Save Your Breath

Man with outspread arms standing in kicked up dust
For Dust Thou Art and Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return. Genesis 3:19

Appendix A


A rapid-fire presentation of quotes from scholars, academics, and theologians (in no particular order):

“The ancient Hebrews had no idea of an immortal soul living a full and vital life beyond death. The traditional concept of an immaterial and immortal soul distinct from the body was not found in Judaism before the Babylonian exile.” Tabor, James, What the Bible says about Death, Afterlife, and the Future, access date: December 14, 2013.

“The traditional concept of the soul developed as a result of interaction with Persian and Hellenistic philosophies.” Thomson, Ann, Bodies of thought: science, religion, and the soul in the early Enlightenment. Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008 p. 42

“According to Genesis 2:7, God did not make a body and put a soul into it like a letter into an envelope of dust; rather he formed man’s body from the dust, then, by breathing divine breath into it, he made the body of dust live, i.e. the dust did not embody a soul, but it became a soul—a whole creature.” Berry, Wendell, Christianity and the Survival of Creation, Random House, ©1993 referenced in Cross Currents, Summer93, Vol. 43 Issue 2, p149, 15p.

“The concept of an immaterial soul separate from and surviving the body is common today but according to modern scholars, it was not found in ancient Hebrew beliefs. The word nephesh never means an immortal soul or an incorporeal part of the human being that can survive death of the body as the spirit of dead.” Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Father Xavier Leon Dufour, ©1985, and New International Dictionary all under the main article, Immortality of the Soul.

“The early Christian philosophers adopted the Greek concept of the soul’s immortality and thought of the soul as being created by God and infused into the body at conception.” The New Encyclopedia Britannica ©1988, Volume 11, page 25

“The early Hebrew’s concept of nephesh did not separate the ‘breath of life’ from the body. Jewish writers of the intertestamental period developed the idea of the soul further. Old Testament references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body. Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St. Gregory of Nyssa and by St. Augustine.” Treatment of the soul in the Encyclopedia Britannica, ©2004.

“Twentieth century biblical scholarship largely agrees that the ancient Jews had little explicit notion of a personal afterlife until very late in the Old Testament period. Immortality of the soul was a typically Greek philosophical notion quite foreign to the thought of ancient Semitic peoples. Only the latest stratum of the Old Testament asserts even the resurrection of the body, a view more congenial to Semites.” Donelley, Don Patrick, Calvinism and Scholasticism in Vermigli’s Doctrine of Man and Grace, Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, ©1976, p. 99

“A broad consensus emerged among biblical and theological scholars that soul-body dualism is a Platonic, Hellenistic idea that is not found anywhere in the Bible. The Bible, from cover to cover, promotes what they call the ‘Hebrew concept of the whole person.’” McMinn & Phillips, Care for the Soul: Exploring the Intersection of Psychology & Theology, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, ©2001, pp. 107-108

G. C. Berkouwer writes that the biblical view is always holistic, that in the Bible the soul is never ascribed any special religious significance.

Werner Jaeger writes that soul-body dualism is a bizarre idea that has been read into the Bible by misguided church fathers such as Augustine.

Rudolf Bultmann writes that Paul uses the word soma (body) to refer to the whole person, the self, so that there is not a soul and body, but rather the body is the whole thing.

“Indeed, the salvation of the ‘immortal soul’ has sometimes been commonplace in preaching, but it is fundamentally unbiblical. Biblical anthropology is not dualistic but monistic: human beings consists in the integrated wholeness of body and soul, and the Bible never contemplates the disembodied existence of the soul in bliss.”, Myers (ed.), The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans ©1987 p. 518

“But the Jew did not believe that human beings consist of an immortal soul entombed for a while in a mortal body.”, Caird & Hurst, New Testament Theology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ©1994, p. 267

“While the idea of an immortal soul is an established belief for most Christians, it cannot be supported by Biblical texts.”, Ford & Muers, The Modern Theologians: an Introduction to Christian Theology Since 1918, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, ©2005, p. 693

“Berkouwer has a long chapter on the meaning of the soul called ‘The Whole Man’ in which he denounces the theory of a ‘substantial dichotomy’ between an immortal soul and a mortal body.”, Moody, Dale, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Press, ©1990, p. 182

“It is generally accepted that in biblical thought there is no separation of body and soul and, consequently, the resurrection of the body is central. The idea of an immortal soul is not a Hebrew concept but comes from Platonic philosophy. It is, therefore, considered a severe distortion of the NT to read this foreign idea into its teaching.”, Vogels, Review of “The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality”, by James Barr Critical Review of Books in Religion, volume 7, ©1994, p. 80

“Modern scholarship has underscored the fact that Hebrew and Greek concepts of soul were not synonymous. While the Hebrew thought world distinguished breath the from body (as material basis of life), there was no question of two separate, independent entities. A person did not have a body but was an animated body, a unit of life manifesting itself in fleshly form. Although Greek concepts of the soul varied widely according to the particular era and philosophical school, Greek thought often presented a view of the soul as a separate entity from body. Until recent decades Christian theology of the soul has been more reflective of Greek (compartmentalized) than Hebrew (unitive) ideas.” Treatment of “Soul” in Benner & Hill (eds.), Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing, ©1999, p. 1148

“Even as we are conscious of the broad and very common biblical usage of the term “soul,” we must be clear that scripture does not present even a rudimentarily developed theology of the soul. The creation narrative is clear that all life originates with God. Yet the Hebrew scripture offers no specific understanding of the origin of individual souls, of when and how they become attached to specific bodies, or of their potential existence, apart from the body, after death. The reason for this is that, as we noted at the beginning, the Hebrew Bible does not present a theory of the soul developed much beyond the simple concept of a force associated with respiration, hence, a life-force.” Avery-Peck, “Soul”, in Neusner, et al. (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Judaism, p. 1343 ©2000

In the New Testament, the Greek word traditionally translated “soul” (ψυχή) “psuche”, has substantially the same meaning as the Hebrew, without reference to an immortal soul. In the Greek Septuagint psuche is used to translate each instance of nephesh. (Neyrey (1985). “Soul”. In Achtemeier; Harper; Row (eds.). Harper’s Bible Dictionary (1st ed.). pp. 982–983i

The crucial test is probably Genesis 2:7, which gives the process by which Adam was created: ‘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.’ My mind, like most people’s, has been deeply influenced by dualism, and I can see how dualistic minds deal with this verse. They conclude that the formula for man-making is man equals body plus soul. But that conclusion cannot be derived, except by violence, from Genesis 2:7, which is not dualistic. The formula given in Genesis 2:7 is not man equals body plus soul; the formula there is soul equals dust plus breath. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; then, by breathing His breath into it, He made the dust live. The dust, formed as man and made to live, did not embody a soul, it became a soul-that is, a whole creature. Humanity is thus presented to us, in Adam, not as a creature of two discrete parts temporarily glued together but as a single mystery. (Berry, Wendell (1997). “Christianity and the Survival of Creation”. In Wolfe, Gregory (ed.). The New Religious Humanists. The Free press. p. 253.)

The early Hebrews apparently had a concept of the soul but did not separate it from the body, although later Jewish writers developed the idea of the soul further. Old Testament references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body. Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St. Gregory of Nyssa and by St. Augustine.—Britannica, 2004

Belief in the immortality of the soul is the main current in church history. He, however, favors another view: ‘Crisscrossing all of this flows the stream of Christian mortalism. . . . This understanding appears as the sparkling water of pristine Christianity.’ He defines mortalism as ‘the belief that according to divine revelation the soul does not exist as an independent substance after the death of the body.'”,

Jesus seems to me to be saying that since God is the giver of life, only He can take it away in the ultimate sense. Therefore, do not fear him who can end your present mortal life, because it is God who is going to have the final decision whether your life is saved or destroyed. The words of Jesus certainly contradict the notion that the soul is essentially indestructible.

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