This book is vibrant with its colour, large photographs and short chapters and it is quite simple to find specific sections when looking for something read previously.
The early chapters talk about the possible ‘pre-existence’ of Jesus (as). There is a fascinating chapter on Edgar Cayce, known as America’s ‘sleeping prophet’, in which Cayce is quoted as having listed a number of Biblical characters who were previous advents of Jesus(as). Among these people listed were the Prophets Enoch (as) and Adam(as). Mantoshe writes:
‘The rare human beings discussed above, expressed in each life time unique qualities under unique circumstances; remaining in the grace of their Maker they overcame adversity; they embodied peaceful tranquility while walking over hot coals and they kept the name of their Creator on their tongues with sweetness. They were the anointed ones of the ‘Christ’ for their time.’ (p.33)
Mantoshe goes on to look at the events of the early life of Jesus(as) as described in the Bible. Throughout discussion on Biblical material there is a genuine love and respect for the material that is rare to find in books on the historical Jesus(as). Scholars tend to pick holes in so many elements of the story that the reader is often left wondering what purpose the narrative serves at all. Mantoshe’s approach is to paint a rich and coherent portrait of Jesus (as)’s life growing up. She brings in many sources, but rather than spend pages explaining each source and going through the debate on authenticity, she presents the text and leaves the rest to the reader. This makes the story and the book overall far more accessible and enjoyable to read. Sources are always referenced and the reader has all the tools they need to delve further into the specific texts themselves.
Following the early life of Jesus (as) we get into the ‘Jesus in India’ material in chapter ten. Mantoshe writes:
‘The bulk of the important formative years of the youth of Jesus, prior to his three-year ministry in Judea and Galilee, are reported to have been spent in the East. It is said that Jesus left Palestine on a pilgrimage to become perfected in the wisdom of the Hunud (i.e. Hindus) of India, the Tibetan Buddhists, and the Zoroastrians of Persia. The scope of His travels is evident by His brief but meaningful interludes in Athens and Egypt as well, where He was exposed to Ancient Wisdom of the Greeks and the Mystery Schools of the Egyptians.Everywhere He went men recognised His divinity, and some called Him ‘My Little Hebrew Master’. However, wherever He saw social injustice and the worship of forces other than God the Father, He spoke up and rebuked men severely, putting His own life in danger.’ (p.115)
There is still much debate about the ‘missing years’ of Jesus Christ(as). The most famous and talked about document on this period, The Life of St Issa: Best of the Sons of Men, remains elusive to us today, despite being seen by many scholars and researchers over the past 120 years. If Jesus(as) did travel to the East during this time in his life why did he not talk about these experiences during his ministry? Mantoshe brings in another key source on this period, the Aquarian Gospel. This text has been the source of controversy for many decades. There is an upcoming film on the topic of Jesus in India that draws much of its material and inspiration from it.
Next, the book returns to Palestine and details the canonical accounts of the ministry of Jesus(as) followed by the Crucifixion and a close look at Pontius Pilate. The idea of Jesus(as) surviving the Crucifixion is given a whole chapter, dealt with in a succinct manner. Again, it is worth saying that despite the briefness of this chapter the range of views and material covered is impressive and the reader is not left feeling unsatisfied.
There is a look at Jesus(as) and Mary Magdalene before we return to looking at the Jesus in India material. Interestingly, there appears to be a tradition that Yus Asaph, the name that proponents of the post-Crucifixion ‘Jesus in India’ theory believe Jesus(as) assumed when in Kashmir, married a local lady called Marjan. Is this yet another Mary in Jesus’ life or could there be some possible link with Mary Magdalene?
Chapter fifteen, entitled Flight to India, marks the beginning of a very different section of the book. Up until this point we have been reading the author’s analysis and research of the various events of the life of Jesus Christ and those who have written about him. From Chapter fifteen onwards the book becomes a travel journal and the reader becomes part of an expedition and journey to continue the research in to the life of Jesus(as). We are now not talking about events that took place 2000 years ago but very much about events in the present.
There have been many authors who have written about their research and work in Kashmir (such as Suzanne Olsson, Dr Fida Hassnain, Holger Kersten and Edward T. Martin) but none have succeeded in bringing to life the material quite in the way that Mantoshe has. We do not just get descriptions of her visits to places and people she meets, rather, we have an in-depth look at her feelings at each stage along with what she is planning next. Her description of her visits to see Dr Imtiaz Shaheen, Dr Fida Hassnain and the visit to the Rozabal Tomb in Kashmir are particularly wonderful sections of the book.
Dr Imtiaz Shaheen and his family are regarded as direct descendents of Yus Asaph, but just how amazing and fascinating this claim really is does not strike until one reads Mantoshe’s account of her meeting him and his family. Small things, such as Mantoshe’s reflections on how Dr Imtiaz is carrying out modern day healings as a doctor and how this could be seen as continuing the healings that his alleged great heir once performed, bring the whole written prose to life.
Mantoshe’s description of her visit to Takht-i-Sulaiman or the Throne of Solomon in Kashmir is another fascinating part of the story. Again, other authors have described and visited it but Mantoshe’s recollection is arguably the most vivid and complete. The section on Notovitch and Roerich adds depth to ideas already looked at previously, but there is another hidden surprise and Mantoshe describes in detail her visit to the Roerich Museum in New York. Once more, the historical research material comes to life as we visit Daniel Entin, director of the museum and learn more about Roerich’s influence on the Jesus in India material.
There is still time for a look at both the Mormon belief of Jesus(as) travelling to the Americas and also the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We once again are presented with all the relevant material provided in a succinct way. The book is just over 300 pages long. Given the range of topics it covers it could easily have grown to 1000 pages in length had the author not been so skilled at presenting the crux of the matter and not getting dragged in long technical discussions about particular sources. This approach is illustrated perfectly just prior to her summarising the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe and it is this same underlying spirit that has focused her writing in other chapters also:
‘There are hundreds of scholarly accounts of the Guadalupe phenomenon, splitting hairs about every aspect of the story. This is not one of them. This is a simple account seen through the eyes of the people who look upon her as their patron saint; it ensues from the domain of faith, not logic.’ (p.323)
Finally, Mantoshe Devji leaves us with her final message on the topic of Jesus(as) and his life. Her message is one of religious tolerance and understanding, yet at the same time it is a warning that the religions of the world need to spend time working together and not driving themselves further apart and the world closer to destruction.
This is perhaps one of the most complete books on the historical Jesus(as). Many books try to present numerous different views on Jesus(as) and the varying beliefs, but surely none has covered all the topics that this book covers. All the way through, the presentation of both the prose and the wonderful photos in the book give the reader a rich experience of wise reflection and comment by the author.
This text is an important contribution to this area of scholarship and one hopes to see more work from this author building upon the work she has already completed.