Luke 24:36-39 (NASB):

36 Now while they were telling these things, Jesus Himself suddenly stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened, and thought that they were looking at a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why are doubts arising in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you plainly see that I have.”

Matthew 14:26-27 (NASB):

26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

In these passages we see Jesus acknowledging the existence of disembodied spirits / ghosts. Of course, these entities are awake, not asleep, and yet they lack physical bodies. How do soul sleep adherentes make sense of this?

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    “They were thinking they saw a ghost” does not prove that disembodied spirits of once living humans actually exist. But spirit creatures known as demons did and do exist and can and do torment humans.
    – 007
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 0:30
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    Jesus did not acknowledge the existence of disembodied spirits.
    – 007
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 0:36
  • @Kris - so disembodied demonic spirits can exist but disembodied human spirits cannot? I'm failing to see the logic.
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 1:06
  • Disembodied means formerly having a physical body. Demons were created as spirit creatures angels. They never had human body.
    – 007
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 1:09
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    I do think you are making the stretch in your question that spirits acknowledged to exist must be the spirits of dead humans.
    – 007
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 2:45

1 Answer 1


A soul sleep adherent would simply say that in the Matthew 14:26-27 passage, the disciples thought Jesus was a phantasma, a Greek term for spirit appearances or apparitions, based on their understandable superstition related to a disembodied spirit from someone who had drowned and haunted the water. More likely, they may thought that an evil spirit (non human) tried to deceive them into thinking it was Jesus, since they know that Jesus was still alive.

Note also that Jesus simply said "It is I", without acknowledging that dead people's spirit can roam and haunt. There is also no place in the Gospels that Jesus implied that human spirits waiting for resurrection are free to roam among the living. Also, the main point of the passage is to show how Jesus is Lord over all creation.

Similarly, soul sleep adherents would read Luke 24:36-39 as Jesus's assuring the disciples who at that point were still doubtful of the resurrection and who were instead frightened because of the same superstition as in Matt 14:26-27 (a non-human evil spirit trying to deceive them). The word used was pneuma but at least one commentator said the usage is parallel to phantasma in Matt 14:26-27. But just because Jesus was using a word that came to the disciples' superstitious mind upon seeing Jesus's glorified body should it be taken as support for waking spirit in the intermediate state?

Christians of all stripes, soul sleep adherents included, interpret the Luke passage to prove Jesus's resurrection as well as as a preview of the bodily nature of the glorified bodies we will also have at our resurrection, especially against the growing Gnostic threat denying the goodness of the body.

Conclusion: Given the main import of both passages, soul sleep adherents would consider both usage of phantasma / pneuma as simply the narrators portraying the disciples' superstition and that they are too fleeting / irrelevant to be used as support against their position.

  • You missed the point with Luke 24:36-39. Read verse 39: "[...] touch Me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you plainly see that I have" -> that's Jesus acknowledging that spirit beings without physical bodies do exist. Maybe I should've made that point clearer in the question. Hopefully this related question and the accepted answer will make it clearer: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/56441/…
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 15:51
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator You're right, I didn't addressed it enough. Edited my answer accordingly. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 17:52
  • Thanks for the edit. So, at the very least we can agree that Jesus was aware of the disciples' superstitious worldview, correct? Jesus knew that the disciples believed in ghosts/spirits (demonic or human, we don't know, but disembodied spirits nonetheless). Now, the point is: why didn't Jesus correct them? Why didn't Jesus say "c'mon, roaming disembodied spirits do no exist, why do you hold such beliefs?"? Instead, Jesus' responses seemed to have validated their worldview. Now, you could say that those were demonic spirits and not human spirits, but if that's the case, then I would ask:
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 18:04
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator You said: "Why didn't Jesus say ..." You're forcing the text (the narrator / the book author) to say something that most interpreters I think would agree as "out of scope", esp. from narrative criticism (which I think is the reigning interpretive framework for the gospels in the past few decades) which says each gospel author has an agenda which we should discover so we get the main point of each passage (thus my answer's conclusion). I myself am frustrated at Jesus's silence on the nature of human soul / unclean spirit / demon but that's the data we are left with. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 20:43

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