A Search for the Historical Jesus From Apocryphal, Buddhist, Islamic and Sanskrit Sources, by Professor Fida Hassnain Available at Down-to-Earth Bookstore for $18.95 plus $2 shipping
Reviewed by Chris Mercogliano
This truly extraordinary - some would claim utterly unbelievable - piece of scholarship contains no messages from the Archangel Gabriel, no interviews with extra-terrestrials, and no Elvis, Princess Di (or Jesus) sightings. What it does contain are decades of verifiable research performed by a distinguished seventy-three-year-old Indian Professor of History who has drawn the - some would also claim utterly fantastic - conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth did not die on the cross as hundreds of millions of Christians like myself are taught to believe. Instead, he spent the second half of his life studying and teaching in the East before he died in the Himalayan province now known as Kashmir.
Obviously, if the theory that Christ lived to a ripe old age were somehow proven, it would stand the entire Christian world on its head overnight, thanks to a millennium of emotional, spiritual, political and economic investment in his supposed martyrdom at the hands of the Roman conquerors of the Holy Land. But Professor Hassnain is not out to discredit modern Christianity, with which he says he has no axe to grind. Though a traditional Northern Indian Muslim by birth, over time he crossed over into Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, and therefore now believes that all religions should be honored equally as expressions of a divine oneness. Hassnain is careful to point out that Judaism, Christianity and Islam can all be traced to the same historical root: Abraham. He says that his motivation for spending so many years of his life researching the earthly existence of the flesh and blood Jesus owes itself to his reverence for one of humanity's great prophets and to his deeply-held desire to free up Christianity's monopoly on Him whom they call the Son of God.
His hope in so doing is that at least some of the chasm of misunderstanding between the world's great religions might thereby be bridged. No, Fida Hassnain is no crackpot, which I'm sure he will be labeled by Christian "authorities" everywhere should they ever happen to get their hands on this admittedly incredible book. Rather he is a scholar of the highest order who himself is a direct descendent of a grandson of Mohammed on his mother's side. And he has left few stones unturned in his voluminous research, which as Director of Archives for the Jammu and Kashmir states in the 1960s, he was then in a rare position to begin. Nor is he the first to write a book alleging that Jesus physically survived the crucifixion. The previously published Jesus Lived in India, by Holger Kersten, made the same claim. Kersten, it should be noted, relied heavily on Professor Hassnain's discoveries about Jesus' "second life" in the East.
(It should also be noted that SKOLE editor Mary Leue traveled to India to meet Fida Hassnain and also brought back his first book on the subject of Jesus' life after the crucifixion, The Fifth Gospel. While in Kashmir, she also visited what Hassnain claims to be Jesus' tomb - the Roza Bal, as it is called in Srinagar, dedicated to "Yuz (sometimes Yuzu) Asaph," and as such, greatly venerated by all Kashmiri. She felt a profoundly sacred presence there, and has become convinced that Yuzu Asaph, was in fact Jesus, this being a title Jesus had taken on while he was in Nisibis in Parthia in order to conceal his identity from exiled Jews there who wished him evil, as recounted by the Persian Mir Khwand, speaking of "Hazrat (the Master) Issa" and his travels in the East. Mary was at least partly instrumental in helping this book to reach publication.]
When one begins digging into the wealth of historical material presented here, Professor Hassnain's proposition is not nearly as far-out as it first might suggest. For instance, writes Hassnain, it has been forgotten how wide the Jewish diaspora was in ancient times, extending into Asia to such an extent that several Hebrew prophets, including Samuel and Ezekiel, are reported to have been buried along the great Silk Road to the East, that ancient highway which stretched all the way from Rome to Cathay, and disciples Thomas and Simon Peter are believed to have traveled to India after the crucifixion. Thomas is known to have founded a Christian sect in south India which survived for many centuries, the traces of which can still be found. There is substantial anecdotal evidence, too, that Moses, like Jesus, spent his last days in Kashmir as well, and the tomb which is locally believed to contain the remains of the greatest Hebrew leader of all is still, to this day, tended by Semitic-looking people. He also discovered among various Kashmiri groups a number of current religious practices, including the koshering of food, the east-west orientation of graves and the blowing of the shofar which can clearly be traced back to the tribes of Israel. By Hassnain's linguistic analysis, ten percent of the Kashmiri language contains Hebrew derivatives.
Thus, concludes Professor Hassnain, it is entirely plausible that Jesus would have made a return journey eastward after the violent reaction to his public life in the Holy Land. That there was a first visit, during the so-called "lost years" when Jesus is reported to have "traveled to the East," is beyond question, according to numerous sources cited by the author. Sections of the book read like a good detective novel. Hassnain was put onto Jesus' trail in the East by the chance discovery in Ladakh of the diaries of a German Moravian missionary who mentioned the travels in Tibet and Ladakh of a 19th-century Russian journalist by the name of Nicolas Notovitch. The diaries led Hassnain to Notovitch's book, The Unknown Life of Christ, in which the author writes that while he was recovering from a bad fall at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery known as Hemis in Ladakh, the head Lama read to him ancient historical documents about Jesus' life in India.
The sacred scrolls, safely hidden away on the rooftop of the earth for nearly two thousand years, contain reports and commentary on the teachings and travels of "the Issa Buddha," who "preached the holy doctrine in India and then to the children of Israel." Hassnain, like Notovitch, is convinced that Issa and Jesus (whose name in Aramaic is Jesu, Yuzu in Urdu, one of the languages of northern India, and Issa, in Persian), are one and the same and that these scrolls refer to the years both before and after the public life of Jesus. Flush with his sensational findings, Notovitch hand-delivered his manuscript to a cardinal at the Vatican, who pleaded with him not to publish it and offered him "money for his expenses" if he would turn the manuscript over to him. Notovitch refused the bribe and saw the project through to publication, but was widely accused of forgery and fraud by the society of his day. Meanwhile, when Professor Hassnain traveled to Hemis fifty years later to see the scrolls for himself, he was told the scrolls pertaining to Issa had "disappeared."
A Search for the Historical Jesus, like other works disputing the death on the cross theory, then takes us through a microanalysis of what little written record remains of the crucifixion, as well as of possible physical evidence like the Shroud of Turin, in which Jesus' body is believed to have been wrapped after it was removed from the cross. Hassnain's argument that Jesus survived his ordeal is quite convincing; more so, I have found, than the account offered by the New Testament, as is his argument that Christ then slowly traveled back to the East, where he would die of natural causes many decades later. Along the way Hassnain cites numerous sources in addition to the Tibetan scrolls which he never got to see - including the Bible, the Gnostic Gospels and the Dead Sea scrolls, as well as substantial archaeological evidence, to make his case.
Whodunit? Read it and see for yourself. But if Fida Hassnain is right, he has certainly done his part to set the record straight.