The idea that the soul resides with God in Heaven after death is the belief in which the soul, representing in some sence the individual personality with whom it was associated, remains in eternity within the heavenly realm. This view concerning the fate the soul is probably most common among the Jewish laity.


Hellenic InfluencesEdit

The belief in the immortality of the soul in the above sense came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent. A "blessed immortality awaiting the spirit while the bones rest in the earth" is mentioned in Jubilees xxiii. 31 and Enoch iii. 4. Immortality, the "dwelling near God's throne" "free from the load of the body," is "the fruit of righteousness," says the Book of Wisdom (i. 15; iii. 4; iv. 1; viii. 13, 17; xv. 3). In IV Maccabees, also (ix. 8, 22; x. 15; xiv. 5; xv. 3; xvi. 13; xvii. 5, 18), immortality of the soul is represented as life with God in heaven, and declared to be the reward for righteousness and martyrdom. The souls of the righteous are transplanted into heaven and transformed into holy souls (ib. xiii. 17, xviii. 23). According to Philo, the soul exists before it enters the body, a prison-house from which death liberates it; to return to God and live in constant contemplation of Him is man's highest destiny (Philo, "De Opificio Mundi (On the Creation)," §§ 46, 47]; idem, "De Allegoriis Legum (Allegorical Interpretation)," i., §§ 33; iii., §§ 14; idem, "Quis Rerum Divinarum Hæres Sit (Who is the Heir of Divine Things)," §§ 38, 57).

Sadducees and PhariseesEdit

It is not quite clear whether the Sadducees, in denying resurrection (Josephus, Antiquities xviii. 1, § 4; Mark xii. 18; Acts xxiii. 8; comp. Sanhedrin 90b), denied also the immortality of the soul (see Avos de-Rabbi Nathan, recension B. x.). The Pharisaic belief in resurrection had not even a name for the immortality of the soul. For them, man was made for two worlds, the world that now is, and the world to come, where life does not end in death. For example,

  • Gen. R. viii: עם המלך מלך מלכי המלכים הקב"ה ישבו נפשות של צדיקים שבהן נמלך הקדוש ב"ה וברא את העולם
  • Yerushalmi Megilla ii. 73b (???)
  • Moed Katan iii. 83b, where the words על‏ ‏מות, Ps. xlviii. 15, are translated by Aquilas as if they read: אל‏ ‏מות, "no death," ἀθανασία).

Kohelet: [Ecclesiastes xii. 7]: "When the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return unto God who gave it."


Shab. 152b, p.359: The rabbis taught: "Return the soul to the Lord as clean as He gave it to thee."