Reincarnation


I wrote this about three years ago, but I have never posted it yet. Perhaps it would be helpful to post this, and a couple of the other passages that I’ve looked at that supposedly support the idea of reincarnation being present and consistent with the Scriptures:

In the book of Hebrews, Paul compares Jesus to Melchizedek. Of Melchizedek he says, “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” (Hebrews 7:3)

Some reincarnationists argue that this verse demonstrates that Melchizedek was a previous incarnation of Jesus. Since Jesus is declared to have assumed the priesthood of Melchizedek (vs. 21), and since he is declared to be a “priest forever”, Jesus must be a reincarnation of Melchizedek (Geisler, When Critics Ask).

But nowhere in this passage does Paul assert that Jesus is a reincarnation of Melchizedek – rather, Paul makes a comparison between the two. Paul does not say that Jesus is Melchizedek; he speaks of Jesus as a priest like Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:15, cf. vs. 3), never of Jesus actually being Melchizedek.

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I’ve added two new resources to my resources page:

Probabilities and Fitness

and

Is the Peacock My Brother?

The updated version of ITPMB, with Minucius Felix added can be found here.

Next: Archelaus

(210AD) Minucius Felix’s estimation of reincarnation is most evident in the 34th chapter of this work. Here, and in the chapter that follows, Octavius, the advocate of Christianity, responds to the challenges given to him by Caecilius in chapter 11. Both of these arguments will be relevant in the attempt to establish the historic view of the early Christian Church on the doctrine of reincarnation.

When Caecilius challenges the prospect of a bodily resurrection he establishes two significant facts, undisputed by Octavius: that Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that they believe in a judgement after death with eternal consequences. Caecilius makes no mention of a Christian belief in reincarnation, nor does he suggest one as a central tenet of Christianity. Although he does not deny this doctrine to Christians outright, his testimony on the Christian view of judgement and punishment after death leaves little room for other forms of judgement or punishment.

The reply of Octavius confirms the indications given by Caecilius. Though Octavius merely passes over the Pythagorean doctrine of transmigration in the 19th chapter, (as he demonstrates the divergence of the opinions of the heathen philosophers,) he handles the issue directly in the 34th chapter. Octavius plainly considers the doctrine of reincarnation to be an imitation of the truth of the resurrection and the broadening of this doctrine to include transmigrations into animals as farcical at best.

The doctrines of the resurrection, judgement, and punishment are confirmed and defended by Octavius, while the grounds for the necessity of reincarnation are completely undermined in the 35th chapter. The combination of these evidences clearly demonstrate an early Christian viewpoint that wholly excludes and opposes the theory of reincarnation.

Christian apologist, flourished between 160 and 300; the exact date is not known. His “Octavius” has numerous points of agreement with the “Apologeticum” of Tertullian, similarities that have been explained by the theory of a common source — an apology written in Latin, and which is supposed to have disappeared without leaving any trace, not even in the name of its author. This hypothesis is now generally abandoned. … The most natural supposition is that one of the two writers, Minucius or Tertullian, is directly dependent on the other. Formerly, Minucius was regarded as posterior to Tertullian. … M. Waltzing, the scholar best acquainted with Minucius Felix and what has been written about him, is inclined to think him anterior to Tertullian. The arguments in favour of one or the other of these theories are not decisive. However, it may be said that in the passages taken from the ancient authors, such as Seneca, Varro, and especially Cicero, Minucius seems to be more exact and closer to the original; consequently he seems to be intermediary between them and Tertullian. …

The birthplace of the author is believed to be Africa. This is not proved by Minucius’s imitation of African authors, any more than it is by the resemblance between Minucius and Tertullian. … The “Octavius” is a dialogue of which Ostia is the scene. Caecilius Natalis upholds the cause of paganism, Octavius Januarius that of Christianity; the author himself is the judge of the debate. …

The persons are real. The dialogue may likewise be so, despite the fact that Minucius has transformed into an almost judicial debate what must have been a mere conversation or series of conversations. … The dialogue therefore consists of two discourses, the attack of Caecilius and the refutation of Octavius.

The Catholic Encyclopedia – Minucius Felix

The updated version of ITPMB, with Irenaeus added can be found here.

Next: Minucius Felix

12. We therefore have formed the belief that [our] bodies also do rise again. For although they go to corruption, yet they do not perish; for the earth, receiving the remains, preserves them, even like fertile seed mixed with more fertile ground. Again, as a bare grain is sown, and, germinating by the command of God its Creator, rises again, clothed upon and glorious, but not before it has died and suffered decomposition, and become mingled with the earth; so [it is seen from this, that] we have not entertained a vain belief in the resurrection of the body. But although it is dissolved at the appointed time, because of the primeval disobedience, it is placed, as it were, in the crucible of the earth, to be recast again; not then as this corruptible [body], but pure, and no longer subject to decay: so that to each body its own soul shall be restored; and when it is clothed upon with this, it shall not experience sorrow, but shall rejoice, continuing permanently in a state of purity, having for its companion a just consort, not an insidious one, possessing in every respect the things pertaining to it, it shall receive these with perfect accuracy; it shall not receive bodies diverse from what they had been, nor delivered from suffering or disease, nor as [rendered] glorious, but as they departed this life, in sins or in righteous actions: and such as they were, such shall they be clothed with upon resuming life; and such as they were in unbelief, such shall they be faithfully judged.

49. Now therefore, by means of this which has been already brought forth a long time since, the Word has assigned an interpretation. We are convinced that there exist [so to speak] two men in each one of us. The one is confessedly a hidden thing, while the other stands apparent; one is corporeal, the other spiritual; although the generation of both may be compared to that of twins. For both are revealed to the world as but one, for the soul was not anterior to the body in its essence; nor, in regard to its formation, did the body precede the soul: but both these were produced at one time; and their nourishment consists in purity and sweetness.

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