Soul Sleep and Lazar Puhalo
I speculate that a lot of the modern attacks on traditional Christian beliefs are rooted in Masonry. Masons want to "strip from all religions their orthodox tenets, legends, allegories and dogmas." (Clausen, Clausen's Commentaries on Morals and Dogmas, p. 157).
This is a short response to Lazar Puhalo's view of death, which comes close to the heresy of “soul sleep” — which affirms that the soul is unconscious and does not function outside the body at death. Puhalo’s view does not comport with biblical or ancient Jewish belief. In the following article, which is not exhaustive, I supply information proving that biblical writers and ancient Jews believed that the soul departed from the body at death and was conscious. The view that the soul remains in the body at death, in a state of sleep, does not in the least correspond with the sources coming from the Judeo-Christian revelation. This article is mostly just a collection of notes from biblical, Talmudic and intertestimental writings. Up to this point in my Orthodox Christian experience, I have never seen anyone delve into the biblical languages in their disputes about the toll-houses. I hope that this small response will be edifying. The Christian belief in the conscious afterlife of disembodied souls does not come from paganism, but must be understood against the backdrop of Scripture and ancient Judaism.
According to the ancient Church historian Eusebius, the doctrine of "soul sleep" was invented by third century heretics. (Ecclesiastical History, VI, C37).
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. This word has three basic meanings, one of which is the inner being, or soul of man which "departs at death and returns with life at the resurrection." (Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 659). Notice that the soul departs from the body at death.
No lexicographical material was found which restricts nephesh to the principle of physical life. The translators of the Septuagint never used the word bios, the Greek word for physical life, as the equivalent of nephesh.
There are passages in the Old Testament where the physical life is actually contrasted to the higher nephesh (soul) of man. (2 Sam. 11:11).
In Genesis 35:18, we see that "her soul was departing (for she died)".
In 1 Kings 17:21, 22, we see that that the prophet prayed that the dead child's "soul come into him again...the soul of the child came into him again." This implies that the child's soul had previously departed from the body.
The word psuche is the Greek equivalent for nephesh except in twenty-five cases.
The psuche is "...a disembodied soul." (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 677).
In Revelation 6:9, Psuche is used in the New Testament to describe disincarnate souls which worship at God's throne.
The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) "presupposed that the psuche will be separate from the body and will spend some time in the underworld." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. IX, p. 632).
According to "A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament" the word ruach has nine different meanings, one of which is disembodied spirits. (pp. 924-935).
Langenscheidt's Hebrew-English Dictionary to the Old Testament gives one of the definitions of ruach as spirit, ghost (p. 314).
No lexicographical material could be found which restricts ruach to mere principle of physical life or the breath of the body.
One of the definitions given by Thayer is a "human soul that has left the body." (See Thayer's Lexicon, pp. 520-524).
Arndt and Gingrich define pneuma as meaning (3) disincarnate souls, "after a persons death, his pneuma lives on as an independent being." (See pp. 680-685).
In the following biblical passages, pneuma is used to describe the disincarnate spirit or soul of man after death. (Matt. 27:50; Luke 24:37, 39; John 19:30; Acts 7:59; Heb. 12:23; 1 Pet 3:19).
Jews of the first century believed in disincarnate ghosts (Luke 24:37).
Langenscheidt's Hebrew-English Dictionary to the Old Testament defines rephaim as referring to the "departed spirits, shades." (p. 324).
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon defines rephaim as "shades, ghosts...name of dead in Sheol." (p. 952).
Keil and Delitzsch define rephaim as referring to "those who are bodiless in the state after death." (Vol. II on Job, 52).
At death man becomes a rephaim ("ghost"/"shade") or "disembodied spirit." (See Job 26:5; Ps. 88:10; Prov. 2:8; 9:18; 21:16; Isa. 14:9; 26:14, 19).
Keil and Delitzsch state that "Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentaries on the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 338).
George Ladd states: "In the Old Testament, man does not cease to exist at death, but his soul descends to Sheol." (The New Bible Dictionary, p. 380).
Souls in Sheol are conscious (Isa. 14:4-7; 44:23; Ezek. 31:16; 32:21).
In Sheol, souls reunite with their ancestors, tribe or people. (Gen. 15:15; 25:8; 35:29; 37:35; 49:33; Num. 20:24, 28; 31:2; Deut. 32:50; 34:5; 2Sam. 12:23).
Sheol has sections. There is the contrast between "the lowest part" and "the highest part." (Deut. 32:22).
Souls in Sheol are pictured as conversing with each other and even making moral judgments on the lifestyles of new arrivals (Isa. 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek. 32:21)
HADES (GREEK TRANSLATION OF SHEOL)
"the realm of ghosts or shades." (KJV). (Lang, ibid 604).
Hades stands for the realm of disembodied souls. (Lange, ibid., Prov., p. 56).
Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon defines Hades as "the common receptacle of disembodied spirits." (p.11)
A disembodied spirit (Job 26:5).
In ancient rabbinical literature it was believed that the soul of man was invisible and immortal (Bab. Tal. Ber. 59, AZ 21),
At death the soul leaves the body and remains conscious. (Mid. Gen. 409, 516, 549; Num. 733; Ecc. 83, 229).
The soul is conscious in the afterlife (Mid. Gen. 549).
At the resurrection, the soul returns to the body, according to The Apocalypse of Baruch.
According to The Apocalypse of Paul, angels carry the righteous away at death (14) and evil spirits come to carry away the souls of the wicked to torment (15-19).
Man's soul/spirit is viewed as being separate from the body in Eccles. 12:7; Isa. 10:18; Matt. 10:28; 1Cor. 5:5).
Death occurs when the soul/spirit leaves the body (Gen. 35:18: 1Kings 17:21, 22m KJV-- "life" in NASB; Eccles. 12:7; James 2:26).
The continuing problem with necromancy among the ancient Israelite's is noted by many scholars as evidence that they did not believe in soul sleep. (See, Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 673; F. Grant, Facts and Theories as to a Future State, p. 128; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. VI, p. 2761; Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment, p. 50, etc).
King Saul attempted to contact Samuel's departed soul in Sheol through the medium of Endor. (1Sam. 28:7-25). Clearly Saul believed that Samuel’s soul was consciously alive in Sheol.
At death the soul leaves the body (4 Esr. 7:78) and awaits it's return to its resurrected body at the end of time (Bab. Sanh. 91).
At death, the disincarnate mind is called a "spirit" or a "ghost" (Job 4:15).
The spirit ascends to God at death (Ps. 31:5; Eccles. 12:7).
Moses had died and God had buried him (Deut. 34:5, 6), but at the transfiguration of Christ, he was conscious outside his body and conversing with Christ. (See Matt. 17:1-3).
In Acts 7, St. Steven prayed to Christ to receive his spirit. (See 7:55-60). Lenski says that Steven’s immaterial part, his spirit, “left his body and was received by Jesus into the glory and bliss of heaven.” (Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, p. 309). Thayer’s lexicon says of this passage: “we find that dexomai in Acts 7:59 can only be gramatically understood in terms of “receive to thyself in heaven my spirit” [author’s paraphrase]”. (p. 130).
St. Paul: “absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (See 2Cor. 5:1-8).
When Christ returns, the saints come with him out of heaven. (See 1Thess.4:14; Rev. 21:10).
St. Paul described the dwelling place after death to be “in the heavens” (2Cor. 5:1) where Christ is (5:8).
Going home to be with Christ is better. (See Phil.1:21-23).
The spirits of righteous men are in the heavenly Jerusalem. (See Heb.12:22-24).
In 1 Peter 3:19 there are “spirits in prison.” They are not in their bodies.
In Revelation 6 there is the prayer of martyrs who are in heaven. (See 6: 9, 10). They are conscious, active and outside their bodies.
And let us remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31).
It is clear from Holy Scripture that when a person dies, his soul is removed from the body and consciously active. Sheol/Hades is a place where souls are gathered, not a state of mind experienced in the body. Soul sleep and the view held by Lazar Puhalo lack Scriptural support, and even contradict Scripture.