I’m neither religious nor an atheist. Honestly, I have nothing to prove; I don’t care if Jesus ever lived, or if he was simply the concoction of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods which was used to control the masses. So why did I spend the last five years writing a book about Jesus?
At times, I have asked myself the same thing. Especially when trying to promote a non-Christian book about Jesus to literary agents. They don’t get it. Of course, Christian publishers would frown at a book where Jesus studies Buddhism and Hinduism, where he makes love to several women, and where his mother is absolutely not a virgin. And will traditional publishers shy away from a book about Jesus, because—admit it—the Jesus of movies and literature is not a very cool or interesting guy?
Still, every single person I’ve told about the book wants to read it. Why? Because like me, they have wondered why Christianity bears such similarities to the eastern religions, and how Jesus suddenly blossomed into a spiritual leader at the age of 30, after spending his entire life as a carpenter. Could it really be that Jesus traveled to Pakistan and India, to Nepal and Tibet?
Few people, Christians included, have heard about the Russian adventurer Nicolas Notovich who in 1887 discovered ancient scrolls describing Jesus travels, while convalescing in the Tibetan Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, India>
Before I started writing The Transmigrant, I have to confess, I didn’t care much for Jesus. In fact, the mere mention of his name made me cringe. His name called to mind the religious fanatics who attack others on the streets and in the subways, who declare that if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go to hell and burn for all eternity. The most devout Christians often make Jesus sound like a judgmental bully on the playground; if you don’t like him, Jesus will smack you. The person they describe is neither godlike nor holy, and many of his followers are just as mean. Simply, I didn’t like the guy. Not one bit.
Still, the thought lingered: could all these fanatics have misinterpreted Jesus’ words? If the man could heal the sick, and ask people to turn the other cheek, he couldn’t have been judgmental. He must have been connected to God (or the Universe, Brahman, whatever you’d like to call it). Was there a hidden message in the pages of the New Testament? And could I find it?
The first time I traveled in India, in 2005, I walked by a man who sold books in the street. One of them was “Jesus in India.” I didn’t buy the book at that time, but I never forgot about it. The thoughttitillated me, could Jesus really have travelled that far? Then again, I’ve heard people say that Jesus travelled to England and Peru, and all sorts of places. I pushed the idea to the back of my mind, thinking it was pure wishful thinking on part of the Indian, the English, and the Peruvians.
I don’t recall how I picked up Notovich’s book, The Life of Saint Issa, a few years later. But I do remember reading it on my Kindle and realizing how much the story made sense. The more I looked into the story, and learned about the villages across Asia with lakes and meadows named after Saint Issa, the more it trigged something within me. I had always wanted to research and write a book about how all religions in essence are the same. Now I had found my format.
I read the New Testament to search for the true Jesus, and among the many fabrications and distortions, I did find nuggets of gold. Of God. How many people have read the Bible with an open mind, without any preconceptions of what it should say? It became very clear to me, very quickly, which parts of the book has been changed, or written by people who never met Jesus, and which parts still hold some of his words. Research later confirmed my instincts, when you learn what sections were written within fifty years of Jesus’ death, and which were written much later by people who had heard a story from someone who had heard a story who had heard a story. Just like three people may remember the same situation differently, so did these people color their stories after their own beliefs. How much do you remember from the 1970s? How exactly can you describe what someone told you then?
Of course, The Transmigrant is fiction. I’m not going to try to convince anyone that it’s the absolute truth. But the story makes sense. The timeline in Life of Saint Issa fits. And along the way I learned to like Yeshua, the Jesus in my novel, because he is human being with flaws and all, but he means well. I believe in him. And I believe my story is closer to the truth than all the other stories written about him, modeled on the same “accepted” storyline drawn from the gospels that were written by people who had never met Jesus.
You, of course, are absolutely free to believe what you want.