Palingenesis – What is it?

Palingenesis has two Greek roots: palin, meaning "again," and genesis, meaning "origin" or "birth." Together, they mean a "rebirth," "new beginning," or "repetition."

As an outdated term related to biological evolution, palingenesis referred to the stages of an embryo prior to birth. Also known as recapitulation or embryological parallelism, it posited that a fetus would pass through developmental stages of looking like the animals it evolved from as it developed. So, a human fetus would grow from fish-like to amphibian-like, then progress through the stages of appearing as a reptile, bird, and mammal before concluding as a human.

Drawings that emphasized this process were produced by Ernst Haeckel and drove palingenesis into schools and universities. Unfortunately, because of Haeckel's drawings, the theory continues as a lingering myth, though it has been proven unscientific by study and discovery.

Theologically, palingenesis refers to resurrection in Christianity, or reincarnation in religions like Hinduism. More broadly, it refers to a cultural, or even individual, revival.

In the Bible, palingenesis is described by Jesus in John 3 when He tells Nicodemus that only those who are born again can see heaven. Peter refers to the idea in 1 Peter 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Also see 1 Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Revelation 7:14 for references to regeneration and renewal.

Politically or culturally, palingenesis may refer to a culture that has been reestablished or has risen, as it is said, from the ashes of history.

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