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.
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.
William Tyndale argued against Thomas More in
favour of soul sleep:
And ye, in putting them [the departed
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?"
Morey suggests that William Tyndale (1494-1536)
John Wycliffe (1320-1384) taught the doctrine of soul sleep "as the
answer to the Catholic teachings of purgatory and masses for the
Many Anabaptists in this period, such as
Michael Sattler (1490-1527), were Christian mortalists.
However, the best known advocate of soul sleep
was Martin Luther (1483-1546). In writing on Ecclesiastes, Luther
Salomon judgeth that the dead are a
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.
Elsewhere Luther states that
As soon as thy eyes have closed shalt thou
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
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." That Luther believed in soul sleep is also the view of
Watts (1985). Some writers have claimed that Luther changed his
view later in life.
'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)
‘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.
Conti, 'Religio Medici's Profession of Faith', in Barbour & Preston
(eds.), Sir Thomas Browne: the world proposed, p. 157 (2008)
William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue (1530)
Watts, ‘The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution’,
p. 119 (1985)
Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (1984), p. 200.
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)
Snyder, The life and thought of Michael Sattler’, p. 130 (1984)
Finger, ‘A contemporary Anabaptist theology: biblical, historical,
constructive’, p. 42 (2004)
Froom, ‘The Conditionalist Faith Of Our Fathers’, volume 2, p. 74 (1966)
Martin Luther, An Exposition of Salomon's Booke, called
Ecclesiastes or the Preacher (translation 1573)
Martin Luther, WA 37.191.
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.
"‘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.
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."
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
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).