Why was Jesus asked this question?This is a curious question, made by Jesus' disciples. What made them ask such a question?
Since the man was blind from birth, the disciples are assuming that the man lived previous to his current lifetime. How do we know that? Because how else could the man have sinned prior to his becoming blind at birth?
This confirms that Jesus taught that our current body is not who we are. And that the spirit-person - each of us - can transmigrate from one body to the next in successive lifetimes.
How do we know this? First, because it was Jesus' disciples (his closest followers) who asked the question, and second, because Jesus' response did not condemn the question. If the disciples were asking something that was absurd to Jesus, he would have said so.
But he didn't. Instead he said that "Neither this man nor his parents sinned."
The negative proves the existence of the positive
Since Jesus said that the blindness was not caused by the man's previous sins, Jesus is admitting that a person's behavior in a previous lifetime could and often does produce the effects of the next lifetime. Instead, Jesus says that the reason for this particular man's being blind at birth was to support his mission.
Transmigration taught in Judaism and Early Christianity
The reality that a person's activities in this lifetime can affect our situation in a next lifetime is confirmed elsewhere. These include the teachings of Jesus' disciples, early Church Fathers, Judaism, the Essenes, Gnosticism and others, which support that Jesus taught the transmigration to his disciples and students.
For example, Origen Adamantius (185-254 A.D.) a devout Christian scholar, teacher and priest, was a close associate of the Bishop of Alexandria (who supported Origen's religious seminary). Origen's flourishing seminary was one of the largest in the Christian world at that time - during the third century. In fact, Origen initially assumed the teaching mission of his father, another early follower of Jesus, Saint Leonides, who was martyred at the hands of the Romans.
Thus find clear evidence that Origen carried on the teachings of some of the earliest followers of Jesus, which included transmigration. There is also clear evidence that the Jewish teachings assumed transmigration at that time. There is also evidence that the Essenes
Even today, several Orthodox Jewish sects teach transmigration of the soul. The Kaballah teaches reincarnation. The Zohar contains extended discussions on reincarnation. Even today, if someone not ethnically Jewish converts to Judaism, Orthodox Judaism teaches that this soul had a Jewish body in the prior lifetime.
In addition, there is strong evidence that Clement of Alexandria (150-210 A.D.) also held to this teaching of transmigration. In addition, we find several discussions of transmigration teachings from the discoveries of the Nag Hammadi and Dead SeGnostic texts that were hidden from the destruction of the Romans during their virtual elimination of early scriptures.
Origin was considered one of the fathers of the early Christian church for at least two centuries, and even today we find many indications of this. Origen taught that the self is spirit in essence, and transcendental to the body. Origen taught that each of us initially fell from God’s grace and took on physical bodies. Once within the physical plane, the obstinate spiritual self becomes attached to the trappings of the world, and takes on one body after another within different species. Once rising to the human form, Origen taught, we have the rare opportunity to return to God — should we use this human form wisely.
Origin also taught that should we make some progress in the human form, we may take on another human form to give us another chance to progress towards our relationship with God. This can backfire, however, because should we become too attached to earthly pleasures, we can fall again down to the lower forms of animals and further into the lower species. This journey through the lower species, Origen taught, was equivalent to going to hell.
His writings illustrated that not only did he believe in the “pre-existence of souls” but gauging by his acceptance among early Christian society, many other Christian scholars of that time agreed with this teaching. Where did this come from if not the teachings of Jesus?
Origen also compiled the famous Hexapla, which was a translation of six versions of the Old Testament, compared side by side in order to elucidate the core meanings from the various versions. It is thought that the LXX and Septuagint evolved from the passages of Origen’s work, which still makes up the backbone of many Old Testament translations used by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
All major early religious teachings taught transmigration
Prior to 1,800 years ago, transmigration of the self was actually a fundamental teaching among most of the ancient religions and philosophies. This includes not only Judaism and early Christianity, but also the Buddhist and Vedic philosophies, the Egyptians, Mayans, American Indians, Aboriginals, many Romans and Greeks (including Pythagoras, Plato and Socrates).
There is also evidence that some in the Hebrew religion (Pharisees) also assumed this position. And it is obvious from this exchange between Jesus and his disciples and other statements that Jesus assumed it as well - and we know that Jesus' teachings abided by those of the prophets such as Moses.
The ancient traditions of gnosis, hermeticism and hellenism, which descended through the Greek texts from antiquity inclusive of ancient Egyptian teachings, also taught transmigration. Hermes Trismegistus, revered amongst Christian, Islam and Jewish teachers, stated:
“O son, how many bodies have we to pass through; how many bands of demons; through how many series of repetitions and cycles of the stars; before we hasten to the One alone?”Then came the smackdown of this philosophy by the Roman Christian hierarchy, who felt that the teaching threatened their power:
“If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and if anyone does not equally anathematize all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.”(5th Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II, 553)We notice here that other great Christian teachers were also banished ("anathema") together with Origen. These include Nestorius, who was the Archbishop of Constantinople in the fifth century; and Apollinaris, who was either Apollinaris Claudius, Bishop of Phrygia or Apollinaris of Laodicea, the Bishop of Laodicea (Syria).
Why did the Roman Catholic Church reject reincarnation?
Why did the Roman Christian hierarchy condemn these ancient teachings, and early Christian teachers? Because they thought knowing we could have a second chance after this lifetime to continue our evolution towards our relationship with God threatened the absolute authority (and tithing income) of the Roman Catholic Church - and the authority of the Roman government.
Though efforts were taken to eliminate this teaching from the scriptures (yes the Romans did edit the Bible) we still find clear telltales of it among scripture. The basis of this teaching lies in the fact that we are not these physical bodies. We are made of spirit - not matter:
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." (Luke 12:4-5)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear." (Luke 12:22)
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)
"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6)
"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life." (John 6:63)
"Watch and pray that you may not be born in the flesh, but that you may leave the bitter bondage of this life." (Book of Thomas 9:5)
"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1 Cor 15:44)The "spiritual body" is the self, who can leave the physical body:
"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Cor 5:1-8)
"If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!" I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."(Phil 1:22-23)These and others confirm the teachings of Jesus and his followers regarding our identity were being passed on in early Christianity.
Resurrection and transmigration
We find that Jesus also confirms two types of resurrection (Matt. 22:30-31), when Jesus comments on the "resurrection of the dead" and "of the living." As Jesus indicates in Matt. 22:30, resurrection "of the living" occurs when the soul (the spiritual self) rises from the physical body and returns to the spiritual world (heaven).
The word "resurrection" is translated from the Greek word ἀνάστασις (anastasis). This word means to 'rise' or 'rise from the dead.' So what is rising? We are talking about the spiritual self who is rising up from a dead physical body at the time of death.
So where will the "wicked" go upon their rising from the dead? Do they get thrown into a firey cave and chained and beaten under the surface of the earth as has been taught by ecclesiastical sectarian teachers? Have we found any of these firey caves as we've dug miles deep into the surface of the earth over the past century? No. Where do the "wicked" go, then?
The "wicked" spiritual self transmigrates into another physical body after death. Since the spiritual body mentioned by Peter is "eternal," we know the self lives on after the body dies. From Jesus' disciples we also know that a person's sins can affect the type of body they take on in the next life. This new body will reflect the activities and consciousness produced during the previous lifetime, and may well be the body of an animal, fish, insect or plant.
Therefore, the only conclusion we can draw from scripture is that the "wicked" (self-centered) spirit-person assumes another physical body after the death of the current one, and the spirit-person who has developed their loving relationship with God will rise and return to the spiritual world.
This also answers the question that many agnostics ask about why there is suffering in the world. They ask: If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why are babies born into starvation? Why are some babies born healthy, while others are retarded or otherwise sick? Is God not fair?
This question is not adequately answered by ecclesiastical sectarian teachers, because they do not have insight about the nature or purpose of physical suffering. If we follow their teachings, there is no logical reason why one person will suffer while another does not.
Their teachings create the conclusion that God is unfair and unkind.
A person's physical body is subjected to suffering as a reaction to the suffering we cause others - in this body and those previous to it. The physical world is a place of consequence. We suffer the same consequences that we caused others in our previous lives. If we hurt others, our body will become hurt. If we help others' bodies, our body will be helped. It is the perfect learning system, as even social scientists have determined about better parenting: Something called "consequence discipline."
We should also understand that the suffering that the temporary physical body is exposed to does not damage the spiritual self. We might compare this to a person playing a video game. Their video game icon might get shot or karate-chopped, but the person playing the game is safely sitting in their chair operating the computer controls.
In the same way, while within a temporary physical body, through God's design, we temporarily misidentify ourselves with these temporary physical bodies. This misidentification forces us to become involved in the physical body, allowing us to learn the lessons we need to learn.
This is why we are here in the temporary physical world: To learn. We are here to learn that we will never be happy unless we return to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. We will not be fulfilled until we are re-situated in our eternal position as God's loving servant. We will not be fulfilled until we follow Jesus' primary instruction:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of these verses according to the Gospels of Jesus:
And as he was passing by, he saw a man who was born blind. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that his body was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents; but so that the service of God might be manifested with him." (John 9:1-3)