Not the Bible but Philosophy
It is true that theologians adopted the ideas of pagan philosophers to formulate the immortal-soul doctrine. The French Dictionnaire Encyclopédique de la Bible (Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible) says: “The concept of immortality is a product of Greek thinking.” The Jewish Encyclopedia affirms: “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 lived in the fourth century before Christ. Plato believed: “The soul is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will truly exist in another world!”—The Dialogues of Plato.
When did this pagan philosophy infiltrate Christianity? The New Encyclopædia Britannica says: “From the middle of the 2nd century AD Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for their own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans. The philosophy that suited them best was Platonism.” So, as the Britannica says, “the early Christian philosophers adopted the Greek concept of the soul’s immortality.” Even Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the immortal-soul doctrine incorporates “theories of certain schools of Greek philosophy.” But accepting theories of Greek philosophy meant that Christendom had abandoned the simple truth expressed at Genesis 2:7: “Man came to be a living soul.”
The immortal-soul teaching, however, goes back much further than Plato. In the book The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, by Morris Jastrow, we read: “The problem of immortality . . . engaged the serious attention of the Babylonian theologians. . . . Death was a passage to another kind of life.” Also, the book Egyptian Religion, by Siegfried Morenz, states: “The early Egyptians regarded life after death simply as a continuation of life on earth.” The Jewish Encyclopedia notes the connection with these ancient religions and Plato when it says that Plato was led to the immortal-soul idea “through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended.”
Thus, the immortal-soul idea is ancient. In fact, its roots go back to the dawn of human history! After Adam was told that he would die if he disobeyed God, an opposite view was expressed to Adam’s wife, Eve. She was told: “You positively will not die.” Here the seeds of the immortal-soul doctrine were sown. And ever since then, one culture after another has adopted the pagan view that ‘you will not really die but will continue to live on.’ This includes Christendom, which took its followers into apostasy in opposition to God’s purposes and will.—Genesis 3:1-5; Matthew 7:15-23; 13:36-43; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7.
Who was it that led humans to believe that lie? Jesus identified him when he said to the religious leaders of his day: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. . . . When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) Yes, it is Satan who developed the immortal-soul idea to turn people away from true worship. So one’s course of life and hope for the future are put on the wrong path by believing doctrines that grew out of the first lie recorded in the Bible, though at that time Eve no doubt understood the serpent to mean merely that she would not die at all in the flesh.
It is important to know the truth about this belief. Jesus said: “Those worshiping [God] must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) The truth about the human soul is found in God’s Word, the Bible. The inspired Scriptures contain God’s revelation of his purposes, so we can be confident that it tells us the truth. (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Jesus said in prayer to God: “Your word is truth.”—John 17:17.