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

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

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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 )

Comments

Shabda's picture

The Bible speaks of karma several times, despite the fact that some Christian groups claim otherwise. Here is a partial list:

From the KJV :

Galatians 6:7-9King  

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Job 4:8 -  Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

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.

Proverbs 22:8 - He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.

Jeremiah 17:10 - I the LORD search the heart, [I] try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, [and] according to the fruit of his doings.

Mark 4:24 - And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

2 Corinthians 9:6 - But this [I say], He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for [it is] time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

Hosea 10:12-13
13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.

Each of these quotes are explained away from meaning karma, sometimes by those who insist that the planting of crops is the only meaning. There are also undoubtedly other interpretations for each, but in my mind it is quite clear that each is meant to demonstrate a parable of karmic law wherein every thought, word and action, create karma that can only be re-balanced after the subject has the experiences to have learned from them. In most of these a persons actions are what are spoken of as being the thing that creates the return, and that is literally the law of karma.

Tsurugi's picture

Yes, all of those verses seem to be saying “actions have consequences”. Is that all that karma is? I thought it was rather more specific than that...i.e., that what you sow in this life will be reaped in the next, in the “eye-for-an-eye” type of low justice.

Either way, you make a good argument. Like I said, I do not dispute that early christians believed in reincarnation of some kind. I do have my doubts about karma, but that does not mean early christians didn't believe in it. And I do not think a belief in reincarnation automatically means a belief in karma. The gnostics seemed to believe we reincarnate here over and over because we're trapped in a crappy wannabe universe made by the Demiurge, a being who falsely claims to be the universal soul or God. The Karmic system implies a hierarchy of spirit, where the definitions of what is good and bad come from the top in some way, for the betterment of all. The Demiurge is not a good guy and doesn't want betterment, he wants us to stay trapped in his clockwork universe. (That’s my rough summary of Gnostic cosmology, anyway, lol)

Also, don't some of the eastern beliefs in reincarnation say you might reincarnate as any kind of life form? And this is also connected to karma in some way...like if I was just generally a sh**ty person in this life, I might be reincarnated as a dung beetle the next couple of times, or something like that.

This is all very interesting.

Shabda's picture

1.Yes, all of those verses seem to be saying “actions have consequences”. Is that all that karma is? I thought it was rather more specific than that...i.e., that what you sow in this life will be reaped in the next, in the “eye-for-an-eye” type of low justice.

 

1. - It is both "all it is," and also specific to the extremity, i.e. both are one and the same thing if you take the overall interpretations from the various spiritual paths that have karma and reincarnation. And make no mistake, both ARE tied inextricably together, there cannot be one that is in any way effective without the other also existing in tandem with the previous. What you sow in this life is NOT necessarily reaped in the next however, it can only be said that it WILL be reaped at some point, and when that might occur is very dependent on that Soul's spiritual progress. This idea is also found in the paths that contain karma/reincarnation in them. The purpose for both is to eventually learn and expand the state of consciousness or being into the Eternal state, that NOT being or becoming a god or God, but rather Soul realizing Its own Godlike natural state, It being an "atom" of that supreme Being if you will. Of course any who refuse to carry that idea as even a possibility will not be forced to accept it, but at the same time not utilizing it can be a wall that can be very hard to experience the other side of without first letting go of the mental and emotional states that exist within each of us. Also the " 'eye for an eye' type of low justice," is a misnomer. The term justice is another one of those mental limits. While it is a form of justice, it is not one that is forced upon any individual, because the fact remains that that original choice the individual made, created the karma in question, and the fact that it even exists at all creates the necessity of it being eventually brought to a balanced state, meaning a state where it no longer exists as an imbalance. Regardless of any beings within any spiritual hierarchy existing and causing it to manifest in the individual's life, there is the fact that they made a free willed choice to create it for themselves, and by doing that also created the need for that particular lesson to be learned so as to bring about that balanced state. It is no "low" justice, it is the literal choice the individual made for themselves. By their own choosing, they required themselves to learn a lesson by the "eye for an eye" low justice, either unknowingly, which clearly demonstrates the need for that type of lesson, or fully knowingly, which in most cases causes that lesson to be ever mar harsh when the time comes for that price to be collected. Within all systems of karma/reincarnation, the negative and painful experiences that any has to go through, they have chosen to go through willingly. It is as simple as that.

2.Either way, you make a good argument. Like I said, I do not dispute that early Christians believed in reincarnation of some kind. I do have my doubts about karma, but that does not mean early Christians didn't believe in it. And I do not think a belief in reincarnation automatically means a belief in karma. The Gnostics seemed to believe we reincarnate here over and over because we're trapped in a crappy wannabe universe made by the Demiurge, a being who falsely claims to be the universal soul or God. The Karmic system implies a hierarchy of spirit, where the definitions of what is good and bad come from the top in some way, for the betterment of all. The Demiurge is not a good guy and doesn't want betterment, he wants us to stay trapped in his clockwork universe. (That’s my rough summary of Gnostic cosmology, anyway, lol)

2. - I outlined the reason for karma/reincarnation being attached to each other, and while you may disagree about that (which is fine) I will not belabor the point ad nauseum having covered it in the previous paragraph. As for the Gnostic's beliefs, we would have need of being more specific than that, as there have been many differing groups that considered themselves to be Gnostics, so we cannot use that term without also specifying which group is meant, because they did not necessarily all agree on the same points between groups in differing countries or geographic areas. The Demiurge is the Negative pole called by many names around the world. To the Jews Satan is the Adversary, to the Christians he is a fallen angel....I view both as very much the same concept. To Muslims he is Iblis. To Zoroastrians he is Ahriman (and it is notable that the Jews got their religion FROM the Zoroastrians while enslaved for many generations in Babylon) and to the Hindus there is no one evil being, and Jainism sees things the same way while Buddhism calls it Māra, sometimes speaking of that as an individual being, but etymologically speaking it has its roots in life, death, and worldly living. The Sikhs name it as Kal Niranjan defining that as being the Universal Mind, which claims to be God but is merely of the mind and therefore not a Divinity.  The way they define it is very similar to the Demiurge to the Jews and Gnostics as a being that has the job of testing Souls and teaching them to aspire to ever higher levels of beingness. It is for this reason that the idea of karma/reincarnation are able to fit so well into the Abrahamic faiths, despite the fact that all of them have in the current age completely denied any connection as ever having existed and making any who believe in it a heretic, which btw is simply another mental distinction or box to separate people into which proves it impossible to be an idea that any Supreme Being would lower Itself into having exist. It is a distinction of the human mind that brought that into being and it has nothing to do with any spiritual systems or religions other than to say that human created it and placed it within those systems.

3.Also, don't some of the eastern beliefs in reincarnation say you might reincarnate as any kind of life form? And this is also connected to karma in some way...like if I was just generally a sh**ty person in this life, I might be reincarnated as a dung beetle the next couple of times, or something like that.

3. - Eastern religions DO include the possibility that one CAN reincarnate as something other than a human, however, generally speaking they set it out in such a way that it becomes self-evident that the Soul began as a mineral i.e. the lowest and most basic form of being that a Soul can inhabit, that then goes through existences as being microorganisms, germs, plants, fish, birds and animals eventually arriving into a human body it being supposedly the highest form of life, BUT, it is important to mention that while they all see humanity as being the highest form, it is still nothing more than a potential of greatness and spirituality until any individual does the work to actually attain it and be able to live in balance WITH the rest of humanity, which is no small task being that humanity often wars over differing beliefs and spiritual systems. Now, a sh*tty human doing sh*tty things repeatedly WOULD create karma for them, however, it would NOT cause them to be born as a dung beetle because how can a dung beetle be aware of the state of its life and also the better state of the former life that they chose to give up? It can't. Thus human offenses have the necessity of being brought as life circumstances to human beings, because they can become aware of why it is happening to them, and that they literally chose it for themselves, and only then can any degree of learning happen that that individual can then make changes in the way they see things and the ways that they interact with other life forms on earth. Understand? Of course I am saying all of this for the benefit of you understanding what I mean, and am not insisting that you change your spiritual beliefs or anything, as such matters are yours alone to decide what to do with. I have only tried to explain these ideas in a way that is easy to understand, and hopefully I have succeeded...ty for asking and giving me this opportunity to have this discussion!

This is all very interesting.

I very much agree about that!

Tsurugi's picture

Wow! My friend, that is a fantastic post. I am going to have to read it several times before I can respond substantively. I'm just posting this to express my appreciation of the time and effort you put towards answering my questions.

Shabda's picture

Hey sure, you just take whatever amount of time you need to go further. That response I made off of the top of my head, and I numbered your questions and my answers just to make it quicker and easier for me to reply to each point or questions specifically and also just to make all of it easier to follow through. While one of my main interests has always been history, especially of the ancient sort, another has always been spirituality, but in a way that is NOT limited by any one religion or spiritual viewpoint. So I have studied into many religions and the most interesting ones for me are always Eastern. I do this so as to better compare and comprehend the similarities between each, as I find those of the greatest interest while the rest of the world at large seems to spend time on arguing about the differences and which happen to be true. I am perhaps an Omnist, of the view that all religions are true, or at least to one extent or another. In my view none are without value which makes them interesting for me to research and compare. If there is a Godhead, I maintain that IT has no name or religion, both of which are human mental creations having no real value as far as experiencing or defining the Creator.

Also, I am well aware that many here choose to NOT have any sort of spiritual belief, and I have no problem with those folks either. Be a Christian, and Atheist, a Shaman, or and Agnostic. There is plenty of room for all of those and more, and no good reason for any to NOT get along well with others of different cultures or spiritual or philosophical systems. Again I’d like to thank you for asking clear and frank questions about my views on these natters, and you are by no means prevented from disagreeing with me about any views that anyone may have, nor are you expected to NOT formulate your own interpretations about any holy books meanings, or those of any religious grouping. The way I see it, this is a good way for the both of us to consider newer ideas and to perhaps learn something new about the topic! And feel free to ask more questions too if you care to!

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