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This is partially a follow-up question onto this question which left some unanswered questions in my mind.

According to an answer to that earlier question, Jesus seems to have literally died on the Calvary but only in the physical sense. The answer says that one needs to separate between physical death and spiritual death.

I wanted to get a clarification on what spiritual death means but firstly some background.

Please note: I am asking from the perspective of an atheist, but I am not looking for the perspective of an atheist. This is simply a question of how to understand what the Bible says according to the Catholic tradition.

Just to clarify what I mean with the atheistic point of view, I want to here share a quote by Ann Druyan (wife of astronomer Carl Sagan 1981-1996):

When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl.

Now with that out of the way, I was reading a paranormal book that was probably written by some Christian because it had a lot Bible references.

The book said the following about death:

So here we can ask, what did "death" mean to Adam? Did God tell Adam that he would burn in hell for all eternity? No. What God told Adam can be seen in Genesis 3:17-19 (New International Version, 1984): To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

The author made these points out of above:

  1. Adam would eat his food all the remaining days of his life.
  2. Adam would eat his food until he returned to the ground.

So the author of that book connects the Adam's remaining lifespan to his eating the food.

The book continued:

The sentence meted out to Adam was for him to return back to dust, to the state where he had existed before he was created. And where was Adam before he was created? He was nowhere. That is the state he was destined to end back in.

So this explanation seemed to support the notion that there was no afterlife for Adam.

After that the book quoted these Bible verses.

This in Ecclesiastes 9:5...

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.

...this in Ecclesiastes 9:10...

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

...and this in Psalms 146:3-4:

Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.

So if there was no afterlife for Adam, does it not then mean that the Bible's point of view about death is also like the atheistic point of view?

Or if this all fits together in some sense with "spiritual death" then what is "spiritual death" in the context of Adam and Jesus?

The questions I wanted to ask:

  1. Is spiritual death some kind of "death in God's eyes" (e.g. that he no longer considers you alive even though you may be), a destruction of the soul (an inner part that would survive death of the physical human body), or some kind of conceptual death?
  2. And what does it mean in context of Adam and Jesus? Did either one of them ever become "dead" as viewed from the atheistic perspective?
  • I find it incongruous to rely on the Bible, or to talk about "spiritual death", for any "atheist perspective" on death. Also, as Ann Druyan so clearly stated, an atheist perspective is that Adam and Jesus simply died - in fact an atheist would be unlikely to believe that Adam ever lived. – Dick Harfield Nov 2 '15 at 21:02
  • @DickHarfield, I felt I had to include that explanation simply because to clarify what perspective I view death from currently. My question is obviously not about the atheist perspective. My question is about how to understand what the Bible says. Otherwise it seems like I am not getting very clear answers. That's all. – user100487 Nov 2 '15 at 21:05
  • @ThaddeusB, I have added an update to the question that clarifies the points you made. – user100487 Nov 2 '15 at 21:13
  • @user100487 Thanks for the edit. The question is clear and should be on-topic now. – ThaddeusB Nov 2 '15 at 22:49
  • I won't make this an answer, because I think the question is too broad, but "death" often means "separation." Physical death is the separation of the spirit/soul/breath/consciousness/whatever, from the body. Spiritual death is often said to be the separation of the human spirit from the spirit of God. This is not a Christian sense or "in God's eyes" understanding, but simply a way of referring to spiritual separation (of something/someone). It is in a similar way one speaks of another being "dead to me." – Flimzy Nov 3 '15 at 11:27
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Since your question obviously is in reference to my answer to the original question, I have reviewed both questions and my answer. It seems that my answer assumed knowledge of the difference between the Spiritual realm and the Material realm was basic, but apparently it is not. Therefore I shall attempt to explain the differences. With that in mind here goes.

We must begin by reminding everyone that this site is dedicated to answering questions about Christianity. Christianity is a belief system based on faith in Jesus as the Christ. That presupposes that the Bible is true, and Jesus was Divine and therefore able to perform the miraculous realigning of man to God's favor. It presupposes that God (the Supreme being) is the creator of the material realm. Christianity must basically accept that the Spiritual realm is eternal, and that the material realm exists as a part of the spiritual realm.

From the atheist view none of these are true and therefore; Atheism can never comprehend the belief of Christianity, so it is necessary that much of Christianity be presented in the abstract. My answer will not be accepted by the Atheist, it must therefore be accepted as a mental concept. Keeping those facts in mind, the following explanation of the Spiritual realm where Christianity believes that the Soul (a spiritual being exists) and the Material realm in which the physical body resides. Again this is a belief system; even though we are sure that the physical body does in fact exist and will eventually become dust through natural processes.

The physical realm is easy to explain since our senses of sight, touch, smell etc. all respond to it. Physical death is likewise a phenomenon which our senses easily discern.

The spiritual realm is a bit trickier to explain; The concept of a spiritual realm was spawned by the observance of the material processes, where it is necessary to begin with some material substance in order to obtain another material substance. An example of this phenomenon is in the example Jesus quoted in:

Matthew 13:31 and 32 KJV Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

The concept being that in order to have a giant tree you must begin with a small seed. The truth of this concept lies in the fact that in the Material processes nothing spawns nothing. And yet we are surrounded by material things and logical regression tells us that somewhere in the past nothing had to spawn something material. Logically this leads to the fact that at some point in the past from nothingness, something material was spawned. For the sake of simplification we know this process as creation, and the causative factor for this process we call God.

Although this mental nimbleness is a simplification it holds it's validity in the existence of the physical or material realm.

From that point it is a natural course of deduction that man would acknowledge his inferiority to whatever power or force caused the material realm to exist. Whatever that process may have been it necessitates a non material existence, and that we know as the Spiritual realm.

In the Material realm nature dictated that all material exists for a nominal period and then loses it perpetuating forces and degenerates to dust. This process is material death or physical death, and is extended not only to man, but also to both vegetation and animal life.

Christianity is a result of man's ego in that man is accepted to be supreme to both vegetation and animal life.

Genesis 1:26 and 27 KJV And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Christianity even goes to the point of stating that this superiority is dictated by God:

Genesis 1:28 KJV And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Whether or not this is some machination of the Human mind or reality it is also basic to Christianity, in that the three Scriptures quoted above all point to the superiority God and also his ability to dispense authority to a portion of his creation, a basic concept necessary to accept that God had the ability to give Jesus (a physical man) those powers necessary to reclaim man as God's creation.

Natural progression dictates that a supreme being have not only some abode, but that that abode be replete with the splendor worthy of such a being, and servants. Thus the concept of Heaven. The belief that that state be obtainable even in a subservient role naturally leads to the formulation of a process of reclamation for mankind.

Supposing that that process took place somewhere in the distant past, it seems only logical that an all knowing God would desire to preserve in some fashion a remnant of that creation, and thus the creation of an eternal part of that creation we know as the soul.

So in answer to your questions:

  1. Is spiritual death some kind of "death in God's eyes" (e.g. that he no longer considers you alive even though you may be), a destruction of the soul (an inner part that would survive death of the physical human body), or some kind of conceptual death?

Death in God's eyes calls for an opinion as to what God believes which none of us are capable of answering. However in the Revelation we are told of two deaths one is the first death which appears to coincide with our concept of physical death and the second death which appears to be the eternal or continuous destruction of that spiritual identity known as the soul.

These are the verses which deal with those differing deaths:

Revelation 2:11 KJV He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Rev 20:6 KJV Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:14 KJV And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 21:8 KJV But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

For a better understanding of how we as Christians regard these I recommend a comprehensive reading of chapters 20,21, and 22, even though chapter 22 is only a review of what we expect to obtain through our faith.

  1. And what does it mean in context of Adam and Jesus? Did either one of them ever become "dead" as viewed from the atheistic perspective?

From my understanding of the concept of death held by Atheist Adam would have suffered that death, while Jesus in Christian belief did not. It is basic to Christianity that the stone was rolled away by an Angel and Jesus physical body arose to regain its physical life and remains now in perpetuity. Christianity is a belief in which Jesus exists in perpetuity in both his physical and Spiritual bodies.

These are the realizations my mind has accepted during my years of studying the Bible and as a result Christianity. As I iterated earlier Christianity is a belief system one to which I personally subscribe. However if some has a divergent belief I welcome their explanation based on fact and logical deductive reasoning.

Hope this helps.

  • This is an excellent and sensitive explanation of why Christians believe in the soul, one that I believe an atheist would grasp. However, you have not yet fully answered the key questions of 1) Is spiritual death some kind of "death in God's eyes" or some kind of conceptual death; 2) what does it mean in context of Adam and Jesus? If you could deal with these questions, this would be a great answer. – Dick Harfield Nov 3 '15 at 20:17
  • @DickHarfield Thanks I will edit my answer to include those even though it will be rejected as being my personal opinion, since there are no facts to back up my assertions. – BYE Nov 4 '15 at 11:25
  • @DickHarfield does my edit make the answer complete? – BYE Nov 4 '15 at 12:18
  • You were given an impossible task in even attempting to answer this, so congrats for trying. The Q comes from an atheist with little understanding of the Christian religion. Because we are required to answer from the teachings or tradition of a particular denomination (or group) OP chose 'Catholic'. This then means your answer must clearly refer to Catholic teachings or tradition on death and context. Do you think it does? – Dick Harfield Nov 4 '15 at 20:31

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