The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Biblical Case for the Preexistence of the Soul


#1

The Bible implies the doctrine of the preexistence of the soul, not reincarnation:

  1. “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.

  2. 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).”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


#2

I think the soul is the stream of consciousness generated by the brain. As such, a soul that exists before a body is impossible.


#3

Well, here’s a Biblical rebuttal - from BOTH Got Questions and CARM

Did we exist with God before we were born on earth?


#4

That is exactly the case of the disciples believing in re-incarnation. Re-incarnation was a common belief among the Jews of that day.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Matthew 16:13,14 ESV)

If some said he was any of those persons, they must have believed in re-incarnation, since all of them had died.


#5

I don’t know if this really implies anything more then God deciding on the mission of Jeremiah alone and being involved in his specific creation and purpose. I don’t see anything compelling here that translates this to everyone necessarily.


#6

This is indeed a strong biblical verse supporting human life in the womb!


#7

Paidion,

First, you can produce no endorsement of a Palestinian belief in reincarnation prior to the Jewish Christian sect, the Elxhasaites in 102 AD.

Second, instead the possibility that some Jews accepted in the first century was the bodily resurrection of deceased saints ((e. g. Matthew 27:52-42). The speculations reported in Matthew 16:13-14 must be understood in this light. Thus, Herod, believes Jesus is John the Baptist risen bodily from the dead (Mark 6:16).

Third, Jesus does not believe John the Baptist to be the reincarnation of the long dead Elijah because
(1) Because in Luke 1:17 an angel announces: “With the spirit and power of Elijah he (John) will go before Him (Jesus) (Luke 1:17).” The point is that just as the prophet Elisha receives a double portion of the Holy Spirit bestowed on Elijah, so John will be assigned a role “in the spirit and power of Elijah” sufficient to perform the same prophetic role of returning “the people of Israel to the Lord their God (1:16).” It is in that sense that Jesus links John with Elijah.
(b) John can’t be the reincarnation of a long dead Elijah because Elijah never died (2 Kings 2:11-12)!

Fourth, there is widespread evidence from that era for a belief in the soul’s preexistence; and I haven’t even mentioned the evidence from Philo, the ancient rabbis, and the early Church Fathers.


#8

So, let me ask the OBVIOUS questions. Do you believe in reincarnation? And if so, then how does it fit in - with the Christian faith? And if NOT, the what are souls doing - before they come to earth?


#9

and when this corruptible may have put on incorruption, and this mortal may have put on immortality
1 Corinthians 15:54

The soul is merely the combination of spirit and a body.

He breathed [His spirit] into Adam [the body] and adam BECAME a living soul.

The best analogy ive seen was that we are like a lightbulb.

The energy supply is God (His spirit given to us to live), the bulb (body) is the glass casing and wiring, and the light (soul) is produced when combining the energy (spirit) and the bulb (body)

When we die the energy (spirit) goes back to the initial reservoir (God ecclesiastes 12:7), The bulb (body) goes back to the recycling plant (the dust genisis 3:19) which it came from, and the light (soul) becomes nothingness (goes to the “unseen” aka sheol/hades i.e. nonexistence psalm 16:10)

thus there is no way for “souls preexistence” because a soul need spirit and a body to even exist.


#10

During my doctoral study days in New Testament at Harvard, I once visited a bar in Harvard Square hoping to engage in some interesting conversation. A young woman sat next to me who was in charge of the Day Care Center for the Harvard School of Education. She shared with me some of the extraordinary paranormal experiences her young children shared while under her care. For example, one little boy (age 3) shared his experiences during naptime:

“During naptime the other kids fly around out of their bodies, but they don’t know it.” The female supervisor then asked, “Why don’t they know it?” The 3-year-old replied, “It’s like a little mousy doesn’t know that he’s a mouse!” It struck us both as amazing that a little boy so young would have such a developed concept of limited self-awareness.

Another little boy told her, “You have a birthday next week, don’t you?” She replied, 'Yes, but how did you know?" At first he ignored her question and continued, 'I also know when my cousin’s birthday is–and my uncle’s." Again, she replied, “But how do you know?” He replied, 'I learned it in Heaven before I was born!"

this caregiver suspected that the parents of these children might be New Agers or reincarnationists. So she shared some of their paranormal experiences with them and asked them about them. The parents were horrified and angrily replied, “Don’t you be putting such weird ideas in my child’s head!” She concluded that the fascinating reports of these children were not attr\ibutable to parental influence.

Neither the Bible nor contemporary Jewish thought clarifies precisely what happens during the soul’s preexistent state. But Jeremiah, for example, receives his call to be incarnated as “a prophet to the nations” in the prenatal state and John 9:1-2 and Wisdom of Solomon 8;22-23 imply that sinfulness and goodness can also be prenatally expressed. I suspect that one key to the prob\em of unfair human suffering is the arrangements established prior to birth.

But does this imply reincarnation? The Bible does not go that far. The Bible does distinguish general revelation from special revelation. Is it possible that eastern reincarnational religions express truths that the Christian faith has not been ready to hear? Possibly, but my skepticism of reincarnation is outlined in my Swedenborg thread.


#11

because it doesnt exist until life occurs (the union of spirit and body). As I showed above.

You dont “have a soul” you ARE a soul.

prolepsis

  1. the describing of an event as taking place before it could have done so
  2. the treating of a future event as if it had already happened

example-“thats a dead man walking” reffers to a living man who will be dead in the future.


#12

While my theory…that the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE…is the most probable, end-times tribulation scenario - shows just the opposite. It’s dead men and women…who may be alive in the future - or perhaps semi-alive.


#13

ATR,

The Hebrew word often translated “soul” is nepesh, which means “soul,” “person,” or “emotion.” You must more carefully read what Jeremiah 1:5 actually says: “Before you were in the womb I knew you.”
Gpd does not say He foreknew Jeremiah; rather, God knew Jeremiah’s soul as it existed prior to his birth. This is of course fits with the use of “soul” (Greek: psyche) in the Catholic OT, which implies that the soul preexists prior to birth (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19). When I used the word “soul,” I’m also referring to the human “spirit” (Greek: pneuma) that survives death (see e. g. 1 Peter 3:19; cp. 4:6) and that, by implication, can exist in a prenatal state. Your points are irrelevant because you fail to take into account progressive revelation that brings us to the consensus about a preexistent soul in Jesus’ day both in Judaism and Christianity.


#14

I know the word nepesh. Trust me I just had a conversation about how the soul (not life) is in the blood because the word there is nephesh. Where does it say “God knew His soul” or even “God knew his spirit”. And even if so how does that prove it existed before conception and not simply a figure of speech saying God knew him before conception or birth (prolepsis) because God knows everything? Or in other words simply God knowing who someone is or how they will turn out or what theyll do before conception or birth doesnt mean by default that they therefor existed before conception or birth. Saying “God knew someone before conception or birth therefor they must have existed before conception or birth” is a non-sequitor fallacy.

They are two different things. Especially according to scripture. As I showed above.

No you are just trying to justify some theory that isnt founded in scripture. Ive yet to see any hard evidence from scripture stating such. And have shown in scripture how it cant be true by logical deduction.

spirit+body= living soul as per the genesis account of adams being created.

So therefor

soul can not exist without spirit and body being combined. Which doesnt happen until conception.


#15

You keep ducking the fact that Jeremiah 1:5 refers to the fact that God “knew” (not “foreknew”) Jeremiah prior to his birth and, as a result, called him to be a prophet.
But once again, you don’t read carefully: your citations ignore the reality of progressive revelation. As I noted, the Catholic OT (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20) refers to “the soul” as preexisting and this text serves the background for the possibility entertained by the disciples in John 9:1-2 that the man might have been born blind due to sins committed in his preexistent state. And no, it is silly to speculate that the man might have been born blind because God knew about sins he would commit in his earthly life. And since my interpretation accords with the standard intertestamental view in Jesus’ day, it is to be preferred. On this, see the excellent article on the “preexistence of the soul” in the voluminous Anchor Bible Dictionary."

btw, I challenge you to find a single Bible scholar (PhD) who construes 1 Thess 5:23 to refer to a tripartite anthropology of body, soul, and spirit.


#16

I never ducked. I told you twice now. Prolepsis. You ducked the question.

As silly as something existing before it can logically exist based on the nature of what it is and what is necessary for it to come to fruition. Its literally like saying the tree (soul) existed before the seed (spirit) met the soil (body). IT CANT. It needs the seed and the soil combined to spring.


#17

For what it’s worth: https://www.growthingod.org.uk/pre-existence.htm


#18

Dear Berserk, what are your views on the afterlife, as understood by 1st Century Hebrews; and the most progressively revealed view of the Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek Scriptures on it, overall?


#19

Marchrhedawn: “Dear Berserk, what are your views on the afterlife, as understood by 1st Century Hebrews; and the most progressively revealed view of the Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek Scriptures on it, overall?”

First, let me note the recent testimony of Dr. Raymond Moody (widely credited as the father of the modern focus on NDEs) about his adopted son’s preexistence. On “Coast to Coast” he shared his experience on a brutally hot day on Greek archaeological site. He and his wife were feeling woozy from dehydration; so their tour guide suggested they lie down on a grassy area near the site for a few minutes. As they lay there, they discussed the idea of adopting a child. Years later, their adopted son told them that, prior to birth, he saw them lying on a grsssy area, talking. To Moody this shocking comment further attests the preexistence of the soul.

Now let me point to 2 of the most important NT texts on Heaven:
(1) In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul reports his visionary trip to Paradise in the 3rd Heaven. Paul share’s the Pharisees’ belief in the 3rd Heaven as the locale of Paradise, an old Persian word that means “park” or “garden.” What Paul does not explicitly elaborate is the nature of the implied first 2 heavens. But these are described in contemporary Jewish literature in terms reminiscent of the later Catholic concept of Purgatory. Paul’s reference to those “saved yet so as by fire” in 1 Corinthians 3:15 probably refers to the 2nd Heaven, though in ancient rabbinic Judaism the phrase “saved, yet so as by fire” is applied to the upper regions of Gehenna. It is no doubt for this reason that Paradise is Jesus’ preferred initial locale for the redeemed (so Luke 23:42-43). Paul’s beief in a multiplicity of heavens raises the question of how many heavens there are, but the Bible does not address this question and Jewish beliefs on this vary, ranging from 3 to 5, 7, ej even 10 heavens.

(2) The KJV mistranslates Jesus’ statement, "In my Father’s house are many mansions (Greek: “mone”–John 14:2). “Mone” literally means “resting place” or “inn”–in other words, a place of temporary lodging during a continuing journey. Thus, the early Church Father Origen (c. 225 AD) gets it right when he interprets this saying as a reference to many temporary lodgings en route in a long journey to ever fuller union with God. There is much more that can be said about the challenges and work done in the Heavens, but the foregoing 2 points are important starting points.