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

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

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.

Shabda's picture
 

The two being the same person is just not likely. According to other sources, Paul was put to death while Nero was emperor, and Josephus was still a fairly young man when that happened. Josephus died in the 2nd century. Besides that, Paul was writing his letter to the Galatians when Josephus was still a teenager. While you may enjoy the Ralph Ellis books, they are revisionist histories that have little significant evidence to support their conclusions. He makes a living at writing these books, however, so I doubt he will stop. That is why the “King Jesus Trilogy" has 5 books so far lol. Many dispute the opinions that he has written about, so I choose to ignore them after finding them unsubstantiated and at best, faulty.

Shabda's picture

If you are such a “Gnostic,” why then do you only read books to gather info about Jesus or Saul? Gnosticism has always been an inner path, so how is it that you are falling short with it in this matter? Jesus is by no means a King in any sense of the word, and never claimed that he was. Anyone with any ability for conscious out-of-body travel could easily ask him themselves about that matter. I have never read Ralph Eliis's book, but while that may be his opinion, and is the opinion of some, it is by no means a proven fact, so you are left with nothing but belief to support it. One could easily ask Saul themselves in much the same way. He wrote about how that could be done and that is actually included in today's version of the Bible. You may certainly believe anything you choose to, but do not make false claims about your beliefs as if they are factual. You will need far more to go on to do that. Both Paul and Jesus had been taught by the same individual, by the name Zadok, and were thus called “Zadokites.” This Zadok taught both how to leave the body so as to be “born again in the Spirit.” How do I know? Well I've already gone over that here so I won’t belabour the point. You might consider going after achieving more inner experience with these subjects, and while you will be completely unable to prove to anyone else that any of them happened, only then could you even come close to knowing “The Truth.” Just my opinion, so don’t allow it to cause you to lose sleep at night. And have a great day too!

No, I am not an orthodox Christian. I am a Gnostic. Reincarnation is central to Gnostic belief. Jesus and his circle were Essenes, who were part of the mystery schools of ancient Egypt under Akhenaton.
Saul of Tarsus was also known as Josephus Flavius, who also took the name of Paul, the Apostle wannabe. Ralph Ellis clearly proves this in his "King Jesus" series of books. "Paul" created "Christianity" , which excludes the real Jesus. Jesus preached love, compassion, tolerance, and healing. "Paul" preached the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

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