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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    NEITHER ANGEL NOR SPIRIT

    Acts 23:8: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees confess both.” Paul declared himself, in verse 6, to be a Pharisee; and in telling what they believed (verse 8), it is claimed that Paul plainly ranged himself on the side of those who believe in the separate, conscious existence of the spirit of man. But does this text say that the Pharisees believed any such thing? Three terms are used in expressing what the Sudducees did not believe, “resurrection, angel, and spirit.” But when the faith of the Pharisees is stated, these three are reduced to two: “The Pharisees confess both.” Both means only two, not three. Now what two of the three terms before employed unite to express one branch of the faith of the Pharisees?MND 88.3

    They believed, first, in the resurrection of the dead; and, secondly, they believed that there were intelligences in the unseen world, which they called angels and spirits. Appeal is made to the incident here narrated to try to array the apostle Paul on the side of the popular view that there are disembodied human spirits in conscious existence in the spirit world. But before this can be done, it must be shown that the Pharisees entertained such a belief, and that the apostle avowed himself a Pharisee in this respect. But we apprehend that neither of these points can be proved. It appears from verse 6 that Paul avowed himself a Pharisee only so far as pertained to their views of the resurrection of the dead. This seems to be plainly implied by the manner in which he joins his two affirmations together: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” He certainly was not a Pharisee in the broad acceptation of the term; for he was a Christian, and, from a theological point of view, not a Jew at all. Now whatever the Pharisees may have believed concerning spirits, it in nowise involves the apostle so far as this narrative is concerned. But there is no evidence here that they believed in disembodied human spirits. When they say (verse 9), “If a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him,” they doubtless refer to his experience on his way to Damascus, with which they were familiar. A voice had called to him from heaven. He did not claim that it was an angel. There were other spirit organizations in the heavenly world besides angels, without supposing disembodied human spirits. Hence they say, “If a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him.” This incident therefore furnishes no support to the popular view.MND 89.1

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