The Bible implies the doctrine of the preexistence of the soul, not reincarnation:
“Why was this man born blind, because of his own sins or (John 9:1-2)…”
The disciples’ question implies a belief that the man might have been born blind because of sins his soul committed prior to birth. Belief in reincarnation was not an option in first century Palestine. The earliest example of reincarnationism in the region is the Jewish Christian Baptist sect, the Elchasaites attested in 102 AD.
The prophetic call of Jeremiah implies that our life mission is worked out in our soul’s preexistent state: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).”
This view is shared by other Jewish sources from late antiquity.
3. The Catholic OT implies that a soul’s moral character can develop in its preexistent state: “A good soul fell to my lot, or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20).”
Josephus on the Essenes: “The soul is imperishable and immortal. Emanating from t he finest ether, these souls become entangled, as it were, in the prison house of the body, to which they are dragged down by a sort of natural spell (Josephus, JW 2.8.11).” Philo and rabbinic Judaism agree with this view.
And when are souls created? “All souls are prepared for eternity, before the composition of the earth (2 Enoch 23).”
The doctrine of the soul’s preexistence may well have contributed to the Christian prohibition of abortion right from the NT era.
The Didache (The Teaching of the 12 Apostles) was written in its final form around 95 AD. But it makes use of an initial “Two Ways” section whose style and structure parallels the Essene Manual of Discipline. This “Two Ways” section may have been composed as early as the 50s AD. Unlike our Bible, the Didache explicitly prohibits abortion: “You shall not procure an abortion (2:4),” probably on the basis of the soul’s sacred preexistence. Because this Christian teaching predates most of our NT, it must be presumed to reflect the default teaching of NT Christians.
In my view, Psalm 131:13 implies that the foetus may become a person at conception: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
A future post will address false New Age claims of reincarnationism in the Bible.