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THE SLEEP OF THE SOUL IN THE EAELY 
SYRIAC CHUECH 

F. Gavin 
St. Thomas Aquinas House, Nashotah, Wisconsin 

In Syeiac Christianity, from the fourth century on, there 
appears with more or less consistency and in much the same out- 
line a curious teaching as to the state of the dead. As the 
earliest example of the sort that is available in Syriac authors 
is Aphraates, the 'Persian sage,' I shall quote him first. 'The 
Spirit is absent from all born of the body until they come to the 
regeneration of baptism. For they are endowed with the soulish 
spirit (from) the first birth, — which (spirit) is created in man, 
and is immortal, as it is written, "Man became a living soul" 
(Gen. 2. 7, cf. I Cor. 15. 45). But in the second birth — that is, 
of Baptism — they receive the Holy Spirit, a particle of the 
Godhead, and it is immortal. When men die the soulish spirit 
is buried with the body and the power of sensation is taken from 
it. The Heavenly Spirit which they have received goes back to 
its own nature, to the presence of Christ. Both these facts the 
Apostle teaches, for he says :^ ' ' The body is bviried soulish, and 
rises spiritual" (I Cor. 15. 44). The Spirit returns to the 
presence of Christ, its nature, for the Apostle says: "When we 
are absent from the body we are present with the Lord" (II 
Cor. 5. 7). Christ's Spirit, which the spiritual have received, 
goes back to the Lord's presence; the soulish spirit is buried in 
its own nature, and is deprived of sensation.' (293. 2-24, Pari- 
sot's edition.) 

In the above quotation several points are worthy of notice: 
(a) the 'soulish spirit,' or soul (l^' i * '^'' )-»o' or t-»=') is the 
principle of natural life, or f>}xv> (b) the Holy Spirit, or the 
Spirit, is the wvev/m; (c) the text of I Cor. 15. 44 does not read 
as in the Greek. Instead of, 'The body is sown {a-ireipiToi) , a 
natural — or "psychic" — body,' the Syriac of Aphraates reads : 
'The body is buried "soulishly," or "psychically," ' e. g. 
L^U^oi -^Uo i^U-t^ ]-r^ iin4L^.' The Peshitto reads instead 



^ In this quotation I have translated the adverbs as adjectives. 



104 F. Gavin 

of jio^iLio of Aph. the same word as the Greek (TTrdperai, ^'?>^. 
While Aphraates teaches also that the body and soul may be 
'deprived of sensation,' yet he means by this 'that in this 
sleep men do not know good from evil' (397. 17). He uses in 
this same passage three words referring to 'sleep,' and this is 
the clue to the meaning of his other statement that the good 
rest with a good conscience and sleep well, waking alert and 
refreshed at the Eesurrection, while those who have done evil 
in their lives are restive and unquiet, for they are uneasy with 
the sense of foreboding and doom impending. He illustrates 
this by the story of the likeness of the two servants, one of whom 
is expecting punishment, and the other praise from his lord, in 
the morning (396. 16-35; 397. 1-14). This is perhaps the 
clearest statement of the doctrine of the 'sleep of the soul,' and 
Aph. claims it for an article of the Faith (397. 15). 

There is hardly any feature of the teaching of Aph. which has 
occasioned so universal comment. So far as I can ascertain, all 
who have written on Aph. have spoken of it.^ Since his is prob- 
ably the clearest exposition of the teaching regarding the soul's 
sleep, I have thought well to give it in full. 

Some reputed texts from St. Ephraem Syrus (373) who wrote 
in the same language as Aph. and with whom there are many 
fundamental likenesses in thought and expression,' would seem 
to indicate that he, too, held to a tripartite division of man, and 
to the doctrine of death being a 'sleep,' in which there is the 
same kind of semiconscious knowledge of what is passing, as in 
the case of an habitual 'light sleeper.' 'The lesson of the dead 
is with us. Though they sleep, yet they teach us, their gar- 
ments alone are destroyed, — ^the body which diseases bring to an 
end, — while the soul preserved in life, as it is now, (is) without 



■"E. g., Parisot, in Patrologia Syriaca, vol. 1, e. 3, pp. Ivi-lvii; Harnack, 
DogmengescJi. 1. 733 ; George, Bishop of the Arabs, f ol. 251-2, ef . Wright, 
SomUies of Aphraates, pp. 32-4; Nestle, Bealeno. f. Th. u. K. 1 (1896), 
pp. 611-12 (' eigenthiimliche Psychologie, insbesondere die Lehre von dem 
Seelenschlaf '); Forget, Be vita et script. Aph., pp. 293 S.; Sasse, Pro- 
legomena in Aph. Sap. Persi sermones homUetieos, pp. 18 f . ; Bardenhewer, 
Zeits. Urch. Theol., 3. 369-378; G. Bickell, in Ausgew&hlte Schriften der 
Syrischen Kirchenvdter, p. 15 ('eine hochst seltsame und verkehrte Aus- 
legung von 1 Kor. 15. 44'). 

°Cf., e. g., St. Ephrem, Sermo de Domino Nostro, and Horn. XXIII of 
Aph. 



The Sleep of the Soul 105 

corruption.'* 'The souls of tke departed are alive and endowed 
with reason, laid up in Paradise for the Creator, while their 
bodies are stored up in the earth as a pledge to be restored one 
day.' The whole figure of death and sleep is brought out in 
the following: 'Just as in the eventide laborers rest, so do they 
rest for a time in death, until like sleepers waked from their 
sleep in the tomb, they (shall) don glory.' 

Bickell, in his summary of St. Eph.'s doctrine {Sancti 
Ephraemi Syri Carmina Nisibena, Leipzig, 1866), says that 
St. Eph. teaches that the faithful departed are not dead but 
sleep, since they are alive and have the power of reason (cf. 
Rom. Ed. 3. 258). Yet the soul cannot yet go into paradise 
properly speaking, since nothing imperfect must enter there 
(3.586-88). This state before the Resurrection is called 'sleep' 
in the technical sense ; for until the Resurrection, together with 
their bodies, their souls are sunk in 'sleep' (cf. 3. 225 B). This 
place, or state (which of the two is not to be ascertained) is a 
sort of ante-room to Paradise. 'One road, my brethren, lies 
before us all : from childhood unto death, and from death unto 
the Resurrection; thence branch out two ways, — ^the one to the 
flames, the other to Paradise' {Carmina Nisii. LXXIII, 11. 
24-28). 'Sweet is sleep to the weary, — so is death to him who 
fasts and watches (i. e. the ascetic). Natural sleep slays not 
the sleeper, — nor has Sheol slain, nor does it so now. Sleep is 
sweet, and so is Sheol quiet . . . Sleep strives not to hold the 
sleeper, nor is Sheol greedy. Behold, sleep shows us how tem- 
porary is Sheol, for the mom awakes the sleeper, — and the Voice 
raises the dead' (XLIII, 11. 158-176). That Eph. taught dis- 
tinctly a trichotomy in the regenerate man can be seen from 
such a passage as the following: 'How much more does that soul 
love its dwelling place, if it get on well with the body, and in 
agreement with it expel the evil indwelling demon, and invite 
the Holy Spirit to dwell with both' (XLVII, 11. 97-101). He 
teaches that 'a dead man in whom is hidden the secret life, lives 
on after death' (XLVII, 11. 135-41). Over and over again 
St. Eph. compares death to sleep, — ^the Resurrection is being 
waked out of sleep (XLIX, 11. 170-189). This is the whole 
burden of LXV, where death is compared to sleep, which is like 
the foetus in the womb, the bud of a flower, the bird in the egg. 

'Prom the 'Neerosima,' Op. Omnia, Bom. Ed., 3, p. 225, D. 



106 F. Gavin 

In other words St. Eph. seeks to teach that a real life is going 
on, hidden and secret, and only semi-conscious. 'How like is 
death to sleep, and the Eesurrection to the morning ! . . . He 
is a fool who sees that sleep passes at dawn, yet believes of death 
that it shall endure eternally' (LXX, 11. 58-61, 66-69). 'Our 
habitation (i. e. in death) is like a dream' (beginning of 
LXXVII). 'The mouth of a dead man spake to the soul in 
Eden: whence, why, and how hast thou come hither?' (LXIX, 
11. 74-77). Thus Eden must be conceived of rather as a state 
than a place, if we are to make the teaching of St. Eph. intelli- 
gible. Sheol must refer to the place and state of the departed. 
Death speaks: 'the bodies of the prophets and apostles glow; 
all the righteous are for lights to me iu the darkness' (LXIII, 
U. 81-84). Evidently the indwelling presence of the soul of 
the holy man transfigures the body from within. Of course, 
St. Ephraem believed, as did Aphraates, that salvation meant 
'new life,' and that the work of Christ as Saviour effected the 
imparting of His Spirit whereby Life was communicated (cf. 
the 'Discourse on Our Lord,' in S. Ephraem Syri Hymni et 
Sermones, T. J. Lamy, Mechlin 1882, cols. 147-274). 

In general St. Eph. believed much as did Aph. He, following 
the same authorities, believed in a trichotomy of man, of body, 
soul, and Spirit — the divine principle, given by God through 
Christ. After death the Spirit leaves the body, leaving in it 
the soul. The two carry on life with, however, the natural 
faculties wholly suspended. This state is technically the 
'sleep,' and from it the voice of Christ will call the dead to 
judgment. It is a little less explicit and complete than Aphra- 
ates, but the same teaching underlies the system of Eph., with 
which it is entirely consistent, and to which it acts as comple- 
ment. 

I am indebted to 0. Braun's Moses tar Kepha und sein Buck 
von der Seele (Freiburg i. B., 1891) for the following quotation 
which he took from a Vatican MS. not yet published. The 
doubtful reference to St. Eph. gives the same teaching as is 
found above taken from the certainly genuine Carmina Nisi- 
iena.^ Braun quotes: 'Behold how (the dead) are encom- 

"For criticism of St. Ephraem 's works cf. F. C. Burkitt ia the Jour. 
Theol. Stud., 2. 341 ff., and also Cambridge Texts and Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, 
pp. 1-91. 



The Sleep of the Soul 107 

passed in Sheol, and awaiting the great day, till He come to 
delight them, and bring hope to the hopeless' (p. 143). On 
the same page he quotes from a catechism ascribed to Isaac the 
Great (fl. 410), the teaching of which for our purposes may be 
summarized as follows : (a) both body and soul lose the power 
of thought and feeling after death; (b) while the body cannot 
even live without the soul, the soul, though it cannot see or hear 
without the body, is yet able to live (he illustrates this statement 
by the figure of the unborn child in its mother's womb) ; (e) the 
soul has no consciousness after death. Braun has doubts about 
the genuineness of this text (pp. 144-5), but there need be no 
presumption against this type of teaching, on the basis of inter- 
nal evidence. 

Babai (569-628 — ace. to Duval, La litterature syriaque, p. 
212) in his commentary on the- 'Centuries' of Evagrius, fol. 
13" ff. (quoted in Braun, op. cit. p. 145) says: 'the soul cannot 
be active without the body, hence one must say that after death 
it is in a kind of sleep. The Holy Scriptures call death sleep ; 
thus, too, the "Seven Sleepers" of Ephesus. As light cannot 
bum without fuel, so the soul in Abraham's bosom possesses 
only its unchangeable faculties, — i. e., the life from God, and 
(its) memory. . . . Man is a bodily existence endowed with 
reason. The soul is not a "complete nature" (yet) it cannot 
be said that after death it is as if it were not . . . ' We have 
seen that the mention of the soul in this state as something 
imperfect was made by St. Ephraem (cf. above, and Rom. Ed. 3. 
586-88). 

This same thought is of primary importance to Timothy I 
(779-823, date from Duval, op. cit.), who says: 'The soul is not 
a "complete nature," but (is) for the purpose of completing 
man's nature, like the body. . . . Will and understanding 
are only virtually in the soul, — otherwise it would be like the 
angels, a "perfected nature"; the other properties, that is, the 
four essential ones . . . are in abeyance, and the two which 
it possesses by reason of its union with the body are lost. Thus 
it is like a child in the womb.' Timothy gives as illustrations 
and authorities for his interpretation such passages in the Holy 
Scriptures as Is. 38. 18, Psalms 6. 6, 103. 33, 145. 4, Eccl. 9. 10, 
etc. 'The soul has no power of sensation, nor the use of mem- 
ory, else it would suffer or rejoice, which experiences are not to 



108 F. Gavin 

begin until the judgment, and which, besides, belong to the 
whole man. If the souls were to possess knowledge, then would 
the will be active, — then what of the body?' Under this same 
Timothy in 790 was held a council of the Syro-Nestorian 
Church, which condemned the errors of a certain 'Joseph the 
Seer, the Huzite,' who had been at the head of the school of 
Nisibis, the third in line from the great Narses. The canons of 
that council are preserved in Arabic, and may be found in the 
Bibliotheca Orientalis, Vol. 3, pp. 100-1. They anathematize 
those who teach that Christ's Divinity could be seen by His 
Humanity, or by any other created things; 'they decreed that 
souls after the separation are destitute of sense until they 
reenter their bodies, and that none save Christ's humanity has 
ever attained perfection in this world.' 

Much the same sort of teaching appears among the Nestor- 
ians; it is not necessary to quote in detail. Elias of Anbar 
(930) claims that most of the fathers hold it impossible that souls 
should have any power of sensation after death. In his trichot- 
omy he teaches that the body goes to earth, the soul to the place 
of souls (is it a state, or a place?), where all are together till the 
Eesurrection, without sense or power of distinguishing between 
good and evil (cf. Aph. above) ; and the irvrii/Mi, the power of 
life, returns to God (Braun, p. 146). Emmanuel bar Schah- 
hare (Mallepama of Mosul, 980, cf . Duval, Lit. syr., pp. 280, 
293) on the 'Hexameron' teaches that the 'souls of the righteous 
are in a place of repose as in a sleep, like the child in its 
mother's womb . . .' (Braun, ibid.). Thus, also, George of 
Arbela (945-987, text in B.O. 3, pp. 518-540; on him cf. 
Duval, op. cit., pp. 172, 393). The witness to this as the pre- 
dominant Nestorian view is given by Moses bar Kepha, cf. 
chapters 32 and 33 (Braun, op. cit., pp. 102, 109). It is thus 
demonstrable that among the Nestorians from the 9th century 
on this doctrine was current, if not dominant.* Having sug- 
gested the direction from which emanated this trend of think- 
ing in the Syriac Church, with Aph. and Ephraem Syrus as 



' Cf. Guidi, Testi orientali inediti sopra i sette dormienti di 'Efeso, p. 50, 
note:. 'Del resto la eredenza, che le anime dopo la morte, restassero prive 
di senso fine alia risurrezione, era commune fra i Nestoriani almeno dal 
IX seoolo. . . ' 



The Sleep of the Soul 109 

the first examples, it may not be without interest to investigate 
the sources of their own doctrine on the subject. 

Before doing so it may be worth while to note that there are 
certain differences in the later Nestorian teaching, which may 
rest on the teaching of St. Bphraem. I said that it was not 
absolutely certain whether bj^ Sheol, or Paradise, he meant a 
state or a place. Aph. undoubtedly means that the soul remains 
with the body in the grave, yet he personifies Death, who has a 
conflict with Jesus in which Death is worsted. So St. Eph. per- 
sonified Death (in the Sermo de Domino Nostra, etc.), and 
perhaps localized Sheol as a place where are gathered the souls 
of those who sleep in death. Perhaps the simplest explanation 
to account for the facts would be that he spoke of the souls 
being laid up in store under the guardianship of Death (not 
always, by the way, a forbidding figure), while the bodies were 
laid away in store beneath the earth. If neither concept of 
'state' nor 'place' was defined in his mind, something like 
what he meant by 'nature,' in a non-philosophic sense, would 
represent the condition of the departed. Aph. is more explicit. 
I think St. Ephraem, save where he waxes poetical, holds the 
same view. The later Nestorian writers sometimes held that 
the souls were garnered up in a 'storehouse,' while the bodies 
were in the earth (e. g., the 'Burial rite of the Convent of Mar 
Abraham and Mar Gabriel,' Cod. Syr. Vat. 61, fol. 36% in 
Braun, p. 147), and at other times that they were in the earth 
asleep in the bodies. Yet a new element has entered into their 
considerations, even if they did follow the same tradition as 
Aph., St. Ephraem, and the catechism purporting to be by Isaac 
the Great. As is apparent, Aristotelian philosophic conceptions 
(oftentimes misconceived) shaped their doctrine, as will appear 
below. 

Aph. and St. Ephraem lived in the 4th century. Whence 
did they derive their doctrines as to the 'sleep of the soul'? 
Are there any other examples of this teaching in the early 
Church outside the Syriac-speaking branch of it? There are; 
and the resemblances are the more striking if the differences as 
to time, and the utter disparity as to point of view and idiom 
of thought, be taken into consideration. Tatian, in his Oratio 
ad Graecos, maintains the immortality of body as well as soul 
(c. 25). For the human soul is not of itself immortal, but is 



110 F. Gavin 

capable of becoming so. 'It dies and dissolves with the body, 
if it does not know the truth ; but it will rise later at the last, 
to receive, together with its body, death in immortality as its 
punishment. On the other hand, if it have the knowledge of 
God, though it be dissolved for a time, it will not die. Of itself 
it is darkness; and there is no light in it.' He quotes St. John 

1. 5, and continues: 'It is not the soul which saves the Spirit, 
but the soul shall be saved by the Spirit. Light has received 
darkness, inasmuch as the Light of God is the Logos, and the 
ignorant soul is darkness. This is the reason why the soul left 
to itself becomes lost in matter, and dies with the flesh. If, 
however, it have achieved an alliance {av^/lav, not a 'union,' 
cf. Puech, Becherches sur le dvscours aux Grecs de Tatien, pp. 
70 fiE.) with the Spirit, it will be in need of naught else. It 
rises whither the Spirit leads, for It dwells on high, while the 
origin of the soul is below. . . . While the Spirit was asso- 
ciated from the beginning with the soul. It abandons the soul 
if it be unwilling to follow. . . . God's Spirit is not in all, but 
descends upon such as deal justly, and becomes bound up with 
their soul . . . ' (c. 13). Thus Tatian is seen to teach an essen- 
tial trichotomy, and goes on further to state that . . . 'the 
soul is of many parts, not simple. ... It sees by means of the 
physical eyes of the body. . . . ' 'It cannot see without the 
body, nor can the body rise without the soul.' A man is only 
true to his own character as being the 'image and likeness of 
God' when he is removed farthest from the merely animal and 
physical side of his nature. The soul is the bond of the flesh, 
and the flesh the dwelling-place of the soul. . . . When (he) 
becomes like a temple, then God wills to dwell in him through 
the superior Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 3. 16, 6. 19, 2 Cor. 6. 16, Eph. 

2. 22). When the whole man is not thus coordinated (i. e., 
does not make himself fit for God's Spirit to reside in him), 
then he diifers from the beast only by the power of speech (c. 
15; with this cf. the quotations above from Aph.). 

While Aph.'s notion of salvation is not that of Tatian, to 
whom it is the Revelation of Divine Light through the Logos, 
yet there are distinct and definite common elements. It will 
be remembered that Tatian, too, was a Syrian, and that he 
taught, after his expulsion from Rome, at the great centre of 



The Sleep of the Soul 111 

Syriac learning, Edessa, and that his 'Diatessaron' was the 
text which both Aph. and St. Ephraem used constantly. The 
presence of the Holy Spirit restores what was lost to man before 
the Incarnation of the Logos. By means of the Spirit man 
attains immortality. Tatian says: 'I was not, then I was. I 
die, but I shall be raised' (c. 6), and Aph. has almost the same 
sequence of ideas. 'If God can create from naught, why is it 
difficult to believe He can raise the dead?' (cf. 369. 21-23). 
The body of man has its own natural and immortal life, but 
would be only as a beast before God, if the man chose not to 
avail himself of the presence of the Divine Spirit brought to 
mankind by Christ. "When the individual has done his best to 
prepare as well as he may to become the temple of G^d, God's 
Spirit comes, and departs only at the believer's death. Since 
the body and soul are complementary to each other, they must 
needs abide together, and from Tatian 's words we are left to 
infer that they remain together in the grave. At the Resur- 
rection the Holy Spirit returns to raise the bodies of the right- 
eous, while the wicked are condemned to 'death in immortality.' 
It is merely a question of terms between Tatian and Aph. as 
to the immortality of body and soul, and their relation to the 
Spirit. The thought is largely the same. If soul and body 
could be condemned to a 'death in immortality' and are to be 
raised for judgment, such an act at the last day could be con- 
sidered either a waking from sleep or a quickening of the dead. 
If it is the former, we have the teaching of Aph. and St. Eph. 
If the latter, then we merely change the terminology. The 
idea represented is the same in both cases. If death be not 
total destruction without hope of rehabilitation, which would 
utterly forbid any possible recall to a state of life, but rather 
a temporary dissolution of faculties and properties, then it is 
as simple to conceive of it under one name as the other. Such 
a mere suspension of those faculties and powers, even if called 
'death,' is almost identical with the notion of the 'sleep of the 
soul. ' 

Irenaeus lived at almost the same time as Tatian, and wrote 
his great work 'Against Heresies' in the years 180-5. It was 
early translated into Syriac, and the type of teaching is the 
same in general outline as that found in Aph. St. Irenaeus 



112 F. Gavin 

surely held to a trichotomy of the nature of regenerate man. 
' Sunt tria ex quibus, quemadmodum ostendimus, perf ectus^ 
homo constat, — came, anima, et spiritu, et altero quidem sal- 
vante et figurante, qui est spiritus; alter quod unitur et for- 
matur, quod est caro; id vero quod inter haec est duo, quod 
est anima, quae aliquando quidem subsequens spiritum, elevatur 
ab eo; aliquando autem consentiens carni, decidit in terrenes 
concupiscientias. Quod ergo id quod salvat et format, et uni- 
tatem non habent, hi consequenter erunt et vocabuntur caro 
et sanguis ; quippe qui non habent Spiritum Dei in se. Propter 
hoc autem et mortui tales dicti sunt a Deo: Sinite . . . mor- 
tuos sepelire mortuos sues, quoniam non habent Spiritum 
qui vivificet hominem' {Adv. Hwreses, 5. 9, in Migne, P.G., 
7, col. 1144 f.). A little before this he has said, 'Anima autem 
et spiritus pars hominis esse possunt, homo autem nequaquam: 
perfectus autem homo, commistio et adunitio est animae assu- 
mentis Spiritum Patris, et admisto ei carni, quae est plasmata 
secundum imaginem Dei' {Hid., col. 1137). The souls of the 
dead are to await the day of Resurrection in a place set apart 
by God, and after receiving their bodies and 'perfecte resur- 
gentes, hoc est, corporaliter, quemadmodum et Dominus resur- 
rexit,' they come to the Divine presence for judgment (ibid., 
col. 1209). 

The essential feature of all of these quotations is that the 
soul sleeps, or is in some kind of comatose state, from the time 
of death till the day of Resurrection. The contrary view would 
be the attainment of a degree of happiness or unhappiness 
immediately after death by the soul alone, as if the body were 
not essentially part of the human nature. Aph. certainly held 
that the soul was with the body during this interim and that 
both lay dormant in the grave. St. Bph. is not so clear as to 
the relations of the body and the soul. Isaac, or rather the 
quotation above attributed to him, agrees in the main with Aph. 
The Nestorians, who held to the sleep of the soul practically 

'It is true, however, as Klebba has pointed out (Die Anthropologic des 
hi. Irendus, Miinster, 1894, pp. 100, 165), that there is no essential tri- 
chotomy of the natwdl man in St. Irenseus. It is only the 'perfectus 
homo' who possesses the spirit and then only as 'eine Zierde. ' (Cf. 
Schwane, Dogmengeschichte der vomicdnischer Zeit, p. 440; A. Stockl, 
Geschichte der Philosophic der patristischen Zeit, p. 153.) 



The Sleep of the Soul 113 

universally from 850 on, waver between the belief that the soul 
is with the body, and that it^is stored up elsewhere, though 
much of the material is not precise enough in its outlines to be 
certain of. So far as the earlier examples go, we have found 
thus far that Aph. is much closer to the type of teaching found 
in Tatian in this detail, than the Nestorians are in that respect. 
St. Irenaeus, who as regards the composition of the 'regenerate' 
man is a trichotomist, is definite about the relation of body, soul, 
and Spirit and is in line with the type of Aphraates' teaching 
expounded above, while he differs from Aphraates chiefly in 
the mention of a 'locum invisibilem, definitum ... a Deo in 
medio umbrae mortis . . . ubi animae mortuorum erunt . . . 
et ibi usque ad resurrectionem commorabuntur . . . ' {loc. cit., 
col. 1209). Whether this be state or place, or both, it is not 
certain, and it cannot be shown that he does not mean the 
buried body to be the natural place of repose for the soul. 
However, this detail is not of great consequence. 

About the year 247, Busebius tells us (Hist. eccl. 6. 37), 
Origen successfully combatted at a synod the strange doctrine 
of 'the Arabians who said that at the present time the human 
soul dies and perishes with the body, but that at the time of 
the resurrection they will be renewed together.' McGiffert on 
this passage (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d Series, vol. 
1, 1904, p. 279) refers to two passages where similar doctrines 
are discussed. He feels that Eedepenning {Origenes; Leien 
und Lehre, Bonn, 1841, vol. 2, on the Arabian Church, pp. 74- 
129) is wrong in claiming that Eusebius misunderstood the 
theology of the Arabian Church. Redepenning contends that 
the Christian community in Arabia was nourished on Jewish 
teaching (p. 75), that St. Paul travelled thither (Gal. 1. 17) 
and was reputed to have founded a Church at Bostra. The 
early Arabian Christians were Semitic, and probably Jewish, 
converts. Continual resurgences of the fundamentally Jewish 
character of their faith disrupted the progress of their church 
life, and its contact with the Church at large (p. 105). He 
claims that the proper notion of the Arabian Christians' teach- 
ing is not found in Eusebius, who misrepresents it, and says 
that it is fundamentally Jewish. In Jewish teaching he finds 
the original teaching from which this is drawn, that the dead 
sleep in the earth, and maintain a kind of shadowy existence 
8 JAOS 40 



114 F. Gavin 

with the Father (p. 109). He refers to Tatian, and to the 
teaching of Irenaeus (cf. above), commenting on which he 
says: 'the soul ... is only the breath of earthly life which 
through being taken up into the Holy Spirit becomes capable 
of immortality. The earthly life is itself transitory and passes 
away so soon as the breath of life (i. e., the soul), by which God 
quickened the body, leaves it, — ^unless an external power, the 
Spirit of God, overcome the transitory' (pp. 106-7, cf. Iren. 
Adv. Haer. 5. 12; 4. 38). So Heracleon holds that the soul is 
mortal, and dies with the body in the grave, but is capable of 
being clothed with immortality. Origen definitely taught a tri- 
chotomy of body, soul, and spirit in man (on St. John, vol. 13, 
p. 275, ed. Migne). 

It is not necessary to imagine that Eusebius gave a com- 
plete picture of the teaching of the Arabians. The distinc- 
tion between the wvoi/'vxiTai and the OvrjTOKJ/vy^Taj, seems not to be 
based on any valid foundation. Both theories, if indeed 
there be two, are attempted explanations of the phenomena of 
death, and the relations of body and soul to each other. To 
say that the body and soul 'die' and then 'become immortal' 
is not clearing up what is meant by 'dying' and 'immortality' ! 

The later references (e. g. in St. Augustine, de Haeres. No. 
83, 'Arabici') do not add much. St. John Damascene (676- 
760) in liber de Haer. No. 90 (in Migne, P.Q. 94, col. 759) 
says that the Thnetopsychists hold that the human soul is like 
that of the beasts, for it is destroyed with the body. Still later, 
Nicephorus Callistus of Constantinople (ob. 1356) repeats what 
is found ia Eusebius, on whom he probably based this passage. 
His version is however slightly different: 'the human soul, 
together with the body, dies for the present (irpos to Trapov), and 
with it undergoes decay; at the Eesurrection to come it lives 
again with other bodies, and from then on (toS Xonrov) it is 
maintained in immortality.' {Hist. eccl. 5. 23, in Migne, 145, 
col. 4.) The attempt to account for the state of the body and 
soul after death- by calling it 'sleep,' i. e. suspended animation, 
is in some measure an explanation of the phenomena it tries to 
deal with. . . . Simply to say that 'death' involves 'death of 
body and soul,' etc., leaves still the question: what happens to 
the soul? and does not assist in the settlement of the problem. 

Thus we have seen that the doctrine of the 'sleep of the soul' 



The Sleep of the Soul 115 

is found in full and definite form in Aphraates, a writer of 
the Persian Church, while St. Ephraem and perhaps Isaac the 
Great, west and east of him respectively, and all three nearly 
contemporaneous, taught much the same doctrine. In the later 
Nestorian Church, the doctrine of the sleep of the soul had a 
considerable number of adherents. Before the 4th century we 
find similar teaching in Tatian, and implication of a similar 
system in St. Irenaeus. In the 3d century much the same 
position, this time held by 'Arabians,' was attacked by Ori- 
gen, and as a heresy it was known in more or less imperfect 
form, in writers of the 14th century Eastern Church. 

I shall not attempt to construe a theory of interrelation 
between these various and scattered writers. It is sufficiently 
demonstrated that it was not peculiar or unique in the case of 
Aphraates. It may be that another instance of similarity in 
teaching with the Asianic school, noticeable in other phases of 
his doctrine, may be found in this ease. The Syriae Church 
undoubtedly had a great sympathy for such teaching. In fact 
it found peculiar favor with the Christian Semitic communities 
and writers. From this it may be inferred that there was some 
kinship in ideas between Eastern Christianity and Judaism, as 
Eedepenning has suggested. How much importance can be 
attached to this fact? "What sort of origins and sources can 
the doctrine of the 'sleep of the dead' be said to have? 

(a) To begin with the latest phase, which was presented 
earlier in this essay — the Nestorian writers from Babai on. In 
comparing them with Aphraates, a singular difference will be 
apparent. While Aphraates certainly utilizes his theory of the 
trichotomy of human nature as an essential element in the pres- 
entation of liis doctrine of the 'sleep of the soul,' the Nes- 
torians base theirs on an entirely different psychology and 
philosophy. Their anthropology was based on a dichotomism. 
Aristotle began to be known among the Nestorian writers, and 
to be translated and spread widely in the 8th and 9th centuries. 
Before that time his philosophy had had many more or less loyal 
adherents among them, but these students of Aristotle had not 
always successfully translated Greek ideas and idioms, espe- 
cially purely philosophical ones, into Syriae. For instance, 
Moses bar Kepha (ob. 903), who wrote a treatise on the dia- 
lectics of Aristotle, even at this late date misunderstood the 



116 F. Gavin 

distinction between 'matter' and 'form.' Aristotle says: 
avayKoXov apa T7}v i/'wp^v oucuiv cZvcu As cl8o$ <7<o/«itos <^v<nKov Swafiet 
^<o^v €;(ovTos- 17 8'owta ivTfX.t-j(tux. touxvtov apa a-wfjuiTOi ivTtXfX'^'^ 
(De anima, II. 1. 412^, 6, Hitter and Preller's text, pp. 339). 
The eVeAe'xeia is the actual being of a thing, as against 8wa/tis, 
potential being. In De anima 8. ^3 the soul is called the 
ivTiKiX'^ia of the body, as also in II. 2. 414^ 14 : ov to <ro>jua i<TTiv 
ivTtX.i)(iux ij/v)(lj'i, oAA,' avTTj (rm/MiTOs tivos . • . ; for the SOul is tov ^covto? 
cr<oiuiT<ys alria Koi apx>} {ibid. 415'') . The soul as ivTtkix'"^ of the body 
is that by which it actually is, though it may be said to have had 
the SiW/iis of existing before. The word in Syriac for ivrtkextw. 
is ) . ' Nvi ». It is apparent that the ' Book of the Soul, ' for example, 
is full of misunderstood philosophical terms. Moses b. Kepha, 
who was a Jacobite, misconstrued the Nestorians about whom 
he was writing, while oftentimes they were nearer the mind of 
Aristotle than he himself was. As the soul is the cause of being 
of the body {De part. an. 1. 5. 654** 14), it is also that by which 
it actually is. Furthermore, it is the 'form' of the body, in 
that it gives actual being to that which had only existed before 
potentially, as matter. The word >-' '^^ *' meant also 'perfec- 
tion,' 'completion,' and in this sense it could truly be applied 
to the soul as making possible the life of the whole man, by 
animating his body. Either element then was 'incomplete,' and 
so, while the soul was really the more important, yet it could 
not come to enjoy eternity without the body with which it stood 
in so intimate a relationship. The Nestorian doctrine of the 
soul sleep, from the 7th century on, is built on the Aristotelian 
psychology, unlike the earlier teaching of e. g. Aphraates and 
St. Ephraem. 

(b) In his comments on Aphraates, Braun suggests that he 
must have been acquainted with contemporaneous rabbinic 
teaching as to the condition of the soul and body after death.* 
In much the same vein Eedepenning thinks that the 'heresy of 
the Arabians,' which caused the dissension that Origen had to 
settle, was none other than a bit of Jewish tradition which the 
Church had taken over {op. cit. p. 109). 

In the books between the Old and New Testaments in which 
are reflected the speculations of the days preceding rabbinic 

« Op. dt., p. 142. 



The Sleep of the Soul 117 

Judaism and Christianity, sources may be found for this doc- 
trine, which appears fully developed in later days. On Gen. 2 
and 3 was based the whole general distinction between the imma- 
terial and material principles in man. Man became a living 
soul {{J'*)^) because God breathed into him the breath of life 
(Gen. 2. 7). The Apocrjrpha and Pseudepigrapha contain the 
root of much of the doctrine which was to be found later in the 
systems of Christianity and Judaism respectively. E. g., in 
Ecclus. 38. 23, Baruch 2. 17, Tobit 3. 6 and Judith, 10. 31 {-rrvdiw. 
^(uijs), the spirit is the divine breath of life as in Gen. 2. 7. In 
Baruch and Tobit the spirit and soul are different. While the 
spirit goes back to God, the soul continues to subsist in Sheol. 
According to Ethiopic Enoch, all the 'immaterial personality' 
descends to Sheol, and its life there is far from being uncon- 
scious (according to R. H. Charles, Critical History of the Doc- 
trine of a Future Life . . ., London, 1899, chap. 5). The primi- 
tive psychology was trichotomistic, according to Charles, but in 
the 3d-2d cent. B. C. a change set in toward the type of dichoto- 
mism which was to prevail in the first Christian writing. In 2 
Mac. 7. 22-27 there is a syncretism of two types of psychology; 
while the departed are conscious (6. 26), yet the spirit is the 
life-giving principle of which the living soul is the product, as 
in Gen. 2-3, and these souls are given back to God at death (cf. 
Charles, op. cit. p. 232), According to the trichotomistic prin- 
ciple, the soul is the supreme function of the quickened body 
and the spirit 'the impersonal basis of life, returning to God 
after death' (cf. Ecclus. 12. 2 and op. cit. p. 44). The state of 
the dead was spoken of as a condition of sleep, 'terra reddet 
qui in ea dormiunt, et pulvis qui in eo silentio habitant' (2 Esd. 
7. 32, cf. also, Apoc. Bar. 50. 2). 

The early distinction between soul and spirit passed com- 
pletely in later Judaism. Its psychology was, as Bousset says, 
'ungeheuer eiufach,' distinguishing only between the external 
and internal in man, between soul and body. According to the 
older views, at the best a kind of shadowy existence in the grave 
or Sheol was predicated of the departed. This could not refer 
to the Spirit of God which returned to Him after death, ceas- 
ing to exist in that particular individual. Thus soul and body, 
in the older view, were intimately connected (cf. "W. Bousset, 
Religion des Judentums im nt. Zeitalter, 2d Ed., Berlin, 1906, 



118 F. Gavin 

pp. 459-60). While there is scarcely any distinct psychology 
in late Judaism, yet certain elements persisted in the popular 
religion, which preserved earlier views, or embodied popular 
speculations. 

In the development of the notion of personal immortality, in 
connection with the teaching about the resurrection of the dead, 
the inference could hardly be avoided, that if their bodies were 
one day to rise, the dead themselves must be in a kind of coma 
or sleep. The intimate connection between death and sleep is 
suggested in a saying reported in Berachoth 57b that 'sleep is 
a sixtieth part of death.' Eabbi Isaac said: 'A worm is as pain- 
ful to the flesh of a dead man, as a needle in that of the living' 
(Ber. 18a, Sab. 13b). (Then there follows the delightful story 
of the two ghosts who conversed on the eve of njtJTJ tJ'NT and 
were overheard by the TDPf who profited by the information 
gained from overhearing them.) That the dead were spoken 
of as 'sleeping' is shown in the story of R. Meir's interview 
with Cleopatra, when she asked about the clothing of the dead 
on the day of resurrection. The dead are called ♦MB' (Ber. 
ibid.). That the dead are to rise is shown by references to 
Deut. 32. 39, 33. 6, that they talk in the grave by Hid. 34. 4, 5 
(cf. Berach. 18b, Pesachim 68a, and the whole list of proofs in 
Sanhed. 91, 92, etc.). Assignment of punishment is, according 
to a story reported in Sanh. 91b where Rabbi talks with Anto- 
ninus, to be inflicted upon the whole man, when body and soul 
have been united, as otherwise each could blame the other, like 
the blind and lame men who were assigned the task of watching 
an orchard. During their master's absence the blind man bore 
the lame one to the trees, whose fruits they both enjoyed, and 
yet, when accused, each could point to his own lack of ability 
to steal the fruit alone! By inference, the body and soul are 
neither to be blamed or praised tiU united at the Resurrection. 

The Resurrection according to the dominant Jewish view is 
for the righteous only (cf. Taanith 2a, 7a). The idea of the 
Resurrection of the body need not arouse surprise. 'If those 
who had not yet lived have come into being, how much more 
can they rise again who already exist?' (words of R. Gebiha b. 
Pesisa in Sanh. 91a, with which argument cf. Aph. 369. 21-23). 
'If vessels (of blown glass) made by the breath of man can be 
restored if once broken, how much more then a human being. 



The Sleep of the Soul 119 

who is created through the breath of the Holy One?' (Sanh. 
91a) — ^where the double meaning of mi as 'breath' and 'spirit' 
is vital to the argument. The comparison of the grave to the 
womb appears in Sanh. 92b: as the womb receives and gives 
back, so does the grave, etc. 

(c) One of the first who wrote on Aph. (Noldeke, in GO A 
1869, p. 1524) suggested that his doctrine of the sleep of the 
soul was true to primitive Pauline thought. As was. indicated 
above in his quotation of the text 1 Cor. 15. 44, Aph. does not 
use the words: 'It is sown' but, 'It is buried.' The passage 
alluded to above (Aph. 369. 21-23) shows clearly that Aph. 
must have known the Pesh. text of this verse, but for some 
reasons preferred to use the other. St; Paul deduces the neces- 
sity for a twofold existence of man, natural or 'psychic,' and 
heavenly or 'pneumatic,' from a fresh interpretation of Gene- 
sis 2. 7. It is possible that he may have had the comparison 
of the seed to the plant alluded to above (Sanh. 90b, also in 
Ber. Eab. 95) in mind in writing 1 Cor. 15. (Thus H. St. John 
Thackeray, The Relation of St. Paul to Contemporary Jevnsh 
Thought, 1906, p. 112.) He certainly used conceptions and 
teaching already at hand in the Apoc. and Pseudepigrapha ; 
e. g., the trumpet of 1 Cor. 15. 52 and 2 Esd. 6. 23, Orac. Sibyl. 
4. 173-4, and cf. "Weber, Jild.-Theol., paragraph 369; and 'Those 
who are asleep' in 1 Thes. 4. 13, 15 and 2 Esd. 7. 32. Beyschlag 
in his Neutest. Theol. (2. 257) commenting on 1 Thes. 4. 14 con- 
siders St. Paul to have thought that the state of the dead was 
that of 'Schlafer im Schoose der Erde.' He did not teach a 
complete and utter death, because he used for 'to be dead' the 
word Koi/jMcrdai. 'In this condition man's powers are latent, but 
it is not to last long,' etc. (cf. E. Teichmann, Die Paulinischen 
Vorstellungen von Auferstehung und Gericht . . ., p. 27, and 
note 2). St. Paul for the Eesurrection uses the word eyeipcv, to 
wake (from sleep), in preference to the words avaaTrjvai airb vgc/ckSv 
(thirty-five occurrences of the former to ten of the latter). 

The Pauline trichotomy is unique in the New Testament (cf. 
Charles, op. cit., pp. 408-415) and is necessary to the consist- 
ency of St. Paul's whole tenor of thought. Since there are two 
Adams and two Creations, a natural and a spiritual man, there 
are two immaterial principles, soul and spirit. He who is 
purely natural possesses a soul, but when accorded the Spirit 



120 F. Gavin 

of God, he then has both soul and body, and also the Spirit. 
Now the Spirit leaves to return to God at death, but not thus 
the soul. St. Paul nowhere makes a distinct statement, but the 
inference made by Aph. is most just. The soul is buried with 
the body, for if the body is to rise again, and the two are insep- 
arably connected, they must needs remain together in the grave. 
There is, then, in the doctrine of the 'sleep of the soul' in 
the early Syriac Church a' complex of three elements, clearly 
discernible. The Nestorians were doubtless influenced most 
largely by (a) Aristotelian philosophy, which they did not 
entirely grasp aright, (b) Earlier teaching, which was trichot- 
omistic (while the Nestorians were, in the main, dichotomists), 
was indebted to certain Jewish conceptions, perhaps of the 
popular religion of the day, and especially (c) (conspicuously 
so in the case of Aph.) to a thorough-going allegiance to the 
Pauline teaching.