Jews believe in reincarnation?

Really? Is this universally held in Jewish thought?
A Jewish friend was by here for a bit and said they believe in reincarnation. He has a study buddy in the States. I was very surprised.

I have never heard of Jews believing in reincarnation before. I always thought reincarnation was not a component of any Abrahamic religions.

I think reincarnation is just becoming a trendy belief due to the emergence of New Age Paganism. Even some Christians are adopting it, even though it doesn’t make a lick of a sense in regards to Christ’s teachings.

I agree. It does seem like some people are adopting a belief in reincarnation and other New Age beliefs. Its quite sickening. New Age, Pagan, and Occult beliefs are dangerous to one’s spiritual health. Sometimes they involve practices which can invite demonic problems into your life.

Mark 8

27 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
28 They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”
29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”

Judaism in those times was an Eastern mystical religion and reincarnation was a common belief. The Jews of the Diaspora who were more Hellenized, dropped this belief. It could be that it is still held in certain kinds of Jewish mysticism.

Satan has tricked Christians into thinking this is the case. Why would Jews be any different?

I do believe it is a very dangerous belief. Just imagine if you thought you could wait until “the next life” to make up for everything and find God.

As far as I know, true Jews believe in the exact same God as us. They just don’t believe the Savior has already been resurrected 2,000 years ago.

Apparently, the concept is there…I did some research and found this:

There are many Jewish sources dealing with what is popularly called “reincarnation.” In Hebrew, it is called “gilgul ha’ne’shamot,” literally the recycling or transmigration of souls. …] Most of the written material is very esoteric, often written in
Aramaic. …] In the Bible itself, the idea is intimated in Deut. 25:5-10, Deut. 33:6 and Isaiah 22:14, 65:6. …] Many sources say that a soul has a maximum of three chances in
this world. …]

Those verses refer to resurrections, not reincarnations.

The concept of resurrection, already glimpsed at in Job 19:25-26, was already implicit in many of the Psalms (take Psalms 16 and 73, for example), was taught explicitly by the 6th century BC in the Book of Daniel, and was widely believed by the time of the Maccabees (circa 167 BC). The Pharisees officially embraced this doctrine, while the Sadducees denied it.

Elijah was taken up to heaven in the chariot of fire (2 Kings), and it was taught by Malachi, last of the Prophets (circa 450-400 BC), that he would return before the coming of the Lord - again, not a reincarnation, but a “descent” from Heaven.

In the case of St. John the Baptist, even Herod, who had him executed, thought that he was “risen from the dead” (i.e. resurrected) and working miracles when he heard about Jesus.

There are apocryphal works such as the “Assumption of Moses” which speak of Moses being taken up into Heaven as well, so a “return of the Prophet” would again have referred to resurrection or descent from heaven, not to reincarnation.

And the Epistle to the Hebrews - written by first-generation Jewish converts to Christianity (modern scholarship says St. Paul plus one of his associates) - clearly says that “it is given for men to die once, and after that the judgement.” (Hebrews 9: 27)

Reincarnation was always a feature in other Eastern religions, such as Hinduism. Classical (pre-70 BC) Judaism did not teach it, neither do Orthodox Jews today embrace it. It has infiltrated “liberal” Jewish and Christian thought through the toxic agency of the “New Age Movement”, but it was never a part of the original Judaeo-Christian tradition.


Some Jews do believe in reincarnation, in particular some Orthodox Hasidic Jews, though by no means all. It is permissible to believe in reincarnation in Judaism, probably because the nature of the afterlife is not spelled out according to Judaism. However, reincarnation is not thought of exactly in the same way as it is in Hinduism. IOW, one may be reincarnated not so much for the purpose of evolving into a better person or eventually becoming part of a godhead, but rather in order to study and understand Torah teaching better if one was not able to complete this required obligation in one’s previous life.

There is also a Christian belief that Christ will return - but that’s not the same as reincarnation, especially since Elijah did not die, but was taken up to heaven.

As for the Hellenized Jews dropping the belief - why do you say that? While reincarnation was not normative, the concept existed. Plato discussed Reincarnation and an accompanying cosmic justice in The Republic, for example.

The parables which Christ tells don’t indicate reincarnation in any way, shape or form, the pharisees tended to hold the same views on the afterlife he had, the other major theological faction, the Sadducees, did not believe in an afterlife at all.

While there are some schools of Kabbalah which believe in reincarnation, even there it is controversial.

Reincarnation has, however, traditionally been taught by the Gnostics, who believe we are doomed to be reincarnated until we come to the secret knowledge, at which point we will be freed from the Demiurge.



I can assure everyone here that reincarnation is not part of Judaism.

How anyone can infer a belief in reincarnation from eg Dt 25:5-10 is beyond me.

There is no “canonical” teaching in Judaism on human eschatology, which has always been a secondary concern in that religion. In fact, prior to Babylonian times, there seems to have been no clear teaching on a human afterlife at all.

Reincarnation is therefore one of several interpretations of human eschatology to be found in Judaism; although it is not to be found in Scripture.


Reincarnation makes no sense to those who think it through. I think people adopt it simply because they like the idea that they used to be someone else, or they’ll come back as another person.

Logically, it makes no sense. When did your first “you” begin? When will you stop being reincarnated? For what purpose are people/animals/etc. being reincarnated? What happens when the reincarnation ends?

I have never heard of any Jews believing in reincarnation. This must be something new.

See this:

It is very difficult to go through, I think, but does seem to be comprehensive.

That having been said, as an Orthodox Jew, I don’t believe it in the least, nor have I ever discussed the issue with any other Orthodox Jew who does, although they certainly exist.

In general, we don’t really ponder esoteric issues like this much, but rather occupy our thoughts and learning with tangibles, like how to properly fulfill G-d’s will; specific commandments from the Torah. In other words, this type of thing isn’t really on the religious Jewish radar.

Well, that’s an explanation one can use, I suppose. Apparently, from another poster, we have the reference to reincarnation as believed by Jews speaking Aramaic. There is also a prayer by a 4th, I think, century Bishop that indicates a belief in reincarnation and it is reportedly how Origin fell out of favor, all of his writings indicating his belief in reincarnation were reportedly lost or destroyed.

As for those references being resurrections, Jesus was born into the world and had a family in which He grew up, He didn’t emerge whole and adult from nothing. Jesus said John the Baptist was Elijah, we also know John was born into the world.

Wait, are you saying that the NT supports reincarnation? I always thought that John came in the Spirit of Elijah, that is the Holy Spirit, after being filled with it in the visitation.

Gnostic “Christians” argue the same thing, and use verses like “The kingdom of heaven is within” to argue their points. Also they contort what “born again” meant.

No, it’s a traditional belief. It’s not dogma (some would say Jews have no dogmas, but there are the 13 Principles of Maimonides, which mention resurrection but not reincarnation), but it was a common belief for centuries. As I understand it, traditional Jewish belief in reincarnation is different from the Eastern view in that it doesn’t affect everyone–it’s something that may happen under certain circumstances. It doesn’t seem to be a very systematic belief.


Yes, that’s the orthodox Christian view. It is probably the NT view, at least in Luke. But when people are recorded as arguing over whether John was Elijah, or later whether Jesus was John/Elijah or not, they may well have been thinking of reincarnation.

In other words, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to find affirmation of reincarnation in the NT, though one can interpret the references to Elijah in Mark and Matthew that way. But the belief quite certainly was around in Jewish culture and is probably referenced (not necessarily affirmed) in the NT. (Another possibility is the story of the man born blind in John 9–the disciples ask whether he or his parents sinned, and the idea of a man being born blind because of his own sins may be a reference to reincarnation.)


Julia, I think your category of “Eastern mystical religion” is questionable. Hellenistic religion was very “Eastern” and “mystical” by our standards. Hellenized Jews would be the most likely ones to believe in reincarnation–after all, Plato believed in it.

The Hellenization you have in mind is, I think, the introduction of Aristotelian thought into Judaism in the Middle Ages. That did tend to militate against belief in reincarnation, as far as I can see.

It could be that it is still held in certain kinds of Jewish mysticism.

Yes, that is where you find it most commonly. The Hasidim generally believe in it. The more “rationalistic” versions of Orthodox Judaism may not.

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