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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Section 1: Ch 5: Other Doubts linked to Jesus

Chapter 5
Other doubts linked to Jesus

Though this book (and this chapter too of course) is for all, still I want to approach this chapter keeping in mind the travails and insecurities of people following Christianity to address those who have found themselves intimidated and are insecure due to the controversies surrounding their basic religious beliefs.

For the Christian, a synthesis to the conflicting philosophies about God does not clear everything; for there still remain controversies regarding Jesus to contend with and so I will deal it here before proceeding to the next section.

It is true that there are many controversies surrounding Jesus which can be quite disturbing to the unprepared young Christian minds, but one must remember that controversies regarding Jesus are inevitable. There has to be a difference of opinion when we are talking of matters that are extraordinary and seem unbelievable. People will come up with explanations to make the whole life of Jesus more believable. This attitude is quite understandable. So our thinking need not be kicked around by more than a billion comments (of the billions of minds analyzing the one person) that are thrown into our thinking space, Of course we have the freedom to argue it in our minds or seek the truth behind such things, for if our belief is true, it has the power to prove itself to us in time.

What could be quenchers to major controversies?

There is a controversial suggestion that Jesus may have been one of the free spirits who took human form. I find this suggestion strange because if a free spirit can come in the world, why can’t the first begotten? If one can be considered possible, what makes the other seem impossible? Is it, that Parama Purusha , the eternal Word himself should come in the world, seems an impossibility? Or is it that the concept of a cosmic Purusha, itself seems impossible? If the existence of free spirits is believable, what is unbelievable about the cosmic Purusha !.Our personal logic may make certain concepts seem unbelievable. But then if we were an ant that had never seen a man, wouldn’t existance of man seem unbelievable to us? Wouldn’t it have been too wonderful a concept to imagine? If at all a non living could think, a wonder called life would be an unthinkable idea until, it met life!

If such wonders have been possible, if it is possible for the existence of the wonder called man, or the wonder called reproduction and so on, then why not the wonder called reincarnation and resurrection. And why not the wonder called the Son of God of whom there were prophesies not one or two but near a hundred all of which came true with Jesus’ life and death. What can be definitely said is that ‘it is possible, if every other wonder has been possible.’

I would like to suggest to all Christians to keep a level head while dealing with questions and controversies. There are people who would tell you (as I was told), ‘What about those books of the time of Jesus that are not included in the Standard versions of Bible and which suggest that Jesus had a bad temper?’ “Bad temper! Unbelievable!” would be the reaction of a devout Christian. Why not change this defensive stance and think what the Bible suggests, ‘In your anger do not sin.’ It is obviously alright to have emotions like anger. It is how we use anger that determines whether we have sinned or not. In fact it is abnormal not to have emotions. Emotions aid us in protecting the purposes of the body we are in. Emotions should be used with a control so as to avoid sin. For example, jealousy is a natural emotion which alerts us to safeguard what is for us and prods us to use our intelligence and take measures to protect the threatened possession. At the same time if the measures involve something like the killing of Desdemona in Othello, it suggests the clouding of judgment under the influence of the emotion Jealousy; which serves no one. In short, we need to keep in mind that not everything that sounds wrong has to be actually wrong.

Whenever faced with questions just avoid seeing a threat in them. The only threat in any statement is put in by either the manner of its presentation or by our own prejudices. Be sure to strip every question off its wrappings before analyzing it. This would help avoid the defensive stance and instantly make the statement crystal clear. Such a clear view will help us face every question boldly. Questions like the irrelevant ones for example- Was Judas in fact only doing what Jesus asked him to do? The answer is that does it really matter whether it was the master’s order or his own will? It doesn’t change the fact that Jesus was willing to die for our sins. On the other hand such a possibility highlights Jesus’ willingness to pay for our debts with his life.

Okay, but here comes another question with it- Shouldn't Jesus have assured Judas that he is only a medium for the fulfillment of the will of God? That could have avoided his repentance of the act, which finally lead him to commit suicide (as was argued in an article of a newspaper). This is in fact not a question to be bogged by. There are numerous prophesies regarding the promised messiah, his death and resurrection, so that their fulfillment in Jesus would leave us in no doubt that Jesus is the foreordained messiah. One of these prophesies (of prophet Jeremiah) has it that the messiah will be betrayed by a friend, for 30 pieces of silver and that will be cast on the floor of the temple and used to buy a potters field. (Refer Matthew chapter 27). Unless Judas had repented, he would not have cast the 30 coins into the temple which the chief priests used to buy the potters field. Just as the fulfillment of prophesies required that Jesus should die as a payment for our sins, it also required that Judas should repent. What matters is not ‘what could have been done’, but rather ‘what had to be.’ Instead of wondering on all the current analysis, look whether they are relevant in terms of the truth of the promise of salvation through Jesus.

Then there is that other question- Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? There are said to be some writings that, as claimed, speak of Jesus as married to Mary Magdalene. There was a time in my life when any such allegation would have made me lose my faith in Jesus. But today having matured in my thinking, such a possibility does not affect my faith. After all, it is God who gave man this world and created in him the basic needs. We find nothing bad about eating, drinking, and taking care of the needs of the body and therefore we do not worry about what Jesus ate or what were his daily habits. Jesus enjoyed life. He ate meat and drank wine as we can understand from the Bible (the last supper he shared wine). The Word had created life to enjoy and so when the Word became flesh and dwelt in the world of his creation, why should he have abstained from a prime pleasure of starting a family? We who do not worry about what he ate or what games he played in his childhood, need not worry ourselves about whether or not he married. I feel that it is only as important as the other pleasures of life. What matters is that he did not go overboard with any sort of pleasure in a way that it be called sin, in a way that he was bound to the pleasures. What matters is that he was willing to give up everything to do God’s will. Moreover I feel that it would have been a much greater sacrifice on the part of Jesus if it involved giving up a love and a family choosing to die for God's will. There is another factor that I want to add. Lust is definitely one of the seven sins as per Christianity but it should also be remembered that the union between man and woman is considered sacred. When the union between man and woman happens out of true love (not lust) it is sacred and Indian Philosophy considers it as one of the numerous ways of experience of the divine bliss. It is the negative view about sex that Christians carry that makes them apprehensive about the possibility that Jesus was married to Mary Madalene. If Jesus prayed and meditated, why wouldn’t he also experience sacred sex?

Also, one may wonder, why the books selected by the church to be part of the Bible do not mention any such thing. My personal opinion is that history is vaster than any book that speaks of it. The church has taken what it finds as relevant. Just as the textbooks in our schools, the Bible is the textbook of our religion and we refer it for basic and authentic understanding. But of course there might be other writings that may or may not be true. I personally would not support any story as true or untrue for neither have I personally read any such book nor do I have any hard evidence to suggest either way.

There are also stories about how Jesus used to scare his friends with his powers. The Qur’an also has stories of Jesus’ childhood which are not there in the Bible, like the one about how he made a bird from mud and breathed life into it. The paradox is that these stories, (true or not) instead of making me skeptical, make me feel the ‘person Jesus’ that is, Jesus in totality. To me, these stories make Jesus walk out of the two dimensional photograph, the picture perfect Jesus, to become the three dimensional, complete being who experienced all that he had come to experience, fun, mischief, play, the working with the hands, the powers of the body, and also love. Strangely, such aspects to Jesus’ life make Jesus more human and therefore more real, a person who really walked on this earth, and yet more Godly (to me)! Man is called to a total experience of being God, then if ever God has come down on earth, then I do feel that it has also been for a total experience of being human. It is often said in sermons that Jesus experienced what it was to be human and so he can understand us better and is an advocate for us to God. If that is so then I believe that only a complete experience of being human could help the Word Incarnate Jesus to empathize with all of mankind (majority of which chooses marriage over life long celibacy) and therefore it is quite possible that the above mentioned stories about Jesus are true and that he possibly also had a love.

These stories have in fact been helpful to me; they persuade me to forgive myself for being human and loving life. It also gives me a greater conviction that it is possible to overcome the love for the world, because after all Jesus too loved life. He asked God to take away the cup that he was supposed to drink (death on the cross), but he also asserted that not his will but the will of God be done. This episode from the Bible points out that we should not hide or repress our weaknesses or desires but rather we should accept them and bring them to the open before God. It also shows us how to overcome self love, namely by loving God’s will more, giving it more importance than personal will. Therefore, maybe the revealing of such episodes from Jesus’ life, that show more of his human side, is meant to help the Christian rather than to harm his faith. Kahlil Gibran has said that when you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight! So just look again in your heart; maybe it really helps to know the Human side of the Son of God rather than harms the faith?!

Another thing I would like to bring to note here is that such matters, like the marriage of Jesus, did not come to much focus for around 2000 years. Assuming that all such stories could be true, I often feel that, the ‘truth’ probably lay hidden for a reason, and also that it is for a reason that now it has been brought to light. Probably, in 2000 years, the general thinking of common man has matured in a way to accept such possibilities and know its real implications, without being shaken in terms of the identity of Jesus as the Son of God; whereas that would not have been the case had it come to light earlier?. The world, its people, the thinking is growing each era, the way that we all grow ..from childhood to adulthood. Have you noticed that often the problem is not in the truth but rather in our level of maturity, for the very truth that bothered us at one age, say in childhood, does not bother us at all at another age,... in adulthood.

The effort here, has been to provide an honest personal analysis of all such ‘troubling questions’ and thereby help by providing a scaffold to all the minds that may not have matured enough to be unaffected by such matters. My suggestion to every such young Christian therefore, is that they should be bold, honest, clear, logical and analytical in their thinking so that they can spot the irrelevant questions and issues which do nothing but confuse and have no real implication in terms of the larger truth. This clarity will bring in fearlessness and peace. The peace that is not touched by any questions…

If there is nothing wrong about Christianity then why did God have to send another messenger, around 600 years later and seemingly clarify that there is only one God and that Jesus is a prophet ?

This has been a very baffling question to me. It isn’t logically possible that what the prophets had to say about Jesus even before his birth through the biblical books (also according him a special status above their own) was untrue as why would all prophets speak about Jesus anyway if he was not somehow more important than them! Then is it because of something that happened in the 500 or 600 years between two great books; the Bible and the Qur’an that led to the requirement of another book speaking about Jesus? Or was it that each message, each path was meant for two different groups of people and not for a universal community? But both though centrally speaking about Jesus, hold two contradictory truths. One calls Jesus the Son of God and another calls Jesus a prophet. How can that be resolved?

Frankly, the only thing I knew for sure to start with is that they both have to be true since they are both inspired by God and therefore denying one would mean doubting the other too. I accepted them both, though logically arriving at a synthesis for these two contradictions seemed difficult. All I could proceed from that point for a time was a mere comparision that, two people may be sitting in the same room and yet to one, a table may seem to the right side, while to the other the table may seem to the left. It would not serve them to argue regards the position of the table. On the other hand if they just walk around the room and view the table, they would know that the table is not really to any particular side with regards to them. And if they could imagine themselves as the room, then the table would go beyond their view and beyond the measure of direction by just being within. Maybe there is some such justification for the different outlooks of the two religions with regard to Jesus. In such cases, it would be best said that ‘even you are being true and I am being true and yet there may be more to the truth than we have yet perceived. Though our truths may look contradictory, it is only because we look at it from two different points. A wider perspective would allow for both of us to see each other as right’.

It was at this stage of thinking that I chanced upon certain statements in an article by Iqbal Ansari in The Times of India, of 15th April 2006, ‘Mohammed would say that it is not the fact of belonging to any particular religious fold that would guarantee salvation. Instead the emphasis was shifted to sincerity of belief in God, human fraternity and righteous conduct, based on the core values of justice and compassion. Qur’an validates religious pluralism as part of Gods will, and accepts places of worship built by other faiths as those where God is remembered.’

What am I getting at? Well, the above article does show that the Muslim faith is not one of intolerance; rather it is based upon tolerance and acceptance of different ways of approaching God! I may seem to be deviating from the topic at hand, but I am not. In fact I believe that this quoted paragraph speaks out exactly the reason as to why the Qur’an was needed 600 years after the Bible.

I had made a choice to accept Qur’an(being a scripture) as the word of God. But one factor that troubled me was, as to why so many followers of this holy book believe that their religion accords them the right to be intolerant and unforgiving and the right to meet out the harshest of verdicts to whomsoever they consider as ‘wrong’. I had wondered many a time that how could ‘God’ (whom the common man relies on, especially because he thinks that God forgives and protects) be said to be encouraging non tolerance or supporting acts of violence (against what is perceived by man as intolerable) through any of His religions? I got my answer to this in the article, that the religion on the other hand encourages acceptance and compassion. But at the same time if the prophet’s traditions are really of tolerance going by what has been stated in the above article, then how could the followers end up being so intolerant? I got my answer to this question too in the same article. It was explained that it was circumstances of the time of Prophet Mohammed, namely the building up of defenses against the hostility of the pagan tribes of Mekkah, that had brought in a military attitude among the followers and that this attitude would have been shed over time had it not been taken up by rulers over the ages for political reasons, by using religion as a pretext.

These views by a learned man of the faith leads me to believe that there has been a lot of misunderstanding breeding in the minds of many followers of this religion which has multiplied over time and that this misunderstanding has been responsible for the acts of cruelty in the name of religion. This conclusion is not just based on this single article. Qur’an does prescribe stern measures for certain acts but it goes ahead each time and says that if the person is regretful, be merciful. A scripture has to be read for its spirit and not judged by the surface. Moreover if I have a clear understanding of the words of one of their prophets and if the Muslims are supposed to follow the teachings of all their prophets then I would say with cent percent surety that Qur’an encourages forgiving others and that it also says that ‘by what measure you judge others by the same measure you will be judged’. If you forgive you will be forgiven. If you punish others for their sins you will be punished for your sins. These are the teachings of their prophet Jesus and what the above mentioned article does is to assure me, that prophet Mohammed did not think differently either. Christianity speaks at one point of a jealous God, but I have always understood it instinctively to mean jealousy against the 'hold of the world' (the God of the world as in 2:corinthians4:4) which prevents a person from seeking God. The Christian and the Muslim are supposed to wage a war against their own love of the world rather than misunderstand statements and look down on the approach to God of the rest of Humanity. The fact that the rest of the world has its own scripture itself is proof about their own personal struggle to escape the hold of the world, the God of the world!

There is never anything wrong with the teachings in any religion that seeks to escape the hold of the world. The problem begins when mindsets begin to influence what the teachings actually mean. Problem results when man refuses to see the words of God in terms of his ever growing understanding. Therefore going by similar lines I would say that the need for a different message through Prophet Mohammed may have arisen to counter the influence of mindsets on the practices of Christianity. After all, when no scripture can be wrong then one scripture cannot be talking against another, but rather against the faulty understanding/wrong practices of the people of the particular time frame.

I learnt through my research (Nineyum Thedi, by Mario Joseph[a former muslim]) a crucial and supporting fact to the above view. The fact is that the revelations to Prophet Mohammed are categorized into two, as those given to him in Makkah and those given to him in Madina. The revelations in Makkah do not go against the Christian beliefs but rather have positive statements regarding Christians whereas it is the teachings in Madina that have been the reason for scepticism about Christian beliefs. The book also mentioned that the attitude of Christians was good in Mekkah and bad in Madina and the difference in the writings about Christians could be accounted to that. It does seem the only logical explanation for the paradox existing in the two writings. It is possible that the Christians in Madina might have been harboring wrong beliefs and so the admonishing might have been against their beliefs rather than against Jesus. The positive statements in the Qur’an regarding Christians, as mentioned in the book include chapter 61, verse 14 which says in essence that Jesus calls his followers to be his helpers in leading people to God. It also says that all believers of God should also become helpers of God. In chapter 57, verses27 the suggestion is that the followers of Jesus are blessed by God with grace and mercy. These verses are positive in terms of Christianity; then what could it be that was found wrong in the Christian religion?

Possibly the admonishing was required because of the ‘I am Right’ attitude that some Christians developed due to their orthodox ideas; rejecting everything that is not within the accepted books of the Bible, rejecting even their own minds to grow the natural growth from childhood to adulthood, fearing any change whatsoever in terms of what is once (and for all) understood as the meaning of the words of the Bible.

It is important here to look again at the fact that Jesus has come for a section of people. As discussed earlier, He has come for the lost sheep. ‘Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light. Mathew 11: 28-30.’ It is obvious that those who are not being able to carry the burden of the Law are called. Jesus does not reject the way shown by the Law but rather he calls the weak saying that he can lighten their burden(of the Law).

The wise and the learned are strong and therefore have the capacity to bear the burden of the Law by following all directions with the help of discretion and wisdom, but for the simple man who cannot understand God or reach out to him through the practice of wisdom in daily living, but who has the will and the power of faith, that is the capacity to ‘have not seen and yet believe’ there is the easier way. For such simple folks was foreordained the messiah, the saviour believing whom one could attain liberation. The ‘saviour’ is the truth that is not evident to the wise, probably because they do not need it, and is revealed to the simple. This might be what Jesus meant when he said to the Father, ‘I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. Luke 10:21.’

Therefore, in giving Jesus as the Son and Savior, God could not have meant to be made to seem a ‘property’, to be possessed only by those who call out to Jesus. Suppose a man has two sons, each brought up in a different land. One learns to call the father baba, and another addresses father as dad. When they meet and hear the different address to the father, would they be right to think that they are sons to two different fathers? Christians of certain period and some denominations addressed different religions as false or 'incomplete' without understanding their core meanings and messages, leading to a situation as in the above example.

Also, in utter ignorance some may have misinterpreted the teachings of the Christian religion and given the place to Mother Mary as a Goddess apart from the one God, and Jesus also as another God. Jesus has said, ‘He (Father) is greater than I. John 14: 28’. Jesus is the Word Incarnate of God, and Jesus has said that it is enough for the student to be like his master, as he can never be greater. Though the Word is a part of the one God, we Christians are also taught that this position was given up by Jesus in being born as a human. We are taught that Jesus gave up his Godly nature and became human because that was what the Father had chosen for his first begotten. Of course we are also taught, that because Jesus gave up his Godly nature willingly, for the sake of the Father, his name was raised above all names. And yet we also know that in having been born a human, he has been like all of us. A creation can never be greater than the creator. Jesus cannot be greater than God the Father or even a separate God. Jesus also says that do not call me good, for only God is good. It is clear then that Jesus never tried to create a separate identity for himself or his mother, as Gods apart from the one and only God. He did say that he has authority to forgive sins, but the prayer he taught us was addressed to God the Father. In giving this prayer he pointed out that God is only one, the one creator of all things. Yet when the simple minds misunderstood the teachings of the Bible, Prophet Mohammed was given the message for the people, not to make Mother Mary and Jesus two Gods apart from Allah. This could be why it is asked in the Holy Qur’an whether Jesus said that they should be worshipped as two Gods apart from Allah? Jesus of course never said that. It is evident therefore that the problem is again of mindsets influencing the core meaning of scriptural teachings which must have led to the making of two separate Gods out of them. Simplicity here had now become the vice that prevented the truth to be seen in its context. It does seem to me then that these, the wrong practices, are condemned and asked to be discouraged through the revelations to Prophet Mohammed.

I would say therefore that it is time for the Christian to stop running away from Qur’an (just because it ‘seems’ to attack basic Christian beliefs) and rather try to understand what the good God may be trying to say to us, the followers of Christianity, through it. Probably we should reflect on our attitude in prayer, and question ourselves. Could I be forgetting the Father albeit unintentionally in my devotion to mother Mary or even Jesus? But the Christian may argue that we are praying indirectly to the Father, when we pray to Jesus and that Jesus has said, ‘I and my Father are one.’ I would say then that you are not the ones in wrong with God as long as you realize that you are praying to the Father and as long as you know that Jesus is the ‘visible way’ for the common man to understand and pray to the ‘invisible God’(The multi approach religion, Hinduism accepts this approach to God). Knowledge gives freedom, whereas ignorance needs to be guided and bound in rules till the light of wisdom opens the doors to freedom. It is ignorance that needs to be corrected. The ignorance that makes one view God the Father and Jesus as two different Gods. If any practice in the Christian prayer is breeding ignorance related to the true nature of God as the one and only, then it is time to assess what is being conveyed to the young generation, through the medium of the prayers we stress upon or the messages we convey through our preferences in prayer. Do we teach (through personal interpretations or imply through any of our Christian denominations) that God is only of those who pray to Jesus? Then what about those who pray to the Father? Does the Father disregard their prayer? If no, then what about those, who call the Father ‘Allah’ or the Word as ‘Om’? Does calling the Father ‘Allah’ and calling the Son ‘Omkaara’ change the attitude of the one and only God to our prayer? Does a sincere prayer get rejected because the same God was addressed differently? When man in all sincerity, pleads to God for liberation, it is up to God as to how he reaches out to man or what ‘way’ he prescribes for each one, but listen, he surely will as he has implied through Matthew 7:7.

And thereby, I believe, must have arisen, the need for clarification that God is not a property to be possessed by only those who pray to Jesus; because it is the destination that makes any path important and not vice versa. The message basically is that God has always held out his hand in a different way to a different people, a way involving the strict following of the Law, a way involving the purification of the self through rituals and rigorous fasting. Therefore the truth seems to be what Iqbal Ansari points out in his article that, Qur’an in fact carries God’s message that validates religious pluralism as part of Gods will, and accepts places of worship built by other faiths as those where God is remembered.’

Therefore, God is not the property of the Christian. God can be reached by all sincere seekers. The way to Him is his Word, but the seeker can seek a cleansing from sins through the Word incarnate Jesus or even cleansing through a strict adherence to the Law, severe fasting and penance and by austerely following the teachings of all prophets, one of whom is Jesus. Though Qur'an stresses that Jesus is only a prophet it does not seem to deny that there is salvation through Jesus! As implied by the following verse in it "And all of the people of the scripture must believe in him(Jesus) before his death, and on the Day of resurrection, he will be a witness against them" chapter an-Nisaa(4):159.

It is obvious then that the contradiction is not about Jesus as a saving grace, but rather only regarding whether Jesus was the Son of God or was he just a prophet. The Bible does speak of Jesus as the Son of God.

Recently I happened to read 'The true message of Jesus' by Dr.A.B. Philips. According to it only Qur'an represents an accurate means of determining who Jesus was and what his message was because 'there is no one christian manuscript that contains the original unaltered version in its entirety'. He states in his book that according to the Qur'an all muslims are to believe in 'all' the revealed scriptures, but that Qur'an also states that all scriptures revealed before it have not remained as they were revealed.

And so assuming that Qur'an has not got any descrepancies, all believers in salvation through Jesus can take heart because the book reveals that, 'Allah stressed the importance of belief in Jesus in numerous places in the Qur'an. For example, in chapter an-Nisaa(4):159, He said:
"And all of the people of the scripture must believe in him(Jesus) before his death, and on the Day of resurrection, he will be a witness against them"

Though the need to believe in Jesus to avail of his grace is stressed in Qur'an, the book by Dr. A.B. Philips also stresses ofcourse that Qur'an denies Jesus' divinity despite affirming his grace. In the chapter al-Maa'idah, (5):75 (says)
"The Messiah, Son of Mary, was no more than a messenger and many messengers passed away before him. His mother was exceedingly truthful,and they both ate food. See how I have made the signs clear for them, yet see how they are deluded."

The Virgin birth of Jesus is affirmed in Qur'an but ofcourse inspite of this unique birth, Jesus was flesh and blood. Yet, which other prophet had such a unique birth! It is only logical to conclude that definitely there is 'something' unique to this messenger when compared to all other messengers!
In John 8:58 Jesus says-Before Abraham was, I am. Dr. A.B. Philip has tried to explain it away saying that Jesus is speaking of 'God's Knowledge of Prophets which predates the creation of this world.' The major flaw in this logic is that, Abraham is also a prophet, therefore the statement could only mean that Jesus is rather distinguishing himself from even the prophets!

I quote again John 10:34-36 (revised version is quoted in chapter 4) what Jesus said when he was accused 'of blashphemy ( being a man, making himself God), 'Jesus answered them,'Is it not written in your law, 'I said you are Gods"? If he called them Gods, to whom the word of God came(and the scripture cannot be broken). Do you say of Him whom the father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? John 10:34-36
I found it really odd therefore that the concerned book by Dr. A.B. Philips says that Jesus made no claims of divinity firstly because there is such a clear verse as the above which he does mention in his book but only upto " I said you are Gods' (not stating whether or not the rest of the statement was later added on)and explains it as metaphorical language of prophets. In fact this verse should have been analyzed in entirety and it required to be proved 'untrue or added on' to prove that Jesus never claimed any form of divinity. He only mentions discrepancies in a lot of irrelevant statements (like; in one Biblical text where it says 'while it was still dark' another text says 'when the sun had risen' !)to show unreliabilty of the Biblical books.

Moreover if the author wants to imply that the Jews mistook his metaphorical language when he said that, 'Is it not written in the your law ,"I said Ye are gods"(Jesus is quoting psalms 82:6), then why didn't Jesus simply clarify himself when he was questioned (many times)? Even statements of claims to divinity in the Bible may be someday proved as 'added on' but even then, what justification is there then for Jesus' crucifixion 'after questioning'! According to the Bible, the accusation for arrest was 'Blasphemy'. The Bible (luke chapter 23:2)says that he was accused of having claimed that he himself is Christ, a King. Furthermore, the men who held Jesus mocked him. Luke 22:71, 'And they said, "Are you then the Son of God?' So He said to them, " You rightly say that I am". He could have saved himself from crucifixion by saying 'I only meant it metaphorically (just like all the other prophets)!' Was Jesus in a hurry to be crucified then!? Why did he brush away the numerous opportunities after arrest to explain Himself? Ofcourse he did not lack the intelligence to explain himself well.

Even if we don't consider all these statements and only use logic, then Historically speaking, why would a pious man who performs miracles and heals people be arrested, questioned and crucified by the peoples wish(not the then Kings, for Pilate was reluctant to crucify Jesus and gave him many opportunities to explain himself). What sort of King did he claim himself to be or admitted to have claimed?

The book by Dr. A.B. Philips had lots of information and research, though study and analysis of the few crucial points mentioned above would have given his book the critical strength sought by lay readers like myself. The message of Qur'an as mentioned by the author is that all revealed scriptures are to be followed. All the major ancient scriptures have origin in the Aryan Vedic texts (discussed in earlier chapters), but the author does not seem to believe in the 'core' Vedic message (that God is present in his creation) obvious from what he says in his book- 'Jesus is worshipped under the false belief that God is present in His creation'. The author accepts one message of Qur'an and to prove it he invalidates another aspect of Qur'an (obviously because of mistaken belief that Hinduism is only related to idolatory; or is it that 'all scriptures' only intends a select convenient three?). The author also explains that the concept defined by the term Logos is found in Indian, Egyptian and Persian philosophical and theological systems. He says that, 'The Greek term used by the anonymous author of the fourth Gospel (Gospel of John) for Word is logos. In doing so the author identifies Jesus with the Pagan logos of Greek philosophy, who was the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning.' Dr.A.B Philips says that the church further developed this philosophy and stated that Christ was the ancient Logos to impress the hearers that Christianity was heir to all that was best in Pagan philosophy. I don't find any flaw of logic on the part of the 'anonymous' author of the Gospel of John in that he may have found certain similarities of Jesus' claims to the power called Logos found in all ancient theological systems across the world. For example, in John 14:10 Jesus says, 'In that day you will know that I am in my father and you in me and I in you'. This statement can be clearly understood through the Logos philosophy of all creation being part of the Word, which is the first form of God. But Dr. A.B. Philips explanation is that it is a symbolic statement of oneness of purpose (not oneness of essence) that Jesus shares with his disciples. Why would the disciples have to wait till 'That day' to understand something as simple as oneness of purpose?! Moreover I can accept logic of a writer (like that of the Gospel of John) better than I can accept inspired writing because history abounds with people who have claimed to have prophetic powers or even died and resurrected(Mithra, the sun God, of Mithraism) but gives no clear guidelines (except their success or failure) to detect the false from the true! We can only use an assumption that the Universal spirit that spoke to true prophets has the power to make it reach out to all, and those who succeeded in being heard, succeeded because they have the backing of the 'Power'?
This is speculation again but I have to say the stories similar to that of Jesus,mythological or otherwise, though supposed to put the seed of doubt amaze me as to how much virgin birth, death and resurrection is a topic of many societies! Could these be rather pointers to truth in resurrection? After all, there doesn't seem to be an effort to disprove the resurrection of other figures like Mithra? Resurrection is then no lie? Only Jesus' resurrection needs to be argued? Death and resurrection of a Son of God is a truth then whether we call him Mithra or Jesus or whatever? This only proves that we do have hope, doesn't it?

Now the contradiction of whether Jesus is the Son of God or a prophet can end, but only by accepting the truths of the Vedic scriptures. Through it we can understand that it doesn't really matter whether we think of Jesus as the Son of God or as a prophet. What matters is the saving grace that he is. Jesus is a saving grace from God and if thinking about Jesus as Son of God corrupts simple minds to worship him in a way that leads them to forget the real God, then they should think of him only as a prophet, though still accepting him as a saving grace.

We have to study the spirit of all scriptures ( and with our very spirit, not merely with the brain) rather than be lost in human wordings and printing errors, to be able to see the unity and one message in all of scriptures(not merely Jewish, Christian and Islamic) from the very ancient to the most recent scriptures.

Those who are reading my book will note that, what I am only stressing on, is that for a rational mind scriptures can be true only if there is a unifying thread in all scriptures. All are creations of the one God and so God cannot favor a certain group over another. His love, mercy and forgiveness and outreach has to be for all groups of people...., just as the rain falls on everybody and all regions (rather than falling only on one piece of land and reaching others only as the run off!) . Qur'an says believe in the 'messenger' Jesus as a grace from God. Authentic Christian belief should be and is 'Jesus as Grace of God'. God is One 'the Father/Allah', who is the one to be sought and worshipped. Hinduism accepts the need of a Guru who can take the Karmic doom of the seeker. Scriptures, semitic or otherwise are speaking of an easy way to be freed from the hold of the World.

Qur'an validates all scriptures before it. Christianity validates the Vedic message through the verse John 10:34, for Vedic scriptures also say, 'you are Gods'. And it is obvious therefore that understanding Hinduism can surely be a helpful way to understand the Identity of Jesus (analysed in chapter 4).

I want to add here as an after thought that a seeker needs the hand of religion (any religion) as long as he is a child in terms of spiritual understanding. When he becomes an adult, that is, when his spirit is awakened and when his heart is opened up to God, he must remember to let go the hand of religion and start tapping his own inward connection to the one God for answers. Many scriptures speak on issues that other scriptures do not speak about (like suggesting that it is improper to listen to music!). Therefore, it is my belief that scriptures are to be referred for core understanding. That is, it should be referred for topics that are central to each scripture and for topics common to all scriptures. The topics that are not common I believe are like road marks for the specific community (to which the specific scripture was given probably as per the particularities of the community) to help notice the real destination. But once the destination is approached, it is important to not get distracted by mere road marks or else though near the destination, the seeker may never be able to reach it.
Once the spirit is awakened, all the steps leading to it are no more of any consequence.
Therefore though I accept all scriptures as true (because doubting one is doubting all others), yet whenever beset with a conflict between any two of the four aids to reasoning mentioned in the second chapter (sight/intuition, inference,similee/comparision, trusted source/scripture)-for example, the answer given by the heart or intuition or the answer in a trusted source like scriptures, and I would trust the former, because firstly all messengers and inspired writers are still Humans; secondly, though divine power is possible in Humans, but divine power can also be overwhelming in the system of a mere Human; thirdly, scriptures are rewritten a thousand times every century and can get distorted in content or in interpretation or in terms of the context of particular directives, but the conscience, the heart, the spirit is in direct connect and it would be unwise to disregard the latter out of fear or respect for the former.

Did Jesus die on the cross or not?

Jesus willfully entered Jeruselem and chose the suffering on the cross to pay for the sins of all mankind when he could just as easily have chosen to escape from it. There is no argument anywhere about it. And that is the basis of my faith in Jesus (and does not rely on resurrection), because ‘I’ can’t even willingly go to the dentist for ‘my own’ benefit!

One argument some put in is that Jesus did not suffer pain because he knew yoga! Which yogi would willingly have holes drilled in his hands and foot or would have his face and body disfigured with punches and flogging even perchance he does not feel pain owing to the help of yoga? Has anybody done that? Ask yourself, dont we all love our body, however spiritual? It is natural. "Father if it is your will, take this cup away from me, nevertheless not my will but yours" Luke 22:42 "And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" Luke 22:44. This shows clearly the enormity of the suffering that Jesus knew he had to go through. The awareness brought such agony to him and also made him pray making the same request not once but three times and each time he found his disciples had failed to pray and had slept which seems to have made it clear to Jesus that the cup is for him to drink. Finally, what more evidence to the immensity and unbearableness of Jesus' suffering, than the lament from the one who knew the Father "My God, My God,why have You forsaken Me" Mark 15:34. All efforts at denying the suffering of Jesus with explanations just show how little such a big sacrifice is valued when instead of being grateful, the world is forever busy trying to find some or other factor to reduce the magnitude of the sacrifice.

The controversy we now look into further is; that Jesus did not die (on the cross), but rather he escaped death and went to India and lived there till he was 120 years of age and died in Srinagar. It is also said that the three wise men who came to see the messiah when he was born took him and family to Egypt and India. These are also the findings presented in the book ‘Jesus Lived in India’ by Holger Kersten’ and he states it with arguments and proofs.

It is quite flattering for a Christian of Indian origin to be told that Jesus may have been in India and that he has benefited from the rich philosophy of this land before returning to Jerusalem. I find nothing objectionable about that in terms of Christian belief about Jesus’ identity, therefore I have not tried to ever analyse it. It may or may not be true and it doesn’t matter to me. But of course I have thought over the controversy that Jesus did not in fact die on the cross. Before reading the book by Holger Kersten, the following four points were my arguments based on what I had mostly heard of the basis of this controversy.

1. What I gather about Jesus from the statements in the Bible is that he knew that he would be crucified and he spoke openly about it. The book of Mathew, Luke and Mark, tell us that Jesus spoke about his death three times. ‘Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31.’ ‘Killed’ and ‘after three days rise again’ are the terms used all the three times and in all the three books. Jesus did not say that, they will 'try' to kill me but I will survive and will appear to you three days after the rescue. Neither did he just say that he will be crucified and buried in a tomb but will come out still alive from it after three days. Rather he was specific that he would be killed and will rise after three days. Did he then lie not one not two but three times? Does it seem possible that a man, prepared to suffer inhuman treatment, would back away from being honest to his disciples?

2. ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. John 12:27’ Jesus obviously had no intention of running away in any possible way from what he had been assigned by the Father and therefore he did not run away from the killing of the body which fulfilled the scriptures; and when the body was brought back to life after three days, that was also to fulfill the scriptures, rather than a planned escape from death. If he had wanted to save his life, he would have also saved himself from the mocking, the flogging and the nailing (after all he knew what was awaiting him in Jerusalem). If Jesus was trying to cheat us into believing that his escape from death was actually resurrection, a rising from death to life, then what were the scriptures, which prophesied this death and resurrection, trying to do?

3. Now here are certain verses that I feel are relevant in understanding the purpose of crucifixion. According to the book of John, Jesus says to the Jews, (while foretelling his death) that where I am going, you cannot come and also that, you are from below, I am from above; you are of the world, I am not of this world. He also says; when you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that ‘I am he’ (John 8:21-28). It is obvious from this statement that the crucifixion and death on the cross was an important event which was also meant to prove to the people that Jesus was not of this world. This could be proved only through the resurrection and also ascension with the body (described in Luke 24:46,47 and 51).

4. I am also compelled to believe that the Jesus, who said that his food is to do the work of God, could not have lingered on in the world after the important Hour for which he had come, had been carried out to perfection. The single minded approach of Jesus to his purpose on earth, imply that it would go against the character of Jesus to stay on after the mission and lead aimless years. And therefore if Jesus had really come to India after finishing his God assigned work, then he wouldn’t have just tied his hands, spread his legs and relaxed. Jesus would not have ignored the salvation of the people amongst whom he was living. We Indians would surely have heard of a great sage of Srinagar who healed the people there or gave them the forgiveness of sins, and who had a great following and thus was the founder of a new religion. We all know how India opens its heart and follows great Men. Since no such thing happened, then possibly the one buried in Srinagar was someone else from (could be) Jerusalem.

After having written these four points, I had to go to my hometown for two months due to unavoidable circumstances, and guess what! I was given this book by my relation who also happened to be there during that very period. I had in hand a similar book four years ago in a book stall but decided against buying it for I felt emotionally unprepared for any such argument. But when now, four years later the book was put in my hand, I knew I was ready.

The following are the arguments in the book ‘Jesus Lived in India’ by Holger Kersten; and my analysis of them in comparision to the earlier four points
1 The book has used the Gospel itself to point to the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross. What is heartening is that the scripture is nowhere doubted by the author, but only its interpretation.In the book we are told that Theologian Gunther Schwarz has revealed that the terms ‘rise’ and ‘coming back to life’ in the Original Aramaic derive from a verbal root meaning to ‘resuscitate’ (and not resurrection). Schwarz is said to have suggested this meaning deriving from a root word of the ‘synonymous words achajuta and techijjuta one of which Jesus would have used’. Quite amusing was the fact that my thesaurus gave me also a meaning ‘resurrect’ for resuscitate! What then remained the argument!
Also, a major flaw to this analysis of root words is that Schwartz does not seem to have worried about the word ‘Killed’ used by Jesus as mentioned in the Bible(refer point 1). But unless all such words are considered and clarified in a likewise manner, the analysis is not a satisfactory proof (if at all).

2 Now let us consider point 2 that I made, and in that context, analyse the statements in the book.
The author of the book admits that ‘the entry into the city of Jeruselem was an act of unprecedented provocation.’ And yet again that ‘why he should then go to Jeruselem, and by so doing give himself up to his persecutors, remains a mystery. (page 131).The explanation for the ascention given is that Jesus might have just been quickly lost to sight when he walked over and down the summit of the peak of Ascention. Another argument given is that even after that he appeared to Paul.
Somehow these explanations regarding ascension do not feel very sound. The arguments against resurrection or rather that Jesus lived in Kashmir after the crucifixion, I must say are well researched and appreciable. And quite surprising and helpful is a discovery facilitated by the book! According to the author ‘For the Ahamadiya sect, Jesus’ ‘overcoming of the torment of crucifixion’ is (also) a fulfillment of prophecies in the old testament.’ But the scripture passage which is said to be fulfilled is from Ishiah 53, which also contains verses which say very clearly that God allowed Jesus to be bruised and that he was put to grief for the iniquity of us all. “..when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” it is clear that the ‘soul’ was an offering. ‘for he was cut out from the land of the living’, ‘he made his grave with the wicked’ and ‘he hath poured out his soul unto death’ all imply death.

‘…he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of the lord shall prosper in his hand’ This is the verse that the author is suggesting from the passage and is ‘the only verse’ while he ignores the above three statements that imply death. He is suggesting that it was God’s will that Jesus should live for a long time after rising from his ‘overcoming the torment of crucifixion.

3 Did Jesus experience pain, die and was he resurrected.
The author suggests Yoga to assume that Jesus did not feel any pain. It is also known that a yogi can enter a dead body and make it move. Though I do not the truth to it but I have also heard that a yogi can leave his body and then take it up again. If such a state is a possibility then would the body during that duration without the spirit be called dead or alive? Would such a body pass all tests proving clinical death? The author has not considered this possibility and unless he considers all possibilities, the proofs given by him (of ‘fresh blood’ stains on the shroud wrapped around Jesus' "dead body",said to be possible only if the body is alive, ) to support his assumption that Jesus did not actually ‘give up the Ghost’ as a payment for sins, obviously become irrelevant. What I am suggesting is that Jesus must have given up his spirit and yet the body might not have show signs of death possibly because God willed to breathe life anew into the same body. The author does not debate miracles of Jesus like the bringing to life of Lazurus; then surely the above possibility will not be seen as beyond God.. But even having taken account of his doubts, the truth is that doctors tell us that blood and water coming out of the spear wound proved Christ was already dead.Piercing the side was also intended so that in case the person is not dead he should bleed to death.

4 In context of point 4 the argument of the author of the book is that Jesus was saved from an accursed death (by the will of God) that would have been unworthy of him.
Now there are certain proofs given by the author to suggest that Jesus was in India after the crucifixion. For example he provides the copy of a page of one of the Puranas (of Hinduism) written between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD which mentions Isha Maseeha. With reference to some other ancient books he provides certain episodes and tells us that Jesus (on coming to India after crucifixion) did not ‘spread his legs and relax’ but was in fact doing miracles and was revered. He was known by a different name Yuz Asaf in Kashmir but the author says that an old manuscript of Kashmir describes the shrine (of Yuz Asaf) as that of Isha Rooh Allah. If we have not heard much of him, then (author suggests) that it is because early Indian historians did not write about foreigners. This does give a reasonable enough argument for point 4.

So let me for a time assume that God did prolong the days of Jesus by say 80 more years. Even when I think in the lines of the author, I would conclude that Krishna, Buddha, Jesus (the three lives that are similar as per the authors analysis) all fulfill the words from the Geeta that say that ‘where dharma diminishes there I am born’. The striking similarity of certain events and teachings of their lives is accorded (by the author) to Jesus having been influenced by their teachings while in India. But I have a different take. In ethnic botony it is said that nature has provided with clues for man in the form of shape of the parts of plants which are useful in one or other way to correspondingly shaped part of the human body. In a similar manner, it does seem very much a possibility that the striking similarities of these lives and teaching are pointers that each of this life is ‘the divine in the human form’. The difference is that Jesus went one step ahead of Buddha by suffering to pay off the sins of the world. The concept of Bodhisattva of Mahayana philosophy is considered in Holger Kirstens book as follows. ‘The Bodhisattva is the Enlightened one who defers his merging with the universal Being, who postpones his entry into nirvana, for as long as it takes for him to lead every person and being to salvation. The earthly existence of a Bodhisattva has the single purpose of leading all souls on to the path of release (moksha), the path that constitutes liberation from the cycle of rebirths and from the distractions of the world and physicality. All those qualities that characterize a Bodhisattva are to be found in Jesus, down to the last detail. Jesus is by himself the epitome of the Bodhisattva ideal.”

I would (very importantly) also like to point out that the aim of the author does not seem to be to diminish Jesus, for I only found that all statements and stories collected by him regarding Jesus in India only exalt Jesus even further. The aim of the author seems to be merely to suggest that we should focus on Jesus’s message rather than that of any of his followers. Also astounding is the statements that he has picked from the Bible which show the belief in reincarnation; for example, Jesus’ implication that John the Baptist is actually Elias(Elijah). ‘But I say unto you, that Elias has come already, and they knew him not…’then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist’ Mathews17:12-13.’ Such statements have been staring point blank at our faces and we couldn’t make that simple conclusion! The author also says that some parts (like book of John) of the new testament are written on two different levels, one obvious and the other cryptic, so that only the discerning eye can read between the lines. This does seem possible (whatever be the reason behind it).

My personal suggestion to all Christians is; why worry whether Jesus gave up his spirit; at least for a split second or for three days or not at all before rising the third day; or whether he ascended bodily or his body had the same end as that of Krishna or Buddha. My question is; is it not enough that Jesus willingly accepted suffering. If his suffering was accepted as enough (payment for sins) by God ('He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied' Isaiah 53:11) and therefore if God held back the axe, as from Isaac’s neck, then shouldn’t we rejoice for Jesus, who had cried the tears of blood for us!

Holger explains that the Gospel available to us are only four (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) from a larger collection of Gospels. These, that are not available, are called apocryphal which means hidden. These apocryphal books seemingly shed ‘a very ambiguous and intriguing light on the person of Jesus of Nazareth’(as per Holger Kersten). Let us assume this as true; but at the same time let us look again at the fact that the authors, of the four Gospels available to us, felt only a certain part of Jesus’ life as relevant for all of us common folk who look on with hope in the mercy of God. For some reason they did not include any other information. The reason cannot be an effort to hide any information or paint a glorified picture of Jesus, because the apocryphal Gospels(as is said) had all other detailed information about Jesus which must have been available during that period, for those who were more interested in the person Jesus. But these four Gospels I believe were written for those who were interested in the mercy of God. It is for those who were interested in that part of Jesus’ life that fulfilled their hope in forgiveness of their sins. And so we now need to turn back to what is truly relevant as we, ‘need not search all that is too difficult or too much of a secret. For all that we require has been given unto us’


FherYmas said...

Well said Jerly...it's actually the personal perceptions that clouds the truth.
I'm just sadden no one makes its comment yet here, just like my blog regarding similar issues. Are people simply shrugging the idea...or are they just afraid bcoz it speaks of the truth that might expose their nakedness?. An article this extensive and well thought of deserve a second and a third reading...

rajkumar.rr said...

Beautifully said!!!

P V Ariel said...

I just had a glance, long post need more time to go in detail, come back to this later,
Keep writing
Best Regards

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