© painting by Gopal das

Jesus and Krishna

Klaus Peter Brinkmann

Introduction

Before you react to any of this material, it is important that you update your knowledge of the New Testament scriptures. As an aid along these lines we'll show the state of scholarly research done over the last 150 years or so.

As for Jesus, here is what some eminent scholars tell us.

Rudolf Bultmann: "The character of Jesus, the clear picture of his personality and life, has faded beyond recognition. I do indeed think that we can now know almost nothing concerning his life and personality, since the early Christian sources show no interest in either, are moreover fragmentary and often legendary..."

Ernst Käsemann: "One is overwhelmed by how little [of the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament] can be called authentic...the historical figure of Jesus is traceable only in a few words of the Sermon on the Mount, the conflict with the Pharisees, a number of parables and some further narratives."

Günther Bornekamm: "The attempt to reconstruct an original draft of the Gospel according to Mark is a hopeless undertaking..."

While more recent New Testament research sounds less depressing--especially with recent developments in New Testament scholarship in the United States-modern experts in general have gradually come to believe that no more than fifteen percent of the words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament are his actual words. The rest have been attributed to him by generations of theologians and scribes.

In other words, the New Testament was not written by eyewitnesses. Rather, the four gospels gradually evolved, reflecting views of various Christian communities that existed from the time when the Gospel of Mark was written, around 70 AD.

The last gospel, the Gospel of John (125 AD), is now regarded as the least authentic because of its exaggerated Christological and Gnostic tendencies. Bultmann considers the Gospel of John a Tendenz Roman (i.e., tendentious literature).

As for the gospels of Matthew and Luke, written shortly after Mark's (c. 80-85 AD), it is widely agreed upon that both drew on Mark for their plots.

Regarding the virtually identical instructional material in Matthew and Luke that is not in Mark, scholars have assumed that the authors of both similar gospels drew upon a common source, logia, labeled 'Q' (from the German word Quelle meaning "source"). Q is said to comprise written or oral sayings of Jesus that might have been in circulation around the time of the composition of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke).

This assumption in its most basic form is called the Two Sources Theory. It has gained considerable support with the emergence of the Gospel of Thomas (Nag Hammadi Codex, discovered in Egypt, 1945), which indeed turned out to be a Gospel of Jesus' sayings--the existence of the genre of a gospel of sayings thus being demonstrated.

None of the Gospels were written in Israel. All of them reflect the understanding of the evolving Christian communities in the various geographical locations they represent.

Hence at the heart of the argument is the idea that the Gospel stories that we have all known, loved, eagerly recited and reposed our faith in--from the manger in Bethlehem to the crucifixion at Golgotha and beyond, to the resurrection and ascent to heaven--rather than representing the Jesus of history are actually proclamations of the Jesus of faith: What Christian communities outside Israel had come to believe about Jesus after 70 AD.

Along these lines, it is quite certain that neither Jesus nor his disciples had any idea of him being the awaited Messiah, the Christ, God incarnate, the second person of the Trinity, or the savior bringing mankind salvation through his self-sacrifice at Calvary.

Even the Last Supper--first recorded in Paul's letters ("For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me...'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-27)-even this might very well not be what those who actually physically associated with Jesus received (i.e., Peter, John and the rest of his disciples. John Dominic Crossan says the Didache, a second century document of the Jewish-Christian community--discovered in 1873 by Philotheos Bryennios--says nothing about such an event. In other words, the immediate followers of Jesus were not Christians. Nor was Jesus one.

With much of Christianity's most essential theological concepts being called into question--Soteriology (Jesus as the suffering savior) as much as Christology (Jesus as the divine second person of the Trinity)--Christianity is facing a major doctrinal crisis.

And, oddly enough, an incredible opportunity for revival...

Provided it could free itself from its superficial theological constructs that since the days of Paul have been superimposed and grafted onto the simple and perfect teachings of the Jesus of history.

Christianity has yet to discover the transcendental dimensions of God consciousness (or Krishna consciousness) possessed by Jesus, its founder, who declared: "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'It is here,' or 'It is there.' The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).

yo mam pasyati sarvatra
sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami
sa ca me na pranasyati

"For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me" (Bhagavad-gita 6.30).

Christianity has not begun its transcendental task.

The energetic and serious work done by modern New Testament scholars in a quest to discover the historical Jesus reaches back to Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768).

Comparing their work favorably with our own conclusion, we have arrived at their position from a very different angle: the ancient bhakti tradition of India. And with a very different set of tools: guru, shastra [scripture] and sangha [saintly association].

Guru - what has been received via disciplic succession, in our case from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, a master and self-realized soul in the Gaudiya Vaishnava-sampradaya, a line of realized teachers descending from Brahma via Madhava and Sri Krishna Caitanya into our present time;

Shastra - evidence gathered from the body of Vedic scripture and literature;

And Sangha - what we learn by practical application of knowledge in the association of saintly devotees.

Associating with devotees on a daily basis, experiencing the glories and frailties of human life, and facing problems and opposition similar to what Jesus faced, in the context of a similar, unenlightened outer environment, have certainly enhanced our understanding of what it must have been like living within a revolutionary spiritual movement two thousand years ago.

Practicing spiritual life under the guidance of a pure devotee of Krishna has further helped us understand that Jesus loves Krishna, and that Krishna loves Jesus too.

om ajnana-timirandhasya
jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah

"I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him."

Prithu das Adhikary

PS:

If you have any questions, send your e-mail to:
PBrinkmann@pamho.net ,

 

Keep on reading:

  1. Introduction
  2. Who was Jesus?
  3. Are Jesus and Krishna one?
  4. Is worshipping Jesus compatible with worshipping Krishna?
  5. The difference between Jesus and Krishna.

About the author
© 2000 Klaus Peter Brinkmann