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Past Men of Faith: Quotes on Death

Many of the Christian men of faith over the past several centuries understood that the Bible does not teach that a man goes to heaven or hell upon death, but that he is "asleep" until the resurrection (Acts 7:60; 1Cor 11:30; 15:6,18; 1Thes 4:13,15; 2Pet 3:4). While the mainstream churches were caliming that man had an immortal soul—which was always concious somewhere, either earth, heaven, purgatory or hell, these Bible students believed that the person, inlcuding their soul, went to sleep at death. Hence, the doctrine is called "soul sleep" by some. The men, below, were all involved in translating the Bible into native languages—ones other than Latin—and they were in constant threat of arrest and death for their actions. William Tyndale, at right, the man whose work formed the basis for the King James Version, was executed for translating the scriptures. Woodcut of William Tyndale execution.

From Wikipedia article "Soul Sleep", section The Reformation, July 2011:

After a brief hiatus, mortalism emerged in Christianity during the Late Middle Ages, and was promoted by some Reformation as well as some minor Protestant denominations.[85][86] Conti has argued that during the Reformation both psychosomnolence (the belief that the soul sleeps until the resurrection) and thnetopsychism (the belief that the body and soul both die and then both rise again) were quite common.[87]

William Tyndale argued against Thomas More in favour of soul sleep:

And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection...And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good a case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?"[88][89]

Morey suggests that William Tyndale (1494-1536) and John Wycliffe (1320-1384) taught the doctrine of soul sleep "as the answer to the Catholic teachings of purgatory and masses for the dead."[90]

Many Anabaptists in this period, such as Michael Sattler (1490-1527),[91][92] were Christian mortalists.[93]

However, the best known advocate of soul sleep was Martin Luther (1483-1546).[94] In writing on Ecclesiastes, Luther says

Salomon judgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when they are awoken, they shall seeme to have slept scarce one minute.[95]

Elsewhere Luther states that

As soon as thy eyes have closed shalt thou be woken, a thousand years shall be as if thou hadst slept but a little half hour. Just as at night we hear the clock strike and know not how long we have slept, so too, and how much more, are in death a thousand years soon past. Before a man should turn round, he is already a fair angel.[96]

Jürgen Moltmann (2000) concludes from this that "Luther conceived the state of the dead as a deep, dreamless sleep, removed from time and space, without consciousness and without feeling."[97] That Luther believed in soul sleep is also the view of Watts (1985).[98] Some writers have claimed that Luther changed his view later in life.[99][100][101]

  1. ^ 'Mortalism, in some form or other, had been around quite a while before the seventeenth century.’, Brandon, 'The coherence of Hobbes's Leviathan: civil and religious authority combined', p. 65 (2007)
  2. ^ ‘The status of the dead was among the most divisive issues of the early Reformation; it was also arguably the theological terrain over which in the reign of Henry VIII official reform travelled furthest and fastest.’, Marshall, ‘Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England’, p. 47 (2002)
  3. ^ Conti, 'Religio Medici's Profession of Faith', in Barbour & Preston (eds.), Sir Thomas Browne: the world proposed, p. 157 (2008)
  4. ^ William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue (1530)
  5. ^ Watts, ‘The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution’, p. 119 (1985)
  6. ^ Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (1984), p. 200.
  7. ^ Williams, Petersen, & Pater (eds.), ‘The contentious triangle: church, state, and university: a festschrift in in Honor of Professor George Huntston Williams’, Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, volume 2, p. (1999)
  8. ^ Snyder, The life and thought of Michael Sattler’, p. 130 (1984)
  9. ^ Finger, ‘A contemporary Anabaptist theology: biblical, historical, constructive’, p. 42 (2004)
  10. ^ Froom, ‘The Conditionalist Faith Of Our Fathers’, volume 2, p. 74 (1966)
  11. ^ Martin Luther, An Exposition of Salomon's Booke, called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher (translation 1573)
  12. ^ Martin Luther, WA 37.191.
  13. ^ Jürgen Moltmann. In J. Polkinghorne and M. Welker (Eds.), The end of the World and the ends of God: science and theology on eschatology (pp. 42–46). Harrisburg, PA 2000 ed. p. 248.
  14. ^ "‘The belief that the soul goes to sleep at the death of the body to await eventual resurrection was held by both Martin Luther and William Tyndale", Michael R. Watts, "The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution", p. 119 Oxford, 1985.
  15. ^ Mark Rathel, section "Theories of Death" in Hindson, et al, "The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence", p. 166 (2008). "In church history, adherents of soul-sleep have included orthodox believers such as Martin Luther (at one stage in his life) and many Anabaptists, and heretical groups such as Jehovah Witnesses."
  16. ^ Moses Gbnenu. Gbenu, "Back to Hell", p. 118 (2003) "Tyndale, Wycliffe and Luther all wrote to support the idea of soul sleep, although Luther changed his mind slightly later. 35", Footnote 35 refers to "Weimar edition Vol.25."
  17. ^ Ellingsen "Luther's more characteristic view, however, was to conceive of death as sleep — as a kind of "soul sleep" (Letter to Hans Luther, in LW 49:270). The Reformer tried to take into account those New Testament texts suggesting that the dead have an active life with God (Luke 16:22ff.; Rev. 4–5); consequently, he claimed that in the sleep of death the soul experiences visions and the discourses of God. It sleeps in the bosom of Christ, as a mother brings an infant into a crib. The time flies in this sleep, just as an evening passes in an instant as we sleep soundly (Lectures on Genesis, in LW 4:313)."", Ellingsen, "Reclaiming Our Roots: Martin Luther to Martin Luther King", p. 64 (1999).