If you think I’m going to write scathingly about Jesus, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This is not an attack piece on the central figure of Christianity. Jesus is easily an admirable person, as Douglas Adams humorously stated, “[Jesus] was nailed to a tree for basically asking people to be a little nicer to each other.” But I will tell you something very few people know about the man who has tremendously influenced the Western world for two millennia.
The New Testament doesn’t reveal much about Jesus’ early life. There is a story that Mother Mary lost track of him at some point, and he was found giving a lecture to Judaic priests at the temple at (roughly) age six. But after that, the Bible is surprisingly silent on the time spanning that event and his arrival to Palestine at age (30?). So where was he, and what was he doing during that time?
Most accounts say that Mary and Joseph took him into hiding through a circuitous route through Egypt. Most people fairly knowledgeable of the Bible are aware of this. What almost all Christians don’t know is that there is an account of this missing period. But it isn’t in Egypt, it’s in south-east Asia.
I had once speculated on this to a college professor when I was writing a paper on Mo-Tzu, whose doctrines (pre-dating the days of Christ) are strikingly similar to Christ’s teachings. He replied, “that’s an interesting idea, but you’ll never find any evidence for that.” It turns out there is such evidence. It’s buried in ancient Sanskrit texts. German philologist Max Müller (1823-1900) claimed that he found this evidence hidden away in a remote temple.
He discovered an old text that claimed a man named Jesus did travel to India in the appropriate period and was exposed to Hindu and Buddhist teachings. As Jesus was apt to do, he got into a tough spot with Hindu priests over the Caste system, which he condemned. Deciding not to passively wait to be murdered, he fled India and eventually returned to Judea.
Interesting no? Well, if Max Müller discovered this over 100 years ago, how come no one knows it? He did write a book about it, you know. In academic fashion, his book was ignored for several years. Eventually the Catholic church caught wind of it and were appalled. Christ didn’t arrive at a seemingly Buddhist philosophy on his own, you say?
Another interesting point about this is that this Sanskrit record also details what happened to Jesus in Palestine. Its claims challenge the New Testament teaching that the Jewish priests were the architects of the crucifixion. In this account, the priests actually tried to intervene to spare the life of Jesus.
This would be news to the scores of Christians who condemned historic Jews by association for the crime of murdering the only son of God and messiah to Christian peoples. I would be rather cross on that point if I belonged to a people who have faced persecution and endless suffering for a crime a handful of their ancestors didn’t even commit.
Now, before we glorify Jesus, we need to understand—like all historical figures—he was more complicated and not so perfect as people think. He is quoted as saying that no man may follow him “if he doesn’t have hatred in his heart towards his mother and father.” Doesn’t sound like the Jesus Christians are acquainted with; you know, the one who adheres to the honor thy father and mother commandment?
He is also widely known to have said not to “cast pearls before the swine.” This has the obvious implication that wasting words of wisdom on the dull and ignorant is no different than taking precious pearls and throwing them into a crowd of barn-yard animals. Some take this quote to mean that Christ intended his message for Jews only. And that, like Buddha, maybe he did not intend to start a new religion but instead to reform an old one. But suppose that we assume that Christ had a world-wide message he intended for everyone, I’ll grant that. You still have to consider the story of the money-changers at the temple:
The loving Christ is biblically documented as giving the money-changers at temple a severe beating. We’re not talking about a mere slap here, we’re talking about a genuine ass-kicking. Arguably, he viewed the sacrilege of conducting business at the temple as defiling the house of God. This may be excusable (as I suppose a man who takes God seriously could understandably do this), but it does paint a different picture from the peaceful Christ familiar to Christians.
Christ was no doubt a complicated person. I won’t even get into the accounts of dozens upon dozens of other messiahs with the same attributes of Jesus (you know: virgin birth, twelve disciples, the death and resurrection in 3 days, forgiving your enemies, etc), or perhaps the apparent plagiarism of Christ’s miracles from the earlier Egyptian god Horus. I also won’t mention the scores of people who challenge that Jesus even existed. I’m willing to accept that a man named Jesus did exist.
But gosh, wouldn’t it be good to finally apologize to all Jews for laying the crime of all times at their doorstep?
It’s like a pen I once saw a manager with at JcPenny’s, “Why doesn’t anyone blame the godless Romans?” Isn’t it time we lay the responsibility with the Roman law that dictated that Jesus should be crucified (a Roman punishment) for the act of disrupting public order by violently attacking several respected merchants in front of a temple? And, just maybe, issue an apology unto all Jews for the tremendous suffering they have endured by prejudiced–and misinformed–Christians?
*Edit 6/1/11: I have received some thoughtful criticism of this post. Mostly, that it needs citations and some evidence. I quite agree, and will now post some preliminary evidence, hope to add more later.
Also, I was mistaken about Max Müller, it appears that it was actually Nicolas Notovitch and Levi H. Dowling who primarily argued that Jesus traveled to India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here is a 8 minute video from a longer 1 hour video which I could not locate:
© David Metcalf