctrinal conception of resurrection from the dead.

Similarly, the Psalms are bereft of clear thought on resurrection. Many of the songs, however, express a hope that communion with God, begun on earth, will have no end (as in Psalm 16:11 ; Psalm 49:15 ; Psalm 73:24 ). The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1 ) and the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1 ) assert that Yahweh kills and makes alive. These expressions of hope in God may not suggest a doctrine of resurrection from the dead. They at least confess a conviction that the living God is able to intervene in life's darkest hours. They grope for a firm hope in justice and help beyond the grave. They may reflect the beginnings of a doctrine of resurrection.

The prophets proclaimed hope for the future in terms of national renewal (see Hosea 6:1-3; Ezekiel 37:1). So pointed is the prophetic expression of national hope that the New Testament writers sometimes used the language of the prophets to expound the doctrine of resurrection (compare Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55). The prophetic statements, however, do not necessarily attest to the hope of individual resurrection from the dead but profess the sovereignty of God over all His subjects, even death.

On the other hand, Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2 decidedly teach a belief in resurrection. The Old Testament emphasis on the sovereignty of God in all matters easily led to the prophetic statements.

The Old Testament statements about resurrection are scant and do not reveal clear theological reflection. The emphasis upon Yahweh as the God of present life tended to make Judaism a this-worldly religion. The future was generally interpreted as a national future under the sovereign rule of Yahweh. In New Testament times the Saduccees still did not believe in resurrection. The belief, however, in God as sovereign Lord over all, even death, eventually flowered in the brief but salient assertions of the Books of Isaiah and Daniel and possibly in the Psalms. See Eschatology ; Future Hope ; Sheol.

New Testament Jesus' preaching presupposed a doctrine of resurrection. Opposition by the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, gave Jesus the opportunity to assert His own thought on the matter (Mark 12:18-27; Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-38; compare Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

John's Gospel presents Jesus as the mediator of resurrection who gives to believers the life given Him by His Father (John 6:53-58 ). Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:24-26). Jesus pointed to a resurrection of the righteous to eternal life and of the wicked to eternal punishment (Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 25:31-34, 25:41-46; John 5:28-29). In His postresurrection appearances Jesus had a body that was both spiritual (John 20:19, 20:26) and physical (John 20:20, 20:27; John 21:13, 21:15) in nature.

The greatest biblical exponent of resurrection was Paul. For him, resurrection was the final event which would usher Christians out of the bodily struggle of the present age into the bodily glory which will accompany Jesus' second coming (Philippians 3:20-21). In resurrection, God's new creation will reach completion (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The bedrock of hope for Christian resurrection is the resurrection of Christ, the foundation of gospel preaching (1 Corinthians 15:12-20). Those who follow Christ are organically related to Christ in His resurrection from the dead; Christ is the first fruits of an upcoming harvest (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Destruction awaits those who do not follow Christ (Philippians 3:19).

Paul's discourses on the nature of the resurrected body broadens the Old Testament idea of a restored Israel to include the redemption of persons complete with bodies. Paul viewed the human person as a psychosomatic unity. He recognizes no truth in the Greek idea of a separation of body and soul. (See 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Those united to Christ in faith become not only one with Him in spirit but also one with Him in body (1 Corinthians 6:15). The resurrected body will be a spiritual body, different from the present physical body (1 Corinthians 15:35-50 ); but it will have continuity with the present body because Christ redeems the whole person (Romans 8:23 ).

The New Testament unquestionably affirms a doctrine of resurrection of all persons from the dead. Humanity has a corporate destiny to encounter just and divine response to faithfulness and unfaithfulness (Acts 24:15). A resurrection body and life in the consummated kingdom of God will characterize the resurrection of those who follow Christ.

– Entries “Soul”, “Immortality” and “Resurrection” (online version).

Roland E. Murphy, Word Biblical Commentary: Ecclesiates. Word, Incorporated, Dallas, TX, USA, Vol. 23A, 1992:

“The note of death continues. The process described here is the reversal of Gen 2:7. The end of life is the dissolution (not annihilation; the Israelites never speculated how the “I” was in Sheol; cf. Eccl 9:10). Humans return to the dust (Gen 3:19) whence they came, while the life-breath given by God returns to its original possessor. This is a picture of dissolution, not of immortality, as if there were a reditus animae ad Deum, “the return of the soul to God.” There is no question of the “soul” here, but of the life-breath, a totally different category of thought. Hence there is no reason to deny this verse to Qoheleth. K. Galling, A. Lauha, and others argue that it must belong to a glossator because it contradicts 3:21, where Qoheleth denies the affirmation that the human רוּחַ rûah goes upward in contradistinction to the רוּחַ rûahi of animals. But the context of 3:21 is polemical. Some assert there is a difference between life-breath in humans and animals; Qoheleth’s query (“who knows?”) denies any qualitative difference. But he certainly shares with the rest of the OT that God is the owner and donor of life, i.e., the life-breath (Ps 104:29–30; Job 33:4; 34:15; see also Sir. 40:11b, Hebrew text).” 

– Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:7, p. 120.



David S. Ariel, What Do Jews Believe? – The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism, 1995:

“In the Torah there is no idea of body and soul as two distinct and different aspects of a human being. A living man or woman is seen as a unified organic being, described in Hebrew as nefesh. Nefesh refers to human life in general and to human character in particular. According to the Bible, the first human, Adam, was created as a living being (nefesh chayah). Genesis describes the actual creation of Adam as the singular act of bringing all of him into existence at once: "And Jehovah God proceeded to form man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) The Hebrew word nefesh is also used to refer to human feelings and experiences. This is how it is used in the verse "You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings [nefesh] of the stranger" (Exodus 23:9).

The Bible also uses the term ruah (spirit) and neshamah (breath) to describe human life. Ruah refers to the spirit or breath, the power that comes from outside the body and causes life as its visible manifestation. In the Book of Job, God is described as the source of life and human vitality: "In whose [i.e., God's] hand is the life [nefesh] of every living thing, and the breath [ruah] of all mankind" (Job 12:10). The Bible uses neshamah as a synonym for the living human organism: "And Jehovah God proceeded to form man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life [nishmat chayim], and the man came to be a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

There is no differentiation, however, between the body, nefesh, ruah and neshamah in the Bible. They all refer to the living, breathing, feeling human being created by God. The human being is a monistic or unified being consisting of one integrated nature. There is no notion in the Bible of any dualism or dual nature – such as body and soul – in the human being. The Bible contains no mention of a separate soul.”

– pp. 53, 54.



D. R. W. Wood, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, D. J. Wiseman, I. Howard Marshall (eds.), New Bible Dictionary, 3rd. ed. 1996:

“A particular instance of the Heb. avoidance of dualism is the biblical doctrine of man. Greek thought, and in consequence many Hellenizing Jewish and Christian sages, regarded the body as a prison-house of the soul: sōma sēma ‘the body is a tomb’. The aim of the sage was to achieve deliverance from all that is bodily and thus liberate the soul. But to the Bible man is not a soul in a body but a body/soul unity; so true is this that even in the resurrection, although flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, we shall still have bodies (1 Cor. 15:35ff.).”

– p. 284.

The Greeks thought of the body as a hindrance to true life and they looked for the time when the soul would be free from its shackles. They conceived of life after death in terms of the immortality of the soul.”

– p. 1010.


Berry, Wendell. “Christianity and The Survival of Creation”. Wolfe, Gregory. The New Religious Humanists. The Free Press, 1997:

“The crucial test is probably Genesis 2:7, which gives the process by which Adam was created: "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul." My mind, like most people's, has been deeply influenced by dualism, and I can see how dualistic minds deal with this verse. They conclude that the formula for man-making is: man = body + soul. But that conclusion cannot be derived, except by violence, from Genesis 2:7, which is not dualistic. The formula given in Genesis is not man = body + soul; the formula there is soul = dust + breath. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; by breathing his breath into it, he made the dust live. Insofar as it lived, it was a soul. The dust, formed as man and made to live, did not embody a soul; it became a soul. "Soul" here refers to the whole creature. Humanity is thus presented to us, in Adam, not as a creature of two discrete parts temporarily glued together, but as a single mystery.”

– p. 253.



Neil Gillman, The Death of Death – Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought, Jewish Lights Publishing, USA, 1997 (This cover is from 2000 edition.):


For much of the past two millennia, the Western world, Jews included, has characterized death as the soul’s separation from the body. This view stems originally from Greek philosophy, certainly from Plato and possibly from the earlier mid-sixth century Orphic religion. In Plato’s dialogue, Phaedo, set in the hours before Socrates’ suicide, Socrates characterizes death as “the separation of soul and body,” and continues

And to be dead is the completion of this [separation]; When the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death?

However much this notion of separation of soul from body became part of Judaism’s understanding of the afterlife, it is not at all the biblical view.

Biblical anthropology knows nothing of this dualistic picture of the human person which claims that the human person is a composite of two entities, a material body and a spiritual or non-material soul. In Greek thought, the soul is a distinctive entity which preexists the life of the person, enters the body at birth, separates from the body at death and continues to exist in some supernal realm.

The Bible, in contrast, portrays each human as a single entity, clothed in clay-like flesh which is animated or vivified by a life-giving spark or impulse variously called ruah, nefesh, neshamah or nishmat hayyim.

In the later tradition, these terms came to be understood as synonymous with the Greek “soul.” But this identification is not in the Bible. The term “nefesh” signifies the neck or the throat (as in Job 41:13), or the life-blood (as in Leviticus 17:10-11). By extension, it signifies a living human being since it refers to the two characteristics that make a person alive: Breath and blood. When Exodus 1:5 numbers Jacob’s progeny as “seventy nefesh,” it means simply seventy persons, not seventy disembodied “souls”.

In the Bible, the term neshamah also means breath (as in I Kings 17:17) and, again by extension, a living person. The last verse of Psalm 150 does not mean that all disembodied souls will praise the Lord, but rather that “all that breathes” – all living beings – will do so. Job 34:14, 15 further identifies neshamah with ruah. Ruah can mean “wind” or “breath.”

His breath [ruah] departs;
He returns to the dust;
On that day his plans come to nothing. (Psalm 146:4)

Death is understood as the “going out” of the ruah, or of the similar “going out” of the nefesh (as in Genesis 35:18), or of God’s “taking away” the nefesh (as in 1 Kings 19:4) or the neshamah (as in Job 34:14).

It is precisely this notion that something “goes out” of the body at death that enabled the later tradition to identify this “something” with Plato’s soul. But in the biblical context, what leaves the person is not a distinct entity but rather that vivifying spark which had initially given life to the clay-like flesh in the first place. Key to understanding all these passages is the Genesis 2:7 account of the creation of the human person:

[T]he Lord god formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life [nishmat hayyim], and man became a living being [nefesh hayyah].

If at creation, the clod of dust became a living being when God breathed the breath of life “into” his nostrils, then death occurs when that same breath of life “goes out” of the body. Identifying this breath of life with what was later called a “soul” would attribute to it a distinct identity which would include self-consciousness. But it simply does not have any of this in the biblical texts. Here, the reference is rather to an impersonal spark that, eventually, simply dissipates.

The only significant biblical anticipation of that later doctrine may be found in Ecclesiastes, which is commonly understood to reflect a Hellenistic world view. In Ecclesiastes 12:7, the typical “going out” of the ruah becomes a “return to God”:

And the dust returns to the ground
As it was,
And the lifebreath [ruah] returns to God
Who bestowed it.

This text is clearly an extension of Genesis 2:7. It distinguishes between the dust of the ground and the lifebreath. Each returns to where it came from: The dust (or body) to the ground and the lifebreath to God. This reference, unusual in the Bible, to the ruah’s “return to God” may echo the Greek notion that the ruah is an entity which comes from God and at death “returns” to some “place.” If this interpretation is accurate, Ecclesiastes represents a way-station between the characteristic biblical view and the more dualistic anthropology of the later tradition. But it is equally likely that the text simply recapitulates the view in Genesis that the lifebreath was breathed into the dust by God, and that at death, it simply returns to God.

In the Bible, then, death occurs when the lifebreath that originally made the person alive, leaves the body and dissipates. It has no distinct identity, nor does it go nor returns to any specific place

That the death of each human being is final, that God has no power over our destiny after death, is the overwhelming testimony of the Bible. But as the biblical age drew to a close, two doctrines entered into Jewish writings which overturned that belief. One of these – that at some point in the future, God will raise at least some human bodies from their graves – is enunciated in three brief but stricking biblical passages. The second – that the human body is mortal, but that every human possesses a soul which separates from the body at death and enjoys a continued existence with God – is not in the Bible. But it is explicit in a number of books written by Jews roughly between the second century BCE and the second century CE, commonly referred to as the intertestamental period.

These two doctrines eventually merge and form the core of a Jewish doctrine of the afterlife which becomes canonical in Judaism from the age of the Talmud to the dawn fo modernity.

Only three biblical passages explicitly affirm that God will return at least some dead to life. Two of these are in Isaiah and the third is in Daniel…


But inquiring into the sources from which the author of Daniel drew [the idea of resurrection] must involve going beyond discovering earlier or contemporaneous biblical texts which he might have read. It is to ask an even more basic question: Where did the idea of resurrection come from? How did it get into the heads of these authors in the first place? What is its provenance?

An almost intuitive approach to these questions is to look at the literature of the cultures surrounding biblical Israel for some hint of the presence of this notion, and then to assume that it was later transmitted to Israel. On the afterlife, two ancient near-eastern cultures might qualify as the source for biblical thinking: Egypt and Persia. Ancient Egypt, which believed that the dead live on in the realm of Osiris, developed elaborate funerary rites to prepare the dead for the voyage to this realm. The problem here is that these Egyptian texts are significantly older (dating from the third millennium BCE) than the biblical material, that none of their details corresponds to the biblical account, and that there is no clear way to trace the process of transmission. Finally, and most important, these texts do not speak of a resurrection: They simply claim that the dead continue to enjoy a form of existence in the netherworld.

A Persian influence is more likely. Zoroastrian texts are closer in time to the Bible (from the ninth to the second century BCE), they speak of resurrection and, as in the Bible, their broader setting is one of judgement. Further, from the middle of the fifth century BCE on, Jews lived among Persians. If this is a case of cultural borrowing, the likely candidate would be Zoroastrianism.

But it is equally conceivable that there was no cultural borrowing here at all, that the idea of resurrection evolved within Israel as a thoroughly natural development of ideas deeply planted in biblical religion from the outset. If, in fact, God created the world and humanity in the first place, if God is the ultimate force Whose power extends over all of nature and history, if God can send Israel into exile and then redeem it once again (from Egyptian slavery and in the time of Cyrus), if God can renew the natural cycle each year, if God can, as Isaiah 66 promises, create “a new heaven and a new earth,” then why cannot God raise human beings from the grave? Why cannot God, in the words of Isaiah 25:8, “destroy death forever”? Why should God’s power one’s fate end with death? Why is death more powerful than God?

– pp. 75-77, 83, 84, 96, 97.


Nuevo Diccionario Ilustrado de la Biblia, Nelson, Wilton M. (Nashville, TN, EE.UU: Editorial Caribe), 1998:

ALMA Termino que en el Antiguo Testamento es traduccion comun del sustantivo hebreo nefesh, que a su vez se deriva del verbo nafash (respirar, rehacerse). Aparece unas 755 veces en el Antiguo Testamento con significados muy variados.

Talvez el sentido original de nefesh haya sido “garganta” (canal de la respiracion) o “cuello”, como el acadio napishtu, pues este sentido se conserva en el Antiguo Testamento en textos como Sal 69.1 y Jon 2.7. De alli viene el sentido de “soplo” de vida (→ ESPIRITU), como en Job 41.21 (“aliento”, RV). Asi, en hebreo, morir se expresa muchas veces por “exhalar la nefesh” (Jer 15.9, BJ). Puesto que la respiracion es senal de vida, el alma (“soplo”) se considera como el principio de la vida (Gn 35.18). Ademas, “hacer volver la nefesh” significa hacer revivir (1 R 17.21s); salvar la nefesh de una persona es salvar su vida (Sal 72.13s).

La nefesh (“vida”) de la carne esta en la → SANGRE (Lv 17.11). En un sentido mas amplio, nefesh puede definir a un ser vivo en la totalidad de su existencia, sea animal (Gn 1.20, 21, 24; “seres”) o ser humano (Ex 1.5; “personas”). En este sentido nefesh se utiliza tambien para denotar la accion de amarse a si mismo: amar como a su nefesh significa “como a si mismo” (1 S 18.1). A veces nefesh tambien designa a un cadaver, quizas por eufemismo (Lv 21.1; “muerto”).

En contraste con el pensamiento filosofico griego (p. ej., Platon), es notable que el Antiguo Testamento jamas habla de la inmortalidad del alma. Al contrario, se dice que la nefesh muere (Nm 23.10; Jue 16.30, donde nefesh se traduce “yo”). La nefesh no es algo distinto del cuerpo que baja al → SEOL, sino el ser humano total (Sal 16.10; 30.3). A los habitantes del Seol no se les llama “almas” ni espiritus, sino “muertos” (refaim en Sal 88.10; metim en Is 26.14, 19). Hoy dia es comun reconocer muchas pruebas en el Antiguo Testamento para una doctrina de la supervivencia del ser humano despues de la muerte, pero estas pruebas llevan mas bien a una ensenanza acerca de la persona total y no del alma en el sentido platonico.

Es notable que ademas de la vida fisica, se atribuyen a la nefesh todas las funciones psiquicas. Por ejemplo, los pensamientos se atribuyen a la nefesh (Est 4.13, VM), como tambien al → CORAZON y al → ESPIRITU. En 2 R 9.15 se traduce por “voluntad”. La nefesh es la sede del amor (Gn 34.3) y el odio (Sal 11.5), de la tristeza (Sal 42.6) y la alegria (Sal 86.4). Siente hambre (Sal 107.9) y sed (Pr 25.25), pero tambien busca a Dios y suspira por El (Sal 42.1, 2; 103.1s).

Asi, en la psicologia del Antiguo Testamento la nefesh tiene una funcion muy semejante a la del → ESPIRITU. Sin embargo, nefesh significa sobre todo, la vida, mientras que “espiritu” indica fuerza o poder.

En el Nuevo Testamento “alma” es la traduccion comun del griego psyje que a su vez deriva del verbo psyjo (“soplar”), y aparece mas o menos cien veces.

Psyje (como nefesh) significa a veces “ser viviente”, y puede referirse a un animal (Ap 16.3, “ser vivo”) o a una persona (Ro 13.1, “persona”; cf. la forma plural en Hch 7.14; 27.37). Con el pronombre posesivo, psyje puede significar tambien “yo mismo” (Mt 12.18; Jn 12.27, “mi alma”).

Psyje muchas veces denota la vida fisica (Mt 6.25), y es virtualmente sinonimo de “cuerpo vivo” (p. ej. en Mc 8.35–37 donde “alma” tiene el sentido de “vida”). Quizas sea la connotacion “fisico-animal” del sustantivo psyje lo que determina en ocasiones el uso del adjetivo psyjikos (1 Co 15.44, “animal”; cf. v. 46 con 2.24, “natural”).

Tambien psyje puede indicar el principio de la vida, el cual, vinculado con el cuerpo, es un aspecto del ser humano total (Mt 10.28; Hch 20.10, BJ: “su alma esta en el”). Como principio de vida, la psyje es el asiento de los pensamientos (Hch 4.32; Flp 1.27), las emociones (Mc 14.34; Jn 12.27) y los actos de la voluntad (Ef 6.6, BC y Taize; cf. Col 3.23).

Finalmente, como principio de vida, psyje indica en algunos textos el asiento de una vida que trasciende la vida terrenal. Este uso, muy parecido al de algunos filosofos griegos (p. ej., Platon), tiene cierta base en algunos dichos de Jesus (Mt 10.28, 39; Mc 8.35–37), pero se desarrolla en los escritos posteriores (Heb 6.19; 10.39; 13.17; 1 P 1.9, 22; 2.11, 25 ). “Alma” llega incluso a significar algo inmortal, distinto del cuerpo (Ap 6.9; 20.4). Sin embargo, no se niega la necesidad de la → RESURRECCION corporal (Ap 20.4s).

Sería muy aventurado interpretar 1 Ts 5.23 como una enseñanza de la tricotomía griega (cf. Heb 4.12); es más bien una manera de subrayar la totalidad de la persona (“todo vuestro ser”) como objeto de la santificación (cf. Dt 6.4; Mc 12.30).


P. Van Imschoot, Teologia del Antiguo Testamento, Ediciones Fax, Madrid, 1969, pp. 351-378, 386ss.


INMORTALIDAD (en griego, athanası́a). Termino usado en la literatura y mitologia griegas y hecho popular en tiempos de Socrates (470–399 a.C.) y Platon (427–347 a.C.). Se aplico a los dioses griegos, a quienes se atribuia la cualidad de ser inmortales. Para los griegos este concepto no solamente tenia una connotacion temporal, sino implicaba especialmente la participacion del individuo en la gloria de los dioses. Por tal razon todo griego buscaba la divinizacion como meta de su vida.

Originalmente este termino nunca se refirio a lo que ahora se entiende por la inmortalidad del → ALMA. Fue con el surgimiento de la escuela platonica que este concepto se convirtio en dogma.

En el Antiguo Testamento no encontramos un termino equivalente a inmortalidad; sin embargo, el concepto de la supervivencia despues de la → MUERTE es claro. La idea de inmortalidad en el pensamiento hebreo surge a partir del conocimiento de Jehova, el Dios viviente de los hebreos, y de su relacion con los hombres y por ende con la muerte. El hombre afirma su supervivencia post mortem por la garantia de la eternidad de Dios. El Antiguo Testamento no cesa de recalcar esta cualidad de Dios frente a los otros dioses (Sal 18.46; 42.2; 84.2; 96.5s; 106.28ss; 115.3–8; Jer 10.11; 23.36; Os 1.10). El senorio de Dios sobre la muerte se muestra claramente en la vida de Enoc (Gn 5.24) y Elias (2 R 2.10, 11), a quienes Dios los arrebato sin experimentar la muerte. Segun todo lo anterior, es evidente que el Antiguo Testamento manifiesta un desarrollo paulatino, dentro del pensamiento hebreo, del concepto de la inmortalidad. En los periodos intertestamentario y novotestamentario, existian tres corrientes:

En la literatura mas antigua (Gn 15.15; 25.8; 37.35; 49.29) aparece la idea de una supervivencia parcial (una proyeccion o sombra vaga). La personalidad humana no perecia del todo sino que continuaba existiendo en forma pasiva en una region tenebrosa denominada → SEOL. Carecia del “aliento de vida” (Gn 2.7) y permanecia en una soledad existencial sin relacion con Dios y los demas hombres (Job 3.13; 10.21s; 17.11–16; 26.5s; Sal 88.11s; 94.17; 115.17). Todavia no habia surgido la idea de una retribucion en ultratumba; los premios y castigos se reciben en esta vida (Dt 7.12, 13).

En la literatura sapiencial (Job, Salmos, Eclesiastes) surge el clamor de justicia de los justos que sentian cerca la muerte y no habian experimentado la alegria de la bendicion divina. Se pone de manifiesto que la vida terrena es insuficiente para premiar al justo y castigar al malo, y entonces aparece la idea de una interrelacion Dios-justo. El justo no se preocupa por lo que le sucedera despues de la muerte, sino por su comunion con Dios; esta seguro de que la muerte no podra destruirlo. Mas aun, se origina la idea de un regreso a la vida, de una → RESURRECCION (Job 19.26; Sal 17.15; 36.8ss; 73.24). El injusto, por otra parte, esta condenado a una muerte eterna (Sal 49 y 73).

Estas ideas se agudizaron mas despues de la catastrofe politica del pueblo judio durante el cautiverio, cuando el concepto individualista de retribuciones y castigos se hizo mas popular y los conceptos de inmortalidad y resurreccion llegaron a su madurez (Is 24.21; 25.8; 26.19; 27.13; 53.8, 10; Ez 37; Dn 12.2; Os 6.1ss). Este nuevo enfasis se encuentra mas extendido en los libros extracanonicos (cf. 2 Mac 7.9ss; Las parabolas de Enoc; Baruc y el Testamento de los doce patriarcas). En esta linea continuaron los que permanecieron en el pensamiento tradicional judaico, segun el cual no era posible dividir la personalidad humana en cuerpo y alma. Nunca → ALMA ( nefes ) ni → ESPIRITU (ruah ) significaron entidades capaces de existir aisladas del cuerpo despues de la muerte. El Antiguo Testamento resistio la influencia de la religion cananea que celebraba ritualmente la constante vuelta a la vida de un dios que simbolizaba la naturaleza. Con todo, recientes estudios en la literatura de → UGARIT revelan fascinantes similitudes linguisticas y literarias con nuestros Salmos, sobre todo en torno a los conceptos de inmortalidad, paraiso, resurreccion y ascension (cf. Sal 1; 17; 23; 30; 49; 73; 91).

Por otro lado, aparece el pensamiento judaico-alejandrino, cargado de la filosofia greco-platonica, y el concepto de inmortalidad se desarrolla permeado de la idea dualista de la persona (cuerpo y alma). Por ser el alma inmaterial, invisible y eterna (ya que existe antes del cuerpo), no puede experimentar la destruccion. El cuerpo, por ser visible, material y finito, esta destinado a la destruccion. Esta linea de pensamiento se manifiesta sobre todo en la literatura apocrifa (Sabiduria de Salomon 3.1ss; 9.15; y 4 Mac), donde el concepto de la inmortalidad del alma aparece como dogma.

La otra linea de pensamiento, sustentada por los → SADUCEOS, fue mas radical y terminante: no existe la inmortalidad por cuanto el hombre no sobrevive mas alla de la muerte (Mc 12.18).

El Nuevo Testamento reafirma la inmortalidad de Dios (1 Ti 6.16). En cuanto al hombre, tanto la ensenanza de Jesus ( Mt 7.14; 18.8s; 19.17; 22.23ss; Lc 16.24; Jn 11.23ss) como la de Pablo (Ro 6.22; 2 Co 5.4) recalcan la → VIDA de ultratumba, en especial para los que creen en Cristo. Sin embargo, esta vida no se atribuye a la inmortalidad del hombre sino a la → RESURRECCION del cuerpo, la cual Dios operara en virtud de la resurreccion de Jesucristo (1 Co 15, passim). La palabra athanası́a aparece dos veces en 1 Co 15.53s, pero solo como sinonimo de incorruptibilidad (→ MUERTE).


M. Garcia Cordero, Teologia de la Biblia I, BAC, Madrid, 1970, pp. 288s, 479, 510–524, 528. P. van Imschoot, Teologia del Antiguo Testamento, Fax, Madrid, 1969, pp. 386–424.

– Entradas “Alma” y “Inmortalidad”


Neusner, Jacob, Avery-Peck, Alan J., Green & William Scott (eds.), The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, Brill Academic Publishers (Leiden, Boston and Tokyo), 1999

“A second doctrine of the afterlife enters Judaism not in the Bible itself but in the intertestamental period, i.e., the first century B.C.E.-first century C.E. This doctrine teaches that every human being is a composite of two entities, a material body and a non-material soul; that the soul pre-exists the body and departs from the body at death; that, though the body disintegrates in the grave, the soul, by its very nature, is indestructible; and that it continues to exist for eternity. Not even a hint of this dualistic view of the human being appears in the Bible.”

– Volume 1, pp. 200, 201.

“Even as we are conscious of the broad and very common biblical usage of the term “soul,” we must be clear that Scripture does not present even a rudimentarily developed theology of the soul. The creation narrative is clear that all life originates with God. Yet the Hebrew Scripture offers no specific understanding of the origin of individual souls, of when and how they become attached to specific bodies, or of their potential existence, apart from the body, after death. The reason for this is that, as we noted at the beginning, the Hebrew Bible does not present a theory of the soul developed much beyond the simple concept of a force associated with respiration, hence, a life-force.

– Volume 3, p. 1343


David G. Benner  & Peter C. Hill (eds.), Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling, 2nd ed., 1999:

“Modern scholarship has underscored the fact that Hebrew and Greek concepts of soul were not synonymous. While the Hebrew thought world distinguished soul from body (as material basis of life), there was no question of two separate, independent entities. A person did not have a body but was an animated body, a unit of life manifesting itself in fleshly form — a psychophysical organism (Buttrick, 1962). Although Greek concepts of the soul varied widely according to the particular era and philosophical school, Greek thought often presented a view of the soul as a separate entity from body. Until recent decades Christian theology of the soul has been more reflective of Greek (compartmentalized) than Hebrew (unitive) ideas.

– p. 1148.


David Noel Freedman, Astrid B. Beck & Allen C. Myers (Eds.), Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 2000:

“Far from referring simply to one aspect of a person, “soul” refers to the whole person. Thus, a corpse is referred to as a “dead soul,” even though the word is usually translated “dead body” (Lev. 21:11; Num. 6:6). “Soul” can also refer to a person’s very life itself (1 Kgs. 19:4; Ezek. 32:10). ‎“Soul” often refers by extension to the whole person."

– p. 1245.

Philip W. Comfort e Walter A. Elwell, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, 2001:

There is no suggestion in the OT of the transmigration of the soul as an immaterial, immortal entity. Man is a unity of body and soul — terms that describe not so much two separate entities in a person as much as one person from different standpoints. Hence, in the description of man’s creation in Genesis 2:7, the phrase “a living soul” (kjv) is better translated as “a living being.”’

– p. 1216.


John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume 2 – Israel’s Faith, 2006:

What is death? Death is the end of life. It has no positive nature; is is simply the absence of something. When people die, they do not cease to exist. We can see them on their deathbed after their life has gone, but they have ceased to have life. At death “the dust returns to the ground as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it” (Eccles 12:7; cf. Job 34:14, 15; Ps 146:4).

The body of a human being (‘adam) came from the ground (‘adamâ), and anyone can see that it dissolves back into the ground after death. There is a relationship between my mother’s womb and the earth itself: hence Qohelet’s words about the person who does well in life but then has to die like everyone else, “As he came out of his mother’s womb, naked he will return, going as he came.” He can take nothing with him (Eccles 5:15 [MT 14]; cf. Job 1:21). Death does not mean returning to my mother’s actual womb, but it means returning to the source of my being that is associated with my mother’s womb, the origin of the raw material that grows into in a person in the womb. I came from the Earth; I return to the earth.

The life of a human being came more directly from God, and it is also evident that when someone dies, the breath (rûah, e.g., Ps 104:29) or the life (nepeš, e.g., Gen 35:18) disappears and returns to the God who is rûah. And whereas the living may hope that the absence of God may give way again to God’s presence, the dead are forever cut off from God’s presence. Death means an end to fellowship with God and to fellowship with other people. It means an end to the activity of God and the activity of other people.

Even more obviously, it means an end to my own activity. It means an end to awareness. “There is a confidence for the person who is joined to all the living, because things are better for a living dog than a dead lion, because the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. And there is no more reward for them, because their renown is forgotten. Both their acts of love and hate and their passions have long since perished. They have no more share forever in all that is done under the sun” (Eccles 9:4-6).

– pp. 639, 640.

“Who knows whether the breath of human beings rises up and the breath of an animal sinks down to the earth?” (Eccles 3:21). In Qohelet’s day there were perhaps people who were speculating that human beings would enjoy a positive afterlife, as animals would not. Qohelet points out that there is no evidence for this.

– p. 644.



John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 2006

What Is a Human? (Body, Soul, Spirit)

Even modern theologians argue whether the human person is best understood by trichotomy (body/soul/spirit), dichotomy (body/soul-spirit), or unity. The ancient world shared some of our concern for understanding the human person, but it viewed the person quite differently than we do.

In Mesopotamia the clearest information comes in the Epic of Atrahasis, where the various ingredients used to create humankind appear to correspond to the various aspects of human nature. According to the interpretation of T. Abusch, the human ghost (eṭemmu) derives from the flesh of the god, while the blood (damu) of the god provides the human intellect (temu), self, or soul. “The blood is the dynamic quality of intelligence, and the flesh is the form of the body that is imposed on the clay.”

Egyptian and Israelite literatures portray the deity giving the breath of life to mundane materials, invigorating them to serve in the role of divine images. In Egyptian thinking human nature was composed of the body (djet-body as well as the ha'u-body), the akh, the ka, and the ba, and designations such as heart, belly, shadow, and name. The terms ka and ba are impossible to translate adequately into English (or to Greek or Latin) because they do not have equivalente ideas in Western culture.


A distinction must be drawn between an internal ka and an external one. The internal ka reflected that aspect of human nature that had ties to the supernatural and, at least in some vague way, ties to future generations.

Ka could designate human individuality as a whole, and in different contexts it could be translated as “character,” “nature,” “temperament,” or “disposition. Since character to a great extent preordains the life of an individual, ka also means “destiny” or “providence”. This use of the word engendered a tradition of interpretin the ka as a kind of universal vital force, but this idea is too abstract since it loses its associatin with personality.

The external ka was like na invisible twin born with the person and associated with the placenta. The ka continued to live into the afterlife and received offerings on the individual’s behalf.


The ba is connected to cognition and other mental capacities. It is often translated “soul” despite the inaccuracies of the identification. The ba is the aspect of a person reflected to the world around him or her. One's reputation and public persona project one's ba. One's ba exists independently of one's body in what one accomplishes and how one is thought about and spoken of. The ba leaves the body at death and continues to exist after death. The ba of a deity is what enters the image to make it usable and living in the cult. This might approximate the Akkadian temu. Perhaps it overlaps most with the modern concept of personality.


The akh is often translated “spirit,” and also survives after death, somewhat like a ghost. The akh of a person, in either life or death, was capable of effecting either good or ill. If “ghost” goes in the right direction, there would be some overlap between akh and the Akkadian eṭemmu.

Hebrew terminology does not correspond with Egyptian or Mesopotamian terminology any better than it corresponds with modern English. The Egyptian akh may bring to mind the way the ruah-yhwh came upon individuals to make them effective either for good (in most cases, e.g., the judges) or for ill (e.g., Saul). Yet some have made a case for Hebrew nephesh as being equivalent to Akkadian eṭemmu. The Israelite concepts of basar (“flesh”), nephesh (often translated “soul” or “self”), and ruah (usually translated “spirit”) do not overlay transparently on either Mesopotamian or Egyptian models. At the most basic level, this could be explained by the facts that the Egyptian concepts are largely developed in relationship to what they believed about death and afterlife (i.e., in light of teleology). Concepts conveyed in the Hebrew Bible, in contrast to the ancient Near East, are consciously linked not to protology or teleology, but to theology — the relationship to God.


Hebrew nephesh, despite its traditional translation “soul,” never refers to that which continues to exist after death, though nephesh departs when one dies (Gen. 35:18). In this connection, H. W. Wolff observes “man does not have [nephesh], he is [nephesh], he lives as [nephesh].” God also is characterized by nephesh (e.g., Isa. 1:14). Though it was granted to Adam when God breathed into him (Gen. 2:7), it is not a “piece” of the divine, but only finds its source there. As the part of the body that receives food and breathes, the nephesh is connected to the throat. In the metaphysical realm, the nephesh is that which experiences life and represents living (notice that the life, nephesh, is in the blood, Lev. 17:11, and the blood is the nephesh, Deut. 12:23). In the plural it can refer to persons, and is often related to the “self.”


Where the nephesh feels and senses the ruah acts. Where the nephesh is related to awareness and perception, the ruah is not understood as continuing to exist once the person dies. Indeed, it is difficult to demonstrate that a person has his/her own ruah. Rather each person has God’s ruah. God also has a ruah and his ruah sustains human life. (Job 34:14; Ps. 104:29). The ruah of all creatures returns to God because it is his. Israel’s ideas of human composition express most centrally the individual's relationship to God in life. What continues to exist in Sheol after death is neither nephesh nor ruah.

What then is the impact of comparative studies on the understanding of the metaphysics of anthropology? On the basis of this brief study, we have seen that there are some overlapping categories, but that is difficult to establish any one-to-one correspondences. The comparative data may, as always, urge restraint on our inclination to impose modern categories on the ancient texts, but they do not give us any greater understanding of Israelite metaphysical anthropology. Concerning the cognitive environment, we can see that the ancient views tended to focus more on theological and functional categories than on psychological (e.g., Freudian) or philosophical (e.g. Platonic) ones.

– pp. 210-214.



Encyclopaedia Judaica – Second Edition, Thompson Corporation, USA, in association with Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem, Israel, 2007:

AFTERLIFE. Judaism has always maintained a belief in an afterlife, but the forms which this belief has assumed and the modes in which it has been expressed have varied greatly and differed from period to period. Thus even today several distinct conceptions about the fate of man after death, relating to the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, and the nature of the world to come after the messianic redemption, exist side by side within Judaism. Though these conceptions are interwoven no generally accepted theological system exists concerning their interrelationship.

In the Bible

The Bible is comparatively inexplicit on the fate of the individual after death. It would seem that the dead go down to *Sheol, a kind of Hades, where they live an ethereal, shadowy existence (Num. 16:33; Ps. 6:6; Isa. 38:18). It is also said that Enoch “walked with God, and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24); and that Elijah is carried heavenward in a chariot of fire (ii Kings 2:11). Even the fullest passage on the subject, the necromantic incident concerning the dead prophet Samuel at En-Dor, where his spirit is raised from the dead by a witch at the behest of Saul, does little to throw light on the matter (1 Sam. 28:8 ff.). The one point which does emerge clearly from the above passages is that there existed a belief in an afterlife of one form or another. (For a full discussion see Pedersen, Israel, 1–2 (1926), 460 ff. A more critical view may be found in G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 vols., 1962.) Though the talmudic rabbis claimed there were many allusions to the subject in the Bible (cf. Sanh. 90b–91a), the first explicit biblical formulation of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead occurs in the book of Daniel, in the following passage:

“Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence” (Dan. 12:2; see also Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:1 ff.).

– Vol. 1, p. 441.

RESURRECTION (Heb. תְּחִַיּת הַמֵּתִים), the belief that ultimately the dead will be revived in their bodies and live again on earth. Resurrection is to be distinguished from the belief in some sort of personal existence in another realm after death (see Afterlife) or in the immortality of the soul. A major tenet of Jewish eschatology alongside the Messiah, belief in resurrection is firmly attested from Maccabean times, enjoined as an article of faith in the Mishnah (Sanh. 10:1), and included as the second benediction of the Amidah and as the last of Maimonides’13 principles of faith.

In the Bible

The standard biblical view of death took it as man’s final state (cf. II Sam. 14:14). Aside from such anomalies as Enoch and Elijah who were “taken” by God (Gen. 5:24; II Kings 2:1), the common lot of all men, as it was then conceived, is aptly described in Job 7:7–9:

Remember that my life is a breath;
My eye will not again see good…
A cloud dissolves and it is gone;
So is one who descends to Sheol;
He will not ascend.

Rabbah correctly inferred that the author of this passage left no room for resurrection (BB 16a). This accords with the biblical doctrine of reward and punishment which satisfies the demands of justice during the (first) lifetime of men. When in Hellenistic times the doctrine proved inadequate, “the extension of divine retribution beyond the tomb came as a necessary corollary to the idea of God’s justice and the assurance of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promise to the righteous”(G.F. Moore, Judaism, 2 (1950), 319).

The components of the idea of resurrection were present in biblical thought from early times. That God can revive the dead is one of His praises: “I slay and revive; I wounded and I will heal” (Deut. 32:39; cf. Pes. 68a for the argument that death and life of the same person is meant); “YHWH slays and revives; He brings down to Sheol and raises up”(I Sam. 2:6; cf. II Kings 5:7). His power to do so was exhibited through the acts of Elijah and Elisha (I Kings 17:17ff.; II Kings 4:18ff.).

... Later Jewish exegesis, influenced by the Jewish doctrine of resurrection (see below), read it back into many of the above-cited passages, and others as well. Thus, e.g., the “waking” in which the beatific vision of Psalms 17:15 occurs was explained by Rashi as the resurrection (for the plain sense – a cultic experience – cf. Ps. 27:4; 63:3; and esp. Ex. 24:11). Often enough, however, medieval exegetes give the plain (figurative) sense in addition and prior to the resurrectional one: see Ibn Ezra to Deuteronomy 32:39; David Kimḥi to I Samuel 2:6 and Ezekiel 37:1. Their reserve and sobriety contrasts with M. Dahood’s wholesale adoption of the resurrectional interpretation in most of the above-cited Psalm passages, in addition to many others in which “long enduring life” of royal prayers (e.g., Ps. 21:5; cf. the royal prayers in Pritchard, Texts, 383d, 394a, 397c) and the “future” of the righteous (often meaning progeny as in Ps. 109:13) are whimsically and uncritically combined and offered as evidence of an early Israelite belief in resurrection and immortality (M. Dahood fails to distinguish between the two; Psalms, 3 (1970), xli–lii).

– Vol. 17, pp. 240, 241.


In the Bible

Unlike the gods of Mesopotamia and Canaan, e.g., Apsu, Tiamat, Baal, and Mot, who, while they could not die a natural death, could incur a violent one, the God of Israel is the living God (Hos. 2:1; Ps. 18:47). His lordship extends from heaven to Sheol (Ps. 139:8; Job 26:6); He puts to death and brings to life (I Sam. 2:6; I Kings 17:17–22; II Kings 4:18–37); and He can preserve His faithful from Sheol (Ps. 16:10).

... In the Bible two persons are said to have left this world in a special way: Enoch “was taken by God” (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah “was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind” (II Kings 2; cf. Ps. 49:16). The exact implication of these traditions is not clear.

The crucial passage of Proverbs 12:28 has been translated differently through the centuries. Saadiah Gaon already understood it as immortality, as did F. Delitzsch many centuries later. M. Dahood (in: Biblica, 41 (1960), 176–81) related the Hebrew אַל מֶָות ʿal mawet) in this verse to the Ugaritic blmt, “not dying.”

It is also possible [not probable] that the Masoretic Text of Proverbs 14:3 contains the hope of a better life than that in Sheol (cf. Ps. 16:9–11; 73:24; A.W. van der Weiden, in: VT, 20 (1970), 339–50).

However in Daniel 12:2 the resurrection to eternal life for some is unequivocally predicted. Only in the post-biblical period did a clear and firm belief in the immortality of the soul take hold (e.g., Wisd. 3) and become one of the cornerstones of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”

– Vol. 19, p. 35.

Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 2008:

The term of more immediate interest, repā’îm (“shades,” often brought over into English as rephaim rather than translated), appears only eight times in the Hebrew Bible in the sense of “the dead.” Although the etymology and historical development of this term are both problematic, its usage in the OT is mre straightforward. Rephaim refers to those whose abode is Sheol, the place of the dead. Found in the OT only in poetic texts, the “shades” are portrayed through simple parallelism as “the dead.” In Isaiah 26:14, 19 and Psalms 88:11, the rephaim are associated with “the dead”; in Proverbs 2:18 the term occurs in parallel with “death” (see the similar idea in Prov 21:16); and in Isaiah 14:9 and Proverbs 9:18 they appear in “the grave.” That is, the rephaim are simply the human dead whose place is the grave. For Proverbs, references to the rephaim are used to dramatize the end of a way of life set in opposition to the righteous paths of God. Here the rephaim are associated with the place of the dead, Sheol or, simply, “death” (as “sphere of death”), in a manner characteristic of the teaching of the Two Ways found in the wisdom tradition. In the single usage among the Psalms, the psalmist pleads for divine intervention, realizing that, if he dies, he will not be able to offer praise to God.

– p.155.

Jeremy P. Muniz, Dueling With Death: Christian Funeral Preaching as Dialogue, (Dissertation for Doctorate Degree), Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, 2009.

Resurrection Beyond the Bible

If one defines resurrection as "the reversal of the effects of death" in terms of a physical reanimation of human life, then one is safe to assume that resurrection was not a common thought or belief in the ancient world. Resurrection is not a part of Homer's understanding of any human existence beyond the grave, and as Wright puts it, if Homer's writings have anything at all to say about resurrection, it is that "it doesn't happen." It was not that the Greeks were unaware of the concept of resurrection. After all, they did have a word for it (ἀναστασις), but their literature reveals that they did not see it as a viable option or source of hope in the face of death. Wright shows that resurrection "was not one way of describing what death consisted of. It was a way of describing something that everyone knew didn't happen: the idea that death could be reversed, undone, could (as it were) work backwards." Apart from the resurrection theology that was present in Christianity's Jewish roots, it was "born into a world where its central claim was known to be false." Generally speaking, resurrection in the pagan world was an absurdity that did not merit serious inquiry for lovers of truth.

Hints at possible resurrections surface in the pagan literature on rare occasion. For example, some of Nero's soldiers circulated a rumor that Nero had not really died (the circumstances surrounding Nero's burial were very secretive), and this gave rise to a myth of "Nero redux" or "Nero redivivus.” This claim of resurrection, however, was not widely accepted, and "no one seems to have thought that resurrection was what happened." Stories of resurrection surfaced in ancient pagan literature from time to time, but the consensus seems to have been that this was all perfect fiction and that death was a "one way street" where "would-be traffic-violators (Sisyphus, Eurydice and the like) were turned back or punished." Resurrection was little more than a literary device in the ancient pagan world.

The only culture outside of Judaism or Christianity that had a religious or philosophical hope in resurrection was the Zoroastrians of Persia. Zoroastrianism taught that there was a "good or evil consciousness after death, the passing over a bridge, and the ultimate resurrection of the flesh and the kingdom of righteousness." It is possible that Zoroastrian belief did influence Jewish thought concerning resurrection. However, it is just as likely that the presence of Hebrew people in Persia during the diaspora served to influence Zoroastrianism. Other possible connections between the Bible's doctrine of resurrection and resurrection in the ancient world are the agrarian myths of the ancient world. Wright comments that these were not presented as facts of life after death, but were "metaphors" that helped describe the rejuvenation of plant and animal life as the warmer months replaced the coldness of winter. Overall, the evidence suggest that the authors of the Bible did not borrow the concept of resurrection from their neighbors. The development of resurrection hope (in particular, resurrection hope for all who would believe in a resurrected Savior) as the answer to death's pain is a uniquely Judeao-Christian doctrine.

– pp. 60-63.