The Soul

14 posts / 0 new
Last post
Pathway Machine's picture
The Soul

The English word soul is somewhat problematic when translating a similar concept from the Hebrew and Greek. The English word soul comes from a root which means "to bind." The superstitious pagans would bind the bodies of their dead so that they couldn't return as the undead and harm the living.

The concept of the immortal soul comes, not from the Bible but rather from ancient Babylonian teachings. It was introduced into Jewish thinking, through Socrates, after Alexander the Great's visit to the temple of Jerusalem in 332 B.C.E.
[Image: Alexander The Great In The Temple Of Jerusalem, by Sebastiano Conca: c. 1750]

200 years before the birth of Alexander the Bible had foretold of this conquest at Daniel 8:5-7, 20, 21 "And I, for my part, kept on considering, and, look! there was a male of the goats coming from the sunset upon the surface of the whole earth, and it was not touching the earth. And as regards the he-goat, there was a conspicuous horn between its eyes. And it kept coming all the way to the ram possessing the two horns, which I had seen standing before the watercourse; and it came running toward it in its powerful rage.

And I saw it coming into close touch with the ram, and it began showing bitterness toward it, and it proceeded to strike down the ram and to break its two horns, and there proved to be no power in the ram to stand before it. So it threw it to the earth and trampled it down, and the ram proved to have no deliverer out of its hand. The ram that you saw possessing the two horns [stands for] the kings of Media and Persia. And the hairy he-goat [stands for] the king of Greece; and as for the great horn that was between its eyes, it [stands for] the first king. And that one having been broken, so that there were four that finally stood up instead of it, there are four kingdoms from [his] nation that will stand up, but not with his power."

Since the Jews were warned of his approach they were more fortunate than those surrounding them. They opened their gates and surrendered to him and showed him the prophecy in their sacred texts. (Jewish Antiquities, XI, 337 [viii, 5]) With his conquest Alexander would also bring the influence of Greek philosophy to Jewish thinking. Including that of the immortal soul from Socrates.

Quoted by his pupil Plato Socrates said: "The soul, . . . if it departs pure, dragging with it nothing of the body, . . . goes away into that which is like itself, into the invisible, divine, immortal, and wise, and when it arrives there it is happy, freed from error and folly and fear . . . and all the other human ills, and . . . lives in truth through all after time with the gods." -- Phaedo, 80, D, E; 81, A.

This is pretty much what traditional apostate Christianity teaches to this day, although it is in stark contrast with the Bible's use of the Hebrew Nephesh and Greek Psykhe unhappily translated into the English word soul.

The Bible's teaching of the 'soul' is far more practical than some immortal part of a person that lives on. The Bible teaches that the soul is the life of any breathing creature. Its in their blood. Its their life, their experiences. It dies. (Ezekiel 18:4)

The New Catholic Encyclopedia: “Nepes [nephesh] is a term of far greater extension than our ‘soul,’ signifying life (Ex 21.23; Dt 19.21) and its various vital manifestations: breathing (Gn 35.18; Jb 41.13[21]), blood [Gn 9.4; Dt 12.23; Ps 140(141).8], desire (2 Sm 3.21; Prv 23.2). The soul in the O T means not a part of man, but the whole man - man as a living being. Similarly, in the N T it signifies human life: the life of an individual, conscious subject (Mt 2.20; 6.25; Lk 12.22-23; 14.26; Jn 10.11, 15, 17; 13.37)." -- 1967, Vol. XIII, p. 467.

Subscription Note: 

Choosing to subscribe to this topic will automatically register you for email notifications for comments and updates on this thread.

Email notifications will be sent out daily by default unless specified otherwise on your account which you can edit by going to your userpage here and clicking on the subscriptions tab.

JahLive's picture
That is so badass, I didn't

That is so badass, I didn't know the Hebrews welcomed Alexander the Great into Jerusalem.. Thanks for the in depth presentation of your research. Regardless of whether you believe in the Soul or not, it is certainly better to study the Hebrew version of the term, since that is where the whole Christian-Judeo idea began..

Personally, I feel that the mystical traditions and movements within Judaism such as Kabbalah and Hasidism provide the best explanations of the Soul.. The Upanishads in Hinduism are good too.. the whole Atman (Self) within Brahman (Universe) thing.. Or as Rumi would say: "We are not a drop in the ocean; we are the ocean in a drop"

But in Kabbalah, it is believed that us humans are both human and Divine! And that there are 5 components, or levels, of our Soul.
Imagine peeling back the layers of an onion... On the outer layer is Nefesh, peel it back and there is Ruah, then Neshema, Chaya, and finally Yechida which is considered to be the 'Divine Spark.' Early Christian Gnosticism talks about this 'Divine Spark' as well, and even in the Qur'an a similar notion is mentioned as 'Taqwa' or an Inner Light, that one can kindle and illuminate within themselves.

This idea of a Divine Spark, is my understanding of the human soul. It is something we all carry, but that we have to tap into, or activate through spiritual practices... Meditation, Prayer, and Yoga are the best tools in order to do this, in my opinion. But the beauty of Yoga is that almost anything can become a Yogic Discipline.. What is most important is that you whole-heartedly desire Truth.. "seek and you will find". Or maybe just drop some LSD and contemplate Alex Grey's artwork, whatever works haha

Jesus, too me, was an individual who managed to become fully Divine and Human, and was like hey everybody, you have the power within you to also do this! He was Jewish after all, but he actually embodied the Presence of God, and looked at the legalistic Pharisees and money changers and was like, "this isn't what our Faith teaches us!"... and now 2000 years later we have people claiming to be Christian and saying Dinosaurs never existed... *sigh... Jesus taught that we can be Divine, that's it. Find your Divine Spark, realize we are all One, and the Unconditional Love and Light of the Universe will overflow within your heart, and you'll start to trip out and think "am I Jesus?" not exactly, but we have the power to live as he did. Christians need to be more Christ-like...

Pathway Machine's picture
Thanks, JahLive, some

Thanks, JahLive, some interesting stuff on the soul and divine spark I didn't know. I think if there were a similar expression as divine spark in a Biblical sense it would be the spirit of life that caused animals and men to become living souls. Also, Jesus wasn't the only man in the Bible to be a God. Moses and the Judges of Israel, including women, were as well.

Zaphod's picture
Yeah PM that was an

Yeah PM that was an interesting read, I guess I view the word soul to have different meaning all together though my interpretation is closer to that of Socrates.

Pathway Machine's picture
Thanks, Zaphod, I think most

Thanks, Zaphod, I think most people's idea of the soul, whether they know it or not, comes from Socrates. Buddhists also believe in an immortal soul, though that hasn't always been the case and there was some reluctance about it. Of Course, I think that Taoism and Shintoism were influenced by Christianity regarding the immortal soul.

ginamoon's picture
This thread was very

This thread was very interesting.
That pagan tradition of binding dead bodies sounds like they are avoiding those bodies to be zombies. :)

mattyn's picture
That was my first thought

That was my first thought also!!

JahLive's picture
If we want to forget the

If we want to forget the whole Western world of religion and philosophy all together, I recommend the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang-Zi from 300 BCE...

"Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things."

On another note, Buddhism is funny because although it was born in India (through Hinduism) it developed the concept of Anatman (no-soul) whereas Hinduism still holds onto the concept of Atman (true-self) which is identical with Brahman (Universe).

All in all, I think all these philosophical tricks, stories, and practices are trying to get the practitioner to loosen up there Ego and awaken to the idea or experience that everything is One, were all star dust aren't we? I'd like to imagine that Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and all other Sages, Saints, Yogis, Swamis and Buddha's were individuals who inherently knew this to be true, and reflected it through their actions and teachings... But in this post-modern empirical Western world were taught that Universals don't exist, and if you can't throw your soul under a microscope chances are it doesn't exist either... Science, just like all Religions, really need to be more self-reflective and realize they are all functioning as completely different sets of philosophical inquiries, that shouldn't be used to cause rivalry, but rather be admired as complimentary expressions of humanities innate desire to seek truth and live a meaningful life.

Then again, I'm just a hippy. One love.

JahLive's picture
I could back up all my crazy

I could back up all my crazy wild general statements with actual scriptures from the traditions I have referenced but that requires a lot more effort then I am willing to give... I did just finish college, and I am now on holidays. phew. a lot of what I'm doing people might consider cherry picking from different traditions, or theological acrobatics, but its fun... I base all my ideas on personal experience, not belief.. but always think for yourself and question authority, always.

mysticrose's picture
Very informative! I didn't

Very informative! I didn't know them but I think there are still a lot of stories that happened long ago that we still don't know yet.

firebolt's picture
Thanks for the theology

Thanks for the theology/history lesson Pathway, it was well received.

Pitar's picture
Soul schmoul. It's fine to

Soul schmoul. It's fine to consider it in the context of the supernatural fantasy world, historically speaking, but otherwise...

Get off my lawn.

D_Trimijopulos's picture
Quote from the original post:

Quote from the original post:
The concept of the immortal soul comes, not from the Bible but rather from ancient Babylonian teachings. It was introduced into Jewish thinking, through Socrates, after Alexander the Great's visit to the temple of Jerusalem in 332 B.C.E.

One either knows and writes an article to inform those interested in the subject or, one should keep silent. The above is entirely wrong.
Here is how the soul concept was produced (only for those really interested).

Nyarlathotep's picture
lol, more of your 200 year

lol, more of your 200 year long, multi-generational conspiracy theory...

Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.