John the Baptist the reincarnation of Elijah?


First, a brief background. I am a convert and I know the Church does not teach reincarnation at all, but my brother has recently become interested in Buddhist teachings. For him, the Church teaching something is not at all a reason to believe or not believe in anything.

Now, my question has to do with this theme in the Bible, specifically how it relates to John the Baptist and Elijah.

My brother asserts that John is Elijah reincarnated and often refers to what Jesus says in Matthew 17:11-13

11Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

I have tried to explain to him that this does not refer to reincarnation using other verses, but I am not making any progress.

Here are some of the other verses I appealed to:
Luke 1:17
John 1:21
Matthew 11:14

If anybody could help me out with this, or try to explain why reincarnation is not compatible in general, I’d really appreciate it.

God Bless!


Hebrews 9:27

it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment


Look at what Origen has to say, early 200s CE:

Origen “[Scripture says] ‘And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” [John 1:21] and he said, “I am not.”’ No one can fail to remember in this connection what Jesus says of John: ‘If you will receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come’ [Matt. 11:14]. How then does John come to say to those who ask him, ‘Are you Elijah?’–‘I am not’? . . . one might say that John did not know that he was Elijah. This will be the explanation of those who find in our passage a support for their doctrine of reincarnation, as if the soul clothed itself in a fresh body and did not quite remember its former lives. . . . [H]owever, a churchman, who repudiates the doctrine of reincarnation as a false one and does not admit that the soul of John was ever Elijah, may appeal to the above-quoted words of the angel, and point out that it is not the soul of Elijah that is spoken of at John’s birth, but the Spirit and power of Elijah” (Commentary on John 6:7).

In short, Origen argues that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, not that he was actually Elijah.

However, I doubt your brother would be convinced by this, in part because Jesus clearly says that John is Elijah and Jesus recognized that his followers might find that hard to believe. If your brother finds reincarnation a believable model of reality, then I doubt there would be anything biblical you could point to that would convince him otherwise, especially since reincarnation is believed in by many Jews, and they seem to find nothing unbiblical about it.


I believe during the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ when he spoke to Moses and Elijah also disproves the claims of reincarnation.


Not necessarily, since reincarnation can occur in which a portion of the person remains in the spirit world and another portion reincarnates on earth. You find this belief in Africa, as well as Tibet.


The Nazarene stated: "Of men born of women, no one is greater than John the baptist.’

If John was truly the encarnate of Elijah, the Nazarene is the one to know. He would have said as much and given the “props” to Elijah.


Not necessarily. If John the Baptist were the reincarnation of Elijah, then that would not mean that “John the Baptist = Elijah”. That’s not how reincarnation works.


If you remember… Elijah didn’t die… he decreased so Elisha could increase… at the very point where John the Baptist started his ministry. Elijah wore furs and ate insects as did John the Baptist. Elijah was taken up to heaven only to return as God saw fit… in the person of John the Baptist. Remember that John had to decrease so Jesus could increase too… only in the end John was beheaded.


So are you saying that John the Baptist was really Elijah returned to earth?


There is no such thing as reincarnation.


I don’t believe in reincarnation either but I do believe in the time of the anti-Christ that Ench and Elijah shall both come down to Earth and perform their mission of being the Two Witnesses against the anti-Christ as spoken of in scripture.


Correct, because it doesn’t work at all.


In response to everyone who has simply said reincarnation just isn’t true, that is not what I am looking for.

Of course I believe it does not exist (and never has for that matter). But to have a conversation in good faith with someone who does believe in it, or is at least willing to entertain that it is possible, simply stating that it isn’t true and repeating it does not get me anywhere.

Unfortunately in discussions with my brother I have not always maintained a loving and respectful demeanor, and one of the things he hates is when I pass off something he is considering as preposterous (which is essentially what I did with this subject).

I can grudgingly accept that logically reincarnation would make sense. Insofar as that we are not all on this earth with equal potential (some are born into poverty while others not, for example). I can understand why the idea of reincarnation is appealing, and I am very hesitant to admit to myself that it is appealing because I don’t believe in it and don’t want to fall into that sort of thing.

How should I treat people with faith that differs from mine? We are called to evangelize but we are also called to be loving. I know what it’s like to be preached at when you’re not interested at all and it is extremely irritating. I don’t want to do this to others, but I don’t want to fail our Lord either.

If anyone is still reading this, any comments/suggestions would be appreciated :slight_smile:


Following your points Ahimsa, it seems apparent that any point being raised can then be countered-- precisely because reincarnation lacks any decisve statement which can be pinned down.

It’s kind of like trying to nail Jell-O.


Reincarnation never takes place.

Types do take place over and over again throughout history.

Hitler was a type of anti-Christ.

in other words in some respects he foreshadows what the anti-Christ will one day be lijke.

But is the anti-christ a re-incarnated hitler? No!


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