Reincarnation: Is It Scriptural?
Welcome. Today I am going to cover the topic of reincarnation. Why? Because despite the idea of reincarnation coming from other religions, a lot of people take scripture out of context to say that it is biblical.
- Ecclesiastes 1 9
- Malachi 4 5
- Luke 1 17
- Titus 3 5
- Hebrews 9 27
- Josephus and the Jews
- Where It Came From
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.— Ecclesiastes 1 9
This is taken literally by those who hold this view. If there is nothing new, then there cannot be a new person according to this logic. The phrase “under the sun” is used 29 times in Ecclesiastes and nowhere else in Scripture. Every single time it is used it is describing something that man does. The context of the chapter proves this. Read it from verse 1. The world is said continue to function as it always has and we cannot change it. All the activity of a man during his lifetime is lost at some point (Ecclesiastes 1:11). There have always been evil, tyrants, famines, poverty, etc.
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."— Malachi 4 5
Here we see that Elijah is prophesied to come back. When did he come back? In the New Testament, but not in the way you might think if you take this part literally. The Savior tells us that John is Elijah.
"And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord".— Luke 1 17
Note how it says, "in the spirit and power of Elias", not as the reincarnated soul of Elias. It makes no mention of John having the soul of Elijah within him. John did for the Savior what Elijah was to have done for the coming of the Lord, but he was not Elijah reincarnated. In other words, John the Baptist’s identification as Elijah was not predicated upon his being the actual Elijah.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit;"— Titus 3 5
This verse is also taken out of context. "Regeneration" is taken as the soul being transferred into another body. Another word for regeneration is rebirth, related to the biblical phrase “born again.” This is about being born again, renewing your mind and devoting yourself to the Most High. The Strong's Concordance word for renewal is 3824. paliggenesia : regeneration, <renewal>.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."— Hebrews 9 27
There is no mention of our souls being passed onto another body. In no other scripture do we see something like reincarnation happen.
Scripture teaches death and resurrection, not reincarnation. And after Jesus resurrected from the dead. Jesus resurrected in the same body that went into the tomb. His body even retained the scars and wounds in His hands, feet, and side from the crucifixion (John 20:28).
Some have taken this literally. They say that since nothing is new under the sun, then there can never be a new person. They must be regenerated into another body. But let's get the context. The passage is dealing with the depressing truth regarding life just like the other passages. Earlier we see that men labour "in vain" and that things don't seem to get better. What is being said here is that these things have always happened. It is nothing new. Tyrants have always abused their people. Thieves have always stolen. And sin, no matter what way we do it, is still sin.
Josephus and the Jews
According to those who believe in reincarnation, the famous Hewish historian Flavius Josephus believed in reincarnation and claimed the Jews did too.
They say that all souls are incorruptible; but that the souls of good men are only removed into other bodies,—but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment— (War 2:8:14).
the Jews differed in how the resurrection would take place, if at all. For example,
- The Pharisees believed in it.
- The Sadducees did not.
Just because Josephus claims the Jews might have believed in reincarnation does not mean all of them did, or that he did. In fact, this might not have been referring to reincarnation at all. It is possible that he is referring to the resurrection of the dead into an incorruptible body as commonly believed.
Where It Came From
Reincarnation was found mostly found in Asian religions like Hinduism, but there are Christians who believe in it. In a survey by the Pew Forum in 2009, 24% of American Christians expressed a belief in reincarnation. (ANALYSIS December 9, 2009 (2009-12-09). "Pewforum.org". Pewforum.org. Retrieved 2011-12-06.). It was also a part of early Christianity. The writings of Church Father Origen were mistranslated and were thought to support reincarnation.
The following passage is a convincing proof that he holds the transmigration of the souls and annihilation of bodies. 'If it can be shown that an incorporeal and reasonable being has life in itself independently of the body and that it is worse off in the body than out of it; then beyond a doubt bodies are only of secondary importance and arise from time to time to meet the varying conditions of reasonable creatures.— Church Fathers: Letter 124 (Jerome)
"Those who require bodies are clothed with them, and contrariwise, when fallen souls have lifted themselves up to better things, their bodies are once more annihilated. They are thus ever vanishing and ever reappearing."
- How come we don't see any more evidence that John is in fact Elijah? Most adherents to reincarnation believe that we remember our past lives.
- How come no one else in the Bible is reincarnated? It would seem that if it were biblical we would see more accounts of it happening.
Peace and blessings and all praises to the Most High.