The Old Testament And Immortality -- By: George Lindley Young

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 087:347 (Jul 1930)
Article: The Old Testament And Immortality
Author: George Lindley Young


The Old Testament And Immortality

George Lindley Young

How oft have we read of the paucity, even the absence, in the O. T. of the doctrine of a future life. Some have even gone so far as to take over into the N. T. an idea somewhat corresponding to this. Though, to be sure, they have hardly dared to deny N. T. allusions to a future world, yet some virtually limit it to allusions. Even the Great Teacher himself, according to them, addressed most of his teaching to the present benefit of man and had but scant concern for the future. But now to the O. T.

Very conflicting are the ideas of future life that have been gathered from the O. T., or read into it. Some see there no doctrine at all of any future existence. The future is an entire blank. It is the presence and blessing of Jehovah here and now that constituted for the Hebrew the good of life. Some, however, go to the other extreme. They think that almost anywhere in the O. T. they can find the full-fledged doctrine of the immortality of the metaphysical soul. Then, again, we are treated to learned dissertations that deal largely with Sheol; in which Sheol is set forth as the practical counterpart of the Babylonian Aralu or the Greek Hades. It is conceived as a vast underground cavern in which the weak and imbecile shades of the dead have their gloomy abode, torpidly subsisting in a sort of semi-life in a hapless, hopeless state.

According to the New Standard Bible Dictionary, the mode of existence in Sheol is “inferior to that upon earth.” It is a state of “privation,” where there is “lack (of) all comfort and joy” (p. 222).

According to Kohler in his Jewish Theology, Sheol is “the shadowy realm of the nether world.” There “the dead continue to exist in. . .a dull, ghostly existence without clear consciousness and without any awakening to a better life.” For “throughout the Biblical period no ethical idea yet permeated this conception, and no attempt was made to transform the nether world into a place of

divine judgment, of recompense for the good and evil deeds accomplished on earth, as did the Babylonians and Egyptians. Both the prophets and the Mosaic code persist in applying their promises and threats, in fact, their entire view of retribution, to this world, nor do they indicate by a single word the belief in a judgment or a weighing of actions in the world to come” (p. 279f.).

Says Dr. H. R. Mackintosh: “Viewed as a whole, the doctrine of Sheol is but a relic of heathenism, void of moral or religious significance, and inexpressibly somber.” He speaks of “the dreary animistic creed about Sheol and its shadowy denizens.” For “prophetic religion...

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