Reincarnation in Jewish Mysticism and Gnosticism

Author: Eylon, Dina Ripsman
Year:2003
Pages:168
ISBN:0-7734-6736-X
978-0-7734-6736-1
Price:159.95
This study demonstrates that the rabbinic belief-system regarding the afterlife and the human soul was the paramount influence on the development of the doctrine of reincarnation that was crystallized in the Sefer ha-Bahir (The Book of Clarity/Illumination) a 12th-century work written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Prior research has noted the great impact Gnosticism had on early Jewish mysticism in general and the Sefer ha-Bahir in particular. The analysis of the talmudic and midrashic sources presents a broad spectrum of ideas concerning the eternity and immortality of the soul, the nature and characteristics of the soul and the notions of the resurrection of the dead and reincarnation. These ideas, brought together in the study as a systematic theology, reveal a fairly developed tradition that was probably known to the author or editor of the Sefer ha-Bahir.

Reviews

“ ... Dr. Eylon provides an important window into how reincarnation became integrated into medieval Jewish thought ... She also offers a first-rate overview of reincarnation in Gnostic literature. Focusing primarily on the Nag Hammadi corpus, she presents a wealth of interesting sources. This not only establishes a background for the dissemination of the doctrine, but it helps situate the Bahir as a Jewish expression of a Gnostic orientation. Dr. Eylon admirably succeeds in presenting a readable and informative discussion of a key aspect of the Jewish mystical tradition. This is especially praiseworthy, owing to the scope and complexity of the material.” – SirReadaLot.org

“ ... a fascinating and difficult study of the different views of the afterlife in early Jewish literature and Gnosticism, and the emergence of a theory of reincarnation in the Bahir, which is generally recognized as the earliest Kabbalistic work. Dr. Eylon shows with remarkable assiduity how the author of the Bahir constructed his theory through careful exegesis of the relevant Talmudic and Midrashic passages, but also marked his novelty and points of departure through the creation of Midrashim on texts for which now preexistent tradition existed.” – Professor Francis Landy, University of Alberta

“ ... provides an important window into how reincarnation became integrated into medieval Jewish thought. The centerpiece of Dr. Eylon’s study is the seminal kabbalistic work Sefer ha-Bahir ... Dr. Eylon offers the first systematic and methodical analysis of these texts. She provides a comprehensive presentation of the pertinent selections from the Bahir, as well as the Rabbinic sources of this material ... Dr. Eylon also offers a first-rate overview of reincarnation in Gnostic literature. Focusing primarily on the Nag Hammadi corpus, she presents a wealth of interesting sources. This not only establishes a background for the dissemination of the doctrine, but it helps situate the Bahir as a Jewish expression of a Gnostic orientation ... Dr. Eylon admirably succeeds in presenting a readable and informative discussion of a key aspect of the Jewish mystical tradition. This is especially praiseworthy, owing to the scope and complexity of the material. Anyone who is interested in the fascinating topic of reincarnation will greatly profit from consulting this book.” – Professor Mark Verman, Wright State University

Table of Contents

Preface
Prologue
1. Reincarnation in Prior Research
2. The Soul and Afterlife in Talmudic and Midrashic Literature
3. The Soul and Afterlife in the Nag Hammadi Literature (NHL)
4. The Doctrine of Reincarnation in Sefer ha-Bahir
Conclusions
Bibliography
Index