as Taught by Early Christians
I. M. Oderberg
Metempsychosis literally means "transference of souls,"
and is related to the process of reincarnation. It is often
asked, why was reincarnation unknown in Europe until recently?
Why does not Christianity teach it?
idea is found in the oldest traditions of Western civilization,
as well as being taught throughout the ancient Near East and
Orient. And there is solid evidence that during its first
centuries, Christianity did indeed impart what it had learned
about the pre-existence of souls and their reimbodiment.
Jewish historian who lived during most of the first century
AD, records in his Jewish War (3, 8, 5)
and in his Antiquities of the Jews (18, 1, 3) that
reincarnation was taught widely in his day, while his
contemporary in Alexandria, Philo Judaeus, in various of his
writings, also refers to reimbodiment in one or another form.
Moreover, there are passages of the New Testament that can be
understood only if seen against the background of
pre-existence of souls as a generally held belief. For
instance, Matthew (16:13-14) records that
when Jesus asked his disciples "Whom do men say that I
am?" they replied that some people said he was John the
Baptist (who had been executed only a few years before the
question was asked). Others thought he was Elijah, or
Jeremiah, or another of the prophets. Later in Matthew
(17:13), far from rejecting the concept of rebirth Jesus
tells his disciples that John the Baptist was Elijah.