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David, Jesus, Paul, and Plato: The Christian doctrine of the afterlife

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  1. Jewish conceptions - The Old Testament.
    1. Ancient Hebrews and the conception of an afterlife.
  2. Jesus, Paul, and Plato - The New Testament.
    1. Paul's doctrine.
    2. The Platonic view applied to God's law and Christ.
  3. Conclusion.

Within the scheme of contemporary Christian theology, there appears a common theme that the afterlife proposed in the Bible represents simply a doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Critics of this view have suggested that this viewpoint is a result of Platonic philosophy creeping into Christian theology, especially during the time of Plotinus and Anselm. These critics suggest that neither Jesus, nor St. Paul held a doctrine of the immortality of the soul. They often further posit that the Christian doctrine is, instead, a doctrine solely of the resurrection of the body. In order to address such conflicting viewpoints, a close textual analysis of scripture is necessary.It is the purpose of this paper to demonstrate that the Jewish notion, where it addresses the issue, is of the immortality of the soul. It is this paper's further purpose to demonstrate that early Christian theology maintains both a doctrine of the resurrection of the body, as well as a doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Furthermore, a comparison of Platonic philosophy to the systematic theology expressed in the Pauline letters shows that the Platonic influence had begun its onset even as early as St. Paul.

[...] For example, Job proclaims, as for me, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He will witness at the last upon the dust; And when after my skin this is destroyed, then without my flesh shall I see God; Whom even shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another's.?[6] Clearly the author of Job seems to be presupposing a form of spiritual life after death. In this case, it is clear that the author is maintaining that perception continues even without the physical organs of perception ?then without my flesh shall I see God.? References to the soul and spirit continue in Psalms and Proverbs. [...]

[...] It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do Paul continues later, ?Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature [Or the flesh].?[22] In Philippians, Paul further proclaims it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.?[23] In these and many other passages, Paul adamantly exhorts Christians to cast away their physical bodies and to focus on their spiritual nature. [...]

[...] Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.?[16] The reference to those who can kill the body but not the soul demonstrates a belief that the soul survives the death of our current, physical bodies. The interesting part regarding this passage, however, is the reference to possessing both a soul and body in hell. What Jesus, or at least Matthew's rendering of Jesus, seems to imply is a dualistic existence in the afterlife. [...]

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