Immortal Soul Concepts


Origins of an immortal soul concept began all the way back to about thirty two hundred years before Christ when Egypt became a nation and apparently developed a National Religion. This religion was filled with inconsistencies and had many variations among its leaders. The nation state of Egypt that developed consisted of many primitive tribes and their various religions. Around 3200 BC the various priesthoods of these tribes attempted to mold their various gods and myths into a unified theology that could make the nations people united. Myths and legends about their gods were very abundant; at first they were written in hieroglyphics inside their pyramids, then later were written in hieratic texts and carved on their wooden coffins. Then about 1600 BC we find the first mention of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This book was actually written on sheets of papyrus which were covered with magical texts and illustrations called vignettes. The oldest existent copies date to about 240 BC.

The Hymn to Osiris, which starts out as a song of praise, reads as follows:

Homage to thee, Osiris, Lord of eternity, King of the gods, whose names are manifold, whose forms are holy, thou being of hidden form in the temples, whose Ka is holy. Thou art the governor of Tattu (Busiris), and also the mighty one in Sekhem (Letopolis). Thou art the Lord to whom praises are ascribed in the Nome of Ati, thou art the Prince of divine food in Anu. Thou art the Lord who is commemorated in Maati, the Hidden Soul, the Lord of Qerrt Elephantine, the Ruler supreme in White Wall Memphis. Thou art the Soul of Ra, his own body, and hast thy place of rest in Henensu (Herakleopolis). Thou art the beneficent one, and art praised in Nart. Thou makest thy soul to be raised up. Thou art the Lord of the Great House in Khemenu (Hermopolis). Thou art the mighty one of victories in Shas-hetep, the Lord of eternity, the Governor of Abydos. The path of his throne is in Ta-tcheser (a part of Abydos). Thy name is established in the mouths of men. Thou art the substance of Two Lands (Egypt). Thou art Tem, the feeder of Kau (Doubles), the Governor of the Companies of the gods. Thou art the beneficent Spirit among the spirits. The god of the Celestial Ocean (Nu) draweth from thee his waters.

Notice the references to soul and spirit. Osiris is credited with being able to make ones soul raised up. The word soul could just as well be translated as life. One of the beliefs among some of the various tribes that made up this national religion held that one could be raised back to life in various forms-animal, insect, or man-through reincarnation. Other beliefs held that there was a heaven for the deceased soul/spirit of man. Osiris is also mentioned as being the creator of everything: Thou hast made this earth with thy hand, and the waters, and the winds, and the vegetation, and all the cattle, and all the feathered fowl, and all the fish, and all the creeping things, and all the wild animals therof. Yet Osiris is called by many names that reference the many gods of the tribes that contributed to this national religion; and each god is to be found in various places where the tribes originated. Sounds confusing, doesn't it? You can read part of this Book of the Dead on this Web site-it is the public domain.

The Book of the Dead contributed the idea of an immortal soul concept into Jewish thought during the 400 years before Christ appeared on earth. However, there was also a person named Socrates who cemented this idea a little more solidly in their thinking process. Socrates was a philosopher, and had much influence on his disciple Plato. It is through Plato that we find the arguments Socrates used to prove that all men have immortal souls. Plato's Phaedo puts in writing the argument that the soul survives the death of the body. To him the soul is of a totally different quality than the body. The body is just the prison for the soul. The soul is not dependent upon the body for its survival, for it is immortal. Plato presents an argument that the soul is pre-existent of the body, and after the body dies, the soul undergoes a period of purification that varies from three to ten thousand years. After this purification process has been completed the soul then passes on to Elysium.

As one can fathom, the origins of an immortal soul had its beginning among the tribes of Egypt, then that idea was refined when a national religion was formulated around 3200 BC in the new Nation of Egypt. About 15 to 16 centuries later we find the Book of the Dead being composed, which included the various gods of the early tribes. The latest copies of this book date to around 240 BC. The capture of the known world by Alexander the Great introduced the Greek language which became the common language of the people. This was the time that Greek myths mixed with Egyptian myths, including a whole phalanx of gods, were philosophized in many writings of the last four centuries before Christ. Out of this conglomeration grew the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha writings which had a great influence among later philosophers of the Christian period.

Conclusion: While this short history of the origins of the immortal soul concept is not exhaustive by any means, it gives one the basis of the idea way before it became accepted among Christian philosophers. Why these philosophers would accept the arguments of pagans to fortify the ideas of an immortal souls is hard to understand in light of the clear teachings of the Bible. Man does not have a soul, per se, but is a soul-and is mortal, not immortal (See Genesis 2:7). Immortality is only conditioned on one thing: resurrection and acceptance with God through belief and faith in Christ Jesus. Immortality is something a person has to put on or receive from the Creator, thusly, immortality is conditional and not inherent in the makeup of mankind.