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Reincarnation, Past Lives and Christianity

Most religions share the belief that human beings are essentially entities that do not die with their bodies. Called metempsychosis by the Greeks, or more generally "reincarnation" (or the transmigration of souls), this belief is common to Eastern faiths such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Ironically—it is considered anathema today—this appears to have been the belief of the early Christian church as well. Josephus, a Jewish historian in the first century AD, in his Jewish War (3,8,5) and his Antiquities of the Jews (18,1,3), writes that reincarnation was widely taught in his day, as does his Alexandrian contemporary Philo Judaeus. Among the early church fathers Origin (185–254 AD) wrote in Contra Celsum (1, xxxii) "Is it not rational that souls should be introduced into bodies, in accordance with various merits and previous deeds . . . ?" and "The soul has neither beginning nor end."

Passages from the New Testament imply, if not state outright, that Jesus himself taught and believed in reincarnation. In Matthew (16:13-14) we have

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist [who had been executed just a few years previously]; some Elias [Greek form of Elijah]; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."


Rather than reject his disciple’s belief in reincarnation, Jesus just corrects their facts, saying (Matthew 17:10-13) that John the Baptist is Elijah reincarnated:

"And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?"

"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things."

"But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them."

"Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist."


Christianity spread throughout the ancient world; by 300 AD there were about six million Christians (10% of the population) in the Roman Empire. Then in 303 the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered the destruction of all Christian churches, the burning of all Christian scripture, the torture and death of all Christian clergy, and that Christians be deprived of their civil rights. The following year he required that all Christians sacrifice to the Roman gods or face torture and death. When Diocletian and Maximian abdicated in 305 AD, persecution ended in the Western Empire. (click here to continue this story)

This Reincarnation past life-reincarnation and Christianity page and much of this 600-page website are excerpted from the personalized Fine Art Book You and the Universe.


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