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Re: [GTh] Reincarnation in the NT?

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  • Mark M. Mattison
    I don t remember now where I heard it, but one possibility I had heard floated was that some may have believed a person could sin as an embryo before birth.
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 24, 2012
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      I don't remember now where I heard it, but one possibility I had heard
      floated was that some may have believed a person could sin as an
      embryo before birth.

      Otherwise, yes, it would imply the pre-existence of human souls (a
      view which we know is attested elsewhere in Hellenistic Judaism) ...
      but not necessarily reincarnation.

      -Mark Mattison
    • chaptim45
      Mark, If I may. I d like to offer some thoughts. If the human soul is truly eternal, existance must not only go forward after death but it also goes backward
      Message 2 of 7 , Jul 25, 2012
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        Mark,

        If I may. I'd like to offer some thoughts.

        If the human soul is truly eternal, existance must not only go forward
        after death but it also goes backward in time as well. That's the
        nature of what it means to be "eternal".

        And if the soul is eternal, then how much more sense would it make that
        the soul would experience multiple lifetimes throughout that period
        rather than just be incarnated once?

        At the hospital where I work there are babies who die soon after they
        are born. If there is only one life then it is very unfair for them to
        live such a short time, plus it is hard to make sense of why. If this
        is only one of many lives then at least they have a chance to be born
        into a longer life the next time. I have noted that Hindu families have
        such comfort in these times of tragedy.

        The Pharisees were saying that blindman who was born blind had sinned in
        a previous life in which he did something evil and was now being
        punished by being born blind.

        There are other passages that allow for the possibility of being
        understood within the context of reincarnation (such as Heb 11:15), but
        I think that most of them are cases of eisegesis.

        There is one logia in ThomasÂ’ Gospel that recognizes that the soul
        exists previously to being incarnated: "When you see your likeness,
        you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being
        before and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will
        bear!" (L84)

        Tim Staker
      • Mike Grondin
        Hi Tim, First off, I need to caution that we have to avoid statements of personal religious belief. Second, a minor correction: it was the disciples, not the
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 25, 2012
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          Hi Tim,
           
          First off, I need to caution that we have to avoid statements of personal
          religious belief. Second, a minor correction: it was the disciples, not the
          Pharisees, who were given to speak in Jn9.2. Of course, a Pharisaical idea
          might have been put into their mouths, but that's uncertain. Third, two related
          thoughts: (1) that a person's soul might have existed prior to his/her being born
          doesn't logically imply reincarnation, whether it makes sense that it do so or not,
          (2) the Thomasines do seem to have believed that souls were eternal, but it isn't
          at all clear that orthodox Christians did or do. That is to say, they of course
          believe that saved souls will live forever after, but they also believe that some
          souls will perish, and it isn't clear whether they believe that souls have always
          existed. I've looked at statements of Catholic thought on the soul, for example,
          but it's a bit murky. They don't directly address the pre-existence issue, but
          what they do say seems to imply that a person's soul (what Thomas Aquinas
          called 'the rational soul') is created at the point of conception. My guess is that
          the orthodox position would thus be at odds with Thomas, which seems to
          favor pre-existence but has no apparent implication of reincarnation.
           
          Cheers,
          Mike
        • chaptim45
          Mike, Understood. I actually do not personally believe in reincarnation, but I respect those who do. I ll also refrain from using personal anecdotes like the
          Message 4 of 7 , Jul 26, 2012
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            Mike,

            Understood.  I actually do not personally believe in reincarnation, but I respect those who do.  I'll also refrain from using personal anecdotes like the one from the hospital.

            I agree that the Gospel of Thomas affirms pre-existence of the soul but does not speak of multiple incarnations. 

            In the original discussion on Amazon.com the post there comments on GThom L1 "And he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death." saying that this meant a liberation from cyclical rebirths. I think this is a case of eisegesis.

            As for other texts in the Nag Hammadi collection, there has been an assertion that reincarnation has been found there.  But I think a lot depends on how the texts are translated.  For example, in the Book of Thomas the Contender 9:5 one translation I found reads:

                   "Watch and pray that you may not be born in the flesh, but that you may leave the bitter bondage of this life." (Bk Thom Contend 9:5).

            This sounds like reincarnation. However, Nag Hammadi scholar John D. Turner translates "born in the flesh" as "come to be in the flesh" which might just mean coming into temptation rather than being reborn.

            Then in the Apocryphon of John 14:20 is another text that sounds like it refers to reincarnation:

                 "This soul needs to follow another soul in whom the Spirit of life dwells, because she is saved through the Spirit. Then she will never be thrust into flesh again" (Apocryph Jn 14:20, SBL).

            Waldstein and Wisse translated the end of this saying as "not cast into another flesh" (NHL II,1) and as "does not enter another flesh" (NHL III,1),  Does this mean reincarnation or entering into "another" physical temptation?

            It would seem that much of this is in the eye of the interpreter.

            Tim Staker

            Indianapolis, IN

          • chaptim45
            ... Mike, Could a pre-existing soul sin? The Book of Wisdom suggests that it could: I was given a sound body to live in because I was already good (Wis
            Message 5 of 7 , Jul 26, 2012
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              --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Grondin" <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
              > But isn't it also possible that the thinking was that a pre-existing
              > soul never incarnated could sin? (I believe that angels were
              > considered capable of sinning, so why not disembodied souls?)

              Mike,

              Could a pre-existing soul sin? The Book of Wisdom suggests that it could:

              "I was given a sound body to live in because I was already good" (Wis 8:19).

              That is, if there is no previous incarnation, then it would have to be
              the pre-incarnated body that could be good or could sin.

              Tim Staker
              Indianapolis, IN
            • Mike Grondin
              Hi Tim, The RSV translation of Wis 8:19-20 gives a slightly different slant: As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot, or
              Message 6 of 7 , Jul 26, 2012
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                Hi Tim,
                 
                The RSV translation of Wis 8:19-20 gives a slightly different slant:
                 
                "As a child I was by nature well endowed,
                and a good soul fell to my lot,
                or rather, being good, I entered into an undefiled body."
                 
                Mike
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