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(Isaiah 2:3)

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Beit Midrash
(House of Learning)

Beit Midrash Index  •  Vocabulary Matters


by Grady L. Davis, BD, MCM, PhD [SOURCE]

A variety of cults consider reincarnation to be an essential aspect of their teachings. Some of these are Scientology, Rosicrucianism, Unity School of Christianity, Hare Krishna, Theosophy, and Urantia.

The word “reincarnation” takes its root from the word  “incarnation” (Latin, in carnis) which means “in the flesh.”  Reincarnation refers to the cyclical evolution of each man’s soul as it passes into another body after death. The process continues until the soul has reached a state of perfection and merges back with its source. In the theory of reincarnation, the soul can only inhabit another human body.

“Transmigration of the soul” is a Hindu doctrine from which reincarnation originated. This teaches that each successive cycle may result in the soul incorporating itself in organic or inorganic life, meaning anything from a chicken to a rock. The choice depends upon the karma accumulated by the soul in its previous incarnations. Western advocates of “rebirthing” have generally emphasized reincarnation rather than transmigration, knowing that the principles of the latter might be rejected by the more educated adherent. The average American would not necessarily be offended by the possibility of reincarnating as a respectable human being, but the thought of coming back as a pig or a bug is hardly enticing.

The doctrine of karma has found surprisingly easy acceptance among Westerners. “Karmais considered to be “an inexorable law of retributive justice … an internal law of nature independent of … the gods.” Unlike the sowing and reaping law of Galatians 6:7, karma has no final judgment. Its consequences are felt in this life, and the next, and so on. Every act in this life influences the fate of the immortal soul’s next incarnation. The wealthy and healthy are viewed as having accumulated good karma in a previous life while the unfortunate are seen as getting their just reward for past sins. In other words, sin and punishment are mathematically adjusted on a divine scale.

In the earliest Hindu texts karma connoted an act of ritual significance. In later writings it was modified to illustrate how events in this life affect the quality of life in the next incarnation. Eventually, karma came to represent the immutable law of sowing and reaping, with pronounced punishment in future lives as a purification from evil in this life. It was hoped that this refining process would permit the soul to be worthy of re-absorption into the “Universal Soul” from which it came.

The Hindu religion was not the only one to believe in this concept of reincarnation. The Gnostic cults of the first century and early challengers to the new Messianic faith flirted with the idea. They had taken their cue from the philosopher Plato, who put forward the concept of dualism which had also been discussed by earlier Greek philosophers. Plato viewed the spirit as a positive entity encased in the evil “prison house” of the body. Therefore, man’s spirit longs to be free from its captor and to return to its Source, fading into the nebulous consciousness of the Universal Soul.

Spiritualism’s resurgence in the 1800s formally introduced reincarnation to Westerners. The foremost twentieth-century advocate was Edgar Cayce. He had a church-oriented background, and was at first hesitant to adopt the belief in reincarnation. However, his spiritual teacher, Arthur Lammers, convinced Cayce that reincarnation was an evolutionary process by which one could attain the perfection of Christ. Lammers insisted that Jesus taught reincarnation to his disciples, but the belief had been deliberately omitted as Bible translations passed from one language to another. Eventually Cayce came to believe that phrases refuting reincarnation such as “resurrection of the dead” and “last judgment day” were meant to be understood symbolically rather than literally.

Today’s foremost secular “expert” on reincarnation is Dr. Ian Stevenson. A Montreal-born psychiatrist, Stevenson became interested in reincarnation while serving as chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He has carefully documented 1800 “actual cases of reincarnation,” each of which he has attempted to deduce with logical explanations. While most of these stories have been labeled as fraudulent or resulting from parapsychological phenomena, Stevenson remains intrigued by those examples which appear to be legitimate. He theorizes that mental stress in this life could be alleviated if the traumas of previous existences could be identified. He even goes so far as to suggest that parents who believe in reincarnation have a head start on child-rearing. By accepting the fact that the baby had a history before conception, the child will be given greater respect as an individual, and that, he says, “… could greatly reduce parental guilt.”

Why have teachings about reincarnation been received so readily? On the surface, some of its claims do sound reasonable to those not grounded in biblical theology. First of all, since every man senses his own sinfulness outside of Messiah, he must have a way to cope with the burden of unrighteousness. Reincarnation promises an eventual freedom from the confines of moral guilt. It also provides a future opportunity to finish every worthy goal in this life which remains uncompleted at death. The talented achiever may be convinced that any application of his skills will come to fruition in the next life, if not this one.

Above all, reincarnation seeks to provide the ultimate answer for understanding suffering and injustice. “The ancient philosophers used the theory of karmic reincarnation to explain away such things as birth defects, physical handicaps, low I.Q.’s, retardation, personality traits, etc., because they had no knowledge of genetics or the DNA code. They assumed that all babies should normally be born in perfect health and that all birth defects had a mystical or religious explanation, thus giving a mystical quality to an obviously genetic problem.”[2] what Morey so clearly illustrates is that the explanation of reincarnation only perpetuates the problem.

Apart from any appraisal of reincarnation in the light of scriptural scrutiny, mere logic dismisses most of its claims. If successive lives are designed to bring about moral refinement, then what good does it do to be punished for something you can’t remember having done? If there is a finite number of souls on earth (which are an extension of the Universal Soul) why is the world population increasing? The global birth rate exceeds the global death rate. Where do all those newly-reincarnated souls come from? If the essence of karma is to rid humanity of its selfish desires, then shouldn’t there be a noticeable improvement in human nature after all the millennia of reincarnations? If the Marquis de Sade and Attila the Hun were on an evolutionary moral ascent, then why do we have the Hitlers and Charles Mansons?

Above all, it seems obvious that belief in reincarnation virtually removes any incentive to excel morally, since there will always be a second chance. One needs only a glimpse of the lands where karmic philosophy and theories of transmigration have held sway for centuries to see the subhuman view of life fostered by these teachings.

Unexplainable cases of cognition and other phenomena which seem to support reincarnation continue to baffle those who seek to determine scientifically the validity of claims regarding past lives. Some tales of former existences are obviously fraudulent. But what about those cases where an individual recounts in precise detail a number of verified facts concerning another place or time about which he presumably knew nothing?

INTUITIVE RECALL (“deja vu”) is the experience of having done something or having been somewhere before. Could this explain the phenomenon of reincarnation? Even though the person or place may not be consciously recalled, the mind may have been imprinted with the memory of an instance with striking similarity. Some psychologists have also speculated that cases of deja vu result when the experiential and memory functions of the brain go slightly out of phase. In this case, one really has been there before — but only a split second earlier.

SPONTANEOUS RECALL, the memory a child may have concerning a previous life, is often intriguing, but seldom verifiable. Most cases involve children raised in cultures with a predisposition to belief in reincarnation. Considering the vivid imagination of most youngsters, it would take little parental encouragement to spin a tale of fascinating proportions.

HYPNOTISM is an unreliable technique to judge qualitatively. Deeply imbedded memories may surface which seem to validate reincarnation. Under hypnosis, the subject has a susceptible tendency to be suggestively guided by the hypnotist, who may bring forth information that he in part has unwittingly planted. In summary, hypnosis is hardly a reliable investigative tool to probe the proofs of reincarnation.

The greatest danger in using hypnosis to verify reincarnation is the subjects’ spiritually vulnerable condition, in which a trance-state could be manipulated by demonic forces.

In spite of reincarnation's unconcealable ethical and spiritual inconsistencies, advocates seek to buttress their claims by quoting Scripture. While acknowledging that the Bible does not explicitly endorse reincarnation, they do cite a few verses which appear to support their theories:

Matthew 14:2
“… and said to his servants, ‘This is Yochanan the immerser. He is risen from the dead. That is why these powers work in him.’”
Critics have suggested that Yeshua was a reincarnation of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist).
John 8:58
“Yeshua said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I tell you, before Avraham came into existence, I AM.’”
If Yeshua had actually suggested he was a reincarnation of Abraham in this passage, the Jews would have dismissed him as a lunatic.
Hebrews 7:1-4
“For this Malki-Tzedek, king of Shalem [Peace], Kohen [Priest] of El `Elyon [the Most High God], who met Avraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Avraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and then also King of Shalem, which is King of shalom [peace]; without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God), remains a Kohen continually. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even Avraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the best spoils.”
Reincarnationists claim that “Jesus” is a reincarnation of Melchizedek.
Matthew 11:14
“If you are willing to receive it, this is Eliyah, who is to come.”
They say that Yochanan the Immerser was a reincarnation of Elijah.
John 3:1-8
“Now there was a man of the Perushim [Pharisees] named Nakdimon, a ruler of the Yehudim [Jews]. The same came to Him by night, and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.’ Yeshua answered him, ‘Most assuredly, I tell you, unless one is born anew [again], he can’t see the kingdom of God.’ Nakdimon said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?’ Yeshua answered, ‘Most assuredly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can’t enter into the kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew [again].” The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
The birth here is a spiritual birth, not a reincarnation as reincarnationists would like to believe.

In contrast to the attempt made by reincarnationists to justify their beliefs by quoting certain Scriptures, the Bible is filled with texts which deal a fatal blow to any hopes of an evolving soul.  Some of them are:

“For to me to live is Messiah, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

“We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

“They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, ‘Lord Yeshua, receive my Spirit!’” (Acts 7:59)

“Yeshua said to him, ‘Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:43)

“… because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

“And the dust returns to the eretz [earth] as it was, And the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

“He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His talmidim [disciples] asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Yeshua answered, ‘Neither did this man sin, nor his parents. But, that the works of God might be revealed in him.’” (John 9:1-3)

These Scriptures indicate that reincarnation and the Bible are mutually exclusive. The sacrifice of Messiah on the cross and the shedding of his blood cannot be compatible with a system of belief that denies His atonement. The law of karma inhibits any choice of the will to determine a life of obedience to God’s plan. It is a selfish concept that sees no merit in sacrifice for the welfare of others, and only despair and resignation, not hope, are its result. Reincarnation offers no loving Cod, no forgiving grace, and robs the Almighty of His attribute of mercy.

In 1 Timothy 4:1, Rav Sha'ul (Paul) tells us to avoid any doctrine which comes of demonic inspiration:

“But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.”

Also compare the following:

1 Corinthians 15 (read the entire chapter)

“Many of those sleeping in the dust of the earth will awaken, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame and abhorrence.” (Daniel 12:2) [He foreshadowed the hope of Messiah’s victory over death.]

Then he said to T'oma, "Put your finger here, look at my hands, take your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be lacking in trust, but have trust!” (John 20:27)

“Look at my hands and my feet — it is I, myself! Touch me and see — a ghost doesn't have flesh and bones, as you can see I do.” (Luke 24:39)

“then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Reincarnation vs. the Bible

REINCARNATION says that we have many lives, even thousands, to perfect ourselves. THE BIBLE says that judgment is eternal following a man’s death. (Romans 14:10)
REINCARNATION says that we only judge ourselves. THE BIBLE says that God judges us. (Romans 14:10)
REINCARNATION says that we need no savior, therefore it denies the necessity of salvation; there is no need for it, according to the nature of reality. THE BIBLE says that Yeshua HaMashiach atoned for our sins (Romans 2:23-26; 1 Peter 1:18-21)
REINCARNATION says that everyone will be “saved” (absorbed into the divine) in the end. THE BIBLE says there is a hell which is a place and it is eternal. (Matthew 25:41-46)
REINCARNATION says there is no need for Yeshua HaMashiach to be God. He was just more advanced (He’s been through more incarnations than most of us). THE BIBLE says that Messiah is God. (John 20:28-29)
REINCARNATION says that all evil results of man’s choosing. Satan is devised by human institution. Evil spirits are held to be regressed from human spirits between incarnations. They are not demons. THE BIBLE says there is a personal devil, HaSatan, and there are fallen evil spirits, demons. (Revelation 12:7-9)
REINCARNATION says that all religious writings are communications from God or the spirit world to help man. They oppose Hebrews 9:27. THE BIBLE says that the Bible is G-d’s only Word to mankind. (2 Timothy 3:16)
REINCARNATION says there is no personal triune God Ultimate reality is often impersonal karmic law. THE BIBLE teaches a personal Cod, revealed as the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:16)
REINCARNATION says there are various progressive spirit-realms. THE BIBLE says there is one heaven which is a distinct, eternal place. (Luke 2:23)
REINCARNATION says that no one is perfect, not even the Messiah. Some will allow that He was more perfect than most, but that He was on the “Karmic Wheel” like the rest of us. THE BIBLE says that Messiah was sinless. (Hebrews 4:15)
REINCARNATION says either that Messiah will come back in another reincarnation, or that He has now no need to come back at all. THE BIBLE says that Yeshua HaMashiach will be physically and eternally resurrected. (1 Corinthians 15:12-56)
REINCARNATION says that the individual person is forever going up to the next reincarnation. THE BIBLE says that the believer and the unbeliever will have a personal resurrection and immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:12-56)


  1. Adapted from Bob Larson's Book of Cults. [RETURN]]

  2. Robert Morey, Reincarnation and Christianity.

Page last updated on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 12:56 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return

Page last updated on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 12:56 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return