Question: Did Jesus and the apostles believe in pre-mortal life?

Table of Contents

Question: Did Jesus and the apostles believe in pre-mortal life?

"Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Note the exchange between Jesus and his disciples recorded in John 9:1–2:

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

"And his disciples asked him, saying Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Was this a rhetorical question on the part of the disciples? No, the question indicated that the disciples thought one possible answer to the blindness of the man was that he had sinned. Since he was born blind—a fact the record indicates that both Jesus and His disciples knew—then the wording of the question indicates that the sinning must have taken place before the birth of the man, by the man himself. How could the man have sinned, resulting in a punishment of being blind at birth, unless he had lived before he was born?

If the concept of a premortal life was in error, then the Master Teacher had a perfect opportunity to correct His students

Jesus' answer is recorded in John 9:3:

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Jesus then proceeded to heal the man, foregoing any opportunity to correct the concept of the man having lived before birth. Instead, He acknowledged the concept by saying that the man had not sinned.[1] In the words of one non-LDS scholar:

"The question posed by the disciples explicitly presupposed prenatal existence. It will be also noted that Christ says nothing to dispel or correct the presupposition. Here is incontrovertible support for a doctrine of human preexistence.

"It is perfectly reasonable to surmise on the basis of this episode that Jesus and his followers accepted preexistence and thought so little of it that the question of prenatal sin did not even call for an answer."[2]

There are other scriptures in the Bible that can be used to support the concept of a premortal life. Suffice it to say that for the time being, however, the words of God and Jesus may be sufficient to the task at hand. The critics' charges of taking scripture out of context notwithstanding, there is a reasonable basis for at least recognizing a biblical basis for the doctrine of a preexistence.[3]

Notes

  1. This position is supported by other scriptures in which the apostles reference sinning in a period before birth. In 2 Peter 2:4, Peter references "angels that sinned," and Jude alluded to the same even in Jude 6. Both have reference to the concept of the first estate—or premortal existence—as understood in LDS doctrine.
  2. Quincy Howe, Jr., Reincarnation for the Christian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), 92–93, as quoted by Brent L. Top The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 30.
  3. It should also be obvious to the astute reader that critics set themselves up to speak for all of Christendom in their exposition of doctrine. This position, in light of the analysis presented in this document from other Christian scholars (both ancient and modern), may be presumptive on their part. If there are other Christian thinkers who disagree with the critics concerning at least the possibility of premortal life, then how is it possible for the authors to speak for Christians as a whole and set those Christians at odds with the LDS position?