The Soul & Immortality

The belief concerning the immortality of the soul was a very important part of ancient thoughts espoused by many Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Socrates, as Plato records, explains death by saying: Is it not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body, and body is released from the soul, what is this but death? (Five Great Dialogues, Classics Club edition, 1969, page 93.)

Plato's philosophy reasoned that the soul, because it is immortal, must have pre-existed. It is apparent that Plato believed in the transmigration of the soul as did Aristotle. This is pagan philosophy that sanctions the idea of the soul being immortal, even though the Bible does not. God's word teaches something very different.

The Hebrew scriptures picture a person as a single and undivided entity: the soul, i.e., the breathe of life and the body are one. The body is a soul because of the breathe of life animating it. Life after death is conditioned on the idea of the resurrection of the body to be reunited with the spirit, which is looked at by the word ruwach-the word meaning spirit. When the spirit departed the body, the body died, which was also thought as the death of the nephesh or soul. One can see this when reading Luke 23:46 about Jesus' last statement on the cross (Compare Eccl. 3:19).

The doctrine of the immortal soul concept caused a lot of controversy in the early Catholic Church. There was Athenagoras of Alexandria (127 - 190 AD), Tertullian (160 - 240 AD), Origen (185 - 254 AD), and Augustine (354 - 430 AD) who picked up on the beliefs of pagan philosphers and intermingled them with the beliefs of Christianity. In the earlier days of the church, during the time of the Apostles and shortly after, the belief was of conditional immortality which meant that no one will live forever unless Jesus Christ was to one day reward one with an immortal life. That reward was to be awarded at the resurrection of the body of all mankind (John 5:28 - 29). Centuries later Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274 AD), in his Summa Theologica, taught that the soul is a conscious intellect and will and cannot be destroyed. Of course, this goes 100% against what Jesus himself said in Mt. 10:28.

Once again we see a couple of words that have had dire consequences upon Christian beliefs: man having a soul instead of being a soul, as the Old Testament tells us, and immortality transferred to that imaginary soul to make it seem that a person has an immortal soul that cannot ever be destroyed. And when Hell is figured into the equation, the result was a belief that put forth the idea that an immortal soul can suffer in hell forever.