Interesting discussion. Sorry to interact with you the first time, Matt, with a “book,” but you’ve raised a complex issue. I think your position makes three main mistakes. (I also hope I'm not being too blunt for a first time interaction.) First, you are ignoring the polysemy of the word nephesh; second, you think your data proves more than it does; and third you seem to want yourself and others to include logically fallacious arguments.As for polysemy
(multiple meanings of a single word), let me make an (imperfect) analogy. The word “blues” can mean 1) various shades of the color blue or 2) a sense of sadness or 3) a genre of music. Now let’s say I write a story with these lines:
“I arrive at the honky tonk at just that sunset time of day when the oranges, yellows, and pinks, are crowding out the blues, while being overtaken themselves by the grays of twilight. I begin surveying the scene even as my eyes adjust to the interior dimness. The masks of boredom, comradery, or jocularity cover the real emotions of most of the all-day drinkers. But then I spot the woman I am looking for. In a booth by herself, she wears no mask to cover her blues. Her eyes don’t see the other patrons. Her eyes don’t hear the rock, blues, and country numbers the bored house band is mechanically playing.”
Now let’s say I’m trying to help a person who doesn’t know English very well to understand the story better. It would be completely INVALID to do this:
“I arrive at the honky tonk at just that sunset time of day when the oranges, yellows, and pinks, are crowding out the blues [various shades of the color blue], while being overtaken themselves by the grays of twilight. I begin surveying the scene even as my eyes adjust to the interior dimness. The masks of boredom, comradery, or jocularity cover the real emotions of most of the all-day drinkers. But then I spot the woman I am looking for. In a booth by herself, she wears no mask to cover her blues [various shades of the color blue]. Her eyes don’t see the other patrons. Her eyes don’t hear the rock, blues [various shades of the color blue], and country numbers the bored house band is mechanically playing.”
Ironically, you recognize the polysemy of nephesh in some of your comments (stating what else nephesh can sometimes mean besides “soul”). But in most places & especially when you insert “[soul/nephesh]” into the scriptures, you ignore the polysemy. Taking just one example, Gen. 1:20-21, nephesh doesn’t mean “souls” it means “living creatures” just as the English translation indicates.
Now I know that some people who participate the theology forum have studied the biblical languages and others haven’t. And I know that different folks (in both categories) have access to different tools to help with these sorts of issues. But I can direct everyone to a very helpful tool we can all use together. First go to http://www.blueletterbible.org
. Then in the search box in the upper left corner, enter Gen. 2:7. Click on the “tools” button to the left of the verse. (It should default to the “Interlinear” tab; if not, choose that.) To the right of the word “soul,” click on the hyperlink for the Strong’s number. The first thing you will see is/are the polysemy/many meanings of nephesh. When you scroll down, you will next see the translation count for the KJV. It is clear that nephesh simply does NOT always mean soul. In addition to the individual translations listed with individual counts, notice that the last item indicates that nephesh is also translated in 47 miscellaneous ways. That is a broad polysemy indeed. Next, for those who have some proficiency with biblical Hebrew, you’ll see the Gesenius entry for nephesh (make sure to click on the “Rest of the Entry” link). Finally, you will see the first of 14 pages of all the occurrences of nephesh. Again, it’s obvious that nephesh has a VERY broad polysemy and does NOT always mean soul.
By the way, the same problem exists with your use of the word “ruach,” which can mean the Spirit of God, the breath of God, the spirit of man, or the spirit of animals, among MANY meanings.
Plus, you are leaving out what, if any, implications can be drawn from the use of neshamah instead of ruach in places to mean “breath of life.”As for what your data proves
, it proves that anything that is alive is alive because God gave it life. But when God makes something alive what does it become? It becomes a nephesh. That’s all it proves. But we have already seen that a nephesh can be a soul (as we think of that in terms of people) OR a living creature. Even if we wanted to ignore that polysemy—which we shouldn’t—and say that animals are souls (some translations use “soul” for animals in some passages; almost certainly a mis-translation), that would not prove there are not different KINDS of souls, for example those with immortal spirits and those without immortal spirits. And it ignores several important issues.
First what is a soul? I agree with you that a soul (when talking about man) is body + spirit. But for an animal, is spirit the same as for man? Or is spirit better seen as something like “life force”? As pointed our above the Hebrew dictionaries distinguish between the meanings “spirit of man” and “spirit of animals.”
But complications arise because the use of ruach and nephesh are not completely mutually exclusive. That leads to many tangents that I won’t address. However, the GENERAL picture seems to be that Christians who die and are with the Lord in heaven are SPIRITS. They/we won’t be SOULS again until they/we get our resurrection bodies (since soul = spirit + body). But then we won’t be in heaven. Depending on your eschatology, we might spend some time on the old earth with our resurrection bodies, but most importantly, we will spend eternity on the NEW EARTH.
So, to make the case that there are animals in heaven, you need to make the case that they have immortal spirits. And in the case of being re-united with our pets in heaven, you would need to make the case that we as human spirits would recognize individual animal spirits. Or if by heaven you really mean “heaven now and the new earth later,” you would (for the latter part) also need to make the case that animals have resurrection bodies.
I don’t see any of that in Scripture or in your argument. Further, this seems to me to render the whole nephesh/soul argument (in the creation context) irrelevant.
Now I know that the Fall impacted all of creation, not just man. Lots of Scriptures tell us that. We know that all of creation is dis-ordered. BUT how much of the original order are we really told about? MAN was created not to die, but can you think of a scripture that says that animals were not created to die? I can’t and your data doesn’t support that assumption.As for logical fallacies
, your suggestion that Jan name some theologians who support her position is nothing more than argumentum ad verecundiam
on your part and an invitation to her to engage in the separate but related fallacy of argument from authority (argumentum ab auctoritate
). Which, by the way, you also committed when you said most theologians agree that animals have souls. (And not that it matters, but I’m not sure that’s true anyway.) Further, the implication (perhaps unintentional or perhaps me mis-reading you) is that Jan has not made a theological argument. But she has. Her argument is not exegetical
, that is, she has not deeply opened any one text. And her argument may not be airtight. But it is certainly a theological
argument, made at the level of systematic theology
.Now for some things not implicated by your comments
. Without doing any on-the-spot research, I can think of 2 scriptures that likely teach that animals do NOT have immortal spirits (and therefore cannot be/have/become immortal souls). However, I admit that both are less than clear, propositional statements.
Interestingly, you mentioned one of the keys passages: Ecc. 3:21. We know that in Eccl., the writer is discussing the fact that everything is vain. In many passages, he is writing as if he were a spiritually unenlightened man, and thus, many of the things he says should be taken to stand for the exact opposite proposition. Such a passage is Eccl. 3:18-20, where the Preacher says there is no difference between animals and man. However, in vs. 21 he explains there is a difference: at death, our spirits “go upwards,” while the spirits of the animals “go down to the earth.” (Lots of rabbits/tangents there, too, but I’m sticking to this point). BTW, some translations phrase v. 21 as a question, i.e., asking whether it is true that there is a difference. Under this translation, v. 21 is a continuation of the part that should be understood as standing for the exact opposition—the spiritually enlightened person knows the difference.
The second example is a combination of 2 passages, Job 1:1-3 and Job 42:12-13. The first passage shows what Job had before his affliction. Now look at 42:12-13 to see what God blessed Job with at the end. In order to bless Job, God gave him exactly double the amount of everything he had before EXCEPT CHILDREN. God didn’t have to double the number of children because the children who died still existed (i.e., their spirits exisited), while the animals that died didn’t.
Like I said, not propositional truths, but certainly pointing in the direction I stated.I guess I’ll quickly address what Graham and Colin have mentioned
. First, I agree with Graham that things are—in some sense—going to take us “back to the garden.” I think that’s the whole point of the new earth. Therefore, I think it highly likely that there will be animals on the new earth. I also think it likely that those animals will be immortal if animals were immortal originally (which I am skeptical of) and that they will be mortal if they were originally mortal. However, I also believe this cannot be asserted definitely.
However, I don’t think this tells us anything about ANIMALS IN HEAVEN for all the reasons I’ve already stated. Furthermore, I think it is very important to distinguish between earth now, heaven now, the millennial reign (about which there are various views), and the new earth. Passages speaking of any one of these tell us nothing about the others.
Furthermore, we need to be very careful, even tentative, when interpreting prophetic and apocalyptic passages. And, even though I believe the concept of the new earth should be taken literally, I understand that some would disagree even about that. But significantly, we KNOW that many passages are symbolic only. So, for example, Colin, I would put the white horse passage in that category. I do not believe Jesus will literally wear MANY crowns at once, I do not believe He will literally have a sword in His mouth, and I do not believe He will literally ride a white horse.
And that’s more than enough from me.