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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Since death can be regarded in various points of view, the descriptions of it must necessarily vary. If we consider the state of a dead man, as it strikes the senses, death is the cessation of natural life. If we consider the cause of death, we may place it in that permanent and entire cessation of the feeling and motion of the body which results from the destruction of the body. Among theologians, death is commonly said to consist in the separation of soul and body, implying that the soul still exists when the body perishes. Death does not consist in this separation, but this separation is the consequence of death. As soon as the body loses feeling and motion, it is henceforth useless to the soul, which is therefore separated from it.

Scriptural representations, names, and modes of speech respecting death:

(a.) One of the most common in the Old Testament is, to return to the dust, or to the earth. Hence the phrase, the dust of death. It is founded on the description; , and denotes the dissolution and destruction of the body. Hence the sentiment in , 'The dust shall return to the earth as it was, the spirit unto God who gave it.'

(b.) A withdrawing, exhalation, or removal of the breath of life ().

(c.) A removal from the body, a being absent from the body, a departure from it, etc. This description is founded on the comparison of the body with a tent or lodgment in which the soul dwells during this life. Death destroys this tent or house, and commands us to travel on (;;;; ).

(d.) Paul likewise uses the term to be unclothed, in reference to death (); because the body is represented as the garment of the soul, as Plato calls it. The soul, therefore, as long as it is in the body, is clothed; and as soon as it is disembodied, is naked.

(e.) The terms which denote sleep are applied frequently in the Bible, as everywhere else, to death (;; , sqq.).

(f.) Death is frequently compared with and named from a departure, a going away (;;;; ).

Death, when personified, is described as a ruler and tyrant, having vast power and a great kingdom, over which he reigns. But the ancients also represented it under some figures which are not common among us. We represent it as a man with a scythe, or as a skeleton, etc.; but the Jews, before the exile, frequently represented death as a hunter, who lays snares for men (; ). After the exile, they represented him as a man, or sometimes as an angel (the angel of Death), with a cup of poison, which he reaches to men. From this representation appears to have arisen the phrase, which occurs in the New Testament, to taste death (; ), which, however, in common speech, signifies merely to die, without reminding one of the origin of the phrase. The case is the same with the phrase to see death (; ).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Death'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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