Jesus in Kashmir
Christianity is a central pillar of western civilisation but the Christian edifice seems to be crumbling by the day. In addition to clerical scandals and declining church attendance, central beliefs are being questioned and historical foundations challenged.
On 8 September 2004, the BBC presented a programme entitled Did Jesus die on the cross? There was some new thinking in the programme.
The Gospels - varying accounts
Christianity is based on the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus and in the truth of the Gospels. But today many theologians and scholars doubt the accuracy of the Gospels. Of the four alleged auithors, Matthew and John were among the original disciples of Jesus. Luke was a physician and a companion of St Paul. Mark was an interpreter who worked with St Peter and possibly his son.
The four Gospels are claimed to be written 40 to 100 years after the Crucifixion but we are not sure who really wrote them. The original texts are full of inconsistencies. For example, did Jesus feed 5000 with five loaves and two fishes or 4000 with seven loaves and a few fishes? Or was it both as suggested in Matthew? The four Gospels all agree on the Crucifixion. Death on the cross takes place over several days but Jesus is said to have died after 6 hours. Mark says crucifixion began at the 3rd hour, Luke says it was the 6th hour while Matthew says it was about the 9th hour that Jesus cried out in a loud voice and soon died.
The reports of the resurrection in the four Gospels are like accounts of a football match by four papers - they vary about those who were at the tomb. Mark's original gospel reports no appearances. It simply ends with the discovery of an empty tomb. The resurrection stories were added 200 years later in Mark as chapter 16, the last. The others have resurrection stories but they don't agree in the details. John has many different stories not to be found in the other Gospels. The inconsistencies suggest that the Gospels (and additions made) were written with a political motive.
Why for example did Jesus appear to just a few people and not to a large mass? It seems the church wanted to exercise control and authority over the people by deciding on Gospel content and interpretation. The official church teachings were enforced by a brutal Inquisition that lasted 300 years. Today people find it hard to believe in the miracles and the resurrection. No modern theologian takes the resurrection as a historical fact.
Jesus survives the crucifixion
The Gospels affirm that Jesus was alive again and, the church adds, in a glorified state. Thomas was able to touch his wounds. Jesus is believed to have hung on the cross for six hours and presumed dead. So they didn't break his legs to speed up death. His body was brought down and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus collected the body, wrapping it with some 75 pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes in strips of linen. Aloes is not an embalming but a healing herb. So it seems Jesus was resuscitated rather rose form the dead.
But a condemned man could not be seen in public - he was a wanted man. The Gospels deal with the problem by the device of the Ascension - this appears in the same last chapter 16 of Mark added 200 years after the original version. The Ascension is briefly mentioned in Luke - the last chapter (24:51): 'While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven'. It is believed to be a later insertion from the Acts chapter 9 (Luke was also the author of the Acts).
There is no Ascension in Matthew while John concludes the last verse (25) in his last chapter (21) with: 'Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.'
Jesus in the age period 14-29
What are these many things that have not been recorded? One record that is glaringly missing is the period 14-29 years in the life of Jesus. One theory is that he went to India to be trained as a Buddhist.
The story of the Wise Men is surprisingly similar to the traditions of Buddhism, a religion 500 years older than Christianity. When a great Buddhist holy man (lama) died, wise men consult the stars and go on a long trek to find his incarnation. When he is found, he is taken from his parents when old enough and trained in the Buddhist faith. Could Jesus have been identified as an incarnation and taken to India?
The Russian explorer, Nicolai Natovich travelled to northern India in the 19th century and found a manuscript in a Tibetan monastery which he translated as 'The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ'. It tells of a divine child called Issa born to a poor family in Israel. he learnt the teachings of Buddhism before returning to Israel at 29. The later teachings and miracles of Jesus have an uncanny parallel with the Buddhist counterpart. For example, the injunction to love your enemies and the promise that the meek will inherit the earth have no precedent in Judaism but they are found in Buddhism.
1. Mark 6:48: he went out to them walking on the lake.
Anguttara Nikaya 3:60: He walks upon the water without parting it, as if it were solid ground.
2. Mark 10:25: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of heaven.
Jatakamala 5:5 & 15: Riches make a man greedy and so are like a caravan lurching down the road to hell.
3. Matthew 6:20: Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where
thieves do not break in and steal.
Kuddakaptha 8:9 Let the wise man do righteousness; a treasure that others cannot share, which no thief
can steal, a treasure which does not pass away.
Jesus after the crucifixion
One story is that Jesus went to live with Mary Magdalene (together with her sister Martha and brother Lazarus) in France but this is unlikely as France was a Roman colony and he risked being spotted and arrested.
More likely, Jesus escaped to another country. The Jews are the tribe of Judah and according to the Hebrew Bible, there were 10 others that were banished by the Assyrians to the North East. One theory is that Jesus might have wanted to introduce himself to the the other tribes. It was easy to travel to the East either via the Silk route or the Spice route. Thomas the disciple followed the Spice route and landed in South India where he established a church.
In Kashmir, there is a tribe calling themselves Ben-i Israel; they claim to be descendants of the lost tribes. There is a story that in the first century a man from Israel called Issa (known locally as Yus Assaf meaning healer or Shepherd) returned to Kashmir. In a local temple called the Temple of Solomon, there used to be an inscription that told of Yus Assaf's claim in 50 AD to be Jesus.
Abdullah Assiz Kashmiri of the University of Srinagar says according to Kashmiri history books, Yus Assaf came from Israel; he claimed to be a prophet and messenger and spread his teachings. He continued to teach until he died around the year 80 AD. There is a modest building that claims to house his tomb. The first shrine was erected at the site around 112 AD and is now a shared gravesite shared with a Muslim holy man, Syed Nazir-ud-din, buried there in the 15th century.
Unless Issa's body is exhumed, we can't be sure that the body is a man who survived the crucifixion. However, next to the sarcophagus are the carved footprints that have marks or scars on them. Kashmiri said: "'The footprints were carved as a sign - the scars are clearly visible, as if he was nailed to the cross.. this must be the same person who came here from Israel... You won't find any footprints like these in Kashmir."
The position of the scars just behind the toes don't match each other but they would align if a single nail was driven through both feet with the left foot placed on the right.
If this is indeed the tomb of Jesus, then he spent most of his life in the kingdom of Kashmir. That means he did not died on the cross, there was no resurrection and he did not ascend into into heaven.