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Source: ACS; Burnside

B065 What is the Soul?


In the Old Testament the word “soul” comes from the Hebrew word nephesh, and in the New Testament from the Greek word psuche.

Nephesh occurs 745 times in the original Hebrew (OT) and it i translated “soul” 473 times.

Psuche occurs 105 times in the original Greek (NT) and it is translated “soul” 58 times.

The word “spirit” in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word ruach, and in the New Testament from the Greek word pneuma.

Ruach occurs 442 times in the original Hebrew (OT) and it is translated “spirit” 232 times.

Pneuma occurs 385 times in the original Greek (NT) and is translated “spirit” 291 times.

Not one of these references attributes immortality to either the “soul” or the “spirit”.

It is significant that while the words from which “soul” and “spirit” are translated occur about 1,700 times in the Bible, we never find them prefaced or modified by such adjectives as “deathless” or “immortal”.  God desires to teach us that we are entirely dependent upon Him for eternal life.

Modern Christians believe that the souls is immortal not because they could find proof for this doctrine in the Bible, but because they inherited this belief from the Catholic Church, which in turn obtained it from the pagan philosophies in the first centuries, especially in the dark Middle Ages.  As soon as Paganism entered in the Church the original doctrine of the Scriptures regarding the condition of man after death was changed for the heresy of the immortality of the soul.

“Many who professed conversion still clung to the tenets of their pagan philosophy, and not only continued its study themselves, but urged it upon others as a means of extending their influence among the heathen.  Serious errors were thus introduced into the Christian faith.  Prominent among these was the belief in man’s natural immortality and his consciousness in death.  This doctrine laid the foundation upon which Rome established the invocation of saints and the adoration of the Virgin Mary.  From this sprung also the heresy of eternal torment for the finally impenitent, which was early incorporated into the papal faith.

“Then the way was prepared for the introduction of still another invention of paganism, which Rome named purgatory, and employed to terrify the credulous and superstitious multitudes.  By this heresy is affirmed the existence of a place of torment, in which the souls of such as have not merited eternal damnation are to suffer punishment for their sins, and from which, when freed from impurity, they are admitted to heaven.”  GC 58, 59.

It was the manifestation of Satanic agencies (fallen angels), disguised in bodiless spirits of deceased people that gave origin to the belief of the immortality of the soul.  From the very beginning communications between such supposed spirits and the dead has been the basis for heathen worship.  The doctrine taught by these evil angels is a falsehood by which Satan rekindles the torch of that great lie he invented at the beginning of the world; “thou shalt not surely die”.  Genesis 3:4.

Man does not possess innate immortality.  When God placed the first man in the world He said: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”  Genesis 2:16, 17.  But Satan contradicted this divine truth introducing another false proposition: “thou shalt not surely die”.  Here lies the foundation for the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.  The life which God granted man was conditional.  Continuing in obedience he could live; if he disobeyed he would certainly die.  On that very day when he disobeyed God’s clear command the death sentence was pronounced upon him: “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”  Genesis 3:19.

When the death sentence was enunciated, measures were taken that man should not perpetuate his life, for God would not permit that men should become immortal sinners.

“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”  Genesis 3:22-24.

If man had inherent immortality, what was the need of eating of the tree of life in order to perpetuate his existence?  If he already possessed immortality, what was the point of preventing man to obtain something he already possessed?  If man was immortal, the sentence “unto dust thou shalt return” would be of no effect, because it would not reach the essence of man, the conscious, immortal soul.  What is the good of destroying the husk if the grain cannot be destroyed?  If man had an immortal soul the death of the flesh would not constitute the death of man.  It would be just a continuation of his life in another form.  But God said to the whole man, to the entire individuality of him, “thou shalt surely die”.

After his disobedience man could have become an immortal sinner if he could have access to the tree of life.  But the way to it was kept by an angel, and no member of Adam’s family, in their sinful condition, could eat of the fruit of the tree of life.  Man, therefore, could not impart to his posterity that which he himself did not possess.  Consequently, there is no immortal sinner.

“In order to possess an endless existence, man must continue to partake of the tree of  life.  Deprived of this, his vitality would gradually diminish until life should become extinct.  It was Satan’s plan that Adam and Eve should by disobedience incur God’s displeasure;   and then, if they failed to obtain forgiveness, he hoped that they would eat of the tree of life, and thus perpetuate an existence of sin and misery.  But after man’s fall, holy angels were immediately commissioned to guard the tree of life. Around these angels, flashed beams of light having the appearance of a glittering sword.  None of the family of Adam were permitted to pass that barrier to partake of the life‑giving fruit; hence there is not an immortal sinner.”  PP 60.

According to the Bible “soul” is mortal.  The words “corruption”, “death”, “to die”, “perish”, “to kill” are used in connection with the soul.  We quote a few examples;

“Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.” Job 33:22.

“…he spared not their soul from death…”  Psalm 78:50.

“…he saved my soul from death…”  Job 33:28, Moffat.

“For thou hast delivered my soul from death…”  Psalm 116:8.

“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”  James 5:20.

If the “soul” is immortal then it is not subject to death.  There is no point in releasing something from that to which it is not subject.

“…dead body…” literally: the soul of the dead.  Numbers 6:6; 19:13.

“…and he requested for himself that he might die.”  Literally: that his soul might die.  1 Kings 19:4.

“…he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.”  Jonah 4:8.  Literally: he wished his soul to die.

“…Let my soul die the death of the right…”  Numbers 23:10 SV ‑ Margin.

“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.”  Ezekiel 18:4.

“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, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?”  Ezekiel 13:19.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28.

Jesus declared that “soul” can be destroyed.  If soul is liable to destruction it cannot be immortal.

Man does not possess immortality in his present sinful condition.  There is only On Who has immortality:

“Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto: whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting.  Amen.”  1 Timothy 6:15-16.

What is Soul and Spirit?


Gen 2:7 “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.”

First time “soul” mentioned in the Bible does not say man has a soul, but became one.

Soul usually refers to a person.

Exo 1:15; Josh 11:11; Jud 16:30; Lev 7:20; Exo 16:16; Acts 27:37.  Animals – Gen 1:20.

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.”

            Soul can die.

Gen 2:7 “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.”

            Breath of life.

Job 27:3 “All the while my breath [is] in me, and the spirit of God [is] in my nostrils;”

            (margin) – spirit in nostrils – breath of life from God.  Animals, Gen 7:22; Lev 16:20.

Eccl 3:19-20 “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 have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all [is] vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

            All animals have “one breath”.

Gen 37:1-14 “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These [are] the generations of Jacob. Joseph, [being] seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad [was] with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he [was] the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of [many] colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told [it] his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we [were] binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told [it] to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What [is] this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed [the flock] in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here [am I]. And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.”

            At resurrection, creation repeated – “I will cause breath to enter you and ye shall live.”

            Words “spirit” and “breath” from same word in original.

Gen 3:1-5 “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

            The teaching of the immortality of the soul is the devil’s doctrine.  It originated with him.  It was Satan’s first lie to man.  That lie is to-day the foundation of all false religions.

            Catholics believe it, resulting in such teachings as purgatory, prayers to saints, masses for the dead, worship of the virgin Mary.

            Hinduism, Shintoism – in fact, all heathen religions are based on the devil’s lie.

            Spiritualism and transmigration of souls also have their origin in this false conception of life after death.

            May God help us to adhere to what the Word says so as not to be deceived.

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