Plato, philosophy and immortality

Once I discussed hell with a born-and-raised-in-the-church fellow that I respected as a true believer. He defended the doctrine of hell for a few minutes. Before he extricated himself from the unpleasant (for him) conversation, he concluded with the statement, “Well, everyone has an immortal soul after all.”

With that fact he closed the discussion. He rightly deduced that if each person has an immortal soul and cannot die, then those who do not go to heaven will be somewhere forever – and that leaves hell, of course. I'd heard this before but as it sunk in, I suddenly thought, “Where does it say that in the Bible?”

I actually went home and looked through my Bible and tried to find the concept. I would've hoped that he did the same, but it seems not. I understand it is difficult to revisit a subject when one's mind is made up, but with Scripture we should be willing to keep revisiting. As I read and researched, it became clear that the Bible did not teach that every person is born with an 'immortal soul'.

So, that begs the question, where did the idea of the immortal soul come from? It is disturbingly present in the Christian world's thinking, and even more troublesome, not to be found in Scripture. I found it came from philosophical influences. That's right, the places we are warned about: philosophy, man's traditions and myth.

The following are some excerpts from a bit of online research. This search was brief compared to my studies in the Word, but look it up yourself and see what you find credible.


Excerpt from Platonic and Christian Theology: A Paper Analyzing the Relationship between Platonic Thought and Christian Philosophy

“Christians thought it necessary to develop a theology for Christianity. When this was attempted, it is no surprise that early Christians turned to the ideas if Platonism and Neoplatonism for their philosophical defense.

Augustine is accredited most with cementing Platonic notions into Western thought and Latin Christianity, via his hefty usage of Platonic ideas to communicate his Christian Philosophical convictions. St. Augustine showed various Neoplatonic influence in Book 7 of The Confession and Book 8 and 10 of The City of God, and even claimed that Platonism was both the closest philosophy to Christianity (missing the incarnation, and an aid to his own personal conversion.

“...we find various similarities between Platonism and Christian philosophy... A[n]... area of similarity is the immortality of the soul. Although early Judaic and Greek traditions lack a teaching on the concept of the immortality of the soul, it has become commonplace in modern Christian theology. ...It is within Platonism that we find this type of immortality of the Soul, and it isn’t until the Christian Platonist thinkers ...that we find the tradition cemented that the Soul survives death.”


Excerpts from The History of the Immortal-Soul Teaching

Despite widespread use of the phrase immortal soul, this terminology is found nowhere in the Bible. Where did the idea of an immortal soul originate?

The concept of the soul's supposed immortality was first taught in ancient Egypt and Babylon. "The belief that the soul continues in existence after the dissolution of the body is...speculation...nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture...The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended" (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1941, Vol. 6, "Immortality of the Soul," pp. 564, 566).

Plato (428-348 B.C.), the Greek philosopher and student of Socrates, taught that the body and the "immortal soul" separate at death. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia comments on ancient Israel's view of the soul: "We are influenced always more or less by the Greek, Platonic idea that the body dies, yet the soul is immortal. Such an idea is utterly contrary to the Israelite consciousness and is nowhere found in the Old Testament." (1960, Vol. 2, "Death," p. 812).

Early Christianity was influenced and corrupted by Greek philosophies as it spread through the Greek and Roman world. By A.D. 200 the doctrine of the immortality of the soul became a controversy among Christian believers.”

“Secular history reveals that the concept of the immortality of the soul is an ancient belief embraced by many pagan religions. But it's not a biblical teaching and is not found in either the Old or New Testaments.”

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8)

For more information about the study in the Bible about immortality, see the page called "Immortality - a gift or a given?" under the heading of Studies.


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  2. Excellent and detailed paper on this subject:

  3. D. Barry makes a very good point concerning Adam and Eve:

    "Scripture clearly states that Adam and Eve lost the chance at immortality in their natural state.

    "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:" (Genesis 3:22)

    If Adam and Eve would have eaten of the tree of life in their sinful state–that would have been a disaster. They would then have immortality ("live forever") in their sinful state. Therefore, God put a guard there to make sure they would not become immortal in this state.

    "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a
    flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24). It is clear as a bell that God did not want them to live forever as sinners. He specifically stopped it from happening by placing angels and a flaming sword there to block the way. It is only by believing in Yeshua (Jesus) that mankind has another chance at immortality."

    For the full teaching please visit:

  4. Theresa these are excellent arguments and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. Actually I read most of it to Jerry who also really appreciated your diligent efforts at presenting such a cogent argument.

    I do have a question about Matthew 27:52 where the bodies of many holy people who had died came back to life. Where were they when they were dead?

    I purchase the Hell and Mr. Fudge movie. With your permission I would like to talk to Holly about you presenting your findings to the women's retreat in January. It's not a jolly topic but it is very important to our faith.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Beth. I have written you a personal reply by email. As for your question...

      My answer is: I really don't know. My studies have focused on the final state of souls after the Judgment (the redeemed inheriting eternal life and the unredeemed being destroyed in the lake of fire). However, if I were to give a short answer, I would point to Jesus' words: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

      Here are some other thoughts:

      From Scripture we see that Hades/Sheol/Paradise are true spiritual places that [some? all?] departed spirits visit before the final Judgment. We know Hades is temporary (Rev. 20:14 - Death and Hades abolished in lake of fire).

      The next fact we know is that all people will be resurrected to face God in that final judgment (Acts 24:15 - “...there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” And Daniel 12:2 - “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

      Daniel 12:2 uses the word 'sleep' and there are several references to 'sleep' concerning death in the NT. (i.e. 1 Thess. 4:13) Perhaps some people 'sleep' and others have cognitive experiences in their spirit in Hades or Paradise.

      And, a last thought is this:

      “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:28-29


I understand this is a difficult subject and there are different views from folks who all value God's inspired word. I value your feedback, corrections and questions. Please leave a comment!