More scriptural support for reincarnation
writings were discovered in 1945 which revealed more information about the concept of
reincarnation from a sect of Christians called "Gnostics". This sect was
ultimately destroyed by the Roman orthodox church, their followers burned at the stake and
their writings wiped out. The writings included some long lost gospels, some of
which were written early than the known gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The
Gnostic Christians claimed to possess the correct definition of "resurrection" -
based on Jesus' secret teachings, handed down to them by the apostles.
The existence of a secret tradition can be found in the New
"He [Jesus] told them, ' The
secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything
is said in parables so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever
hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (Mark
"No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a
wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." (1
"So then, men ought to regard us as
servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God." (1
A fragment of the Secret Gospel of Mark, one of
the Gnostic texts discovered, describes Jesus performing secret initiation rites.
Before the discovery of Gnostic writings, our only knowledge of it came from a letter
written by Church Father Clement of Alexandria (150 AD - 211 AD), which quotes this secret
gospel and refers to it as "a more spiritual gospel for the use of those who were
being perfected." He said, "It even yet is most carefully guarded [by the
church at Alexandria], being read only to those who are being initiated into the great
mysteries." Clement insists elsewhere that Jesus revealed a secret teaching to
those who were "capable of receiving it and being molded by it." Clement
indicates that he possessed the secret tradition, which was handed down through the
apostles. Such Gnostics were spiritual critics of the orthodox Church of what they
saw as not so much a popularization as a vulgarization of Christianity. The orthodox
church stressed faith, while the Gnostic church stressed knowledge (gnosis). This
secret knowledge emphasized spiritual resurrection rather than physical
resurrection. Indeed, the Gnostic Christians believed reincarnation to be the true
interpretation of "resurrection" for those who have not attained a spiritual
resurrection through this secret knowledge.
The New Testament talks about this gnosis (knowledge):
"Now to each one the manifestation of
the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the
message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the
same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one
Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing
between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another
the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)
"For this reason, since the day we heard
about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge
of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Colossians 1:9)
The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states
that the Pharisees, the founders of rabbinic Judaism for whom Paul once belonged, believed
in reincarnation. He writes that the Pharisees believed that the souls of bad men
are punished after death but that the souls of good men are "removed into other
bodies" and they will "have power to revive and live again." The
Sadducees, the other prominent Jewish sect in Palestine, did not emphasize life after
death and according to the Bible "say there is no
resurrection" (Matthew 22:23). From what we have just
discussed, it is clear that what Matthew really states is that the Sadducees "say
there is no reincarnation".
The following are some the secret teachings of Jesus from the
Gnostic gospels that affirm reincarnation, revealing the secret knowledge:
"Watch and pray that you may not be born
in the flesh, but that you may leave the bitter bondage of this life." (Book
of Thomas the Contender)
"When you see your likeness, you are
happy. But when you see your images that came into being before and that neither die
nor become visible, how much you will bear!" (Gospel of Thomas)
In the Book of Thomas the Contender, Jesus
tells the disciple Thomas that after death those who were once believers but have remained
attached to things of "transitory beauty" will be
consumed "in their concern about life" and will be "brought back to the visible realm".
In the Secret Book of John, reincarnation is
placed at the heart of its discussion of the salvation of souls. The book was
written by 185 AD at the latest. Here is the Secret Book of John's
perspective on reincarnation:
All people have drunk the water of forgetfulness and exist in
a state of ignorance. Some are able to overcome ignorance through the Spirit of life
that descends upon them. These souls "will be saved and
will become perfect," that is, escape the round of rebirth. John asks
Jesus what will happen to those who do not attain salvation. They are hurled down "into forgetfulness" and thrown into "prison", the Gnostic code word for new body. The
only way for these souls to escape, says Jesus, is to emerge from forgetfulness and
acquire knowledge. A soul in this situation can do so by finding a teacher or savior
who has the strength to lead her home. "This soul needs
to follow another soul in whom the Spirit of life dwells, because she is saved through the
Spirit. Then she will never be thrust into flesh again." (Secret Book
Another Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia,
outlines an elaborate system of reward and punishment that includes reincarnation.
The text explains differences in fate as the effects of past-life actions. A "man who curses" is given a body that will be continually
"troubled in heart". A "man
who slanders" receives a body that will be "oppressed".
A thief receives a "lame, crooked and blind body".
A "proud" and "scornful"
man receives "a lame and ugly body" that "everyone continually despises." Thus earth, as
well as hell, becomes the place of punishment.
According to Pistis Sophia, some souls do
experience hell as a shadowy place of torture where they go after death. But after
passing through this hell, the souls return for further experiences on earth. Only a
few extremely wicked souls are not allowed to reincarnate. These are cast into "outer darkness" until the time when they are destined to
be "destroyed and dissolved".
Several Gnostic texts combine the ideas of reincarnation and
union with God. The Apocalypse of Paul, a second-century text,
describes the Merkabah-style ascent of the apostle Paul as well as the reincarnation of a
soul who was not ready for such an ascent. It shows how both reincarnation and
ascents fit into Gnostic theology. Click here to read more.
As Paul passes through the fourth heaven, he sees a soul
being punished for murder. This soul is being whipped by angels who have brought him
"out of the land of the dead" (earth). The
soul calls three witnesses, who charge him with murder. The soul then looks down "in sorrow" and is "cast
down" into a body that has been prepared for it. The text goes on to
describe Paul's further journey through the heavens, a practice run for divine union.
Pistis Sophia combines the ideas of
reincarnation and divine union in a passage that begins with the question: What
happens to "a man who has committed no sin, but done good
persistently, but has not found the mysteries?" The Pistis
Sophia tells us that the soul of the good man who has not found the mysteries
will receive "a cup filled with thoughts and wisdom."
This will allow the soul to remember its divine origin and so to pursue the "mysteries of the Light" until it finds them and is able
to "inherit the Light forever." To
"inherit the Light forever" is a Gnostic code for union with God.
For the Gnostic Christians, resurrection was also a spiritual
event - simply the awakening of the soul. They believed that people who experience
the resurrection can experience eternal life, or union with God, while on earth and then
after death, escape rebirth. People who don't experience the resurrection and union
with God on earth will reincarnate. Jesus states the following the Gnostic Gospels:
"People who say they will first die and
then arise are mistaken. If they do not first receive resurrection while they are
alive, once they have died they will receive nothing." (Gospel of Philip)
Paul writes in several places that resurrection involves a
spirit body. Such a definition corresponds with spiritual resurrection and
dead body] is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a
natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:44)
"I declare to
you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the
perishable inherit the imperishable." (1 Corinthians 15:50)
"When you were dead in your sins
and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ."
The Gnostics claimed their terminology was sprinkled through
the Epistles. For example, the author of Ephesians uses the words
"awake", "sleep" and "dead" in a Gnostic sense:
"But everything exposed by the light
becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on
you." (Ephesians 5:13-14)
Some of the Greek words in the New Testament translated as
"resurrection" also mean to "rise" or "awake".
Therefore, argued the Gnostics, when Paul says people can be part of the resurrection, he
is really saying that their souls can be awakened to the Spirit of God.
We know that in some passages Paul writes about the
resurrection as a present rather than a future event:
"Or don't you know that all of us who
were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore
buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from
the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have
been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him
in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so
that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin -
because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we
believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was
raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The
death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ
Jesus." (Romans 6:3-11)
Colossians also seems to describe the
resurrection as a present-day event:
"Since, then, you have been raised
with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand
of God." (Colossians 3:1)
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken
off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is
being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:9-10)
In the above passage, taking off the old self and putting on the
new is a code for the resurrection, which, again, is described as a present-life event.
The Gnostic manuscripts present a clear, simple and strong
vision of the resurrection. First, the Gospel of Thomas disabuses
people of the notion that the resurrection is a future event:
"His followers said to him, 'When will
the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?' He said to
them, 'What you look for has come, but you do not know it.'" (Gospel of
In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is saying
that the resurrection and the kingdom are already here. We simply do not realize it
- or, in the Gnostic sense, we simply have not integrated with them.
Jesus explained the concept of resurrection before raising
Lazarus from the dead:
"Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last
day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in
me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do
you believe this?" (John 11:23-26)
In these verses, Jesus tells Martha her brother Lazarus will
"rise again". Martha mistakenly thinks Jesus means Lazarus will come out of his
grave at Judgment Day. Jesus corrects her by stating that those who believe in Him will
live, even before they die. Jesus is referring here to spiritual regeneration. Jesus also
states that those who die believing in Him, will never die. This clearly implies
reincarnation. The flip-side to this is that those who die not believing in Him, will have
to die again (i.e. reincarnate). It is interesting to note that by raising Lazarus from
death, Jesus is forcing Lazarus to live out the rest of his life only to die physically
again. By raising Lazarus from death, Jesus seems to be demonstrating that one does not
wait until Judgment Day to rise.
Jesus flatly tells Nicodemus:
"I tell you a truth, no one can see the
kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)
Nicodemus misunderstands what Jesus means by "born
"How can a person be born when he is
old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" (John
In response, Jesus states:
"I tell you the truth, no one can enter
the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to
flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:5-6)
In context of these verses, Jesus is talking about the
process of resurrection, that is, being born of water and being born of the Spirit.
Jesus describes physical resurrection (to be born of water) and spiritual resurrection (to
be born of the Spirit). They are two similar yet different processes. From
these verses, the case can be made that Jesus taught the concept of resurrection as being
physical rebirth as well as spiritual rebirth.
In the Apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon, recognized by the
Catholic Church, is the following verse:
"... I was given a sound body to live in
because I was already good." (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20)
This verse raises the following question: How is it
possible to get a body after you have already been good if reincarnation is a fact?
Flavius Josephus records that the Essenes of the Dead Sea
Scrolls lived "the same kind of life" as the followers of the Greek philosopher
Pythagoras who taught reincarnation. According to Josephus, the Essenes believed
that the soul is both immortal and preexistent which is necessary for belief in
One scroll entitled "The Last
Jubilee" mentions reincarnation. This scroll is about the "last
days" during which time it says, a "Melchizedek redivivus"
(reincarnate) will appear and destroy Belial (Satan) and lead the children of God to
eternal forgiveness. Parts of this scroll has been unreadable and will be denoted by
this '. . .' symbol. Here is it's message:
"Men will turn away in rebellion, and
there will be a re-establishment of the reign of righteousness, perversity being
confounded by the judgements of God. This is what scripture implies in the
words, "Who says to Zion, your God has not claimed his Kingdom!"
The term Zion there denoting the total congregation of the "sons of
righteousness" that is, those who maintain the covenant and turn away from the
popular trend, and your God signifying the King of Righteousness, alias Melchizedek
Redivivus, who will destroy Belial. Our text speaks also of sounding a loud
trumpet blast throughout the land on the tenth day of the seventh month. As
applied to the last days, this refers to the fanfare which will then be sounded before the
Messianic King." (The Last Jubilee)
Melchizedek was the High Priest described in the Bible.
It is interesting to note that some early Christians believed Melchizedek to be an
early incarnation of Jesus. If this is true and the above passage of the Dead Sea
Scrolls can be believed, then the passage is very likely referring to Jesus Himself and
His second coming.
The Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that the Jewish mystical
tradition of union with God went back to the first, if not the third, century before
Christ. Jewish mysticism has its roots in Greek mysticism which espouced
reincarnation. Some of the hymns found with the Dead Sea Scrolls are similar to the
Hekhalot hymns sung by the Jewish mystics. One text gives us unmistakable evidence
of Jewish mysticism. It is called "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice".
Also, fragments of 1 Enoch, which is considered the oldest evidence of Jewish mysticism,
were also found with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since Jewish mysticism existed in the
third century before Christ, as Enoch indicates, then it would certainly have been present
in first-century Judaism. As stated earlier, this twin idea of divine union and
reincarnation can be found in early Christianity and one can easily conclude that it was
the key to the heart of Jesus' message.
Reincarnation has been a tenet for thousands of years for
certain Jews and Christians. The Zohar is a work of great weight and authority among the
Jews. In II, 199 b, it says that "all souls are subject to revolutions." This is
metempsychosis or a'leen b'gilgoola; but it declares that "men do not know the way
they have been judged in all time." That is, in their "revolutions" they
lose a complete memory of the acts that have led to judgment. The Kether Malkuth says,
"If she, the soul, be pure, then she shall obtain favor.. . but if she hath been
defiled, then she shall wander for a time in pain and despair. . . until the days of her
purification." If the soul be pure and if she comes at once from God at birth, how
could she be defiled? And where is she to wander if not on this or some other world until
the days of her purification? The Rabbis always explained it as meaning she wandered down
from Paradise through many revolutions or births until purity was regained.
Under the name of "Din Gilgol Neshomes" the doctrine of reincarnation
is constantly spoken of in the Talmud. The term means "the judgment of the
revolutions of the souls." And Rabbi Manassa, son of Israel, one of the most revered,
says in his book Nishmath Hayem: "The belief or the doctrine of the transmigration of
souls is a firm and infallible dogma accepted by the whole assemblage of our church with
one accord, so that there is none to be found who would dare to deny it. . . . Indeed,
there is a great number of sages in Israel who hold firm to this doctrine so that they
made it a dogma, a fundamental point of our religion. We are therefore in duty bound to
obey and to accept this dogma with acclamation . . . as the truth of it has been
incontestably demonstrated by the Zohar, and all books of the Kabalists."
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