Have you heard of reincarnation before? Do you know what it means? Do you know that humans die and return to this earth? And do you also know that reincarnation is not a new-age doctrine?
Well, reincarnation simply means human beings (Souls), leave (die) one body in one lifetime and return to this earth (another lifetime) with another body. Put in another sense, the Souls transmigration from one body to another from time to time.
Even though reincarnation is in the Bible, modern Christianity treats the doctrine of reincarnation as if Jesus never taught it or the early church never believed it. History records that the early Christine church believed in reincarnation and of the soul’s journey back to oneness with God. This doctrine however petered-out by an Imperial decree some 500 plus years after the death of Christ.
Emperor Justinian in 545 A.D. was able to apply the full power of Rome and his authority to stop the belief in reincarnation. He forced the ruling cardinals to draft a papal decree stating that anyone who believes that souls come from God and return to God will be punished by death. The actual decree stated:
“If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema. (The Anathemas against Origen), attached to the decrees of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, A.D. 545, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d ser., 14: 318).”
A prominent theologian named Origen wrote around 250 AD about the pre-existence of the soul. He taught that the soul’s very source was God and that the soul was travelling back to oneness with God after many life lived.
He taught that Christ came to show us what we can become. For centuries this was the mainstream view of Christianity but 300 years later it became a huge issue and the belief was made illegal because Emperor Constantine believed it was dangerous to the Empire to believe in reincarnation.
In the sixth century A.D. Emperor Justinian and Pope Vigilius disagreed on whether or not the teachings of Origen should be condemned as heresy. The Pope supported the teaching as being consistent with the teachings of Jesus the Messiah.
The Emperor was determined to eradicate the belief even though the Pope and the church believed in reincarnation. The fact that the doctrine of reincarnation had been a part of Christian theology for over 500 years did not sway the Emperor.
Emperor Justinian wanted Origen’s writings and teachings to be condemned and destroyed but Pope Vigilius refused to sign a papal decree condemning Origen’s teachings on reincarnation. As a result of his disobedience, the Emperor had the Pope arrested and put into jail.
In 543, Justinian convoked the Fifth General Council of the Church and told the Pope he would sign whatever into doctrine whatever the council decided. On the way there, under guard, the Pope escaped to avoid being forced to condemn Origen’s writings. The Emperor commanded the council to continue despite the Pope’s refusal to attend.
There was a logical reason why the Emperor was opposed to the concept that all of mankind originally came from God and was returning to God via the cycle of birth and death. Justinian had been convinced by high ranking cardinals that it was not in the interest of the empire to allow Origen’s writings to continue to be copied and distributed.
A powerful group of Cardinal’s and Bishop’s explained that if every soul had once pre-existed with God, then Christ wasn’t anything special to have come from God. These Cardinals convinced the Emperor that if people realized they were the children of God they might begin to believe they no longer needed an Emperor, or to pay taxes, or to obey the Holy church.
They reasoned that only Christ had come from God and that God made brand new souls at the time of conception and only the Holy Church could bring these souls to God. Without the protection of the Empire or the guidance of the church, all people would be doomed to be forever cut off from God in Hell.
This doctrine was very acceptable to the Emperor. Once Justinian understood the political danger inherent in Origen’s teachings, the rest was simply an Emperor doing what was in his best interest.
The council, as instructed by the Emperor, produced fourteen new anathemas and the very first one condemned reincarnation and the concept that souls pre-existed with God. “If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.”