Soul in the Bible  

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The Bible portrays the concept of Soul most commonly using the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psyche.

The Greek Septuagint mostly uses psyche to translate nephesh. English translations of the Bible use the word "soul" to translate nephesh in the Hebrew Bible and psyche in the New Testament.

The New Testament follows the terminology of the Septuagint, and thus uses the word psyche with the Hebrew semantic domain and not the Greek. The traditional Christian concept of an immaterial and immortal soul separate from the body is not found in pre-exilic Judaism, but may have evolved as a result of interaction with Persian and Hellenistic philosophy.



Soul in the Bible

The Christian view of the soul is based upon the teaching of both the Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the statements "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and "And 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." (Genesis 2:7). In the New Testament can be found a statement by Paul the Apostle, "And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45).

The majority of Christians understand the soul as an ontological reality distinct from, yet integrally connected with, the body. Its characteristics are described in moral, spiritual, and philosophical terms. When people die their souls will be judged by God and determined to spend an eternity in heaven or in hell. Though all branches of ChristianityCatholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical or mainline Protestants – teach that Jesus Christ plays a decisive role in the salvation process, the specifics of that role and the part played by individual persons or ecclesiastical rituals and relationships, is a matter of wide diversity in official church teaching, theological speculation and popular practice. Some christians believe that if one has not repented of one's sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, one will go to hell and suffer eternal separation from God. Variations also exist on this theme, e.g. some which hold that the unrighteous soul will be destroyed instead of suffering eternally (Annihilationism). Believers will inherit eternal life in heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. There is also a belief that babies (including the unborn) and those with cognitive or mental impairments who have died will be received into heaven on the basis of God's grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Soul at inception of life

Among Christians, there is uncertainty regarding whether human embryos have souls, and at what point between conception and birth the fetus acquires a soul and consciousness. This uncertainty is the general reasoning behind many Christians' belief that abortion should not be legal.

Roman Catholic beliefs

The present Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the soul as "the innermost aspect of humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are most especially in God's image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in humans.". At the moment of death, the soul goes through a particular judgement of God, and is consigned to Purgatory, Heaven, or Hell. The souls of those who die unrepentant of serious sins, or in conscious rejection of God, are lost forever in a state called Hell. Relatively few souls are pure enough (that is, free from all attachment to sin before death) to be joined to God straight away- to "go to Heaven". For those not yet fully cleansed of attachments to sin and still meriting [[temporal punishment, Purgatory - often described as a place, but in fact Catholic doctrine whether it is a place or merely a state - is the process of purification, of penance for post-baptismal sins that have already been forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance or through sincere repentance if said sacrament is unavailable, are pardoned through the grace of God and purged away by the suffering and death of Christ. The Catholic Church teaches the creationist view of the origin of the soul: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God."

See also Limbo

Orthodox Christian beliefs

Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox views are somewhat similar in essence to Roman Catholic views although different in specifics. Orthodox Christians believe that after death, the soul is judged individually by God, and then sent to either Abraham's Bosom (temporary paradise) or Hades/Hell (temporary torture). At the Last Judgment, God judges all people who have ever lived. Those deemed righteous go to Heaven (permanent paradise) whilst the damned experience the Lake of Fire (permanent torture). The Orthodox Church does not teach that Purgatory exists.

Protestant beliefs

Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence. A common belief is that the soul is renewed not at death, but at time of salvation through Christ Jesus, taking into account 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" among other similar passages. The renewed soul or spirit is then received by God at time of death. Therefore, Protestants do not usually believe in the idea of Purgatory.

The "absent from the body, present with the Lord" theory states that the soul at the point of death, immediately becomes present at the end of time, without experiencing any time passing between. Some identify this belief as being the same as soul sleep as it does not account for what happens to the soul during the intervening time, however, it has been pointed out that all groups believe God exists outside of time. Others still would not consider this a validation of the theory. This group would argue that the Apostle Paul was merely saying that he would rather be present with the Lord than living in his earthly body. Some more traditional Protestants hold beliefs similar to Orthodox Christians whilst certain high Anglicans have even been known to hold Roman Catholic beliefs regarding the fate of the soul.

Christadelphian beliefs

Christadelphians believe that we are all created out of the dust of the earth and became living souls once we received the breath of life based on the Genesis 2 account of humanity's creation. They believe that we are mortal and when we die our breath leaves our body, our bodies return to the soil. They believe that we are mortal until the resurrection from the dead when Christ returns to this earth and grants immortality to the faithful. In the meantime, the dead lie in the earth in the sleep of death until Jesus comes.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beliefs

Latter-day Saints believe that when the body and spirit are connected in mortality, this is the Soul of Man (Mankind). They believe that the soul is the union of a spirit, which was previously created by God, and a body, which is formed by physical conception on earth.

Seventh-day Adventists beliefs

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the main definition of the term "Soul" is a combination of spirit (breath of life) and body, disagreeing with the view that the soul has a consciousness or sentient existence of its own. They affirm this through Genesis 2:7 "And (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses take the Hebrew word nephesh, which is commonly translated as "soul", to be a person, an animal, or the life that a person or an animal enjoys. A living person or breathing creature. They believe that the Hebrew word ruach (Greek pneuma), which is commonly translated as "spirit" but literally means "wind", refers to the life force or the power that animates living things. For them, a person is a breathing creature, a body animated by the "spirit of God", not an invisible being contained in a body and able to survive apart from that body after death. This is in line with their belief that Hell represents the grave and the possibility of eternal annihilation for the wicked rather than eternal torment.

Various opinions

Some Christians regard the soul as the immortal essence of a human – the seat or locus of human will, understanding, and personality.

Other Christians reject the idea of the immortality of the soul, citing the Apostles' Creed's reference to the "resurrection of the body" (the Greek word for body is soma σωμα, which implies the whole person, not sarx σαρξ, the term for flesh or corpse). They consider the soul to be the life force, which ends in death and is restored in the resurrection. Theologian Frederick Buechner sums up this position in his 1973 book Whistling in the Dark: "...we go to our graves as dead as a doornail and are given our lives back again by God (i.e., resurrected) just as we were given them by God in the first place."

Augustine, one of western Christianity's most influential early Christian thinkers, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body". Some Christians espouse a trichotomic view of humans, which characterizes humans as consisting of a body (soma) , soul (psyche), and spirit (pneuma), however the majority of modern Bible scholars point out how spirit and soul are used interchangeably in many biblical passages, and so hold to dichotomy: the view that each of us is body and soul. Paul said that the "body wars against" the soul, and that "I buffet my body", to keep it under control. Philosopher Anthony Quinton said the soul is a "series of mental states connected by continuity of character and memory, [and] is the essential constituent of personality. The soul, therefore, is not only logically distinct from any particular human body with which it is associated; it is also what a person is". Richard Swinburne, a Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, wrote that "it is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualists cannot say what souls are.... Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties. They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs, and perform intentional actions. Souls are essential parts of human beings..."

The origin of the soul has provided a sometimes vexing question in Christianity; the major theories put forward include soul creationism, traducianism and pre-existence. According to creationism, each individual soul is created directly by God, either at the moment of conception or some later time (identical twins arise several cell divisions after conception, but no creationist would deny that they have whole souls). According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the preexistence theory, the soul exists before the moment of conception.

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