.- Every time Christians recite the Apostles’ Creed, they affirm their belief in what will happen to them after death: “’I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”
The belief in the resurrection of one’s physical body at the end of time is central to Christian theology, and finds its basis in the resurrection of Christ, who rose in body and soul three days after his passion and death.
But according to a recent Pew survey, 29 percent of Christians in the US hold the New Age belief of reincarnation – the belief that when one’s body dies, one’s soul lives on in a new and different body, unrelated to the first.
The percentage of Catholics in the U.S. who said they believe in reincarnation was even higher – 36 percent; just shy of the 38 percent of religiously unaffiliated people who said they believe the same.
However, according to Catholic teaching, belief in anything other than the resurrection of the body is completely incompatible with a Christian theology and anthropology of the human person.
Where did the belief in resurrection come from?
Even before Christ, the belief that the body would rise at the end of time was becoming a more common, though not universally held, belief among certain groups of Jews, such as the Pharisees.
The Sadducees, for example, “were dubious about the authority to be given to the Prophets and other writings…(which included) skepticism about spiritual realities like the soul or even angels,” said Deacon Joel Barstad, who serves as Academic Dean and associate professor of theology at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.
“From New Testament evidence it would seem they were particularly hostile to the idea of a future resurrection of the dead,” he told CNA.
“The Pharisees on the other hand believed in angels and spiritual souls and the general resurrection of the dead,” he said.
As they became more convinced of the “radical faithfulness of God,” he noted, belief in bodily resurrection took root, paving the way for the acceptance of the resurrection of Christ.
“The resurrection of Jesus from the dead confirmed that belief, but it also gave it a deep and solid foundation,” he said.
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