The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
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The International Association Jehovah's Witnesses

Biblical Truths

 
What is Man?
 
    THROUGHOUT the centuries the questions, What is man? Has he an immortal soul? and, What is man's destiny? have been the subjects of great discussions among leaders of thought in this world. Men of religion, science and surgery have spent much time and effort in an attempt to answer these questions satisfactorily. The scientists and surgeons answer these questions from the facts they have learned in their study of the anatomy of man. Religious leaders of this world answer the questions from the knowledge they got in divinity schools or theological seminaries.

    The scientists and surgeons have come to the conclusion that man is simply a higher form of animal life, having a more complex organism and capable of exercising faculties beyond those of any of the other forms of animal life. They have not been able to find in man any definite proof of immortality. They cannot find any evidence that indicates man has an immortal soul. Yet the worldly religious leaders claim man has an im-mortal soul and that this is the major difference between man and the other forms of life. They say the soul is the immortal, spiritual part of man.

    To let God be found true our study of these questions will be to ascertain the answers of his Word, the Bible. Others may base their answers on the opinions and writings of men, but unless these opinions and writings are firmly based on the Holy Scriptures they will not correctly answer the questions. Since it is the correct answers that honest people desire, the Bible will be quoted as the authority for all that is stated. The psalmist expressed the proper attitude when he said: "Show me thy ways, O Jehovah; teach me thy paths. Guide me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation."—Psalm 25:4, 5, AS.
Now to the question, What is man? The psalmist asked a like question, at Psalm 8:4-8, as follows: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." Those words were in reality a prophecy, as the apostle Paul shows at Hebrews 2:5-10. There he applies the words to the Son of God, who became "the man Christ Jesus" and who was also called "the Son of man", and who was crowned with glory and honor in heaven.—Matthew 16:13, 27, 28; 1 Timothy 2:5,6.

    In describing the creation of the original man Genesis 2:7 very simply states: "The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Thus we learn that man is a combination of two things, namely, the "dust of the ground" and "the breath of life". The combining of these two things (or factors) produced a living soul or creature called man. If you have a Bible that shows marginal readings either alongside or below the columns of Scripture verses, you can look at Genesis 1:20, 30 and note that fish, birds and animals are in the "living soul" class—the marginal readings showing "soul" for "creature" and "life" in these verses. The Bible truth that beasts as well as men are souls is also indicated by Numbers 31:28, which says: "And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred [captured], both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep."

    So we see that the claim of religionists that man has an immortal soul and therefore differs from the beast is not Scriptural. The Bible shows that both man and beast are souls, and that man's pre-eminence is due to the fact that he is a higher form of creature and was originally given dominion over the lower forms of animal life. (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21) The first man, Adam, was created a living soul, and nowhere is it stated that he was given an immortal soul.—1 Corinthians 15:45. Under further examination we find that in the King James Version of the Bible the English word "soul" is used to translate the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psy-che'. The word nephesh occurs 745 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the word psyche occurs 102 times in the Greek Scriptures (Westcott and Hort Greek text). By using an analytical concordance, such as Young's, a person can trace each occurrence of these two original words. The result of such a thorough search will be that you cannot find a single text in which either of those original words for "soul" is connected or associated with such words as "immortal, everlasting, eternal, or deathless". There is not one Bible text that states the human soul is immortal. Let us abide by the facts of God's Word, and not by the philosophies of men.

    The original words, nephesh and psyche', are translated into English by a number of other different English words in our common version of the Bible. Inasmuch as these original words include in their scope the various faculties, functions and properties of the human soul, the translators used various English words to convey the thought in correct language. Thus at times these original words are translated into English by such words as "life, mind, heart, appetite, body, self", etc.

    THE HUMAN SOUL MORTAL

    The fact that the human soul is mortal can be amply proved by a careful study of the Holy Scriptures. An immortal soul cannot die, but God's Word, at Ezekiel 18:4, says concerning humans: "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."

    In the Hebrew Scriptures there are at least fifty-four texts where the word nephesh (soul) is used in such a way as to show that the soul can be slain or killed. An example of this is in Joshua 10:28-39. There you will find seven instances in which the soul is spoken of as being killed, slain, or destroyed. It is an acknowledged fact that every living fleshly creature has lifeblood surging through its body. The prophet Jeremiah, speaking to the Jewish organization in his day that had bloodguilt on her, states: "Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents." (Jeremiah 2:34) This clearly proves that the term "souls" is used here as synonymous for flesh-and-blood creatures. There are many other examples similar to this in the Bible.

    In the Hebrew Scriptures there are 243 passages where the word nephesh is used for a person as being mortal, subject to various kinds of death, from which it is possible to be saved and delivered for life to be prolonged. One such example is at Psalm 22:20,29: "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul." In the Greek Scriptures the word psyche is similarly used.

    Isaiah, chapter fifty-three, containing the prophecy of the sufferings of the Messiah or Christ, gives very fine examples of the use of the word "soul" in the Bible. At verses 10-12 we read: "Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (AS) This doctrine of the ransom proves it was a soul (Adam) that sinned, and that in order to ransom man there had to be a corresponding soul (a man) sacrificed. Christ by 'pouring out his soul unto death' provided the ransom price for man. By this statement of Scripture it is clearly seen that even the man Christ Jesus was mortal. He did not have an immortal soul: Jesus, the human soul, died.
In the Greek Scriptures Matthew 10:28 (NW) presents an example where the word "soul" is used as meaning future life as a soul. It reads: "Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but can not kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." The gist of this text is that we should fear God, because he is able to destroy not only our present human body but the possibility of future life as well. The destruction in Gehenna here referred to means that death from which there is no resurrection to future life as a soul.

    IMMORTALITY

    Now that we have examined the Scriptures on the matter of the soul, it is well to see what God's Word teaches regarding immortal and immortality. God's Word is true in saying that man (the soul) is mortal and subject to death. The question that now arises is, Who does possess immortality? Is it ever shared with others? In the King James Version Bible the words immortal and immortality occur six times. Let us now examine each such occurrence.

    The apostle Paul makes two statements regarding God and Jesus Christ as having immortality. One is found at 1 Timothy 1:17 and reads: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal [incorruptible, Yg; NW], invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." The other is found at 1 Timothy 6:16 and reads: "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen." Jehovah God alone has always been immortal, and he bestowed immortality on Jesus Christ at his resurrection. Immortality is held forth as something that the anointed Christian is to seek after: "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality [incorruptibleness, NW; Yg], eternal life."—Romans 2:7.

    Speaking of the congregation of faithful Christians who are counted worthy to have part in the first resurrection, Paul says: "For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality. But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: 'Death is swallowed up forever.' " (1 Corinthians 15:53,54, NW) Like Jesus, the members of the Christian congregation do not get immortality till at their resurrection.

    The final mention of immortality in the King James Version is at 2 Timothy 1:10, where it says: "But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality [incorruption, NW] to light through the gospel." In the Catholic Douay Version Bible the words immortal and immortality occur twelve times. This is because the Douay Version contains the apocryphal or spurious books, such as Wisdom or Ecclesiasticus. Ecclesiasticus 17:29 says: "The son of man is not immortal." But we prefer the testimony of the undisputed inspired apostolic books of Holy Scripture rather than lean on apocryphal books written before the "manifestation of our Savior, Christ Jesus".

    The Scriptures definitely show that immortality belonged originally to Jehovah God alone. Christ Jesus was first to receive immortality as a reward for his faithful course on earth, and it is now also given in reward to those who are of the true congregation or "body of Christ". Immortality is a reward for faithfulness. It does not come automatically to a human at birth.
Man being now a sinful mortal, his ultimate destiny is death. God gave perfect Adam the command: "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:17) Adam disobeyed this command of God and brought upon himself and his posterity the condemnation of death. Had perfect Adam not sinned, it would have been possible for him, though mortal, to live on earth forever and to bequeath life to his children. At Genesis 2:17 God spoke very emphatically regarding the death sentence. He said: "Thou shalt surely die." There is nothing to indicate that God meant that sinner Adam would only appear to die but that his soul would live on forever. The only statement that the Bible records that disobedient man would not surely die is found at Genesis 3:4: "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die." Thus it is seen that the serpent (the Devil) is the one that originated the doctrine of the inherent immortality of human souls. This doctrine is the main one that the Devil has used down through the ages to deceive the people and hold them in bondage. In fact, it is the foundation doctrine of religion.

    Do you know that men and beasts die alike? Ecclesiastes 3:19,20 says so: "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."
Speaking of man's death, Psalm 146:4 says: "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish."

    The Scriptures thus show that the destiny of the sinner man is death. But the Bible offers also a ray of hope. Romans 6:23 says: "The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord." (NW) In that way the true hope is summarized for us. If a man turns to God through Jesus Christ and seeks righteousness through him, that man can gain eternal life in the righteous new world.—Zephaniah 2:3.

    The Bible's conclusion regarding the question What is man? is simple and logical. No vain philosophical teachings of pagans! And above all else, the Holy Scriptures alone offer real hope for those who do seek Jehovah God and strive to follow his ways.