Any council dealing w/ Reincarnation?


Hi everyone,

was there any council in the history of the Church dealing with the issue of reincarnation?


I don’t know if this was ever discussed in a Council or not but the Catechism clearly states there is no reincarnation and this is based on Scripture (see Heb 9:27)

CCC 1013 Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When “the single course of our earthly life” is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.” There is no “reincarnation” after death.

Hebrews 9:27
Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment.


I know of that, thank you :slight_smile:

I know also about the what the CHurch fathers had to say about that, but I wonder about the council teachings.

One of the articles on Catholic Answers dealing w/ this, states only that “None of the early councils did [address the question of reincarnation]”

Have a nice day everyone :wink:


The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 (the fifth of the Ecumenical Councils) condemned Origen and specifically mentioned the doctrine of pre-existence, which implies a condemnation of reincarnation as well (it’s possible to believe in pre-existence without believing in reincarnation, of course). There has been some debate about the genuineness of these anathemas, but my old professor Elizabeth Clark, in the afterword to her monograph on the fourth-century Origenist controversy (The Origenist Controversy, Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 249) seems to assume that they are genuine.



Yup, thanks.

And afterwards? Any council for instance officially condemning specifically the reincarnation? Or this was the last word upon the subject (though implictly stated)?


No later council has addressed the subject as far as I know.

My own view is that reincarnation is incompatible with the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. But you didn’t ask for my opinion!




IF anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.

Medieval Sourcebook: Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II, 553


I. Pantheism, Naturalism and Absolute Rationalism

  1. There exists no Supreme, all-wise, all-provident Divine Being, distinct from the universe, and God is identical with the nature of things, and is, therefore, subject to changes. In effect, God is produced in man and in the world, and all things are God and have the very substance of God, and God is one and the same thing with the world, and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, good with evil, justice with injustice. – Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.


Just to clarify - the above was a modernist teaching that the Pope was condemning.


Been awhile since I’ve studied this issue but I believe the Anathema’s were pronounced by an anti-pope were they not? Also again if memory serves while Origen did indeed speak of pre-existance of souls I believe he also condemned traditional reincarnation in the same text.


I could be wrong on the anti-pope thing but I know that Vigilius’ election was highly irregular. He was first declared a papal successor when Boniface II tried to set things up so that a Pope would decide on his successor. The clergy though were not keen on this so he burned the declaration and instead Agapetus became Pope after Boniface II.

The Empress Theodora then bribed Vigilius and assurred him that she would make him the next Pope if he would show favor to the Monophysites. Belisarius deposed the current pope and pressured the bishops to elect Vigilius.

As to the condemnation of Three Chapters the Western Church considered the Council of Chalcedon’s decision sufficient. Yet the Monophysites desired further condemnation as it would make the council appear both weak and incomplete. Thus its decision regarding them would also be much weakened. Vigilius though he pledged his loyalty to the pro-monophysite cause fo the Empress decided once in power to hold to pro-Chalcedon position favored in the West.

Justinian eventually condemned the Three Chapters himself. The Eastern Church cowed to him but the Western Church along with Vigilius did not. Thus Justinian ordered Vigilius to come to Constantinople and approve his decree which Vigilius did after after several years. However, the western bishops then excommunicated Vigilius and would not rescend the excommunication until he changed his position back which he did.

So I think it fairly easy to say that the second council of Constantinople and the election of Vigilius were hinky at best. Chalcedon which was a much more above board Council seems to have spoken to both the Three Chapters and the Monophysite heresy well enough.


Thank you everyone, I appreciate it

Hmm, if anyone will find out that there was later some council that dealt with the reincarnation, let he/she post it here :thumbsup:

I should say, that I’m asking it as I heard a New Ager saying sth about it was condemned only late in the 13th or so century. Now, I know his case can’t stand. I know what the Church fathers say about that and I know about Hebrews 9:27. It’s just if there was this kind of council… I’ll ask the person who told me that about what council he preciselly meant as soon as I can


No. The anathemas quoted by Daniel Marsh were issued by Emperor Justinian some time before the Council, and are not quite the same as those attributed to the Council.

Also again if memory serves while Origen did indeed speak of pre-existance of souls I believe he also condemned traditional reincarnation in the same text.

The text is unclear, because we have the Latin version of Rufinus and Rufinus admitted to changing the text to make Origen more orthodox (with regards to the Trinity). I think you’re right that in the Latin there is a rejection of reincarnation. However, there were Greek fragments presented to the Fifth Council (or quoted by Justinian–I can’t remember the details) as Origen’s that endorsed reincarnation. So the question is, whom do we trust: Rufinus or Justinian? Gustave Bardy argued that the sixth-century quotations were not from Origen but were encapsulating the teaching of later “Origenists,” and also that Rufinus’s changes can be assumed to be confined to Trinitarian theology.

I see from wikipedia that Origen also rejected reincarnation in the commentary on Matthew, which we do have in Greek and so is a reliable record of his views.

However, the point I was making is that 2 Constantinople was clearly rejecting the idea of pre-existence and by extension reincarnation.



Thank you for the post. You are correct I’ve looked over some things since I posted. Also I’m glad you brought up the Commentary on Matthew was what I was thinking of actually. So I was kind piece milling it. However, you are correct that Constantinople II clearly landed on the no reincarnation side, at least in terms of any traditional understanding of the concept.

closed #15

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