John 3:3—Does being “born again” indicate that Jesus taught reincarnation?

Problem: Traditionally, Christians have believed that the Bible does not teach the doctrine of reincarnation (cf. Heb. 9:27). However, many groups use this verse to claim that Jesus taught that it was necessary to be reincarnated.

Solution: What Jesus is teaching in this passage is not reincarnation, but regeneration. This is clear from several facts. First, the doctrine of reincarnation teaches that, after a person dies, he enters another mortal body to live on this earth again. This process repeats itself over and over in a virtually endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth into yet another mortal body. If Jesus were advocating reincarnation, He should have said, “unless someone is born again and again and again and again...”

Second, the doctrine of reincarnation teaches that people die over and over until they reach perfection (Nirvana). However, the Bible clearly teaches that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

Third, in the verses that follow, Jesus explains what He means by being born again. Jesus says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Although there are commentators who differ on exactly what this “water” means (see comments on John 3:5), they are all agreed that it cannot possibly refer to reincarnation. Being born again, then, is being cleansed from our sins, and being given the life of God by the Spirit of God (Rom. 3:21–26; Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13).

See All Problems

This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.