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.