Where does the Bible first speak of the immortal soul?

In the book of [size=2]Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to deny the immortality of the soul. [/size]

9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
This passage has been used often to deny the soul’s immortality, particularly by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others like them.

The truth of the soul’s immortality simply has not been revealed up to this point in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was ignorant concerning the truth of the nature of the soul.

Does anyone know where the bible first reveals the immortality of the soul?

Subrosa

I’m not sure that the Bible ever speaks of the “immortal soul” in those words, but it speaks to this idea all over the place.

Consider the account of Abraham and his son Isaac in Genesis, somewhere around chapter 25. God has promised to give Abraham descendents as numerous as the stars of heaven, which, in the first instance, Abraham interprets as being physical descendents through Isaac. But, God commands him to sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham believes that God can raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill the promise. That is a direct reference to immortality, from the Christian point of view.

Concerning the immortality of the soul as found in the OT I think it I should clarify my answer by saying that in the OT there is two and perhaps three answers to this question.

If I approach this question from the view point that immortality is equated with a sense of Resurrection, that is, imotality of the soul implies immortality of the body as well, then the answer is 1 and 2nd Macabees.

If I approach this from strictly an immortality of the soul alone, I would say that for me it’s difficult to say because it’s not that explicit.

First, the hebrew religious and theological thought up unto and including the time of Jesus never developed a metaphysical system as the Greeks did and it would be until the jewish nation came under the Greek influence that a a sense of immortality of the soul would develope as reflected in Macabees through the theology of the Pharisees at the time of Jesus and Jesus Himself.

We do know from extra biblical sources that a belief in immortality was gained through having descendents. I think was brought out in the reference to Abraham. By the way, this was also one of the reasons why the Jews held being childless was considered to be a curse.

The concept that the human soul survives the death of the body is found throughout the Old Testament in the belief in Sheol, the abode of the dead, mentioned there by name some 63 times. (In addition to “Sheol,” the prophet Ezekiel refers to the abode of the dead as “the nether world” about half-a-dozen times.)

Sheol is first mentioned in Genesis 37:35, when Jacob lamented the apparent death of his son Joseph:

35All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.

Presumably the soul of the dead prophet Samuel came up from Sheol for a time when God allowed him to communicate with Saul, through the mediumship of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-19).

Presumably their souls also returned from Sheol, when the prophet Elisha restored a dead boy to life and later postumously restored a dead man to life. (2 Kings 4:20-35; 2 Kings 13:21)

The souls who inhabit Sheol are sometimes referred to as “the shades.” (Job 26:5; Psalm 88:11; Proverbs 2:18; Isaiah 14:9; 26:14; 26:19)

[quote=TOME525]If I approach this question from the view point that immortality is equated with a sense of Resurrection, that is, imotality of the soul implies immortality of the body as well, then the answer is 1 and 2nd Macabees.
[/quote]

I am familiar with the passages in 2 Maccabees concerning prayers for the dead and saints appearing in visions. I am not famliar with anything such as this in 1 Maccabees. Could you point them out?

If I approach this from strictly an immortality of the soul alone, I would say that for me it’s difficult to say because it’s not that explicit.

The thing is, as we know, God reveals a little at a time in the bible. Is there anything that says that the soul lives on after physical death before Ecclesiastes 9:5? If No, then Solomon was naive. If yes, then Solomon apparently missed the mark. As far as the souls that exist in shoel, are they aware? Jesus reveals that they are during His of the rich man and Lazerus. He speaks of “the bosom of Abraham,” a place in the underworld that the souls with grace reside waiting for the resurrection.

I dont consider Ecc9:5 to be as simple as people conclude, thats a complex book. Here are examples just skimming over the book:
Ch1:
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever.
Does the earth remain forever?
Ch3:21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?
Why would he even suggest the spirit of man “goes upward”?
Ch8: 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him
Whats the point of fearing God if there is no reward in the end?
Ch12:13 Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Whats this “duty” and “judging” if the grave is the end? A person could do wicked and live to 100 while a good Godly man dies at 25, does this make sense in terms of justice as man understands God’s justice?

5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun.
Even if the JWs argued for this passage to be no such thing as hell, at the same time it leaves no room for a heaven or any kind of reward afterwards (which they do believe in, eg 144,000 elect in heaven).

On the otherhand, there are different cases of the soul mentioned in places like the Psalms. A famous one is Ps16:
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. 10 For thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit. 11 Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.
In Acts2 Peter mentions this same passage:
25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope. 27 For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.’ 29 "Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Also written by Solomon who also wrote Ecclesiasties is Proverbs, here is ch30:
14 There are those whose teeth are swords, whose teeth are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among men. 15 The leech has two daughters; “Give, give,” they cry. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”: 16 Sheol, the barren womb, the earth ever thirsty for water, and the fire which never says, "Enough."
I just skimmed here and there, but it should be enough to show that it isnt as cut and dry as the JWs make it.

Subrosa - The idea of a progressive understanding between the Old and New Testaments concerning the nature of the afterlife is discussed in the article “A Catholic Critique of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, viewable here: catholic-forum.com/members/popestleo/cathjw.html

I’m quoting part of it here:
“It is only at the very end of the Old Testament period that the Jews were given any clear-cut revelation concerning the nature of life after death.The most explicit references to this occur in those books which the Witnesses exclude from their translation of the Old Testament–books,however, which modern Scripture scholars admit are necessary forunderstanding the progress of revelation from the Old Testament to the New…”

Concerning Ecclesiastes 9:5:, much of Ecclesiastes is apparantly written from an “under the sun” viewpoint; ignoring that fact can lead to taking individual statements out of context - and this verse is an example:

“For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten.” (NWT)

JWs use this for a proof text for non-existence after death, by taking literally the part **“the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all”, **but not taking literally “neither do they anymore have wages” (“they have no more reward”, RSV) or “the remembrance of them has been forgotten”. The JW interpretation of this verse “changes horses in midstream”, taking part of it literally and part not; when all elements of the passage are considered together, it is obvious that it is not meant to be taken literally.

Suggestions in the OT that man “has” a soul that is more than just the “whole person” (as JWs claim):

2 Samuel 11:11: Uri’ah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Jo’ab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”

1 Kings 17:21-22: Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s soul come into him again: And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Eli’jah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”

**Genesis 35:18-19: **And as her soul was departing (for she died), she called his name Ben-o’ni; but his father called his name Benjamin. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem),

The incident with Saul and the medium of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7-25) shows that a belief in a conscious existence after death was at least current in Saul’s time (the JW argument to this involves questioning details of the account; but the point remains that belief in an afterlife must have been current, or the incident would have never occured).

Concerning the definition of the word “soul”, the CCC #363 says:

“In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.”

Where JWs (and other adventist-type groups) err is by concentrating on the scriptures that use “soul” to mean ‘the entire human person’ (one of the valid definitions), but ignoring, or adopting a forced or truncated interpretation, of scriptures that use the word in another way.

Subrosa, first looking at my reference to the Macabees I should have writter first “OR” second Macc. not “And” I didn’t have my bible with me at the time but I did remember it was in Macabees.
And you were right it was Second Mac.

I did a little more reading on Sheol and the concept of the dead in Jewish thought and I think I was accurat in what I said. Up to the time of the Macabees and after, the Hebrew mind didn’t have a real metaphysics so its theology of the dead was never really developed.

From my reading, which were commentaries I picked up and read at a couple of book stores, before the Jews came under the influence of Greek Philosophy, Sheol, or the place of the dead while it is mentioned is never really defined. It seems in the OT it is a place where (a) All the dead go but not necessarily a placed equated with our concept of Hell (b) a place for the wicket to exist at their death or © a hopeless place where all the dead are cut off from God. Still, it is important that for most of Jewish history there wasn’t a developed theology until the time of Christ and it was both the teachings of the Pharisees, Christ and the Apostolic Church that a theology was developed. (or so I gather from my notes written on a coffee stained napkin).

I don’t much time right now to give as much info on this as I would like, but here is a good clue from Jesus.

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Matt 10:28

How about Genesis 1:26? If we did not have an immortal soul, then wouldn’t God, whose image and likeness we were made in also not have an immortal soul? Since God *is *immortal then we too are immortal since we are created in His image and likeness.

[quote=Subrosa]In the book of [size=2]Ecclesiastes,[/size] Solomon seems to deny the immortality of the soul.

This passage has been used often to deny the soul’s immortality, particularly by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others like them.

The truth of the soul’s immortality simply has not been revealed up to this point in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was ignorant concerning the truth of the nature of the soul.

Does anyone know where the bible first reveals the immortality of the soul?

Subrosa
[/quote]

The notion of an immortal soul as contrasted with a mortal body, is Greek - not Hebraic. OT thought is about the person as whole; the person does not have, but is, a soul. Which is why in Genesis 2. 7 we read: “Then 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”.

The notion of a resurrection (whether of some of the righteous alone, of all the righteous, or of all men, righteous & unrighteous) is later still.

For most of the OT, all people had to expect after death was the gloomy shadow-existence of Sheol, which was not a place of punishment; but was not a place of blessedness either. Which is why King Hezekiah was unwilling to die. ##

[quote=Subrosa]In the book of [size=2]Ecclesiastes,[/size] Solomon seems to deny the immortality of the soul.

This passage has been used often to deny the soul’s immortality, particularly by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others like them.

The truth of the soul’s immortality simply has not been revealed up to this point in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was ignorant concerning the truth of the nature of the soul.

Does anyone know where the bible first reveals the immortality of the soul?

Subrosa
[/quote]

Jesus said to the pharisees,God is the Father of abraham ,Isaac ,and jacob not was.

[quote=Subrosa]In the book of [size=2]Ecclesiastes,[/size] Solomon seems to deny the immortality of the soul.

This passage has been used often to deny the soul’s immortality, particularly by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others like them.

The truth of the soul’s immortality simply has not been revealed up to this point in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was ignorant concerning the truth of the nature of the soul.

Does anyone know where the bible first reveals the immortality of the soul?

Subrosa
[/quote]

…as I understand the issue, the clearest indication of the human soul’s immortality comes from our Lord’s teaching as recorded in Matthew 10:28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

…here Jesus makes a clear distinction between “body” and “soul” and affirms that if other men “kill the body” they are not thereby “killing the soul” - which contradicts the teaching of those who affirm that “the human soul is simply a body with breath” such that when “the breath” is seperated from the body (killing the body) “the soul” ceases to exist (thus, according to this teaching, the soul is killed)…that God “can destroy the soul” is not an affirmation of “annihilation” as the Greek which is translated “destroy” means “to utterly ruin”, not, “to cease to exist”…a damned soul is surely ruined…to say that a damned soul “ceases to exist” runs counter to the whole idea of retribution/punishment which the NT affirms is “eternal”…a soul that ceases to exist ceases to be punished…if Judas, who betrayed our Lord, would be better off if he had never been born - then to say that Judas will ultimately be annhilated would simplky make his end state the same as his beginning state: non-existence, which again would contradict the import of our Lord’s words.

Keep the Faith
jmt

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