The Resurrection. (c. 1715-1716) By S. Ricci.

Hidden Beliefs Covered by the Church? Resurrection and Reincarnation in Early Christianity


Is it possible that early Christians believed in reincarnation? Although some may find this idea unbelievable, several Christian sources (including the Bible) suggest that many centuries ago, it was common to believe that one does not come to Earth just once, but various times.

In 1945, researchers discovered some early Judeo-Christian writings. Two years later, the world heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the discovery which changed biblical history.  The early Christians and Jews followed the teachings of Jesus - including the concept of resurrection. There are several examples of this found in ancient resources.

The oldest texts provide two concepts of resurrection: spiritual and bodily. The spiritual rebirth by the Holy Spirit is also known as being born again. A bodily resurrection of a human could also be called reincarnation. According to the first important father of the early Orthodox Church, Origen (185 – 254 AD), the soul exists before birth. He suggested that pre-existence was found in the Hebrew scriptures and the teachings of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove descending on the Holy Family, with God the Father and angels shown atop, by Murillo, (c. 1677).

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove descending on the Holy Family, with God the Father and angels shown atop, by Murillo, (c. 1677). (Public Domain)

Moreover, the writings of Clement of Alexandria - a disciple of the apostle Peter, suggest that his master received a few secret teachings from Jesus. One of them was related to the concept of physical and spiritual rebirth. The secret teachings confirm some writing in the Bible. There is a fragment which suggests that Jesus knew about reincarnation and past lives. Someone in the crowd apparently asked him: “What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” - John 6:30-32

Jesus doesn't refer to “your fathers”, but “you”, signifying that the story is connected with every person. In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses said: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”

Once more, Moses doesn't say “your children”, but “you”, indicating that it would be the same people to whom he was speaking that would see and hear the Messiah. According to many specialists in the Bible, there are many examples which promote the belief that reincarnation was well known and a fully accepted fact for early Christians.

Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15.

Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15. (Public Domain)

Major Medieval Alterations

In the early medieval period, the doctrines of pre-existence and reincarnation only existed as Jesus’ secret teachings. In 553 AD this information was declared heresy at the Second Council of Constantinople. The Roman Church decided to destroy all the teachings which talked about it. The Catholic doctrine and the priests’ source of wealth could have been in danger if people believed that they would come back to life many times. The old knowledge faced the same fate as many ancient books by pre-Christian writers. The bishops were afraid of the knowledge which could prove that the institution of the Church wasn't the only option to bring “eternal life” to people.

During the Middle Ages, the growing Christian religion faced new unexpected problems. With the rising number of priests, bishops, parishes, and churches the new religious structure needed more money. Due to these needs, they also invented celibacy, to allow the church to own everything what belonged to their priests.

Moreover, they decided to invent more terrible outcomes for Christian followers if they didn't do what the bishops expected of them. In the ancient writings, there is nothing about asking the priest to ask God to release individuals from their sins…or even a place called Hell - where the people who broke God’s rules were said to go after death.

А fresco detail of Hell from the medieval church St. Nicolas in Raduil village, Bulgaria.

А fresco detail of Hell from the medieval church St. Nicolas in Raduil village, Bulgaria. (Edal Anton Lefterov/CC BY SA 3.0)

Another aspect which made the Church even more resistant in allowing the belief in reincarnation was related to the Crusades. During the Crusades, people were offering all they had to the Church and fought in the name of Jesus. The religious fighters may have been less intent to lose their lives for their religion if they thought they would be reborn in the future.

When the Inquisition started to kill people for crimes of heresy and witchcraft, the religious society remained silent. Although they were losing neighbors, friends, and family, the Christians believed that it was necessary to stay on the right side of the Church and Inquisition if they wanted to go to Heaven. A belief in the rules of karma and reincarnation wouldn't have allowed the leaders of the Inquisition to hurt so many people.

Images representing immortality.

Images representing immortality. (Gnostic Warrior)

The Church’s Current Views on Reincarnation

Nowadays, some Christian churches say that it is possible that reincarnation exists. One of the most liberal of these organizations seems to be the Church in the USA. However, the belief in reincarnation is still more applicable to Buddhism or even New Age followers. The idea of reincarnation has never been fully accepted by the Catholic Church. If they would permit reincarnation as a belief, it would ruin all of the doctrine they had created over the years. It may not fully destroy Christianity, however, it would bring it back to the beginning, before the transformations the Church made. As long as people believe that only God can punish evil, the Church sees no need to apply the impersonal law of karma and other lessons which reincarnation brings.

Reincarnation.

Reincarnation. (Himalayan Academy)

Top Image: The Resurrection. (c. 1715-1716) By S. Ricci. Source: Public Domain

By Natalia Klimczak

References:

Reincarnation in the Bible by Kevin Williams, available at:
http://www.near-death.com/reincarnation/history/bible.html

May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation? By Abbot George Burke
http://ocoy.org/original-christianity/may-a-christian-believe-in-reincarnation/

Reincarnation and Christianity, available at:
http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation3.html

Christians and reincarnation, available at:
http://americamagazine.org/issue/christians-and-reincarnation

Ernest Valea, (2016) “REINCARNATION: Its meaning and consequences” ComparativeReligion.com [Online] Available at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation3.html#01

The Reluctant Messenger (2016) “Christian Reincarnation”. Reluctant-Messenger.com [Online] Available at: http://reluctant-messenger.com/origen10.html

"The Big Book of Reincarnation", by Roy Stemman, p. 14
"CHURCH FATHERS: Letter 124 (Jerome)".

Comments

Shabda's picture

Okay….I will number the questions I have about your words within the quotation of them:

 

(1) "What if there is one life in one form, what about abortion and the destruction of "Nature"? How insane we are when we treat any life on Earth as cheap or replaceable, (2) when life is every shining star, shining brightly. Us people, we are just insane and needing destruction of our selves to save "Life." Believe you me, (3) that old Indian, though he may be far from the truth often, on occasion, he hits the nail right on the head."

  1. One life in one form? What is that supposed to mean? There are numerous lives in numerous forms, so explain how you mean this. You believe that all lifeforms are God splitting Itself into myriad forms and languages? At the very least there are numerous religions that see things this way, but I’ve no clue from which point of view you are speaking, thus the reason I ask you to clarify.

       2. Life is every shining star? Explain that also, because life is NOT even ONE shining star, whether shining brightly or dimly….none of us are stars. I HAVE actually encountered some folks who DO seriously believe that, so I cannot say that such beliefs do not exist, however, I personally consider those to be more fantasies and wishful thinking than any sort of spiritual experience or realization.

       3. WHICH “old Indian?” I take it that you mean actual Indians from the sub-continent and not Native Americans, do I have that right? Second, what is the point of view that causes you to state that whatever he has experienced and believed to be true, but that is NOT true to you, or that you are unwilling to accept. I am curious as to why you refute it this way and how in the world you possess such hubris as to say such things about ANY “old Indian?”

    If you research the Nag Hammadi Library (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures) you will find that early christians believed in reincarnation. Calling something absolute crap just shows your ignorance about the matter.

    Not sure what a dingle mouse is. But I do know what a dingle berry is; a wad of animal waste that gets caught near it’s behind. A slang term meaning stupidity. Being that there are two exists of the body the rectum and the mouth (verbal diarrhea) perhaps you could/should be referring to yourself as dingyberry not dingle mouse.

    As any devote member of your faith when ever you come across anything that runs counter to your faith you first was an expletive then retreat to your holy scriptures. Too bad you can not expand your understanding of other faiths and traditions. A true sign of one who has chosen to remain ignorant.

    I am amazed how many people of faith that I have meet over the years and when I inquire if they have ever read anything else the answer is no, as they have no need to, everything they need can be found in the holy bible. Good for you, that’s your right, but you do not have the right to attack others. If you choose to remain ignorant of other so be it
    .
    As to taking scripture and reformatting it, actually you have it wrong there. It is just the opposite.

    “There was already a long tradition in Christian exegesis of spiritualizing mythography-that is, of finding Christian religious meaning in the old pagan texts. The mythographic enterprise,indeed , is one of the signal achievments of medieval humanism.”

    Tsurugi's picture

    I completely agree that early christians believed in reincarnation. But this article also mentions karma. Does the author think early christians also believed in karma? If there is evidence in support of this, I'd be interested to see it. If it is just speculation, that's fine, but perhaps it should be stated as such.

    Personally, I speculate that the author thinks a belief in reincarnation automatically implies a belief in karma. A belief in karma might require a belief in reincarnation, but reincarnation does not require karma.

    Also, I don't understand the paragraph re: the Crusades. People who believed this was the one and only life they were going to get were marching off to die in distant lands, and the author thinks if they believed they would have many lives, they would have been less willing?

    As for the Inquisition, I don't see how a belief in reincarnation and/or in karma would have changed it. For one, people did not keep quiet because they feared losing a place in heaven if they angered the church. They kept quiet because they were terrified of being tortured. And many actually didn't keep quiet when their loved ones were taken by the Inquisitors, and so died in agony alongside them. Believing in reincarnation and karma would have changed nothing.
    Now, if the Inquisitors had believed in reincarnation and karma, then yes I'd say things would have been drastically different. Of course, they would have been drastically different if the Inquisitors had been actual christians(followers of the teachings of the Christ) as well. What they were was just the same sort of twisted sadistic persons that totalitarian governments always have working for them.

    Again, I agree with most of this article. The ending bits just seemed....a little naive, perhaps? A belief in reincarnation and karma would not have prevented the Crusades or stopped the Inquisition.

    I do think a belief in reincarnation would be a good thing in general--might calm people down a bit, possibly--but I'm more skeptical in regards to karma. For one, karma seems to promote caste systems, which historically has been a major tool used by small cabals of erstwhile elites to freeze societal pyramids so they stay on top for generations. And while the idea of personal karma may be a positive incentive, the idea of other people's karma is too easy to use as an excuse to ignore human misery.

    "Does the author think early Christians also believed in karma? "

    What part of "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." do you not understand?
    It tracks with a quotation from the Hindu Law of Karma:

    “Law of the Karma stipulates; if a person is spreading happiness through charity, good work, being kind and sympathetic toward others it means he/she is sowing the seeds of happiness that will produce the fruits of happiness in present of future”.

    Job 4:8
    "According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity And those who sow trouble harvest it."
    2 Corinthians 9:6
    "Consider this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."
    Galatians 6:7
    "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." KJV)
    Luke 6:38
    "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."

    Seems pretty clear to me.

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