Adherents of the New Age movement often claim that early Christians believed in reincarnation.
Shirley MacLaine, for example, recalls being taught as a New Ager:
“The theory of reincarnation is recorded in the Bible. But the proper interpretations were struck from it during an ecumenical council meeting of the Catholic Church in Constantinople sometime around A.D. 553, called the First Council of Nicaea” (Out on a Limb, 234–35).
There is no historical basis for this claim. There was no Council of Nicaea in A.D. 553. There were two ecumenical councils held at Nicaea, in A.D. 325 and 787, and there was a council held at Constantinople in A.D. 553, but none of these councils addressed the subject of reincarnation.
The closest the Second Council of Constantinople came to addressing reincarnation was to condemn the early Christian writer Origen, who believed souls exist in heaven before birth.
But the idea of the preexistence of the soul is not the same thing as reincarnation, as Origen’s own writings show.
In actuality, among the Church Fathers he was one of the most vocal critics of reincarnation! The idea that Origen taught reincarnation appears to have originated in the book Reincarnation in Christianity by Geddes MacGregor (Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978).
The author admits that he has no evidence, but nevertheless asserts:
“I am convinced he taught reincarnation in some form” (p. 58).
The truth is that neither Origen nor any of the Church Fathers taught reincarnation. In fact, they forcefully rejected it.
Or you can get a copy of my book The Fathers Know Best.