The disintegration of reincarnation in the Christian doctrine

This subject has been trailing me since I started my trip so I thought I would address it while I had time so I could potentially let it go after some discussion.  During some exciting religious discussions, I had asked a couple Christian friends along the way whether they had learned about the belief of reincarnation in the Christian tradition before it was supposedly discarded by the pope not too long ago.  This was the rumor I had heard at least.  Neither of my friends had heard about this.  Now that I have the time, I wanted to put together some of the information I was able to dig up so that they and others might give their perceptions to this controversy.

There are a few biblical passages that have something to say on the subject though as per the Bible’s usual ambiguousness, how these passages are interpreted are quite subjective.

From the authorized King James Bible, in Revelation 3:12 :  Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he  shall go no more out…

The individual who is rewarded by going no more out is described essentially as achieving spiritual maturity and specifically has “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation  7:14).  Out of all the sites I read through, these two passages from Revelations seem the strongest to support reincarnation as a common early Christian belief.

There is also the discussion in Matthew 11:14-15 and 17:12-13 that poses the question of the reincarnation of Elijah as John the Baptist.

And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to  come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:14-15).

And if you are willing to understand what I, mean, he is  Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. And if ever you were willing to  listen, listen now! (Matthew 11:14-15, The Living New  Testament).

But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not  know him, but did to him whatever they pleased (Matthew 17:12).

‘Then  the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist”  (Matthew 17:13).

Here is the website where my search began if you’d like to look at it further: http://www.reincarnation.ws/reincarnation_in_early_christianity.html

I feel quite comfortable saying that reincarnation was a trait of early Christianity.  However, where did it go?  There was one site that told of a rumor that the Roman empress, Theodosia, in the 8th century, forced the church to edit the Bible and remove all traces of the idea (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/reincarnation.aspx).  I couldn’t find anywhere else to substantiate that however.

This website, http://www.askrealjesus.com/askrealjesus/jesusanswers/jesusteachings/reincarnscriptures.html , also speaks of Theodosia but also mentions that “the idea was officially banned in A.D. 553 at the Second Council of Constantinople.”  The basic structure of Christianity was solidified and modified as part of the political power struggle occurring between 200 and 700 AD.  During which the church fathers “sought to prevent people from thinking and talking about these ideas by declaring that anyone doing so would be anathema. Anathema means cursed. In other words, if you talked about ideas banned by the church, you would be cursed by the church authorities and therefore denied entry to Heaven.”  If there was only one life, a believer was far easier to control as his or her actions could not be made up for in the next life.  Sadly, this website does not site its sources.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The disintegration of reincarnation in the Christian doctrine

  1. As I understand it reincarnation teaches that according to our deeds we are reborn as a lesser being or a higher being based on how we did in our previous life. But the central message of Christianity is that we don’t have the ability to better our situation. We are simply unable to get higher up in the food chain on our own. That is why we need Christ. Essentially what you have to look at is the idea of being saved by grace vs. saved by works or the law. This means that we aren’t saved by anything we do – how good we are or how well we follow the rules. We are saved because of our faith in Christ – that he is our payment for the sin in our hearts. Recognizing that we need him to bridge the gap between us and God.

    I will caution you – it is easy as it is in any everyday conversation to take things out of context and make them seem like they say something they don’t. Always read around a verse not just the verse itself.

    I also want to point you to a chapter where Paul addresses the idea of being saved by grace and saved by the law. Romans 3 – specifically verses 9 to 31 (www.biblegateway.com – that has the bible online). Paul answers the question of are the Jews better than the rest of us because they were originally God’s chosen people. He basically says that no one is good enough – all need Christ.

    I’m sorry if I don’t directly address the “did the church take reincarnation out of the bible” issue but I feel like this issue of saved by works vs saved by grace is the deeper question you are asking. So no I don’t believe that the Bible teaches reincarnation and if folks ever thought it did they may have wanted to take a closer look at what the rest of it teaches. You can’t take the bible in pieces – you have to look at what it says across the whole thing. The central message is there – we need Christ. If you want more references I can provide you with more.

    I also want to address the verses with regards to Elijah and the John the Baptist (I’ll be honest with you Revelation is a tough book – its easy to take that stuff out of context and think it says a whole lot of things it doesn’t just because its very vague – I’m honestly still trying to figure that book out).

    Elijah was actually considered an example of a prophet – someone who spoke about Christ years before he was to come. So when people talk about him he is a representation of that kind of person. Christ used him as an example of a prophet because the Jewish people recognized him as legit.

    There are also a lot of confusing translations of the bible out there that make it even harder to get it. I stick with the NIV and sometimes the King James if I’m feeling brave and the NIV confuses me.

    Matthew 11:14 in the NIV “And if you are willing to accept it he is the Elijah who was to come.” Recognize the ‘the’ before Elijah – that’s key. Not actually Elijah but a prophet like him – in that John the Baptist was preparing the way for Christ like Elijah did. And I think the other verses are clearer when you understand this truth. One of the examples of how things get literally lost in translation…

  2. Pingback: Resources for Matthew 11:14 - 15

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s