I am interested in learning more about whether reincarnation was a part of early Christian church dogma, and how that belief may have evolved or survived as the church splintered into multiple sects. The internet is a bit of a quagmire, divided mostly into three major categories: Catholic writings that regurgitate the modern church's stance, random new-ageish writings that have bad or no references, and some academic writings which I (as an aspiring fiction writer, not a scholar) cannot tell if they are disproven or seconded by other authors. Generally my questions are:
- Was reincarnation part of the early Christian church?
- If yes, did it also exist in Judaism of the time or was it an import specific to the Christian church?
- If yes, did that dogma survive inside significant sects after 6th century, and even into modern times?
Some of my layman research (I am just listing a few since they tend to repeat):
According to catholic.com
Historical facts provide no basis for this [reincarnation] claim. [...] What did take place in A.D. 553 was the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople. But records from this Council show that it, too, did not address the subject of reincarnation. None of the early councils did.
They do reference some early writings on the subject (later on the linked page), but I don't know if they engage in cherry picking? They claim that the second council of Constantinople limited references to reincarnation to a single sentence condemnation of Origen (A deeper discussion here: Flesh and Fire: Reincarnation and Universal Salvation in the Early Church)
I've also found a number of writings from various theological groups (see What about Reincarnation?, but the arguments feel dogmatic, and do not address the history of reincarnation in the church.
I'm also of course aware that Catholics do not speak for the entire Christian community. It is hard for me to find writings from the Eastern Orthodox church, due to my unfamiliarity with it.
According to a paper abstract on the U. of Utah (The Argument over Reincarnation in Early Christianity. Utah Historical Review) :
Many of the early Christian theologians who believed in the idea of reincarnation were taught their religious beliefs at, or near Alexandria, Egypt; these are theologians including Basilides, Valentinus and Origen. Christian and non-Christians alike that were living in or near Alexandria were still greatly influenced by the ideas of Plato.
These men would eventually be referred to today as Christian Platonists.
This seems to contradict the claim the catholic.com's thesis.
Any recommendations for better peer-reviewed articles and papers?