In part one, I pointed out how Jehovah’s Witnesses use specious arguments to spread their annihilation beliefs. Here I will proceed to examine their errors regarding the human soul and spirit.
The Human Soul
“When writing about the soul, the Bible writers used the Hebrew word ne’phesh or the Greek word psy-khe’” (Bible Teach, 208).
This is true. A reference work says:
“Usually the nephesh is regarded as departing at death (e.g Gen. 35:18), but the word is never used to mean the spirit of the dead. Since Hebrew psychology lacked precise terminology, there is some overlapping in the uses of nephesh … and ruach … one of the main differences between the OT and NT usage is the application of both psuche and pneuma to human existence beyond death” (The New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962, “Soul”, 1208).
JWs teach that when the Bible speaks of souls, it’s referring to people, animals, or the life that a person or animal enjoys. This is a selective definition.
In the New Testament, the primary Greek word used for the soul is psuche, and it’s defined as:
a. The breath of life; the vital force which animates the body;
c. That in which there is life; a living being; a living soul;
2. The soul;
a. The seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions, (our soul, heart etc.)
b. The (human) soul in so far as it… can attain the highest end and secure eternal blessedness, the soul regarded as a moral being, designed for everlasting life;
c. The soul as an essence which is different from the body and is not dissolved by death” (Thayer’s Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 677).
In Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, six definitions are provided for “soul”: Actual life of the body, the invisible part of man, seat of personality, seat of the sentient element through which man perceives and reflects, the seat of will and purpose and that of appetite.
The Watchtower Society trades on the ignorance of JWs by giving a word that has a variety of different meanings only 3 definitions.
For example, the definition of the soul as people or the actual life of the body when applied to passages like Gen. 1:20, 46:18, Jos. 11:11 1Pet. 3:20 fits in and is reasonable. But to apply that definition to the following passages is absurd:
Genesis 35:18 “And her soul [nephesh] was departing (for she was dying)…”
1Kings 17:22 “And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”
Job 14:22 “But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.”
Psalm 106:15 “And he gave them their request and sent leanness into their soul.”
The context of a passage determines which of the meanings of the soul is being referred to.
It’s just like the English word “stone.” It can refer to an object, an action or a name. It can also be used metaphorically. You can’t dogmatically restrict its usage to mean an object.
So when JWs say, “The soul is not something inside a person; the soul is the person himself,” know that they didn’t derive this idea from the Bible, but from the Watchtower Society.
“…nowhere in the entire Bible are the terms ‘immortal’ or ‘everlasting’ linked with the word ‘soul.’ Instead, the Scriptures state that a soul is mortal, meaning that it dies. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)” (Bible Teach p 210).
At this point, they have hopped from one error to another. Earlier, they (mis)defined death as “non-existence,” so here they are applying that wrong definition onto the soul.
This argument fails for the simple fact that it was the immortal breath from God that made Adam “a living soul.”
Only the body was made from dust and it is the only part of man that dies at physical death and goes back to the dust, when the inner man (soul and spirit) leaves the body (Gen. 2:7, James 2:26).
A Bible scholar points out that,:
“When God created man He created Him in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27). The question is: What is the image of God in man? The image of God in man cannot be physical because God is a spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a body. The image, then, must be non-material…” (Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Press 2008, 318).
The inner man has immortality because it came from God who is eternal and immortal. The fact that God “only has immortality dwelling in light” (1Tim. 6:16) does not negate the fact that the inner man is immortal or that Believers dwell in the light.
JWs use 1 Timothy 6:16 to show that only God has immortality but this argument collapses when one goes to the linguistical context.
There are two words in the Greek text that are translated as ‘immortality.’ The first is athanasia – it appears three times and it’s translated ‘immortality’ each time. The other term is aphthartos – it is translated ‘immortality’ twice and ‘imperishable’ or ‘incorruption’ four times.
The former term is used in 1 Tim. 6:16 while both terms are used in 1 Cor 15:53-54:
“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable (aphtharsian), and the mortal with immortality (athanasian). When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable (aphtharian), and the mortal with immortality (athanasian) then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
We see it clearly stated here that immortality will be given to man’s physical bodies in the future, but this is not a present possession (see also Romans 2:7 and 1 Peter 1:4). Only when immortality or incorruptibility is used with God is it in present tense.
When it’s used for man, it’s in a future tense – it will be given to saints at some future date.
When the Bible speaks of the soul dying (Ezk. 18:4) being lost (Mt. 16:26) or destroyed (Acts 3:23) it’s referring to its separation from God, not non-existence. The physical body is mortal while the inner man (soul and spirit) is immortal (Eccl. 3:19-21).
The Bible says “your hearts [soul] shall live for ever” (Ps. 22:26). The soul is called the “hidden man of the heart … which is not corruptible” i.e it is immortal (1 Peter 3:4).
Moses died and was buried by God (Deut. 34), yet centuries after his death, he spoke with Jesus (Mt. 17:3). If he became non-existent after death, that means God re-created him that moment and made him non-existent again after then. But that didn’t happen. Jesus said God “is not a God of the dead, but of the living” (Luke 20:38). He is not the God of the non-existent.
2 Corinthians 4:16 says “but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” The outward man is the physical body which is seen while the inward man is the unseen inner man.
Apostle Paul desired “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” He didn’t say “absent from the body and becoming non-existent” (2Cor. 5:8)
Jesus says “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” but that the destruction of the soul is eternal separation in hell, not “non-existence” (Mt. 10:28).
In Revelation 6:9-11, “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God cried out… And white robes were given to them” and they were told to rest for a time until their brethren “that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
There is no justification for minimizing, de-emphasizing or ignoring these verses unless one is committed to Watchtower leadership.
The human spirit
The human spirit is the seat of knowledge, conscience, intuition and worship and has the soul (which is the seat of emotions, will etc). Notice how JWs defined it:
“Spirit’ thus refers to an invisible force (the spark of life) that inanimates all living creatures…like electricity, the spirit has no feeling and cannot think. It is an impersonal force” (Bible Teach, pp. 201-11)
This is where the Watchtower missed its mark. The Bible shows that the human spirit is in the body and is not made of physical material.
Job 32:8 “But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.”
Zech. 12:1 “… The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares”
1Cor. 2:11 “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? …”
Furthermore, the human spirit rejoices (Luke 1:47), receives witness (Romans 8:16), perceives (Mark 2:8), groans (John 11:33), can be stirred (Acts 17:16) and possess knowledge (1Cor. 2:11).
It’s outright rebellion to say that human spirits lack feelings or thinking. Try and substitute the word “spirit” in these verses with “electricity” or “life-force” and see how absurd they sound.
The unchristian and unethical methodology that the Watchtower Society is forced to utilized to uphold their belief in annihilation is very telling.