Belief in reincarnation at the time of Jesus

We have this question from one of our readers in relation to a recent post; ‘Interesting. Please, what is the evidence that the early Christian church believed in reincarnation?’ 

Here is a video of a lecture by Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov on the subject of reincarnation, followed by an extract from a lecture that answers the question about the early Christian period more specifically.

‘I have seen that the subject of reincarnation is on your minds’
‘Today I would like to talk to you about reincarnation, because I have seen that this subject is on your minds, it worries you. As Christians you were always told that a person lives once, and once only, and now you find it hard to accept the idea of reincarnation.

In Jesus’ time the idea of reincarnation was known and accepted
One could go at length into the way the Egyptians, Hindus or Tibetans thought about reincarnation and what they did to verify it.  But for the moment I will be content to give you a few interpretations of the gospels, showing that Jesus himself knew and accepted the fact of reincarnation.

You will probably declare that you have read the Gospels through and through and have never come across the word ‘reincarnation’, and to that I can only answer that there was no reason to mention it explicitly since, in those days, everyone took it for granted. How were the Evangelists to know that one day people would no longer believe? To them, it was tradition, and therefore not essential to their already condensed records. You say you are not convinced? We shall see.

Who do men say that I am?
Let us see what the Gospels tell us about some of the questions and answers exchanged between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asked one day, « Who do men say that I am? » What does this mean? Do you know anyone who asks others to tell him who he is? People know who they are, they don’t need to be told by others; for Jesus to have asked such a question means that they believed in reincarnation. And the disciples answer this, saying, ‘Some say that you are John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the Prophets.’ Without reincarnation could Jesus be someone who had long been dead?

Who sinned that this man is blind?
On another occasion, Jesus and his disciples encountered a blind man. « Master,’ the disciples asked; ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? » Unless the disciples were referring implicitly to a previous incarnation this question would clearly be absurd. Where and when could the man have sinned otherwise? In his mother’s womb? When could he have spent his nights carousing? When did he commit robbery or murder? Either the question implies belief in a previous life or it is meaningless.

If the disciples wondered if the man had been born blind because of the sins of his parents, it was because they knew from Jewish law that if a man suffers some infirmity, illness or other affliction it is because he has transgressed the Law, unless – and this often occurs – it is because he is paying for another. When one saw someone suffering, therefore, one could never tell whether his misfortunes were due to his own sins or to the fact that he was sacrificing himself for someone else.

This was the accepted belief among the Jews. The disciples asked the question because they knew that no one would be born blind without good reason, and not, as Christians are told, simply because it pleased God. Jesus replied, « Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. » That is, so that Jesus should heal his blindness, and so that all who saw him do it should believe in him.

John the Baptist, reincarnation of the Prophet Elijah?
If you are still unconvinced, let me give you more evidence. One day Jesus was told that John the Baptist had been thrown into prison. The text says simply, « Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he departed to Galilee. » Some time later John was beheaded by order of Herod. After the Transfiguration the disciples asked Jesus, « Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? » Jesus answered, ‘Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished.

Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands. » And the Gospel adds, « Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist. » Clearly, therefore, Jesus was saying that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of the Prophet Elijah. Furthermore, it says in the Gospels that when the angel appeared to Zacharias, the father of John, to tell him that his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son, the angel added, « He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah. » ‘

To find out more
The lecture continues with other examples, but we hope the content of this post provides sufficient food for thought.

The lecture can be found in these two books. We are reluctant to post long extracts on topics like this because they still lack sufficient context and can be misunderstood. To gain a more complete understanding, it is advised to read one of the books (click to flip through the contents).

Izvor Book 202, Man, Master of his Destiny
Chapter 8, Reincarnation
Complete Works 12, Cosmic Moral Law
Chapter 8, Reincarnation

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