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Reincarnation and the Bible

DAY 340

CHALLENGE

“The Bible originally taught reincarnation, but the relevant passages were struck out by the Council of Nicaea.”

DEFENSE

This claim is not credible for numerous reasons.

First, the surviving records of the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and the Second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 787), as well as the writings of those who took part in them, give no indication the topic of reincarnation was even discussed, much less was anything as dramatic as taking passages out of the Bible contemplated.

Second, the fathers of these councils regarded Scripture as the inspired word of God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16). They weren’t about to cut passages out of it. To do so would court eternal damnation.

Third, even had they wanted to do this, they had no ability. By the time the councils met, there were thousands of copies of Scripture in circulation, and there was no central registry allowing them to go around and snip out the offending passages. It would have been physically impossible to undertake the task.

Fourth, had they tried, it would have caused a tremendous uproar, and we would have records of the attempt. Like the council fathers, ordinary Christians prized Scripture as God’s word, and if anyone tried to seize and mutilate it, the outcry would have been deafening.

Fifth, any such attempt would have been preceded and followed by fierce theological debate over reincarnation, with different groups taking different sides. We would thus have a record of this debate the same way we have records of the other theological debates in the period.

Sixth, copies of Scripture were already lost in the sands of Egypt and in monastery libraries, waiting to be rediscovered by modern archaeologists and historians. The council fathers would have had no ability to touch these lost copies, which we now have, and none of them teach reincarnation.

Seventh, this challenge misses the obvious: the Christian vision of the afterlife was resurrection, as demonstrated by the Resurrection of Jesus. Christians understood that his Resurrection set the pattern for us, so we also will be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:1–49), not reincarnated (Heb. 9:27).

TIP

For more on the early Church and reincarnation, see Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best, chapter 59.

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