This is a book and a documentary movie by Paul Davids. The film was chosen by the Sundance Channel for a national U.S. television broadcast as its Christmas documentary for 2008, with a prime time airing December 22nd and a repeat broadcast the day after Christmas and on the day of New Year’s Eve. Additionally, the International Television Division of NBC Universal offers the film for broadcasts around the world.
By Paul Davids
The film that this book describes was chosen by the Sundance Channel for a national U.S. television broadcast as its Christmas documentary for 2008, with a prime time airing December 22nd and a repeat broadcast the day after Christmas and on the day of New Year’s Eve. Additionally, the International Television Division of NBC Universal offers the film for broadcasts around the world.
This is both wonderful and remarkable, because “Jesus in India” is admittedly a controversial film. However, we are privileged to live (especially in the United States) in an era when controversy has become a virtue, and debate and the clash of ideas have emerged as a time-honored tradition.
People no longer hide from ideas. If they do not like them, they chew them up, spit them out, stomp on them, shout about them and then move on to other ideas. But sometimes ideas plant a seed, take hold and blossom, re-shaping both popular and traditional culture.
The verdict is not yet in for “Jesus in India” as a concept and theory and new direction in religious thought. But if you fail to accept the challenge of considering it, you will be depriving yourself of knowledge of an extraordinary puzzle. This remarkable puzzle, which involves eighteen lost years or “Hidden Years” in the life of Jesus, may well turn out to be a cornerstone for understanding many enigmas about Christianity – like the long-ignored missing but somehow obvious clue in a mystery that remains unsolved. Or perhaps somehow it will eventually be proven a dead end by indisputable dating of documents, DNA testing and other scientific tests and tools. Either way, none of us will be the worse for the truly incredible journey to inquire and discover.
New concepts of the actual, historic person of Jesus of Nazareth are emerging from historic studies of texts discovered since the 1940s in the Holy Land and Egypt, including the ancient gospels of the so-called Gnostic Christians that were found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt.
Even Pope Benedict the 16th has written a book called Jesus of Nazareth which acknowledges evolving understandings of the life and meaning of Jesus based on new findings in the modern era.
However, what the Pope does not talk about, which you will learn much about here, is that there is purportedly one particular ancient text about Jesus, long believed to have been seen and studied by a few select scholars and explorers at the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, India, high in the Himalayas. This text may tell us true things about the Missing Years in the life of the historic Jesus not described in the New Testament and has been translated from Tibetan at least twice.
The questions today are: where is the Tibetan version, and where is the most ancient version of it, purportedly originally written in the Pali language, and how old is it, really?
Does it, as it purports, fill in actual and accurate details of the life of young Jesus, between the ages of twelve and thirty, that are missing from the New Testament?
The author of the book you are about to read is Edward T. Martin, who has long had the wish – his greatest wish – to hold in his hands the manuscript said to exist at the Hemis Monastery at 14,000 foot elevation, near Tibet.
Edward Martin is by any definition an adventurer who has visited almost sixty countries and climbed about a dozen mountains. He is an English teacher from Lampasas, Texas, where he was raised as a member of the Church of Christ but ran afoul of popular opinion in the church organisation. The offence he committed was that as a young Bible student he noticed one omission in the New Testament – those Missing Years — that he thought to be rather serious, and he began asking far too many questions for those in his small town.
Edward T. Martin’s first book, King of Travelers: Jesus’ Lost Years in India, inspired our film “Jesus in India.” A revised and updated version has recently been published by Yellow Hat Publishing and is available at:
and from New Leaf Distributing Company and other sources as well. It will jolt you and challenge much of what you have always taken for granted about the origins of Christianity, but it is not a prerequisite for reading this book.
This book is the story of an adventure in which I participated as a film producer and director, travelling with Edward T. Martin and producer Anil Kumar Urmil and a dedicated crew of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians over 4000 miles in India in search of answers to ancient mysteries. I then continued travelling to continue filming in several other countries, including Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In India, we confronted all kinds of dangers, from terrorism to inhospitable climates, floods, impassable roads and arduous train travel during India’s summer monsoon, which was like being roasted alive in an oven. (You’ll find that Ed makes many references to the excessive heat during our travels.) But we diligently searched for the answers to the Biblical questions that have robbed Edward T. Martin of many nights of sleep in his five decades of life.
Not only has Ed Martin pointed out many times that information about Jesus between ages twelve and thirty is missing from the New Testament, but two prominent Catholic scholars whom I interviewed at Georgetown University confirmed it as well. Both Professor Alan C. Mitchell and Professor Anthony Tambasco, of the Georgetown Department of Divinity, acknowledge that Catholics call that period of Jesus’ life either the “Missing Years” or the “Hidden Years,” and that mainstream Christianity cannot offer any information about those years except to speculate that Jesus was growing up in Judea with Joseph and Mary.
In the motion picture business, which has been my profession for three decades, we call the problem of the Missing Years a “jump cut.” In the Bible, one moment young Jesus is twelve years old and speaking with the Jewish doctors of the law in the temple in Jerusalem. And then suddenly, on the next page, he’s thirty years old being baptized at the River Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist. Only one sentence in the Gospel of Luke(2:52) connects the years, and it says: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.” End of story.
But for Edward T. Martin, it was not the end of the story; it was the beginning of his own personal quest that has pre-occupied him for most of his life, and which has now absorbed me for several years while making the film “Jesus in India.”
We found some remarkable information, in some very amazing places. And there are reasons to take what these sources tell us quite seriously. But let’s go further than the issue of the so-called “Missing Years” or “Hidden Years.” The very provocative question Christianity has avoided discussing since its inception is this: Is it possible that Jesus physically survived the crucifixion?
Until recent years, to even ask the question was considered blasphemy or heresy, and so parts of this investigation may still seem heretical to some. Christianity takes the Biblical accounts literally and states unequivocally that Jesus did die – and then He was resurrected and met with the Apostles, instructing them to preach the Gospel throughout the world. Then after a period of days, the “official story” asserts that he ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, and that Jesus will return again – the Second Coming – to bring judgment upon all mankind in the Final Days.
Edward T. Martin no longer believes the “official story,” but he believes there are many elements of historical fact in the New Testament concerning Jesus. In fact, he has tentatively concluded that the “official story” may have been a sort of “cover story,” not unlike cover stories which may have been used to hide the fact that John Wilkes Booth probably did not really die after assassinating Lincoln, although it was made to appear that Booth did. Reports that Booth escaped and travelled to London by a ship departing San Francisco (the last possible place he would be expected to board to get to England), and that he even appeared on the stage again in London, are either nonsense or fact. People are free to reach either conclusion. But for those who look, there are clues to be followed, and there is testimony and evidence.
Medical science has advanced a long way in two thousand years, and today we know that the line between life and death is sometimes impossible to define. There have been many cases, in two thousand years, of people thought to be dead and nearly consigned to their graves, who were not dead at all and survived to tell their tales of “near death experiences.”
Author Edward T. Martin takes as fact that Jesus did appear before his Apostles following the crucifixion. But he asks whether Jesus’ actual survival could be a logical explanation for those sightings of Him, an explanation that does not depend upon the supernatural. Although he accepts that even Jesus’ survival, under those circumstances, should be regarded as a great miracle, justifying the celebration of Easter, Ed searches for evidence that Jesus escaped the Roman Empire and had a continuing life in the east.
In the film, I sought many opinions other than those of Edward T. Martin. Five prominent Catholics weigh in on those questions, as well as a fundamentalist Christian preacher, Hindu priests, the Shankaracharya of the Hindu religion (one of the four ultimate ecclesiastical authorities on Hinduism, whose authority in the Hindu world is similar to that of the Pope in Catholicism), Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, a young Muslim scholar in London, a Jewish rabbi and many others. The Catholics appearing in the film include the late Monsignor Corrado Balducci, who was Apostolic Nuncio of John Paul II, Professors Alan C. Mitchell and Anthony Tambasco of Georgetown University, Michael Hesemann, who is a Vatican-accredited journalist, and Father Baptiste, who is the Catholic Bishop of Bareilly in India. Best-selling author Professor Elaine Pagels of Princeton University, who wroteBeyond Belief: The Gospel of Thomas and many other books, also made an important contribution to this film, conceding that: “We cannot rule out that Jesus may have travelled to India.”
The Christian faithful (who pick up this book or who want to watch the DVD of the documentary feature motion picture, “Jesus in India”) need not fear that it is a one-sided diatribe, because it certainly is not. In fact, our assistant director on the film, Mr. N. T. Binny of Mumbai (whom everyone calls just “Binny”), is a devout “Thomas Christian” who said his prayers very early every morning while working on the film and who frequently reminded us that, although he could accept the evidence that Jesus possibly did journey to India as a young man, he believes the speculation about the crucifixion and its aftermath is unfounded. Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, according to Binny. Nevertheless, Binny’s curiosity was certainly piqued by the trail of inquiry, and he devoted every possible effort to helping us complete each phase of the production. He does not agree with some of Edward T. Martin’s conclusions, but he believes it has taken a courage to pull back the veil and look at these issues.
Without resolving the questions raised in this book and in the film, which may never be resolved, we found that the trail of inquiry took us to Srinagar, to a specific grave believed by Ahmadiyya Muslims to be the final resting place of the historical Jesus Christ. We went there aware that political conflict and violence in the area made the visit dangerous – and made filming at the tomb in a Muslim district where the locals were angry at any intrusions and did not welcome visitors – even more dangerous.
The project meant so much to each of us involved in the filming of “Jesus in India” that we went there, in spite of the U.S. Secretary of State’s admonitions for Americans considering such travel, and in spite of warnings at the tomb not to film it or photograph it even from the outside. That warning at the tomb appears as the final photograph of chapter twelve of this book.
Even stalwart believers in Jesus’ resurrection may ask themselves what is so threatening, and to whom, that visitors would be warned not even to take a picture of a certain very ancient grave in northern India! And why does the grave have stone carvings of the feet of the prophet who is buried there, which suggest the wounds and scars of crucifixion? And why do some Christians as well as Ahmadiyya Muslims worship there [Ed. – Ahmadi Muslims do not worship at any grave], pay homage, light candles, shed tears – and why do all the other branches of Islam revere the tomb, protect it and discourage outsiders from approaching? There are three prophets in Islam – Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad [Ed. Muslims believe in hundreds of thousands of Prophets including many others such as Moses(as) and Krishna(as)] – and the tomb in question is called by Muslims “The Prophet’s Tomb.” Neither Abraham nor Muhammad is buried there, so who is?
We survived the visit to Srinagar with extraordinary footage for our film. But others in that region, within the very next week, were not so lucky, and sixteen died. Terrorism continues there unabated, and most of it does not reach the western press. As this book is published, Kashmir has descended into bedlam, and many of those who live there are threatened.
My work on the film project did not end when the journey to India with Edward T. Martin was completed. There was still much to do and other travels to make. The filming continued at the Vatican, at Princeton University, Georgetown University, Amherst in Masssachusetts, Lampasas in Texas, London (home of Arif Khan), Florida (home of Suzanne Olsson), and many other places. I am indebted to many people for their contributions to this film. As for my time spent with Professor Elaine Pagels, interviewing her for the film brought me back to Princeton University, my alma mater, several decades after I had graduated as a young psychology student who had a particularly keen interest in making motion pictures.
The result of all of this is that I completed a motion picture about Edward T. Martin’s search, “Jesus in India.”
The search itself, as described by Edward T. Martin in this book, contains elements of both heaven and hell, and in many ways it enlightened us. Yes, we had some ecstatic experiences, seeing and beholding certain things and places holy to Hindus, Christians and Buddhists that are seldom seen by western eyes. Of our travels to about forty locations in India, there is little about it that was easy but there were parts of it that could be said to have been blessed.
I had many reasons for making “Jesus in India,” and the origins came about while I was a student at Princeton University. As an undergraduate student at the close of the 1960s, when it was still an all-male school, I took a course in Mahayana Buddhism, learned about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from the Beatles (and their dedication to the teacher known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and to Transcendental Meditation), and then I happened upon the “book of books” for mystical seekers, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda.
I was raised as a non-practising Jew by agnostic parents. However, my father was one of the few Jewish professors for forty years at Georgetown University, one of the most prominent Catholic institutions in the U.S. As a result of reading Autobiography of a Yogi, while in college I attended services of Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in a private home about ten miles from Princeton.
I could scarcely have imagined at that time that I would end up studying film in Beverly Hills, at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film Studies, or that I would end up living for thirty years in a home atop a hill about half a mile from the Mount Washington “Mother Center” of Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, CA. Nor could I have imagined then that Yogananda’s writings, so filled as they are with devout belief in many seemingly “supernatural” realities, including the resurrection of Christ, would continue to hold a fascination for me and involve me throughout my life, including his teachings of Kriya Yoga.
My fellow producer on this project, who I invited to join me on this adventure, likewise was raised with ambiguous and conflicting religious realities. Anil Kumar Urmil was raised in Goa, India, the son of a Hindu father and a Catholic mother, both from India. He knew much about the travels of St. Thomas in India and had long heard tales about the travels of Jesus there. In making this film, he wanted to know more about whether he should believe the legends he had always heard, whether they had foundation in fact, or whether those stories should be regarded as myths.
Sometimes the answers we seek in life are not given to us. We must become a seeker to find them. We may never find them. But without the effort, without daring to try, there is never any result. The results of our questioning and our search for answers are offered with literary flair and considerable insight here by Edward T. Martin.
You will find not just what he feels we learned about the “King of Wisdom,” as some have described Jesus in regard to his purported travels in India, but you will see the humour, heartaches and foibles of the author, who in some respects is just a very ordinary fellow who likes nothing more at the end of the day than to take off his leather cowboy boots and unwind.
As a matter of fact, everyone who sees our film has a good laugh when Ed confesses how he first reacted when he heard the evidence that Mother Mary is buried in Pakistan and the mortal remains of Jesus are in a tomb in Kashmir.
“When I heard that, I needed another drink,” he confessed.
As controversial as some aspects may prove to be, we gained confidence that we must have done something right when noted critic Pete Hammond wrote that “‘Jesus in India’is a fascinating and profound film, a deeply spiritual journey certain to make you think and question in ways you never have before.”
Edward T. Martin has done a wonderful job of taking you along with us to India and beyond. And so we both invite you to join us for the pages that follow, hoping you will experience and that you will learn, as we did, some absolutely fascinating things about the life of Jesus of Nazareth you didn’t know before. As the Gospel of St. John says, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”