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Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 — Man, Animals, and Death

Religious materialists contend that man does not possess an incorruptible spirit. Rather, it is alleged, humanity is wholly mortal. It is argued that in this respect man does not differ from an animal.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, based upon their misunderstanding of Ecclesiastes 3:19-21, that “there is nothing that humans have as a result of birth that gives them superiority over beasts when they die” (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 383).

This context, however, is not addressing the higher nature of man. It is simply calling attention to the fact that so far as earthly existence is concerned, men and animals have a common destiny — death! Man has no advantage over the beast in this regard.

The term “spirit,” as used in this context, has to do with the animating principle of biological life that is common to both humans and lower forms of life. There is no allusion here to the “soul” (cf. Matthew 10:28), or “spirit” (cf. Daniel 7:15; 1 Corinthians 2:11; James 2:26) of man, which is created in the image of God and which makes him unique from all animals.

Hence, by the side of Ecclesiastes 3:19-21, write: Physical death in view — not the “soul” of man.