Jesus in India?

Did Jesus actually survive the crucifixion, flee Israel and live out the rest of his days in India? The theory of Jesus in India goes back to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Punjab, British India in 1899. Ahmad claimed to be a Mujaddid (Islamic Prophet), and Mahdi (Messiah of Islam).

Ahmadi Muslims believe that Jesus was crucified and survived on the cross. Then was taken down and revived from a swoon in the tomb. Then he traveled east where he died in Kashmir of old age while seeking the Lost Tribes of Israel. He was supposedly buried in Roza Bal tomb. These beliefs were written in Ahmad’s book, “Jesus in India” (Masih Hindustan Mein). He wrote it using a mix of different religious texts from Buddhist writing, the Gospels, and the Koran.

Historically the Roza Bal is the tomb of Yuzasaf/Yuz Asaf (or Youza Asouph). Yuzasaf is a holy man in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. He is a prophet to Ahmadi Muslims. Outside of Ahmadi’s teachings, he is a Sufi Muslim saint. In the Indian Christian traditions, he is Josaphat from the Wisdom of Balahvar, which is a legend of Christian martyrs from India, named Barlaam and Josaphat (Bilawhar and Yudasaf). It has disputed origins, and many different translations and was spread all over Eurasia. A modern view of the Wisdom of Balahvar is that it is a Christianize version of the story of the Buddha.

In “Barlaam and Ioasaph, John Damascene, Loeb Classical Library 34”, professor of Oriental Studies, David Marshall Lang, says that the life and teachings of Josaphat have many parallels with those of the Buddha, but these weren’t recognized until the 19th century. Until then Josaphat had been recognized as a Christian saint for about a thousand years. Some say the Wisdom of Balahvar may have come from Manichaean traditions in Central Asia. Then translated into Georgian, Arabic, and Greek. The Greek translations are the best known in Europe and are believed to have been possibly translated by either John of Damascus or Euthymius of Athos.

Ahmad’s beliefs about Jesus were rooted in an idea of a connection between Yuzasaf, the Buddha, and Jesus. David Marshall Lang, notes that this connection of Yuzasaf with Kashmir is the result of a printing error in the Bombay Arabic edition of the Wisdom of Balahvar in the 6th or 7th century. Lang says that a mistake with Arabic diacritical markings turned Budhasaf (Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be) into Yudasaf, which lead to renderings of Iodasaph, Yuzasaf, and Josaphat. It also says Yuzasaf died in Kashmir rather than Kushinara, the traditional place of the original Buddha’s death.

Connections between Buddhism and Christianity like Ahmad’s have been adopted by various new-age authors. Suzanne Olsson, author of books like, “Jesus in Kashmir: The Lost Tomb” and “In Search of Jesus: Last Starchild of the Old Silk Road”, claims that the Jews originated in India and that Jesus visited India several times during his life. Olsson also believes that Yuz Asaf also means “son of Joseph”, and that “Iosaphat” (Ἰωσαφάτ) is also a translation of “Buddha”, even though it is actually a greek translation of Josephat.

Various modern scholars have rejected Ghulam Ahmad’s theories because the sources he used were taken out of context and unrelated to Jesus. Gunter Gronbold wrote Jesus in Indien (Das Ende einer Legende), where he examined the sources used by Ahmad. Gronbold concludes that Ahmad misidentified Yuzasaf as being Jesus of Nazareth. His conclusions were backed up by Norbert Klatt in 1988 and Mark Bothe in 2009.

In Conclusion, it appears Budhasaf or Bodhisattva (the Buddha-to-be) got mistranslated as Yudasaf in the Bombay Arabic edition of The Wisdom of Balahvar, which was likely a Christianized version of the story of the Buddha. Yudasaf gets Latinized as the son of Joseph, associating him with Jesus, even though this can be applied to anyone who has a father named Joseph. This connection is seen by Ahmad and later by new-age writers as proof of a connection between the Buddha and Jesus. Modern scholars, however, say these connections are circumstantial and based on translation errors from the Bombay version of the Wisdom of Balahvar.

John Rippon in Journal of Ecclesiastical History Volume 18, Issue 02, October 1967, pp 247–248

Paul C. Pappas, Jesus’ Tomb in India: The Debate on His Death and Resurrection, Asian Humanities Press, (September 1, 1991), ISBN 0895819465 Concludes that Yuz Asaf is not Jesus.

Hugh Schonfield, The Essene Odyssey, Element Books Ltd (1993), ISBN 0906540631 Argues that Yuz Asaf is an Essene teacher, not Jesus.

On Mirza Ghulam Ahmad