Was Reincarnation Intentionally Removed from the Bible?

The Internet is loaded with conspiracy theories. It seems that conspiracy theories are a major form of entertainment on the Web. However, a great many of these conspiracy theories run thin on facts and long on fantasy, so it is best to do a good deal of fact checking (and reading both sides of an argument) before ‘buying in’ on any given theory. One popular conspiracy theory on the Internet involves the formation of the Christian religion and reincarnation. It is the theory that certain powerful people removed reincarnation from the Bible.

Is there any truth to this? Early in Christianity, did powerful individuals delete reincarnation from holy scripture and persecute anyone who advocated the idea of the cycle of rebirth? In historical, factual terms the answer is, “No and sorta’ yes”. To get to the bottom of the issue, and understand HOW the early Christian church suppressed the idea of reincarnation, one needs to understand a little bit about early Christian history – and what we do know from historical records.

Did Early Christians Believe in Reincarnation?

There is considerable evidence that a large percentage of the early Christians did accept the idea of a cycle of rebirth. We are talking about a time frame from 0 AD to 500 AD, a period when the gospels of Christ were hand written and passed down to future generations.


Fifth Ecumenical Council Debates Including Reincarnation in Church Canon

This was a time when the Bible, as we know it, had yet to be assembled (learn more by reading Why So Many Versions Of The Bible. It wasn’t until 367 AD that the Church Father, Athanasius, designated a list of 66 books that would form the Church canon, or better put, the only books and religious scripture that would be recognized by the Church. The formation of single ‘Christian Authority’ was underway. We do know, during this period of time, that the writings of some of the earliest Church Fathers express the belief that human souls exist before birth and can go through multiple lifetimes in order to grow and learn lessons.

With the discovery of documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of the Nazarenes, scholars have been able to confirm that various groups of Christians, most known today as Gnostic Christians also believed in reincarnation. At the time, they were not ‘gnostics’ nor heretics. They were just Christians who happen to embrace Christ’s message and believe in reincarnation (among other spiritual principles) that the later Christian Church would persecute.

When and Why Was Reincarnation Officially Declared a Heresy?

Reincarnation was officially removed from Christian doctrine during the Fifth Ecumenical Council in the year 553 (also known as the Second Council of Constantinople). The council was evoked by the Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora to decide the what were to be ‘acceptable’ Christian beliefs and practices. The council released a list of decrees which sounded the death knell for the idea of reincarnation. The FIRST of these decrees read:

“If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.” This literally meant that anyone believing in reincarnation was damned, and those who advocated reincarnation could be excommunicated from the Church.

Some conspiracy theories state that Theodora wanted reincarnation removed from Christianity because she wanted to be deified, and the doctrine of reincarnation did not allow for it. There is, however, no evidence for this claim. It makes for a dramatic and exciting story (an Emperor’s wife seeking immortality who uses power and violence to alter the course of Christianity to server her vanity). The truth is more mundane and a bit complicated, which is more appreciated by history geeks than the general public. The facts indicate that Emperor Justinian wanted to unify Christian doctrine (get everyone on the same page, literally and figuratively). His wife, Empress Theodora would assist him in this quest. And so, a council of Christian scholars was convened to accomplish this task. These councils were called Ecumenical Councils, and it was the Fifth Ecumenical Council that would determine if reincarnation, or the concept of rebirth, would be included in Christian doctrine.

The council ended up in a locked in debate about reincarnation and Christ. This was a debate that had been going on a long time within Christianity and it was about the nature of Jesus. On the one side were the dyophysites who believed that Christ was of two natures and had pre-existed, incarnated in human form, previous to his final appearance as Christ. On the other side were the monphysites who believed that Christ had a single, unified nature and therefore could not have existed prior to his birth. It is likely that Empress Theodora used her influence (for political reasons) to make sure the monphysites prevailed. It is also known that Emperor Justinian also want reincarnation to be removed from Church canon for his own reasons.

Emperor Justinian was more a man of war and action than of spirituality. For him, there needed to be a clear line of command and a single ‘manual’ for all to follow. Justinian’s view was not that different from an earlier Church Father, Irenaeus, from the first century AD. For these men there was no ‘agree to disagree’; there was no free speech; there was to be a single Christian church and single doctrine. Either you fell in line, or you were forced out of the Church – or worse.

At the Fifth Ecumenical Council the ‘defeated’ dyophysites were told to fall in line, or else. These final decrees by the ‘Church’ were the beginnings of the divide between the ‘orthodox Christian church’ and the so called Gnostics, heretics, and others who would not accept Church doctrine as the final word about what was, or was not, Christian.

The divide within early Christianity was not just about reincarnation (although that was included in the disagreements within the Ecumenical Council) – there were a host of other issues. For example, the counsel would ultimately determine what was Christian and what should be taught to the people – AND – the people were not free to read holy scripture and decide for themselves what it meant. The Council would decide which ‘gospels’ and spiritual scriptures would be include in Church canon (which would become the Bible or final ‘manual’ for Christianity). All other ‘gospels’ and related to spiritual literature were to be disregarded (possibly even destroyed) and those who disagreed were to be regarded as ‘heretics’. Then, as now, there are just those people who prefer to read, learn and decide for themselves – regardless of consequences.

Did Justinian and Theodora Remove Reincarnation From the Bible?

Here is where the conspiracy about reincarnation being edited out of the Bible goes too far. Conspiracy theorists argue that Justinian and Theodora removed all references to reincarnation from the Bible and kept certain books from becoming Biblical canon in order to hide the truth about rebirth, or the concept of reincarnation, from those who wished to be Christian. This theory does not hold up well against historical facts.

Manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments from before the year 553 (when the Ecumenical Council decided reincarnation was not to be part of Christian thought) show no significant differences from those that came after. It would have been an impossible undertaking for Justinian and Theodora to track down every copy of the ‘gospels’, related spiritual texts, and edited reincarnation out of all of them. Christian canon was likewise already set well before the Fifth Ecumenical Council. The canon used by Origen of Alexandria a proponent of reincarnation, in the early 3rd century was largely the same as the canon used today.

One also has to ask why Justinian and Theodora, IF they went through the trouble of removing references to reincarnation from the Bible, would not have removed all of them. (For more info on this topic check out Reincarnation and Christianity). Biblical passages that seem to indicate the possibility of rebirth DO currently exist in the Bible. One passage in particular in the Old Testament is worth considering:

“Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Malachi 4:5)

This passage seems to indicate that the prophet Elijah, who already lived once, would be sent by God to earth again to prepare the way for the Messiah. Reincarnation is here almost taken for granted. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the idea of rebirth and doesn’t need any further explanation about how it works. Such matter-of-fact references to reincarnation can also be found in the writings of the Romano-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus.

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Jesus displays the same attitude towards reincarnation when he identifies John the Baptist as Elijah several times in the book of Mark. His Jewish disciples don’t wonder what Jesus is talking about or how it could be true, they simply take it as a statement of fact.

Another good example of reincarnation in the Bible is when, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is. His disciples explain that people suspect he may be one of the prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus, though he doesn’t claim to be one of the prophets, never comments that such a thing would be impossible, nor lecturers his disciples on believing in such things.

So, There Was No Conspiracy To Remove Reincarnation From Christianity?

Now, THAT is a different question! This is where conspiracy theorists are actually working with historical fact. When one examines the historical evidence, then there is a very good case that, yes, there was a conspiracy to remove the concept of reincarnation from Christian thought. To more fully understand how this conspiracy unfolded, and how it has impacted Christianity as we see it today, is a article for another time.

If you’d like to chat with someone who understands reincarnation, give Psychic Brodi a call at 1-866-407-7164. Brodi has years of experience as a psychic reader and has long been aware of how past lives can influence one’s current life. You may also appreciate Past Life Chat where you can chat online with experts in reincarnation and past lives.

Resource You May Appreciate:

(Reincarnation in the Bible)

(Reincarnation and early Church Fathers)

(Reincarnation in early Christianity

(the Christian Psychic)