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Church History Forum: Justinian and reincarnation

by Catherine Frakas 07 Jan 2002

Justinian and reincarnation QUESTION from Joan Nelson March 12, 2001 An acqaintenance made a statement that Justinian took reincarnation out of Christainity. In my search for an answer I referred to the Council of Calcedon and the nature of Christ. When I asked her what her source was she said it was in a book that said that it was about the Council and that Justinians wife was concerned about a group who believed in reincarnation. My question. Was reincarnation ever a part of any main Christain belief? I can understand that the Greeks or another group may ave been carrying over a belief from another religion, but can't believe it ever was an accepted belief in Christianity. Thanks for your assistance. Joan Nelson
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on March 18, 2001 Dear Joan
I have never heard of any group defending reincarnation that was affiliated with any Council, and it strikes me as totally ridiculous.
Mainstream Christianity never, ever believed in reincarnation.
This harkens back to my young and foolish days when I was in junior high school and I believed in all sorts of New Age beliefs such as reincarnation. I remember reading a book that attempted to demonstrate that when Jesus spoke about the Resurrection, he really meant reincarnation.
This was a period when historians were not taking peoples' words at face value because it was largely believed that certain buzz words could not really be understood beauase they were understood outside of their context-- their context of course being completely different from the plain meaning of the text. The writer would then proceed to reconstruct the context, usually by reading into it his own biases. On this basis, they can argue that Jesus spoke about reincarnation, and the Church, of course, attempted to suppress this belief out of some mean-spirited conspiracy to gain ascendancy over the faithful.
I don't discount the possibility that there mayhave been some early Christians on the margins who believed in reincarnation; in those days there was every heresy under the sun. Any one who wants to find Christians or quasi-Christians who to legitamize their personal ideology could probably find some group who believed as they did. Reincarnation was not anathema to the Jews, and some did believe in it, but it was a minority opinion; perhaps some Jewish Christians could have believed in it. Plato also believed in reincarnation, so it could have happened that some Christians might have swayed from the true faith and adopted Plato's ideas.
But the point is that the Church founded by Christ never believed in reincarnation. And that's all the matters. From the earliest times, the Church has always proclaimed her faith in a particular judgment after death, and a general judgment on the Last Day that would follow a physical resurrection. All you have to do for proof is read the New Testament. If someone contradicts the New Testament, then he should bring forward concrete proof that that was not how it was understood; he can't just rest on mere speculations in the face of concrete evidence.
Thank you for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin ¹p
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