Rebirth and reincarnation

17-01-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

The following question was presented to me:

I would like to ask you a question in response to the lecture about the blind born man. Why should reincarnation be so absurd?

The word reincarnation is not in the Bible, but the word rebirth is. From the bible I understand that the physical is an image of the spiritual, and that the physical precedes the spiritual which is permanent. According to this principle physical rebirth is an image of spiritual rebirth, and physical rebirth will precede spiritual rebirth which is permanent. If the bible speaks about rebirth, usually spiritual rebirth is meant, but this does not exclude physical rebirth. Physical rebirth is reincarnation.

Physical food – spiritual food / physical baptism – spiritual baptism / physical rebirth – spiritual rebirth

Let me first explain the context of the question. When they leave the temple (John 9: 2) Jesus’ disciples ask why a man, who is sitting there, was born blind. They suggest that maybe it was because he himself had sinned. In my lecture I paid attention to the explanation that in this case the disciples would have thought about reincarnation. The man might have sinned in ‘a previous life’ and was for that reason born blind. In the lecture I briefly paid attention to that. It is eisegesis, not exegesis. You can only say that a bible verse like John 9: 2 does not contradict the idea of reincarnation. But you can also say that de disciples suggested this option, because it is absurd to think that someone can be held responsible for the fact that he was born blind. I mean, the question of the disciples cannot lead to a doctrine.

But now the argument that the Scripture indeed speaks of ‘rebirth’. The questioner reasons: Even if that is usually meant spiritually, it may still have a basis in ‘the nature’. Do not many spiritual concepts have a basis in ‘the nature’? Think for example about light, water, bread, milk and fire. These are concepts with a spiritual charge, but directly derived from nature. Why would not rebirth belong to this list?

It is quite a logical thought, but reasoned from the negative. It is not based on positive statements from the Scriptures. While that is what we need. The case is only fixed with at least two or three undoubted witnesses.

Moreover, it is not true that the Bible ‘usually speaks about spiritual rebirth’. Because wherever the Scriptures speak of ‘rebirth’ and related subjects, it is always spiritual. Never this subject is used to express that it is about a repetition of the birth from our mother. Because that is what reincarnation means literally: again-becoming-flesh. The Bible passage that eminently teaches ‘rebirth’, John 3, convincingly shows this. It is about the conversation at night, Jesus had with Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel. Nicodemus initially thought that Jesus referred to reincarnation.

“How can a man, being a veteran, be begotten? He cannot be entering into the womb of his mother a second time and be begotten!” (verse 4)

Jesus corrects Nicodemus and tells him that a man has to be ‘born’ from a very different origin (:5). Or literally: generated. The Greek word ‘gennao’ refers to the entire process of reproduction. As from the male share of conception until birth from the mother. Rebirth is a repeat, but on a substantially higher level. And from another origin. And therewith it has also the characteristics of that origin.

That which is generated from the flesh is flesh. And that which is generated from the spirit is spirit. (verse 6). As our birth was the beginning of our life here, so the rebirth is the beginning of a new life. 1 Peter 1: 3 says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, according to His vast mercy, regenerates us into a living expectation, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead.

Peter speaks about ‘regenerates… through the resurrection’. These two concepts belong to each other. New life was generated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That also means that up to the time of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, rebirth was still a pie in the sky. Rebirth, the receiving of new life can only take place as from his resurrection. He is the ‘firstborn from among the dead’(Colossians 1: 18).

In short, rebirth in the Scripture is not reincarnation. Rebirth is the conception of life that left death behind.