Defense of Immortal, Conscious Souls (vs. Lucas Banzoli): #1

Defense of Immortal, Conscious Souls (vs. Lucas Banzoli): #1 November 1, 2022

1. Preliminaries

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian theological writer, who denies that Jesus is immutable in His Divine Nature (i.e., judging by the standard of trinitarian classical theism, he denies that Jesus is God; hence cannot be classified as either a trinitarian or a Christian).

This is my 35th refutation of articles (or portions of books) written by Lucas Banzoli. As of yet, I haven’t received a single word in reply to any of them (or if Banzoli has replied to anything, anywhere, he certainly hasn’t informed me of it). Readers may decide for themselves why that is the case. I use RSV for the Bible passages (including ones that Banzoli cites) unless otherwise indicated. Google Translate is utilized to render Lucas’ Portugese into English. Occasionally I slightly modify what appear to be inadequate translations. His words will be in blue.

My current effort is a major multi-part response to Banzoli’s 1900-page e-book, The Legend of the Immortality of the Soul [A Lenda da Imortalidade da Alma], published on 1 August 2022.  He claims to have “cover[ed] in depth all the immortalist arguments and present all the biblical proofs of the death of the soul . . .” and confidently asserts: “the immortality of the soul is at the root of almost all destructive deception and false religion.” He himself admits on page 18 of his Introduction that what he is opposing is held by “nearly all the Christians in the world.” I’ll be dealing primarily with allegedly “biblical arguments” in this book, refuting them from Holy Scripture.

All differences aside for a moment: I do greatly appreciate the fact that Banzoli offers this book for free as a download. That’s rare these days, and indicates the extent of his sincerity and zeal, which I always appreciate, especially in this materialistic day and age. But alas, a sincere unbiblical error is no less dangerous, and we apologists will be “judged with greater strictness” for any false teachings we spread (Jas 3:1).

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See the other installments:

 #1 Preliminaries [11-1-22]
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See also the related articles:

Seven Replies Re Interceding Saints (vs. Lucas Banzoli) [5-25-22]

Answer to Banzoli’s “Challenge” Re Intercession of Saints [9-20-22]

Bible on Praying Straight to God (vs. Lucas Banzoli) [9-21-22]

Reply to Banzoli’s “Analyzing the ‘evidence’ of saints’ intercession” [9-22-22]

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Banzoli sums up in his Introduction:

[M]uch of this book is intended to “untie knots”, explaining in the light of context, hermeneutics and history the texts that are now used by immortalists to deceive the weakest minds and keep them captive to error. Even though they’re usually no more than half a dozen verses isolated out of context and interpreted in the most paltry way possible, it is arguments like these that keep many accommodated to the old way of thinking, and which kept me reluctant for some time to embrace mortalism fully and publicly.

The good news is that, because they are weak and disconnected arguments, often contradicting and refuting themselves, so that taking this step is not so difficult for someone who has an open mind to the truth and is determined to follow it wherever it leads. Any doubts that still remained were dissipated due to years of debating with immortalists without ever seeing any minimally serious refutation of any argument. . . .

Since the first version of my book, there have been 13 years in which many promised to refute [this research], but no one ever even outlined even one attempt. (pp. 25-26)

I look forward to “dualing exegesis.” He appears very sure of himself. So am I. That makes for good debate (ah, but that’s if both partners are willing). My readers will be able to ponder both sides, rather than just one. I think that’s a much more fair and objective way to draw proper conclusions. Perhaps Banzoli will arouse himself from his slumber and “exile” or hiding place and actually interact with one or more of my critiques. He has failed to do any of that, 34 straight times now.

Now, I ask you, dear readers: does that utter absence of any reply suggest that he thinks he can refute my counter-replies, or does it insinuate the opposite? Write to him and encourage him to interact! Make it clear that you (if you agree with me) want to see a vigorous back-and-forth debate on this topic, rather than “ships passing in the night.”

Banzoli noted that he had investigated “each reference of soul and spirit in Greek and Hebrew, in order to detail the results in this book” and had “discovered 300 biblical occurrences that speak of the death of soul . . .” (p. 26). This is sheer nonsense. I will make clear beyond the shadow of any doubt, for all objective, fair-minded, rational, and Bible-loving readers, that Banzoli is out to sea when he attempts biblical exegesis and linguistic analysis.

I have several biblical language reference works in my library, and more are available online. If he wants to engage in that battle over the meanings of words, as determined by eminent scholars in the proper field, I’m more than happy to oblige him. But of course he has never yet engaged me directly (as I keep having to remind myself), these past five-plus months since I have replied to many and various of his writings. In any event, I keep refuting his errors. He can choose to ignore this or not. But ignoring serious point-by-point critiques such as mine doesn’t help his overall case. It harms it.

I am unaware of any immortalist material that comes anywhere close to the depth of this book, or that can be remotely compared to it in terms of biblical research and historical investigation. (p. 27).

Then he certainly hasn’t studied the topic enough. A position can’t possibly be held by “nearly all the Christians in the world”: as he admitted in his Introduction — and I would add also by the a vast majority of Christians throughout history —  and not have stacks and stacks of books written about it. That simply cannot be, and I’m sure is not the case. Now it may be that many of these are in Latin or other languages, and inaccessible, but assuredly they exist and are out there.

I don’t even think this is a particularly difficult topic at all, and I have dealt with multiple hundreds of topics as an apologist these past 41 years  (21 of them professionally and as a published author of many volumes). Soul sleep and annihilationist arguments are based on the same basic errors simply repeated again and again. One such error, for example, is often the basis of the “exegesis” (really, eisegesis) of many passages interpreted wrongly and vastly misconstrued based on the false premise.

To put it bluntly, those who hold to this line of reasoning don’t understand biblical language in its nuanced complexity. That’s 90% of the problem. Once these sorts of “wrong paths” are understood and adequately explained, the conclusions of the soul sleep advocate and their falsely alleged prooftexts  fall like a house of cards or a bunch of dominoes. It was easy to refute this thinking as a young, wet-behind-the-ears apologist studying Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1981, and it’ll be even easier now.

I hope you will not limit yourself to reading this book, but compare it with immortalist literature and, above all, submit it to the scrutiny of the Scriptures. (p. 27)

That’s exactly my hope and wish, too! As I already noted, readers of this series will get a chance to do precisely that. And they can make up their own minds as to which case is truly more biblical and plausible (because I always produce tons of relevant Bible passages in any writings of mine devoted to exegesis). Thus, I am providing material that constitutes what Banzoli himself wishes to occur: furthering his own goals and ends. Glad to be of service! The only difference is that he thinks I am destined to failure, whereas I think the same of his overall argument. May the true teaching of the Bible prevail!

[I]t’s not easy to stop believing in something you’ve learned your whole life as being right. It wasn’t easy for me either. Tradition has a huge weight huge, and it influences us more than we think. (p. 27)

So do newly adopted false premises. All it takes is a few of those to build an entire heretical superstructure, and sadly, many people are led down these paths by other equally mistaken and deluded people. That’s why St. Paul sternly warned the Thessalonians to “keep away from any brother” who was “not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (2 Thess 3:6). All of a sudden (lo and behold!) tradition is a good thing! Again, Paul warned that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings,” (2 Tim 4:3). This is what Lucas Banzoli is doing, and I will painstakingly, thoroughly, comprehensively prove it from Scripture.

Writing about the tree of life in Genesis, Banzoli cites someone else:

George Boardman put it this way:

If man is inherently immortal, what purpose would there be to any “tree of life” at all? This seems to be pretty clear: the immortality was somehow parabolically conditioned to eat from this mysterious tree, and immortality was for man whole–spirit, soul, and body.

BOARDMAN, George Dana. Studies in the Creative Week. New York: The National Baptist, 1878, p. 215- 216. (p. 29)

God did create human beings as immortal creatures, who were not intended to die. That was the context in early Genesis, in the Garden of Eden. Being immortal meant not having to undergo physical death, as we all do today. Biblically speaking, physical death is the separation of the soul from the body (until such time as the resurrection of our bodies occurs: 1 Corinthians 15). These passages do not directly address whether immaterial souls are immortal or not, but whether our bodies here on earth are. Hence, the Bible states:

Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; [17] but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (cf. Gen 3:3)

The last clause proves that before Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were physically immortal: they would not have ever died. Once they did eat of that tree in rebellion, then they did die. They were the ones who brought about the change by choosing the devil’s direction and their own choices over against God’s perfect direction (just as Lucifer and the fallen angels had done before them). The devil deceived Eve by reversing God’s words. Instead of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being the cause of their having to now undergo physical deaths, Satan claimed that they would “not die” if they ate from it (Gen 3:4). This fundamental disobedience brought about the Fall of Man and original sin. Death was now to be the lot of all human beings (save a few whom God “took”: like Enoch and Elijah):

Genesis 3:19 “. . . you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

[I]t is evident that God would not make such a tree available if had already implanted in man an eternal soul that would guarantee him the same as the the tree of life. (p. 30)

It’s not evident at all, and doesn’t logically follow. What we know is that originally human beings were not to die. When they rebelled against God’s commands, death entered in, as did original sin and the fall:

Romans 5:12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned — (cf. 5:14, 17; 1 Cor 15:21: “For as by a man came death, . . .”)

Then it was a whole different ballgame. Before the rebellion, they could eat of the tree of life (Gen 2:16-17 above) because they were physically immortal. After the rebellion they could not, because physical death had entered into the equation. Thus, the tree of life is not redundant at all in the traditional immortalist view. One simply had to be in the right spiritual state and relationship with God in order to be allowed to eat of it.

Therefore, we see that the human beings who are saved and in heaven as a result, are allowed again to partake of the tree of life (Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14), because the “last enemy” which was “death” was “destroyed” (1 Cor 15:26; cf. 15:54-55) and “death shall be no more” (Rev 21:4). The tree of life didn’t cause physical immortality; God brought that about when He created Adam and Eve. It symbolically represented immortality and no death. So when Adam and Eve (and in them, all of mankind: 1 Cor 15:22) chose rebellion and pride and fell, they could no longer eat of it.

In the same way that man did not know the good and the evil until he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge (Gen 3:22),

God didn’t want man to know this, and forbade it. That was His will for the human race. It’s not parallel to the other case because of that.

he was not immortal before he ate of the tree of life–with the difference that he did not get to eat from this tree, for he was cast out before that (Gen 3:22-24). (p. 30)

This is simply not true.  Genesis 2:16-17 doesn’t assert that the tree of life caused immortality. That conclusion is wrongly read into it. It was appropriate to eat from it as long as human beings were physically immortal. They couldn’t “die” until they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore they were immortal until then. The strong implication of the text is that they did eat of the tree of life, because they were allowed to (unlike with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

19th century religious figure James Nisbet is cited:

In the biblical account of the creation and the Fall of man there is nothing indicating that man was by creation an immortal being. . . . There is nothing indicating that the “death”, imposed by his disobedience, affected only a part of his nature, or was it something less than total elimination.

As already pointed out, Genesis 2:17 and Romans 5:12 concisely refute this understanding, because they teach that there was no death, and then when Adam and Eve rebelled, death began as we know it today. So (as throughout this examination, no doubt), readers are confronted with a choice when direct contradiction is present: go with Lucas Banzoli’s traditions of men or go by the inspired revelation of Holy Scripture.

The annihilationist definition of death cannot be substantiated by any reputable Hebrew or Greek lexicons. Not a single Hebrew or Greek word in the Bible can be produced which means “annihilation” or “cessation of consciousness.” Death in the Scriptures is separation of the soul from the body (physical death), or separation from God for eternity (spiritual, or “second” death): see Revelation 2:11 and 21:8. The most common Greek word in the New Testament for “death” is thanatos (Strong’s word #2288 — appears 119 times in KJV). W. E. Vine defines it as follows:

The separation of the soul (the spiritual part of man) from the body (the material part) . . . the separation of man from God. (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under “Death”)

Likewise, Joseph Thayer:

The death of the body, i.e., that separation . . . of the soul from the body by which the life on earth is ended. (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 282)

The primary Old Testament words for “death” are maveth (Strong’s word #4194 — 159 times in KJV) and muth (Strong’s word #4191 — 817 times in KJV; this is the word in Genesis 2:17). They both mean exactly the same thing as thanatos, as can be found in any Hebrew lexicon, OT commentary, etc. But in all these instances, the meaning of spiritual death (separation from God for all eternity; i.e., in hell) or the “second death” (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14) may also be the case, depending on context.

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Photo credit: Saint Michael the Archangel and Another Figure Recommending a Soul to the Virgin and Child in Heaven, by Bartolomeo Biscaino (1629-1657) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: Part 1 of many responses to Lucas Banzoli’s 1900-page book, The Legend of the Immortality of the Soul: published on 1 August 2022. I defend historic Christianity.

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