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The Bible does not explicitly teach reincarnation. Conventional history relates that it was only small mystic groups and isolated free-thinkers in the Church who supported the teaching of transmigration, but it is now coming into focus that Christendom embraced reincarnationst teaching from its very inception. This continued to be the case until the Second Council of Constantinople (AD 553), when ecclesiastical authorities had determined that reincarnation was an "inappropriate concept".
in the 3rd century A.D., the theologian Origen, one of the fathers of the early Christian Church, and its most accomplished Biblical scholar, wrote, "By some inclination toward evil, certain souls come into bodies, first of men; then through their association with the irrational passions, after the allotted span of human life, they are changed into beasts, from which they sink to the level of plants. From this condition they rise again through the same stages and are restored to their heavenly place."
We cite a few incidents from the Bible to substantiate reincarnation:
(1) According to the view of most Christian theologians, the prophet Malachi, in the final lines of the Old Testament, predicted what was to happen in the days immediately preceding the advent of Jesus Christ: "Behold, I will send you Elias, the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Malachi wrote these words in the fifth century BC, prophesizing the re-appearance of Elias some 400 years after the time of the historical Elias. This in itself is indicative of belief in reincarnationist doctrine.In the first book of the New Testament, Matthew refers to this prophecy on several occasions. In all, the Gospel writers make use of this Elias prophecy no less than ten times. From these and other New Testament verses it becomes clear that the writers of these books believed that Elias would indeed "come back" as John the Baptist, and that other ancient Hebrew prophets would ostensibly be reincarnated as well.
When Jesus came to the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' And they said, 'Some say that you are John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the other prophets.' (Matt. 16:13-14) And his disciples asked him, saying, 'Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?' And Jesus answered them, 'Elias truly shall first come, and he shall restore all things. But I say unto you that Elias has come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer by their hands.' Then the disciples understood that Jesus was speaking to them of John, the Baptist (who had already been beheaded by Herod). (Matt. 17:9-13)
Verily I (Jesus) say unto you, 'Among those that are born of women there have been none greater than John, the Baptist And if you can understand what I say, he is actually Elias, who was predicted to appear. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'(Matt. 11:10-11, 14-15) When John, the Baptist, was approached by the priests from Jerusalem, he denied to reveal his identity out of humility. Belief in Jesus's words lay at the basis of Christian doctrine, and since he had already confirmed Elias's identity with John, his conclusion must override the word of John, the Baptist himself.
(2) In another biblical episode, Jesus again seems to endorse reincarnationist thinking. When he and his disciples happened upon a man who was congenitally blind, the disciples inquired from their master, "Was this man born blind because of his sins or because of his parents' sins?" (John 9:2). The very fact that Jesus's primary followers asked such a question presupposes a belief in pre-existence and reincarnation. They accepted, implicitly, that the blind man had existed in another body prior to his birth. Otherwise, how could a man who was born blind have possibly sinned to cause his own condition?
(3) Paul's Epistle to the Galatians can be seen as pointing to reincarnation as well, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (6.7). One life is clearly insufficient to reap all that one sows. In addition, it should be remembered that Galatians 6:5 emphasizes the karmic or causal responsibility of our actions. In this same section, right after asserting that one must reap what one sows, St. Paul clarifies further the way in which such reaping manifests (6:8), "If one sows of the flesh, one reaps of the flesh as well" (that is, one does not reap results in some incorporeal purgatory, but in another earthly existence).
(4) Many early Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-220), Justin Martyr (AD 100-165), St.Gregory of Nyssa (AD 257-332), Arnobius (fl.290) and St. Jerome (AD 340-420), were advocates of reincarnationist thinking. In his 'Confessions', St. Augustine himself seriously entertained the possibility of reincarnation as an aspect of Christian reality, "Did my infancy succeed another age of mine that died before it? Was it that which I spent within my mother's womb?...And what before that life again, O God of my joy, was I anywhere or in any body?"
Emperor Justinian (fl. AD 527-565), for his own purposes wanted to rally his subjects around Christianity, the popular creed of his empire. With the reincarnationist sects, the emperor felt that Christians might become lax, thinking that they had more than one life with which to attain perfection. If people felt they had the time afforded them by many lives to become serious about their spiritual practices, many would indeed procrastinate adherence to their religion. This would debilitate Justinian's use of Christianity as a political tool. If they thought they had only one life after which they would be subjected to an eternal heaven or hell, Justinian reasoned, then they would again become serious about the goal. And no doubt he could use that earnestness for his own political purposes. Using religion as an opiate with which to unite people was not a new idea, even in Justinian's time. But he went so far as to manipulate certain doctrines and beliefs just to gain secular power.
He banned the teachings of pre-existence of the soul from the Roman Catholic Church. During that era, numerous Church writings were destroyed, and many scholars now believe that references to reincarnation were purged from the scriptures. 'Give them one life only', he said, 'and then give them heaven or hell.' Justinian was sure that this would hasten the Christian resolve to be good "Christians" and thus good citizens, loyal to their emperor. The Gnostic sects, although severely persecuted by the church, did, however, manage to keep alive the doctrine of reincarnation in the West. (The word 'gnostic' is derived from the Greek 'gnosis' meaning 'knowledge'). During the Renaissance, a new flowering of public interest in reincarnation occurred. One of the prominent figures in the revival was Italy's leading philosopher and poet Giordano Bruno, who was ultimately sentenced to be burned at the stake because of his teachings about reincarnation. In his final answers to the charges brought against him, Bruno defiantly Proclaimed that the soul "is not the body", and that "it may be m one body or in another and pass from body to body". Because of such suppression by the Church, the teachings of reincarnation then went deeply underground, surviving in Europe in the secret societies of the Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Kabbalists etc.