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REINCARNATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
THE BLIND MAN
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:1-2, NIV
The disciples wanted to know the reason for the man's blindness. They offered two possibilities to Jesus. Either the man was blind because of the sins of his parents or he was blind because he was reaping the fruit of his own sins (karma). If our souls do not exist prior to this birth and if the man was born blind, then when or where could he have committed the sins that caused his blindness? His soul would have existed prior to that birth and he would have been engaged in a corporeal setting with other people to commit sins against or with. In other words, the blind man had a previous life. This indicates that the pre-existence of the soul was a prevalent idea among the disciples, otherwise how could they have asked such an unusual question? Neither does Jesus ask them where they got such a strange idea. He does not marvel that they have presented him with such a foolish concept. Where did they get this idea? As we have seen in the "blind man" scripture and other scriptures, the concept of reincarnation was understood by Jesus and the disciples. They employed the concept in these discussions in a matter-of-fact way.
Elijah the prophet is believed to have lived in the ninth century B.C.E. At the point of his death a fiery chariot with horses of fire took him in a whirlwind to heaven and he was seen no more (II Kings 2:11). Four hundred years later, Malachi closed the last lines of the Old Testament with a prophecy from God stating that God would send Elijah before the "great and terrible day of the Lord" comes (Malachi 4:5). The Jewish people were expecting Elijah to return as the necessary preface to signal the coming of the Messiah.
The disciples all felt that Jesus was the Messiah but they were puzzled. Where is Elijah? The disciples asked the Master about this and he told them that Elijah had already returned as John the Baptist. The first discussion of this is in Matthew, chapter 11.
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 11:11-15, NIV
The above scripture indicates that the disciples and Jesus believed in reincarnation. John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah. In an attempt to fit these scriptures into the orthodox view of one-life-only, some believe that Elijah never died as we know it because he went up in a chariot of fire, thus discounting John the Baptist as an instance of reincarnation. Their thinking is that Elijah did inhabit John the Baptist but it was not rebirth because Elijah had never died. For this "discounting" to really work, the Baptist would need to have returned in the same fiery chariot as a grown man. However, he was clearly placed in the womb of a human mother after which he had a very mortal and common birth. Jesus said he was "born of woman" and in Luke 1:13-17, an angel tells John's father, Zacharias, that John will be born to his wife Elizabeth... "And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah." Others use this last line to say that John the Baptist was under the power of Elijah but was not the incarnation of Elijah. However, Jesus says in no uncertain terms that John is Elijah and not simply an ambassador of Elijah's power, "This is Elijah... He who has ears to hear let him hear" (Matthew 11:14-15). Also, Malachi does not say that Elijah will appear by proxy but that Elijah himself will return.
The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?" Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:10-13, NIV
WHO IS THE SON OF MAN?
Yet another discussion between Jesus and the disciples underscores their belief in reincarnation.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:15-16
The flow here seems to be that if a prophet were to appear he must be the incarnation of one of the prophets from the past and so Jesus is asking the disciples who the people think has incarnated as Jesus. The idea of the reincarnation of the prophets is taken for granted and the sole point of the question is to find out who the multitudes believe him to be. These scriptures indicate that, at least to Jesus and the disciples, the concept of reincarnation was common fare. Herod also heard that others were saying one of the prophets of long ago had reincarnated. This again indicates that such a belief in reincarnation was common at that time.
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. Luke 9:7-8, NIV
REINCARNATION IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY
REINCARNATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
REINCARNATION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
REINCARNATION IN THE JEWISH KABBALAH
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