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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Immortality of the Soul & Jehovah's Witnesses

The JW’s teach that once you die, you stop existing, sort of a materialistic point of view with a twist. They do believe that pretty much everyone will be resurrected from the dead and be conscience again.

They really point to 4 key passages that I will go through with their arguments, then we will examine them one by one:

Genesis 2:7 - then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
  • The JW Bible says that man became a living soul, which is an ok interpretation of that word. They then reason that we don’t have souls. We are souls.

Ezekiel 18:4 - Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.

  • See (they say) because we ARE souls, the soul that sins dies. So when we die we are dead.

Psalms 146:4 - When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.

  • The JW Bible reads that his thoughts will perish. Now obviously if your thoughts have perished with your death, then there is nothing left of you to exist, therefore you have stopped existing after death. And to back this up is…

Ecclesiastes 9:5 - For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.

  • See the dead are conscience of nothing because when you die, you stop existing, there is no special part of you that goes on living after you die.

Now how do we respond to these verses?
Lets look at Genesis 2:7 - then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
- I agree that the Bible describes people as being souls such as in 1Peter 3:20 where is says that "eight persons (souls), were saved through water." But I have noticed also that the Bible has a wide range of the use of the word "soul" [Heb. Nephesh, Gk. Psuche]. For example:
Gen 35:18 – a soul can go out at death.
1Kgs 17:21 – come back in a person.
Luke 1:46 – people have souls.
Mt 10:28 – the soul is not the body and it can’t be killed by man.
Josh 10:37 – can be struck with a sword.
Ps 42:6; Ps 43:5 – is the dwelling of emotions.
Rev 6:9-11 – can speak after death.


So sometimes the Bible says that the person IS a soul. Other times it says that the soul is something IN a person. Even other verses say that the soul is something that survives death.

Ezekiel 18:4 - Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.
- The context here is just saying that a person will have to be accountable for their own sin, not their children. But you are saying that this verse is saying that souls can and do die. I agree with that, but not in the sense that when a person sins his soul dies, meaning ceases to exist. A person’s soul can be dead to God, meaning that they have fallen out of relationship with him like in Luke 15:24 - About the prodigal son, the father says - my son was dead and is alive, he was lost and now is found.


Psalms 146:4 - When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish .
- The Hebrew word here for thoughts implies ‘plans’, as if when the person dies, all the plans that he had planned cannot come to fruition because he died before be could make them come to pass. The whole psalm is about trusting in the Lord and not in man, because while plans of men perish the plan of God is forever and can be trusted.


Finally Ecclesiastes 9:5 - For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.
- If you have spoken with a corps lately you will notice that you have done all of the talking. It is in this sense that the dead know nothing. Even the context of this verse betrays the interpreation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses if we read the whole 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes

In Ecclesiastes 3:20, 21 - All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dustagain.21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth? So the author himself asks the question about where does the spirit go at death?
Ecclesiastes 12:7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. At the end of the book he gives the answer - the spirit returns to God - it isn’t destroyed at all.


Some other verses that show the soul survives death:
Matt 10:28 - do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Matt 17:3 - Moses and Elijah - (two dead guys) talking to Jesus
Luke 16:23 - Lazarus and the rich man. Whether this is a parable or not, Jesus always drew his images from real life situations.
Philipians 1:23 - St. Paul says, My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.


2 comments:

Aquilifer said...

I think that the JW's interpretation of Gen 2:7 is (in part at least)an error of strick interpretation.
As you noted later, there are several different places ( Pet., Mt., Rev., etc.) where the soul is either IN the person or IS the person. Obviously it would be a contradiction to say that it is both.
I suggest then that for the strict interpretation of Gen 2:7, the author did not mean it in the strict sense, but was rather using a rhetorical figure known as "pars pro toto" (or: part for the whole). We use this commonly in English in several different ways: such as when we refer to a car as a "set of wheels." When we call somebody's car a set of wheels we are not implying that they are missing the engine, chassis, etc. rather we are calling the whole of the car by the part of the wheels. And everybody (except perhaps people who are learning English and unfamilar with our idioms) understands this. In a similar way, we call counting a number of people "making a head count." We are not making sure that there are a pile of bodiless heads to count, but are in fact counting whole people.
Thus the author of Genesis, is probably also not denying the existance of the physical body of the person, but is simlply refering to it through the part of the soul.
This would then hold true for the rest of the instances as well, the soul is in the body, but can stand for the whole in speach.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting these scriptural examples. This has helped me immensley. I have a life-long friend who is a Witness. I obviously know better than to debate her on scripture. It is my prayer that she will read some of the examples you have given, and the Lord will reveal the truth to her. I also appreciate the post by Aquilifer. Thank you for your insight. God bless!