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Here and Hereafter

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    1. — DEPARTURE AND RETURN OF THE SOUL

    WE have now examined all those passages in which the word “spirit” is used in such a manner as to furnish what is claimed to be evidence of its uninterrupted consciousness after the death of the body. We have found them all easily explainable in harmony with other positive and literal declarations of the Scriptures, that the dead know not anything, that when a man’s breath goes forth and he returns to his earth, his very thoughts perish, and that there is no wisdom nor knowledge nor device in the grave to which we go. And so far the unity of the Bible system of truth on this point is unimpaired, and the harmony of the testimony of the Scriptures is maintained.HHMLD 106.2

    We will now examine those scriptures in which the term “soul” is supposed to be used in a manner to show that it is a separate entity in man, immortal in its nature, and able to exist as well out of the body as in. The first of these is Genesis 35:18, which speaks of the death of Rachel, and says: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni.” This is adduced as evidence that the soul departs when the body dies, and lives on in an active, conscious condition.HHMLD 106.3

    Luther Lee, in his day a prominent Wesleyan Methodist, wrote on this passage:—HHMLD 107.1

    “Her body did not depart. Her brains did not depart. There was nothing which departed which could consistently be called her soul, only on the supposition that there is in man an immaterial spirit which leaves the body at death.”HHMLD 107.2

    We may offset this assertion of Luther Lee’s with the following criticism from Professor Bush:—HHMLD 107.3

    As her soul was in departing. Hebrew, betzeth naphsURS HAH, in the going out of her soul, or life. Greek,, in her sending out her life. The language legitimately implies no more than the departing, or ceasing, of the vital principle, whatever that be. In like manner, when the prophet Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child (1 Kings 17:21), and cried three times, saying, ‘O Lord my God, ... let this child’s soul come into him again,’ he merely prays for the return of his physical vitality.” 1Note on Genesis 35:18.HHMLD 107.4

    The Hebrew word here translated “soul” is nephesh, rendered in the Septuagint by psuche; and it is unnecessary to remind those who have read the chapter on “Soul and Spirit” that these words mean many other things besides “body” and “brains.”HHMLD 107.5

    They often signify that which can be said to leave the body, as we shall presently see, rendering entirely uncalled for the supposition of an immaterial spirit, which Mr. Lee makes such haste to adopt.HHMLD 107.6

    What, then, did depart? and what is the plain, simple import of the declaration? We call the reader’s attention again to the criticism of Parkhurst, the lexicographer, on this passage:—HHMLD 107.7

    “As a noun, nephesh,hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul. I must for myself confess that I can find no passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning. Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21, 22; Psalm 16:10, seem fairest for this signification. But may not nephesh in the three former passages, be most properly rendered breath, and in the last, a breathing or animal frame?”HHMLD 108.1

    Thus, while Mr. Parkhurst admits that Genesis 35:18 is the fairest instance that can be found where nephesh could be supposed to mean the spiritual part of man, yet he will not so far hazard his reputation as a scholar and a critic, as to give it that meaning in this or any other instance, declaring that here it may most properly be rendered “breath.” And this is in harmony with the account of man’s creation, where it is seen that the imparting of the “breath of life” is what made Adam a living soul; and the loss of that “breath,” of course, reduces man again to a state of death.HHMLD 108.2

    1 Kings 17:22: “And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.” In the light of the foregoing criticism on Genesis 35:18, this text scarcely needs a passing remark. The same principle of interpretation applies to this as to the former. Bit one can hardly read such passages as this without noticing how at variance with the popular view they read. The child, as a whole, is the object with which the text deals. The child was dead. Something, called the “soul,” which the child is spoken of as having in possession, had gone from him, which caused his death. This element, not the child itself but what belonged to the child as a living being, came into him again, and the child revived.HHMLD 108.3

    But according to the immaterialist view, this passage should not so read at all. For what view makes the soul to be the child proper; and with this idea, the passage should read something like this: “And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the child came back and took possession of his body again, and the body revived.” This is the popular view. Mark the chasm between it and the Scripture record.HHMLD 108.4

    Verse 17 tell what had left the child, and what it was therefore necessary for the child to recover before he could live again. “His sickness was so sore,” says the record, “that there was no breath left in him.” That was the trouble: the “breath of life” was gone from the child. And when Elijah comes to pray for his restoration, he asks, in the most natural manner possible, that the very thing that had left the child, and thereby caused his death, might come into him again, and cause him to live; and that was simply what verse 17 states, — “the breath of life,“HHMLD 109.1

    Thus in neither of these passages do we find any evidence of the existence of an immaterial, immortal soul, which so confidently claims the throne of honor in the temple of modern orthodoxy.HHMLD 109.2

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