A good summary of the ancient Greek and biblical views on this subject is found in The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987, “Immortality,” p. 518).
“The question of human immortality inevitably involves a comparison of biblical and Greek views of the subject. The Greek view, expounded classically in Plato’s Phaedo, is based on an anthropological dualism of body and soul. The body is gross, corruptible, subject to illusion. The soul, on the other hand, is immortal, eternal, essentially divine, and in a sense infallible, belonging properly to the realm of the ideal. In this life the soul is imprisoned in the body, which easily tyrannizes over the soul. Hence life ought to be a process of liberation, the weaning of the soul away from alien matter through engagement with the eternal ideas that lie behind material things. Death is the culmination of the process, the final liberation of the soul from the body, and thus is a friend and not an enemy; through death the soul is released from the prison of the body to its true home. This view is noble, full of apparent light, answers to an important dimension of human experience (the sense of alienation), and is attractive. It has influenced both Hellenistic Judaism and the history of Christian thought. Indeed, the salvation of the ‘immortal soul’ has sometimes been a commonplace in preaching, but it is fundamentally unbiblical. Biblical anthropology is not dualistic but monistic: human being consists in the integrated wholeness of body and soul, and the Bible never contemplates the disembodied existence of the soul in bliss. Death is the enemy of this integrity and not the friend of the soul. Immortality, in Greek thought, is of the nature of the soul, which is essentially unaffected by death except insofar as it is liberated. This involves no conflict, but rather is a peaceful escape from creation. Biblical immortality, on the contrary, is an end, which is achieved through a dramatic conflict with death and involves a new creation in which the integrity of body and soul is restored and perfected.
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Author: Restoration Fellowship
Keywords: Soul, Psuche, Psyche, nephesh, immortal soul, immortal spirit, immortality of the soul, soul's immortality
Bible reference(s): Deuteronomy 4:29, Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 26:16, Deuteronomy 30:2, Deuteronomy 30:6, Deuteronomy 30:10, Joshua 22:5, Joshua 23:14, Judges 5:21, Job 7:11, Job 10:1, Job 21:25, Job 30:25, Job 33:18, Job 33:20, Job 33:28, Psalms 25:1, Psalms 31:7, Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11, Psalms 43:5, Psalms 57:8, Psalms 62:5, Psalms 103:1, Psalms 103:2, Psalms 103:22, Psalms 104:1, Psalms 104:35, Psalms 116:7, Psalms 131:2, Psalms 146:1, Ecclesiastes 7:28, Isaiah 38:15, Jeremiah 4:19, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 1:46, Luke 2:35, Luke 10:27, John 12:27, Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 6:19, James 5:20
Source: “More on the Soul,” Focus on the Kingdom, Volume 3, No. 9, June 2001.
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