The concept of reincarnation in the Bible
Genesis 28:12 Jacob’s Ladder.
In the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, that covers the time of the patriarches, comes the concept of reincarnation, of the continued come and go of the spirits (angels of God) between the spiritual realm and earth. Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, had a dream in which is delivered to man this revelation. Some believe that this passage refers simply to the divine privilege of sending messengers to communicate with man, but if this was so, the order would be the other way around: first they would descend and then they would ascend. When specifiyng that the spirits first ascend and then they descend again, it implies something much deeper; the death (to ascend) and the reincarnation (to descend). The clue is in the phrase “set up on the earth” which means that the ladder is based on earth, the body. Messengers such as the angel Gabriel that appeared before Mary (Luke 1:26) never took body, they manifested only through spiritual visions.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:12
The Book of Job
The wisdom and prophetic books of the Bible are written in an allegorical language, with the abundant use of metaphors (
metaphor=use of a word with a sense different to its own and that identifies two different objects that keep a relationship of likeness
). Thus, in the Book of Job we see the allegory of the cut (dead) tree that is renewed, metaphor that the biblical writer uses to question himself if the same won’t happen to man. Please take note that when he mentions “boughs like a plant”, the allegory is much nearer to the reincarnation concept (a new body) than to resurrection as many understand it (the same body). In addition to this and for a better understanding of the phrase “till my change come”, please see the reference to the same concept in Psalm 102.
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in earth in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. Job 14:7-9 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands. Job 14:14,15
The Book of Psalms
This book assumed to be written by David, king from Israel, contains certain passages that refer to life after death and to the hope that this is defeated. The texts, as explained above, are taken from the Commonly Known as the Authorized (King James) Version but the reader must be aware that the word “Sheol” which first was translated into the Greek “hades” and then to “hell”, was in many verses translated into English as “grave”, changing therefore the true meaning of the author’s original idea.
The numeration of the psalms corresponds to the biblical version of King James; the Catholic Bibles differ in its numbering although the texts are similar.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:10,11
Of course, some would say that the first verse of above refers only to JesusChrist’s resurrection from the dead. After all it is quoted as this in Acts 13:35; but if this would to be true, why then the reference to “hell” (sheol)?
What profit there is there in my "blood" (death in the original text) when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth? Psalm 30:9 ...upon those that hope in their mercy, to deliver their souls from death... Psalm 33:18s,19s But God will redeem my soul from the power of the "grave" (sheol), for he shall receive me Psalm 49:15
But in the following passage, the king-prophet goes beyond the hope in a life after death. When referring to a renewal of the spirit, it agrees with Job 14:7-9 and with Job 14:14,15 and clearly speaks of the reincarnation of the spirit.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit. Psalm 51:10,12
Later on, the psalmist asks God if He will be able to give life again.
Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Psalm 85:6
...yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; Psalm 102:26
In the following verse, the reference to the spiritual valley in darkness is very clear and here it would be necessary to compare it with 1 Peter 3:18-20, where the same idea is stated, although David speaks in this verse of reincarnation in the past.
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being abound in affliction and iron; He brougth them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder Psalm 107:10,14
The Book of Ecclesiastes
In the following allegory that it is found through diverse verses of the Book of Ecclesiastes, also called The Preacher and whose writing is attributed to King Solomon, son of David, by the use of the figure of the flow of the rivers to the sea back and forth to describe the incessant come and go of human life, it’s a clear reference to the continuous reincarnation and disembody of the spirits. He even refers to the veil that causes us not to remember previous lives. And once again, he refers to reincarnation calling it restoration in the original text (requireth in KJV).
All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. The thing that hath been it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun. Is any thing whereof it may be said; See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that should come after. Ecclesiastes 1:7,9,10,11 That which hath been is now: and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. Ecclesiastes 3:15
The Book of Isaiah
This book, which for some scholars is in reality the work of two or maybe three different writers writing in different times, contains very deep concepts about life, death …and reincarnation. The first reference speaks about death being avoidable.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall be taken away from all of the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 25:8 Thy dead shall live (together with) my dead body shall they arise Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Isaiah 26:19
The verse that follows states that, undoubtedly, death and hell are not divine creation but human instead; the interesting thing is that it denies the relentlessness and inexorability of death.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with "hell" (sheol) shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. Isaiah 28:18
Then, the biblical writer clarifies that “resurrection ” will be through birth, concept that Jesus affirms in John 3.
Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord; shall I cause to bring forth and shut the womb? saith thy God. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb. Isaiah 66:9,14
This book which some believe written by Baruc the scribe and others by Jeremiah himself -of whom the book is about- contains the basic concept, the fundamental reason of the law of spiritual reincarnation: the improvement toward perfection of the spirit. Through the use of the metaphor of the potter’s vessel that represents human life, we are told that these will be as many as they are necessary to achieve their objective: to contain the spirit in its journey to perfection.
The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: O house of israel, cannot I do with you as the potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. Jeremiah 18:1,6
And the following verse is overwhelming for those that doubt of the divine power, able to endow the spirit with multiple vestures.
Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27
The Book of Lamentations
In this continuation of the previous ideas, the biblical writer destroys the notion of eternal damnation, obstacle, according to some starting from Jerome, to make reincarnation feasible.
For the Lord will not cast off for ever; Lamentations 3:31
And the same as in Ecclesiastes, the idea of the renewal seems to be continuos and recurrent.
Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord; and we shall be turned; renew our days as old. Lamentations 5:21
The Book of Ezekiel
This prophetic book which has been object of detailed studies and analysis for many reasons, contains in detail those elements that are necessary for the reincarnation of the spirit. It is important to point that, until Aristotle, the ancient believed that mental functions take place in the heart; the knowledge that these are carried out in the brain is relatively modern. Because of it, whenever the prophet refers to the heart, what he is really refering to is to the mind.
Thus, we see that when man is given a new life, not only comes with it a renewed spirit but also a new mind. This will be of capital importance when studying the passage of Elijah’s reincarnation in John the Baptist that comes described in the New Testament.
And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed: and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:31
And once again, we are told that death of man it is not a divine creation.
For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves and live ye. Ezekiel 18:32
Next, it comes the passage of the valley of the dry bones, the one that has been taken by Christian theologians in its most literal sense. The clue is in the expression “they were very dry”, which is repeatead in “dry bones” in order to not leave doubt of what was wanted to mean with it: the dust of the ground, as understood in Genesis 2:7 and 3:19. When the prophet, following the orders of God, speaks to the dry bones, he is in fact telling them that from there it will sprout flesh again in order to be finally endowed with spirit; the ancient ignored what we know now as “the chain of the life”, modern expression that describes the cycle of recovery of the organic matter to give new material life. Nothing is wasted and everything, finally, returns to life; the matter to the matter, and the spirit to reincarnate in new bodies.
The hand of the Lord was upon me and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. Ezekiel 37:1,14
The Book of Daniel
This book, uncomplete in the non Catholic versions – the Catholic canon includes Daniel’s Book II – contains the prophecy of Daniel’s return at the end of times.
But go thou thy way till the end (be); for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. Daniel 12:13
The Book of Hosea
In Hosea it comes, again, the concept of God as enemy of death and more important, of hell and therefore, of eternal damnation. This is taken later by Paul.
I will ransom them from the power of the "grave" (sheol): I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O "grave" (seol), I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Hosea 13:14
The Book of Amos
In this prophecy, it is found the overwhelming statement that the confused spirits -those of below, in the Seol, the Hebrew ” hell ” – as well as the spirits of the obedient ones -those that ascended to the spiritual valley – all are subjected to the law of the reincarnation of the spirit.
Though they dig into "hell" (seol), thence mine hand take them; though they climpb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down Amos 9:2
The Book of Jonah
Once again we find in this book the concept of the return to life. Notice how the symbolic meaning of “forever”, when refuted in its literal form in the following line, tears down many interpretations that base the belief on an eternal punishment in incorrect readings of the biblical texts.
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of "hell" (seol) cried I, and thou heardest my voice. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet, hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord. Jonah 2:2,6
Reincarnation in the Bible
Table of Contents
- Reincarnation in the Bible – Part I
- Reincarnation in the Bible – Part II