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Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, argue that a pacifistic Jesus was very unlikely. As the authors point out, Qumranian phrases flowed from his lips, sometimes word for word. Traditionally, scholars concede that at least some Zealots made up Jesus inner circle. The Bible itself reveals him acting in a Zealot-like way, driving the money changers out of the Temple. He states in the gospels: “I am come not to bring peace, but a sword”. In the same vein, when a cohort of Roman soldiers comes for him in Gethsemane, Peter raises his sword against them, hardly the act of a meek Christian. As revealing is the number of soldiers in a Roman cohort, six hundred. Why send six hundred soldiers except in anticipation of armed resistance? And crucifixion, remember, was the method of execution for rebels, not rabbis. These biblical events, in conflict with Christian tradition, do not conflict with the Qumran context. On the contrary, they fit.
Through gleanings from the gospels, however, and from more obscure sources that we shall explore, Jesus appears nothing less than a revolutionary, albeit a deeply mystical one, drawing on traditions from a far broader geographic and spiritual context than even the renegades of modern scholarship dare speculate. Was the master of Galilee far from Palestine, as some claim, during the time of unrest? Could he have been in India, or Tibet, and returned to political chaos? The Bible itself, specifically the letters of Paul, supplies some clues.
Woven through the poetic and mystical language, the scrolls reveal a devotion to Jewish Law that, if we are dealing with early Christianity, seems to preclude Paul’s evangelism among the Gentiles, who were strictly off limits to the supposedly xenophobic Qumranians. Unfortunately, the Bible provides little historical information about the Early Church. What is known has been gleaned from historians writing centuries later. Reliable accounts vanished with the fall of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, the burning of the library at Alexandria and, as Morton Smith has suggested, with the possible suppression of texts written by Jesus himself. The writings of the apostle Paul, however, help explain how early Christianity may have evolved from a fervent nationalistic Judaism into the spiritual movement that swept the Western world. Also, Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus may provide another piece in the puzzle, mystical communion.
After the death of Jesus, Paul traveled and preached beyond Judea and Palestine, actions inconsistent with the religious nationalism of the Qumranians, or Judaism for that matter, although his language resembles that of the scrolls. Was he a Roman agent infiltrating the Jewish rebels, co-opting the movement, as Baigent and Leigh suggest? Or was he a mystic teacher inspired by progressive revelation? Let’s look more closely at his story.
After being struck by his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul sets out for Rome, Greece and Asia Minor, spreading a new religion that extols Faith in Christ, in contrast to the scrolls, the writings of James Jerusalem Church, which, we are told, extol Jewish law and works over faith. Keep in mind the New Testament did not yet exist. Christian doctrine, as we know it, did not manifest until the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Yet Paul makes Jesus into an Eastern-style avatar, like Krishna, capable of leading his followers into a divine state, a mystical promised land. He preaches joint heirship with Christ, a oneness through inner contact, the force of the Star Wars trilogy, a blend of eastern mysticism and Persian dualism that to this day, though biblical, defies orthodoxy (where spiritual parity with Christ is blasphemy). Paul speaks of an inner man of the heart, much in the way the Vedas of ancient India speak of a inner spiritual identity united with Brahman, the All. The Dead Sea Scrolls also speak of this identity, suggesting ties, or at least shared knowledge, between Eastern mystics and the Jews of the New and Old Testament. That the scrolls resemble the Jewish mystical writings known as Kabbalah, support this as well.
Eisenman offers the following revealing translation from a Dead Sea text, called The Beatitudes for its similarity to the biblical passage of the same name. His translation reads: Bring forth the knowledge of your inner self. This phrase (among others in Western scripture) appears to derive from the Vedas of India, just as Jesus referring to himself as the Light of the World evokes Krishna’s language in the Bhagavad Gita. Implicit in the translation is that this self, or atman in the Sanskrit, is the identity of Brahman, or God, residing mysteriously within the individual. (the force?) This teaching is not Judeo-Christian in the orthodox sense. So, do the traditions of East and West have a common origin in eastern mystical experience?
Other evidence tells us that Jesus taught the initiatic mysteries, the science of immortality, like the great Eastern mystics. In 1958 at a Greek Orthodox monastery in the Judaean desert, Morton Smith discovered a letter written in A.D. 200 by Clement of Alexandria. The letter speaks of a secret gospel of Mark, a more spiritual gospel, Clement writes, “…read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.” This intriguing letter, written long before Eusebius, speaks of a secret mystical tradition without nationalistic borders. That Jesus taught and participated in this tradition is more than likely. So doing, he, in all likelihood, was no slave to regional agendas, rising beyond symbols of relative good and evil, Jew and Gentile, while fiercely opposed to spiritual evil embodied in corrupt priests.
Could it be that Paul seized the kernel of Christian and Vedic wisdom, leaving behind the rind of politics, that as a mystical initiate in Eastern wisdom that he attempted to bring to the Western world? The teachings of Joint Heirship and the inner man of the heart seem to do exactly that, suggesting spiritual parity with Christ, the path of oneness in the Dead Sea Scrolls, stated as: Bring forth the knowledge of your inner self. Could this be the real threat the scrolls present, spiritual freedom, individual enlightenment as opposed to subservience to orthodoxy? Going a step farther, was this pursuit of mystical oneness at the heart of early Christianity?
Texts from a Tibetan monastery provide some clues.
For many years rumors have suggested that the Vatican holds exotic texts about the life of Jesus Christ, which would drastically alter traditional beliefs about Christian origins. In 1887 a Russian traveler, Dr. Nicholas Notovitch, claimed he discovered these texts in a monastery at Himis, Tibet. Returning to Russia he wrote The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, a book about Jesus journey eastward as a young man, his lost years. Another book by Notovitch, The Life of Saint Issa, describes Jesus studying and teaching the Vedas in India. Taking up with a caravan at an early age, the story goes, Jesus traveled the Silk Road, then to Kapilavastu, birthplace of Buddha. While in India, he fiercely denounces the Hindu priest-class, the Brahmins, in much the same way he denounces the Pharisees in Matthew’s gospel, which, as stated, resemble the tone of the Dead Sea texts. An Indian Swami, Abhedananda, published a Bengali translation of the Buddhist texts in 1929. The same year, Nicholas Roerich, the painter and explorer, traveled the far East. Transcriptions from his diary reveal a mystical teaching on the Divine Feminine given by Jesus in India, again, similar to teachings in the scrolls, and a decidedly different view of reality than that of the Vatican.
If it seems a stretch that Jesus traveled to India, studied the Vedas, that Vatican clerics stashed away Buddhist accounts of his journey, then remember the Vatican-founded Ecole Biblique and its handling of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Consider that Thomas, the follower of Christ, journeyed to and built a mission in India, where faithful Christians worship to this day.
If Jesus spent much of his short life in India and Persia, as the texts say, far from the din of Palestine, the alleged militancy of early Christianity becomes less of an issue. On his return, Jesus would have found himself in the midst of zealotry and rebellion, which he would have, it seems likely, honored in principle. If he was God, he was also man, as the gospels point out, telling us he wept and got angry, much like the rest of us. Why should we deny him the right to be caught up in the struggle of his people?
Pieces of this puzzle, scattered across time, tell us there is more to early Christianity, more to ourselves, than Western tradition reveals. The truth reaches from crumbling texts, barren landscapes, into the most inward part of us, prompting us to remember the force, to solve the mystery from within. The battle over the nature of Christian origins rages nevertheless, like the battle over the Holy Land itself, as if the most sacred treasure stands to be won or lost, and this is more than likely the truth. As the veil parts above the Dead Sea, the real treasure revealed may prove to be that of our own history, our origin. Our soul.