Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #4 Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures

Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures

Psy·khe′ appears by itself 102 times in the Westcott and Hort text of the Christian Greek Scriptures. We may assume that when we have so many references to the same word or subject we would have enough opportunity to make it possible to get a clear concept of the sense that these terms conveyed to the minds of the inspired Bible writers. When you compare one verse in one book with another verse from another book in the sample of Bible Books, as a reader you should be able to get some idea what they really meant by those words[1]. It should give a clear concept of the sense their writings should convey to the readers mind. An examination shows that, while the sense of these terms is broad, with different shades of meaning, among the Bible writers there was no inconsistency, confusion, or disharmony as to man’s nature, as existed among the Grecian philosophers of the so-called Classical Period.

The New Testament uses the word psyche to refer to life. Though Jesus says psyche is more than food or drink or clothing, it is clear from his words that psyche depends on these things (Matthew 6:25; Luke 12:22-23). Without food and drink the psyche would perish because the body would perish. Psyche is also subject to other frailties. The psyche of Epaphroditus was near to death due to illness (Philemon 2:30). Jesus, healing a man’s hand, asks whether it is better on the Sabbath to save psyche or to kill psyche (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9). Psyche is something that can be harmed or even killed, and requires healing. Those “souls” with Paul on his voyage to Rome were in danger of shipwreck (Acts 27:10, 22, 37) and eight “souls” were saved from the Flood in the Ark (1 Peter 3:20). As child, Jesuspsyche was threatened by Herod (Matthew 2:20), and Elijah’s psyche was threatened by Jezebel (Romans 11:3). In all these cases it is clear that psyche means life, not some immaterial substance.

The fate of the psyche is equally clear in the NT. Far from being innately immortal, the psyche can be destroyed by capital punishment (Acts 3:23), for example. After death the psyche, rather than floating off to some other realm, resides in the grave – just as the psyche of Jesus did (Acts 2:27, 31). There is no verse in the NT that ascribes immortality to the psyche.

English: The Soul of the Rose, oil in canvas b...

The Soul of the Rose, oil in canvas by John William Waterhouse (British, 1849-1917), shows the mortal Psyche admiring the Eros’s magical garden, the Greek god of life. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If psyche referred to your personhood or personality, to who you really were, then many expressions in the NT simply wouldn’t make sense. When Peter is willing to die for Jesus he says “I will lay down my psyche for you” (John 13:37); if Peter is his psyche and if that psyche survives death then what would Peter be laying down? Similarly, when Jesus gave his psyche (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17; John 15:13; 1 John 3:16) what was it that he gave? If Jesus’ soul survived death then obviously the one thing he didn’t give was his soul. Paul says “I do not account my psyche of any value nor as precious to myself” (Acts 20:24); which is a bizarre and contradictory thing to say if he is his psyche. In all these cases, psyche would be better translated “life”. When Jesus talks about the danger that you might lose your psyche (Matt 10:39; Matt 16:25-6; Mark 8:35-7; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25), he cannot be referring to an innately immortal, immaterial, substance that is you. Again, in these cases psyche is better translated “life”.

One potentially odd verse is Matthew 10:28:

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the psyche. Rather fear him who can destroy both psyche and body in Gehenna.

This verse is clearly incompatible with the immortality of the soul, since here Jesus says that the soul can be destroyed. However this verse might be read as saying that the body and psyche die separately, that mere men cannot kill the psyche, and that the psyche will be finally destroyed in Gehenna. The parallel in Luke 12:4-5 does not mention the psyche, saying:

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

This sounds like there is some part of you that survives the death of the body that might be cast into hell. However once it is understand that Gehenna is a metaphor for complete annihilation after the final judgement then any appearance of the immortality of the soul disappears. According to Luke’s account Jesus is effectively saying “don’t fear death, fear a negative judgement in the Last Days”. Matthew’s account presumably has the same meaning. Psyche in Matt 10:28 cannot mean “life” (in a mundane sense), as Jesus implies that human adversaries cannot kill the psyche, but nor can psyche here mean immortal soul, as Jesus implies that God can and will destroy the psyche of the wicked. The phrase “cannot kill the psyche” in Matthew 10:28 cannot be taken in an absolute sense, because it is clear from Matthew 2:20 that, in Matthew’s own terminology, the psyche can be killed. The best way to make sense of Matthew 10:28 is to remember that Jesus believed in resurrection. Jesus believed that he would give up his psyche (Matthew 20:28) but that he would get it back. In the same way, the believer should not fear those who might take their lives because God is able to give them back their lives.

The Supreme Being, the True God that made the world and all things therein, being Lord of heaven and earth. He is the only Immortal Being (1 Tim 1:17). All the other beings have a beginning and an end to their existence or ‘being’. Their psyche came from nothingness or dust and shall again become nothingness or dust, not able to think or do anything. This will be so for plants, animals and mammals like human beings exactly the same; none of them shall be able to take anything with them in death or could do anything in death. We are all, believers and non-believers, doomed to pass away, just perishing and not going to continue to live in another form, but all coming to nought.

 

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[1] Studying the Bible demands such a comparison of verses to get a right insight of what the text really may mean.

 

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Preceding:

Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #3 Historical background

Next:

Mortality of man and mortality of the spirit

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Additional reading:

  1. Creation of the earth and man #9 Formation of man #1 Cure of souls
  2. Is there an Immortal soul
  3. Bible sayings on the situation and place for the dead
  4. Jesus three days in hell
  5. Grave, tomb, sepulchre – graf, begraafplaats, rustplaats, sepulcrum
  6. This month’s survey question: Heaven and Hell
  7. What date was the Flood?
  8. Is God behind all suffering here on earth
  9. God’s wrath and sanctification
  10. Darkness, light, burning fire, Truth and people in it
  11. Autumn traditions for 2014 – 2 Summersend and mansend
  12. I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell
  13. Jesus … will come in the same way as you saw him go
  14. To be prepared and very well oiled
  15. God’s Plan, Purpose and teachings

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Further reading

  1. The Journey of Self-Realization, is to Realize the Truth, Each Day.
  2. Von Belastbarkeitsgrenzen und der Sache mit dem Lernen
  3. A Return to Self
  4. Out of the Way (Mark 8:35)
  5. Emotional body’s set flexibility?
  6. Taking Care Of Your Psyche > Taking Care Of Your Psyche
  7. Mentality: Psyche, Slumps and the Perils of Hope

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I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

Me neither. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to go to suffer everlasting torment, however bad they were in life, and I don’t like the idea of a god would want that either. The idea of unending pain is not only intolerably cruel but to pretend that in any sense someone could deserve that fate so unjust as to be positively wicked. Regardless of how bad someone behaved, regardless of how many crimes they committed, no-one could do enough evil to justify an infinite punishment. Even worse is the suggestion that anyone who misses out on salvation will end up with the same punishment; petty crook and genocidal dictator alike, they all must endure an eternity of pain and suffering. A god who behaved in this way could not be described as “merciful“, could not even be described as “just”. Such a god could only be described as wicked. But the God I believe in is both merciful and just, so I can’t believe that He would send anyone to hell.

There is another reason why I can’t believe it – the idea isn’t even biblical. Look at what Jesus says about hell:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)

Leave aside for a moment what Jesus meant by “soul” and “hell”, it is clear that Jesus did not think of hell as many Christians do. For Jesus, hell is not a place where the soul suffers eternal conscious torment. Instead hell is a place where the soul is killed, destroyed, finished, done.

Look at what Jesus promises to anyone who will accept it:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:36)

Jesus promises eternal life. The opposite of eternal life is not eternal conscious torment but eternal death. Jesus makes this clear in the words considered above. Whoever rejects the offer will “not see life”. They don’t go on living in torment and agony for all eternity. They just stay dead. That’s the fate of the wicked, that’s the fate of those who reject Jesus’ offer of life, they stay dead.

The question then is why do so many Christians believe in hell, given that is a horrible idea and not what Jesus taught? For some people, though they call themselves “Christian”, just use the doctrine of hell as a stick to beat their neighbours. There also probably some truth in the claim that the historic church used the threat of hell as a way of controlling its followers. But there are also many sincere and well-intentioned Christians who still believe in hell. This is because they are used to reading the Bible a certain way and have never been shown that it was written differently.

Many Christians believe that the soul is immortal, that it not only survives death but can never die. This is not what Jesus or the early Christians taught, but if you believe that the soul cannot die then you must believe it goes somewhere after death. You wouldn’t want to belief that wicked people end up in a good place (a lot of Christians believe they go to heaven when they die), so there must be a bad place for the bad people to go to. Once you’ve got this idea in your mind then you read the Bible to fit that idea. For example, whilst Jesus never talks about eternal conscious torment, he does talk about “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46). If you already believe that bad souls go to a bad place when they die, it is convenient to read “eternal punishment” as though it said “eternal conscious torment”. That’s not what Jesus said, but that’s what many Christians think.

English: Ge-Hinnom, c. 1900.

Ge-Hinnom or Valley of Hinnom, c. 1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It also does not help that Christians today have forgotten what Jesus meant when he used the word “hell”. When Jesus talks about hell he is usually using the word gehenna, which literally means “Valley of Hinnom“. This was a place in ancient Israel where the worshippers of the pagan god Molech would perform human sacrifices, including burning children (e.g. 2 Kings 23:10). This practice is condemned by God through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:35). Jeremiah uses the imagery of being burnt in the Valley of Hinnom to portray the fitting punishment for those who practiced such evil (Jeremiah 7:31-32). This is the background to the word gehenna in the New Testament where it represents the fate of the wicked. When Jesus talks about the ‘fire of hell‘ (Matthew 5:22) he is using the word gehenna, using this imagery for the destruction of death. The other word used by Jesus for hell is hades. Though in greek mythology hades was both the abode of the dead and the god of the dead, in the New Testament hades simply refers to the grave. In either case Jesus was not referring to a place of eternal conscious torment for the wicked, as many people now think about hell.

As you can see from this overview I do not think that Christians should believe in hell and as such I do not think that hell provides any obstacle to believing in God. Jesus does not teach that the wicked go to hell and I do not know of any other part of the bible that teaches this idea. Wherever people got the notion of hell from it was not from God and not part of his message to mankind. I can understand that you would not want to believe in a god that condemned people to hell, though your personal dislike would not determine whether or not such a god existed. But the notion of hell is inconsistent with everything we know about the God who does exist; inconsistent with his goodness and inconsistent with his message to mankind.

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Additional reading:

  1. Another way looking at a language #3 Abraham
  2. Sheol, Sheool, Sjeool, Hades, Hell, Grave, Tomb, Sepulchre
  3. Grave, tomb, sepulchre – graf, begraafplaats, rustplaats, sepulcrum
  4. Darkness, light, burning fire, Truth and people in it
  5. Jesus three days in hell
  6. Hellfire
  7. A fact of History or just a fancy Story
  8. The soul
  9. Dying or not
  10. Is there an Immortal soul
  11. Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid
  12. Set free from any form of mental torment or self-condemnation
  13. Creator and Blogger God 3 Lesson and solution
  14. Creator and Blogger God 7 A Blog of a Book 1 Believing the Blogger
  15. Fragments from the Book of Job #1: chapters 1-12
  16. Fragments from the Book of Job #4: chapters 27-31
  17. We are ourselves responsible
  18. Self inflicted misery #6 Paying by death
  19. Self inflicted misery #8 Pruning to strengthen us
  20. Bad things no punishment from God
  21. Being Religious and Spiritual 3 Philosophers, Avicennism and the spiritual
  22. Being Religious and Spiritual 6 Romantici, utopists and transcendentalists
  23. Being Religious and Spiritual 7 Transcendence to become one
  24. Atonement And Fellowship 4/8
  25. Edward Wightman
  26. Fear and protection
  27. Fear of God reason to return to Holy Scriptures
  28. Eternity depends upon this short time on earth
  29. A small company of Jesus’ footstep follower

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  • Biblical Hell (focusedandfree.com)
    Because of the symbolic nature of the language, some people question whether hell consists of actual fire. Such reasoning should bring no comfort to the lost. The reality is greater than the symbol. The Bible exhausts human language in describing heaven and hell. The former is more glorious, and the latter more terrible, than language can express.
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    In Christian tradition it is usually associated with the notion of eternal punishment, especially by fire. This idea appears in Isaiah. 66:24, but it is not clearly associated with a place. Jewish writings from the third century B.C. onward, speak of places of punishment by fire for evil spirits and the wicked dead (1 Enoch 18:11-16108:3-7152 Esdras 7:36-38). The book of Revelation describes a lake that burns with fire and brimstone in which the wicked will be eternally punished (Revelation 19:2020:14-1521:8).
  • Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
    One aspect of the great controversy about hell, and about Bell’s thesis, is the meaning of the word Gehenna in the New Testament. Most English translations contribute to the confusion by replacing the word Gehenna with hell, instead of leaving it untranslated, as it should be, since it is the name of a specific geographical place on earth.
  • Is Gehenna the same as the lake of fire? (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
    Arthur W. Pink compared Gehenna with the lake of fire in Revelation 20 in his article on Eternal Punishment. He thought these two things were identical. But Pink may have been mistaken about this, as he was about the doctrine of dispensationalism. He eventually realized dispensationalism was false, and wrote a series of articles against that theory, which he previously supported.In his discussion of Gehenna, Pink compared things said of it with the information that is provided about the lake of fire. His comparison is summarized
  • Is Literal Hellfire Torment A Bible Teaching? (debatepolitics.com)
    The teaching of literal hellfire torment is commonplace in Christendom and non-Christian religions. This teaching defames the Creator and portrays him as a sadist who tortures people in flames of fire for all eternity—as punishment for wrongdoing committed during the relatively brief human lifespan. The hellfire dogma was brought into Christianity by the Roman Catholics who copied it from pagan religions. (Pagans are those who do not worship the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible.)
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    The scriptures indicate that hell is nothing more than mankind’s common grave. Proof of this is provided by a verse of scripture in the Bible, which no hellfire-believing Christian can explain away. I’m referring to the scripture that says Jesus Christ–the epitome of a perfect, sinless, and obedient man–died and went to hell.
  • What and Where is Hell Anyway? (robertjrgraham.com)
    When most people think of hell, they think of Satan in that red suit with two horns and a pitchfork somewhere in the depths of the Earth where souls are tormented day and night on some kind of giant char broiler. Do something wrong in life and you’re condemned to an eternal damnation of flames. None of this could be further from the truth, and we should know better, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (II Corinthians 2:11).The English word hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon hel, or in the genitive case helle, which means a “hidden place”, from the Anglo-Saxon word helan, meaning “to hide”.
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    Whether it’s the word sheol in the Old Testament, or gehenna or hades in the New Testament, they all mean either the grave or the state of death.
  • Is Hell eternal or do those who do not choose Christ just cease to exist? (askthepastors.wordpress.com)
    There are four words used in the Bible for the place of the dead, Sheol, the Hebrew term for the grave and also for the place of departed spirits, Hades, the Greek version of Sheol, the Abyss (used for the place of the dead in Romans 10:7, but usually reserved for place of judgment for demons, Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1,2, 20:1) and Gehenna, the term taken from the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem where trash was perpetually burned. This last word refers specifically to the final place of torment, most properly translated “hell” (Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9, etc.)
  • Comments on Walter Balfour’s interpretation of Gehenna (creationconcept.wordpress.com)
    In their disputes about the meaning of Gehenna, both men overlooked the significance of Gehenna as a topographical feature in the land of promise, and one of the valleys which Isaiah said will be filled, as John the Baptist proclaimed. [Luke 3:5]From Gehenna, one views Jerusalem as an outsider; the teachings of Jesus encourage us to get into the kingdom of God, and obtain life.
    +The sayings of Jesus about Gehenna also apply to the present age. Gehenna is a judgment. [Mat. 5:22, 23:33] Jesus referred to it as something we should avoid at any cost, even if it means loss of our right eye, or our right hand, or our right foot. [Mat. 5:29, 30] Jesus said God is able to destroy “both soul and body” in Gehenna, and that we should fear him. [Mat. 10:28, Luke 12:5] This suggests that the warnings about Gehenna apply to our present lives; being cast into it represents the spiritual condition, of being outside the holy city.Being cast into Gehenna contrasts with entering into life. [Mat. 18:9] Scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites are called “children of Gehenna.” [Mat. 23:15] Balfour correctly pointed out “no Gentile is ever threatened with Gehenna punishment,” as that threat applies especially to those in Jerusalem. One must be in the holy city, in order to be cast out of it. While the threat of “the damnation of Gehenna” applies only to Jews, the heirs of salvation, who are “in Christ,” are called Jews, and “the circumcision,” in a spiritual sense; Jesus used the threat of Gehenna figuratively and metaphorically to warn the saints who dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem.
  • Is Punishment Eternal? (pilgrimpassing.com)
    Thus, sheol and hades were the same place and must have been occupied by the redeemed since the Messiah was there while His body lay in the grave. That the lost were also there, but in a separate area, is clear from Christ’s statement that when the rich man died, “in hades he lift up his eyes, being in torment….” That in his torment he could see Lazarus and Abraham in comfort (Luke 16:19-31) further indicates that the redeemed were also in hades yet distinct from the damned. That part of hades, which Christ referred to as “Abraham’s bosom,” must have been the “paradise” in which Jesus promised to meet the believing thief on the cross that very day (Luke 23:43).
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    If God is so loving why doesn’t He universally forgive everyone? Love is only part of God’s character. He is also infinitely and perfectly just. How can God forgive someone who admits no guilt? How can He forgive those who insist that there is nothing for which He needs to forgive them? And would it not be the utmost folly to do so? If in His mercy and grace God simply passed over human rebellion, would that not be condoning evil and even encouraging it? Would that not in itself undermine God’s control of His universe?
  • Walter Balfour’s discussion of Gehenna
  • Hope in Gehenna?
  • John Calvin on Gehenna
  • Gehenna applies to the church, not the world
  • Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy
  • To Hell with Hell
  • Philosophy – What Is Hell?
  • Jason Erb critically analyzes biblical doctrines on Truth Hertz with Charles Giuliani, January 1, 2013
  • Lost Soul in Hell
  • The Amazing Race of God
  • God versus Satan
  • A Full Documentary About the Signs of Apocalypse
  • Reality of Hell…
  • To Hell with HellIs Punishment Eternal?
  • There Is No Hell, Look It Up