Reincarnation in the Old Testament


The Hebrew word for reincarnation, gilgul, comes from a verb meaning "turning in a circle."

The following Old Testament scriptures prohibit talking to the dead. While this is not a direct endorsement of rebirth, it nonetheless indicates that the soul can be functioning quite well without a body otherwise there could be no conversing with them. It also indicates that after they die, these souls are somewhere. Can they be in heaven or hell without first having an orthodox final judgment day? Or, perhaps they are now in heaven or hell because there is no "final" judgment day when all souls are judged and assigned permanently to either region. Or, if there is a final judgment day, from what place are they now, prior to the judgment, able to converse with the living? Reincarnation would have them in various after-worlds that can be generally grouped as heaven or hell each with multiple levels of enjoyment or severity.

The following two scriptures assert the life of the soul after the body falls away:

Let no one be found among you who ... is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Deuteronomy. 18:10-11, NIV

Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:31, NIV
The next scripture clearly asserts the existence of at least this soul prior to being placed in the womb.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:4-5, NIV

Solomon tells us in the following passage that if we do evil deeds in this life, we will have to reap the effects in our next incarnation. It is clear in this passage that Solomon believed in reincarnation. Having forsaken the law, these ungodly men will be reborn in another life to inherit their curse.

Woe be unto you, ungodly men, which have forsaken the law of the most high God: for if you increase it shall be to your destruction. And if you be born, you shall be born to a curse... Ecclesiasticus 41:8-9, KJV, 1611 Edition, Apocrypha

Flavius Josephus, born 37 C.E., died after 93 C.E., is the most well know Jewish historian. He was a Pharisee, born Joseph ben Matthias who served as a commander in Galilee in the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 C.E. His Jewish Antiquities, written about 93 C.E., describes the history of the Jews from the Creation onward with a particularly full account of the Maccabees and the dynasty of Herod. Reincarnation runs through his works like salt through a salt shaker. He talks of rebirth in such a matter-of-fact way that one must assume it was an accepted way of thinking which was so common at the time that it did not merit any further explanation. Many historians believe the previously mentioned discussions between Jesus and the disciples involving rebirth are the same. There was no expounding of the doctrine because it was so commonly understood.

The bodies of all men are, indeed, mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter; but the soul is ever immortal, and is a portion of the divinity that inhabits our bodies. . . . Do not you know, that those who depart out of this life according to the laws of nature ... enjoy eternal fame; that their houses and posterity are sure; that their souls are pure and obedient, and obtain a most holy place in heaven, from whence, in the revolution of ages, they are again sent ... into bodies; while the souls of those whose hands have acted madly against themselves are received by the darkest place in Hades? The Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by William Wiston
Going back to the time of Christ we do not have to look far to discover a large cheering section for the doctrine of rebirth among the orthodox Jewish leaders of that period. There are three learned Jewish philosophers appearing just before or at the time of Christ who taught the doctrine of reincarnation. They were Philo Judaeus, aka Philo of Alexandria, C. 20 B.C.E.- C. 50 C.E., who was the greatest Jewish philosopher and theologian of the Greco-Roman period whose writings have survived; the Jewish sage Hillel, the great Chaldean teacher who was the leading Pharisee in Jerusalem during the late 1st century B.C.E. and early years of the present era; and the great Jewish sage Jehoshuah ben Pandira. Today these three men are household names in Judaism and garner enormous respect from all orthodox Jews regardless of sect. They are prominent fixtures in Jewish religious history and they all taught the doctrine of reincarnation.

Reincarnation in the Old Testament


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