Definition: The belief that one is reborn in one or more successive existences, which may be human or animal. Usually it is an intangible “soul” that is believed to be reborn in another body. Not a Bible teaching.
Does a strange feeling of being familiar with entirely new acquaintances and places prove reincarnation to be a fact?
Have you ever mistaken one man or woman who is alive for another who is also now living? Many have had that experience. Why? Because some people have similar mannerisms or may even look almost identical. So the feeling that you know a person even though you never met him before really does not prove that you were acquainted with him in a former life, does it?
Why might a house or a town seem familiar to you if you have never been there before? Is it because you lived there during a former life? Many houses are built according to similar designs. Furniture used in cities far apart may be produced from similar patterns. And is it not true that the scenery in some widely separated places looks very much alike? So, without resorting to reincarnation, your feeling of familiarity is quite understandable.
Do recollections of life at another time in another place, as drawn out under hypnosis, prove reincarnation?
Under hypnosis much information stored in the brain can be drawn out. Hypnotists tap the subconscious memory. But how did those memories get there? Perhaps you read a book, saw a motion picture, or learned about certain people on television. If you put yourself in the place of the people about whom you were learning, it might have made a vivid impression, almost as if the experience were your own. What you actually did may have been so long ago that you have forgotten it, but under hypnosis the experience may be recalled as if you were remembering “another life.” Yet, if that were true, would not everyone have such memories? But not everyone does. It is noteworthy that an increasing number of state supreme courts in the United States do not accept hypnotically induced testimony. In 1980 the Minnesota Supreme Court declared that “the best expert testimony indicates that no expert can determine whether memory retrieved by hypnosis, or any part of that memory, is truth, falsehood, or confabulation—a filling of gaps with fantasy. Such results are not scientifically reliable as accurate.” (State v. Mack, 292 N.W.2d 764) The influence of suggestions made by the hypnotist to the one hypnotized is a factor in this unreliability.
Does the Bible contain evidence of belief in reincarnation?
Does Matthew 17:12, 13 reflect a belief in reincarnation?
Matt. 17:12, 13: “[Jesus said:] ‘Elijah has already come and they did not recognize him but did with him the things they wanted. In this way also the Son of man is destined to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples perceived that he spoke to them about John the Baptist.”
Did this mean that John the Baptist was a reincarnated Elijah? When Jewish priests asked John, “Are you Elijah?” he said, “I am not.” (John 1:21) What, then, did Jesus mean? As Jehovah’s angel foretold, John went before Jehovah’s Messiah “with Elijah’s spirit and power, to turn back the hearts of fathers to children and the disobedient ones to the practical wisdom of righteous ones, to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.” (Luke 1:17) So John the Baptist was fulfilling prophecy by doing a work like that of the prophet Elijah.—Mal. 4:5, 6.
Is reincarnation indicated by the account at John 9:1, 2?
John 9:1, 2: “Now as he [Jesus] was passing along he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, so that he was born blind?’”
Is it possible that these disciples had been influenced by the belief of the Jewish Pharisees, who said that “the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies”? (Wars of the Jews, Josephus, Book II, chap. VIII, par. 14) It is not likely, since their question does not imply that they thought he was a ‘good man.’ It is more likely that as Jesus’ disciples they believed the Scriptures and knew that the soul dies. Yet, since even a baby in the womb has life and was conceived in sin, they may have wondered whether such an unborn child could have sinned, resulting in his blindness. In any event, Jesus’ answer did not support either reincarnation or the idea that a child yet in its mother’s womb sins before birth. Jesus himself answered: “Neither this man sinned nor his parents.” (John 9:3) Jesus knew that, because we are offspring of Adam, there is an inheritance of human defects and imperfections. Using the situation to magnify God, Jesus healed the blind man.
Does the Bible’s teaching about the soul and death allow for reincarnation?
Genesis 2:7 states: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” Notice that the man himself was the soul; the soul was not immaterial, separate and distinct from the body. “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” (Ezek. 18:4, 20) And a deceased person is referred to as a “dead soul.” (Num. 6:6) At death, “his spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” (Ps. 146:4) So when someone dies, the complete person is dead; there is nothing that remains alive and that could pass into another body. (For further details, see the main headings “Soul” and “Death.”)
Eccl. 3:19: “There is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies.” (As in the case of humans, nothing survives at the death of an animal. There is nothing that can experience rebirth in another body.)
Eccl. 9:10: “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.” (It is not into another body but into Sheol, the common grave of mankind, that the dead go.)
How much of a difference is there between reincarnation and the hope held out in the Bible?
Reincarnation: According to this belief, when a person dies, the soul, the “real self,” passes on to a better existence if the individual has lived a good and proper life, but possibly to existence as an animal if his record has been more bad than good. Each rebirth, it is believed, brings the individual back into this same system of things, where he will face further suffering and eventual death. The cycles of rebirth are viewed as virtually endless. Is such a future really what awaits you? Some believe that the only way of escape is by extinguishing all desire for things pleasing to the senses. To what do they escape? To what some describe as unconscious life.
Bible: According to the Bible, the soul is the complete person. Even though a person may have done bad things in the past, if he repents and changes his ways, Jehovah God will forgive him. (Ps. 103:12, 13) When a person dies, nothing survives. Death is like a deep, dreamless sleep. There will be a resurrection of the dead. This is not a reincarnation but a bringing back to life of the same personality. (Acts 24:15) For most people, the resurrection will be to life on earth. It will take place after God brings the present wicked system to its end. Sickness, suffering, even the necessity to die, will become things of the past. (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 21:3, 4) Does such a hope sound like something about which you would like to learn more, to examine the reasons for confidence in it?
If Someone Says—
‘I believe in reincarnation’
You might reply: ‘You hope that it will eventually result in a better life, is that right? . . . Tell me, would you like to live in a world like the one described here at Revelation 21:1-5?’
Or you could say: ‘I appreciate your telling me that. May I ask, Is this something that you have always believed? . . . What was it that made you leave behind your former beliefs?’ (Then perhaps use the ideas under the heading on page 320.)
Another possibility: ‘I have enjoyed conversations with others who share that belief. May I ask, Why do you feel that reincarnation is needed?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Do you remember all the details of the earlier lives you believe you had? . . . But that would be necessary if a person were to correct his former errors and improve, would it not?’ (2) If the person says that it is a kindness that we forget, you might ask: ‘But do you view a bad memory as an advantage to a person in everyday life? Then, by forgetting every 70 years or so everything we have learned, would we be helped to improve our lot?’ (3) If the person says that only the better people are born again as humans, you might ask: ‘Why is it, then, that world conditions have continued to get worse? . . . The Bible shows how real improvement will be made in our day. (Dan. 2:44)’