Jesus Christ, St. Thomas and Alexandria Prophthasia

      

Contd.

 

      Before the 17th century Jesus Christ was perceived solely through the mirror of faith, but gradually this gave way to a more rational outlook that is skeptical and cold. Skepticism and questioning are essential ingredients of science but doubt is antithetical to faith. Skeptics have been seen in sinister light by the custodians of faith. Sukumari Bhattacharji holds that rudiments of doubt are present in the 'sacred' text RigVeda. The empiricist Roger Bacon was jailed for 'doctrinal digressions'. The anger of the Church is evident from that the Italian monk G. Bruno was burned alive for supporting Copernicus' Heliocentric theory and even the great Galileo incurred the wrath of the Church for trying to interpret biblical passages in a scientific way. The spirit of enquiry also led the poet John Milton to envision Jesus as a human being. The yearning to rediscover the true sayings of Jesus hidden beneath the reverent periphrases of the holy texts motivated the hapless Protestant theologians of Tűbingen who were ostracized by the society for their lack of faith.
The literature on early Christianity is vast and formidable but widely divergent in outlook. The earliest Christian texts are the letters of St. Paul, which date from about 50 AD but Paul is an unreliable source as he never met Jesus and received his theology, not from Jesus or his disciples, whom he hated, but through a mystical communion with a Risen Christ. The great influence of Mithraism on Christianity can be gauged from the fact that Paul or Shaul was from Tarsus which was a great centre of Mithraism. The generally accepted sources for the life and message of Jesus are the New Testament Gospels, the earliest being Mark (AD 60–80), followed by Matthew, Luke, and John (AD 75–90). The Gospel of Thomas, at times called the fifth Gospel, was found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt and is a document of a very different vein. Its date is uncertain, scholars like E. Pagels have favoured an early date (50-100 AD) but others have ascribed it to the 2nd century, yet it is believed that this Gospel may, in fact, contain some actual sayings of Jesus.

Similarly, the sources Christianity, which was initially an Asiatic religion, have to be sought not only in the Coptic, Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek texts in Egypt, Palestine or Syria but also the Pali, Sanskrit, Gandhari and Khotanese texts of Kuh-e Khwaja, Sanchi, Ajanta, Nagarjunakonda and Bharhut. The Jataka Stories in particular, may provide invaluable data.

       An oft-quoted passage in the Old Testament relates how the Jews hated their captivity in Babylon but as H. G. Wells notes, it was here that the Jews came in contact with a higher civilization. This is only partly correct as Judaism originated in the east, in Indo-Iran. The pivotal role of Eastern Judaism is evident from the history of the name Bible which is some kind of an enigma. It is said to have originated from the Greek word Byblion (book) or from Byblos which meant the rind of a stem of the papyrus plant which was used for writing in the ancient era. However this sense of the term has not been traced to a date earlier than the 4th century AD and as such can only be a late meaning. The word has also been linked to the name of the Phoenician port Byblos through which papyrus was usually imported into Judaea. But there is another name that is very similar to the Bible and also had a very sacred connotation – Babil. It is significant that the Bible, comprising only the Pentateuch, was first put together at Babil(on), not Jerusalem. Here one can add that even the Babylonian Talmud had greater authenticity. According to E. Herzfeld the Three Magi went from Kuh-i-Khwaja and the respect for the 'King of the Jews' in Seistan shows Eastern Judaism in a broader perspective. Apart from Tarsus where Paul lived, Babil(on), Babil in Seistan and Herat must also be seen as fountainheads of pagan ideas that were finally incorporated into Christianity.

     The Yadus of India were the ancestors of the Jews (Mithras Reader III) whose history cannot be tagged to only Galilee. 'India' of the RigVeda also included the Near East and eastern Iran. R. D. Barnett writes in the Cambridge Ancient history about Barata in Phrygia. The RigVeda refers to Goliath as a Galatian. In RV VIII. 46 Dasa Balbutha and Taruksha make a gift of 100 camels to the sage. Goliath's name has also been given as Alyattes, which agrees with Balbutha. The camels first appear in history around 1200 B.C. which sets the upper limit of the date of the hymn. The name Taruksha is a combination of the Greek Tauros (Bull) and the Sanskrit Uksha (Bull) and alludes to Galatia. Goliath in Galatia implies that David was also from Galatia.

     J. G. Droysen wrote that in the Hellenistic era Greek and Near Eastern cultures mingled in the lands conquered by Alexander the Great to form the cultural matrix from which Christianity emerged. A careful study shifts the centre of activity further east and brings to the fore Alexander and Asoka, due to whom historic events took place in Indo-Iran that altered human destiny. Asoka, who was Diodotus-I, sent religious emissaries to several countries of the west to spread the message of Homonoia.

       Nothing is known about Jesus between his 12th and 30th years. E. R. Gruber and H. Kersten have speculated that he joined the Therapeutae who were active near Alexandria, Egypt, in the 1st century AD. The claim of Z. P. Thundy that the Therapeutae were Buddhists of the Theravada school is sensible but Thundy is unaware that Gotama was from Baluchistan- Seistan, not Nepal.

   The tradition that Christianity was brought to 'India' in the 1st century AD by St. Thomas, long before it reached Rome, is of great significance. The presence of both Abraham and St. Thomas in Seistan hints that Jesus Christ may also have come to this area. It is presumed that Jesus may have gone to 'India' in those seminal years. Indeed there are good reasons for Jesus' visit to Seistan - it was once known as India and was a land of Prophets. Tarn identified Kuh-e Khwaja in Seistan as Alexandria Prophthasia, Alexandria of the Prophets. Seistan has been identified as the abode of Zoroaster by Diakonoff and Gnoli. But it can be seen that Kuh-i-Khwaja was Kapilavastu. The association with Gotama’s birth-place is of great significance. The episode shows the deep links between Buddhism and early Christianity. This was not a one-way street and the influence of Christianity on Mahayana has been noted by many scholars. It may be pointed out that the old English term Geferan for Christian companions corresponds to Gavran the name of the Buddhists in Persian. The names of the Magi are given in other sources as Casper, Mel-choir, and Balthasar. Casper may be Kashyapa; Mel-choir echoes Melukhkha, the name of the Indus-Saraswati culture. Long before Jesus, another 'Son of God', Alexander of Macedon, crossed myriads of seas and continents to reach the Land of Prophets in Seistan where he set up Alexandria Prophthasia.

       If Abraham is seen as an Indo-Iranian from Alexandria Prophthasia in Seistan, history of Judaism gets radically altered. The fact that Prophthasia was also Gotama's birth-place links Eastern Judaism with Buddhism. In the very authentic Persepolis fortification tablets Siddhartha Gotama and his father Suddodhana are referred to as Sedda Saramana and Sudda-Yauda-Saramana - which indicates that they were eastern Ya(h)dus or Jews. This narrowing of distinctions between Judaism and Buddhism is unsuspected by mainstream scholars like R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, E. S. Gruen, yet it is of crucial importance in grasping the essential unity of the ancient religions. Christianity rose as a Judaic heresy and as Buddhism can also linked to eastern Judaism, the link between Christianity and Buddhism is natural. In fact as Zoroaster is also said to be from Seistan the distinctions between Judaism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism become much less pronounced in the early era. This was visualised by great scholars like Max Müller and C. P. Tiele.