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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is the perpetuity of existence after it has once begun (Lat. immortalitas, not dying). ‘‘ If a man die, shall he live again?' is a question which has naturally agitated the heart and stimulated the intellectual curiosity of man, wherever he has risen above a state of barbarism, and commenced to exercise his intellect at all." Without such a belief, Max Muller (Chips from a German Workshop, 1, 45) well says, "religion surely is like an arch resting on one pillar, like a bridge ending in an abyss." It is very gratifying, therefore, to the believer, and a fact worthy of notice, that the affirmative on this question is assumed more or less by all the nations of earth, so far as our information reaches at the present day, although, it is true, their views often assume very vague and even materialistic forms.
I. Ideas of rude Nations. — We concede that the views of most rude heathen nations, both ancient and modern, respecting the state of man after death are indeed dark and obscure, as well as their notions respecting the nature of the soul itself, which some of them regard as a kind of aerial substance, resembling the body, though of a finer material. Still it is found that the greater part of mankind, even of those who are entirely uncultivated, though they may be incapable of the higher philosophical idea of the personal immortality of the soul, are yet inclined to believe at least that the soul survives the body, and continues either forever, or at east for a very long time. This faith seems to rest in uncultivated nations, or, better perhaps, races,
1, upon the love of life, which is deeply planted in the human breast, and leads to the wish and hope that life will be continued even beyond the grave;
2, upon traditions transmitted from their ancestors;
3, upon dreams, in which the dead appear speaking or acting, and thus confirming both wishes and traditions. (See NECROMANCY).
1. Hindus. — In the sacred books of the Hindus called the Veda, "immortality of the soul, as well as personal immortality and personal responsibility after death, is clearly proclaimed" (Miller, Chips, 1, 45). (We have here a refutation of the opinion that has hitherto been entertained, that the goal of Hinduism is absorption [q.v.] into the Universal Spirit, and therefore loss of individual existence, and that the Hindus as well as Brahmans believe in the transmigration [q.v.] of the soul, and a refutation by a writer who is most competent to speak. Professor Roth, another great Sanskrit scholar, in an article in the Journal of the German Oriental Society [iv, 427], corroborates Prof. Muller in these words: "We here [in the Veda] find, not without astonishment, beautiful conceptions on immortality expressed in unadorned language with childlike conviction. If it were necessary, we might find here the most powerful weapons against the view which has lately been revived and proclaimed as new, that Persia was the only birthplace of the idea of immortality, and that even the nations of Europe had derived it from that quarter. As if the religious spirit of every gifted race was not able [which Mü ller (2, 267) holds] to arrive at it by its own strength.")
Thus we find these passages: "He who gives alms goes to the highest place in heaven; he goes to the gods" (Rev. 1, 125, 56). "Even the idea, so frequent in the later literature of the Brahmans, that immortality is secured by a son, seems implied, unless our translation deceives us, in one passage of the Veda (7, 56, 24): ‘ O Maruts, may there be to us a strong son, who is a living ruler of men; through whom we may cross the waters on our way to the happy abode; then may we come to your own house!' One poet prays that he may see again his father and mother after death (Revelation 1:2; Revelation 4:1); and the fathers are invoked almost like gods, oblations are offered to them, and they are believed to enjoy, in company with the gods, a life of never-ending felicity. We find this prayer addressed to Soma (Revelation 9:1; Revelation 13:7): ‘ Where there is eternal light, in the world where the sun is placed, in that immortal, imperishable world place me, O Soma! Where king Vaivasvata reigns, where the secret plague of heaven is, where these mighty waters are, there make me immortal! Where life is free, in the third heaven of heavens, where the worlds are radiant, there make me immortal! Where wishes and desires are, where the bowl of the bright Soma is, where there is food and rejoicing, there make me immortal! Where there is happiness and delight, where joy. and pleasure reside, where the desires of our desire are attained, there make me immortal!'"
2. Chinese. — While it is true that Confucius himself did not expressly teach the immortality of the soul, nay, that he rather purposely seems to have avoided entering upon this subject at all, taking it most probably like Moses, as we shall see below, simply for granted (comp. Muller, Chips, 1, 308), it is nevertheless implied in the worship which the Chinese pay to their ancestors. Another evidence, it seems to us, is given by the absence of the word death from the writings of Confucius (q.v.). When a person dies, the Chinese say "he has returned to his family." "The spirits of the good were, according to him (Confucius), permitted to visit their ancient habitations on earth, or such ancestral halls or places as were appointed by their descendants, to receive homage and confer benefactions. Hence the duty of performing rites in such places, under the penalty, in the case of those who, while living, neglect such duty, of their spiritual part being deprived after death of the supreme bliss flowing from the homage of descendants" (Legge, Life and Teachings of Confucius, Philadelphia, 1867, 12mo).
3. Egyptians. — Perhaps we may say that the idea of immortality assumed a more definite shape among the Egyptians, for they clearly recognized not only a dwelling-place of the dead; but also a future judgment. "Osiris, the beneficent god, judges the dead, and, ‘ having weighed their heart in the scales of justice, he sends the wicked to regions of darkness, while the just are sent to dwell with the god of light.' The latter, we read on an inscription, ‘ found favor before the great God; they dwell in glory, where they live a heavenly life; the bodies they have quitted will forever repose in their tombs, while they rejoice in the life of the supreme God.' Immortality was thus plainly taught, although bound up with it was the idea of the preservation of the body, to which they attached great importance, as a condition of the soul's continued life; and hence they built vast tombs, and embalmed their bodies, as if to last forever."
4. Persians. — In the religion of the Persians, also, at least since, if not previous to the time of Zoroaster, a prominent part is assigned to the existence of a future world, with its governing spirits. "Under Ormuz and Ahriman there are ranged regular hierarchies of spirits engaged in a perpetual conflict; and the soul passes into the kingdom of light or of darkness, over which these spirits respectively preside, according as it has lived on the earth well or ill. Whoever has lived in purity, and has not suffered the divs (evil spirits) to have any power over him, passes after death into the realms of light."
5. American Indians. — The native tribes of the lower part of South America believe in two great powers of good and evil, but likewise in a number of inferior deities. These are supposed to have been the creators and ancestors of different families, and hence, when an Indian dies, his soul goes to live with the deity who presides over his particular family. These deities have each their separate habitations in vast caverns under the earth, and thither the departed repair to enjoy the happiness of being eternally drunk (compare Tyler, Researches into the early History of Mankind, and the Development of Civilization, Lond. 1868). Another American tribe of Indians, the Mandans, have with their belief in a future state connected this tradition of their origin: "The whole nation resided in one large village under ground near a subterraneous lake.
A grapevine ‘ extended its roots down to their habitation, and gave them a view of the light. Some of the most adventurous climbed up the vine, and were delighted with the sight of the earth, which they found covered with buffalo, and rich with every kind of fruit. Returning with the grapes they had gathered, their countrymen were so pleased with the taste of them that the whole nation resolved to leave their dull residence for the charms of the upper region. Men, women, and children ascended by means of the vine; but when about half the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a corpulent woman who was clambering up the vine broke it with her weight and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation the light of the sun. Those who were left on earth expect, when they die. to return to the original seats of their forefathers, the good reaching the ancient village by means of the lake, which the burden of the sins of the wicked will not enable them to cross" (Tyler). The Choctaw tribe's belief in a future state is equally curious. "They hold that the spirit lives after death, and that it has a great distance to travel towards the west; that it has to cross a dreadful, deep, and rapid stream, over which, from hill to hill, there lies a long, slippery pine log, with the bark peeled off. Over this the dead have to pass before they reach the delightful hunting grounds. The good walk on safely, though six people from the other side throw stones at them: but the wicked, trying to dodge the stones, slip off the log, and fall thousands of feet into the water which is dashing over the rocks" (see Brinton, p. 233 sq.).
6. Polynesians. — The natives of Polynesia "imagine that the sky descends at the horizon and incloses the earth. Hence they call foreigners ‘ palangi' or ‘ heaven-bursters,' as having broken in from another world outside. According to their views, we live upon the ground floor of a great house, with upper stories rising one over another above us, and cellars down below. There are holes in the ceiling to let the rain through, and as men are supposed to visit the dwellers above, the dwellers from below are believed to come sometimes up to the surface, and likewise to receive visits from men in return."
7. New Hollanders. — The native tribes of Australia believe that all who are good men, and have been properly buried, enter heaven after death. "Heaven, which is the abode of the two good divinities, is represented as a delightful place, where there is abundance of game and food, never any excess of heat or cold, rain or drought, no malign spirits, no sickness or death, but plenty of rioting, singing, and dancing for evermore. They also believe in an evil spirit who dwells in the nethermost regions, and, strange to say, they represent him with horns and a tail, though one would think that, prior to the introduction of cattle into New Holland, the natives could not have been aware of the existence of horned beasts" (Oldfield).
8. Greenlanders. — "The Greenlander believes that when a man dies his soul travels to Torlgarsuk, the land where reigns perpetual summer, all sunshine, and no night; where there is good water, and birds, fish, seals, and reindeer without end, that are to be caught without trouble, or are found cooking alive in a huge kettle. But the journey to this land is difficult; the souls have to slide five days or more down a precipice, all stained with the blood of those who have gone down before. And it is especially grievous for the poor souls when the journey must be made in winter or in tempest, for then a soul may come to harm, or suffer the other death, as they call it, when it perishes utterly, and nothing is left. The bridge Es-Sirat, which stretches over the midst of the Moslem hill, finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword, conveys a similar conception." Tyler, on whose works we mainly rely for the information here conveyed on rude nations, traces the idea of a bridge in Java, in North America, in South America, and he also shows how in Polynesia the bridge is replaced by canoes, in which the dead were to pass the great gulf. It is noteworthy that the Jews, also, when they first established a firm belief in immortality, imagined a bridge of hell, which all unbelievers were to pass.
II. Ideas of more cultivated Nations. — Wherever pagan thought and pagan morality reach the highest perfection. we find their ideas of the immortality of the soul gradually approaching the Christian views. The first trace of a belief in a future existence we find in Homer's Iliad (23, 103 sq.), where he represents that Achilles first became convinced that souls and shadowy forms have a real existence in the kingdom of the shades (Hades) by the appearance to him of the dead Patroclus in a dream. These visions were often regarded as divine by the Greeks (comp. II. 1, 63, and the case of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:27). Compare also the article HADES (See HADES) .
But, while in the early Greek paganism the idea of the future is everywhere melancholic, Hades, or the realms of the dead, being to their imagination the emblem of gloom. as may be seen from the following: "Achilles, the ideal hero, declares that he would rather till the ground than live in pale Elysium," we find that, with the progress of Hellenic thought, a higher idea of the future is found to characterize both the poetry and philosophy of Greece, till, in the Platonic Socrates, the conception of immortality shines forth with a clearness and precision truly impressive. "For we must remember, O men," said Socrates, in his last speech, before he drained the poison cup, "that it depends upon the immortality of the soul whether we have to live to it and to care for it or not. For the danger seems fearfully great of not caring for it. [Compare Locke's statement: If the best that can happen to the unbeliever be that he be right, and the worst that can happen to the believer be that he be wrong, who in his madness would dare to run the venture?] Yea, were death to be the end of all, it would be truly a fortunate thing for the wicked to get rid of their body, and, at the same time, of their wickedness.
But now, since the soul shows itself to us immortal, there can be for it no refuge from evil, and no other salvation than to become as good and intelligible as possible." More clearly are his views set forth in the Apology and the Phaedo, in language at once rich in faith and in beauty. "The soul, the immaterial part, being of a nature so superior to the body, can it," he asks in the Phaedo, "as soon as it is separated from the body, be dispersed into nothing, and perish? Oh, far otherwise. Rather will this be the result. If it take its departure in a state of purity, not carrying with it any clinging impurities of the body, impurities which during life it never willingly shared in, but always avoided, gathering itself into itself, and making the separation from the body its aim and study-that is, devoting itself to true philosophy, and studying how to lie calmly; for this is true philosophy, is it not? — well, then, so prepared, the soul departs into that invisible region which is of its own nature, the region of the divine, the immortal, the wise, and then its lot is to be happy in a state in which it is freed from fears and wild desires, and the other evils of humanity, and spends the rest of its existence with the gods." This view, or better doctrine of the immortality of the soul, held by Socrates and his disciple Plato, implied a double immortality, the past eternity as well as that to come. They certainly offer a very striking contrast to the popular superstitions and philosophy of their day, which in many respects recall the views held by the Hindus. The people, especially those who held the most enlarged views up to this time, had "entertained what might be termed a doctrine of semi-immortality. They looked for a continuance of the soul in an endless futurity, but gave themselves no concern about the eternity which is past. But Plato considered the soul as having already eternally existed, the present life being only a moment in our career; he looked forward with an undoubting faith to the changes through which we must hereafter go" (Draper, Istell. Development of Europe, p. 118; compare below, Philosophical Argument).
III. Ideas of the Jewish Nation. —
1. It has frequently been asserted that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not taught in the O.T. The Socinians in the 16th and 17th centuries took this ground. Some have gone so far as to construe the supposed silence of the O.T. Scriptures on this subject into a formal denial of the possibility of a future life, and have furthermore fortified their positions by selecting some passages of the Old Testament that are rather obscure, e.g. Ecclesiastes 3:19 sq.; Isaiah 38:18; Psalms 6:6; Psalms 30:10; Psalms 88:11; Psalms 115:17; Job 7:7-10; Job 10:20-22; Job 14:7-12; Job 15:22. In the most odious manner were these objections raised by the "Wolfenb Uittel Fragments" (see the fourth fragment by Lessing, Beitrdge z. Gesch. u. Lit. a. d. Wolfenbü ttelschen Bibliothek, 4:484 sq.). Bishop Warburton, on the other hand, derived one of his main proofs of the divine mission of Moses from this supposed silence an the subject of immortality. "‘ Moses," he argues, "being sustained in his legislation and government by immediate divine authority, had lot the same necessity that other teachers have for a recourse to threatenings and punishments drawn from the future world, in order to enforce obedience." In a similar strain argues professor Ernst Stahelin in an article on the immortality of the soul (in the Foundations of our Faith, Lond. and N. York, 1866, 12mo, p. 221 sq.): "Moses and Confucius did not expressly teach the immortality of the soul, nay, they seemed purposely to avoid entering-upon the subject; they simply took it for granted. Thus Moses spoke of the tree of life in Paradise of which if the man took he should live forever, and called God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thus implying their continued existence, since God could not be a God of the dead, but only of the living; and Confucius, while in some respects avoiding all mention of future things, nevertheless enjoined honors to be paid to departed spirits (thus assuming their life after death) as one of the chief duties of a religious man." Another evidence of the belief of the Jews at the time of Moses and in subsequent periods in the immortality of the soul, as a doctrine self-evident, and by them universally acknowledged and received, is the fact that the Israelites and their ancestors resided among the Egyptians, a people who, as we have seen above, had cherished this faith from the remotest ages (comp. Herodotus, 2, 123, who asserts that they were the first who entertained such an idea). It is further proved that the Jews believed in immortality,
(a) from the laws of Moses against Necromancy (q.v.), or the invocation of the dead, which was very generally practiced by the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), and which, notwithstanding these laws, is found to have been prevalent among the Jews even at the time of king Saul (1 Samuel 28), and later (Psalms 106:28, and the prophets);
(b) from the name which the Jews gave to the kingdom of the dead, שְׁאוֹל (¯ δης ), which so frequently occurs in Moses as well as subsequent writings of the O.T. That Moses did not in his laws hold up the punishments of the future world to the terror of transgressors is a circumstance which redounds to his praise, and cannot be alleged against him as a matter of reproach, since to other legislators the charge has been laid that they were either deluded or impostors for pursuing the Very opposite course. Another reason why Moses did not touch the question of the immortality of the soul is that he did not intend to give a system of theology in his laws. But so much is clear from certain passages in his writings, that he was by no means ignorant of this doctrine. Compare Michaelis, Argumenta pro Immortalitate Animi e Mose Collecta, in the Syntagm. Comment. 1 (Gö ttingen, 1759); Lü derwald, Unters. von d. Kenntniss eines kü nffigen Lebens i. A. Test. (Helmstudt, 1781); Semler, Beantwortung d. Fragen d. Wolfenbü ttelschen Ungenonnten; Seiler, Observ. ad psychologiam sacran (Erlang. 1779).
"The following texts from the writings of Moses may be regarded as indications of the doctrine of immortality, viz. Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24, where it is said respecting Enoch, that because he lived a pious life God took him, so that he was no more among men. This was designed to be the reward and consequence of his pious life, and it points to an invisible life with God, to which he attained without previously suffering death. Genesis 37:35, Jacob says, ‘ I will go down to "the grave" (שְׁאוֹל ) unto my son.' We have here distinctly exhibited the idea of a place where the dead dwell connected together in a society. In conformity with this idea we must explain the phrase to go to his fathers (Genesis 15:15), or to be gathered to his people [more literally, to enter into their habitation or abode] (Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; Numbers 20:24, etc.). In the same way many of the Indian savages (as we have already seen) express their expectation of an immortality beyond the grave. Paul argues from the text Genesis 47:9, and similar passages where Jacob calls his life a journey, that the patriarchs expected a life after death (Hebrews 11:13-16; yet he says, very truly, πόῤῥωθεν ἰδόντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας). In Matthew 22:23, Christ refers, in arguing against the Sadducees, to Exodus 3:6, where Jehovah calls himself the God of Isaac and Jacob (i.e. their protector and the object of their worship), long after their death. It could not be that their ashes and their dust should worship God; hence he concludes that they themselves could not have ceased to exist, but that, as to their souls, they still lived (comp. Hebrews 11:13-17). This passage was interpreted in the same way by the Jews after Christ (Wetstein, ad loc.). In the subsequent books of the O.T. the texts of this nature are far more numerous. Still more definite descriptions are given of שְׁאוֹל, and the condition of the departed there; e.g. Isaiah 14:9 sq.; also in the Psalms and in Job. Even in these texts, however, the doctrine of the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked in the kingdom of the dead is not so clearly developed as it is in the N.T.; this is true even of the book of Job. All that we find here with respect to this point is only obscure intimation, so that the Pauline πόῤῥωθεν ἰδόντες is applicable, in relation to this doctrine, to the other books of the O.T. as well as to those of Moses. In the Psalms there are some plain allusions to the expectation of reward and punishment after death, particularly Psalms 17:15; Psalms 49:15-16; Psalms 73:24. There are some passages in the prophets where a revivification of-the dead is spoken of, as Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 27; but, although these do not teach a literal resurrection of the dead, but rather refer to the restoration of the nation and land, still these and all such figurative representations presuppose the proper idea that an invisible part of man survives the body, and will be hereafter united to it. Very clear is also the passage Ecclesiastes 12:7, The body must return to the earth from whence it was taken, but the spirit to God who gave it,' evidently alluding to Genesis 3:19. (See SHEOL).
"From all this we draw the conclusion that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not unknown to the Jews before the Babylonian exile. It appears also from the fact that a general expectation existed of rewards and punishments in the future world, although in comparison with what was afterwards taught on this point there was at that time very little definitely known respecting it, and the doctrine, therefore, stood by no means in that near relation to religion and morality into which it was afterwards brought, as we find it often in other wholly uncultivated nations. Hence this doctrine is not so often used by the prophets as a motive to righteousness, or to deter men from evil, or to console them in the midst of suffering. But on this very account the piety of these ancient saints deserves the more regard and admiration. It was in a high degree unpretending and disinterested. Although the prospect of what lies beyond the grave was, as Paul said, the promised blessing which they saw only from afar, they yet had pious dispositions, and trusted God. They held merely to the general promise that God their Father would cause it to be well with them even after death (Psalms 73:26; Psalms 73:28, ‘ When my strength and my heart faileth, God will be the strength of my heart, and my portion forever'). But it was not until after the Babylonian captivity that the ideas of the Jews on this subject appear to have become enlarged, and that this doctrine was brought by the prophets, under the divine guidance, into a more immediate connection with religion. This result becomes very apparent after the reign of the Greciai kings over Syria and Egypt, and their persecutions of the Jews.
The prophets and teachers living at that time (of whose writings, however, nothing has come down to us) must therefore have given to their nation, time after time, more instruction upon this subject, and must have explained and unfolded the allusions to it in the earlier prophets. Thus we find that after this time, more frequently than before, the Jews sought and found in this doctrine of immortality and of future retribution, consolation, and encouragement under their trials, and a motive to piety. Such discourses were therefore frequently put in the mouths of the martyrs in the second book of Maccabees, e.g. 6:26; 7:9 sq.; comp. 12:4345; see also the Book of Wisdom, 2, 1 sq.; and especially 3:1 sq., and the other apocryphal books of the O.T. At the time of Christ, and afterwards, this doctrine was universally received and taught by the Pharisees, and was, indeed, the prevailing belief among the Jews, as is well known from the testimony of the N.T., of Josephus, and also of Philo. Tacitus also refers to it in his history, ‘ Animas praelio aut suppliciis peremptorum aeternas putant.' Consult an essay comparing the ideas of the apocryphal books of the O.T. on the subjects of immortality, resurrection, judgment, and retribution, with those of the N.T., written by Frisch, in Eichhorn's Bibliothek der Biblischen Literatur, b. 4; Ziegler, Theol. Abhandl. pt. 2, No. 4; Flugge, Geschichte des Glaubens an Unsterblichkeit, etc., pt. 1. The Sadducees, boasting of a great attachment to the O.T., and especially to the books of Moses, were the only Jews who denied this doctrine, as well as the existence of the soul as distinct from the body" (Knapp, Theology, § 149). (See Johannsen, Vet. Heb. notiones de rebus post mortem, Hafni 1826.) (See RESURRECTION).
2. Among the modern Jews, the late celebrated Jewish savant and successor to Ronan at the Sorbonne, professor Munk, regarded as one of the strongest evidences which the O.T. affords for a doctrine of the immortality of the soul the expression "He was gathered to his people," so frequent in the writings of the O.T. The Rev. D. W. Marks, in a series of Sermons (Lond. 5611 1851), p. 103 sq., says of it: "It has generally been supposed that ‘ to be gathered to one's people' is an ordinary term which the sacred historian employs in order to convey the idea that the person to whom it is applied lies buried in the place where the remains of the same family are deposited. But whoever attentively considers all the passages of the Bible where this expression occurs will find, says Dr. Munk, that being gathered to one's ancestors' is expressly distinguished from the rite of sepulture. Abraham is ‘ gathered unto his people,' but he is buried in the cave which he bought near Hebron, and where Sarah alone is interred. This is the first instance where the passage ‘ to be gathered to one's people' is to be met with; and that it cannot mean that Abraham's bones reposed in the same cave with those of his fathers is very clear, since the ancestors of the patriarch were buried in Chaldaea, and not in Canaan. The death of Jacob is related in the following words: ‘ And when Jacob had finished charging his eons, he gathered up his feet upon the bed, and he expired, and was gathered unto his people' (Genesis 49:33).
It is equally certain that the phrase ‘ he was gathered unto his people' cannot refer to the burial of the patriarch, because we learn from the next chapter that he was embalmed, and that the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days; and it is only after these three score and ten days of mourning are ended that Joseph transports the remains of his father to Canaan, and inters them in the cave of Machpelah, where the ashes of Abraham and ‘ Isaac repose. When the inspired penman alludes to the actual burial of Jacob he uses very different terms. He makes no mention then of the patriarch ‘ being gathered to his people,' but he simply employs the verb קָבִר, ‘ to bury:' ‘ And Joseph went, up to bury his father.' The very words addressed by Jacob on his deathbed to his sons, ‘ I am about to be gathered unto my people; bury me with my fathers,' afford us sufficient evidence that the speaker, as well as the persons addressed, understood the expression ‘ being gathered to one's people' in a sense totally different from that of being lodged within a tomb. But a stronger instance still may be advanced. The Israelites arrive at Mount Hor, near the borders of Edom, and immediately is issued the divine command, ‘ Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, for he shall not come into the land which I have given to the children of Israel. Strip Aaron of his garments, and clothe in them Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered, and there he shall die.' No member of his family lay buried on Mount Hor; and still Aaron is said to have been there ‘ gathered to his people.' Again, Moses is charged to chastise severely the Midianites for having seduced the Israelites to follow the abominable practices of בעל פור (‘ Baal Peor'); and, this act accomplished, the legislator is told ‘ that he will be gathered unto his people.' This passage certainly cannot mean that Moses was to be gathered in the grave with any of his people. The Hebrew lawgiver died on Mount Abarim; and the Scripture testifies ‘ that no one ever knew of the place of his sepulcher;' and still the term to be gathered to his people is there likewise employed. Sufficient instances have now been cited to prove that האס אל עמיו is to be understood in a different sense from the rite of sepulture, and that the Hebrews in the times of Moses did entertain the belief in another state of existence, where spirit joined spirit after the death of the body.
"But, although the position here assumed seems very tenable, it is nevertheless true that the Israelites certainly did not have a very clear conception of the future existence of the soul, and ‘ that life and immortality' were not brought to light very distinctly before Christ came, for whom the office was reserved of making clearly known many high matters before but obscurely indicated" (Journal of Sacred Literature, 8, 179).
IV. New-Testament Views. — When Jesus Christ appeared in this world, the Epicurean philosophy (q.v.), the fables of poets of a lower world, and the corruption which was prevalent among the nations had fully destroyed the hope, to say nothing of a belief, in future existence. It was left for him to declare the existence of the soul after death, even though the "earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved" (2 Corinthians 5, 1), with great certainty and very explicitly, not only by an allusion to the joys that await us in the future world, and to the dangers of retribution and divine justice (Matthew 10:28), but also in refutation of the doctrines of the unbelieving Sadducees (Matthew 22:23 sq.; Mark 12:18 sq.; Luke 20:28 sq.). Jesus Christ, said Paul, "hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10), and "will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life' (ἀφθαρσίαν) (Romans 2:6 sq.). The original for eternal life here used (ἀφθαρσία ) denotes nothing else than the immortality of the soul, or a continuation of the substantial being, of man's person, of the ego, after death, by the destruction of the body (comp. Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4). (See ETERNAL LIFE); and on the origin of the soul, and its pre-existence to the body, the article (See SOUL).
It is evident from the passages cited that Christ and his apostles did more to illustrate and confirm the belief in the immortality of the soul, as cherished at the present day, than had been done by any nation, even the Jews included. "He first gave to it that high practical interest which it now possesses;" and it is owing to Christianity that the doctrine of the soul's immortality has become a common and well-recognized truth — no mere result of speculation, as are those of the heathen and Jewish philosophers, nor a product of priestly invention-but a light to the reason, and a guide to the conscience and conduct. "The aspirations of philosophy, and the materialistic conceptions of popular mythology, are found in the Gospel transmuted into a living, spiritual, and divine fact, and an authoritative influence, not only touching the present life, but governing and directing it."
V. Christian Views. — In the early Christian Church the views on the immortality of the soul were very varied. There were none that actually denied, far from it, nor even any that doubted its possibility. "But some of them, e.g. Justin, Tatian, and Theophilus, on various grounds, supposed that the soul, though mortal in itself, or at least indifferent in relation to mortality or immortality, either acquires immortality as a promised reward, by its union with the spirit and the right use of its liberty, or, in the opposite case, perishes with the body. They were led to this view partly because they laid so much stress on freedom, and because they thought that likeness to God was to be obtained only by this freedom; and partly, too, because they supposed (according to the trichotomistic division of human nature) that the soul (ψυχή ) receives the seeds of immortal life only by the union with the spirit (πνεῦμα ),) as the higher and free life of reason." This view was also afterwards introduced into the Greek Church by Nicholas of Methone (compare Hagenbach, Doctrines, 2, 16). "And, lastly, other philosophical hypotheses concerning the nature of the soul doubtless had an influence. On the contrary, Tertullian and Origen, whose views differed on other subjects, agreed on this one point, that they, in accordance with their peculiar notions concerning the nature of the soul, looked upon its immortality as essential to it" (Hagenbach, 1, 158). "The schoolmen of the Middle Ages in the Western Church considered the immortality of the soul a theological truth; but their chief leaders, Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, were at issue on the question whether reason furnishes satisfactory proof of that doctrine. As Anselm of Canterbury had inferred the existence of God himself from the idea of God, so Thomas Aquinas proved the immortality of the soul, in a similar manner, by an ontological argument: ‘ Intellectus apprehendit esse absolute et secundum omne tempus. Unde omne habens intellectum naturaliter desiderat esse semper, naturale autem desiderium non potest est inane. Omnis igitur intellectualis substantia est incorruptibilis' (compare Engelhardt, Dogmzengesch. 2, 123 sq.). On the other hand, Scotus, whose views were more nearly allied to those of the Nominalists, maintained: ‘ Non posse demonstrari, quod anima sit immortalis' (Comm. in M. Sentent. bk. 2, dist. 17, qu. 1; comp. bk. 4, dist. 43, qu. 2). Bonaventura, on the contrary, asserted: ‘ Animam esse immortalem, auctoritate ostenditur et ratione' (De Nat. Deor. 2, 55). Concerning the further attempts of Moneta of Cremona (13th century), William of Auvergne (bishop of Paris from 1228 to 1249), and Raimund Martini (Pugio Fidei adv. Maur. p. 1, ch. 4), to prove the immortality of the soul, compare Minscher, Dogmengeschichte, ed. by Von Colln, p. 92 sq." (Hagenbach). On the views since the Reformation, (See SOUL, IMMORTALITY OF).
VI. Philosophical Argument. — There are many writers, both in philosophy and theology, who deny that the immortality of the soul can be proved apart from revelation. E. Stahelin (Foundations of our Faith, p. 232) says: "We might take up a line of argument used by philosophy both in ancient and modern times-from Socrates down to Fichte-to prove the immortality of the inner being; an argument derived from the assertion that the soul, being a unity, is, as such, incapable of decay, it being only in the case of the complex that a falling to pieces, or a dissolution, is conceivable." "But;" he continues, "the abstruse nature of this method leads us to renounce a line of argument from which, we freely confess, we expect little profitable result. For, after all, what absolute proof have we of this unity of the soul? Can we subject it to the microscope or the scalpel, as we can the visible and tangible? It must content us for the present simply to indicate that the instinct and consciousness of immortality have nothing to fear from the most searching examination of the reason, but find far more of confirmation and additional proof than of contradiction in the profoundest thinking. Further, that this instinct and consciousness do actually exist, and are traceable through all the stages and ramifications of the human race, is confirmed to us by our opponents themselves that there is in man something which is deeper and stronger than the maxims of a self-invented philosophy, namely, the divinely created nobility of his nature, the inherent breath of life, breathed into him by God, the relation to the Eternal, which secures to him eternity." Watson (Institutes, 2, 2) goes even further, and declares that nowhere else but in the Bible is there any "indubitable declaration of man's immortality," or "any facts or principles so obvious as to enable us confidently to infer it. All observation lies directly against the doctrine of man's immortality. He dies, and the probabilities of a future life which have been established upon the unequal distribution of rewards and punishments in this life, and the capacities of the human soul, are a presumptive evidence which has been adduced, as we shall afterwards show, only by those to whom the doctrine had been transmitted by tradition, and who were therefore in possession of the idea; and even then, to have any effectual force of persuasion, they must be built upon antecedent principles furnished only by the revelations contained in holy Scripture. Hence some of the wisest heathens, who were not wholly unaided in their speculations on these subjects by the reflected light of these revelations, confessed themselves unable to come to any satisfactory conclusion. The doubts of Socrates, who expressed himself the most hopefully of any on the subject of a future life, are well known; and Cicero, who occasionally expatiates with so much eloquence on this topic, shows, by the skeptical expressions which he throws in, that his belief was by no means confirmed."
The first attempt of a philosophical tenet on the doctrine of immortality is offered in Plato's Phaedo. On it the New Platonics reared their structure, adorned with many fanciful additions. All scientific attempts throughout the Middle Ages, and up to our own day, have been modified views, allied more or less to Platonism. In opposition to these, the French materialism of the 18th century attempted to destroy, or at least undermine, the belief in immortality.' Not less materialistic is the position of the Pantheists, headed by Spinoza. "These hold that the World-Soul, which, in their opinion, produces and fills the universe, also fills and rules man; nay, that it is only in him that it reaches its-special end, which is self-consciousness, and attains to thought and will. It is true, they go on to say, that at the death of the individual this World-Soul retreats from him, just as the setting sun seems to draw back its rays into itself; and that self-consciousness now sinks once more into the great, unconscious, undistinguished spirit-ocean of the whole." The answer to this ridiculous position has been best given by M'Cosh (Intuitions of the Mind, p. 392 sq.): "We can conceive of air thus rushing into air, and of a bucketful of-water losing itself in a river; and why? because neither air nor water ever had a separate and conscious personality. The soul, as long as it exists, must retain its personality as an essential property, and must carry it along with it wherever it goes. The moral conviction clusters round this personal self. The being who is judged, who is saved or condemned, is the. same who sinned and continued in his sin, or who believed and was justified when on earth."
Kant, Locke, and other metaphysicians, on the other hand, like some theologians, as we have seen above, also exclude the immortality of the soul from the province of natural theology. "They deem it impossible to prove our future existence from the creation, or even from the admitted attributes of the Creator, and are thus in singular opposition to the ancient Platonists, who regarded the eternal continuance of our being as the more obvious doctrine of natural theology, and inferred from it the divine existence as the less direct intimation of nature. It is said that much of the reasoning employed by pagan writers to prove the immortality of the soul is unsound. This is a fact, and yet by no means invalidates their right to believe in the conclusion which they deduced illogically. There are many truths, the proof of which lies so near to us that we overlook it. Believing a proposition firmly, we are satisfied with the mere pretence of an argument for its support; and searching in the distance for proofs which can only be found in immediate contact with us, we discover reasons for the belief which, long before we had discovered them, was yet fully established in our own minds; and yet we deem these reasons sufficient to uphold the doctrine, although, in point of fact, the doctrine does not make trial of their strength by resting upon them. If they were the props on which our belief was in reality founded, their weakness would be: obvious at once; but, as they have nothing to sustain, their insufficiency is the less apparent; our belief continues, notwithstanding the frailness of the arguments which make a show of upholding it, and thus the very defects of the proof illustrate the strength of the conclusion, which remains firm in despite of them.
That the immortality of the soul has been firmly believed in by men destitute of a written revelation will not be denied by fair-minded scholars. It probably would never have been doubted had not some learned, though injudicious controversialists, as Leland and others, deemed it necessary to magnify the importance of the Bible by undervaluing the attainments of heathen sages. The singular attempt of Warburton to prove that the authority of the Mosaic writings is evinced by their not teaching the doctrine of a future state led him to an equally paradoxical attempt to show that the phraseology of pagan sages furnishes no valid evidence of their belief in the soul's immortality. But each of these efforts was abortive; and if each had been successful, such a kind of success would have resulted in even greater evils than have come from the want of it.
The fact, then, that our existence in a future world has been an article of faith among pagan philosophers indicates that this doctrine is an appropriate part of natural theology. But, even if it had not been thus believed by heathens, it ought to have been; and the arguments which convince the unaided judgment of its truth are also reasons for classifying the doctrine among the teachings of nature. These arguments may be conveniently arranged under six different classes: first, the metaphysical, which prove that the mind is entirely distinct from the body, and is capable of existing while separate from it; that the mind is not compounded, and will not therefore be dissolved into elementary particles; that, being imperceptible, it cannot perish except by an annihilating act of God (comp. Dr. M'Cosh's argument above cited); secondly, the analogical, which induces us to believe that the soul will not be annihilated, even as matter does not cease to exist when it changes its form; thirdly, the teleological, which incline us to think that the mental powers and the tendencies so imperfectly developed in this life will not be shut out from that sphere of future exertion for which they are so wisely adapted; fourthly, the theological, which foster an expectation that the wisdom of God will not fail to complete what otherwise appears to have been commenced in vain, that his goodness will not cease to bestow the happiness for which our spiritual nature is ever longing, and that his justice will not allow the present disorders of the moral world to continue, but will rightly adjust the balances, which have now for a season lost their equipoise; fifthly, the moral, which compel us to hope that our virtues will not lose their reward, and to fear that our vices will not go unpunished in the future world, which seems to be better fitted than the present for moral retribution; and, sixthly, the historical, the general belief in a future state of rewards and punishments, the expectations of dying men, the premonitions of the guilty, and the tenacious hopes of the beneficent. All these arguments are in favor of our unending existence, and there are none in opposition to it; and it is an axiom that whatever has existed and now exists, will, unless there be special proof to the contrary, continue to exist" (Bibliotheca Sacra, May, 1846, art. 2).
The natural proofs of the immortality of the soul are treated very skillfully by professor Chace, in the Bibliotheca Sacra for February, 1849. First he analyzes the Phaedo of Plato, and finds it to contain the following arguments for immortality:
1. From the capacity and desire of the soul for knowledge, beyond what in this life is attainable;
2. From the law of contraries, according to which, as rest prepares for labor, and labor for rest; as light ends in darkness, and darkness in light; so life, leading to death, death must, in turn, terminate in life;
3. From the reminiscences of a previous existence, which the soul brings. with it into the present life;
4. From the simple and indivisible nature of the soul; only compound substances undergo dissolution;
5. From the essential vitality of the soul itself. He adds that although these arguments did not amount, in the estimation of Socrates, "to an absolute proof of the doctrine, he thought them sufficient not only to deprive death of all its terrors, but to awaken in the mind of a good man, when approaching death, the calm and cheerful hope of a better life." These arguments, however, are far behind the present state of science. The second and third rest on purely imaginary foundations; the fourth and fifth are inconclusive; and the first only, we grant, has a real, though subordinate value. Cicero adds to these arguments one from the consensus gentium, a universal prevalence of a belief in immortality. Of Butler's argument for immortality in the Analogy, the professor remarks that it is perhaps less fortunate than any other part of that great work. "Both of the main arguments employed by him are no less applicable to the lower animals than to man, and just as much prove the immortality of the living principle connected with the minutest insect or humblest infusoria as of the human soul.
It is not a little remarkable that this fact, which in reality converts the attempted proof into a reductio ad absurdum of the principles from which it is drawn, should not have awakened in the cautious mind of Butler a suspicion of their soundness, and led him to seek other means of establishing the truth in question. These he would have found, and, as we think, far better suited to his purpose, in the facts and principles so ably and so fully set forth in his chapters on the moral government of God, and on probation considered as a means of discipline and improvement. Indeed, we have always been of the opinion that these two chapters contain the only real and solid grounds for belief in a future life which the work presents; the considerations adduced in the one particularly appropriated to that object serving at furthest only to answer objections to the doctrine." Professor Chace founds his own argument chiefly upon the gradual and progressive development of life in our planet, from the epoch of its earliest inhabitant down to the present hour, which development, taken in connection with the capacities and endowments of the soul, indicates, on the part of the Creator, a purpose to continue it in being.
See, besides the authorities already referred to, Marsilius Ficinus, De Imortalitate Animae (Par. 1641, fol.); an extract of it is given in Buhle, Gesch. d. neueren Philosophie, 2, 171 sq.; Spalding, Bestimmung des Menschen (Leips. 1794); Struvius, Hist. Doct. Graecorum et Romanorum1n, de Statu Aniaruru post nortem (Alten, 1803 8vo); Meier, Philosophische Lehre v. Zustand der Seele Mendelssohn, Phaedon (Berlin, 1821); Hamann, Unsterblichkeit (Leips. 1773, 8vo); Jacobi, Philos. Beweis. d. Unsterblichkeit (Dessau, 1783); Fichte (J. G.), Destination of Man (tr. by Mrs. R. Sinnett, London, 1846, 12mo); Jean Paul Richter, Das Campaner-Thal. (Frankf. 1797, 8vo); Olshausen, Antiq. Patrum de Immortalitate Sententice (Regiom. 1827, 4to); Herrick, Sylloqe Scriptorum de Immortalitate, etc. (Regensb. 1790, 8vo); Knapp, Theology, § 149; Htiffell, Ueber d. Unsterblichkeit d. menschlichen Seele (Carlsruhe, 1832); Hase, Evangel. Protest. Dogmatik, § 82, 8; Duncan, Evidence of Reason for Immortality (1779, 8vo); Tillotson, Sermons, 9, 309; Hale, Sir Matthew, Works, 1, 331; Stanhope, Boyle Lectures (1702, 4to, senn. 3); Foster, Sermons, 1, 373; Sherlock, Works, 1, 124; Dwight, Sermons, 1, 145; Channing, Works, 4, 169; Chalmers, Works, 10, 415; Drew, on Immortality (Philadel. 1830, 12mo); Newman, The Soul (Lond. 1849, 12mo); Quarterly Review, Aug. 1834, p. 35; New York Review, 1, 331; Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, p. 209-212; Robert Hall, Works, 1, 189; 2, 373; Howe, Works, 8vo ed., p. 193; Amer. Bible Repository, 10, 411; Christian Spectator, 8, 556; New Englander, 9, 544 sq.; 11:362 sq.; 14:115 sq., 161 sq.; Alfeth. Quart. Rev. July 1864, p. 515; Oct. 1863, p. 685; July, 1860, p. 510; Jan. 1865, p. 133; Bib. Sacra, 1860, p. 810 sq.; Baptist Quart. Rev. 1870, April, art. 5; Journal of Speculative Philosophy, April, 1870, art. 1; Schalberg (Dr. J.), Unsterblichkeit o. d. pers. Fortdauer d. Seele a. d. Tode (3rd edit. Naumberg, 1869); Egomet, Life and Immortality (Lond. 1860); Schott, Sterben u. Unsterblichkeit (Stuttg. 1861); Dumesnil, ‘ lmmiortalite (Paris, 1861); Naville, La Vie Eternelle (Par. 1863); Huber, Idee d. Unsterblichkeit (MAunich, 1864); Baguenault de Pullihesse, L'Immortalite (Par. 1864); Pfaff, Ideen e. Artzes ü. d. Unsterblichkeit d. Seele (Dresden, 1864); Wilmarshof, Das Jenseits (Lpz. 1863); Nitzsch, Systema of Christian Doctrine (see Index); Pye Smith, First Lines of Christ. Theol. p. 144, 352, 357; Saisset, Modern Pantheism (Edinburgh, 1863, 2 vols. 12mo), 1, 140 sq., 263; 2, 36 sq.; Alger, History of Future Life (3rd ed. Phila. 1864); Schneider, Die Unsterblichkeitsidee, etc. (Regensb. 1870, 8vo); Brinton. Myths of the New World (N. Y. 1868, 12mo). (J. H. W.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Immortality'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/i/immortality.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13