The word “soul” has a broad meaning and usage in the Bible. Some of its many uses are:
- The life force that animates the body (Matt. 2:20, Gen 2:7). Animals also have this life force, “soul” (Gen. 1:24 Rotherham)
- Man’s emotions, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings (John 12:27)
- A person or individual (Acts 2:43)
When the Greek empire, led by Alexander the Great, conquered the area we know as the Holy Lands in the 4thcentury BC, much of the Greek culture, ideas, and language migrated into the Jewish culture. Even the Old Testament scriptures were translated into Greek, in what we now call the Septuagint. The Greeks believed the soul was immortal, and that teaching made its way into Judaism, and Christianity as well. That the “soul” is immortal and lives on after a person’s body dies is not stated in Scripture. About the soul, the Bible says:
- It can die (Ezek. 18:20)
- It can be destroyed (Matt. 10:28)
- Jesus laid down his life (soul) for his sheep (John 10:11)
That the soul is immortal has spun off other erroneous doctrines. If the soul lives on after death, then there must be a place for them to live. This gave rise to the doctrine that evil souls are tortured in hell, and good souls go to heaven. Both of those beliefs are not supported by the Bible. Those false doctrines have led some to visit spiritualists who claim they speak to the dead, an activity that God condemns (Lev. 19:31). King Saul is the classic example of visiting a medium to speak to the dead. 1 Chronicles 10:13says,“So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it.” God forbade this kind of practice because it was the work of demons, which the Bible refers to as “familiar spirits” in 1 Samuel 28:7 (KJV). These familiar spirits were demons who were familiar with the dead person and would imitate them through contact with a medium.
Because of the misunderstanding of what “soul” is and the many subsequent erroneous beliefs, further study will be necessary. You will find the links below helpful in that study.