A recent flurry of articles and website postings have been made to indicate that the fable of Jesus is mentioned in the Vedas (Bhaviṣya Purāṇa). Many Vaiṣṇavas have been enthused (confused) by these Vedic findings, confirming Jesus as a messenger of God [Kṛṣṇa] and a pure devotee. However, a closer look at the prediction of Jesus found in the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa strongly suggests foul play or interpolation on the part of Christian Missionaries in India during the late 18th century.
Although the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa is certainly a bona-fide literature, its predictions concerning certain events cannot be taken as absolute because of evangelical interference.
The Bhaviṣya Purāṇa is considered to be one of the major 18 Purāṇas of the Vedic canon. As the name suggests, it mainly deals with future events (bhaviyṣati). The Bhaviṣya Purāṇa is also mentioned in the ancient text of the Apastambha-dharma-sūtras, so it is to be taken as an original Purāṇika literature dating from the time of Vyāsadeva.
However, there are four known editions of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, each having different predictions from the other, but suspiciously having one consistent prediction – that of Jesus.
One edition contains five chapters, one contains four, another contains three and yet another contains only two. Additionally, the contents in all four editions differ in various degrees – some having extra verses and some having less. Due to these circumstances, it is difficult to ascertain which of the four is the original text of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, if indeed an original text still exists, but suspiciously all four editions do mention Jesus.
The Venkateswar Steam Press edition of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa printed in Bombay in 1829 (and reprinted by Nag Publishers in 2003) is probably the most complete version available, containing all the main features of the four manuscripts. Since none of the four editions of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa predate British Rule in India, this further suggests a discrepancy, plus the fact that all four versions mention Jesus.
The consistent prophecy in all four editions that seems to indicate an interpolation concerns the so-called meeting of Mahārāja Śālivāhana and Jesus. This is found in the 19th chapter of the Pratisarga-parva, verses 17-32. However, in examining this section, certain flaws can be found which betray its dubious origins. The section begins thus:
vikramāditya-pautraśca pitṛ-rājyaṁ gṛhītavān
jitvā śākāndurādharṣāṁś cīna-taittirī-deśajān
bāhlīkan-kāmarūpaś ca romajānkhurajañchaṭān
teṣāṁ kośān-gṛhītvā ca daṇḍa-yogyānakārayat
sthāpītā tena maryādā mlecchāryāṇāṁ pṛthak-pṛthak
sindhusthānam iti jñeyaṁ rāṣṭram-āryasya cottamam
mleccha-sthānāṁ paraṁ sindhoḥ kṛtaṁ tena mahātmanā
ekadā tu śakādīśo himatuṅgaṁ samāyayau
“Ruling over the Āryans was a king called Śālivāhana, the grandson of Vikramāditya, who occupied the throne of his father. He defeated the Śakas who were very difficult to subdue, the Cīnas, the people from Tittirī, Bāhlīkas and the people of Kāmarūpa. He also defeated the people from Roma and the descendants of Khuru, who were deceitful and wicked. He punished them severely and took their wealth. Śālivāhana thus established the boundaries dividing the separate countries of the Mlecchas and the Āryans. In this way Sindusthāna came to be known as the greatest country. That great personality appointed the abode of the Mlecchas beyond the Sindhu River and to the west. One time, that subduer of the Śakas went towards the Himalayas.” (19.19-22)
At the very outset, this section is fraught with historical inaccuracies. Śālivāhana was the king of Ujjain (in modern day Madhya Pradesh), and while it is not surprising that Śālivāhana traveled to the Himalayas, the enemies that he supposedly vanquished in battle before he went, should be looked into more thoroughly. Historical research tells us that the only invading force that Śālivāhana actually subdued were the Śakas, who entered India from the north-west regions. But as for his defeating the Cīnas (Chinese), Bāhlīkas (Bactrians), Kāmarūpas (Assamese), Romas (Romans) and the Khurus (Khorasans, or Persians), there is no historical evidence that validates Śālivāhana doing this, nor is their any historical proof of the Romans and the Chinese ever invading India. The Bactrians (Greeks) came earlier during the Gupta Period and the Persians (Moguls) came later. The people of Assam were simply a small hill-tribe during this period of Indian history (conquering which would not have warranted Vedic verse). The text continues:
hūṇa-deśasya madhye vai giristhaṁ puruṣaṁ śubham
dadarśa balabānrājā gaurāṅgaṁ śveta-vastrakam
“In the middle of the Hūṇa country (Hūṇa-deśa – the area near Mānasa Sarovara or Kailāsa mountain in Western Tibet), the powerful king saw an auspicious man who was living on a mountain. The man’s complexion was golden and his clothes were white.”
After Śālivāhana defeated the Śākas he established his empire, thus the Śālivāhana period of Indian history began, circa 78 CE. According to this apparently interpolated section of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, at some point after establishing his kingdom, Śālivāhana traveled to the Himalayas and met Jesus. Yet Christian scholars opine that Jesus was born in 4 BCE and was crucified somewhere between 27 and 36 CE. If we entertain the idea that Christ somehow survived the crucifixion and met Śālivāhana in the Himalayas, this would make him around 80 years old at that time. Yet surprisingly, the description of Jesus in the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa does not mention that he was an old man.
The text continues with Śālivāhana asking Jesus, “Who are you?” to which Jesus replies:
īśaṁ ca māṁ viddhi kumārī-garbha sambhavam
“I am the Son of God (īṣa-putra) and I am born of a virgin (kumārī-garbha).”(19:23)
The idea common amongst Christians that Jesus was born of a virgin only came into existence several centuries after Jesus and was not part of early Christianity. Thus, it is unlikely that Jesus would have spoken of his birth as such.
The Christian idea that Jesus was born of a virgin is based on the following verse found in the Christian version of the Old Testament in the Book of Isaiah:
“Behold, a virgin has conceived and bears a son and she will call his name Immanuel.”
However, the original Hebrew text of the Book of Isaiah does not mention anything about a virgin:
hinneh ha-almah harah ve-yeldeth ben ve-karath shem-o immanuel
“Behold, the young woman has conceived – and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7.14)
The Hebrew word for virgin is ‘betulah’ yet it appears nowhere in this verse of Isaiah. The word used is ‘almah’ which simply means ‘a young woman’. Isaiah only uses ‘almah‘ once. However, the word ‘Betulah‘ is used five times throughout the Book of Isaiah, so Isaiah obviously made a distinction between these two words.
After Jesus has introduced himself to Śālivāhana he explains that he is teaching religion in the distant land of the Mlecchas and tells the king what those teachings are:
mlecchasu sthāpito dharmo mayā tacchṛṇu bhūpate
mānasaṁ nirmalaṁ kṛtvā malaṁ dehe śubhāśubham
naigamaṁ japam-asthāya japeta nirmalaṁ param
nyāyena satya-vacasā manasyaikena mānavah
dhyānena pūjayedīśaṁ sūrya-maṇḍala-saṁsthitam
acaloyaṁ prabhuḥ sākṣāt-tathā sūryocalaḥ sadaā
“Please hear from me, O King, about the religion that I have established amongst the Mlecchas. The mind should be purified by taking recourse of proper conduct, since we are subject to auspicious and inauspicious contaminations – by following the scriptures and concentrating on japa (repetition of God’s names) one will attain the highest level of purity; by speaking true words and by mental harmony, and by meditation and worship, O descendant of Manu. Just as the immovable sun attracts from all directions the elements of all living beings, the Lord who resides in the sūrya-maṇḍala (sun globe) and is fixed and all-attractive, attracts the hearts of all living creatures.”
Nowhere in the Gospels do we find in the ministry of Jesus the above teachings to his followers. Furthermore, in this passage, Jesus is advocating the worship of the Sun-god (again, something that is absent in his instructions to the apostles). Japa, meditation, the negation of both good and bad karma, are all concepts that are familiar to eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, but not to the Abrahamic religions of the west.
Considering the above anomalies and the fact that no edition of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa can be found prior to the British period in India, we can only deduce that the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa was tampered with by the Christian missionaries who added the chapter on Jesus. Their motive is obvious – to make the personality of Jesus acceptable to the Hindus, in order to convert them to Christianity.
In 1784, the famous Indologist Sir William Jones wrote the following letter to Sir Warren Hastings, Governor General of India, confirming our suspicions.
“As to the general extension of our pure faith in Hindoostan there are at present many sad obstacles to it… We may assure ourselves, that Hindoos will never be converted by any mission from the church of Rome, or from any other church; and the only human mode, perhaps, of causing so great a revolution, will be to translate into Sanscrit… such chapters of the Prophets, particularly of ISAIAH, as are indisputably evangelical, together with one of the gospels, and a plain prefatory discourse, containing full evidence of the very distant ages, in which the predictions themselves, and the history of the Divine Person (Jesus) is predicted, were severally made public and then quietly to disperse the work among the well-educated natives.” (Asiatic Researches Vol. 1. Published 1979, pages 234-235. First published 1788).
It may also be noted that throughout the Pratisarga-parva of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa we find the stories of Adam and Eve (Adhama and Havyāvatī), Noah (Nyūha), Moses (Muṣa), and other Biblical characters. These we also consider to be added by zealous Christians.
In conclusion, the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa may well be a genuine Vedic scripture prophesying future events, but from the above analysis we can say with certainty that the Jesus episode of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa is not an authentic Vedic revelation.