Division between soul and spirit

by M.J. 82 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • M.J.
    And having a belief in an afterlife is NOT THE SAME THING as the "pagan philosophy" of Platonism. The Society treats the two as if they were the same thing, when they're not.

    Leolaia, could you summarize the fundamental difference between platonic dualism and ancient Jewish belief in the afterlife?

  • Leolaia

    M.J.....The Hebrew concept of the afterlife was somewhat similar to that in Greek mythology before Platonism. A person who dies would have some sort of shadowy dreamlike existence in the underworld (Sheol), and at least in rabbinic Judaism, the spirit would not fully leave the body until the body rotted or was buried. In fact, there is a passage in the law code in the Pentateuch that forbids the opening of vessels near a corpse....this presumably would be to prevent the spirit from being trapped or entering in the vessel (cf. the TDOT on nephesh). Inevitably, the spirit would enter into the netherworld and have a deathly existence. The important thing is that this semi-conscious existence was not life; life with all its senses and activities and desires was possible only with a living body. The shade however could still interact with the living world, be summoned to give oracles (necromancy), be fed, offer healing to the sick. But since the body has seen corruption, the shade itself will never experience life.

    The Platonic view holds that the body is irrelevant to life. It is instead a prison, which holds the soul in bondage to its desires and weaknesses. The purest form of life that a soul could experience would be to be freed from its prison at death. Then life would truly begin for the soul that can reach blessedness in the afterlife.

    The Jewish view of the resurrection is that the spirit is reunited with a restored body, or is given a new more glorious (incorruptible) body, and life begins anew. In the Platonic view, the resurrection was not necessary for a future life, and even could be viewed as a detriment (as the platonizing Gnostics felt). There were views intermediate between the two, as Judaism became Hellenized in the last centuries BC; hence, the idea of a spiritual body that is distinct from flesh.

  • M.J.

    Here's what I uncovered from Britannica:

    The biblical view of man as an inseparable psychosomatic unit meant that death was understood to be his dissolution. Yet, although man ceased to be, this dissolution was not utter extinction. Some of the power that functioned in the unit may have continued to exist, but it was not to be understood any longer as life. The existence of the dead in sheol , the netherworld, was not living but the shadow or echo of living. For most of the biblical writers this existence was without experience, either of God or of anything else; it was unrelated to events. To call it immortality is to empty that term of any vital significance. However, this concept of sheol , along with belief in the possibility of occasional miraculous restorations of dead individuals to life, and perhaps even the idea of the revival of the people of Israel from the “death” of exile, provided a foothold for the development of belief in the resurrection of the dead body at some time in the future. The stimulus for this may have come from ancient Iranian religion, in which the dualistic cosmic struggle is eventually won by life through the resurrection of the dead. This idea began to appear in sketchy form in postexilic writings (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). In this view there is life only in the psychosomatic unit now restored. This restoration was bound up with the eschatological hope of Israel (see Eschatology, below) and was limited to the righteous. In subsequent apocalyptic literature a sharper distinction between body and soul was entertained, and the latter was conceived of as existing separately in a disembodied state after death. Although at this point the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was not put aside, nonetheless, the direction of thinking changed. The shades of sheol were now thought of as souls, and real personal survival—with continuity between life on earth and in sheol—was posited. Now Greek ideas, with their individualistic bent, began to have influence, so that the idea of resurrection that was in some way related to a final historical consummation, began to recede. True life after death was now seen as release from the bondage of the body, so that in place of, or alongside of, the afterlife of physical resurrection was set the afterlife of the immortal soul.
    "Judaism." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-35248> [Accessed January 23, 2006].

    seems to be a case of "progressive understanding" even within the OT itself, which one can argue was due to increasing influence of Greek thought.

  • M.J.

    Thanks Leo, your explanation really clears up some things for me.

  • TheListener

    I would love to see a more detailed post with references regarding the beliefs of the after-life by Hebrews. I would really like to understand the OT view of this.

    I knew some Jewish people when I was a diehard dub and we had discussions on this.

    I assumed that Judaism and JWs had the same theology concerning an everlasting soul. They would tell me I was wrong, but I would use the old standby OT scriptures to prove I was right. Frankly I couldn't believe that anyone who claimed to know the OT so well believed in an afterlife. I assumed that either they were wrong about what Judaism taught or were following later teachers and rabbi's and discounting the actual scriptures on the matter.

    They made one statement that has stuck with me (paraphrased): "God condemned speaking with the dead, fortune telling, astrology, etc. God never said those things weren't possible, just that we shouldn't do them."

    It fell on deaf ears back then, but since my spiritual awakening (or whatever it's called) I have been rethinking this subject. Some time ago on this board there was a discussion about Saul and whether or not the witch of Endor actually called up a dead spirit or if a demon was imitating a dead spirit. That was another eye opener for me.

  • M.J.
    Some time ago on this board there was a discussion about Saul and whether or not the witch of Endor actually called up a dead spirit or if a demon was imitating a dead spirit. That was another eye opener for me.

    Yeah, when I read that it clearly was the author's perspective that it was a real occurrence. I pointed this out to a dub and she didn't know how to respond other than acting incredulous that I believed in such a practice. "well...it sure looks like this bible author did!" (no response).

  • M.J.

    Listener, check out this Jewish reference on the basics of the afterlife: http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm

  • Hellrider
    seems to be a case of "progressive understanding" even within the OT itself, which one can argue was due to increasing influence of Greek thought.

    I definitely agree with that! The reason why it`s so difficult to argue with JWs on this, is because they view the Bible as an organized story from beginning to end. When you open up a novel, you know that it will be "coherent" from beginning to end. The author, as he got new ideas along the way, will have gone back and edited the first pages, removed stuff, added stuff, etc, the point is: You can be sure that it will be coherent from the first to the last page. The JWs (well, the WTS`s) mistake, is that they view the Bible the same way. A JW could never accept that there might be a "progression in understanding" thruout the Bible. To them, it`s one continuing story from Genesis to Revelation. What`s funny though, is that the JWs would never accept that the idea of a surviving soul (or, well, a surviving something) shows up and becomes more and more clear thruout the Bible, until it becomes perfectly clear in Revelation chapter 6 (as Leolaia pointed out), however, they believe that the docrine of ressurection is something that is in the Bible (underlying) even from page one. It`s all there, as part of Gods plan. However, is the ressurection really a part of the OT? I mean, is it any more a part of the OT, than the survival of the "soul"? I don`t think it is, at least not thruout the Torah. I haven`t read the OT in a while, but I really can`t remember any direct referneces to a future ressurection in the OT. Point this out to your local JW and witness the confusion... just for the fun of it.

  • M.J.

    well nothing written aside from Ecclesiastes really contradicts a later, more expanded viewpoint. It simply doesn't elaborate. The same can be said about resurrection (as you point out), the messiah, atonement, final judgement, etc. And Ecclesiastes 9 itself can be understood as strictly a humanistic perspective on the matter, as it also promotes eating and drinking in this life as the same fate awaits all...which doesn't include resurrection by the way (9:6). So if we form our belief in nonexistance after death, going by what Solomon is saying, then we ought to also deny the resurrection by what he's saying as well.

  • VM44

    "Some time ago on this board there was a discussion about Saul and whether or not the witch of Endor actually called up a dead spirit or if a demon was imitating a dead spirit. "

    Where is that discussion? It sounds like it would be interesting. Anyone have the link to it?


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