In Matthew 17:10-12 Jesus alludes to the fact that John the Baptist was the Elijah to come, yet in John 1:21 John the Baptist denies it. Is this because in Malachi it says that there was to be a prophet that was to come "in the spirit of Elijah," rather than Elijah himself? Was John's denial a way to steer his disciples away from the idea of an actual reincarnation? -- Alberto Schirmer (Atlanta, Georgia)

Yes, that is exactly how I see the situation. Many Jews expected Elijah literally to return to the earth and this notion continues to be part of Jewish tradition even today, when the empty seat is left at the Seder Supper for Elijah. And John does come in the spirit (and clothing) of Elijah, his 9th century BC counterpart.

Moreover, reincarnation involves the rebirth of a dead person. But technically speaking, Elijah never died (2 Kings 2:1-11). On top of this, Elijah appeared along with Moses at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9), so he was never "reincarnated" as John the Baptist!

There is no reincarnation. This is not a biblical teaching (Job 7:9-10, Hebrews 9:27).

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