From Orpheus to Jesus: The Trail of the Good Shepherd – Aravindan Neelakandan

Orpheus

Aravindan NeelakandanChristianity should come to terms with the truth that there is nothing exclusive about Jesus, and his mythology represents just one instance of the many dismembering-resurrection myths which can be found throughout the world. – Aravindan Neelakandan

Twelve years ago on a hot summer day in Wardha, we, a group of friends, were visiting Vinoba Bhave Ashram in Paunar, Maharashtra, after a rather strenuous but very useful camp on sustainable farming technologies. As we walked by the prayer hall, I noticed a rather interesting sculpture of Jesus playing a flute. I pointed it out to my Protestant friend accompanying me. He saw it and spontaneously reacted, “Impossible … this is a distortion….” I saw that he was not happy with the depiction and I changed the topic but deep inside I felt disturbed. Why is it that my Christian friend finds it uncomfortable to see Jesus with a flute … after all, the image of Jesus as a good shepherd is a powerful Christian iconography.

The shepherd imagery of Jesus features prominently in John’s narrative of Jesus mythology (John 10:11 and John 10:14). Christian theology relates this to Psalm 23 of David in the Hebrew Bible, which says that the God is his shepherd and that he shall not wander. However, in John, Jesus is a good shepherd and a good shepherd is defined as “one who lays down his life for his sheep” (10:11). Christian evangelists, who try to convert Jews, often use this statement as a kind of a continuity and fulfilment of Judaism in Christianity. Yet the Psalm 23, which begins as “a song of David”, speaks of God leading his herd to greener pastures and not “laying down his life”.

Hence it is interesting to see if the Christian imagery of “good shepherd” is really a continuation or even derived from Judaism or if it is inspired by non-Jewish elements. In this context, it should be noted the Jesus story of John is considered as the highly Hellenised version of all the four narratives endorsed by Council of Nicea in the fourth century CE.

Let us assume that a time machine has transported us to the Rome of early decades of the first two centuries of the Common Era. Standing in the streets of Rome, we ask for the Shrine of the Good Shepherd. We are led to a shrine. It is not that of Jesus but that of Orpheus.

Orpheus was a divine musician, who was also the good shepherd of ancient Rome. In the Pagan sacred shrines, the mosaics showed Orpheus seated in a mandala surrounded by animals which are attracted by his divine music. He holds a lyre. His mythology has striking parallels to that of Jesus.

In Greek mythology, Orpheus was the son of god Apollo. He was also a musician from Thrace who played the lyre. His divine music tamed the wild animals and even the rivers stopped to listen. He ultimately sacrificed his own life for the resurrection of his bride. He was dismembered by maenads, women devotees of Dionysus. It is a resurrection that failed at one level. Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, however, asserts that “through dismemberment … the divine spark got into everything, the divine soul entered the earth … which guarantees resurrection”. In Christian theology, the believers are actually considered as being unified as an institutional body (Church), which in turn is seen as the bride of Jesus (2 Cor. 11:2). Now one can appreciate the mytho-theological parallels. Jesus sacrificed his mortal body for the salvation of his believers—or his bride—just like Orpheus did for his bride centuries ago. In Christian myth Jesus triumphed.

Orpheus shunned the females on his return from the netherworld and was killed. Jesus also meets a female in his mythical return from death. However, unlike Orpheus, Jesus meets a lonely, lamenting Magdalene. Immortalised in countless medieval Christian paintings, Jesus restrains Magdalene from touching him. Perhaps, this act of Jesus made famous by the words Noli me tangere (“Touch me not” John 20:17) may actually be scoring of a brownie point by Christian myth-makers over their Hellenistic counterparts. Orpheus allows himself to be murdered by women. Jesus orders Magdalene not to touch him. This may also be a subtle hint of the fear of murder by the females that proved fatal in the Orpheus mythology. Jesus after his brief sojourn into the world after resurrection ascends to heaven and lives eternally with his heavenly father. Orpheus too descends to the netherworld and lives eternally with his terrestrial bride, now transformed spiritually.

With these parallel elements of mythology, the early Christian art started depicting Jesus as Orpheus, the good shepherd—then a very famous attribute of one of the most popular Hellenistic [cults] of that period. Orphic mystery initiation was a great spiritual practice in ancient Rome and in this, Orpheus himself was seen as the chief messiah of Dionysus.

Like all Pagan religions, the Orphic school too was not an exclusive one. It allowed its own evolution through rich infusion of Mithraic imageries and Neoplatonic philosophic streams. Neoplatonism in turn contained in its elements of Indic wisdom. It will not be a far off speculation to consider that the music which captivated the beasts from the lyre of Orpheus could have been the Pythagorean music of the spheres. The Hellenistic mosaics show Orpheus with the characteristic headgear of Mithra worship.

In early Christian art, we see Christians adopting the Orphic imagery for Jesus. Here then is the more Pagan root of the Christian imagery of “good shepherd”. In early Christian catacombs of the fourth century, we meet Jesus-Orpheus compound figure still with Mithra headgear and the lyre. But starting sixth century, as the temporal power of Rome started becoming well established in the hands of institutional Christianity, we see a marked change in the Orpheus-Christ art. The figure of good shepherd is still there–significantly the lyre is gone and in its place there is the [crook] of a shepherd—shaped like a cross. The biodiversity surrounding Orpheus is progressively reduced with mono-culture of white sheep.

Now the divine musician, who bonded with multitude of animals through the celestial music is gone and in his place has come the shepherd king with the sceptre. As the authoritative Biblical and Theological Dictionary explains, sceptre, the Hebrew word, originated from the shepherd’s rod. In the Christian art of the medieval period as well as in later calendar art, Jesus the Good Shepherd permanently lost his musical instrument as he was handed over the power through the sceptre.

As the Pagan good shepherd’s mystery of dismembering and resurrection got mapped into the history-centric account of Christianity, the passion plays which depict the death and resurrection of Jesus became encapsulated with anti-Semitism. The passion plays have been focal points of spreading anti-Semitic violence in Christendom. In Adolf Hitler’s Germany, the Nazi Party was delighted in the use of passion plays in inciting violence against the Jewish community. And that is not limited to the pre-holocaust/Nazi period either. Actor Mel Gibson, who is known for his drunken anti-Semitic rants, has also been severely criticised for his movie The Passion of Christ (2004).

Abraham H. Foxman of Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found the movie as “the reincarnation of a story that became the legitimate basis for centuries of expulsions, murders and discrimination against Jews”. Sure enough, the flashback scene 11 of the movie talks about Jesus being the good shepherd, who dies for the flock.

The appropriation of the good shepherd imagery by Christianity achieved two things: the spiritual evolution of Orphic music was lost to Europe; the wilfully inaccurate anchoring of the good shepherd imagery to the Psalms of David, with the motive of proselytising Jews, created institutional anti-Semitism. It would take a burning of Bruno, inquisition of Galileo and countless torture and deaths of heretics, for the West to discover again the music of Orpheus at least in the realm of science. It would take 2,000 years of anti-Semitic persecution and a holocaust in the twentieth century to exorcise, though still not fully, the evil of anti-Semitism.

A contrasting evolution can be seen in the imagery of Krishna as the cowherd and flute player in India. Attested by the chronicles of Megasthenes, the Greek emissary, and Greek convert to Bhagwat Dharma in third and first centuries BCE respectively, the imagery of flute playing Krishna evolved uninterrupted by institutional power games for at least the last 2,000 years if not more. There are some rare sculptures of Krishna with shepherd’s staff. But the most dominant picture is that of the flute player.

Perhaps, Christianity too should shed its history-centrism and accept the Pagan archetypes on which it is based upon. It should come to terms with the earth-rooted spirituality of its images, forsaking its claims of messiah-hood appropriating Judaism. Christianity should also come to terms with the truth that there is nothing exclusive about Jesus, and his mythology represents just one instance of the many dismembering-resurrection myths which can be found throughout the world. Perhaps, then the Christian mind can come to terms with Jesus playing a flute. – Swarajya, 16 April 2017

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, economist and psychologist. He is a post-socialist thinker of cultural evolutionism and Indian ethnogenesis. He is known for the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra.

Jesus as Orpheus with Mithra cap and lyre. From the Catacombs of Peter and Marcellus, Rome, 4th century CE.

Jesus the Good Shepard. Orphic attributes replaced by cross as shepherd's crook and white sheep for the diversity of animals. Mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, 5th century CE.

Five reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed – Valerie Tarico

Nativity Display Vatican 2014

Dr Valerie Tarico“The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido ReniMost antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide-ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

David FitzgeraldThe notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All. For centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenomenon, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

More academic arguments in support of the Jesus myth theory can be found in the writings of Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history uses the tools of his trade to show, among other things, how Christianity might have gotten off the ground without a miracle. Price, by contrast, writes from the perspective of a theologian whose biblical scholarship ultimately formed the basis for his skepticism. It is interesting to note that some of the harshest debunkers of fringe Jesus myth theories like those from Zeitgeist or Joseph Atwill (who tries to argue that the Romans invented Jesus) are from serious mythicists like Fitzgerald, Carrier and Price.

Isis & Horus / Mary & JesusThe arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive:

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef. In the words of Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references—nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death—even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era—there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time—the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp. 56-57)

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts. Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples—or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel—the good news—of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.”

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other. If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons. They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, non-violent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.” John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar grumbles that “the stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment.”

Thomas JeffersonFor David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a mystery faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

In a soon-to-be-released follow-up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in Action, Fitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little practical meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are themselves fictions.

We may never know for certain what put Christian history in motion. Only time (or perhaps time travel) will tell. – Salon, 1 September 2014

Joseph & Mary

The legend of St Thomas in India is neither factual nor secular – Koenraad Elst

St. Thomas

Koenraad ElstThe Roman Catholic Church in India owes Hindus an abject apology for the blood libel she has perpetuated for centuries, falsely charging Hindus with the murder of Thomas even as she falsely charges Jews with the murder of Jesus. – Ishwar Sharan

A predictable component of platitudinous speeches by secularist politicians is that “Christianity was brought to India by the apostle Thomas in the 1st century AD, even before it was brought to Europe”. The intended thrust of this claim is that, unlike Hinduism which was imposed by the “Aryan invaders”, Christianity is somehow an Indian religion, even though it is expressly stated that it “was brought to India” from outside. As a matter of detail, St. Paul reported on Christian communities living in Greece, Rome and Spain in the 40s AD, [1] while St. Thomas even according to his followers only came to India in 52 AD, so by all accounts, Christianity still reached Europe before India. [2] At any rate, its origins lay in West Asia, outside India. But this geographical primacy is not the main issue here. More importantly, there is nothing factual, nor secular, about the claim that Thomas ever came to India.

Thomas of CanaThat claim is a stark instance of what secularists would denounce in other cases as a “myth”. By this, I don’t mean that it was concocted in a backroom conspiracy, then propagated by obliging mercenary scribes (the way many Hindus imagine the colonial origins of the “Aryan invasion myth” came into being). It came about in a fairly innocent manner, through a misunderstanding, a misreading of an apocryphal text, the miracle-laden hagiography Acts of Thomas. This is not the place to discuss the unflattering picture painted of Thomas in his own hagiography, which credits him with many anti-social acts. The point for now is that the text never mentions nor describes the subcontinent but merely has the apostle go from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people are “Mazdei” [Zoroastrian] and have Persian names. This is definitely not lush and green Kerala. Not only is there no independent record of Thomas ever coming near India, but the only source claimed for this story, doesn’t even make this claim either.

However, we know of a Thomas of Cana [3] who led a group of Christian refugees from Iran in the 4th century, when the christianisation of the Roman empire caused the Iranians to see their Syriac-speaking Christian minority as a Roman fifth column. The name “Thomas Christians” may originally have referred to this 4th-century leader. [4]

Then again, those refugees may also have been “Thomas Christians” before their migration to India in the sense that their Christian community had been founded in Iran [viz. Church of Fars] by the apostle Thomas. That he lived and worked in some Iranian region is attested and likely, but in no case did he ever settle in India.

Eusebius of CaesareaThe Church Fathers Clement of Alexandra, Origen and Eusebius confirm explicitly that he settled in “Parthia”, a part of the Iranian world. From the 3rd century, we do note an increasing tendency among Christian authors to locate him in a place labelled “India”, as does the Acts of Thomas. But it must be borne in mind that this term was very vague, designating the whole region extending from Iran eastwards. [5] Remember that when Columbus had landed in America, which he thought was East Asia, he labelled the indigenous people “Indians”, meaning “Asians”. Afghanistan is one area that was Iranian-speaking and predominantly Mazdean [Zoroastrian] but often considered part of “India”. Moreover, in some periods of history it was even politically united with parts of “India” in the narrow sense. So, Afghanistan may well be the “Western India” where Pope Benedict placed St. Thomas in his controversial speech in September 2006, to the dismay of the South Indian bishops.

While the belief that Thomas settled in South India came about as an honest mistake, the claim that he was martyred by Brahmins was always a deliberate lie, playing upon a possible confusion between the consonants of the expression “be ruhme”, meaning “with a spear”, and those of “Brahma” (Semitic alphabets usually don’t specify vowels). That was the gratitude Hindus received in return for extending their hospitality to the Christian refugees: being blackened as the murderers of the refugees’ own hero. If the Indian bishops have any honour, they will themselves remove this false allegation from their discourse and their monuments, including the cathedral in Chennai built at the site of Thomas’s purported martyrdom (actually the site of a Shiva temple). Indeed, they will issue a historic declaration expressing their indebtedness to Hindu hospitality and pluralism and pledging to renounce their anti-Hindu animus.

Sri RamaSecularists keep on reminding us that there is no archaeological evidence for Rama’s travels, and from this they deduce the non sequitur that Rama never existed, indeed that “Rama’s story is only a myth”. But in Rama’s case, we at least do have a literary testimony, the Ramayana, which in the absence of material evidence may or may not be truthful, while in the case of Thomas’s alleged arrival in India, we don’t even have a literary account. The text cited in the story’s favour doesn’t even have him come to a region identifiable as South India. That is why Christian scholars outside India have no problem abandoning the myth of Thomas’s landing in Kerala and of his martyrdom in Tamil Nadu. I studied at the Catholic University of Louvain, and our Jesuit professor of religious history taught us that there is no data that could dignify the Thomas legend with the status of history.

This eliminates the last excuse the secularists might offer for repeating the Thomas legend, viz. that the historical truth would hurt the feelings of the Christian minority. It is clear enough that many Christians including the Pope have long given up the belief in Thomas’s Indian exploits, or (like the Church Fathers mentioned above) never believed in them in the first place. In contrast with European Christians today, Indian Christians live in a 17th century bubble, as if they are too puerile to stand in the daylight of solid historical fact. They remain in a twilight of legend and lies, at the command of ambitious “medieval” bishops who mislead them with the St. Thomas in India fable for purely selfish reasons. – Extracted from the foreword to The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1995.

» Dr Koenraad Elst is a Flemish Indologist and historian from Belgian who frequently visits India to lecture. He is a leading Voice of India author.

Notes

1. India’s political leaders are fond of telling their constituents and the nation that Christianity arrived in India before it arrived in Europe. This historical conceit is not true. Apostle Paul says in Romans 15:24 & 15:28 that he plans to visit Spain (which already had a Christian community). In Acts 19:21 he travels from Ephesus to Greece—Macedonia and Achaia—en route to Jerusalem, and then on to Rome. This took place in the 40s CE—some historians say he was writing after 44 CE. So even if it was true that Apostle Thomas landed in Kerala in 52 CE—the spurious date is of 19th century origin—Christianity would still have arrived in Europe a decade earlier. – IS

Jawaharlal Nehru2. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru provides an excellent example of how some innocents abroad lap up lies sold by powerful organizations. “You may be surprised to learn,” he wrote his daughter, Indira, on April 12, 1932, “that Christianity came to India long before it went to England or Western Europe, and when even in Rome it was a despised and proscribed sect. Within a hundred years or so of the death of Jesus, Christian missionaries came to South India by sea…. They converted a large number of people.” (Glimpses of World History, OUP reprint, fourth impression, 1987, quoted by Sita Ram Goel in History of Hindu-Christian Encounters: AD 304 to 1996, Second Revised Edition, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1996.) – IS

3. Thomas of Cana, known variously as Thomas of Jerusalem, Thomas the Merchant and to Syrian Christians as Knai Thoma, led the first group of 72 Syrian Christian families to India in 345 CE. There is no record of Christian communities in India prior to this date. Thomas of Cana and his companion Bishop Joseph of Edessa also brought with them the tradition of St Thomas the Apostle of the East. Later, Christian communities in Kerala would identify Knai Thoma with Mar Thoma—Thomas of Cana with Thomas the Apostle—and claim St Thomas had arrived in Kerala in AD 52 and established the first Christian church at Musiris—the ancient port near present day Kodungallur—the main trading center of the day.

The Rev Dr G. Milne Rae of the Madras Christian College, in The Syrian Church in India, did not allow that St Thomas came further east than Afghanistan (Gandhara). He told the Syrian Christians that they reasoned fallaciously about their identity and wove a fictitious story of their origin. Their claim that they were called “St Thomas” Christians from the 1st century was also false.

4. Syrian Christians were called Nasranis (from Nazarean) or Nestorians (by Europeans) up to the 14th century. Bishop Giovanni dei Marignolli the Franciscan papal legate in Quilon invented the appellation “St Thomas Christians” in 1348 to distinguish his Syrian Christian converts from the low-caste Hindu converts in his congregation.

5. The oriental ubiquity of St Thomas’s apostolate is explained by the fact that the geographical term “India” included, apart from the subcontinent of this name, the lands washed by the Indian Ocean as far as the China Sea in the east and the Arabian peninsula, Ethiopia, and the African coast in the west.Ancient writers used the designation “India” for all countries south and east of the Roman Empire’s frontiers. India included Ethiopia, Arabia Felix, Edessa in Syria (in the Latin version of the Syriac Diatessaron), Arachosia and Gandhara (Afghanistan and Pakistan), and many countries up to the China Sea. In the Acts of Thomas, the original key text to identify St Thomas with India (which all other India references follow), historians agree that the term India refers to Parthia (Persia) and Gandhara (Afghanistan-Pakistan). The city of Andrapolis named in the Acts, where Judas Thomas and Abbanes landed in India, has been tentartively identified as Sandaruck (one of the ancient Alexandrias) in Balochistan. – IS

San Thome Cathedral: This tableau of St. Thomas and his Hindu assassin was built after the publication of Ishwar Sharan's book in 1995. Its objective is to malign the Hindu community with the accusation of the murder of a Christian apostle and saint, and to further the propagation of the St. Thomas legend which has made India's bishops very wealthy and supports their political claim on India.

See also

The controversy surrounding Baburao Savarkar’s Jesus-in-India book – Aravindan Neelakandan

Issa and Giant's Head by Nicholas Roerich (1932)

S. Aravindan Neelakandan“One should remember that at the time of the book’s writing, theosophical stories of Jesus having learnt esoteric mysticism from India were very popular. Among its proponents were Russian painter Roerich and Paramahansa Yogananda, who believed in the legend that Jesus traveled to the East. Even as recent as in the 1980s, popular English magazines such as Illustrated Weekly of India and Mirror ran stories titled ‘Did Jesus die in Kashmir?’ and ‘Did Jesus really live?’” – Aravindan Neelakandan

Ganesh Damodar (Babarao) SavarkarThe controversy surrounding the book Christ Parichay is a textbook case of suggestio falsi suppressio veri and the creation of a controversy where there is none. Written by Ganesh Savarkar (also called Baburao), brother of Veer SavarkarChrist Parichay was published posthumously in 1946. The book is being republished today (26 February) by the Savarkar National Memorial—an organization which has no connection with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The republication of Christ Parichay is part of a drive to republish all of Baburao’s works. Nonetheless, media reports have sought to associate the book with the RSS itself. In a report ostensibly aimed at inflaming Christian sentiments, Midday said, “Jesus Christ was a Tamil Hindu, claims RSS founder’s controversial book”. Despite clarification from the publisher that the book’s publication was only a part of the republication of Baburao’s works, the report portrays the views in the book as the official claims of the RSS.

Nicholas RoerichOne should remember that at the time of the book’s writing, theosophical stories of Jesus having learnt esoteric mysticism from India were very popular. Among its proponents were Russian painter Roerich and Paramahansa Yogananda, who believed in the legend that Jesus traveled to the East. Even as recent as in the 1980s, popular English magazines such as Illustrated Weekly of India and Mirror ran stories titled “Did Jesus die in Kashmir?” and “Did Jesus really live?

Even today, these notions are popular, not only among a section of Hindus but also among assorted sections of theosophists and new-age groups. Many Ahmadiyya Muslims believe in the idea that Jesus came to Kashmir. BBC’s documentary director Richard Denton holds that, having survived the crucifixion, Jesus traveled east to Kashmir.

Further, one should also remember that the book was written at a time when dominant forces in colonial Indology were making outlandish claims that Krishna was a distorted myth of Jesus and that the Gita was influenced by the Gospels. But for the compelling inscription-based evidence that the Krishna tradition predated the Common Era, such a narrative would have even entered our textbooks.

Paramhansa Yogananda: Fully compromised! He has done more harm to Hinduism than a Francis Xavier!To put things in perspective, let us consider this. John Bentley, a nineteenth century Indologist in his book, A Historical View of the Hindu Astronomy, written in 1825, stated that “the fabrication of the incarnation and birth of Krishna” was done by Brahmins because they “were sorely vexed at the progress Christianity was making, and fearing, if not stopped in time, they would lose all their influence and emoluments”.

Today, we know that this is completely wrong and that Krishna worship predated the Common Era by centuries. But in 2013, Cambridge University Press reprinted the book as part of its practice of reissuing of out-of-print titles. None portrayed the views in the book as the official stand of Cambridge University, nor did tabloids report that Cambridge published a book which claims that Krishna was a fabrication by Brahmins to counter Christianity.

The reports surrounding Christ Parichay have also revealed the lack of knowledge regarding Indian society. In an effort to paint the book as “Brahminical”, the reports repeatedly stated that the author made Jesus a ‘Tam-Brahm’. In reality, the book claimed that Jesus was a “Viswakarma Brahmin“.

This claim is interesting for historical reasons. For many decades, Viswakarmas and Orthodox Brahmins had a dispute. Viswakarmas include artisans, sculptors and goldsmiths and Orthodox Brahmins vehemently opposed their rights to sacred thread. Litigation wars raged in colonial courts over the issue. In this context, Baburao’s claim that Jesus was a ‘Viswakarma Brahmin’ who had a sacred thread ceremony has significant connotations. Baburao was totally wrong about Jesus. But he was essentially siding with the artisan community against the orthodoxy.

Nicolas NotovichInterestingly, as late as in 2010, a Biblical scholar Dr Adam Bradford made a claim which sounds close to, but is different from, the one made by Baburao in 1946. Bradford claims that Jesus was a socially privileged architect or a tekton—a claim also made by Baburao.

Of course, there is no credible evidence backing any of these claims regarding Jesus. The claims only reveal a craving from fringe Christians in the West and a section of Hindus in India to place Jesus within Eastern traditions. Any right thinking person would have understood that the republishing of this book can serve no propaganda and at best only serves academic interest over how a section of Hindus perceived Jesus.

Neither the RSS nor any Hindu organization had ever propagated these views even when they were written. M. S. Golwalkar, the second chief of the RSS, for example, called Jesus “a great seer” who had “sublime thoughts”, and attributed the spread of Christianity to apostles being “fired with the spirit of Christ”.

Again, historical documents prove that Golwalkar was wrong. Author Jonathan Kirsch meticulously showed in his work, God against the Gods, that the spread of Christianity was brought about by a dangerous cocktail of fanatical evangelism and the political opportunities that monotheism provided to Roman rulers.

The point to be noted is that the RSS never officially promulgated Baburao’s views on Christ. In fact, one of the very first English books eulogizing the RSS was written by a Catholic priest in Kerala, Anthony Elenjimittam. Elenjimittam was a Gandhian who incidentally also coined one of the more popular terms in Indian politics, ‘pseudo-secularism’.

The RSS, on its part, continues to have dialogue with various Christian groups and never gets into theological debates over Christianity. In 2002, the then RSS chief K. S. Sudarshan participated in the RSS-Christian Perspective Meet, held by the Indian Institute of Christian Studies.

Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression by Sita Ram GoelThere are sections among Hindu nationalists who do not agree with this approach of the RSS. Most notable among them are those belonging to the Sita Ram Goel school. Goel’s harsh criticism of Jesus Christ as an “artifice for aggression” still sets the ideological framework for this school of Hindutvaites who negate Jesus completely. The Hindu nationalist approaches to Jesus and Christianity, therefore, are varied and not monolithic. They are only united in their opposition to forced and organized conversions.

Hence, the controversy surrounding the book written by Babarao Savarkar in 1946 is nothing but a psychological and communal hoax played on the nation. There are other really serious communal forces at work which use similar unfounded theories. Baburao could be forgiven perhaps, taking into account his era and the fact that he did not aim to make his views a basis for converting Christians to Hinduism. But what about forces that work today with a communal agenda, having a sophisticated institutional mechanism and claiming that “India is a Christian Nation”?

India is a Christian NationThe book India is a Christian Nation repeats the outdated pseudo-scientific Aryan invasion theory and then claims that Dravidians are the natives of India. Then, it quotes Father Heras who claimed that they were “Hamitic”. It also claims that Abraham was a Dravidian, thus effectively making Jesus a Dravidian descendant.

The book was written in 2003 and since then has been republished several times. Far from being discredited, the book has been endorsed by some of the highest authorities of Indian churches, including Catholic Bishop Rev Dr Lawrence Pius of Chennai, Bishop Ezra Sargunam of Evangelical Church of India and Dr John Samuel of Institute of Asian Studies. What makes the book even more dangerous to communal harmony is the fact that it also carries an appendix on the so-called “Secret Circular of RSS”, a hate-hoax modeled after the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Yet, the book is endorsed by Christian authorities cutting across denominations.

This book is not an isolated phenomenon. There is an entire industry flourishing through the publication of books which claim that Hinduism is a derivative of Christianity. Even the famous Thirukkural has been claimed as a Christian work, though such claims have been decisively proved false by Tamil scholars. Yet, such evangelical materials thrive and are disseminated through countless evangelical outlets throughout Tamil Nadu.

It is time that we stopped peddling half-truths and started looking at the overall picture in an unbiased manner. That is the least that they can do to really boost secularism in India. – Swarajya, 26 February 2016

» Aravindan Neelakandan has a master’s degree in Psychology from Madras University and Economics from Madurai Kamaraj University. He is the co-author of the book Breaking India.

See also

  1. Did Jesus die in Kashmir? – Abu Abraham
  2. Jesus in India: The myth of the lost years – D. M. Murdock
  3. Nicolas Notovitch and the Jesus-in-India tale – D. M. Murdock
  4. Swami Vivekananda on the historicity of Jesus Christ – Sister Nivedita
  5. Swami Devananda’s letter to Sadhu Rangarajan concerning his Jesus-in-India story on Sulekha
  6. “Rather than being a direct gift from God, Christianity is simply a human construct,” says Dr. Koenraad Elst

 

Nicolas Notovitch and the Jesus-in-India tale – D.M. Murdock

Issa and the Giant's Skull (1932) Nicholas Roerich

D. M. Murdock“Despite the popularity of the Jesus-in-India tale, the claim is not accepted by mainstream authorities, either Christian or secular. The tale’s proponents assert that scholars reject Jesus in India because of Western imperialism and the inability to accept that Christ could have been influenced by Buddhism. In the case of mythicists, however, the reason Jesus is denied as having gone to India is because he is a pagan sun god remade into a Jewish “human” messiah.” – D. M. Murdock

Jesus with wife Mary Magdalene and KidsThe Myth of the Lost Years

Over the centuries, the claim has repeatedly been made that Jesus Christ not only walked the earth but also spent his early and post-crucifixion years in a variety of places, including Egypt, India, Great Britain, Japan and America. Indeed, traditions maintain that Jesus, the great godman of the West, lived, learned, loved and died in such places. Popular modern literature also purports that Jesus sired children, who then became the ancestors of various royal families of Europe, including France and/or elsewhere, depending on the author.

The allegation of Christ being a kingly progenitor is extremely convenient and useful for European royal families, obviously. Unfortunately for the European claimants, however, India also has a tradition that Jesus went there and likewise fathered children. So too does Shingo, Japan, allege that Jesus ended up there after the crucifixion, having children with a Japanese wife. Other tales depict Jesus “walking the Americas” or bopping about Glastonbury, England, with his “uncle,” Joseph of Arimathea. Not all of these tales can be true, obviously, unless Jesus is polymorphous and phantasmagoric, a perspective that in reality represents that of the mythologist or mythicist. To wit, regardless of these fables, or, rather, because of them, the most reasonable conclusion regarding Jesus and where he may or may not have been is that he is a mythical character, not a historical personage who trotted the globe.

Jesus the YogiThe Groovy Guru

According to legend, Jesus, the great Jewish sage, spent his “lost years,” from between the ages of around 12 to 28 or 30, in India, where, per another tradition, he also escaped after surviving the crucifixion. The Jesus-was-a-guru tale was popularized over a century ago by the Russian traveler Nicolas Notovitch. Notovitch asserted that in 1887, while at the secluded Hemis or Himis monastery in Ladakh/Tibet, he was shown a manuscript which discussed the “unknown life” of Jesus, or “Issa,” as he was supposedly called in the East. This “Issa” text, translated for Notovitch from Tibetan by a monk/lama, alleged that during his “lost years” Jesus was educated by yogis in India, Nepal and “the Himalaya Mountains.”

Stating that he felt the manuscript to be “true and genuine,” Notovich maintained its contents were written “immediately after the Resurrection,” while the manuscript itself purportedly dated from the third century of the Common Era. Notovitch related that the “two manuscripts” he was shown at Himis were “compiled from diverse copies written in the Thibetan tongue, translated from rolls belonging to the Lassa library and brought from India, Nepal, and Maghada 200 years after Christ.” (Notovitch, 44)

Notovitch’s story was challenged by a number of people, which served to popularize it further. Noted Sanskrit scholar Max Müller came down hard on Notovitch, concluding that either the Russian had never gone to Tibet in the first place, and had concocted the Jesus story, or that waggish Buddhist monks had played a trick on Notovitch, as Indian priests had done in a notorious instance concerning the Asiatic Research Society’s Colonel Wilford. Others subsequently journeyed to Himis/Hemis and witnessed repeated denial by the lamas that Notovitch had ever been there or that any such manuscript existed. In 1922, Indian scholar and swami Abhedananda eventually determined for himself by visiting Himis, gaining the confidence of the lamas and having the manuscript revealed to him. Other visitors to Himis, such as mystic Nicholas Roerich, verified the same story. Aspects of Notovitch’s story checked out, and he apparently did indeed stay at Himis and was shown a manuscript relating to “Issa.”

Notovitch claimed that Indian merchants brought the account of “Jesus” to Himis, and that they had actually witnessed the crucifixion. Indeed, the text begins with “This is what is related on this subject by the merchants who come from Israel,” reflecting not that “Jesus” lived in India but that the Jesus tradition was brought to India and Tibet. (Notovitch, 32) Notovitch’s text also did not state that Jesus was specifically at Himis: In fact, the lama stated that the Issa scrolls “were brought from India to Nepal, and from Nepal to Thibet.” Yet, upon returning to Himis through later visitors, the story eventually became morphed into “Your Jesus was here,” meaning at Himis itself. The “one book” or “two manuscripts” became “three books,” which were displayed for the later visitors, with the implication that there was more to the tale.

Nicolas NotovichAlthough subsequent visitors were presented such texts, none but Nicholas Roerich’s son, George, could read them. By his translation, Roerich was evidently shown the same text as Notovitch. Thus, it appears that there was only one text at Himis, and that it did not state that Issa himself was ever at the monastery. Furthermore, that one text is based on hearsay provided by passing merchants and does not at all represent an “eyewitness” account of “Jesus” in India and Tibet, although the impression is given that this and other texts do constitute such records.

Also, Notovitch asked if “Issa” was reputed to be a saint, and was informed that “the people ignore his very existence” and that the lamas who have studied the scrolls “alone know of him.” These remarks are a far cry from Roerich’s claim that the tale of “Christ” in India and other parts of Asia was to be found widespread. They also contradict the Tibetan text’s own assertion that Issa’s “fame spread everywhere” and that Persia and surrounding countries “resounded with prophecies” of Issa, thus causing the Persian priesthood to be terrified of him. This latter element sounds like typical myth-making, especially since there were similar prophecies of godmen for centuries, if not millennia, prior to Christ’s purported advent, particularly in India.

Moreover, the “originals” of the scrolls housed at the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, were composed in Pali, while the Himis library contained one copy in Tibetan. Yet, the Tibetan alphabet was developed by the king who “reigned in the days of Mohammed”; hence, nothing could have been written in Tibetan prior to the 7th century. Although older texts were composed in Sanskrit or Pali, it is clear that the actual physical manuscript revealed to Notovitch could not have existed before the 7th century. In fact, it would appear that very few Tibetan texts date to before the 9th century. In any event, the manuscript itself certainly did not date from the third century, although it could represent tradition transmitted over the centuries.

While Notovitch claimed the Issa story dated to shortly after “the Resurrection,” in it there is no mention of the resurrection, and the tale ends with Issa’s death. In this regard, the text depicts the “Jews,” whom it calls “Israelites,” in a favorable light, and is “the only [manuscript] ever to charge the Romans [“pagans”] solely for Jesus’ execution.” Unlike others, this account does not have Jesus being resuscitated and then returning to India, to father children and live a long life.

Notovitch’s modern editor, Frank Muccie, relates that the manuscript states, “Pilate is responsible for removing Jesus’ body from the tomb,” noting that this development somehow does not “mean the resurrection hope is invalid.” He then says:

“By the third century A.D., there were no fewer than 25 different versions of Jesus’ death and resurrection! Some have him not being put to death at all, some have him revived back to life, and some have Jesus living on to old age and dying in Egypt!” (Notovitch, 6)

Obviously, not all of these 25 or more accounts can be “true and genuine,” and such a development casts doubt on the historicity of one and all.

Rozabal TombThe Rozabal Tomb

Moreover, it is interesting that Notovitch spent six days in the “Vale of Kashmir,” in its capital, Srinagar, “city of the sun,” where the purported tomb of “Jesus,” the wandering prophet Yuz Asaf, is shown to tourists. Yet, the Russian traveler apparently never heard of the tomb, known as the “Roza Bal” or “Rauzabal” shrine, as he does not mention it in his writings concerning the Tibetan text, where its inclusion certainly would have been judicious in demonstrating that Jesus lived in India! Perhaps, however, as a believing Christian Notovitch ignored this tale, much as the devout do today and much as skeptics may do with other fables concerning Christ.

Possessing the priestly touch of sculpted footprints “with nail marks” over the grave, the Roza Bal shrine may seem convincing to the uninitiated, who are unaware of the world’s well-developed priest-craft. This “artifact” is another in a long line of so-called relics, like the 20+ shrouds or the multiple foreskins of Christ. In reality, there were many “footprints of the gods” in ancient times—and a number of Indian gods are depicted with nail holes in their feet.

Also, “Yuz Asaf” is not equivalent to “Jesus” but to “Joseph,” which was often a title of a priest and not a name. In fact, Eastern scholars such as Dr. S. Radhakrishnan state that the name “Joseph” or “Joasaph” is “derived from Bodhisattva, the technical name for one destined to obtain the dignity of a Buddha.” (Prajnanananda, 107) Thus, this tomb of a Bodhisattva could belong to any of thousands of such holy men. In like regard, the purported graves of “Jesus” and “his brother” in Japan are in reality those of a 16th-century Christian missionary and his brother.

The legends regarding Jesus’s tomb in Srinagar, and that of the Virgin Mary in Kashgar, are apparently of Islamic origin, emanating largely from the “heretical” Ahmadiyya sect. Such a creation would serve a couple of purposes: 1. That, as asserted in the Koran, Jesus was not the “son of God” but a mortal prophet, whose body was buried in Kashmir; and 2. that some presumably Moslem people are his descendants.

Proponents of the Jesus-in-India theory hold up a number of other texts and artifacts they maintain “prove” not only Jesus’s existence on Earth but also his presence in India. When such texts and artifacts are closely examined, they serve as no evidence at all, except of priest-craft. With one or two possible exceptions originating to a few centuries earlier, the Eastern texts regarding “Issa” seem to be late writings, some dating to the 15th and 18th centuries, based on traditions, not eyewitness accounts. Some of the “documents” are obviously fictitious, and others are downright ridiculous, such as the Bhavishya Mahapurana. A number of these texts merely relate the basic gospel story with embellishments depending on what the storyteller is attempting to accomplish.

Tibetan monk holding scrollsBuddhist Propaganda or Christian Proselytizing?

Although some of the writings appear to be of Hindu origin, the attack by “Issa” on the Vedas and Brahmans, as in the Notovitch text, represents Buddhist propaganda. It appears that Buddhists were trying to demonstrate that Jesus, the great wise man of the West, was influenced by Buddhism, even having been taught by “Buddha,” an eternal disincarnate entity. In this regard, the Notovitch text states, “Six years later, Issa, whom the Buddha had chosen to spread his holy word, could perfectly explain the sacred rolls.” (Notovitch, 35) In this way, Buddha usurps Jesus, becoming the Jewish teacher’s guru.

That the text has been used as propaganda to raise Buddha and Buddhism over Christ and Christianity is further validated by Notovitch’s foreword, in which he related that the lama told him, “The only error of the Christians is that after adopting the great doctrine of Buddha, they, at the very outset, completed separated themselves from him and created another Dalai-Lama….” This “Dalai-Lama,” the monk subsequently informed the Russian, is the Pope. Concerning Christ, the lama continued, “Buddha did, indeed, incarnate himself with his intelligence in the sacred person of Issa, who, without the aid of fire and sword, went forth to propagate our great and true religion through the entire world.” (Notovitch, 20) Hence, Eastern traditions regarding Jesus are designed to show that Jesus is Buddha and that Christianity is an offshoot of ancient Eastern wisdom.

Nevertheless, the Notovitch text itself may have been composed originally by proselytizing Christians who attempted to use the natives’ belief in Buddha in order to increase Christ’s stature. These missionaries may have been appealing to women to follow “Issa,” as the text puts great emphasis on women, whose status in India and elsewhere has been abysmally low. The text would also appeal to the Sudras or Pariahs, since it has Issa preaching on their behalf. These groups are targeted to this day by Christian missionaries in India.

Considering that many missionaries, travelers and scholars have been keenly aware of the numerous and profound similarities between the Tibetan and Catholic religions, it would not be surprising if this Issa fable were created in order to show that the Tibetan religion is merely a foreign derivative of the “true universal religion,” i.e., Catholicism. The resemblances between various Indian sects and Christianity likewise led to tales about the Christian missionaries Thomas, Bartholomew and Pantaenus also proselytizing in India. Like the Jesus-in-India myth, there are other explanations for the resemblances, which are addressed in detail in my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. In short, the major explanation is that the “Christian” religion and savior were already in India long before the alleged advent of Jesus.

Lord ShivaIs “Issa” Jesus—or Shiva?

By calling Issa “Jesus” or “Christ,” modern writers have cemented in the readers’ minds that the correlation is absolute, an erroneous conclusion. In reality, the name “Issa,” “Isa” or “Isha” is a title and simply means “lord,” “god” or “master,” often referring to the Indian god Lord Shiva: “‘Isha’ or ‘the Lord’ is another name of Siva…” (Prajnanananda, 19) Furthermore, Prof. Nunos de Santos says, “… a god variously named Issa, Isha, Ichtos, Iesus, Ieshuah, Joshuah, Jesus, etc., is indisputably originally from India.” He also states, “Ishvara (Ishwar) is widely worshipped in the Far East, being also called Isha (or Ishana) in India, Issara in Pali, Isuan in Thai, Jizu (or Jizai) in Japanese, and so on.”

“Isa” is likewise another name for Chandra, the Indian moon god, as well as for Shiva’s Egyptian counterpart, the soli-lunar god Osiris, also called Iswara in India:

“Iswara, or Isa, and Isani, or Isisi, are … unquestionably the Osiris and Isis of Egypt. Iswara, Siva, or Hara (for these are his names among nearly a thousand more) united with Isi, represent the secondary causes, whatever they may be, of natural phenomena; and principally those of temporary destruction and regeneration.” (Moor, 151)

Numerous ancient legends, recorded for example in the writings of Diodorus Siculus during the first century BCE, depict Osiris as traveling all over the East, as well as the rest of the world, during the millennia when he reigned as Egypt’s favorite deity. Osiris, or Isa, it should be noted, was put to death and resurrected, among many other correspondences to the Christ myth. Osiris/Isa too had a number of tombs in various places, especially in Egypt but likely also in India. However, Osiris was not a “real person” but a fertility and sun god. What mythologists recognize is that it was not a “historical Osiris” but his myth that made it to India and diverse places. As in the case of Osiris, the same phenomenon occurred regarding “Jesus,” who is, in the end, a remake of Osiris, among others.

The title “Isa” or “Issa” could apply to others, and is a common name even today. Indeed, some part of these Jesus-in-India tales may revolve around the famed Greek sage Apollonius of Tyana. Not a few persons over the centuries have noted the similarities between the lives of Apollonius and Christ, and even in ancient times Christians were accused of plagiarizing the Apollonius legend.

Nicholas RoerichThe Nestorians

The Issa myth apparently represents a Christianization of legends regarding Osiris, Shiva, Apollonius and other gods and “Bodhisattvas,” by the Nestorians, an early Christian sect who lived in India and elsewhere, and may well have spread the syncretistic fable to other Asian ports of call. Indeed, Nicholas Roerich himself surmised that the ancient Nestorian sect spread the tales in the East:

“We heard several versions of this legend which has spread widely through Ladak, Sinkiang and Mongolia, but all versions agree on one point, that during His absence, Christ was in India and Asia…. Perhaps [this legend] is of Nestorian origin.” (Prophet, 261)

Roerich also stated, “Whoever doubts too completely that such legends about the Christ life exist in Asia, probably does not realize what an immense influence the Nestorians have had in all parts of Asia and how many so-called Apocryphal legends they spread in the most ancient times.” (Roerich, 89) In addition, George Roerich even proposed that there was a “floating colony” of Nestorians in Ladakh itself “during the eighth to tenth centuries,” which could well be when the Notovitch text was composed. Roerich, one of the main writers whose works have led to the Jesus-in-India theory, almost invariably and misleadingly substitutes “Jesus” or “Christ” for “Issa,” when Issa could be a number of individuals, mythical and historical.

In his account of Jesus in India, Roerich declared, “The teachings of India were famed far and wide; let us even recall the description of the life of Appolonius [sic] of Tyana and his visits to Hindu sages.” (Roerich, 119) Again, one likely scenario regarding “Issa” (“Lord” or “Master”) is that, whatever part of his tale is “historical,” it possibly refers to Apollonius.

Muziris on the Roman Tabula PeutingerianaPre-Christian Indo-European Interaction

As is well-known, Apollonius was not alone in his journeys to the East. Decades and centuries prior to the Christian era, there was much intercourse between India and the West, including the famous journey by Pythagoras and the Alexandrian incursion. As another pertinent example, one of the seats of Mandeanism, a Christian baptist sect, was Maisan, a Mesopotamian city colonized by Indians. As Dr. Rudolph Otto relates:

“… Indian caravans passed through Maisan and likewise Nabatea. Indian merchants, wherever they went, were importers and missionaries of Indian ideas. There need be no surprise therefore if direct Indian imports are found in the syncretistic medley of Mandean Gnosis”. (Prajnanananda, 41)

Space does not permit us to recount the numerous authorities who are in agreement as to the westward spread of Indian and Buddhist concepts centuries before and into the Christian era. A number of them may be found in Prajnanananda’s book, including a “Mr. Cust,” who evinced that trade between India and Yemen “was established not later than 1000 B.C.” Yemen is very close to Israel, and by the first century CE there were plenty of Indians in the Roman Empire.

Despite the popularity of the Jesus-in-India tale, the claim is not accepted by mainstream authorities, either Christian or secular. The tale’s proponents assert that scholars reject Jesus in India because of Western imperialism and the inability to accept that Christ could have been influenced by Buddhism. In the case of mythicists, however, the reason Jesus is denied as having gone to India is because he is a pagan sun god remade into a Jewish “human” messiah. Thus, it is not a question of a “historical Jesus” being in India and the East but of a variety of solar cults that worshipped a similar deity with similar rituals, doctrines and myths.

Mithras / Sol InvictusThe “Lost Years” Are Astrotheological

Over the centuries Jesus’s so-called “lost years” and post-crucifixion life have provided much fodder for the fertile human imagination, leading to speculation, legends, traditions and myths that the great godman and sage lived and studied in a variety of places. Once the fable of Christ became popular, numerous towns, villages, cities and nations wished to establish some sort of connection. Instead of recognizing that such a significant omission as Jesus’s “lost years” is an indication of the mythical nature of the tale, individuals using typical priest-craft have come up with countless extraordinary adventures of the “historical Jesus.” Unfortunately for the believers, however, not only is the gospel story itself but so too are these Jesus-the-Globetrotter tales mere deluding smoke and mirrors, and the reason for the gap in Jesus’s biography is because he was not a “real person” but a pagan sun god turned into a Jewish messiah. In the mythos revolving around the sun god, there need be no accounting for “lost years,” as the “age” of 12 represents the sun at high noon, while the 28 or 30 represents the days of the lunar or solar months, respectively.

When religions are investigated with a profound knowledge of mythology, the correspondences are clearly revealed, and it becomes evident that it is not the case that this miracle-worker or that godman traveled to this place or that, as has been rumored to have occurred with just about every god or goddess. In actuality, it is the legends, traditions and myths concerning these gods, godmen or gurus that have been spread far and wide by their proponents, priests and propagandists. As was the case with the missionary and his brother in Japan, who were taken for the object of worship they were proselytizing, so has it developed in other parts of the world over the millennia concerning not only Jesus but also many other deities, such as the virgin-born, crucified Mexican god Quetzalcoatl, whose similar “life” and religion led to claims that “Jesus” was in America. The reason for the similarities, however, is because both Jesus and Quetzalcoatl are sun gods with the same attendant holidays and practices.

Jesus in the Zodiac (11th century)In the final analysis, it is not possible that Jesus could have lived years after the crucifixion, fathered children and died in several different places, as legends represent. The past explanation for such discrepancies has been metaphysical, deeming Jesus to be multidimensional and capable of simultaneous incarnations in various locations. Such an explanation, of course, will not satisfy the skeptic and scientist. Or the mythologist, who simply knows better, because she or he has studied in depth the products of the human mind. Because the basic story of Christ revolves around the sun, which was highly esteemed the world over beginning many millennia ago, the myth is likewise found around the globe. To the basic mythos and ritual were added various embellishments according to the place and era, and for a variety of reasons. In the end, Jesus the Globetrotter is a not a historical personage who magically appeared all over the world, bi-locating and flying on the backs of birds. “Jesus Christ” is mythical creature, to be found globally only between the pages of a book. – Truth Be Known, 1995

Sources

  1. Capt, E. Raymond, The Traditions of Glastonbury, Artisan, 1983
  2. Ellis, Peter B., “Our Druid Cousins,” http://www.hinduism-today.com/2000/2/2000-2-16.html
  3. Huc, M. L’Abbé, Christianity in China, Tartary, and Thibet, I, London, Longman & Co., 1857
  4. Moor, Edward, Simpson, ed., The Hindu Pantheon, Indological Book House, India, 1968
  5. Notovitch, Nicholas, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, Tree of Life Publications, CA, 1980
  6. Nunos de Santos, Arysio, “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ–Comments,” www.rickrichards.com/jc/JesusComment2.html
  7. Prajnanananda, Swami, Christ the Saviour and the Christ Myth, Calcutta, 1984
  8. Prophet, Elizabeth Clare, The Lost Years of Jesus, Summit University Press, 1984
  9. Roerich, Nicholas, Altai-Himalaya, Adventures Unlimited, 2001
» D. M. Murdock, also known as Acharya S., is an American author and classical scholar of religion. She is a proponent of the Christ myth theory and administers a website called Truth be Known. She argues that Christianity is founded on earlier myths and the characters depicted in Christianity are based upon Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Iranian and Indian mythology.

Persian Sun God Mithra

Mithras the Pagan Christ

Nine reasons why everything you know about Jesus is a myth – Valerie Tarico

Dr Valerie Tarico“The person of Jesus, if indeed there was such a person, is shrouded in the fog of history leaving us only with a set of hunches and traditions that far too often are treated as knowledge. The “facts” I have listed here are largely trivial; it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was tall or short, or how he cut his hair. But it does matter, tremendously, that “facts” people claim to know about how Jesus saw himself, and God and humanity are equally tenuous.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

Jesus with wife Mary Magdalene and KidsJesus has been described as the best known figure in history, and also the least known. If you mentioned the name “Jesus” and someone asked Jesus who, you might blink. Or laugh. Even people who don’t think Jesus was God mostly believe they know a fair bit about him. You might be surprised that some of your most basic assumptions about Jesus are probably wrong. 

We have no record of anything that was written about Jesus by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries during the time he would have lived, or for decades thereafter. Nonetheless, based on archeological digs and artifacts, ancient texts and art, and even forensic science, we know a good deal about the time and culture in which the New Testament is set. This evidence points to some startling conclusions about who Jesus likely was—and wasn’t.

1. Married, not single. When an ancient papyrus scrap was found in 2014 referring to the wife of Jesus, some Catholics and Evangelicals were scandalized. But unlike the Catholic Church, Jews have no tradition of celibacy among religious leaders. Jesus and his disciples would have been practising Jews, and all great rabbis we know of were married. A rabbi being celibate would have been so unusual that some modern writers have argued Jesus must have been gay. But a number of ancient texts, including the canonical New Testament, point to a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The Gospel of Phillip says, “[Jesus] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”

2. Cropped hair, not long. Jewish men at the time of Christ did not wear their hair long. A Roman triumphal arch of the time period depicts Jewish slaves with short hair. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses male hair length. “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14 NRSV). During the 1960s, conservative Christians quoted this verse to express their disgust against the hippy movement and to label it anti-Christian.

3. Hung on a pole, not necessarily a cross. For centuries scholars have known that the Greek New Testament word “stauros,” which is translated into English as cross, can refer to a device of several shapes, commonly a single upright pole, “torture stake” or even tree. The Romans did not have a standard way of crucifying prisoners, and Josephus tells us that during the siege of Jerusalem, soldiers nailed or tied their victims in a variety of positions. Early Christians may have centered on the vertical pole with a crossbeam because it echoed the Egyptian ankh, a symbol of life, or the Sumerian symbol for Tammuz, or because it simply was more artistically and symbolically distinctive than the alternatives. Imagine millions of people wearing a golden pole on a chain around their necks.

4. Short, not tall. The typical Jewish man at the time of the Roman Empire would have been just over five feet tall, which makes this a best guess for the height of Jesus. That he is typically depicted taller derives from the mental challenge people have distinguishing physical stature from other kinds of stature. Great men are called “big men” and “larger than life.” In ancient times they often were assigned divine parentage and miraculous births, and the idea that Jesus was uniquely divine has created a strong pull over time to depict him as taller than is likely. A good illustration of this is the Shroud of Turin, which is just one of many such Jesus-shrouds that circulated during medieval times and which bears the image of a man closer to six feet in height.

5. Born in a house, not a stable. The miraculous birth story of Jesus is a late, maybe second-century addition to the Bible, and it contains many fascinating mythic elements and peculiarities. But the idea that Jesus was born in a stable was added to the Christmas story even later. In the original narrative, Joseph and Mary probably would have stayed with relatives, and the phrase “no room for them in the inn (gr: kataluma)” is better translated “no room for them in the upper room.” Later storytellers did not understand that people of the time might bring animals into their ground floor, as in Swiss housebarns, and they assumed that the presence of a manger implied a stable.

6. Named Joshua, not Jesus. The name Joshua (in Hebrew Y’hoshuʿa meaning “deliverance” or “salvation”), was common among Jews in the Ancient Near East as it is today. Joshua and Jesus are the same name, and are translated differently in our modern Bible to distinguish Jesus from the Joshua of the Old Testament, who leads the Hebrew people to the Promised Land. In actuality, the relationship between the two figures is fascinating and important. Some scholars believe that the New Testament gospels are mostly historicised and updated retellings of the more ancient Joshua story, with episodes interwoven from stories of Elisha and Elijah and Moses. A modern parallel can be found in the way Hollywood writers have reworked Shakespearean tropes and plot elements into dozens of modern movies (though for a very different purpose).

7. Number of apostles (12) from astrology, not history. Whether Jesus had 12 disciples who ranked above his other devotees is an open question, as their names vary from list to list. Since the Gospels echo the story of Joshua, the “12” apostles most immediately mirror the 12 tribes of Israel. But the number 12 was considered auspicious by many ancient people, including the Israelites, and the 189 repetitions of the number 12 in the Bible ultimately may derive from the same pre-historical roots as the 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 months of the year. Astrotheology or star worship preceded the Hebrew religion, and shaped both the Bible and world religions more broadly. One might point to the 12 Olympian gods or 12 sons of Odin, or 12 days of Christmas or 12 “legitimate” successors to the prophet Mohammed.

8. Prophecies recalled, not foretold. Even people who aren’t too sure about the divinity of Jesus sometimes think that the way he fulfilled prophecies was a bit spooky, like the writings of Nostradamus. In reality, Scooby Doo could solve this one in a single episode with three pieces of information: First, Old Testament prophecies were well-known to first-century Jews, and a messianic figure who wanted to fulfill some of these prophecies could simply do so. For example, in the book of Matthew, Jesus seeks a donkey to ride into Jerusalem “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 21:4). Second, “gospels” are a genre of devotional literature rather than objective histories, which means that the authors had every reason to shape their stories around earlier predictions. Third, scholars now believe that some Bible texts once thought to be prophecies (for example in the Book of Revelation) actually relate to events that were current or past at the time of writing.

9. Some Jesus quotes not from Jesus; others uncertain. Lists of favorite Jesus sayings abound online. Some of the most popular are the Beatitudes (blessed are the meek, etc.) or the story of the woman caught in adultery (let he who is without sin cast the first stone) or the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which, we are told, sums up the Law and the Prophets).

Thomas JeffersonWhich words are actually from Jesus? This question has been debated fiercely by everyone from third-century Catholic Councils to the 20th-century Jesus Seminar. Even Thomas Jefferson weighed in, but much remains unclear. The New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died, and no technology existed with which to record his teachings in real-time, unless he wrote them down himself, which he didn’t.

We can be confident that at least some of the wise and timeless words and catchy proverbs attributed to Jesus are actually from earlier or later thinkers. For example, the Golden Rule was articulated before the time of Christ by the Rabbi Hillel the Elder, who similarly said it was the “whole Torah.” By contrast, the much-loved story of the woman caught in adultery doesn’t appear in manuscripts until the fourth century. Attributing words (or whole texts) to a famous person was common in the Ancient Near East, because it gave those words extra weight. Small wonder then that so many genuinely valuable insights ended up, in one way or another, paired with the name of Jesus.

JesusThe person of Jesus, if indeed there was such a person, is shrouded in the fog of history leaving us only with a set of hunches and traditions that far too often are treated as knowledge. The “facts” I have listed here are largely trivial; it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was tall or short, or how he cut his hair. But it does matter, tremendously, that “facts” people claim to know about how Jesus saw himself, and God and humanity are equally tenuous.

The teachings attributed to Jesus mix enduring spiritual and moral insights with irrelevancies and Judaica and bits of Iron Age culture, some of which are truly awful. That leaves each of us, from the privileged vantage of the 21st century, with both a right and a responsibility to consider the evidence and make our own best guesses about what is real and how we should then live. A good starting place might be a little more recognition that we don’t know nearly as much as we’d like to think, and a lot of what we know for sure is probably wrong. – Salon, 14 May 2015

» Dr Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. As a writer she tackles the intersection between religious belief, psychology and politics, with a growing focus on women’s issues, and is actively engaged in dialogue that aims to find common ground between theists and freethinkers, in particular by focusing on humanity’s shared moral core. She is a founder of WisdomCommons.org, an interactive site that allows users to find and discuss information about virtues that emerge repeatedly across secular and religious wisdom traditions.

Workers lift the head of a giant idol of Jesus the King onto its body in Swiebodzin, Poland

See also

Testimonium Flavianum: The Jesus passage in Josephus is a forgery, says expert – D.M. Murdock

D.M. Murdock / Acharya Sanning“In the end, it can be argued convincingly that the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole is a forgery and therefore does not provide evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate.” – D.M. Murdock

Titus Flavius JosephusThe passage about Jesus Christ in Jewish historian Josephus’s writings (Antiquities 18.3.3/63) has been debated for centuries, as concerns its authenticity totally, partially or not at all. This brief Testimonium Flavianum (TF) is put forth by Christian apologists as the “best evidence” for the historicity of Jesus, but it has been declared many times to be a forgery in toto. A recent study by a renowned linguist confirms this analysis of the entire passage as an interpolation by a Christian scribe, likely during the fourth century.

The most popular view of the Testimonium these days among critical scholars is the “partial interpolation theory,” which posits that a number of Christian-sounding phrases were inserted into the passage, which is nonetheless original to Josephus. Nevertheless, many scholars, historians, researchers and writers over the past centuries have held to the analysis that the Testimonium in toto is an interpolation into the text by a later Christian hand.

Most of the reasons for questioning the TF’s authenticity can be found in my book Who Was Jesus? and articles “The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled” and “Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?” Suffice it to say that there are a dozen or so scientific and convincing arguments against authenticity, including its abrupt introduction into the text and its omission in early Christian writings, as well as its pious language.

However, this pious language is not simply part of the supposed Christian insertions postulated by the partial interpolation theory but is present in the entire passage. The recent linguistic examination of the Testimonium’s original Greek shows the assessment Prof Paul J. Hopperof the entire passage as an interpolation to be correct, as it gives other scientific reasons to view the whole TF as a Christian profession of faith, rather than a report by a sober historian.

The author of this study published in 2014 is a professor of Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Paul J. Hopper, a longtime scholar who has been publishing peer-reviewed articles in journals for over 40 years. Hopper’s linguistic analysis of the TF in his article “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus” is definitive and adds significantly to the numerous other arguments against the passage’s authenticity evinced over the centuries.

In this regard, Hopper comments:

It is suggested that the Jesus passage is close in style and content to the creeds that were composed two to three centuries after Josephus.

He further explains:

The Testimonium itself is, when compared to the surrounding episodes, unusually short. Its very brevity is a suspicious feature, one that has led some defenders of its authenticity to suggest that while parts of the text are genuinely Josephan, the text has been tampered with by later Christians wanting to erase scandalous content.… In fact, however, the syntax of the Testimonium does not display the kinds of discontinuities we might expect to find if substantial changes such as major deletions or insertions had been made.

Here the linguist states that the syntax or arrangement of words and phrases of the TF shows no sign of either removals or insertions, the former put forth to explain the TF’s brevity and the latter as in the partial interpolation theory.

After discussing the history of TF criticism, Hopper concludes:

There is, then, reason to suspect that the Jesus episode is a later insertion, dating from more than two hundred years after Josephus’s death, and probably absent from most manuscripts of the Jewish Antiquities until even later.

Jesus the New ApolloThe Testimonium’s syntax and morphology indicate it was written as an apology or profession of faith, rather than a historical report. The passage seems to be addressing criticisms, as if written for those who had challenged Christian doctrine at some point after the religion had been established. Its structure reflects protest, and “Methinks it doth protest too much.”

The problems with the TF, therefore, go beyond a few Christian-sounding interpolations and extend to the syntax of the sentences themselves. To wit, they are composed not in typical narrative styles, but resemble more closely the writings of early Church fathers and apologists of succeeding centuries.

As concerns plot, the TF as a whole represents a summary of the gospel story, as recounted in the New Testament, not drawn from separate historical reports or oral history. As Hopper remarks:

… It is from the Gospels, and the Gospels alone, that the Jesus Christ narrative in the Testimonium draws its coherence and its legitimacy as a plot, and perhaps even some of its language. It is not just that the Christian origin of the Testimonium is betrayed by its allegiance to the Gospels, as that without the Gospels the passage is incomprehensible. … The Testimonium does not so much narrate to first century Romans new events, but rather reminds third century Christians of events already familiar to them.

The evident Christian context of the TF speaks also to genre or category of subject matter, likewise examined by Hopper, who states:

The Testimonium is anchored in a radically different discourse community from that of the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The Testimonium reads more like a position paper, a party manifesto, than a narrative….

Nicaean CreedAgain, the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole sounds like a Christian “political statement,” creed or profession of faith, precisely as so many have averred in the past.

Hopper next says that the “closest generic match for the Testimonium is perhaps the various creeds that began to be formulated in the early fourth century, such as the Nicene Creed (325 CE).”

Hopper’s linguistic analysis is yet another nail in the Testimonium coffin and should convince fence-sitters, although Christian apologists likely will never relinquish this “best evidence” because without it their claims to historicity are threadbare indeed.

In conclusion, Hopper states:

The narrative grammar of the Testimonium Flavianum sets it sharply apart from Josephus’s other stories of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. The most likely explanation is that the entire passage is interpolated, presumably by Christians…

In the end, it can be argued convincingly that the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole is a forgery and therefore does not provide evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate. – Examiner, 9 February 2015

See also

» A longer and more in-depth analysis of Paul J. Hopper’s work on the Testimonium Flavianum can be found at Josephus’s Testimonium Flavianum Examined Linguistically: Greek Analysis Demonstrates the Passage a Forgery In Toto. See also Jesus passage in Josephus a forgery.

» Dorothy M. Murdock, also known by her pen name Acharya S, is an American author and proponent of the Christ myth theory. She writes books, and operates a website named Truth be Known. She argues that Christianity is founded on earlier myths and the characters depicted in Christianity are based upon Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and other myths.