What happened to Jesus?

The ongoing debate as to whether Jesus was a historical figure or a unified character created later by cobbling together various legends circulating at that time is pretty interesting. But suppose that we grant that such a figure actually lived, and that his life corresponded broadly to the narratives found in the Bible, but do not accept his divinity and the resurrection. It is fairly easy to discount the miraculous elements of his life but the difficult remaining question is what happened to him in the end?

This BBC documentary sent to me by a friend explores this question and it is fascinating with a lot of information that was hitherto unknown to me.

One theory is that Jesus died on the cross and was buried and that his remains were found much later in an ossuary by the Knights Templar, a militant order of monks that went to Palestine to try and halt the advance of Islam. Recognizing the explosive nature of their find, they secretly brought the remains back to France and reburied them in a location that has yet to be found.

Another theory is that Jesus did not die on the cross but either went into a death-like coma induced by shock and later recovered in the tomb or that the death was a pre-planned hoax by him and some followers. But if Jesus did not die, what did he do afterwards? He would still have been a condemned man and could not live openly in Palestine.

One theory is that he married Mary Magdalene and that the two of them sailed off to France and settled down and raised a family. The more intriguing theory is that Jesus spent the formative years of his life from 14 to 29 (about which the Gospels say nothing) in India where he learned about Buddhism and lived there as a monk before returning to Palestine. This would explain the origins of some of his teachings, which do not have any roots in Judaism. After his ‘death’, he then returned to India and lived as a respected prophet and teacher in the Kashmir region where he died at the age of 80. There is a tomb there that supposedly houses his remains.

Of course if you don’t believe that Jesus was divine, none of this has any practical consequences. Rather it is a nice historical puzzle for scholars to grapple with, like whether Shakespeare wrote his plays. If you have 50 minutes to spare, the documentary is worth watching. I found it very absorbing and well done.


  1. left0ver1under says

    The etymology of the word “christ” comes from Greek “kristos”, which in turn comes from Hindi, “krishna”. The fable of “jeezus” is the biggest game of “telephone” in world history.

  2. Chiroptera says

    Actually, the Christos comes from the Greek word for “annointed,” which is a direct translation of the Hebrew word from which we get “Messiah.”

    If your comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, then I apologize for my pedantry.

  3. slc1 says

    According to Islam, Yeshua of Nazareth did not die on the cross atop Calvery; instead, Judas Iscariot was the victim.
    Some Muslim scholars opine that Yeshua was told to get out of town by Pontius Pilate and, accordingly, hied himself off to Damascus, possibly accompanied by Mary Madelene.

  4. Corvus illustris says

    Ya, I thought it was intended satirically too: it’s etymological nonsense, since Khristos is the Septuagint (~200 BC) version of “messiah” and in all cases it has a different Indo-European source (it’s “oiled” while Krishna is “dark”, like Polish czarny). There is a story similar to leftoverunder‘s due to one Nicolas Notovitch, a Russian; Bart Ehrman thinks it’s pure fabrication.

  5. Corvus illustris says

    You left out England:

    “And did these feet, in ancient time/Walk upon England’s mountains green? … “

  6. HP says

    The BBC, of course, has mastered the rhetoric of credibility. In fact, they invented most of it. I agree that the doc was well done and fun to watch, but really, there was not one word in it that suggested any actual scholarship or testable assertions.

    I’m reminded of those elaborate fan attempts to retcon a consistent fictional world for their superheroes out of decades’ worth of comic books, TV, movies, and radio. Did you know that prior to 1939, there is no mention of Metropolis in any issues of Action Comics?

  7. left0ver1under says

    My answer to that is simple: The Silk Road, from India and China to Europe. It existed at that time.

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