DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL?
In opening the Bible in the investigation of the subject of the nature of man, we enter upon a work that will repay our efforts much more satisfactorily than can be expected in the wide fields of history and philosophy. It is reasonable to expect that he who formed and gave life to man, and who revealed the plan of salvation, meeting in all respects the requirements of a sin-cursed, fallen and lost condition, would, in that revelation, make known the real nature and condition of the being to be saved, and the nature and state to which the plan of salvation purposed to exalt those who come within its scope. The nature of the case to be dealt with must necessarily be understood before there can be a proper comprehension and appreciation of the plan that purposes to meet the requirements of the case.
If one believes that he is naturally immortal, while the plan of salvation is intended and adapted to save mortal men and bless them ultimately with immortality, he will not be in a position to believe in that plan; because his belief must, necessarily, nullify it. For how can one properly believe in and appreciate an offer of immortality if he is persuaded that he is already in possession of it? As the apostle Paul says, "We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not (or are not in possession of) then do we with patience wait for it"--Rom. , 25.
The word "soul" as used in our times, conveys to the minds of most people the idea of immortality and immateriality; and it is associated with what is supposed to be the thinking, conscious, never-dying part of man which it is thought survives the death of the body, and goes immediately to bliss or woe, according to its deserts.
Opening the Bible with this theory in mind, but with a desire to test its truth, one would think the first thing that would reasonably suggest itself as a wise course would be to examine the use of the word soul in the Scriptures; and what more natural than that such an inquirer would turn to the first place in which the word is found? Supposing him to be a careful inquirer, and desiring to go to the root of the matter, he will avail himself of the ample means now at his disposal, to ascertain what words in the Hebrew and Greek stand for our word soul; and finding that the Hebrew word is nephesh he will, by the aid of a concordance, or otherwise, find the first place where that word occurs in the Bible. He will, no doubt, be astonished when he is referred to Gen. 1: 20, and finds that the word nephesh, translated "life" in the text and "soul" in the margin, is applied to the "moving creature and fowl that may fly above the earth." By continuing he will find that verse 21 reads, "And God created great whales, and every living creature--nephesh, or soul--that moveth." Still further, in verse 24: "And God said, let the earth bring forth the living creature-- nephesh, or soul--after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after his kind and it was so;" and in verse 30 he will again find creature--nephesh, or soul--applied to "every beast of the earth."
Having now examined the first chapter of the Bible in search of the immortality of the soul, and having found the word nephesh, or soul used four times and in every case applied to the animal, and not once to man, what conclusion can he come to, but that he has been wrong in believing that the word soul signified an immortal entity?
Recalling the fact that he has frequently used and heard used the phrase "immortal soul," he will leave his critical search for a moment and run over all the books of the Bible to see if he can find the oft-repeated phrase within its pages, and to his astonishment he discovers it is not there; that he has been using and hearing used a phrase that, while always on the lips of theologians, "holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," never used. Disappointed, and feeling that the foundation upon which he had supposed himself secure is a questionable one, he determines to make a careful investigation of the subject, and naturally returns to the book of Genesis, and reads the second chapter to see what is said about the creation of man.
As a rule, the believers in the immortality of the soul are willing to stake their whole theory upon Gen. 2: 7, believing it says that God formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and put an immortal soul into that body. It is quite reasonable to expect that whatever the truth of the matter is it will be found in this, the account of manís creation; and we may, therefore, freely enter upon a careful examination of the text without fear of disappointment in regard to reaching the truth of the matter.
It reads thus:
And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Here is a clear statement of the facts, and all we have to do is to accept each statement as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It says that the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground; therefore, that which was formed out of the dust of the ground was the man--not a body into which a man was to be put. The statement, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground," must, in and of itself, be true; and the next statement, following the conjunction "and," is the statement of another truth, namely, that God "breathed into his--the man's--nostrils the breath of life;" and this caused the man that had already been formed out of the dust of the ground to become a living (not an immortal) soul.
Here we have a soul
called also a man. Where did he come from? Did he come from heaven? or out of
the earth? The answer is before us in the words of the text; and if
corroborative evidence is needed, it is found in the words of the apostle Paul:
"The first man is of the earth earthy" (
Many believers in the immortality of the soul contend that the soul was breathed into man when he received the breath of life; and they lay stress upon the fact that it is said in so many words, that God breathed into man the breath of life, but that it is not so said of the beasts. This cannot be called an argument. It is simply a foolish attempt to escape the force of the evidence against their cherished but false theory. If it were not that they deserve to some extent to be pitied in their attempt to save themselves by catching at a straw, one might condescend to meet them upon their own ground, and thereby show that their premises would logically lead to the conclusion that the woman was left destitute of an immortal soul. Their would-be argument might be submitted in the following syllogistic form: It is said that God breathed into man the breath of life. It is not said that God breathed into the beasts the breath of life; therefore when the breath of life was breathed into man he received an immortal soul, which the beasts did not receive.
Now let us try the same syllogism in relation to the woman: It is said that God breathed into the man the breath of life. It is not said that God breathed into the woman the breath of life; therefore when the breath of life was breathed into the man, he received an immortal soul which the woman did not receive. This is sufficient to show the absurdity of such a position.
But upon what authority is it denied that God breathed the breath of life into the beasts? That they have the breath of life we are positively told; and the question therefore is, Where did they get it from, if God did not breathe it into them? Besides, what a wild imagination one must have, to see an immortal soul put into the body by the breath of life being breathed into a manís nostrils. Now of the beasts it is said, "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air" (Gen. 2: 19). The similarity between this and the words of verse 7, in relation to man is worthy of note. In chapter it is said, "And, behold, I, even I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life." Again, chapter --"And they (the creatures named in verse 14) went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." Since the beasts are said in these quotations to be possessed of the breath of life, it follows that they must have received it of God, the only source of life; and since it is said to be in their nostrils, who but God could have breathed it into their nostrils, any more than into manís? If they could have the breath of life breathed into them and yet be destitute of immortal souls, as is admitted, then man could also have the breath of life breathed into him and still not have an immortal soul. While life, which is the result of the inbreathing of the breath, or the causing of respiration, is sometimes called soul, it is never spoken of as an immortal soul.
Now at this stage of our inquiry we may venture to give a definition of the word soul and quote a number of passages to show how it is used in the Scriptures:
The Hebrew word nephesh, of the Old Testament, occurs about 700 times, and is rendered soul 471 tunes, life and living about 150 times; and the same word is also rendered a man, a person, self, they, me, him, anyone, breath, heart, mind, appetite, the body, (dead or alive), lust, creature, and even a beast: for it is 28 times applied to beasts and to every creeping thing. The Greek word psuche of the New Testament corresponds to nephesh of the Old. It occurs 105 times, and is rendered soul 59 times, and life 40 times. The same word is also rendered mind, us, you, heart, heartily, and is twice applied to the beasts that perish. Psuchikos, an adjective derived from psuche, occurs 6 times, and is translated natural and sensual; it is properly translated animal in modern translations. Perhaps it may he worthy of notice that in all the 700 times which nephesh occurs, and the 105 times of psuche, not once is the word immortal or immortality or deathlessness or never-dying found in connection as qualifying the terms.--Emphatic Diaglott.
ANIMALS ARE CALLED SOULS, AND THE WORD SOUL IS APPLIED
TO THE LIFE OF THE BEASTS
Numb. 31: 28--And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle; one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses and of the sheep.
Gen. 1: 20--(the very first place where the word nephesh, the word rendered soul, occurs). And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life (nephesh, soul, see margin), and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
Gen. 1: 30--And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is life (margin living soul) I have given every green herb for meat.
Gen. 2: 19--And Adam called (named) every living creature (Hebrew nephesh, soul).
Gen. 9: 9, 10--And I will establish my covenant with every living creature (Hebrew nephesh, soul) that is with you of fowl, of cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you. See also verses 15, 16.
Job --In whose hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
SOULS DIE AND ARE DESTROYED
Josh. --And that day Joshua took Makkedah and smote it with the edge of the sword; and the king thereof he utterly destroyed them, and all the souls that were therein. See also verses 30, 32, 35, 37, 39.
Judges 16: 16--And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him so that his soul was vexed unto death.
Job --So that my soul chooseth strangling and death rather than my life.
Psa. 33: 19--To deliver their souls from death and to keep them alive in famine.
Psa. 78: 50--He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death.
Isa. 53: 12--Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death.
Ezek. 13: 19--And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live?
Ezek. 18: 4--Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Verse 27--Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
Matt. 26: 38--My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.
Jas. 5: 20--Let him know that he that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death.
Rev. 16: 3--And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea, and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.
SOULS DESTRUCTIBLE AND DESTROYED
Psa. 35: 17--Lord, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions.
Psa. 63: 9--But those that seek my soul to destroy it shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
Acts --And it shall come to pass, that every soul that will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.
In the following testimonies the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psuche, which are so frequently rendered soul are rendered life. Substitute the word soul for life in the reading of these and it will be seen that, instead of soul being indestructible and immortal it is the opposite.
Ex. 4: 19--Go, return
Matt. --For they are dead which sought the young childís life.
Mark 3: 4--Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, or to do evil? to save life or to kill (life or soul)?
Rev. 8: 9--And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life (soul) died.
Rev. 12: 11--And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony: and they loved not their lives (souls) unto the death.
SOULS GO TO AND ARE DELIVERED FROM THE PIT, OR THE GRAVE
Job 33: 18--He keepeth back his soul from the pit (grave) and his life from perishing by the sword. Also verses 28, 30.
Psa. --For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (the grave), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Psa. 30: 3--O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit. (The "pit" and the "grave" are here synonymous; also "my soul" and "me" and "I."
Psa. 49: 15--But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me.
Psa. 89: 48--What man is he that liveth and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul (himself) from the hand of the grave?
Isa. 38: 17--Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; * * * for the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee, they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
Acts --He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of
Christ, that his soul was not left in hell (grave, same word as is
translated grave in
The phrase my soul is seized upon by some to prove that the soul is a separate entity from the body; but a comparison of the use of the phrase in relation to man with that of the beasts will show the fallacy of such a claim. In one verse quoted above we have the words, "one soul of"--of what? One soul of the persons, one soul of the beeves, etc. Besides, it is fatal to the popular theory that we have the soul spoken of as belonging to the man, if in the phrase "my soul" we are to understand the pronoun "my" to represent the man, and the "soul" an entity possessed by the "my"--the man. For the theory of those who hold to the doctrine is that the soul is the real man, and the body only the habitation of the soul. But suppose for the sake of the argument we allow the claim, then what should we do with the phrases "my body" (Job ), "your bodies," etc. (Job )? We should have to reverse our position to suit these phrases, and at one time say the soul is the man, and at another time that the body is the man. What we should do with the "my," however, when we read "my body and my soul" (Mic. 6: 7) would be an overwhelming difficulty; for in this case we have "my" separate from both soul and body, and by the premises laid down in the claim we are combating, we should be driven to conclude that the "my," the man, was a separate being from both soul and body. It becomes apparent that no theory of the kind claimed can be built upon such an uncertain foundation. A man might say, My body, my soul, my spirit, my head, my hands, etc., etc., but what folly it would be to conclude that he thereby meant that he himself was a separate being from all the parts named. We cannot avoid this form of expression, and in common parlance it is never misconstrued. It is only when the theory of the soul being a separate entity from the body is hard pressed to protect itself that such a foolish contention is resorted to. One might speak of the foundation of the house, the walls of the house, the roof of the house--everything of the house, and even the believer in the immortality of the soul would not suppose that the house was a separate thing from the parts named. Why not be as reasonable when similar language is employed in relation to man?
The Hebrew words rendered "living soul" in Gen. 2: 7, where it is said "man became a living soul" are nephesh chayiah; speaking of which Dr. Adam Clarke says:
It "is a general term to express all creatures endued with animal life in any of its infinitely varied gradations."
This phrase is used thirteen times in the Scriptures; eleven times it is applied to the beasts and twice to man, a fact which of itself is sufficient to convince a reasonable mind that the phrase "living soul" does not mean "immortal soul." The unreasonable mind that would persist in claiming for it the popular meaning of "immortal soul" would be forced to acknowledge that there would be eleven testimonies in favor of the immortality of the soul of the beasts to two in that of man. Many, we are sorry to say, are so unreasonable that, rather than abandon a theory that has become popular, will rest their belief upon the most absurd claims. They have been taught to believe in the immortality of the soul; they cannot find the phrase "immortal soul" in the Bible, and rather than surrender to the force of facts and reason they will delude themselves with the idea that "immortal soul" is to be seen in "living soul," to which they will cling even if it does commit them to the conclusion that the beasts have "immortal souls."
scripture, to observe which is a very safe rule. The apostle Paul makes use of
the phrase "living soul," referring to the very verse in question.
The use he makes of it must certainly be accepted in preference to that of
uninspired men. The latter would say, "There is an immortal soul; for so
it is written, ĎThe first man Adam was made a living soul;í" but Paul
says: "There is a natural body, * * * and so it is written, The first
man Adam was made a living soul" (
First--He says, "There is a natural body."
Second--He proves that there is a natural body by the words written, "The first man Adam was made a living soul."
Third--He says that this "natural body," which is a "living soul" is "the first man," or man in the state which is first--the natural.
Fourth--He declares that this man is of, or out of, "the earth, earthy." Had the apostle been a believer in the immortality of the soul his language would certainly have been contradictory of his theory, as it is contradictory of the popular theory of our times. To have given expression to the general belief of to-day he should have said, "The body of the first man is of the earth, earthy, but the man himself is an immortal soul, which came from heaven and entered into the body."
If there is such a
thing as an immortal soul, then it is a spiritual thing: and if the immortal
soul is the man then man is now a spiritual being. Now the apostle shows that
man, while he may become a spiritual being, is now a natural being. Can there
be anything plainer than his statement?--"There is a natural body (which,
as we have seen, is the man, the living soul, of the earth, earthy), and there
is a spiritual body. * * * Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but
that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. * * * And
as we have borne (and do bear) the image of the earthy, we shall (not
we do) also bear the image of the heavenly." And to make the matter still
more clear, if possible, he adds: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh
and blood cannot inherit the
The word soul, philologically, may be said to mean self. The various uses of the word in the Scriptures we have already given; and it will be observed that its primary meaning is living creature. As such it is necessarily a material being; for what would it be if it were immaterial? It would really be nothing; and this is what the popular tradition reduces itself to. The soul is carefully guarded by its champions from anything of a material nature, its zealots being very much afraid of being called "materialists." To regard the soul as material and therefore something is looked upon by those of the Platonic school as sacrilegious. It seems more to their taste to enshroud the subject in a mystery that will baffle the understanding of their followers and hide themselves from the sharp arrows of reason and scripture. Nothing will do for them but a soul that cannot be seen, felt, weighed nor measured. It must have no form, no body, no parts, no substance--it must be immaterial; and yet, without visibility, weight, form, measurement or substance, it is claimed to be an entity! Now we submit that a being without form, weight, measurement or visibility is a nonentity--has no being, because it has nothing to have a being. It is simply nothing--nothing but a phantom of a bewildered and paganized mind. In the Scriptures, however, when the word soul is applied to being it is a substantiality. It can be born (Ex. ); die (Rev. 16: 3); go to the grave (Psa. 89: 48); be raised out of the grave (Acts ); slain (Joshua -39); eat and drink (Lev. ; Isa. 32: 6), etc., etc. Scripturally speaking, therefore, the soul is a being--it is something and therefore it is material.
As set forth in the various Scriptures we have given, when the word is used otherwise than of the person or being, it is always employed to express the variety of aspects in which a living being can be contemplated, such as life, individuality, mind, disposition, breath, etc.; but it never expresses the idea of immortality, and is never used in the popular form, "immortal soul."
SOUL USED FOR LIFE
It is when the word soul is used for life that it seems to strengthen an opinion already formed of it being a separate entity from the body. To a mind holding such an opinion the idea of an immortal soul that can forsake the body and still exist as a conscious entity has, by education and by breathing, as it were, from infancy the paganized theological atmosphere of the religious world, become a self-evident fact. It is taken for granted, and everywhere is viewed from that unscriptural and unreasonable standpoint. The result is that there is not that exercise of reason in the use of phraseology upon this subject that there is upon other matters. The moment the phrase "the soul of man" is seen or heard the thought received is that the soul is a separate entity; but when the phrases, "the hearing of man," "the sight of man," "the feelings of man," "the love of man," etc., are used there is no thought of hearing, sight, and all the other attributes of man being separate entities. If you say to one who believes in the separate existence of the soul as an entity that a manís soul has gone, he would ask, Where to? because his perverted mind cannot conceive of the manís soul "having gone" without also thinking of it being an entity after it "has gone." If, however, one were to say to him, "The manís hearing is gone," he would never dream of asking; Where to? In the latter he is reasonable; in the former he is unreasonable. He is able to see that the statement, "The manís hearing is gone," only expresses the fact that the man has lost the sense of hearing. That condition of things which combined to produce what we call "hearing" has been destroyed. If the condition could be restored, it could then be said, "His hearing returned," and still there would be no danger of any one falling into the mistake that the hearing had, as an entity, been absent and maintained an abstract existence. That the very same is true of life is clear to an unbiased mind. The life of a man is no more an abstract thing than the life of a horse. Life is a condition of being. Destroy the condition in any living being and the life of that being then ceases. You may express this by saying the life is gone, whether it be the life of a man or the life of a horse; but that does not mean that the life maintains an abstract existence as an entity after it "has gone." Restore the condition and you may say the life has returned and still not commit yourself to the idea of the life, either of man or animal, having been roaming around bodiless.
ELIJAH RESTORES THE SOUL OF THE CHILD
Now the word soul, as
we have said, is sometimes used for life, and this recalls a text often
referred to in support of the popular idea of the departure of the soul at
And he (Elijah) stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this childís soul come into him again. * * * And the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
Now all that this teaches is that when the childís soul left him he died and was therefore dead and not alive; and when his soul "came into him again, he revived," or was restored to life. The departure of the soul, as we have illustrated in regard to hearing, sight, etc., was the destroying of that condition of things called life; and the return of it was the restoring to life that which was not alive, but dead. The Septuagint rendering of this text bears this out very clearly. It is as follows: "Let this childís life be restored to him." Of course, a man bent upon holding to the doctrine of the soulís immortality will continue to see in the return of the childís soul the return of an immortal entity. But let us ask such an one, Do you find the word immortal prefixed to soul here? Since you do not why will you add it? Which is the child, the body or the soul? If you answer, The body, then it follows that the child was dead and that which departed and returned was not the child. If you answer that the soul is the child, then it follows that the soul died: for if the soul is the child and the child is the soul, then, since it says the child died, it follows that the soul died. But if you persist in adding to and contradicting Godís word and say that the child in the case is the immortal soul and that the child did not die but forsook its body and continued to live, then was it not an act of cruelty, rather than an act of mercy and goodness, to compel the immortal soul to forsake its newly-attained state of bliss (for you believe that death to a child is a certain reward of bliss) and return to its mortal habitation to pass through a probation that might deprive it of ever again enjoying that bliss of which it had been permitted through death to get a taste? If you will persist in claiming that the word soul here means "immortal soul," how will you account for the fact that the very same word is used for the life of the beasts of the field? A glance at your concordance and lexicon will show you that the Hebrew word which is here rendered soul is nephesh and if you will turn to Prov. 12: 10 you will find the same word rendered life and applied to the life of the beast: "A righteous man regardeth the life (nephesh) of his beast." See also Gen. 9: 4; Lev. 17: 11; Deut. 12: 23 and many other places. Now you would hardly be willing to read these quotations as you would the one in question. You are determined to read, "And the childís immortal soul came into him again;" and if you were consistent you would be compelled to read, "A righteous man regardeth the immortal soul of his beast." If not, why not? The word in both instances is the same; and if you derive any strength from the fact that it is worded "the soul of the child" as though it proved it to be a separate entity, then you see that you have the same phraseology in the "life (nephesh, soul) of the beast." Why not surrender a pagan fiction to the Bible and be consistent enough to admit that the word soul is used in this case, as it is in many others, for life; and then you can understand that the child died and the child was restored to life.
"HER SOUL WAS IN DEPARTING"
Another text much relied upon is Gen. 35: 18, in which the wording is very similar to the text we have been considering:
And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni."
The departure of the soul here, as in the other case, results in the death of the person. It is therefore clear that "soul" is used for life; and that when the life departs, it is gone out, as one would say of the extinguished light of the candle. It is gone out; but the man who would claim that the soul (life) that has gone out is still existent as an entity is as unreasonable as one would be to insist that the light of the candle still exists as a light after it is blown out.
In the New Testament, where the Greek word which answers to the Hebrew word nephesh is psuche, we find it used in the same way. Sometimes it applies to the man as a being sometimes to life, etc., variously speaking of the conditions in which a being can be thought of; but never, be it remembered, is it applied to an "immortal soul." To find this phrase or the theory it expresses, it is necessary to go outside both the Old and the New Testaments, into the works of heathen philosophers, such as Plato and Socrates and those of the Platonic school in general.
"THEN WILL I SAY TO MY SOUL"
The superficial character of those who compass sea and land to maintain their theory of the soul being a separate entity is frequently seen in the attempt to force into service the words:
Then I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry--Luke .
"There," it is said, "look at that; Ďmy soul.í" Well, what is there in that? What kind of a soul is the man talking to and about? Is it an immortal soul, an immaterial soul? It cannot be; for it is a soul that had use for "goods" to be stored in barns, of which it was to eat, and surely an immaterial soul without weight, measure or visibility would have no use for such substantial things. But it is the fact that the phrase "my soul" is used that charms the mind. Suppose it had read, "Then will I say to myself, Eat," etc.? Would not the thought have been just the same? Is not that the real thought conveyed? When one uses the word myself is it to be understood that the "my" and the self are separate and that the self can forsake the my and exist independently of it? If this is too absurd to be entertained, why not use "my soul" in the reasonable way we use "myself?" If the "my" is a separate being from the "soul," then we should be committed to the theory that when the words "your body, soul and spirit" are read, they represent four beings--the "soul," the "body," the "spirit" and the "your." Moreover, such premises would lead one possessed of a logical turn of mind to the conclusion that the beasts are separate entities from their bodies; for the apostle Paul speaks of "the bodies of those beasts," etc. This is the same as if he had said the beastsí bodies; but not that they and their bodies are separate beings.
In the next verse to the one in question (Luke ) we have the word soul used for life:
This night thy soul shall be required of thee.
Here is an illustration of the latitude given the word in its application to a being, attributes of a being, or various conditions in which the being may be thought of or spoken of, the context always showing the sense. The same latitude is seen in our way of speaking of other things. We say, "Blow out the candle," and we say, "Blow out the light." Also, "The kettle boils" is the same as to say, "The water in the kettle boils."
Now to illustrate how the meaning of the word soul in the Bible can be determined by the context, we find it says, "And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle, one soul of five hundred, of the persons and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep" (Num. 31: 28). Here the reader is bound to see that the word means creature or being, both man and beasts. In Job 12: 10 it says, "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." In this case it must be seen that soul applies to the life of the beasts; so that in one instance it stands for the animal itself and in the other for the life of the animal, it being impossible to misunderstand its application, and no one thinks of attaching the meaning of immortal entity to the word. Now carry the same reason to cases where the word stands sometimes for the man and at other times for the life of the man and the texts are clear to a mind willing to be reasonable and scriptural that "immortal entity" is out of the question. It is said that Zilpah bare unto Jacob sixteen souls (Gen. 46: 18); and here "souls" stands for the persons, while in Ex. 4: 19, where it says, "All the men are dead which sought thy life" (nephesh, soul) it is clear that it means life, and the translators so rendered it, as they did also the Greek word psuche in Matt. 2: 20, where it says, "They are dead which sought the young childís life." If the translators had given soul here, as they have in many places, the reader would have seen by the very nature of the case that the word stood for life.
"LOSE HIS OWN SOUL"
With this view of the matter we can readily understand the texts in question to mean, "Then I will say to myself, Thou hast much goods," etc. "Thou fool, this night thy life shall be required of thee." And we may also turn to another portion of scripture often used in support of the dogma we are combating--Matt. : "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" This is supposed to be conclusive evidence of the popular doctrine of the soulís immortality; and upon it is based the idea of the priceless value of the soul. It is very easy, however, to see that it is the life the Saviour is speaking of; and the text might be read as follows: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?" The context in this case entirely excludes the idea of "immortal soul," as we shall presently see. To say the least, there must be a word added by the reader to make the case suit the theory of the immortal soulist. The word immortal is not in the text, and, as we have repeated, it is never prefixed to the word soul. Our substituting the word life for soul is strongly objected to by those who are determined to cling to the Platonic dogma, who, loving to have it so, snatch at what appears to them on the surface and run away with their fingers in their ears when one says to them, "Come and let us reason together." Now the fact is that in verse 25 the very word is translated life, which in the verse in question (verse 26) is translated soul; and now it will be clear that the context shows the case to be entirely opposed to the theory of the immortality of the soul. The way those who contend for this theory would like to read the twenty-sixth verse is this: "For what shall a man profit, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own immortal soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his immortal soul?" Since the Saviour used the very same word in verse 25 that he did in verse 26; and since the theorist is determined to have "immortal soul" in verse 26, let us read it the same way in verse 25: "For whosoever will save his immortal soul shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his immortal soul for my sake shall find it." Now it will be seen that this text at once condemns the immortal soul theory and proves that it had no place in the Saviourís mind and that it is the life he is speaking of.
It happens that one of their own commentators bears testimony to the truth upon this portion of scripture. Dr. Adam Clarke, in his Commentary, says: "On what authority many have translated the word psuche in the twenty-fifth verse life, and in this verse (26) soul I know not; but I am certain it means life in both places." In the Revised Version, too, life is used in both verses.
Of all the texts in which the word soul occurs Matthew 10: 28, is the one most confidently relied upon in support of the immortality of the soul. It is thought that this text wholly refutes the idea of the soul being destructible and sustains the theory of its never-dying and indestructible nature. The phrase "cannot kill the soul" is seized and loaded down, as it were, with the claim that it is not only out of the power of man to kill the soul, but that it is, by reason of its essential nature, absolutely indestructible and must live eternally. Of course, if the soul is immortal it can never be destroyed, no more than angels can. If it can be destroyed, it follows that it is not immortal; for to speak of destroying an immortal being is a contradiction in terms.
So far as we have gone in our examination of the subject we have found nothing that would indicate that the soul is immortal; and, no doubt, it is the consciousness of the fact of the entire absence of words in the Scriptures that in any way support the theory that arouses its advocates to almost stake their all upon the text in question; feeling that it is their last and only chance.
"What will you do with Matt. 10: 28 where it says, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul?" ask the zealots of the theory, with an air of triumph. Well, let us examine it critically and carefully; and if we find that it teaches the immortality of the soul we shall be prepared to admit that the doctrine is taught in one text; and it will then be necessary for us to account for one text being contrary to the general tenor of the Bible. That the word soul is used in the text as something distinguishable from the body we admit; and it is clear in "killing the body," whatever that may mean as used here, the soul was not "killed." In admitting this, however, we are standing firmly to the position we have maintained all through, namely, that the word soul is variously used for body, life, mind, etc., and that the text and context must always determine its application. When the apostle Paul says, "Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind" (psuche, soul) we have no trouble in seeing that soul here is used for mind and not for body or life. When, in speaking of Epaphroditus, he says, "He was nigh unto death, not regarding his life" (psuche, soul) we can readily see that he is using soul for life, and not for mind or body. When it is said, "Neither shall he go in to any dead body" (nephesh, soul) it is clear that soul here stands for body. In each case one must be reasonable in discriminating between the various uses of the word and a satisfactory conclusion can be reached.
In the verse in question, then, it is clear that the word soul does not stand for body; but that is no reason that it means "immortal soul." Unless the immortality of the soul can be proved before going to this text it will not do to assume that that is the meaning here. All that the phrase "cannot kill the soul" will justify one in saying is that soul as used here refers to something that man cannot kill. The reason why is not because it is essentially indestructible, we may be sure, from the fact that the word "destroy" is applied to the soul and the body in this very verse. Many reasons may exist why man could not kill a soul and yet the soul be capable under other circumstances of being killed. The question is one of prerogative, of nations in some cases, and of God. For instance, when a criminal is condemned by the law of the land to be put to death, no man can or has a right in the eyes of the law to kill that criminal. The state, and the state only, "is able to destroy" him. So it will be with those who are condemned at the judgment seat of Christ. The life of the condemned is not left within the reach of manís whims or choice, nor to the chances of accident. It is in the hands of a judicial authority whose prerogative alone it is to take it or to destroy it.
Now it is safe to say that the word in this text either stands for life or mind. If for life, then it refers to that life which will be restored at the resurrection, when the just and the unjust shall be judged according to their deeds (II. Tim. 4: 1; II Cor. 5: 10). God, through Christ, will then be the only one who can "destroy both body and soul;" for it will be His righteous judgment that will decide when the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" shall end in destruction in Gehenna; He alone will regulate the "few and many stripes" and determine when the second death shall take place. And in view of this, He is the one to fear. Hence the Saviour says: "Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Gehenna).
If the word soul in the text is understood to be used for mind, as it is in other cases, then a critical examination of the text and context will make the matter quite clear as to the Saviourís meaning. Let it not be denied that soul sometimes means mind, for in addition to the proofs we have already given we submit the following texts in which psuche, the Greek word frequently rendered soul, is translated mind: Acts 14: 2; Phil. 1: 27; Heb. 12: 3. The Hebrew word nephesh, which is mostly rendered soul, is also translated mind in many cases, of which the following are a few: Gen. 23: 8; Jer. 15: 1; Ezek. 36: 5. If, then, the word is used for mind in the verse in dispute, it is not an exceptional case. In verse 16 the disciples were warned that they would be as "sheep in the midst of wolves;" and from verse 17 to 18, that they would be persecuted and scourged in many and various forms--all of which would be bodily punishment. It is a well-known fact that, while the martyrs were subjected to every conceivable form of bodily torture, they were calm, composed and cheerful in mind. Their faithfulness maintained its life while bodily they were "tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." And they "had trial of cruel mockings and scourging, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented"--and yet their tormentors could not "kill" that mind or soul that had been begotten and was sustained by the hope of the gospel. Although they were then "killed (or tormented) all the day long" by them that could "kill" or torture the body, they feared not, knowing that so long as they maintained the mind of the spirit of Christ--the soul--they need not "fear those who could kill the body, and after that had no more that they could do" (Luke 12: 4). The only one for them to fear was Him who has power to do more than "kill"--torture--the "body," namely to destroy utterly the entire man--body and mind, or soul, in Gehenna.
In view of the fact that when the wicked are cast into Gehenna, not only is their life or soul to be destroyed, but the body is to be devoured, either by the worm or by fire, and here is a total destruction of the being, the word "destroy" in the text applying to "both soul (mind) and body," a destruction which is to take place in Gehenna, the very place itself assuring that total destruction is what is meant as the destiny of the entire being.
This is a text in which the word psuche may mean life or mind; it is not clear on the surface which. With either meaning, however, the mortality of man agrees and the destructibility of man is certain. With a careful regard for the context, it seems that the word stands for mind, and with that meaning let us consider it further.
We have used the word "kill" as synonymous with torture; and the word "destroy" we have taken in the absolute sense. It must be noticed that not only do we have two words in the English Version--"kill" and "destroy"--but there are two different words in the Greek; and the latter of the two is a much stronger word than the former. The word for "kill" in the verse is apokteino, and some of its meanings as given in Donneganís Lexicon and others are, to torture, torment, condemn to death. The word "destroy" in the verse is from apollumi; and the definitions given of it are, to abolish, to waste, to cause to be lost, to perish; to be annihilated, to destroy totally. Now it is the latter word that is used to describe the final end of "both soul and body in Gehenna;" and when this fact is seen it seems very strange that any one should attempt to use the verse in support of the immortality and indestructibility of the soul. The advocates of this dogma may refuse the explanation we give if they please, but they cannot refuse to believe that the Saviour is here speaking of a soul whose destruction is expressed by the same word as that of the body. Let me repeat, Gehenna was not a place in which to preserve alive those who were cast therein. It was a place where the victims were devoured, either by worms or by fire. And it will be the same again; and there the just and righteous judgment of God will destroy utterly the entire being of those who shall have been unfaithful.
No countenance whatever is therefore given to the soulís immortality in this verse upon which so much dependence is placed; but, on the other hand, it proves the very opposite, in that the soul spoken of, whether applied to mind, life or what not, is shown to be as destructible as the body.
And now, with these facts in mind, we hear the Saviour saying, Fear not them which torture, torment, render miserable the body (as the persecutors did by thumbscrews, etc.), but are not able to torture, torment, render miserable the psuche, mind. For the mind would be fixed upon the hope of the gospel, even when the body was being tortured by the many wicked devices the tormentors of the Christians invented. The case of Polycarp is an illustration of this, when he assured his persecutors that they need not tie him to the stake, for he could stand there to be burned and yet maintain that composure of mind that a faith such as his only could exemplify. It was a mind such as this, filled with confidence, hope and joy in the promises of God, whose godly zeal could not be quenched by all the bodily torture they might inflict. Therefore fear not them who will torture the body but cannot torture or harass the mind. Fear not men in the sufferings you will be called upon to receive at their hands. Be faithful, be calm and steadfast. Then he tells them whom they should fear. "Fear him who is able to destroy"--here is the stronger word, meaning to destroy totally, to be lost, to perish, to be annihilated. Fear Him who is able to thus destroy both body and mind--the entire being--in Gehenna.
This view of the matter brings out in full the encouragement and the warning of our Saviourís words to those whom He knew stood in need of much fortitude to withstand the terrible sufferings they were to pass through.
THE SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR
Rev. 6: 9, 10 is the only passage that remains to be examined as a stronghold of the popular theory of the immortality of the soul; that is of those texts in which the word soul is found; others we shall examine under their proper headings. Superficial indeed must be the mind that cannot see that, instead of this portion of scripture favoring the immortality and immateriality of the soul, it is directly opposed to such a theory. One would think that the fact of these souls being under an altar, and of their having blood would be sufficient to show that they are not immortal or immaterial. Suppose the words are taken in the most literal sense, we should, standing beside the Apostle John, see a heathen priest place a person on an altar, slay the person or soul, who in the struggles with death falls from the altar and under it cries out, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood (which we see running from the wounded soul) on them that dwell on earth?" What! Slay a soul! cries out the astonished immaterialist. How can you slay that which is immaterial? If it has no weight or dimension; if it cannot be seen or felt, how can it be put on an altar and slain, and how can it be said to have blood? We grant the force of the questions; but they are all based upon "if the soul is immortal or immaterial;" and if that were true the text would be inexplicable. But that is just where the evil is--in reading the verse with the preconceived dogma in the mind, and therefore allowing a distorted imagination to take the place of reason and Scripture. The apostle was not speaking of immortal, immaterial, bloodless souls. Such souls were only found in the myths of those who slew upon the altar souls that were real and substantial. Why be astonished at the idea of souls being slain, when it is said that "Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them and all the souls that were therein" (Josh. , 39)? Why should it be thought incredible that souls have blood, when the prophet Jeremiah says, "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents" (chapter )? To a mind in harmony with and familiarized with the Word of God the text in question presents no difficulty whatever in the way of the materiality and mortality of the soul. Neither is there anything in the fact of their crying out to prove that they were disembodied entities. We would ask the immaterialist, Have the souls of your theory blood? Can they be slain upon an altar? and the answer is, No. Then you have nothing to do with Rev. 6: 9, 10--in fact you have nothing to do with the souls of the Scriptures. Your sphere is in the realms of pagan and Roman myths whose heavens are filled with imaginary dead menís ghosts.
Now as to the real meaning of the verses in question, we have to take our stand along with the Apostle John before we can discern it. We must remember that the things John is seeing are "signified" to him, that is, they are shown by signs. In this way he is shown things before they actually come to pass. "I will show thee things which must be hereafter," says the Spirit to John (chapter 4: 1). In this way he saw the resurrection of the dead, and heard the redeemed sing the song of Moses and the Lamb after they had been raised; and he saw them live and reign on the earth with Christ for one thousand years (chapters 5: 7-12; 20: 4). So in the verses in question, he is relating the signs of what was to take place under the fifth seal, when the Roman persecution and martyrdom of the saints filled to overflowing the pit, as it were, under the altar with the blood of the innocents and faithful. John himself knew from experience that the cruel hand of persecution and death would be imbrued in the blood of his brethren, and his anxiety was to know the outcome. He first sees the scroll sealed with seven seals; and when he hears that no man is worthy to open the book, he says, "I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book" (chapter 5:1-4). Now the actual breaking of the seals and unrolling of the scroll are to be seen in the actual events that have transpired and will yet transpire in the world from Johnís time down to the fulfillment of the promise, "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be" (chapter 22: 12). John, hoping to be one of those to be rewarded, and knowing that the reward could not be received till the coming of the Lord within the period of the seventh seal (chapter 16: 12-16), it is no wonder he was so anxious to know the course of events during the interval. His anxiety is soon ended by the information that the "Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, had prevailed to open the book to loose the seals thereof" (chapter 5: 5). Thus by signs he is shown what would take place, not in heaven, Godís holy habitation, but in the earth and the political heavens thereof. To signify what would be the treatment his brethren would receive at the hands of Roman persecution, of whose cruelty he was himself a victim, the Spirit causes a panoramic view to pass before his vision showing him that faithful souls would be slain upon the altar of Romish superstition, whose blood would cry to heaven for just vengeance upon the enemies of God, His truth and His people. To show John that there would be a grand sequel to the dreadful drama that was being performed before his eyes, as the canvas, as it were, passes, a vision appears of those souls being given white robes, indicative of the glorious reward of immortality to be bestowed upon them by him who declared, "Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me to give to every man (or every soul) as his work shall be."
The only shadow which the believer in the immortality of the soul can snatch at in this case is, that the souls are represented as crying out. "Can dead souls speak?" they triumphantly ask. To which it would be excusable to retort, "Can blood speak (Gen. 4:10; Heb. )? Can the earth sing? Can fir trees and cedar trees rejoice (Isa. 14: 6, 7)? The common sense that can see in a parable or a symbol how blood can speak, the earth sing, trees rejoice and clap their hands, will have no difficulty in understanding how souls, though dead, can be represented as crying out for to be justly avenged of the cruelty of which they have been the victims.
There are some, however, who are possessed of common sense in common things, but who seem to be destitute of it when their cherished myths are in question. So long as men allow themselves to be intoxicated with the spirits of pagan and Roman beverages they can see nothing in this scripture except disembodied souls in a conscious state--alive and conscious because they are represented as speaking. But when the attention is called to the fact that John saw the "dead, small and great stand before God" at the judgment day; and that he heard them sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 20: 12; 5: 9), they are able to see that men can be represented as having real bodily existence, and as singing while they are dead--some of them, too, before they are born; for in the view that John had of the resurrection there must have been a representation of some who would die between his time and the resurrection day.
Those who so stubbornly resist the truth, and so tenaciously cling to hoary superstition may be asked, Where is this altar under which these souls are seen? If you say heaven, then we ask, Is there an altar in heaven upon which souls are slain and under which they cry for vengeance? Perhaps if reason and scripture will not persuade you of the folly of such a foolish thing, the prestige of a famous "orthodox" commentator might have some weight. Dr. Adam Clarke, in commenting upon this text, says:
"A symbolical vision was exhibited in which he saw an altar, and under it the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God, martyred for their attachment to Christianity, are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven."
We are reminded, however, that "if men will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead," and so we conclude our remarks on Rev. 6: 9, 10.
We have now considered the scripture teaching concerning the soul sufficiently, we think, to convince the reasonable and candid mind that there is no foundation for the Platonic theory as held in the popular schools of theology in our day. That the oft-repeated phrase "immortal soul" is never found in the Bible is a simple fact that can easily be tested by anyone of ordinary intelligence. When it is seen that the Spirit of God never moved a single one of the "holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," to make use of the phrase or anything equivalent thereto, reason will at once recognize the difference between the phraseology of the Bible and that of so-called orthodox teachers. The few portions of scripture in which the use of the word soul is supposed to sustain popular belief we have shown to afford no support whatever when carefully examined free from prejudice.
Of late years some zealous advocates of the theory finding the application of the word soul to the beasts of the field as well as to man, have surrendered the argument so far as the soul is concerned, and admitted that it is a word expressive of animal being and animal life and not of the supposed spiritual entity in man. Realizing that the day had gone by when papal bulls declaring that the soul is immortal would suffice for the absence of the dogma from the Bible they must find refuge somewhere, rather than abandon a doctrine upon which all so-called orthodox churches are built, and upon the retaining of which depend their clerical position, prestige and support. In the vain attempt to find the desired refuge, spirit is seized as being the word in the Scriptures expressive of the theory of man being an immaterial, immortal entity capable of disembodied existence between death and resurrection. It will therefore now be our duty to examine the Bible upon the subject of the spirit.
THE SPIRIT OF MAN--DO THE SCRIPTURES TEACH THAT
IT IS AN IMMORTAL ENTITY?
In proceeding to consider what the spirit of man is, it will be well to give the definition of the word, one which we believe a careful examination of Scripture will support; and it is the use of a word in the Bible that must be allowed to determine its meaning so far as the subject under consideration is concerned. Dictionaries give the conventional meaning of words, and it is not always safe to apply such meanings to words found in the Bible--indeed, it is seldom safe to attach the same exact meaning to words in one age that has been applied to them in another, for there has been no uniformity maintained. The safest dictionary, therefore, of Bible words, is the Bible itself. The use made of any given word by the Spirit can readily be seen by comparing scripture with scripture, and conclusions thus arrived at may always be relied upon.
A SCRIPTURAL DEFINITION OF SPIRIT
Spirit in the Bible is used to represent a being, influence, disposition, mind, state of feeling, air, breath and life.
Spirit in the Old Testament is translated from two words, neshamah and ruach. The meaning of these words given by lexicographers is wind, breath, life, mind and intellect.
Neshamah only occurs twenty-four times, and it is translated breath, blast, spirit, soul and inspiration. Example, neshamah, translated breath:
"And 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"--Gen. 2: 7.
"All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died"--Gen. 7: 22.
Neshamah translated blast:
"And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils"--II. Sam. 22: 16.
"By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed"--Job 4:9.
The word is translated soul in Isa. 57: 16 and inspiration in Job 32: 8.
The Hebrew word ruach occurs in the Old Testament over four hundred times, and is translated wind, breath, mind, smell, tempest and blast. For example, ruach translated wind:
"And God made a wind to pass over the earth and the waters assuaged"--Gen. 8: 1.
"The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away"--Psa. 1: 4.
Ruach translated breath:
"And behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life"--Gen. 6: 17.
"Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust"--Psa. 104: 29.
Ruach translated mind:
"Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and Rebekah"--Gen. 26: 35.
"A fool uttereth all his mind"--Prov. 29: 11.
Instances of the word ruach being translated smell will be found in Gen. 8: 21: 27: 27; of blast in Ex. 15: 8; II. Kings 19: 7. Now it is clear that the original words translated in our Bible spirit do not mean immortal entity. If spirit as applied to living beings had such a meaning in the minds of the inspired writers they never would have applied the word to the beasts of the field. In Gen. 6: 17 it is said, "I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life;" and in this case breath is from ruach, the word that is most frequently rendered spirit. Again, in Eccles. 3: 19: "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth so dieth the other; yea, they (man and beasts) have all one breath." Here, too, the word breath is from ruach, and if our translators had maintained uniformity they would have given spirit instead of breath. In this same book, chapter 12: 7, they have given spirit, and the original word is ruach there, as it is in chapter 3: 19. It would not do to read, "Yea, they (man and beasts) have all one immortal entity." Yet if ruach or spirit means immortal entity why not so read it? Is it not clear that no such meaning was in the writerís mind? When Moses and Aaron exclaimed, "O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh," they meant the lives of all flesh. They certainly did not mean the immortal entities of all flesh. It is by the spirit of God the life of all living creatures is sustained. When that spirit is withdrawn from animals they die; and when it is withdrawn from men they die. Hence it is said, "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts * * * That thou givest them they gather; thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath (ruach, spirit), they die and return to their dust" (Psa. 104: 24-29). By the spirit of God then the creatures live. While they are allowed to breathe and thereby appropriate the spirit of life to their use, the spirit is called their spirit or their breath; and if God "gather into himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust (Job 34: 14). Since it is "the Spirit of God that hath made man, and the breath of the Almighty hath given him life" (Job 33: 4), it follows that when God withdraws His Spirit it ceases to be manís spirit and man dies. Therefore the Psalmist says, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath (ruach, Spirit) goeth forth, he returneth to his earth and in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa. 146: 3, 4).
Now this is very easy to be seen when we compare the taking away of life with the giving of life. In the creation of man it is said that he was formed out of the dust of the ground, and the breath, or spirit, of life was breathed into his nostrils, and he became a living soul. Godís Spirit is the essence of life. He imparts it to the creature for a time, and it is breathed by the creature as a means of receiving and retaining life. Then it is the life, breath, or spirit of the creature. When death comes, the breath, life or Spirit is expired, breathed out, "returns to God who gave it," and the creature, whether it be man or animal, is dead. The spirit that was given to man to make him alive is at death, taken from him; and as a result man becomes as lifeless as he was before he received the spirit.
"THE SPIRIT SHALL RETURN TO GOD WHO GAVE IT"
The words of Eccle. 12: 7 are quoted by believers in the theory that the spirit of man is an immortal entity that survives the death of the body in a conscious state, as a text that is thought conclusive. It is only to a mind already filled with such a preconceived idea that the verse even seems to support the dogma popularly held. Allowing it to read as they would have it, thus, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the immortal entity shall return to God who gave it," it would have to be revised to suit the claim made; for the verse makes no exception. What then about those supposed immortal entities that are unfit to go to God, and that are supposed to go in an opposite direction? If it be said that Solomon is speaking of the good only, we answer, That is a mere assumption, worth nothing without proof. We have already seen that God takes away the spirit of the "creeping things" when they die, and is not the same true of man? Let the mind be freed from the bondage of a superstitious theory of an "immortal entity" and it will have no difficulty in seeing that the spirit that returns to God who gave it is the spirit that God breathed into manís nostrils to give him life. To produce life the spirit was given; to produce death the same spirit is taken away. The Spirit was not an "immortal entity" before it was breathed into manís nostrils; neither is it after it returns to the source whence it came.
The spirit that "returns to God who gave it" is not the man. It is not the he or the him; it is the "it." It is an it that was given to a him and at death is taken away from the him. It is therefore not the man that returns to God, for man never was in heaven and therefore could not return to a place he never came from. It was the spirit that was breathed into manís nostrils to make him a living man that came from God, and therefore it returns to God. It surely was not an immortal entity that was breathed into manís nostrils. It was not a being. It was not a person. It was that which in diffusion was capable of being breathed by the being, person, or man to whom it was given. It came to the man from God; in death it is breathed out into the great ocean of life or spirit and thus returns to God who gave it. The man himself to whom the spirit was given did not come from heaven, but out of the dust. "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2: 7). The first man is of the earth, earthy" (I. Cor. 15:47). Hence the statement in the verse in question, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was," is a simple declaration that the man that is out of the earth returns to the earth; which is in accord with the sentence, "Dust thou--the man--art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3: 19).
It is said that "the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord" (Prov. 20: 27). It is that which lights up, as it were, with life. When a candle is blown out its light is gone; darkness follows. So when the spirit of life is breathed out it is as if a candle were blown out; there is no light, no life, the darkness of death is the result. The breath or spirit goeth forth, the man returns to the earth and his thoughts perish (Psa. 146: 4).
Spirit being the essence of life it is used in various ways and applied to the various conditions in which life can be contemplated. Since there cannot be mind without life, mind is sometimes called spirit; and so with energy, disposition, etc. Hence it is said that Esauís marriage was "a grief of mind unto Isaac" (Gen. 26: 35). "Mind" in this case is from ruach. If it had been translated spirit, as it is in numerous cases, it would have read, "which was a grief of spirit to Isaac." But common sense would see that spirit meant mind. In Prov. 29: 11 it says, "A fool uttereth all his mind." It is said that when the Queen of Sheba saw the glory of Solomonís kingdom there was no spirit in her; from which it is readily seen that spirit is used for energy. It certainly is far from meaning that there was no immortal entity in her. When we speak of a haughty spirit, a proud spirit, a meek spirit, etc., we are giving expression to the various characteristics of man, the word spirit representing the minds of men in their various shades of character or disposition.
"LORD JESUS RECEIVE MY SPIRIT"
Stephenís dying prayer, as recalled in Acts 7: 59, is thought by some to be proof of the theory that the spirit of man is an entity separate from the body. Suppose we read it as such theorists would have it, it would be, "Lord Jesus, receive my immortal entity." This would not suit the theory, for it would not prove that Stephen continued to live after he was dead, since the next verse says, "He (Stephen) fell asleep." Reading the verse just as it is, with the mind freed from a false tradition, it is very easy to understand. When Stephenís spirit had left him he was a dead man; but he is in the resurrection to be made a living man again. To make him a living man his spirit will be returned to him. Left without the spirit he is a dead man; because "the body without the spirit (breath, see margin) is dead (Jas. 2: 26). In the possession of the spirit he will be a living man again.
Now to state the same fact in other words, when Stephenís life returned to God who gave it he died. When the time arrives to raise him from the dead to live again, his life will be returned to him. Stephen, therefore, in the hour of death, with the hope of living again, commended his life into the hands of Him who is the resurrection and the life, and who said, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live."
Some ask, Where did the spirit go when it left Stephen? The answer is given in Eccles. 12: 7--"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit (life) shall return to God who gave it." From God the spirits of all flesh come (Numb. 16: 22; Job 34: 14), and in death to God they all return; for it is in Him all creatures "live and move and have their being." Spirit, therefore, in the text under consideration stands for life, without which thought the words cannot be properly understood.
"INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT"
What we have said in relation to Stephenís prayer is true also of our Saviourís dying words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23: 46). Having uttered these words it is said, "He gave up the ghost," or spirit--ezepneusen--breathed out. In other words he expired; he died. When Jesus had given up his spirit or life he was dead, having "poured out his soul unto death." But God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3: 15), and therefore returned to him his spirit or life.
With the understanding that the word spirit in the Bible represents influence, disposition, mind, state of feeling, air, breath and life, its meaning in any particular text can readily be seen by keeping in view the context; and in those we have been considering it is clear that life is meant.
SPIRIT APPLLIED TO BEING
In our definition of the Bible use of the word spirit we have said that it represents a being. God is a spirit and yet we read of His spirit. He is everywhere present by His spirit; but He, who is a spirit being, has a "dwelling-place." Hence in the Lordís prayer we say, "Our Father who art in heaven." As a being, therefore, He dwells in heaven; but flowing out from Him as the center of the universe comes His spirit, in diffusion, filling, upholding and sustaining all things. When we speak of God as a being we have in mind Him "who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (I. Tim. 6: 16). He is spirit focalized, as it were, into being, form or personality while that which we speak of as His spirit is the effluence and influence flowing out from His presence. While we can in a measure "know God" to know whom is life eternal (Jno. 17: 3), we cannot fathom the depths nor ascend the heights of His unapproachable being.
There are created beings who are called spirits; for of the angels it is said, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation"? (Heb. 1:14). The angels having become spirit beings are consequently deathless beings; they "die no more" (Luke 20: 36). Notwithstanding that they are spirits, they are real, substantial personalities. They have appeared like men; have had their feet washed and have partaken of food (Gen. 18:1-4).
Now the difference between angels and men is that the former are spirit beings or bodies, and the latter are natural beings or bodies. The popular theory that men are spirit entities dwelling inside natural bodies make men to be like the angels now, which was what the serpent claimed would be the case if our first parents partook of the forbidden tree. "Ye shall be as gods," he said; and the believer in the theory that man is an immortal spirit must believe that the words of the serpent came to pass--indeed some of the popular leaders do not hesitate to say that every man is a god, because he partakes of the immortal nature of God. Very few, if any of them, will hesitate to say that when men die and thus escape the burden of the "mortal coil" they become as gods, immortal spirits. This theory is quite an invention in helping to prove that the serpent was right. It is an attempt to reconcile the words of God, "Thou shalt surely die," with those of the serpent, "Ye shall not surely die," by saying, Yes, they shall die, as God said; and yet they did not die, as the serpent said; for death was only the means of liberating the immortal spirit, which is the real man, from the body, and giving it its freedom to roam in the heavens like the angels or gods. What a good thing, according to this, it was, after all, that Adam sinned; for if he had not sinned he would not have died, and if he had not died he never could have been liberated from his body, he could not have become as gods to roam in the heavens above; so it was a good thing the serpent opened up the way by preaching the first popular theological sermon that was ever preached. Reader, are you prepared for this? If you are you must believe the serpentís lie and deny Godís Word. If you are, you must believe the serpent to have been a good creature instead of a "liar from the beginning," a thing which, upon sober reflection, you certainly are not prepared to do.
We have seen that
angels are spirit beings. That men are not like them now in nature is shown by
the words of the apostle Paul, when speaking of man on this side the
resurrection as compared with what he will be on the other side. He says, in I.
Cor. 15: 44, "There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. * * *
Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that (is first) which
is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." Man is
therefore first a natural body or being, and he may "afterward"
become a spiritual body. After what? After the resurrection; for he says,
"It is sown a natural body and raised a spiritual body" (verse
44). This is in harmony with our Saviourís words concerning the same
subject--the resurrection--when He says, "They that shall be accounted
worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry
nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more for they are equal
unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the
resurrection" (Luke 20: 35, 36). On the other side of the
resurrection, therefore, men who are worthy become like the angels, to die no
more, having then been raised spiritual bodies. Of this spirit nature, which
Paul says comes after the natural state, Christ is the
"first-fruits;" for since Godís plan is orderly, it is "every
man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are
Christís at his coming" (
By His power through His spirit God created all things and formed all creatures. In the halo of His spirit all creatures dwell, and by breathing it are sustained in life; and thus "in Him they live and move and have their being." So long as they thus live they have the spirit of life, consequently have mind, and may be in "good spirits" or "bad spirits." They may be of "haughty spirit" or "humble spirit." These are phrases descriptive of the various aspects in which living creatures are seen--all the result of "the spirit of God who hath made us, of the breath of the Almighty who hath given us life" (Job 33: 4). While these phrases, however, would seem to convey the idea of various kinds of spirits, being accommodative terms to express the various shades of human experience, primarily there is only one spirit--the spirit of God; and so long as the creature lives he breathes it; and therefore "all the while his breath is in him and the spirit of God is in his nostrils" (Job 27: 3), which is true of all creatures; for "they have all one breath"--ruach, spirit--Eccles. 3: 19. No room is therefore left for the tradition that the spirit of man is an immortal entity dwelling in the body in life and continuing to be a conscious entity dwelling out of the body in death.