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 about Jesus.

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.[22] 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.[23] 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 or Christ."[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]

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.
(Matt 12:40)

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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