Easy Question: What Is Death?

What is death? Here are some of the ideas I’ve received from various Christian sources:
*]Death is one of God’s angels
*]Death is a child of the devil
*]Death is the absence of life
*]Death is the separation of the soul and the body
*]Death is to the body what sin is to the soul
*]Death is the one power not created by God
*]Death is not our enemy, but a doorway
*]Death is nothing
*]Death is a power that Christ had to conquer
*]Death is the consequence of original sin
*]Death is the entrance to eternal life

Some of these are consistent with one another, others lead to radically different conclusions. What precisely is the Catholic teaching on death?

I’m often slow to respond to comments, so thanks in advance for your help.

Here -plug terms into this search engine of the Catechism

(at the bottom)



Death is when you don’t breathe, your skin turns cold and everything comes to a stop.

There’s nothing philosophical or beautiful about it.


Thanks for the links, Bookcat.

The CCC teaches how man became mortal, how we should respond to death, and what will happen after bodily death. My nagging question still remains, so perhaps I should ask it a different way.

Did God create death?

When the soul separates from the body. Your set of definitions point to two different ideas -
a. That death is some sort of entity. There was an old twilight zone on this, Robert Redford played Mr Dead.
B. Death as a physiological process. This is my belief.

God had destined Man not to die…but death entered for him…due to the fall.

Sorry if I sound frustrated, but look…

The catechism quote from paragraph 1008 says that man became mortal due to his sin. That does not tell us what death is or where it comes from.

Pointing to the causes of bodily death and the decay that occurs afterwards are also not answers. They deal with what happens before and after death, but not death itself.

Please bear with me. I’ll try to ask the question in a more specific way this time.

Does the Catholic Church teach that death was created by God in the same way that the laws of nature were created by God?

Death is when your Plug is pulled out ,
Death is when you no longer Breath,
Death is when you are no longer coming for Breakfast ,
Death is the End of one thing , and Hopefuly the Begining of another,
If not ,
We will never know:)

Death was not created by God. It was not “created” at all. When humans sinned and pulled away from God, they caused life to malfunction, for all material living creatures including humans. (Angels are made of spirit, not matter; they are created beings but not part of the material universe of time and space.)

Death is part of that malfunction, as God warned Adam and Eve before they fell. Though of course we didn’t do it alone…

“By the envy of the Devil, death came into the world.” (Wisdom 2:24)

The interesting bit is that events in Eden seem to have occurred outside the normal universe, or were allowed to have an impact that ran both backwards and forward in time. (Not Church teaching, but logical speculation.) When God made Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, and ordered them to take care of the world, He made their actions affect all of Creation in time and space, all matter. We don’t know what the universe would have been like without the Fall.

But the other interesting bit is that not only did God allow Adam and Eve to inadvertently alter Creation to reflect their sin, He sent His Son to be the new Adam and to save Creation as well as humans, and to destroy death. We still don’t see the full impact on Creation of the new Adam, but we will see it in the new heaven and earth at the end of time. His actions also affect all of time and space even now, however.

Death can be treated as a personification in Biblical poetry, and thus can be described poetically as doing various things. But it is an absence or malfunction, not a being or creature.

The “angel of death” in the Bible is not death itself or a demon. He is an angel bringing a specific punishment to David and Jerusalem.

Modern Catholic Dictionary:

DEATH. The cessation of the bodily functions of a human being through the departure of the soul. It is part of revelation that, in the present order of divine providence, death is a punishment for sin. According to the teaching of the Church, death is a consequence of Adam’s sin, as declared by St. Paul: “Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death” (Romans 5:12). In the case of those justified by grace, death loses its penal character and becomes a mere consequence of sin. All human beings, therefore, are subject to death, although in the case of Christ and his Mother, because of their freedom from sin, death was neither a punishment for sin nor a consequence of sin. Yet, as they were truly human, death was natural for them.

Death is also the end of human probation or testing of one’s loyalty to God. It ends all possibility of merit or demerit.

Properly speaking, only the body dies when separated from its principle of life, which is the soul. However, the Bible speaks of a second death (Revelation 20:6), referring to the souls in hell, who are separated from their principle of supernatural life, which is God.

I forgot another important quote or two (besides the obvious bits in Genesis).

“God did not make death.” (Wisdom 1:13)

“Sin entered into the world by one man; and by sin, death.” (Romans 5:12)

If you check out a translation of the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, his thoughts on the matter are that by sinning, Adam and Eve automatically lost the power of original justice from God that filled them, body and soul, and which made Adam and Eve able to do various things we cannot. Among these things was “not dying.” Death is a punishment, but they did it to themselves; it is the direct consequence of their sinning actions.

There are various theological theories as to how it exactly worked. But everybody agrees on this:

God warned them, and God let death happen, but God did not make death. Humans made death, albeit by following devilish advice.

Depending on exactly what you mean I don’t think there is a dogmatic teaching on this. Are you talking about death for all living things other than man, i.e. animals, plants and lower life forms? Or are you talking about death of any living thing including man?

I may be wrong but I think it may be allowable for a Catholic to believe either the lower life forms (lower than man) did or did not die before the fall of man. But I’m quite sure that the Catholic Faith is that death for man only became a reality upon the sin of Adam.

If I am correct that a Catholic may believe that animals and other lower life did or did not die before the fall then I don’t think your question without clarification can be answered. Regardless we can say God allows death. It is part of His permissive will that creatures, including man, die, at least at this time. And if God from the beginning created carnivores then it would seem to me it must be true that God created some creatures to die at least as food for other creatures.

It says there " Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die" and " Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God".

and “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned”

The nature of animals and plants around him…included the reality of death happening.

Mans nature too was mortal - his body would die accordingly. But he was immune from such (tree of life…) by God.

But then came the original sin.

Sin entered and so did death for man.

“Death makes its entrance into human history.”

Thanks for the help, folks. Especially Mintaka. I think my PDF copy of the Summa is abridged, but I’ll follow up with what you said next time I get a chance to use the copy at church.

*]The soul is immortal. Once the soul is created by God at our conception, It cannot die, It lives forever. It possesses the powers of memory intellect and will, that remains fully functional forever. When the body dies, the soul is immediately judged by Jesus and goes to either heaven hell or purgatory. What CAN die in the soul is sanctifying grace through committing mortal sin. Grace is restored to the soul after mortal sin is confessed, through the sacrament of reconciliation. A soul without sanctifying grace at the death of the body, goes immediately to hell.

*] The body being mortal. it lives and dies. SOME day (at the end of the world) whenever that is in the future, the final judgement by Jesus occurs. All the bodies that have ever died, are resurrected from the dead. The body is reunited to the soul. If the soul has been in heaven, both body and soul are reunited again only now in heaven forever. If the soul was in hell, then body and soul will be united in hell forever. If any soul is in Purgatory, then body and soul are reunited and go to heaven, Purgatory ceases to exist since there are no more births or deaths, or further judgements by God of humans…
This event (Fr Jose had a near death experience) occured 30+ years ago. Fr Joseph Mary Wolf told this story in a homily at an EWTN mass.

I think death is so hard to describe in positive terms as it is not something that “exists.” It’s not a positive. It’s a word applied to a negation, a loss, a corruption. In Thomistic thought, it occurs when the material of a living being is separated from its soul. When what was once operating as a unified whole being (a sum greater than its parts) is suddenly no longer one cohesive being. The material of a dead being is no longer operating as a unified whole. The sum is no longer greater than its parts.

Death occurs in the universe at present as part of God’s overarching plan, but I wouldn’t call it a creation as if it is some type of being/existence in itself. It’s a corruption in something that is created. Death describes a change in something (a living being). It isn’t something in itself.

And I don’t intend any negative connotations by using the word ‘corruption.’

Death is the end.

Thankfully not.

We are pilgrims on Earth.
We are on our spiritual journey home to God.
Mortal life is the beginning of this pilgimage, our souls are created when we are concieved. Then we live our lives, and if, as Pope Francis says ’ I am a sinner looked upon / favoured by God’, we will be granted the grace to have faith and conduct our pilgrimage in a manner pleasing to the Trinity. We say yes to Jesus Christ, and thus God in life, and at the hour of our death.

We die. Our souls depart our body , we are judged the first time, and either do time in Purgatory in the Communion of Saints, adore and worship God with the Communion of Saints and Angels in Heaven, or for the damned …

Thus death begins the second part of our pilgrimage for many souls - Purgatory. Unless of course, we became a saint and our pilgrimage led us straight to heaven.

And that is my thinking and take on life and death. :innocent: Inspired by my Guardian Angel :innocent::grinning:

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