Did Jesus Survive the Crucifixion?
Did he live in India to age 100?
From Ch. 4 of In Search of the Loving God
by Mark Mason
. . .
Extraordinary as this story of Jesus visiting India is, some have
taken it even further. Holger Kersten, in his book Jesus Lived
in India, extends the story to even more incredible heights,
backed up by even more sketchy evidence. We will just very briefly
look at his theory, before moving on to better established knowledge
Kersten uses evidence from the Shroud of Turin (of much challenged
authenticity) to maintain that Jesus was not dead, in the modern
sense of the word, when taken from the cross, but just in a deep
coma, and that, in the tomb, he rose from the teeth of death and
made a remarkably quick recovery. If he could miraculously heal
others, it seems reasonable to suppose he could do the same for
himself. Indeed, Jesus inferred he would do this, when he said,
referring to his body, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise
it again in three days." (John 2:19). After this Jesus appeared
to his disciples a few times, then left with his mother Mary to
travel gradually, over a period of sixteen years, back to India.
The by now elderly Mary died on the way, but Jesus continued on
to Kashmir, and lived and taught there till he was about a hundred
years old. There is even speculation that he attended the Fourth
Buddhist Council, held in Kashmir toward the end of the first
century A.D., and helped inspire the important reforms made to
Buddhism at this council.
The second century Church Father Irenaeus wrote a celebrated book
called Against Heresies, which was crucial in establishing
church orthodoxy. In this book he claimed Jesus lived to be an
old man, and remained in "Asia" with his disciple John,
and others, up to the times of the Emperor Trajan, before finally
dying. Trajan's reign began in 98 A.D., at which time Jesus would
have been just over one hundred years old. This is support,
from a most unexpected quarter, for Kirsten's theory.
Kirsten himself uses place names, age-old traditions, and claims
in certain documents, to give credence to this theory. The story
is that after Jesus appeared to his disciples, he went to Damascus
in Syria, where the Jews had been disliked since the Maccabean
wars, but where the Essenes had a spiritual center, and where
he would be safer than in Palestine. He was still there about
two years later when he dramatically appeared to Saul on the road
to Damascus, in order to win him over from being the main persecutor
of the Way to being the main proponent of it (Acts 9:1-31). About
five kilometers outside Damascus there is to this day a place
called Mayuam-i-isa, which means "The place where
Jesus lived," and the Persian historian Mir Kawand has cited
several sources claiming Jesus lived and taught in Damascus after
his crucifixion. These Persian sources claim that Jesus, while
in Damascus, received a letter from the King of Nisibis (now Nusaybin
near Edessa in Turkey), asking Jesus to cure him of a disease.
He sent Thomas to cure him, and later visited there himself, before
leaving to travel north west into the Kurdish territory in the
north of Anotolia. The apocryphal Acts of Thomas relates
how Jesus suddenly appeared there at the marriage festivities
of a princess at the court of the King of Andrapa. From there
Jesus and Mary apparently journeyed eastward over the old Silk
Road, where certain place names such as "House of Mary"
(near Ephesos on the west coast of modern Turkey), supposedly
suggest their stay. As Jesus gradually moved through Persia, he
increasingly became known as "Yuz Asaf," meaning "leader
of the healed." Tradition says he preached throughout Persia,
and converted vast numbers to his creed. Accounts such as Agha
Mustafai's Jami-uf-Tawarik (Vol II) claim Yuz Asaf and
Jesus were one and the same man, and the court poet of Emperor
Akbar of India later backed this up when he called Jesus Ai
Ki Nam-i to: Yus o Kristo, or "Thou whose name is Yuz
The Acts of Thomas describe the stay of Jesus and Thomas in Taxila
(now in Pakistan) at the court of King Gundafor in the twenty-sixth
year of his rule (47 A.D.). East of Taxila is a small town called
Mari ("Murree" in English) near the modern border with
Kashmir. In Mari there is a grave which has been maintained and
honored as far back as anyone can remember, called Mai Mari
da Asthan, "The Final Resting Place of Mother Mary."
The grave is orientated east-west in Jewish fashion, rather than
the Muslim north-south. Moreover, the area was under Hindu rule
in Jesus' time, and the Hindus cremated their dead and scattered
their ashes, so had no need for graves. When Islam took over this
area in the seventh century A.D., all "infidel" monuments
were destroyed, but they recognized this grave as being a relic
of a "People of the Book," Christian or Israelite, and
respected it. The grave continues to be honored as the final resting-place
of Jesus' mother by Muslims, who consider Jesus one of the most
important prophets of Islam. The Qur'an states that Jesus
(Issa or Isa) was saved from dying on the cross, which it considered
an accursed death, unworthy of him (Deut 21:23), and has many
other references to the "prophet Issa," supposedly to
correct the distorted image in the writings of his followers.
The most incredible of these is that Muhammad believed Jesus'
prophecy of the coming of the "Spirit of truth" (John
16:12-14) referred to him.
After this Jesus supposedly traveled on to Kashmir, from where
he made periodic journeys to other parts of India. There is a
grave in the middle of Srinagar's old town which many people believe
to be the grave of Jesus himself. The building later erected around
the grave stone is called Rozabal, meaning "tomb of
a prophet." Above the passage to the actual burial chamber
is an inscription explaining that Yuz Asaf entered the valley
of Kashmir many centuries before, and that his life was dedicated
to the search for the truth. Within the inner burial chamber there
are two long gravestones, the larger for Yuz Asaf, the smaller
for an Islamic saint of the fifteenth century. Both gravestones
point north-south in keeping with Muslim custom, but they are
in fact only covers: the actual graves are in a crypt under the
floor of the building. There is a tiny opening through which one
can look into the true burial chamber below, and see that the
sarcophagus containing the earthly remains of Yuz Asaf points
east-west in keeping with Jewish custom. This clearly indicates
Yuz Asaf was neither an Islamic saint nor a Hindu.
The Indian Mogul emperor Akbar, in the sixteenth century, planned
to unite India, then split into religious factions, with a single
religion that would contain the quintessence of all the various
faiths as its one "Truth." Akbar evidently selected
at least one saying of Jesus to inscribe on the wall of his Victory
Gate to the central mosque of the city he built for himself, for
(in 1900) this saying, unknown in the west, and supposedly deriving
from Jesus' stay in India, was found on a piece of wall amid the
ruins of Fatehpur Sikri, the city he built 25 km from Agra:
Said Jesus, on whom be peace! The world is a bridge,
pass over it but build no house there. He who hopeth
for an hour, hope for eternity; the world is but an hour,
spend it in devotion; the rest is worth nothing.
Since Akbar had in common with Jesus a vision of one religion
uniting the best from all religions, perhaps, if he had known
about it, he would also have had Jesus' statement of this vision
inscribed where the public could read it:
I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring
them also. They too will hear my voice, and there shall
be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16 AT)
The Prophet Isaiah, we saw earlier, also had this vision of the
whole earth united and at peace under one God (Isa 2:1-5). It
is worth noting that this verse of Jesus', apart from being a
vision of religious unity, is also suggestive of the fact that
Jesus traveled and taught outside Palestine.
What are Christians to make of this supposed return of Jesus to
India after the crucifixion? Despite the evidence for it being
thin, perhaps we could, at least, ask this question: what if the
inevitable further research into the theory does authenticate
it? What if the remains of "Yuz Asaf" in Shrinagar are
exhumed and are well enough preserved to show evidence of crucifixion?
My own belief is that this should not adversely affect Christian
faith. Whether Jesus actually physically died on the cross is
a minor point. The important thing is that he suffered for the
sins of all, and indeed, if he didn't physically die he would
have suffered much more (have died a worse "death")
due to the pain of recovering, than he would have if he had just
quickly died and been miraculously raised to life. Later versions
of the Nicene Creed say Jesus "descended into hell"
for three days, which would be a good description of such an ordeal
of recovery from terrible wounds while lying in a grave. In either
case the Bible makes it clear that Jesus ended up very much alive
in his original body, and that his body was not subject to decay
during the ordeal (Acts 2:31). What is possible is that he was
what we would now call "clinically dead" for a while,
and that, like many patients in modern hospitals, he was restored
to life. We do not, however, any longer think of "clinically
dead" as really being dead - only when the brain has decayed
so much as to lose its ability to function do we pronounce a person
dead. And, as we have just seen, the Bible says Jesus' body was
not subject to any decay. It is also worth noting that Jesus said
there would be no miraculous sign to demonstrate his authority,
except the sign of the prophet Jonah:
For as Johah was three days and three nights in the belly
of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth.
And Jonah did not die inside the fish before he emerged.
Jesus may have visited India, and he may even have returned there
after his crucifixion. We just don't know for sure yet, one way
or the other. The fact that there is room for speculation about
this, and that it can't be ruled out, shows just how little we
actually know about Jesus, and the importance of keeping an open
mind about him and his teachings.
From: In Search of the Loving God by Mark Mason - Copyright © 1997.
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