It is not widely known that some early Christians believed in reincarnation, for they thought that prior to sharing in Jesus' resurrection the virtuous might be reborn. Sinners might reincarnate to have another chance. Some Jews of Jesus' time accepted the doctrine of reincarnation, as some accept it now. Jesus would have been aware that many Jews accepted reincarnation.Some thought him the reincarnated prophet Jeremiah. Others thought that John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah reborn. Jesus would have known of reincarnation, but is not recorded as having affirmed or denied it.
Some people think that John 9:1, when the disciples ask whether the man was born blind was due to his own or his parents' sins, implies that Jesus and the disciples were discussing reincarnation.They probably were discussing it. This was Jesus' opportunity to deny reincarnation, but he didn't. At no point in the gospels does Jesus affirm or deny reincarnation.
Some early Christian fathers, notably Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Synesius believed in reincarnation. Synesius thought that souls descend from heaven and must quickly return, else they wander long in the nether regions in a series of births ere they return to God. It is notable that these thinkers were Egyptians, but what significance we can draw from this fact is unclear. Alexandria was an intellectual powerhouse where many cultural influences met, including some from India, where belief in reincarnation is common.Greek thought, however, was independently familiar with reincarnation through the works of Plato and Pythagoras.
Reincarnation fell out of favour at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, which condemned belief in the pre-existence of the soul, a foundation on which reincarnation rests.This condemnation was part of the condemnation of the Origenists, who believed that after a series of incarnations a person might become equal to Christ, a belief that no Christian could hold. Yet scholars now recognize that the condemnation of the Origenists does not apply to Origen himself,and it has been wrongly taught that the council condemned Origen.
Furthermore, many scholars are doubtful over whether Constantinople 2 was a valid ecumenical council of the church.It was called by the Emperor Justinian [who interfered in church matters] against the wishes of the pope, who though in Constantinople, refused to attend.There was nothing like a quorum of bishops, and bishops from Western Europe were hardly represented. Justinian dominated proceedings throughout. It is hard to think that this ecclesiastical charade has any claim to authority at all. As a Catholic I will not accept any council called against the will of the pope.
In recent years some Christian thinkers have revisited reincarnation, notably the Episcopalian theologian Geddes Macgregor. The Catholic Church has made no pronouncements on the issue and does not regard it as an issue of concern.