Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Crucified in the Media

Marvin Pate and Sheryl Pate

In the early twentieth century, Nicholas Notovich published his work, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ: From Buddhistic Records. In that book, the author claims that on his trip to Tibet he found numerous sermons by Jesus. Supposedly, Jesus had delivered these sermons in India while a teenager. News of Notovich’s claim attracted much attention in the 1920s.

Notovich’s work is but one of a number of twentieth-century books that want to demonstrate that Jesus’ teaching ultimately is not Judeo-Christian in orientation but rather is permeated by Asian thinking, even New Age-like teaching. As such, the movement’s motive is polemical in nature: that the orthodox, established church has until recently managed to suppress the ‘authentic’ sources of the life and work of Jesus. For Notovich, the authentic source is clear: Jesus was Buddhist.

[Elaine] Pagels, in The Gnostic Gospels, accepts the supposed connection between Jesus and Buddha, basing it in the Gospel of Thomas. Pagels writes, ‘One need only listen to the words of the Gospel of Thomas to hear how it resonates with the Buddhist tradition…these ancient gospels tend to point beyond faith toward a path of solitary searching to find understanding, or gnosis.’ She asks, ‘Does not such teaching – the identity of the divine and human, the concern with illusion and enlightenment, the founder who is presented not as Lord but as spiritual guide – sound more Eastern than Western?’ She suggests that we might see an explicitly Indian influence in Thomas, perhaps via the Christian communities in southern India, the so-called Thomas Christians.

Never mind that Notovich’s work was exposed as a forgery; the seed had been planted and the twenty-first century is experiencing its harvest of ideas.

From Chapter 3 of Crucified in the Media – finding the real Jesus amidst today’s headlines, published by BakerBooks 2005
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