Immortality of the soul in the OT


What support in the OT is there of the immortality of the soul.  My question arises from quite widespread academic claims that the Christian teachings about the immortal soul were adopted from the teachings of Plato.   D.


Hi D,

Good challenge.  I suppose that you have already opened up your OT and began to search the various passages that speak about the soul.  So let’s review a few of them that deals with the soul.

Gen. 2:7: Clearly teaches that God created the soul as something distinct from the body.  In the OT the soul generally refers to the whole person but is definitely something that cannot be defined materially.  Other passages in the OT distinguish between soul and body, such as Is. 10:18.

Gen. 35:18: It teaches again the distinction between soul and body.

Job 19:15-27: Job confesses his faith that with his death he hasn’t come to the ‘end’ of his living.  Even though worms shall destroy his body, yet in his flesh he shall see God.  For that to take place, Job must have believed that his soul part is immortal and would one day again be joined to his body.

Ps. 16:9-11 & Ps. 17:15: David here confessed his hope in God’s care for his spirit and his body.  He clearly expects to see God in righteousness and to be satisfied when he awakes.

Ps. 31:5: What is the point of doing that if you don’t believe in the immortality of the soul?

Eccl. 3:19-21:  Solomon is dealing with the truth that everything living dies, both man and animals.  Yet he indicates a different destination for the souls of men when he mentions that the spirit of man goes upward.

Hos. 13:14:  Paul quotes these verses when he speaks about the resurrection of the body in 1 Cor. 15. Again, the truths here prophesied do imply that the soul continues to exist.

So, in summary, I don’t think it is correct to assert that the OT doesn’t speak about the immortality of the soul and that therefore the Christian teachings on the immortality of soul comes from Plato’s philosophies.   It is true that the teachings regarding the soul are somewhat indistinct in the OT compared to the new.  But that is true also for the teaching on the Trinity, the way of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice and the Holy Spirit.   There is clearly a development of the doctrines as the revelation of God expands throughout the ages but that’s always God’s method in dealing with sinners. 

Hope this helps.  Stay close to your Scriptures as you study.  Besides the Scriptures, I like to highly recommend to those of you who study and get immersed with the various anti-Christian teachings to read Calvin’s Institutes or Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service.  Read the ‘classics’ in God’s Kingdom as you study.  They are not as difficult to read as you expect.  With Brakel you can get discouraged real quick in the earlier chapters because he delves deeply into all kinds of arguments and counterarguments etc.  When I read through those chapters, I realize that I can skip those portions unless I am answering a question like this.  But his devotional and doctrinal combinations make his writings a blessed anti-dote to all the challenging teachings.

Pastor Vergunst