Where are the Dead –
According to the Bible?
MISTER CUNNING – In direct comparison, see how the Greeks at Athens viewed Paul's teaching of the "immaterial nature" of man being re-united with the same flesh: Acts 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this [matter].
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, exactly where in these verses does Paul teach “the immaterial nature of man being re-united with the same flesh” in the resurrection?
MISTER CUNNING – The Pharisees professed the belief of an after-life of the soul, this after-life was one that either found blessedness in the Bosom of Abraham, or that of torment. When Christ Himself spoke of this, His listening audience was that of the Pharisees (see Luke 15:2; 16:14), and not once did they speak up and claim that Christ was teaching false doctrine, for this was truth.
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, are we correct in understanding it was the Pharisees who had this belief? Is it possible the Nazarene used the false Hellenic teaching as a warning against them?
MISTER CUNNING – Let's look even more closely at what Christ taught about the "immaterial nature" of man.
Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can kill both soul and body in hell."
In this verse, the Greek word used for "soul" is psuche. In the authoritative Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg.901-902, it says that the word psuche can mean "breath of life, life-principle," "earthly life itself," "the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects," and "the soul as seat and center of life that transcends the earthly".
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, well, the lexicon may or may not prove an “immaterial nature in man” the words of Jesus do not. If, for example, we use the lexicon you cite above, Jesus’ use of “soul” could refer to “life-principle” – “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the Life-principle.” It seems understandable that what Jesus says is: “Men may kill you but they cannot take away your real life prospects.” Luke 12:4 seems to carry this meaning: “Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more.”
What does Matthew 10:28 say: the soul is not immortal but destructible. The Greek is apolesai and not the apocteinai of the first phrase. The word “hell” is rendered as Gehenna in other versions. Scholars and commentaries give the meaning of the symbol behind Gehenna.
"Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the Bible persistently rendering the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell. The simple transliteration of these words by the translators of the revised editions of the Bible has not sufficed to appreciably clear up this confusion and misconception." (The Encyclopedia Americana (1942), Vol. XIV, p. 81.)
Encyclopędia Britannica (1970): "From the 5th century B.C. onward, the Jews were in close contact with the Persians and the Greeks, both of whom had well-developed ideas of the hereafter… By the time of Christ, the Jews had acquired a belief that wicked souls would be punished after death in Gehenna.
Encyclopędia Judaica: "No suggestion of this later notion of Gehenna is to be found in Scripture."
The Dictionary of New Testament Theology: “The word gehenna does not occur in the LXX or Greek literature. … It was the place of eschatological punishment after the last judgment, punishment of eternal duration. (Matthew 25:41, 46; 23:15, 33) Body and soul are judged in it. (Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Matthew 10:28) It was to be distinguished from Hades which houses the souls of the dead before the last judgment. … In contrast with later Christian writings and ideas, the torments of hell are not described in the NT. … Neither does the NY contain the idea that Satan is the prince of gehenna, to whom sinners are handed over for punishment.” (Vol 2, pp 208-9)
MISTER CUNNING – The word psuche is often used to translate the Hebrew term nephesh into Greek, as I noted in my earlier posting in reference to Genesis 2:7. Matthew 10:28 psuche is clearly used to designate the part of man that continues on after physical death. It is not being used simply to refer to the "whole person". If that were the case, then the psuche (soul) would die when the physical body is killed. This verse clearly indicates that it is possible to kill the body without killing the soul (psuche). What Jesus is saying, then, is this: “There is something about you which those who kill you (in your physical body) cannot touch! That something is that aspect of man which continues to exist after the body has been lowered into the grave. If the word soul is just another way of referring to the "whole person" -as the Watchtower Society teaches, and as what Mark Miller would have us believe, then wouldn't the soul die when the physical body dies? It logically follows that it would, and that manner of interpretation (allegorical) entails contradicting the very words of Christ.
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, that the soul can die or is mortal is shown in over 100 places of the 1,000 occurrences of the word in the Bible. Some of these are hidden by certain English translations such as the King James Version. For example, Numbers 31:19 and Numbers 35:11, 15, 30 all describe the killing of a “person” whereas the original language has it “killing a soul” demonstrating the soul can be killed or destroyed. Consider the following list of those texts which would show a mortal, not immortal, soul. [Compare the list elsewhere.]
What you may read into Matthew 10:28 is not consistent with what the whole Bible teaches on the subject of the soul. You must admit the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, carry the meaning of the word usually translated “soul” as “breather”? A soul is a breathing creature. When Adam lay as only a molded form of Eden’s clay it was not breathing – therefore not a soul. When the divine breath was breathed into his nostrils he became a living soul – or, a breathing person. Whales, birds, and animals are also breathers, or souls. (Genesis 1:20)
A breathing person has many attributes and characteristics. When the person ceases breathing it becomes a “dead soul” (Leviticus 21:1, 11; 22:4) and loses these attributes. A murderer may stop a soul from breathing but cannot stop what God intends for the future life of the person by means of a resurrection. On the other hand, God can destroy the lifeless body as well as any future prospects which could lie ahead for a faithful person.
This idea of the soul being a future existence, not “an immaterial nature,” is shown by Luke 21:19, “By your endurance you will acquire your souls.” If man had “an immaterial nature that survived the body at death” he could not “acquire” it because it was something natural to him already. However, a future existence guaranteed by The God on the basis of endurance could be obtained.
MISTER CUNNING – In Luke 23:46 we read these words Jesus uttered as He died on the cross: "Jesus called out with a voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last." The word translated "spirit" in this verse is pneuma. According to Arndt and Gingrich, pg.681-83, this word can have a wide range of meanings-including "wind," "breath," "life-spirit,” “soul," "the spirit as a part of the human personality," "the spirit of God," "the spirit of Christ," and "the Holy Spirit."
Now, many of the above meanings are disqualified as possible contenders for Luke 23:46 by virtue of the context in which it finds itself surrounded in. … It does fit the context for Jesus to commit "the spirit of God" or "holy spirit – power, force" to the Father. In fact, the only meanings of pneuma that make any sense in this context are "soul" and "spirit as the part of the "human personality."
It seems clear from a plain reading of the passages that Jesus is committing His "human immaterial soul" or "spirit" to the Father. And since Christ was not raised from the dead until three days after His crucifixion, we must conclude that Jesus' human soul or spirit went directly to the Father's presence in heaven, as those whom were in the Bosom of Abraham also followed, while Jesus' body lay in the tomb.
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, you “disqualify” words like “breath” or “life- spirit” because you insist the context does not allow for this. We see nothing in the account which would disqualify the idea that pneuma here does not mean “life-spirit” or the very principle of life itself. We would be very much interested where nephesh or psyche could ever be translated by pneuma. You admit pneuma’s essential meaning is “breath or wind,” that is an invisible force in motion? That breath and spirit (Heb ruach; Greek pneuma) are often linked as parallels is shown by Job 27:3; 33:4; 34:14; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21.
Indeed, the context argues exactly that pneuma does mean the life force of the Nazarene which continues by the act of breathing: “’Father, into your hands, I entrust my spirit [πνευμα; pneuma].’ When he had said this, he expired. [εξπνευσεν; ex-pneu-sen] This is not an “immaterial nature” but a life-principle over which only the Father can be entrusted.
MISTER CUNNING – Let's go back now and see how Christ's teaching was in comparison to that of the Sadducees (modern-day Watchtower, and Nazarene Saints) In Luke 20:38, we read of Jesus' words to the Sadducees regarding the Old Testament saints Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: "He (God) is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him" (NASB). The 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes in (Antiquities, XVIII, 1,4.), "the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: that souls die with the bodies."
Here in Luke 20:38, Jesus contradicts the view of the Sadducees that lived then and those that hold to the same teaching. In fact, He is saying, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though they died many years ago, are actually living today. For God, who calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is not the God of the dead but the living." Jesus' own words clearly indicate that these O.T. saints are living at the present moment, even though they "died" many years ago. Notice the words at the end which Christ spoke: "for all live to Him".
Though the dead seems to us to be completely non-existent, they are actually living as far as God is concerned, and as what the WHOLE of Scripture teaches us clearly. Note the tense of the word for "live" is not future (which might suggest only that these dead will live at the time of their resurrection) but it is in the present, teaching us that they are living now. This holds true not only for those O.T. saints, but for all who have died.
To hold to the believe that there is no immaterial nature ("soul"), so that when those "souls" whom died i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are now in a state of nonexistent between death and the resurrection, violates the thrust of these words, and implies that God is, in view with these O.T saints in mind, for a long period of time the God of the dead rather than the God of the living.
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, You use Luke 20:38 to try and prove there is an “immaterial nature” which survives the death of the body as the “soul.” We note the discussion before Jesus and the Sadducees is the “resurrection” not the subject of “an immaterial nature which survives the death of the body.” Jesus uses Moses because this sect only accepted the first five books of the Bible. The Nazarene uses a rabbinical ploy in finding an obscure way to prove the resurrection by the account of the Burning Bush.
We note this account occurs in Matthew and Mark where the added phrase “to Him they are living” does not appear.
Elsewhere the Nazarene has said: “No man has ascended to heaven.” (John 3:13) This would rule out that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were in fact in heaven with God. Never in all the teachings of Jesus does he ever describe the “soul” as “an immaterial nature which survives the death of the body.” Indeed, he uses pneuma the way it is used throughout the Hebrew Bible: the breathing person, that is the person himself; and, the life of the person which is sustained by breathing. This is demonstrated in Luke 12:19, 20: “…and I will say to my soul [myself], ‘Soul (psyche) [Self], you have many good things … But The God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul (life) from you.’” It would be impossible to ‘demand the immaterial nature’ of this rich farmer for he must – according to you – either go to paradise or Gehenna that night. What Jesus means is this soul – this rich farmer – was going to lose his life that night – he was going to die.
MISTER CUNNING – In conclusion, I simply say this. When we enter into reading the Bible with prior assumptions (there is no such thing as man possessing an "immaterial nature”), such a reading must entail the use of allegorical interpretation, as well as holding to no set of rules in the manner of interpretation, which is as follows: When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.
Dwight J. Pentacost said it best concerning the usage of the allegorical method of interpretation, in his writing entitled "Things to Come": ' It will be noticed at once that its (allegorical method of interpretation) habit is to disregard the common significant of words and give wing to all manner of fanciful speculation. This scheme can yield no interpretation, properly so called. The bases of this teaching is to corrupt the meaning of Scripture, and to drag its reluctant utterance to our own free will, making Scriptural mysteries out of our own imaginations. When the allegorical method is accepted, than we can be absolutely sure of nothing except what is dictated to us by the Church. For this reason, the control of interpretations the literal method. '
FRIENDS OF THE NAZARENE – Mister Cunning, we think it is you who “enter into reading the Bible with prior assumptions” – that of a pagan ideology, the immortality of the human soul as an immaterial nature which survives the death of the body.” We think it is you, Mister Cunning who “give wing to all manner of fanciful speculation” – by resorting to obscure arguments rather than the straight forward, literal statements of the Bible:
Psalm 146:3-4 – “Do not put YOUR trust in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.”
Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 – “For there is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit, so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity. All are going to one place. They have all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the dust. Who is there knowing the spirit of the sons of mankind, whether it is ascending upward; and the spirit of the beast, whether it is descending downward to the earth?
Ecclesiastes 9:4-5, 10 – “For as respects whoever is joined to all the living there exists confidence, because a live dog is better off than a dead lion. For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all. … All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.”
Ezekiel 18:4 – “The soul that is sinning-it itself will die.”
John 3:13 – “No man has ascended into heaven.”
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
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