Reincarnation and the Bible

I am a Christian who happens to believe in reincarnation. The soul is eternal, so it is certainly possible that it inhabited other bodies in the past and will in the future. The lessons we learn or fail to learn in this life will follow us into the next.

The current Dalai Lama’s autobiography, Freedom in Exile, talks about how he is at least the 14th incarnation of the same person who leads the Tibetan people. Three years after the old Dalai Lama dies, they take all the 2-3 year old kids in the area and expose them to his belongings. There is always one child who shows conclusive familiarity with the objects, and that’s the new (old) Dalai Lama.

The more I think about it, the more glimpses from my own past lives come back to me. Like the time I was a teenage girl and I got impregnated before I even knew what sex was. Some guy just kind of got on top of me and had his way. I barely felt a thing, but when my parents found out I was pregnant, there was a lot of yelling and confusion….

I was telling one of my friends, another Christian, about all of this, and it was resonating with him. So, he asked me the question good Protestants always ask their spiritual leaders: what does the bible say about it?

Christian doctrine (not the same as the Bible) teaches that reincarnation is not part of the plan of salvation. We go to heaven or hell when we die, not back into another carnal form. Besides, most Christians are looking forward to a general resurrection when all the dead rise again. If their souls are reincarnated, this will prove difficult, or at least beyond human reason.

To answer my friend’s question, I think biblical teachings do point toward reincarnation. In Matthew 11:14, Jesus says that John the Baptist is the prophet Elijah. Malachi 4:5 says that God would send Elijah before the Messiah comes. Jesus is the Messiah and John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah.

In John 9:1, Jesus and the disciples see a man who was born blind. The disciples ask if this man is blind because of his own sins or those of his parents. Stop right there. If the man was born blind, how could his own sins have led to the malady, unless they were committed in a past life? Jesus’ answer corrects their view of sin, but doesn’t challenge their view of reincarnation, which was apparently an accepted belief in that culture.

We as Christians should not be afraid of anything, least of all the prospect of reincarnation. We should study other volumes of sacred law besides the Bible, especially once we begin to grasp what the Bible is teaching. When we do this, we will find that other religions have so much in common with our own. The differences are minor; the wisdom and spiritual truths run parallel between most of the world’s major religions. We all want to see more unity, love, respect, truth, joy, patience, etc. Instead of arguing against reincarnation or anything else, go within yourself and figure out what you want to argue for. Then go for it.

“I guess I’ll see you next lifetime….”–Erykah Badu

One thought on “Reincarnation and the Bible

  1. hey seth,

    i’ll be straight with you. i disagree – but i realize the overarching point you are making is to argue for something, not against – and i agree with you completely on that front.

    in an attempt to argue “for” a contrary interpretation of the passages you highlight, i wanted to mention the following –

    the Matthew 11 and Malachi 4 passages are typological, not literal statements of reincarnation of the same soul. the people were to look for a prophet like Elijah, and for the people of the day that was an excellent description – the connotations of Elijah in the wilderness eating off what the Lord provided gave the people the essence that matched with John the Baptist. i would thus argue for the language to be understood as imagery.

    with regard to John 9 – the passage is intended to address a central issue – it’s not about when the man could have sinned – it’s about who was at fault. the disciples were not inquiring about the previous actions of a soul – they were curious to understand what they thought to be God’s judgment and were confronted with the fact that it was not judgment at all.

    and arguing for this interpretation i would like to highlight Christ’s words on the cross to the thief hanging beside him – “today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) this passage (supported by Hebrews 9:27) establishes the ultimate nature of death, there is not a cyclical soul to earthly body relationship that passes one soul through multiple bodies – there is a body and a soul, and both are unique and joined to the other for eternity. (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 noting the one to one correlation between the earthly and the spiritual body) as such though Christ does not address the issue of reincarnation directly in the John 9 passage, his position/the Bible’s position is evident in other passages.

    thanks for the post and the thought it stimulates!

    – noah

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