Where are the Dead –
According to the Bible?



You admit, then, that in all the teachings of the Nazarene he may have used the word "punishment" only once? This one occurrence is doubtful.

Though some may translate KOLOSIN as "punishment" the real meaning is "lopping off" or "cutting off" as in pruning undesirable branches from a tree. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 3, pages 98-9 – "kolasis … cut off. 'Punishment is designed to cut off what is bad or disorderly.' … (Matthew 25:46) The passage has often been cited in support of the doctrine of endless torment. But it may be questioned whether it implies more than the finality of judgment. … Jesus did not teach, like Plato and others, that the soul was intrinsically immortal and that it would necessarily go on after death."

In all the 900+ occurrences of the Hebrews and Greek words usually translated "soul" – not one is ever mentioned to be immortal. Indeed, over 100 times, the human soul is shown to be mortal. For eternal hell-fire to exist there must be an immortal soul to torment.

Diaglott (Benjamin Wilson) Mt 25.46, “And these shall go forth to the aionian cutting-off.” (Ftn: “kalazoo, which signifies, 1. To cut off; as lopping ff branches of trees, to prune.”

Everlasting punishment, that is a punishment which will last forever, is paralleled with “everlasting life” and therefore infers everlasting death.

Genesis 35:18 – “As her soul was leaving her”

Regarding the subject of the “soul” the following was suggested:

“In other words, Genesis 2:7 affirms that man is a living being, it does not deny in any way that man has an immaterial nature. In fact, in Genesis 35:18 we read an example of nephesh being used of man's immaterial nature. NAS – Genesis 35:18: “It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.”

We ask if this citation was fair, giving the impression that Rebekah had an “immaterial nature” – a soul which survived the death of her body – in view of other translations of this verse? Consider the following from the Friends of the Nazarene on line publication Where Are the Dead? According to the Bible?

Following the Flood many ancient Saints come and go as God’s purpose unfolds. Each in his own time “died” – Haran, Terah, Sarah, Abraham. When we come to the account about Rebekah there is a phrase which some understand to be a case of survival after death. Genesis 35:18 in the King James Version reads: ‘And it came to pass, as her soul (שפנ) was in departing, (for she had died) that she called his name...’ This would almost give the impression after she died she gave her son his name. It has been argued that if “her soul was in departing” it must be “departing” from some other location. If we use the rule that the word “soul” means either a living creature or the life of a creature this verse would mean “her life was in departing. ”And so, many translations render this idea: NJB: “breathed her last”; MOF: “as her life went out”; NEB: “last breath.” (Also, LB, AT)

The New International Version has it correctly, ‘As she breathed her last–for she was dying–she named her son.’ Since the root meaning of both nephesh (שפנ) and psyche (ψυχη) is “breath” this may be reflected in this verse. (Compare Job 27:3; 31:39; 34:14; Ezekiel 37:6 and KJV margin)

Consider another portion from WHERE ARE THE DEAD?

Again, take your Bible and read Genesis chapter two, verse 7 in the King James Version (KJV): ‘And the LORD God formed man23 of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath24 of life; and man became a living soul.’25
23 MAN. The word “man” in Hebrew is ha-’a-dham from which “Adam” is drawn as a name.
24 BREATH. This has all the imagery of resuscitating a drowning victim. The lifeguard or paramedic breathes into the victim his own expiration, which is carbon dioxide which in turn triggers the breathing mechanism in the human throat and starts the breathing process. “Breath of life” is the Hebrew from nesha-mah’ chai-yim’. This phrase is unique to Genesis 2:7 though a similar phrase occurs at Genesis 7:2. The word “breath” occurs 67 times in the Bible, most often in the book of Job.
25 A LIVING SOUL. (Hebrew הח שפנל) In Hebrew this can be transliterated into English as lene’phesh chai-yah; or, in the Greek LXX, ψυχην ζωσαν (psuche zosan). This means “a living breather.” This is not the first occurrence of these words for they are found in relation to animals and fish at Genesis 1:20, 21, 24 so that these are also “living souls” because they are breathers. Most Hebrew and Greek lexicons agree that the original meaning of these words has to do with “breath” or “breathing” so that a “soul” is a breather. It is interesting that when the Romans came to these Hebrew and Greek words they translated them as animas or “animal” whether mammal, bird, reptile or fish, for they all breathe. The Greek word for “soul” occurs 900 times in the LXX. The Hebrew nephesh (שפנ) and the Greek psyche (ψυχη) (or, “soul") occurs about 860 times with the first occurrence Genesis 1:21 and most often (154) used in the Psalms.

First, what can we learn from this text alone? Did God put a “soul”26 in man? That is, something immaterial and separate from his body, which could survive the death of the body if that should occur?
26 SOUL. The English word “soul” has been lost. Most dictionaries or books on English roots do not list “soul” for its root meaning is unknown. “Behind the word Soul lies the ancient notion of the Soul as something fleeting or mercurial. For its prehistoric Germanic ancestor, saiwalo was related to Greek aui’los (quick moving). Its modern Germanic cousins include German steele, Dutch ziel, Swedish sjal and Danish sjael.” (Dictionary of Word Origins, J Ayto) If this meaning “quick moving” can be relayed by the Latin animas or something “animated” there may be some connection. But, generally, this idea falls short of the original Hebrew and Greek as a “breather” or “animal.” We must rely on the Hebrew word nephesh (שפנ) and the Greek psyche (ψυχη) for the real meaning of “soul.”

Well, does this verse seem to say that to you? Can you set aside that indoctrination and programming we have all been exposed to and just read the text with an open mind? Examine the formula which was Man or Adam. The man was formed from two components: a) dust; and, b) breath of life. That is, DUST + BREATH = Adam. And what was Adam? The verse says, “a living soul.”27 Adam was not given a “soul”. He became a soul. Later we will deal with this subject of “soul” in depth, but here it seem sufficient to state that Adam became “a living soul” when God combined the “dust” of Eden’s earth with that spiritual principle, the Divine Spark, God’s own Breath, which ignited the physical mechanism that was Adam into “a living soul.” Of course, if there is a “living soul” there may just possibly also be a “dead soul.”
27 LIVING SOUL. Some have translated this as “being” but it obscures the real meaning of the original words. We prefer to be consistent throughout and always use “soul” for the Hebrew nephesh (שפנ), the Greek (ψυχη) psyche, and the Latin animas. In this way a clear and thorough understanding of “soul” can be reached. The phrase “dead soul” or corpse does occur at Leviticus 21:1, 11; 22:4.

Now, how can we know what the Bible says on this subject of Adam and what he was? Whose interpretation will we accept? Well, we have two inspired commentators who allude or quote this famous verse in Genesis 2:7. Note, first, Solomon at Ecclesiastes (Ec) chapter three, verses 19 to 21 from the Jewish Greek Septuagint (LXXBagster): ‘One event befalls (both man and beast): as is the death of one, so also the death of the other; and there is one breath to all: and what has the man more than the brute? nothing; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all were formed of the dust, and all will return to dust. And who has seen the spirit of the sons of man, whether it goes upward? and the spirit of the beast, whether it goes downward to the earth?’

There is language here very similar to that found in Genesis chapter three. All are animated or energized by the same source, their common “one” breath. Solomon compares the outcome of man as beast to be the same: all go to one place, dust. This “dust” (Hebrew min-he’a-phar) is the same as that of Genesis 2:7. This “breath” (Heb weru’ach and Greek pneu’ma) is the same as that of Genesis 2:7. The rhetorical question presents a challenge to anyone who can suggest that “the spirit” of man ascends to heaven, as it were, and the “spirit” of the beast descends into the ground. Wherever the beast goes, man goes also, for they ‘all will return to dust.’

However, the most extraordinary and definitive quotations of the account in Genesis 2:7 and Adam’s creation, are those of the Nazarene’s disciple, Paul. Under the subject of the resurrection and the after-life in First Corinthians, chapter fifteen, Paul quotes Genesis 2:7 and gives it his inspired explanation. Note what Paul28 says, ‘It is sown a soul-like29 body, it is raised a spirit-like30 body. If there is a soul-like body, there is also a spirit-like one. So also it has been written: (now quoting Genesis 2:7): “The first man Adam became a living soul.” The last Adam31 into a life-giving spirit. But, first, not the spirit-like, but the soul-like, afterward the spirit-like. The first man Adam from the earth’s dust, the Second man from heaven.’ (1 Corinthians 15:44-47)
28 PAUL. When quotations are made from the Christian Bible they are renderings from literal Greek unless otherwise indicated by an abbreviation.
29 SOUL-LIKE. This is the Greek psy-khi-kon’ or in Latin a-ni-ma’le, that is a breathing creature. Most translate this “natural body” (KJV, PME, NIV) but some others say: “human bodies” (LB), “physical bodies” (RSV, TEV), “animal body” (NEB). The Jerusalem Bible (JB, or NJB) renders the phrase: ‘When it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit’ – with a high degree of interpretive paraphrase deviating from the literal Greek in the text.
30 SPIRIT-LIKE. In Greek this is pneu-mati-kon’ and is generally rendered “spiritual” though some use interpretive paraphrase which go beyond the literal meaning.
31 LAST ADAM. Meaning the Christ. [See Romans 5:14.]

This may read slightly different from your own translation because we have adhered to the Greek text. (See footnotes) But, this is enough, even from your own copy of the Bible, to see that Paul is paraphrasing Genesis 2:7 and stating that the first man was ‘a living soul’, that is, he was “soul-like.” Also, Paul argues that this first man was in no wise spirit or spiritual first, that is in some pre-existence, as the cyclic or circular view would hold. Rather, the soul-like, or physical, comes first, and thereafter, the possibility of coming into a spirit-like existence or form. We will discuss these details in a thorough consideration of First Corinthians.

A bit later in Paul’s discussion he gives three synonyms for “soul” and they are “dust,” “corruption,” and “mortal.” (1 Corinthians 15:48, 53) This is virtually the opposite of the general view held by most people. He also uses three synonyms for “spirit”: “heavenly,” “incorruptible,” and “immortal.” What do we learn from all of this? Is it fair to state that something is wrong according to the normal circular interpretation that we were all once spirit-like and then when we came to earth we became physical or natural (soul-like) according to Paul and upon our deaths we can return in the great cycle to another spirit-like existence? Paul seems to make clear there was no first spirit existence, but only that initial life as a breathing creature, that is “a living soul” like Adam. Paul equates this soul-like existence to the physical, earthly, corruptible and mortal. This is far different than the view we all grew up with. And, we have this view, not of our own imagination, but that of the inspired writer Paul.32 But, it appears, to solve this correctly, we are going to have to look at the whole Bible see what it says about the dead.
32 PAUL. This is opposed to the view of the Greek Plato.

Nazarene Commentary 2000

Mark Heber Miller

2000 All Rights Reserved