The Preëxistence Of The Soul -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 012:45 (Jan 1855)
Article: The Preëxistence Of The Soul
Author: Anonymous

The Preëxistence Of The Soul

Translated from Keil’s Opuscula Academica

Intimately connected with the notion of the three parts of man, is that which admits a certain preexistence of the human soul. And since those teachers of the early church who favored this opinion, are said to have borrowed it from the Platonic philosophy, we propose to inquire not only which of them defended, and how they defined the same, but also from what fountains it was imbibed.

It cannot then be denied that this belief that the souls of men had existed before they were united to the body, was common, especially in the East. Thus Jerome says:1 “As to the origin of the soul, I remember your question, or rather, the question of the whole church: Whether it be fallen from heaven as Pythagoras, the Piatonists, and Origen believe, or be of the proper substance of God, as the Stoics, Manichaeans and Priscillian heretics of Spain imagine; or whether they are kept in a repository formerly built by God, as some ecclesiastics foolishly believe; or whether they are daily made by God and sent into bodies, according to that which is written in the Gospel: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work;” or whether by traduction, as Tertullian, Apollinarius, and the greater part of the Westerns

believe, i.e. that as body from body, so soul is derived from soul, subsisting by the same condition with brute animals.”

Elsewhere, alluding to the belief “that souls had been in heaven, and, on account of certain ancient transgressions, were condemned to enter human bodies, and that we in this vale of tears are expiating former guilt,” Jerome subjoins: “This impious and wicked doctrine was anciently diffused through Egypt and the East, and now prevails in secret, as in vipers’ nests, among most, and pollutes the purity of those regions; and as by a hereditary disease glides in the few to pervade the many.” Origen even goes so far as to call it the universal belief Thus commenting on the words, “There was a man sent from God” (John 1:6), he thinks it implied that the soul of John the Baptist was older than his body, and was sent from a former existence to bear witness to the truth. Apprehensive, however, that on the theory of preexistence this might with equal reason be said of any other, he adds: “And if the Catholic opinion hold good concerning the soul, as not propagated with the body, but existing previously, and for various reasons clothed in flesh and blood, this expression “sent from God” will no longer seem extraordinary as applied to John.”

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