SDA Sabbath School Lessons
Monday September 16, 1996

What does the Bible teach regarding the soul?
(Gen. 2:7)

Describe the process by which God created humanity? Gen. 2:7. Describe what happens when a person dies. Ps. 146:3, 4.

The Bible does not teach that God created an immortal soul for humans. A living soul consists of a body plus the breath of life. The obvious implication is that, if the breath of life is withdrawn, the individual would be a dead soul. If souls can die, they are not immortal. Immortality is the capacity never to die.

What do the following passages teach regarding the soul?

"The soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:4, RSV)." "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23, RSV). Therefore, every human soul is a sinner subject to death. Human souls can die; they are not immortal. Revelation 16:3 uses the Greek word for "soul" (osuche). The word body in the King James Version of Numbers 6:6 translates the Hebrew word for "soul" (nephesh). The word creature is used to translate the Hebrew word for "soul" in the King James Version of Genesis 1:20, 21, 30; 2:19. In these texts animals are spoken of as souls. God made animals living souls just as He made Adam a living soul. Like humans, when animals die, they become dead souls.' (See Eccl. 3:19-21.)

The breath of life within humans and animals is never referred to in the Bible as an immortal, conscious entity that survives the death of the body. Ecclesiastes 12:7 teaches that the life principle God has given to a person is taken back by God when the individual dies. If the "spirit" (Eccl. 12:7, RSV) that returns to God is the immortal part of humankind, all people, good and bad, would go to heaven at death. Only God has immortality (1 Tim. 6:15, 16).