Every so often one author or another claims that the Bible "teaches" reincarnation. Most of these authors are of the New Age variety, typically former Christians, or perhaps a mixture of someone who accepts one or more aspects of Christianity which he/she combines with other beliefs. Very rarely the author may be a genuine Christian theologian.

What they all seem to have in common is that to them reincarnation is a belief, and it makes it easier for them to accept this belief if they can find a "proof" in the Bible.

They all seem to point out two or three references, which to me manage to more obscure the idea than shed any light on it.

The most common reference they use is the story found somewhere in the Gospels when people ask Jesus about a man born blind, and want to know whether he was blind because his parents sinned, or was it because he sinned. Now, if he sinned before he was born, these authors argue that he had to sin in a previous lifetime.

The trouble with this argument is that just because the Bible talks about people who appear to believe in reincarnation does not mean the Bible itself teaches reincarnation.

Another common reference is about John the Baptist being one of the ancient prophets. But, again, this passage does not exactly say he was literally the prophet reborn.

I find it amazing that none of these authors ever mentions the passage in which Jesus says to Nicodemus that he has to be born again, an idea that Nicodemus clearly seems to understand as the talk about reincarnation, and is quite puzzled by it, since clearly he does not believe in reincarnation.

For many years I was hoping to find the teaching of reincarnation myself. Not because I needed a proof of reincarnation, but because I needed to make my then Christian faith compatible with my certainty about reincarnation.

My own conviction about reincarnation has nothing to do with religion. It comes from my practice of psychology in my home country of Slovakia.

As a young psychologist I worked with day-care centers. I had more than twenty of those as part of my work. There were several thousand children, ages 6 months to 3 years, that I worked with every day for several years.

What constantly blew my mind was the fact that each of these children had a definite and unique personality. It was particularly obvious with those who were 2-3 years old, as they could talk. They could express their personalities much better than the 6-month olds, although even among those the differences were clear and personalities definite.

Now, where on earth did these personalities come from? Developmental psychology attempts to answer this question. From Freud to Piaget and beyond, they assure us that the first three years of life are "formative" as far as the personality is concerned.

But does that really explain anything? All it tells us is that other psychologists made the same observation I did: By the age of three the personality is distinctly clear. Yes, but, why, oh why???

It makes no sense to assume that personality evolves from nothing to a full personality within the first three years of life. Heck, the human body takes some 20 years to develop. Human mind is much more complex than human body. Human mind continues to develop way beyond the 20 years: It continues to develop for the duration of life, even when the body is slowly deteriorating. There are exceptions, such as Alzheimer's disease, but these are indeed exceptions. As a rule mind never stops evolving.

So how can a clear and distinct personality develop within three years? Those kids can't even read and write. But some of them are very smart. Just consider this conversation I had with a 3-year old:

He: "Do you ever go to work?"

Me: "I am at work."

He: "But you're not working. You're playing with us!"

What a keen mind!

The only logical explanation I could come up with was that they are born with their personality. Their brains need some three years to allow the personality to show up fully. But they bring their personality with them. From their previous lifetimes. They just had to live before. Hence my conviction that we reincarnate.

But back to the Bible. During the same time I worked with these kids I finished my underground theologies studies, and was secretly (without the knowledge of the Communist government) ordained a Catholic priest.

So, you can see how important it was for me to find evidence of reincarnation in the Bible: Not to prove reincarnation. To prove the Bible!

For that reason, whenever I found an author claiming to find the evidence of biblical teaching of reincarnation, I took it very seriously.

But eventually, the authors' claims were disappointing. Why would God's word mention such an important idea in only two or three passages, and even then only in such an obscure way?

Something was wrong with that picture. It took me years to see it clearly, but finally I admitted that the Bible does not teach reincarnation. And since to me reincarnation was an indisputable fact, I had no choice but to conclude that the Bible was wrong.

If the Bible were the word of God, it was impossible for such a serious omission.

While to many this omission is a proof against reincarnation, to me, with all the observation of young children, it is a proof against the Bible.

This discovery then led me to the realization that all of my Christian faith was based on a book (or actually a collection of books) that was clearly wrong on a very important topic.

Hence, I lost the entire basis of my faith, and felt compelled to look for the truth elsewhere. As my acceptance of reincarnation was based on observation, I eventually turned to the only religion that is based on observation as opposed to faith, namely Buddhism.

One final note: I am not writing this node to argue against Christianity and for Buddhism. I am simply describing my own personal experience. Your experience may be quite different from mine, and I am certainly not saying that my experience is in any way better or more valid than yours. All I am doing is describing mine.

Since I am submitting this write-up in response to whizkid's I request the other readers to bear with me. There are three reasons why I found whizkid's write-up interesting. First is because he's trying to share his views on reincarnation, second is the fact that he's an ordained Catholic priest (and of course he's a Roman Catholic) and finally, he's trying to reconcile a Buddhist belief and a Christian doctrine. Now I'm not trying to attack anyone's belief here; I just want to express certain things that popped on my mind while reading whizkid's work.

    Why Reincarnation contradicts with Roman Catholic doctrine:

  • Roman Catholicism teaches that each person is made up of matter and form, body and soul; one body for each soul. I think the principle of homeostasis by Thomas Aquinas explains this; I'm not sure. I don't see how reincarnation fits into this teaching.

  • Roman Catholicism teaches that when a person dies his soul experiences particular judgment and goes to either heaven, hell, or purgatory depending on what state he died in; in the Day of The Lord that person's punishment or reward will be increased or decreased as a result of other factors. If a soul departs the earthly plane right after death (assuming it doesn't become a ghost) how can it then continue residing in another body?

  • Roman Catholicism teaches that purgatory exists and it is a state where the souls of the departed faithful are given the chance to expiate their sins in preparation for beatific vision and heavenly bliss; what's the purpose of purgatory if the soul can continue its existence in another lifetime on earth?

  • According to the Apostle's Creed, which the Roman Catholic Magesterium accepts, there will be a resurrection of the body in the Last Day. Which of its bodies should a reincarnated soul take with it to eternity?

Again, I don't want to attack whizkid, and we don't even have to believe these Roman Catholic teachings. Yet it fascinates me how a priest has opened his mind to consider a belief that goes against his Roman Catholic (or even Christian) principles. Of course it is truly the values that counts, and doctrines are just there to support the faith. And I believe whizkid deserves some credit for taking the risk of joining the priesthood despite the factors around him.

Before I end this write-up I would like to analyze biblical passages often used to justify reincarnation.

  • The Man Born Blind (from The Gospel According to John, Chapter 9) - "...he sinned," The apostle who said this was most likely aware of Jewish religion and was probably pertaining to the sin handed down from Adam, not the sins the man commited in his previous life.
  • Jesus and Abraham, (John 8:58) - "...before Abraham came to be, I AM." I think this more an indication of Jesus' trancending through time and space, in his eternal nature as the Second Person of the triune God; being beyond the limits of history, Jesus existed as a living being, though not yet incarnated, even before the days of Abraham.
  • Nicodemus, (John Chapter 3) - "How can a person one grown old be born again?" The Greek word anothen means both "from above" and "again." It could be that while Jesus meant "...no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above," Nicodemus misunderstood it as "...born again."
  • The Prophet Elijah, (Mark Chapter 9) - "But I tell you that Elijah has come..." Most likely this is a reference to The Baptist, not the actual Elijah.

I am not claiming that all these things I put here are correct and factual; I have been know to make mistakes. Anyone is free to add to this write-up.

    Sources:
  • Cathecism by the Catholic Church
  • New American Bible
You are a beautiful and unique snowflake, just like everybody else...

Something about whizzkid's node irked me. His arguments are good, but I believe his premises are incorrect. The first thing that jumped out at me was that Freud and beyond said that the first three years were "formative"... I played a hunch and googled 'Freud "did not study children"' Huh. As I thought. I greatly respect Freud and the founding fathers of psychiatry for being founding fathers, but they are the basis of psychology, not its apex. Freud did not study children directly 1,2 and some3 disagree with his conclusions about them. Here's the double take: "It makes no sense to assume that personality evolves from nothing to a full personality within the first three years of life." I had a rather complicated humorous analogy to insert here, on how maybe he couldn't understand it, but on reflection it's copyrighted to Johnny Hart. This type of mistake is known as The philosopher's error, 4 that is "mistaking a failure of the imagination for an insight into necessity" or "since I can't see how x can be y, x is not y.." Thanks strawberryfrog! The incorrect premise in the above statement is that personality does not evolve from nothing. There is a strong genetic component. Twin Studies with identical twins raised in different homes have shown the strong genetic component of personality. Identical twins are a very powerful research tool for determining the genetic component of almost any trait. 5,6,7 There is an International Society for Twin Studies 8and it even has it's own scientific journal with bimonthly publications. The Nature vs. nurture writeup has a very balanced view, but 5 minutes with google will show that behavioural scientists tend towards a strong genetic influence on personality. 9, 10,11,12 Fractals are an example of complexity arising from simple rules. So are snowflakes. I have no problem with personality developing from the large amounts of genetic data that relate to personality in a mere three years.

This is only my 2nd writeup, feel free to msg me with suggestions... Sources: 1. http://bama.ua.edu/~jcollier/Intro_to_developmental_psychology.html (Freud and children) 2 http://cla.calpoly.edu/~dlvalenc/PSY459/Freud_G.html (Freud and children) 3 http://www.freudfile.org/freudians.html (Freud and contempories) 4 Daniel Dennett: Consciousness Explained Google (Research projects involving twins) 6 http://psych.fullerton.edu/nsegal/twins.html (opaque info) 7 http://www.economist.com/science/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3084541 (popsci article) 8 http://www.ists.qimr.edu.au/ (International Society for Twin Studies) 9 http://www.personalityresearch.org/bg.html (Nature > Nurture) 10 http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar04/awry.html (Nature > Nurture) 11 http://whyfiles.org/053multi_birth/3.html (Nature < Nurture) 12 http://www.amren.com/938issue/938issue.html (Nature > Nurture, though I don't agree with all their racist conclusions)

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