The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Biblical Case for the Preexistence of the Soul

Dear Berserk, what are your views on the afterlife, as understood by 1st Century Hebrews; and the most progressively revealed view of the Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek Scriptures on it, overall?

Marchrhedawn: “Dear Berserk, what are your views on the afterlife, as understood by 1st Century Hebrews; and the most progressively revealed view of the Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek Scriptures on it, overall?”

First, let me note the recent testimony of Dr. Raymond Moody (widely credited as the father of the modern focus on NDEs) about his adopted son’s preexistence. On “Coast to Coast” he shared his experience on a brutally hot day on Greek archaeological site. He and his wife were feeling woozy from dehydration; so their tour guide suggested they lie down on a grassy area near the site for a few minutes. As they lay there, they discussed the idea of adopting a child. Years later, their adopted son told them that, prior to birth, he saw them lying on a grsssy area, talking. To Moody this shocking comment further attests the preexistence of the soul.

Now let me point to 2 of the most important NT texts on Heaven:
(1) In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul reports his visionary trip to Paradise in the 3rd Heaven. Paul share’s the Pharisees’ belief in the 3rd Heaven as the locale of Paradise, an old Persian word that means “park” or “garden.” What Paul does not explicitly elaborate is the nature of the implied first 2 heavens. But these are described in contemporary Jewish literature in terms reminiscent of the later Catholic concept of Purgatory. Paul’s reference to those “saved yet so as by fire” in 1 Corinthians 3:15 probably refers to the 2nd Heaven, though in ancient rabbinic Judaism the phrase “saved, yet so as by fire” is applied to the upper regions of Gehenna. It is no doubt for this reason that Paradise is Jesus’ preferred initial locale for the redeemed (so Luke 23:42-43). Paul’s beief in a multiplicity of heavens raises the question of how many heavens there are, but the Bible does not address this question and Jewish beliefs on this vary, ranging from 3 to 5, 7, ej even 10 heavens.

(2) The KJV mistranslates Jesus’ statement, "In my Father’s house are many mansions (Greek: “mone”–John 14:2). “Mone” literally means “resting place” or “inn”–in other words, a place of temporary lodging during a continuing journey. Thus, the early Church Father Origen (c. 225 AD) gets it right when he interprets this saying as a reference to many temporary lodgings en route in a long journey to ever fuller union with God. There is much more that can be said about the challenges and work done in the Heavens, but the foregoing 2 points are important starting points.

Very interesting.

Is the soul of a person and the spirit of a person the same thing?

Ecclesiastes seems to indicate that animals as well as people have spirits:

Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? Ecclesiastes 3:21 (ESV)

Randy, what do other folks think about the idea that all beings, both man and beast have a spirit?

Well, I see this from two different perspectives. As you know, I spend about 15 years or so…hanging around the Two Feathers Medicine Clan…under the leadership of Duke Big Feather…before he passed away, and the group broke up. But they were composed of Medicine people…or in popular terms - shamans. Where “allegedly” plants can talk to them…and they learn what medicines, to use for what diseases. And “allegedly” there are tales, of them talking to animals…or even changing into animals…I take this as true…in that animals, trees, plants, rocks, etc…have a spirit.

However, having said that…I don’t think it’s the same spirit, that man has. Which was created, in the image of God. And my position is that being created in the image of God…potentially gives us the ability, to do the mystical stuff…which you find in biographies of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Cathoic, Sufi, Tibetan, Native Amerian, East Indian, etc. - saints and holy people.

Now this Eastern Orthodox video, might give some perspective - on animals in heaven.

I like that and believe it. !

I think the soul refers to the combination of body and spirit.When the spirit or non-material component of man is referred to as the soul it is a synecdoche. When a person dies their body turns to dust and the spirit returns to God who made it.The soul then is no more but the spirit lives on either in paradise with Christ or under judgement awaiting a future restoration.

That’s my anthropology,

I can go as far as GMac does, below; but attributing consciousness to rocks and vegetative matter is a bridge too far imo. But to each his own.

Did Saul of Tarsus pre-exist? Or did Paul pre-exist? Which? Or both?

That in a nutshell is the conceptual problem with PE (pre-existence) that I cannot get around.
If I did PE, which I was it? I become what I am, through ‘nature and nurture’. I was born with certain genetic markers that serve, among other things, to structure and somewhat determine my experiences in the future. After those experiences happen, their ‘nurturing’ effect has changed me. Paul was not the ‘same’ man as Saul; the same body, yes (as to form) ; the ‘same’ brain, probably not - experience structures the brain, as we see in habit-forming and such.

So if Saul PE, what does that possibly mean? What was there of Saul, before he was born with a genetically determined and then nurtured personality? A self with no self-identification, no genetic dispositions, no nurturing and changing experiences would seem to be - almost nothing at all. Not even a potentiality.

Be that as it may, it’s an interesting problem.

I even remember a popular song, about the soul!

I disbelieve that there is exists a human “soul” or “spirit” that can exist apart from the human body.


In both New and Old Testaments, I find that there are basically four meanings of the word translated as “soul” (that is, the Greek word “psychos” and the Hebrew word “nephesh.”) Here are a few examples:

New Testament


Mark 8:35
For whoever would save his soul will lose it; and whoever loses his soul for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.


Matt 20:27,28
and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his soul as a means of liberation in place of many.

Matt 26:38
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” ."


Matt 6:25
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your soul, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not the soul more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Luke 12:19
And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’

Matt 12:18
(Quoting Isaiah)
"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

Luke 14:26
"If any one comes to me and does not discount his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.

Sometimes there is a fine line, or perhaps even no line, between the meaning “being” and the meaning “self.”


Acts 3:23
[Quoting Moses]:
And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.

Acts 2:41
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Old Testament


Gen 2:7
then the Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Gen 1:20
swarms of creatures that have soul.

Leviticus 17:11 ‘For the soul of the flesh is in the blood …


Genesis 27:4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die."

Leviticus 19:28 You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the soul or tattoo any marks upon you: I am Yahweh.


Leviticus 21:1 Yahweh said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall defile himself for a dead soul among his relatives.

Who the hell knows of the existence of a soul, we all muddle our way through skeptical knowledge, but at the end of the day, belief in the God creator to me is a prime life understanding.

Wow. That is the most purely empirical view of ontology I think I have ever heard. Seems you do not believe in the non-material? Our being consists of the compilation of our sensory perceptual experiences?

The whole point behind PE is change. According to Origen, we were fallen celestial beings. God is redeeming us in the time and space terrestrial realm. Both Jesus and Paul explicitly state tht we are not meant to remain terrestrial. We will be like the angels. We will be celestial ( Cor 15).

So too Paul as a terrestrial being was originally Saul. Then he was redeemed and changed into Paul.

Paul the terrestrial man would not be Paul the Celestial being either on your view since he is now experiencing things beyond human terrestrial comprehension.

You say…
if Saul PE, … What was there of Saul, before he was born with a genetically determined and then nurtured personality?

A self with no self-identification,
no genetic dispositions,
no nurturing and changing experiences would seem to be - almost nothing at all. Not even a potentiality.

So (following your argument) is God (who is a Spirit) nothing at all, not even a potentiality? Are angels also not even a potentiality?

You want me to define the non-material essence of man? Don’t know if I an do that. Your’e view seems purely heraclitean to me. “Panta Rei, Ouden Menei”. (All is change, nothing is one).No “being” only “becoming.”

I don’t think that our terrestrial experiences define what we are. That is an assertion without foundation.It also militates against the existence of non-material beings like God, and angels. However, the soul is the compilation of body ad spirit.

Well really, what is wrong with empirical?

I absolutely DO believe in the non-material; I don’t know where you got the idea that I don’t/

Origin?? Is he your basis for PE? What the heck does ‘celestial being’ even MEAN?
Why not stick with scriptural frames of reference?
I think you misread me because of something you liked about the Origin theory, such as it is?

Actually I am employing a “scriptural frame of reference.” Ask Paul about celestial beings also called heavenly beings… He’s the one who used the expression. 1 Cor 15 He said about our bodies (Quote) ***“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.***” Spiritual. heavenly and celestial are used interchangeably. No need to quibble. Take your pick on the terminology. All three terms are “scriptural frames of reference.”

37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Not a quibble - but what Paul is talking about is Not pre-existence. It is post-mortem, into a new life.
You can certainly equate ‘celestial’ with ‘heavenly’ if you like; no problem, that’s your choice; but it is NOT scriptural to then equate that with a gnostic idea from Origin about pre-existence. Just sayin’.
What scriptures you do quote I do of course accept; but it is a bridge too far to think there is any hint of pre-existence in them.
As to ‘empirical’ - I guess you mean that I am boxed in to a closed universe of material cause and effect? That is not what empirical means:
“based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic” - one can accept that validity of empirical knowledge without going to the extreme of saying ‘that’s all there is’.
Just trying to be clear. In the long run we probably agree on the vast majority of ideas concerning the supernatural.

I’m more interested in what you have to say about this…

Is God “not even a potentiality?”


Since you deny PE, what is your theory regarding the origin of the soul? Just curious?

SO was Solomon’s meaning when he said

and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

God is definitely not a potentiality - as Aquinas puts it, He is pure ‘actuality’ - nothing in Him is unrealized.
AS for angels - they would not be “pre- existent”, they were made that way, not as prior to their becoming something else. To PRE-exist means to exist before one has a human existence.
Does I make sense there?
As for ‘soul’ - I lean toward an immaterial ‘something’ that is closely and intimately related to the body; so close that it is difficult to explain one without the other. There are conceptual difficulties that make it difficult to reason about. What is your thought?

The book to read:
Body and Soul by JP Moreland