Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Soul, Can It Die?

Claim: The “passages [below] describe the immaterial soul existing separately from the fleshly tent of the body.”

Matthew 10:28  “And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be torn down, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. 2 For in this house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven, 3 so that when we do put it on, we will not be found naked. 4 In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down, because we do not want to put this one off, but we want to put the other on, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who prepared us for this very thing is God, who gave us the spirit as a token of what is to come. 6 So we are always of good courage and know that while we have our home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, 7 for we are walking by faith, not by sight. 8 But we are of good courage and would prefer to be absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord. 9 So whether at home with him or absent from him, we make it our aim to be acceptable to him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of the Christ, so that each one may be repaid according to the things he has practiced while in the body, whether good or bad.”

2 Pet 1:13-15 But I consider it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you with reminders, 14 knowing as I do that my tabernacle is soon to be removed, just as also our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 I will always do my utmost so that after my departure, you may be able to recall these things for yourselves.

 In the passage in Matthew 10, Jesus was talking about loyalty – our loyalty to God and his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. For us to fear those that can terminate our human life, but not our potential for resurrection, we are shortsighted forfeeling that way. If a person wants to cite this scripture as evidence of a soul that doesn’t die, they need to pay very close attention to the whole scripture. The latter part makes it quite evident that there is one we should fear that can destroy not only our present life but the prospects of any future life. (See Luke 12:4,5 for a different perspective on this scripture. Additionally, Psalm 118:6 and Hebrews 13:6 help us to understand what Jesus meant.)

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (edited by C. Brown, 1978, Vol. 3, p. 304) states: “Matt. 10:28 teaches not the potential immortality of the soul but the irreversibility of divine judgment on the unrepentant.” Also, Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (revised by F. W. Gingrich and F. Danker, 1979, p. 95) gives the meaning “eternal death” with reference to the Greek phrase in Matthew 10:28 translated “destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Thus, being consigned to Gehenna refers to utter destruction from which no resurrection is possible.

Indeed, God himself is the One we need to be in fear of displeasing because he can and will “destroy” (not preserve in a burning hell) both soul and body. But why would Jesus make such a separation? The answer is a wonderful segue into the second and third scriptures that were cited, 2 Corinthians 5 and 2 Peter 1:13-15

Paul, in writing the Corinthians his second letter, states that “we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens” and that we are “earnestly desiring to put on the one [house] for us from heaven.” There is no mention of an eternal “soul” in this passage. It mentions that heaven-bound Christians would put on a completely new “house” (body, a spiritual one). Paul's whole argument is replacing one type of life (human) with another type of life (spirit being). 

In the same exact vein of reasoning, Peter speaks of the “tabernacle” (again, our body) that would be removed. Interestingly, he doesn’t even mention anything about “soul” (in any context). However, the assumption is that he is planning on joining Jesus in heaven. Why would he conclude such a thing? Because Jesus himself promised it. But if the new body is completely different, in what way can God preserve "the soul"?

Let’s examine this subject of “soul” a bit closer. The Hebrew/Aramaic scriptures (aka “Old Testament”) have a great deal to say about it.

Starting right in Genesis, we learn that God formed man from the ground and then breathed (not a disembodied “soul”) but life into the body. In fact, the actual verse of Adam's creation says not that God gave Adam a soul, but that Adam became a living soul. Then, as a firm warning to man, Jehovah God told Adam that disobedience would result in complete and total non-existence. There was no threat of burning in hellfire forever. Adam would simply cease to exist.

Most who believe in an immortal soul, do not believe animals have (or, more accurately, “are”) a soul. Yet the scriptures teach differently.

Although I could continue on with numerous scriptures to disprove the eternal soul idea, I offer up these two plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face passages from Ezekiel that makes it quite plain that human souls can be destroyed. Ezekiel 18:4,20

But we are not the only ones to recognize that the soul is not some non-physical part of our existence. Note the following:

The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Nepes [ne╩╣phesh] is a term of far greater extension than our ‘soul,’ signifying life (Ex 21.23; Dt 19.21) and its various vital manifestations: breathing (Gn 35.18; Jb 41.13[21]), blood [Gn 9.4; Dt 12.23; Ps 140(141).8], desire (2 Sm 3.21; Prv 23.2). The soul in the O[ld] T[estament] means not a part of man, but the whole man—man as a living being. Similarly, in the N[ew] T[estament] it signifies human life: the life of an individual, conscious subject (Mt 2.20;6.25; Lk 12.22-23; 14.26; Jn 10.11, 15, 17; 13.37).”—1967, Vol. XIII, p. 467.
The Roman Catholic translation, The New American Bible, in its “Glossary of Biblical Theology Terms” (pp. 27, 28), says: “In the New Testament, to ‘save one’s soul’ (Mk 8:35) does not mean to save some ‘spiritual’ part of man, as opposed to his ‘body’ (in the Platonic sense) but the whole person with emphasis on the fact that the person is living, desiring, loving and willing, etc., in addition to being concrete and physical.”—Edition published by P. J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1970.

Conclusion: The claim cited at the beginning is false and based on a very superficial reading of scripture. Once again, when taking all the facts regarding a subject, it is easy to see the truth. In this case, there is no “soul” in us that lives forever. We ourselves are “souls,” that is, living creatures with physical bodies, the memory of which (our appearance and personality) God can resurrect to once again become “a living soul.” Beyond the mere body, who we are as a person, the essence of everything that makes each of us individually "me," the life as a person, regardless of the body, is the way scripture uses the term "soul."

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