Review Article in SOCIAL SCIENCE IN PERSPECTIVE Journal (XIV/I Jan-March 2022) and INDIA FORWARD Monthly Vol. 14, No. 1 & 2 (Jan-Feb 2022)
Professor (Dr.) B. Vivekanandan
(Former Chairman, Centre for American & West European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; the only Indian chosen for the award of D.S.Sc, the highest honour of the Helsinki University, Finland, in the 350-year history of the award)
Jose T. Thomas, the author of this book under review (Kurisum Yudhavum Samadhanavum: Bhavivicharaparamaya Samskarika Charitra Niroopanam; The Cross, War and Peace: A Futuristic Evaluation of Cultural History) is an extra-ordinary person. After obtaining a Master’s Degree in Statistics, he started his career as a journalist. For 15 years, he worked in Deepika newspaper, and rose to the position of its Resident Editor. In 1988, Kerala Government honoured him with a State Award for Development Journalism. While he was Resident Editor of Deepika, following an inner call to pursue truth, in 1996 he voluntarily resigned from Deepika, and plunged into research on the history of mankind.
This book has been divided into three parts, and sub-divided into 24 Chapters, in addition to a few highly informative appendices. The first part deals with the crystal form of Jesus in his real life, and the un-doctored version of his sermons and doings, at Capharnam, Samaria, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and elsewhere in Palestine. The second part deals with the issue of gender equality women enjoyed at Jesus-Mary Friendship Gatherings and the subsequent gender discrimination women suffered, under a male–steered priestly bureaucracy. This part explains how the new Clergy obliterated the gender equality women enjoyed during the time of Jesus- Mary gatherings, made the new religion a male-dominated clergical bastion and configurated the New Testament accordingly. The third part deals with how a new universal global community, on the lines Jesus envisaged during his life-time, is now emerging all over the world, setting aside the divisive barricades which the vested interests, including religions, have placed during the last 18 centuries. These three parts of the book are followed by an interesting, and highly informative, section of Appendices, focusing on world developments, from the ‘Big Bang’ down to the present ‘Knowledge Era’, in a nutshell.
In the book, the author has made a thorough study of the teachings of Jesus, the making of the Bible, founding of the Christian religion, and the impact of changing of the name of Jesus as ‘Jesus Christ’, long after his crucifixion.
The principal focus of this book is the vision of Jesus for a peaceful compassionate, secular and unified world, where the humanity enjoys equality, liberty, and distributive justice, and how this vision of Jesus was kept under the wrap, for 16 centuries or more, through various maneuverings by vested interests, and how that vision of Jesus is splendidly re-emerging, world over, in the present era, and how a new “one world” is evolving, on the lines which Jesus envisioned during his life-time.
In the book, the author gives features of Jesus’ teachings and his vision of the society. Jesus spelt out much of these through his discourses at various gatherings of ordinary people. His teachings were all-inclusive, universal, and secular ones, which proposed equality, equity and equal distributive justice. Gender equality was a distinctive aspect of them. He urged people to be fearless, in thought and action, and spoke against pomp and extravagance. He was all against priestly overlordship upon people. He freely moved among ordinary people, as one among them, and spoke to them, in short simple sentences, in the local Aramic language, to convey his messages. They vouch that Jesus was above all divides. His teachings have timeless validity. “Love your neighbor, like you love yourself”, is the quintessence of Jesus’ societal concept.
Founding of Christianity
Between 2nd and 4th centuries, under the guise of chairpersons in the ceremonial ‘ Last Supper’ remembrance, a male-dominated priestly group brought the old Jesus-Mary Friendship gatherings, under their rule. The hierarchy was formed, with its various layers of priesthood as the rulers, and all the members of the erstwhile Jesus-Mary friendship associations as mere followers. Thus created the most hierarchical religious structure in history. As Emperor Constantine legalized the religious teaching and practices of this structure in 313 A.D. and Emperor Theodosius I made it the State religion, the Bishop of Rome became the top High Priest of the new religion and was subsequently titled the Pope.
As Jesus was turned into Jesus Christ, the friends of Jesus and Mary were turned into mere followers of the ruling Christian heirarchy called Church.
In the book, the author has made a thorough study on the components of the Bible, and noted that the Gospels included in it differed widely in their descriptions of Jesus’s activities and communication with the people of Palestine. Some of their terminologies appeared subsequent political–theological constructs, under Roman imperial patronage. The author gives numerous examples from the Gospels, where convenient changes in the original teachings of Jesus are made.
In the book, the author has scrutinized all four canonical Gospels in the Bible to understand the perceptions of Jesus (not of Jesus Christ) in real life. In pages 198-202, he has given the essence of Jesus’ teachings, commonly appearing in all Gospels. In pages 203-219, he has given the Gospel of St.Thomas, which remains excluded from the Bible. According to the author, of all Gospels, the most credible Gospel, which gives the most trustworthly presentation of Jesus’ sayings, is the Gospel of St.Thomas. As a close disciple of Jesus, St. Thomas personally accompanied Jesus and Mary while none of the authors of the canonical Gospels were disciples of Jesus.
It has also been found that some additions and deletions in Gospels were made to blot out the universalist, secular and egalitarian contents in Jesus’ teachings, and to present Jesus as ‘Christ’. The harm is evident in the fact that when Jesus said that ‘Love your neighbour like you love yourself”, some Gospels amputated the words “like you love yourself” from it, which radically changed the spectrum of that universal message. After citing such examples, the author holds that, yet, the new generation understands this misconstruct about Jesus in some Gospels, and views Jesus in his natural form.
Jesus Vs Jesus Christ
The author has uncovered the significant difference in the connotations between ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ’, and the political objectives behind the creation of a new divisive religious community in the name of ‘Christ’, which was contrary to the all-inclusive secular societies, which the lives of Jesus and Mary signified.
In the book, he made a critical review of the implied meanings of terms like ‘Christ’, and ‘Christianity’, against the touchstone of the original teachings and actions of Jesus, and explains how vested interests had hijacked Jesus, as if ‘Christ’ is his surname, and how Christianity was made a new religion, the spread of which was made a shared objective of Emperors and the new Clergy. Imperialism and cultural conquests were part and parcel of the objectives of both emperors and the Clergy.
Jesus And Christian Religion
The book reveals who, how, why and when the name of Jesus was suffixed with Christ, and how this new name Jesus Christ, made by the Clergy later, radically changed the popular perception of the real vision and mission of Jesus. It explains how the fundamental premises of Jesus’s thoughts and actions were systematically whittled down by the new Clergy, by giving a pivotal position to the fear-emitting Cross and Crucifixion, the addition of a surname ‘Christ’ to Jesus, and the establishment of a new religion under his changed name, and its use for conquest, colonization, conversion and exploitation, from the time of Emperor Constantine.
Clearly, the establishment of a sectarian religion, Christianity, and, thereby, the introduction of divisiveness in society, was not in tune with the vision of Jesus. Similarly dichotomic, with Jesus teachings, was the move of the new Clergy to brand all believers as self-condemned “born sinners”, and to stipulate a priest-led redemption process, of secret ‘Confession’ before a male-priest, to free the sinner from his/her sins. Obviously it gave enormous power to the priest over the believer.
The author explains how the new Clergy, which took control of the new Christian religion, pilloried the simplicity and kindness of Jesus, and lionized him by depicting him as ‘King’ and ‘King of Kings’, and by circulating his contrived portraits, adorning robes of a grand priest, wearing an emperor’s crown on his head, and holding a Roman Cross in his hand, befitting an emperor – all just opposite to what Jesus actually was.
It may be noted that, in all his sermons, Jesus urged his followers to be fearless. Fearlessness was the expected quality of a true follower of Jesus. Against Jesus’s call for fearlessness among his disciples and followers, the new Clergy had positioned fear as the centre-piece of Christianity, i.e. the Religion of the heirarchical Church with the worship of ‘Christ’. By converting the Cross, a constant reminder of crucifixion, into the symbol of Christianity, fear was made the life-line of relationship between the believers and the Clergy. The crucifixion-centered Christian theology, crafted by St. Paul, placed believers perpetually under the shadow of fear.
Emperor Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity, was the starting point of the close collaboration between the Roman Empire and the Papacy. The Cross, which was, hitherto, used as the insignia of the Roman Army in its flag was adopted by the Clergy as the emblem of the new Christian religion. (Jesus was crucified on a ‘T’ shaped wooden frame. By making Constantine’s Cross as the emblem of the new religion, the Clergy could instantly instill fear in the minds of fearless followers of Jesus). A notable feature of this book is its critical scrutiny, of the later additions in the Bible to infuse fear in the minds of believers, and, thereby, ensure the commanding position of male-priests.
New Clergy Consolidates
Thus, two centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus, a new Clergy had hijacked and changed his name, associations and followers, to suit its agenda to install itself as the unquestioned master conductors of the new faith. They attached Christian religion to imperial conquests. Even a direct war between the Cross and the Crescent was also fought. All these actions were contrary to what Jesus stood for. Similarly, to deny gender equality, the new Clergy chose to side-line Mother Mary and the female disciples in the New Testament, as part of its perpetuation of gender bias, and to make the Church a male-bastion.
The author underlines that, Jesus never thought of creating a divided society based on a religion. He was a universalist, whose thought approximated the one contained in the ‘Advaita’ of Indian Upanishads, as the Gospel of Thomas makes clear. Therefore, the world society Jesus envisaged was one of universal equality of all humans, secular spirituality, equal distributive justice, peace, freedom, love, compassion and solidarity. This is what his ‘Reign of God’ (incorrectly translated as the ‘Kingdom of God’) means.
Jesus’ Vision and the New Generation
For 16 or more centuries, the Clergy of the new religion had succeeded to keep Jesus’ ideals and vision out of sight, through various maneuverings and manipulations. But, that phase of contrived eclipse of Jesus’s ideals and vision is ending, and the new dawn of Jesus’s ideals and vision has already passed, the author says. A new generation of believers, who understands the difference between Jesus and ‘Christ’ has already come up all over the world. They realize that Jesus was a personification of love, compassion and gender equality, whereas the concept of Christ symbolized a male-centred priestly power, sustained by the fear factor embedded in it. These new friends of Jesus and Mary are active for the realization of Jesus’s vision for a peaceful, secular, prosperous, ‘One World’. Fearlessness has returned among a large number of believers. That is becoming a widespread feature in the emerging world.
Impact on the Author
Clearly, an off-shoot of this deep study on the vision of Jesus is its impact on the author himself. Through his dedication and concentration on this great futuristic study, he seems to have acquired an uncommon quality of making intuitive, but correct, forecast of unfolding developments in the world, with the farsightedness of a philosopher and visionary, who has attained a capacity to rise to a higher plane, to dispassionately observe developments down below, at the macro-level. As a result, he could see the germination of ‘One World’ in the teachings of Jesus, and its springs emanating from the ‘Advaita’ (non-dualist) philosophy in the Indian Upanishads. Similarly, he has recognized the eternally valid message of a saintly personality like Sree Narayana Guru, for the establishment of secular world society of freedom, and equality, similar to the one which Jesus envisaged 2000 years ago.
With the vision of an enlightened person, Mr. Jose, in this book, has focused on how a new ‘One World’, on the lines of Jesus’ vision, is emerging, and how new forces, and developments, are leading the humanity in that direction. He has underlined, in the book, that Jesus’ vision was above all divides in society, including religious divides.
Emerging One World
The author underlines that people all over the world have realized the distortions and mutilations the Clergy had done to the teachings and doings of Jesus and Mary, which the present generation widely disapprove, as evidenced by the increasing thin attendance of the youth at Sunday Masses of the Church, all over the world. At the same time, sensible observers see a systematic emergence of a new world society, where people would live like a large peaceful family, without any sectarian prejudice based on caste, colour and religion. They seek peaceful, undivided and sharing societies, which Jesus and Mary signified in the beginning of the Ist century A.D. Such a new society is now taking shape at a macro-level in the world. Global communication revolution of the 21st century, and increasing people-to-people connectivity across Continents, are quickening that process.
In the new situation, the misrepresentation of Jesus’s teaching and actions in the ‘Christian theology’ of St. Paul is fading out, and a new young generation, world over, has come up, to establish a world society based on universality and non-sectarianism, which Jesus envisioned. The humanity is moving towards unity and oneness, based on cooperation and consensus. As a result, the unfolding new era is not one of wars and conflicts, but of peace, equality and social justice, the author says. He envisions that, despite some conflicts and confrontations on the surface, there is a strong growing current for unity, love, compassion, equality and distributive justice in the inner core of humanity. The systematic growth of Welfare State Systems everywhere indicates the growth of that core and the evolution of a new world of peace, friendship, equality, and solidarity, akin to the society which Jesus had envisaged.
Undoubtedly, Jesus and Mary symbolized love, compassion, equality, equity, and fearlessness. That fact could not be drowned by steps like suffixing Jesus’s name with Christ, nor by hijacking their neighbourhood friendship associations to create a new Christian religion, with certain imperialist features. Now, as the author observes, after 16 centuries, Jesus gets restored from the contrived Jesus Christ nomenclature, along with his original messages of peace, love, compassion, equality, and equal justice, away from the fear-radiating terms akin to Cross and Christ. Now, people increasingly use the name ‘Jesus’ only, than Jesus Christ, as they are starting to understand the difference between the two names. That indicates a massive return to Jesus and to the ideals he stood for during his life-time. Resentments against clericalism in the Church, and against the use of unintelligible clichés by priests at congregations to over-awe the believers present, have also grown, as indicated by the absenteeism of young believers. They give little importance to the role of the priest.
The author sees the ongoing emergence of a new globally minded, and globally connected generation, with a secularist spiritual outlook and approach, transcending cultural and geographical divides, and widening the spectrum of unity in diversity in the world. That is the present direction of the humanity. He points out that despite shallow confrontations and conflicts here and there in the world, there is an onward march of the humanity towards the phenomenon of ‘One World’. Nevertheless, the overall focus is on the ongoing centennial and millennial advancement towards ‘One World’, based on compassion and cooperation. He asserts that, ultimately, peace, not war, will prevail in the world. The author is emphatic that the era of wars and conquests is getting over, giving way to a new era of peace, love, compassion and solidarity. And, the new society will be characterized by gender equality, secular spirituality and social democracy.
A Distinct Feature
A distinct feature of this book is the depth of the vision which it provides. In it, the author gives a big philosophy in simple language. He urges the humanity to rise above all divides in the world, and peacefully unite with the spirit of love and compassion, and impart distributive justice to one-and-all in the human family. The vision contained in this book makes the author, Jose T Thomas, a philosopher, endowed with an exceptional insight. The far-sightedness he has shown in it, has made him a rare genius of our times, who deserves world-wide attention. He has clearly seen the ongoing movement, of the humanity towards a common future. A ‘One World’ human family, welded with all-embracing love, compassion, cooperation, equality, equal justice and solidarity, is in the making at a planetary level. After 16 centuries of suppression, the principles which Jesus and Mary preached and practised in their lifetime, have come back to the fore, in the form of an emerging ‘One World’ community of the humanity. The new generation increasingly realizes that divisiveness, wars, and conflicts, and perpetuation of inequality, which the Clergy supported all along in the past, is not the way for the future wellbeing of the humanity. Peace, co-operation and togetherness, which Jesus envisaged in the Ist century A.D, is the way. Significantly, the author finds a commonality between thoughts and actions of Jesus, and the core of the large spectrum of thought cherished in India’s ‘Advaita’ philosophy – the indivisibility and oneness of the humanity. Therefore, Jesus’s perception was universal, encompassing all cultures and continents. Under it, all are equals. The Gospel of St.Thomas conveys the message that Jesus’s teachings approximated the core content of ‘Advaita’, which is explicit in his talks, at various locations in Palestine, as an enlightened Asian Guru.
The validity of the teachings of Jesus is timeless. “Love your neighbour like you love yourself”, conveys the crux of his message. In tune with that, after 2000 years, love, compassion cooperation, equality, equal justice and indivisibility of the human family are getting re-established. A systematic transformation in that direction is now taking place, the author underlines. It would produce secular societies, and institutions. From a modern ideological angle, Jesus stands tall, in the history of human civilization, as a democratic socialist.
In a way, this book is partly a book of revelation, which contains the expressions of a philosopher. It is the creation of a great, fertile mind of a noble person, who has imbibed, to a great extent, Jesus’s teachings in his personal life. His valid observations in it have sprouted from deep thought and analysis, and therefore, are bound to remain valid for a long time to come. This is an influential, thought provoking, book, which must be read by people all over the world, for which the author should expeditiously bring out an English edition of this Malayalam book.