Was Reincarnation Once Taught in the Bible?

 

In the May-June 2019 issue of AIIA’s Proclamation thoughtletter (scheduled for publication later this month), I refer to an exchange that I had with a Buddhist some time ago in which he contended that in 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea purged all references to reincarnation from the Bible. He said that prior to 325 A.D. reincarnation was a common Christian belief.

In my account of that exchange I explain that I quickly refuted that contention. But how? Exactly how do we best refute such a claim? 

Well, other that for stating boldly that the claim simply isn’t true, we might ask the person making the claim for documentation. If the one claiming that reincarnation was once standard Christian doctrine knows what he/she is talking about, they should have no problem citing and producing reliable and convincing sources. But of course they won’t be able to do that, because there are none.

It might also be helpful to ask the individual making the claim just how such a mass deletion of selected lines would even be practically possible. For example, I might say, “Can you please explain to me how the relatively few Christian leaders meeting at Nicea would have been able to physically get ahold of the thousands of handwritten New Testament manuscripts that had already been circulated all over the Middle East (and beyond) for approximately 300 years by that time, and completely expunge (secretly or otherwise) every single mention of reincarnation from every single document?” 

In addition, if reincarnation was truly an established Christian belief at the time, why wouldn’t there have been an outcry among many Christians and churches who held this belief and were presumably convinced that Jesus Himself had endorsed the doctrine of reincarnation?

Finally, as Christian apologist Greg Koukl points out: “How would anybody know it [if all references to reincarnation really had been taken out] a millennium and a half ago? How would you even know that it used to be there and now it’s not there any more? Would you find eraser marks or something?”

In his book, Tactics, Koukl articulates most of the points mentioned above in order to demonstrate just how preposterous the whole idea is that Jesus, the early Church, or the Bible ever endorsed the idea of reincarnation at all. 

The truth is, as Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” We only go around once. We only live one life here on earth in the present age. And we only physically die one death.

This is why it is absolutely crucial for us humans to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord now, in this life, and to receive Him as the only one able to forgive our sins and make us right with God. As John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

— Daryl E. Witmer, AIIA Executive Director

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