In an article titled “The Good News” written by ‘Gary Petty, the concept of immortality has been addressed in the following points:
The Hebrew word translated "soul" in the Old Testament is nephesh, which simply means "a breathing creature."
The Hebrew system of thought does not include
the combination or opposition of the 'body' and 'soul'
which are really Greek and Latin in origin" (1985, p. 237-238, emphasis
That nephesh doesn't refer to an immortal soul
can be seen in the way the word is used in the Old Testament. It is translated
"soul" or "being" in reference to man in Genesis
2:7, but also to animals by being translated "creature" in Genesis 1:24. Nephesh is translated "body" in Leviticus
21:11in reference to a human corpse.
The Hebrew Scriptures state plainly that, rather than
possess immortality, the soul can and does die. "The soul [ nephesh
] who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).
The Old Testament describes the dead as going to sheol, translated into English as "hell," "pit" or "grave." Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 describes sheol as a place of unconsciousness.
The immortal-soul concept isn't part of the Old Testament, but it began to make inroads into Jewish thought as Jews came in contact with Greek culture.
In the first century the Jewish philosopher Philo taught a Platonic concept: "... The death of a man is the separation of his soul from his body ..." ( The Works of Philo, translated by C.D. Yonge, 1993, p. 37). Philo followed the Hellenistic view that the soul is freed upon death to an everlasting life of virtue or evil.
In the New Testament the Greek word translated "soul" is psuche, which is also translated "life
Like nephesh, psuche refers to human
"souls" (Acts 2:41) and for animals (it is translated "life" in the King James
Version of Revelation 8:9and 16:3). Jesus declared that God can destroy man's psuche, or
"soul" (Matthew 10:28).
No one wrote more about this subject than the apostle Paul. He describes death as "sleep" (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Many people are surprised to find that the term immortal soul appears nowhere in the Bible. However, though the Scriptures do not speak of the soul as being immortal, they have much to say about immortality. For example: "You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).
We've seen in this brief look at the supposedly immortal soul that the Bible teaches no such concept. The idea filtered into Western thought through Greek philosophy. Its origins are older than Athens, in fact as old as man.
The concept of the immortal soul was introduced into man's thinking at the earliest beginnings of human history. God told the first human beings, Adam and Eve, that if they sinned they would die and return to the dust from which He had created them (Genesis 2:17; 3:19). Satan, the embodiment of evil, the powerful entity who opposes God, assured them they wouldn't die (verses 1-5).
Satan slyly injected into Eve's consciousness the
notion that God was lying and that she and her husband would not die, thus
ingraining the unscriptural teaching of the immortality of the soul into human
thought. Satan has since deceived the world on this important understanding as
well as many other biblical truths (Revelation 12:9). Much of the world, including millions of people in religions outside
of traditional Christianity, are convinced they have—or are—immortal souls and
hope they will go to a happy place or state of being immediately after they
The Bible answers this question too. Although mankind is physical, subject to death, the good news is that God promises a resurrection to eternal life to everyone who repents, worships God and accepts Jesus as the Messiah and His sacrifice. The first resurrection to immortality will take place when Christ returns to establish God's Kingdom on this earth.
Since this study of immortality is well developed in the Book of 1 Corinthians 15, it will be necessary to examine several verses in that chapter sometimes in our study. For now, let’s try to look at each of the above remark to see how faithful they are to the Bible.
Yes, it is true that the Hebrew word for soul, throughout the Old Testament, is nephesh; which means life, person, creature, body, mind, heart, desire, man etc.
But in “The God News” study, the author says, it simply means a breathing creature, without a good understanding of the word. What they fail to realize, in the concept of “breathing creature” we have the breath that is a spiritual substance, and the physical body. So, a breathing creature has to be seeing as a whole personality, a man or a person. That’s why we see, in the Bible, the word nephesh also describes a person or a man:
A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person (nephesh/ H5315) shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.
Unfortunately, according to that study, especially in part 2, that Hebrew word nephesh is not a combination of words like “soul and body”; it just means body or soul. They showed, for example, in Leviticus 21: 11, in relation with a human corpse, nephesh is translated body; which is very true. What about where it means mind, heart, life, or desire? Do these words imply some physical or spiritual substance? If they stand for some spiritual meanings, the Hebrew nephesh can be related to both a physical and a spiritual body or being.
Let’s support this fact with some biblical passages. In 1 Samuel 2: 35 we read:
And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and
in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed forever.
The word mind, which also means soul (H5315), is the same Hebrew word nephesh. In this context the word soul or mind is not a physical substance; it is a spiritual one, since it has to do with heart, desire, and pleasure.
In addition to this, when we read this following account concerning God, we know that word “nephesh” has to do also with spirit, since God is not a physical being.
Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.
The word mind or heart is a spiritual state of God, according to John 4:24:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The Bible also teaches us that, contrary to the Good News study, the Hebrew word nephesh does not only mean a physical body. Even in the Old Testament God clearly states that life, which is the soul is in the flesh:
But flesh (Basar/H1320) with the life ( Nephesh/H5315) thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
Here we see too different Hebrew words for flesh and soul or life. In this context, it really cannot
be flesh with the flesh; but flesh with the soul or life.
And surely your blood of your lives (Nephesh/H5315) will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.