The False Doctrine of the Soul's Sleep

Sec. IV.

Proceeding from the sound premises, that the combination and unity of spirit and body is the peculiar nature of man as a created whole; that therefore the rending of this link puts the soul-spirit not less than the body into a state of death, but that the soul-spirit cannot die in the same way that the body does, which latter is dispersed into its elementary constituents; that in general, on account of its divinely-formed nature, it cannot perish, and by the might of the revealed will of God continues to exist independently (which Origen maintained in opposition to the GvrjToyfnrxirai of Arabia),—in primitive times some have here and there chanced upon the thought, that the separated soul is in a state of sleep without consciousness, and without sensibility, until God wakens it up at the last day, together with the body. Even Tertullian (de anima, ch. lviii.) is aware of this opinion, and controverts it. Vigilantius, whom Jerome attacked, appeared inclined to it. The schismatic Armenians entertained it. Even Luther expressed it here and there, although only conjecturally and vaguely.1 The sup porters of the special doctrine of the soul's sleep in the time of the Reformation were the Anabaptists. Against these Calvin 'wrote in 1534 his Psychopannychia 2 It is only the coarsest form of the doctrine which is here combated by Calvin, and is touched by his counter-argument. The -later advocates, especially among Socinians and Arminians,3 limited themselves to denying all external activity to the soul in its separate state. Subsequently, with the increasing insight into the corporeal mediation of the soul's activities, the adoption of an absolutely unconscious sleep of the soul recurred all the more frequently.4

There are certainly scriptural passages which may apparently be made available in favour of the sleep of the sou!, especially in a period which, without distinguishing as to the history of redemption between the Old and New Testament, argues from isolated scriptural texts, no matter out of what kind of books and connections. The many scriptural texts were appealed to in which dying is called a falling asleep, and death a sleep; for instance, 1 Cor. xv. 20, 1 Thess. iv. 13. Complaints and questions were depended upon, such as those of Ps. Ixxxviii. 10-12 (comp. Ps. vi. 5, xxx. 9, cxv. 17; the whole of the book of Job, nearly akin to Ps. Ixxxviii., Isa. xxxviii. 18, Ecclus. xvii. 27):

Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead,
Or do shadows stand up to praise Thee?
Shall Thy grace be declared in the grave,
Thy faithfulness in the under-world?
Shall Thy wondrous might be known in the darkness,
And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

but especially upon Eccles. ix. 4, "A living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know at least that they shall die: but the dead know nothing, and have no reward to hope for; for the memory of them is forgotten;" and ix. 10, "All that thy hand is able to do, do it with thy whole might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Scheol, whither thou art going;" with which John ix. 4, "A night cometh in which no man can work," appears to agree. Finally, also appeal was made to those who were wondrously recalled from death into this present life—to Lazarus, Jairus' daughter, the widow's son of Nain, and Tabitha. None of them that were thus aroused from the dead gave any information upon the condition of the spiritual world. For what other reason than because not only their bodies, but also their souls, had slept in unconsciousness? The folly of this mode of argument is manifested in such statements of Scripture as characterize the state of separate souls before the resurrection, certainly as a state that still waits for its decided completion. At the head of these scriptural assertions was placed Heb. xi. 39. .But perhaps the final ground of the assumption that the disembodied souls sleep, was the presumption that the soul without the body cannot be active; because, as the author of the Quiestiones ad Anliochum expresses it, soul and body are related as musician and lyre; or because, as it is formulated by Lactantius, there is wanting to the soul separated from its body the capacity of perception, no less than to an eye torn out of the body is wanting the faculty of vision.

The futility of all this reasoning may be easily shown. Scripture calls death a sleep, so far as the disappearance of the soul of a dying person out of the body resembles the retreat of the soul of a person falling asleep out of the corporeally evidenced external life; but it nowhere says that souls vanishing out of their bodies sleep. And although it compares the entire state of the deceased person to sleep, yet from this comparison is not to be deduced a continuance of the soul in a state without consciousness, and without sensation; since, although the,soul of the sleeper has retreated from the full activity of waking life, as carried on by the body, still it is not sunk into a state of passivity without consciousness and perception. Now there certainly, in places such as Eccles. ix. 10, appears to be attributed to the separate existences in Scheol such a numb, dull, self-contained passivity; but by the side of such passages there are others which show that the separate souls are neither without consciousness, nor without memory, of what passed in this world, nor without fellowship with one another, although, on account of their bodilessness and of their state of death, in a shadowy manner. Read the scene represented by Isa. xiv. 9 in Scheol, at the entrance of the king of Babel: "The kingdom of the dead is moved from beneath, to rise up and meet thee: it stirreth up the shadows for thee; even all the lewd ones of the earth; it raiseth up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All rise up and say, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?" In Ezek. xxxi. 16 all the trees of Eden and Lebanon (princes) were comforted in the under-world at the similar fate of the cedar (Pharaoh); and in the description, Pharaoh, on his entrance into Scheol (Ezek. xxxii. 17), is accosted by the mighty ones of the people, as in Isaiah is the king of Babylon. The objection that these are poetic fictions, does not set aside their demonstrative power. For the history of the citation of the spirit of Samuel (1 Sam. xxviii.5) proves in a similar way that the separated souls in Scheol were not conceived of as without consciousness and without perception: those prophetic pictures, therefore, proceed from prevailing ideas, as moreover is confirmed by the Hadesdoctrine of other peoples, especially the Egyptians, according to which the separate souls in Amentes do not sleep, but find themselves, according to their position and character in this world, unhappy or happy. The fact that in the Old Testament we read nothing of the Egyptian distinction of the under-world into hell and Paradise,6 and on the other hand, that we find such absolutely mournful lamentations as in Ps. lxxxviii. 11-13, arises from this, that the sense of death as a wrathful punishment was deeper in Israel than elsewhere, and that, in default of a word of revelation, men did not dare to picture to themselves more endurable representations of Scheol.

That souls in a separate state, because they are bodiless, are incapable of perceiving what is external to themselves, and of giving external evidence of themselves, is, as is manifest from the representations of the events of the under-world above quoted, an assumption foreign to the Holy Scripture. Certainly the putting off of the body cuts through the intercourse of man with this present world, as it has been corporeally and especially sensibly effected; but instead of the present world, another surrounds him, and his life, far from being an unconscious and absolutely inactive one, is still, although with a predominating inward direction, a life manifoldly related externally to that world of the future.7. The Old Testament has shown to us the inhabitants of Hades in communion with one another; the parable of the rich man gives us the same representation; and the visions of the spirit-world in the Apocalypse present to our eyes anything rather than quietistic assemblies, or even silent sleeping chambers8. Certainly it cannot be physiologically proved at all, that the soul associated with the body into a combined life, can moreover, without the body, continue to lead a self-conscious active life; and moreover, it can only be approximately proved psychologically from the double life which the spirit-soul leads already in this present state. But biblical psychology, in the presence of the doctrine of the soul's sleep, may be content with this, that the Holy Scripture assumes as actual that which is not capable of proof by natural means.

That people raised from the dead—such as Lazarus—had nothing to relate of the other world (as it is taken for granted that it must be concluded from the silence of Scripture on the subject), is absolutely no proof of the sleep of the soul, as little (as we have shown in Div. I. Sec. I.) as our knowing nothing of a life that preceded our present life is a proof against the doctrine of our pre-existence. The spirit of Samuel (1 Sam. xxviii.) knows of the other world, and speaks forth from it, for he remains in his sphere. But when a sphere of life is exchanged for one wholly different, as e.g. also in the magnetic sleep, in that case the consciousness of the one is merged in that of the other, and does not return till it reverts into the condition that has been left.

But the chief mistake of those fruitless efforts of the Psychopannychia to establish itself, lies in the denial of the difference of the two Testaments in the development of the plan of salvation.9 There is a considerable difference between the condition of the souls of the departed prior and subsequent to the advent of Jesus Christ. If he who believeth on Christ shall live, though he die—if he shall not see death for ever—if he have eternal life now present, and be passed from death unto life,—in the light of these declarations of the Lord, it is every way objectionable to conceive of the spiritual existence of those whose spirit even here below was life (£&>»? Sia SiKaioavvrjv, Rom. viii. 10), as an existence still subjected to the supremacy of death, whether it be by the expression of this supremacy in them as suffering, or only as bondage. The souls of the righteous are only still awaiting the overcoming of death in their bodies (Rom. viii. 11), and the overcoming of death generally. They are veKpoi, so far as the totality of their essential state is not yet restored; but in respect of the souls, they are living in the land of the living: they are at home with the Lord, after whom they longed: they are in that Paradise where Paul heard unspeakable words: they are before God's throne, and serve Him day and night in His temple, as John sees in Apoc. vii. 15, when that which is to happen on this side of the judgment of the world and the glorification of the world is revealed to him;—for that these apocalyptic visions are anticipations of that which first awaits the blessed on the other side of the resurrection, or that those blessed are already risen from the dead,10 as if the first resurrection were to be considered as extending throughout the whole of secular history—these are idle and arbitrary subterfuges. No; they even now as blessed spirits behold God who is a Spirit, and the God-man who is the Lord of the Spirit, through which He has already in this life changed them by degrees into His image (2 Cor. iii. 18). At least the degree of blessing of vision (visio beatifica) is even now a manifest one, and many are partakers of it, although certainly, beyond that closing act of the world's history, the bliss even of the most favoured will experience a manifest enhancement.

In respect of those who have died in Christ, therefore, the thought of a sleep of the soul ought never to have arisen. The death of those who die in the Lord has only the mask, but not the nature of death.11 Considered in itself, it is the operation of divine wrath; but this operation of wrath, regarded with respect to them, the dying, is penetrated through and through by divine love. In the might of this love they break through, and are found in the place where they already were in this life in respect of their true nature; in the principle of love, of light, of life, of liberty.12 They are only dead Karet aupKcu, but alive Kara irvevfia; they sleep not, but they enjoy a sabbatical rest from their temporal trouble (Apoc. xiv. 13); they wait in peace, as already perfected, for the conclusive perfection even of their bodies, by their being made alive again and glorified. But it was not till the completion of the work of redemption that the destiny of the pious had this heavenly issue. The souls of the Old Testament dead, and indeed of those who died in faith in God the Redeemer, not less than of the godless, went to Hades. The souls of the former were, it is true, in the midst of Hades in God's hand, but still in a state of subjection to wrath and need of redemption. Perhaps the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke xvi. 19), and the word of the Lord (Luke xxiii. 43), " To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise," might be regarded as a confirmation of the faith that was at that time general among the Jewish people, —that Hades was divided into one place for the pious, and into another place for the godless—into Geenna (Gehinnom) and Paradise ((rem Eden), which, moreover, was called the bosom of Abraham (Dn-QK hvf lp'n),13 and is designated there in the parable as the consolation which indemnifies for the affliction of this present time. The expressions of the Old Testament Scripture itself give us no clear image, because for the most part they are coloured subjectively, and we might almost say mythologically. Nevertheless they all agree in this, that the state of Hades is a state of death still unabolished,—a life not void of consciousness and perception, but certainly dreamlike, and only darkly conscious in the shadows of the previous bodies; and that the special horror of the destiny of Hades consists in the being cut off from the revelation of God's love in the land of the living.


1 He -writes to Nic. Amsdorf about the 18th Jan. 1522 (see De Wette's edition of the Letters of Luther, part ii. p. 122): "De animabus tuis non satis habeo quod tibi respondeam. Proclive raihi est concedere tecum in earn sententiam, justorum animas dormire ac usque ad judicii diem nescire ubi sunt. In quam sententiam me trahit verbum Scriptures dormiunt cum patribus suis. Et mortui resuscitati per Christum et apostolos idem testantur cum velut a somno evigilarunt, ignari ubi fuerint." In what follows, he concedes that there must be exceptions to this sleep of the soul as well in the sphere of the blessed (Elias, Moses, Abraham, and Lazarus) as of the lost (the spirits in prison, 1 Pet. iii. 19, who at least to the time of Christ's preaching did not sleep; and the people of Sodom, of whom Jude 7 says, in the present tense, " ignis seterni poenam sustinentes"). But his conclusion remains: " Verisimile autem, except is paucis omnes dormire insensibiles." The letter is of an earlier date, but the view here expressed occurs still even in the Enarrationes in Genesin. It is true he says here, on Gen. xv. (Erl. edit. pt. vi. p. 120), distinguishing the sleep of the future state from natural slumber: "Anima non sic dormit, sed vigilat et patitur visiones, loquelas Angelorum et Deibut on ch. xlix. (Erl. edit. pt. xi. pp. 801-306), he compares the intermediate state with the condition of the foetus in the womb, and seems to regard it as unconscious. "We pass on and come again to the last day before we perceive it; moreover, we know not how long we have been in that state." We do not wish to deny that this is the doctrine of the sleep of the soul, which, together with its scriptural reasons, we shall proceed to confute; but Luther does not teach thus: he expresses himself in this way in all modesty only hypothetically, being gladly willing to be taught by any one that is better informed, and at length declares that the manner and the place of that rest of the future state are things that are placed beyond our knowledge.

2 The completion of the Psychopannychia belongs to the year 1534. In the year 1536, Calvin added a second preface, moderating the polemical bitterness; and in the year 1545, the book appeared at the same time in two Strasburg editions, with somewhat differing titles. At the close, Calvin put the seal to his refutation, saying: "Istud rursum lectores omnes (si qui tamen erunt) memoria tenere volo, Catabaptistas (purposely, instead of Anabaptistas) quos ad omne genus flagitiorum designandum nominasse satis est, esse prseclari hujus dogmatis authores." Comp. for the rest on the history of the doctrine of the sleep of the soul, Sylloge Scriptorum de Spiritibus puris el animabus humanis, etc. (Ratisb. 1790), pp. 87-92 (a classified catalogue, whereas Grasse's Bibliotheca Psychologica, 1845, is alphabetical); and especially V. E. Loscher, Select Collection of the Best Writings on the State of the Soul after Death, 1735, excerpted and enriched in Herbert Becker's communications from Dr Valentine Ernst Loscher's auserlesener Sammlung, etc., two parts, Augsburg 1835-36.

3 But also among those who were theosophically disposed, as Ph. Matth. Hahn, and his associates, Goltz, Thomas Wizenmann, the friend of Fr. Heinr. Jacobi, vol. i. (1859) p. 88.

4 Even about the middle of the previous century this was the solution of the "Soul-sleepers (Hypnopsychites)," that as soon as the Organs of the body were destroyed, the soul must sink into its original assoupissement, its previous powerlessness. Thus, for example, Thom. Burnet (mort. 1715), in his work de statu mortuorum et resurgentium (in French, by Bion, 1731): L'aine ne peut avoir aucune sensation ou perception du monde exterieur, de quelque phenomene que ce soit, ni d'aucun mouvement de la matiere, a moins qu'elle ne soit unie a quelque corps, ou a quelque portion de la matiere. Thus in Germany, Heyne, in Werder, the chief advocate for the soul's sleep. The best counter arguments are those of Simonetti and Timoth. Seidel. Many of the productions on both sides are anonymous, as A Treatise of the Sleep of Souls after Death (1754), and a letter to the anonymous author of the Treatise on the Sleep of Souls after Death (in the same year 1754). Both treatises proceed on the ground that every finite actual spirit must have a body; but says the latter, "It is true that after man's death the soul passes out of association with this body, but not generally out of association with matter." In the frankest way, Fries (Jahrbb. fur deulsche Theol. 1856) has lately expressed himself in Heyne's view. That the personal Ego of man, says he, should be without the body, is altogether not conceivable, and the soul can therefore only lead a dreamlife in the intermediate state. We cherish for this dear friend, who in the meantime has gone to his home, a better hope than this.

5 The evasion that this was a juggling or a diabolical deception (e.g. Turretin, Tertulliau, and Jerome), is a self-delusion. See, on the other hand, 1 Chron. x. 13, LXX., and Ecclus. xlvi. 20.

6 See Duncker, Geschichte des Aiterthums. i. 70-76 (ed. 2).

7 Thus also judges v. Hofmann, ii. 2, 482, where the idea is rejected, that the incorporeity of the soul implies that it only regards itself, and is deprived of the outward expression of its life.

8 Or even, to speak in human language, "a monastic world," as Martensen (JDogm. sec. 276) thinks.

9 Even the work of the able Capadose, directed against the sleep of the soul, suffers from this deficiency, Gedanken iiber den Zustand der Seelen in der Abgeschiedenheit zwischen Tod und Auferstehung (Dutch 1845; German by Darn man u, Dusselthal 1846). As Capadose interprets the Old Testament declarations of the future world in a New Testament way, so Maywahlen, in his book, Der Tod das Todtenreich und der Zustand der von hier abgeschiedenen Seelen (1854), transplants the Old Testament kingdom of the dead as such into the New Testament period, thinking that not until the parousia of Christ do those who believe on Him break through the bonds of Hades, and are taken up into heaven as those who are raised again. We cite these two works only by way of illustration. Both errors against the truth are old and widely diffused. Even Konig and Girder, although acknowledging a history as belonging to Hades, teach, that even the souls of the faithful come into Hades; and the latter even refers the word of the Lord to Hades, which says, " In my Father's house are many mansions." Nevertheless, in the art. "Hades," in Herzog's B.A., he declares it to be only probable that Hades is the middle place for the totality of the dead, especially pointing to Apoc. xx. 13 as an apparent counter evidence. But this passage (if there were no other important reasons to be found) would prove nothing against it, since by DxXxwx on the one hand, and iitxra; and xirii on the other, are only indicated per merismum collective spaces which conceal the dead (see v. Hofmann, Schriftb. iii. 725). An inside of the earth concealing the dead will not be proved from that. On the other hand, H. AY. Rinck, in his work on the condition after death, of the view that is declared in the Old Testament of Schedl as the place of assembly of all the dead, even of the faithful, denies the objective actuality, and maintains, concerning the assumption that the pious of the Old Testament were in Hades, that it is without any scriptural foundation; and yet nothing is more certain than that the Old Testament knows as yet nothing of blessed men who are in heaven. It was not until the ascension of Christ that heaven became open for men, and became the place of assembly for a human ecclesia triumphans.

10 Thus v. Rudloff, Die Lehre vom Menschen, p. 895. Rightly on the other hand, Karsten, Die Letzten Dinge (ed. iii. 1861). John sees especially at five several periods of the history of the end, the souls of the faithful standing before God; and from this fivefold image we can not only see what sort of a condition the intermediate state is, but also how far and in what direction we can speak of a process of development therein.

11 Thus it must be; and yet it would not be thus, if, as Strbbel thinks, even the soul of the believing Christian passed into Hades, and found itself there, not indeed in sleeping, but perchance in waking death, with more or less dull pain or longing to retrace its steps. Such a representation is appealed to even by Schleiermacher, when he, on the other hand, says of the representation of a sleep of the soul, "that our Christian selfconsciousness can put in no definite protest to the contrary" (Dogm. sec. 161, 2). But to him who rests on God's word, both representations are equally opposed to the Christian self-consciousness realized by him. It is true Strobel replies (Luth. Zeitschr. 1857, p. 772), "It is rhetoric—nothing further—troublesome philosophizing rhetoric — melting away before the divine word of the Holy Scripture like butter in the sun;" but we refer then, as now, to the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, which afford us the deepest glimpse into the spiritual archetypal world, and to the condition of those who are separated there in faith; and we will rejoice, living and dying, that in front of the light that beams towards us from thence, those thoughts of Hades concerning the intermediate state must melt away like ice.

12 The kingdom of God is in us, says Ph. Nicolai, in Rocholl, Luth. Zeitschr. 1860, p. 216; the young infant comes from the body of its mother into the world, tanquam ah intra ad extra; but the regenerate soul of a dying Christian passes out of the world into the kingdom of God's glory, velut ah extra ad intra.

13 See thereupon v. Rudloff, Die Lehre vom Menschen, p. 310.