The Lost Years of Jesus - What is the Truth?


Hemis Monastery,  Ladakh (Little Tibet)

The years of Jesus' life from the thirteen to twenty-nine years old are not recorded in the Bible. After 12-year-old Jesus’s visit to the Temple in Jerusalem as recorded in Luke 2, Jesus reappears at “about 30 years of age” in Luke 3. What happened in that roughly 18-year time interval, which spans Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood, is a mystery. This period is known as “The Lost Years". Here are some of the explanations that have been circulating for where Jesus was during his missing years.

Jesus stayed in Nazareth
There are a few hints in the Bible to point to that Jesus may have stayed in or near Nazareth during his lost years. Luke 2 ends with, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." Wherever Jesus was in those years between twelve and thirty, he was increasing with more God Reality.

The Gospels tell that after Jesus is baptized by John and receives the Holy Spirit, he began to teach in the synagogue in his home town on the sabbath. Many were astonished for his wisdom and asked, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary.... (Mark 6:3)? The Jews there were familiar with Jesus and his family, and suggest that Jesus was known as a carpenter before he started preaching in the synagogue and thus they were astounded at the wisdom he was giving out when he was supposed to be "just a carpenter". In my article on Historical Jesus Life and Times I bring up the close connection between Sepphoris and Nazareth, and the work opportunities for artisans such as Joseph, and possibly Jesus if he went to work with his father.

Jesus may have waited until he was thirty to begin his ministry because the God tells Moses that at this age a man was the age of full strength of body, and therefore most proper for the hard work of carrying the parts and vessels of the tabernacle; and having the maturity of judgment necessary for managing holy services. The Lord told Moses, "From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation" (Num.4:3).

Jesus went to Qumrān, and studied with the Essene sect
Some modern scholars and archaeologists have argued that Essenes inhabited the settlement at Qumrān, a plateau in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea. Interest in Qumrān surged after the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a nearby cavern in 1947. These scrolls are a collection of ancient religious texts. Some speculate that John the Baptist was an Essene and the idea that Jesus was too was popularized in the 1950s book The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed, by Charles Potter. He made the case that both Jesus and John the Baptist were Essenes, whose philosophy embraced a view of oneness of everything in the universe with God, and espoused nonviolence. Potter argued that Jesus either wrote or was influenced by an apocalyptic book called The Secrets of Enoch. (A Slavonic version that is identified as '2 Enoch'.)

Jesus traveled to Britain
Archaeological artifacts prove that there was a long and flourishing trade between the countries of the Mediterranean and Britain with Cornwall in particular being frequently visited by those in the Roman Empire. The legend revolves around Joseph of Arimathea who was both a close relation and covert disciple of Jesus.  Joseph was a wealthy merchant and was a tin trader. Joseph is thought to have brought Jesus along on one of his trips to England, and possibly Mary too.  One variation of the story has it that Mary is actually buried in England. Jesus also is believed to have visited several places in the West Country, such as the Roseland peninsula and Glastonbury.

Dennis Price, in his book, The Missing Years of Jesus: The Extraordinary Evidence that Jesus Visited the British Isles, claims that Jesus visited Britain as a young man with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, and decided to study with the Druids in Glastonbury. Price presents the theory that before the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43, a British tribe minted coins bearing the name of a mysterious person Eisu. 

While at Glastonbury it is said that Jesus built the very first church in the world in Glastonbury. A 6th century bishop authenticated the claim of the ancient building saying that it was built not by man but by Holy hands. It’s a scenario that poet William Blake alluded to in verse: “And did those feet in ancient time /Walk upon England’s mountains green? And was the Holy Lamb of God / On England’s pleasant pastures seen?”

Jesus traveled to the Himalayas - The Life of Saint Issa
This is one of the more popular theories, with documentaries created as well as many books written about Jesus' supposed travels to India and Tibet during his unknown years. In 1894 Russian Nicolas Notovitch published a book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. It contained evidence for an astonishing claim that Jesus had spent his lost years traveling in India and trained as a Buddhist monk.

Nicolas was a Russian-born resident of Paris.  He was a Russian Jew who converted to Greek Orthodoxy and was a war correspondent, and spy according to documents in the archives of the British Library. A report detailing conversations by a Russian-speaking British official, Donald Mackenzie Wallace, with Notovitch in 1887, notes that Notovitch told Wallace that he volunteered his services as a spy for the British government in India. (The Times Literary Supplement, Jan. 2018)

The story from Notovitch of Saint Issa begins in 1887 in the hamlet of Wakkha where he said he was told by the lama there that there was not just one Son of God but that Buddha has incarnated himself in the person of the sacred Issa. (The word "Isa" is an Arabic translation of Jesus.) Notovitch discovered this Issa sounded like the Jesus Christ of Christianity. The monk told him there were thousands of scrolls mentioning Issa in Lhassa, and Notovitch began his quest to discover a copy of these scrolls. Notovitch said he succeeded when he visited the city of Leh, capital of the district of Ladakh on the border of India and Tibet, and spent time at the Hemis monastery.

While visiting Leh, Notovitch arranged a trip to the monastery where a monk there told him they had manuscripts called The Life of Saint Issa, but there was not enough time to get to see the manuscripts. Notovitch records in his book that while there the chief Lama told him, "The name of Issa is greatly respected among the Buddhists though little is known of him save by the chief lamas who have read the parchments relating to his life", and "The people (in Tibet) are not even aware that he ever existed." He planned on returning to try to get access to the scrolls and the story relates how it happened sooner than expected when Notovitch said he fell from his horse and broke his leg. Carried back to the monastery, he brought up the subject of the manuscripts or scrolls on Saint Issa and asked to see them. According to a BBC documentary on Notovitch's find, he was shown two large yellowed volumes containing the biography of St. Issa. The head monk arranged to have the manuscript read aloud (and translated) while he was recuperating for a few days, whereupon he said he wrote down the translations in his notebook.

Yet, with this exciting news, Notovitch took seven years to publish his book. According to Notovitch, the literal translation of the scroll was “disconnected and mingled with accounts of other contemporaneous events to which they bear no relation,” and so he explains he changed the order of them, "These fragments of the life of Issa, I have disposed of in chronological order, endeavoring to give them a character of unity totally wanting in the original form." As published by Notovitch, the work consists of 244 short paragraphs, arranged in fourteen chapters.

The first half of Notovitch's book described how he found the Issa manuscripts. The second section contains a full translation of this text into French taken from his notebook. The story Notovitch uncovered in Tibet asserts that Christ was in India where he studied Sanskrit and Pâli. He spent six years in Juggernaut, Rajegriha, Benares, and the other holy cities; "He was taught the Vedas, to heal by prayer, to teach and explain the Holy Scripture, to cast out evil spirits from the body of man and give him back human semblance." Then Issa began offending the upper Hindu castes because he spoke out against them to the lower castes and he denied the divine origin of the Vedas. Consequently, he had to flee there. After a few more years Issa returned to Israel through Persia to Palestine to preach the Gospel.

The transcription reads that the life of Christ was taken down from the mouths of some Jewish merchants who came to India immediately after the Crucifixion. It was written down in Pâli, the sacred language of Southern Buddhism. Then those scrolls were brought from India to Nepal and Makhada about 200 A.D., and from Nepal to Tibet, where the original manuscript remained at Lhasa.

According to this Issa "scroll," Notovitch translated and put in his book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, the merchants heard that by the end of Issa's (Jesus') three-year ministry Pilate had become alarmed at his increasing popularity among the Jews and so he ordered a spy to accuse him falsely, whereupon Issa was tortured by soldiers to force a confession so they could lawfully execute him. Interestingly, Notovitch relates that the scrolls tell how the Jewish priests tried to act in Issa's behalf, but to no avail. Under the false accusations Pilate ordered the death sentence of Issa. After his sufferings came to an end, he lost consciousness, and his soul left his body to become absorbed in the Divinity. Pilate now afraid of his actions gives the body of the saint to his parents to bury. Three days after, the governor sent his soldiers to the tomb to take it away to bury elsewhere, fearing a popular insurrection. On the next day the crowd finds the tomb already open and empty. The rumor began that the supreme Judge had sent his angels to carry away the mortal remains of the saint in whom dwelt on earth a part of the Divine Spirit.

Following Jesus' death, within three years or four years after, some merchants in Palestine allegedly traveled to India, came upon some people who had known Issa as a casual student of Sanskrit and Pali during his youth in India, and filled them in on Issa's demise at the hands of Pilate. And, as the story concludes, The Life of Saint Issa was written on a scroll and various copies are in the monasteries.

Max Müller
Immediately after the book was published critics and scholars began to speak out. The great Orientalist Max Müller of Oxford University, and editor of the Sacred Books of the East series of translated Eastern scriptures, took an interest in Notovitch's claims and published a refutation in a scholarly review as, "The Alleged Sojourn of Christ in India", printed in The Nineteenth Century, (London, October 1894). His main objections were:

  1. That such an honored work, as Notovitch described, would have been included in the great canon lists of Tibetan books, the Kanjur and the Tanjur  (catalogs in which all Tibetan literature is supposed to be listed).
  2. How did these Jewish merchants meet the very people who had known Issa as a casual student of Sanskrit and Pali in India—among the millions—and still more, "How those who had known Issa as a simple student in India saw immediately that he was the same person who had been put to death under Pontius Pilate". Thus the odds that the Jews from Palestine who came to India in about 35 A.D should have met the very people who had known Issa when he was a student at Benares is highly unlikely.
  3. While Müller was working on his publication, he received a letter from a woman who had visited the monastery of Hemis. she wrote that according to the abbot, "there is not a single word of truth in the whole story! There has been no Russian here. No one has been taken into the Seminary for the past fifty years with a broken leg! There is no life of Christ there at all!" The letter was dated June 29, 1894. Müller included the entire letter in his review.
  4. Müller questioned the great liberty Notovitch took in editing and arranging the alleged verses. Müller said this is something no reputable scholar would have done.
  5. Müller took issue with comments that Notovitch made in his book preface. He said, "When a Cardinal at Rome dissuades him from publishing his book, and also kindly offers to assist him, he hints that this was simply a bribe, and that the Cardinal wished to suppress the book. Why should he?" (Although Müller said that he cannot see that a cardinal would object to these supposed new revelations, it is not hard to see how the Catholic Church would object to a new Jesus where he performs no miracles, there is no Resurrection and at the trial of Jesus Pilate becomes the fall guy, while the Jews were only trying to help Jesus.)
  6. Müller found Notovitch's comments about Renan unjust, "M. Notovitch is equally uncharitable in imputing motives to the late M. Renan...because he was sure that M. Renan would have secured the best part of the credit for himself."

In the Preface of Notovitch's book that Müller is questioning, Notovitch had written:

I addressed myself to several well-known ecclesiastics, requesting them to revise my notes and tell me what they thought of the matter. Monseigneur Platon, the celebrated archbishop of Kiew, believed my discovery to be of great importance; but he earnestly tried to dissuade me from giving the memoirs publicity, declaring it would be against my own interests to do so. Why? This the venerable prelate refused to explain.

...A year later I chanced to be in Rome. Here I submitted the manuscript to a cardinal standing high in the estimation of the Holy Father. "Why should you print this?" he said, didactically; 'nobody will attach much importance to it, and you will create numberless enemies thereby. You are still young, however. If you need money, I can obtain some compensation for these notes, enough to remunerate you for your loss of time and expenditure." (As a side note, Prophet, in her book "The Lost Years of Jesus", quoted the cardinal saying, "If it be a question of money which interests you, I might ask that a reward should be made to you for your notes, which should indemnify you for the expenses you have incurred and the time you have lost." These are not the Müller's direct words.)

... He (Cardinal Rotelli) also opposed the publication of my work, under the pretext that it would be premature. "The church," he added, "suffers too deeply from this new current of atheistic ideas; and you would only furnish new food to the calumniators and detractors of the evangelical doctrine. I tell you this in the interest of all Christian churches."

... I found myself seated in the study of the great philosopher (Ernest Renan, French philosopher, historian, and scholar of religion, a leader of the school of critical philosophy in France. ...M. Renan proposed that I should entrust him with the memoirs in question, that he might make a report on them to the Academy. This proposition, as the reader will understand, was most seductive and flattering; yet I took away the work with me, saying I wished to revise it once more—the fact being that I feared if I accepted this association I would only receive the bare honor of discovering the chronicles, while the illustrious author of the "Life of Jesus" would reap the glory of the publication and of the commentaries. Believing myself sufficiently prepared to publish the narrative by adding my own notes, I finally declined the courteous offer made to me. That I might not, however, wound the feelings of the great master, whom I deeply respected, I resolved to await his death, which could not be far off, judging from his feebleness. (As another side note, Prophet also revised the words and quoted Notovitch saying, "I foresaw that if I accepted this combination, I should only have the honor of having discovered the chronicle, while the illustrious author of the Life of Jesus would gain all the kudos through commenting upon it and making it public...", continuing to change the words in the rest of the quote.

Müller and other critics questioned why there were no photographs. Notovitch wrote in a P.S. to his preface: “In the course of my travels”, he says, “I took many curious photographs, but when I came to examine the negatives on my return to India I was dismayed to find that they were absolutely destroyed.”

After Müller's article, Notovitch began to back-pedal in response to Müller's arguments. In the preface to the London edition of The Life of Saint Issa which was published the following year (1895), he changed some of his story. He had said in his first publishing of the book that the Tibetan translations of the Pâli text are found in various Buddhist monasteries, and, among the rest, at Hemis. It is from two Tibetan manuscripts, which he derived the translated text at Hemis and published in his book.

In his second preface, it seemed that there had been no single two-volume work as he had first claimed, but that he had assembled his Unknown Life from fragmentary notices scattered among many Tibetan scrolls. In his first preface he speaks of the monastic libraries as “containing a few copies of the manuscript in question.” But in the second preface there is no manuscript. “The truth indeed is,” he remarks, “that the verses of which I give a translation in my book are probably not to be found in any kind of catalogue, either of the Tandjur or of the Kandjur. “They are to be found scattered through more than one book without any title; consequently they could not be found in catalogues of Chinese or Tibetan works.”

Nevertheless, other visitors to Tibet later claimed to have seen the mysterious manuscript that Notovitch was denying existed, but were rather verses "scattered through more than one book". Swami Abhedananda saw he was shown one manuscript whereby he said he translated forty verses from it.

Regarding the critique that it was unlikely for Jewish merchants encountering those who knew Issa as a youth in India, Notovitch said: "they were not Jewish but Indian merchants who happened to witness the crucifixion before returning home from Palestine." Still, it would be unlikely that Jewish or Indian merchants would come upon the precise people (among millions) who knew Issa as a youth.

As to the refusal by the lama of Hemis to affirmatively answer questions about the manuscript (as he apparently did with the lady who wrote Müller), Notovitch says this was because "Orientals are in the habit of looking upon Europeans as robbers who introduce themselves in their midst to despoil them in the name of civilization." He claimed he was treated differently "because I made use of the Eastern diplomacy which I had learnt in my travels."

Professor J. Archibald Douglas
In June 1895 Professor J. Archibald Douglas, who was a professor of English and History at Government College, Agra, wrote a letter to The Nineteenth Century in June 1895 concerning Notovitch's challenge for someone to go to Hemis and verify his story. Professor Douglas wrote that he was well received by monks (without having to break his leg) and stayed a few days with them, enjoying the hospitality of the very same chief lama who was supposed to have imparted the Unknown Life to Notovitch. He showed the lama a picture of Notovitch, but he did not recognize him. He also attested to the fact that no person had been there with a broken leg. He also stated, with emphasis, that he could attest there was no such work as the Life of Issa known in Tibet and that the statement that he had imparted such a record to a traveler was an invention. He later said that he had been the chief lama for fifteen years. But Professor Douglas’ inquiries did eventually elicit that a Russian gentleman named Notovitch had recently been treated for a toothache by the medical officer of Leh Hospital.

With an interpreter, Douglas read to him sections of Notovitch's book. At one point the lama exclaimed with indignation: ‘Lies, lies, lies, nothing but lies!’ Douglas asked the chief lama a series of questions based on those excerpts. The lama answered all his questions and put it on a document that the chief lama signed in the Tibetan language and sealed with his official seal in front of the postmaster.

Professor Douglas, traveling the same route that Notovitch did, said he also found out that the descriptive abundance of wild animals Notovitch wrote he met up within his travels in the Sind Valley, and the panther that ate one of his coolies, was not the true picture he found, only coming across one red bear. The old inhabitants of the area told him that "they had never seen or heard of a panther or tiger in the neighbourhood, and they had never heard of any coolie, travelling with a European sahib, who had lost his life in the way described. They were sure that such an event had not happened within the last ten years." 

Professor Douglas brings up a few other points in his June 5, 1895 letter. Notovitch said he enlisted the service of shikari as an interpreter. Douglas said this was impossible as a Kashmiri shikari is a simple peasant who only know a few words of Urdu and English plus his native tongue. Even in their own native language no Kashmiri villager would be likely to convey the religious and philosophical ideas from the conversations M. Notovitch and the lamas had.

On page 90 of the Unknown Life of Christ, the Chief Lama describes himself and his fellow-monks as 'we yellow lamas'. The Lamaïstes of Ladakh are divided into two great parties: the red monks, or orthodox conservative body; and the yellow monks, a reforming nonconformist sect. Notovitch was in the presence of the red monks, who happened to all be wearing dark red robes! Professor Douglas also said about Notovitch's book, "The religious differences of these two religious bodies are described with an inaccuracy so marvellous that it might almost seem to be intentional."

Swami Abhedananda
Swami Abhedananda claims he went to Hemis and saw the manuscript. The Swami's story has many inconsistencies and issues, pointed out throughout the description below. It is clear that there is a major issue with his story being authentic.

Original a skeptic of Notovitch's story, Swami Abhedananda, a contemporary and colleague of Swami Vivekananda, visited the Hemis monastery in 1922. Although Notovitch had been discredited in Europe, Abhedananda went to check on the story himself. He said he asked about the manuscripts and Notovitch's journey there and they confirmed that Notovitch had been there and there was the manuscripts. (After twenty-seven years the monks had changed their story from earlier queries that so such traveler had been there and there was no manuscript or Issa story.) The Swami requested a look at the manuscripts and the lama who was acting as his guide took a manuscript from the shelf and showed it to him. The monks told Swami Abhedananda that Notovitch was brought to the monastery with a broken leg and he was nursed there for a month and a half. (Yet Notovitch himself said he only spent three days at the monastery recovering.)

Swami Abhedananda was told the manuscript was a translation into Tibetan of an original which was in a monastery at Marbour near Lhasa. He said that the manuscript consisted of 224 verses (couplets) but he only got 44 verses of the manuscript translated with the help of a lama. (Notovitch got 244 verses more than what Abhedananda claims it had. Notovitch also revised his story to say there was not just two manuscripts and that he assembled his manuscript from fragmentary notices scattered among many Tibetan scrolls.) The lamas also told Swami that Jesus came secretly to Kashmir after his resurrection and lived in a monastery surrounded by many disciples.

After Abhedananda's return to Bengal, he published his Bengali translations in a book, In Kashmir and Tibet, which are virtually identical to the Notovitch translation. According to some stories Abhedananda translated the texts himself, others say someone translated them for him.  (Curiously, the Swami's verses occur in the same order as in Notovitch's version, though Notovitch says he had to rearrange them extensively.)

After Abhedananda's death, his disciple, Prajnananda admitted that when he went to the monastery to ask about the documents he was told that they had disappeared. He also said in an interview with Richard Bock that the scroll or manuscript in the original Pali language at the Marbour monastery in Lhasa, Tibet, was also removed.

Nicholas Roerich
Nicholas Roerich, a philosopher, Theosophist, artist, and a distinguished scientist, claimed that from 1924 to 1928 he traveled throughout Central Asia and discovered that legends about Issa were widespread. In his book, Himalaya, he refers to “writings” and “manuscripts” about Issa – some of which he claims to have seen and others about which people told him. Roerich allegedly recorded independently in his own travel diary the same legend of Issa that Notovitch had seen earlier.

One legend that Roerich heard had Jesus teaching in Central Asia after his death, similar to what was told the Swami. Roerich wrote:

In Srinagar we first encountered the curious legend about Christ’s visit to this place. Afterwards, we saw how widely spread in India, in Ladakh and in Central Asia, was the legend of the visit of Christ to these parts during his long absence, quoted in the Gospel. The Moslems of Srinagar told us that the crucified Christ—or, as they call Him, Issa—did not die on the cross, but only lost consciousness. The disciples took away His body, secreted it and cured Him. Later, Issa was taken to Srinagar, where He taught the people. And there He died. The tomb of the Teacher is in the basement of a private house. It is said that an inscription exists there stating that the son of Joseph was buried there. Near the tomb, miraculous cures are said to take place and fragrant aromas to fill the air. In this way, the people of other religions desire to have Christ among them. (Heart of Asia, 1930)

Roerich said that several Ladakh Buddhists knew about Jesus. Not only this, there are several versions of the legend that says Jesus came to India with a merchant’s caravan. He also said that though the local people did not know about the “published book but they know the legend and with deep reverence they speak of Issa.” That information contradicts Notovitch's conversation he had with the head Lama who said that the people in Tibet are not even aware that he ever existed.

It appears that either one or more telling their stories are either in ignorance or fabricating their stories. Neither Notovitch or Roerich or the lama or the people of Ladakh seem to agree. Did the lama of Hemis Monastery not know of the people’s knowledge of the Issa legend? It is possible as Notovitch called them "half literate" (Himalaya 1926). In the letter Müller received from the woman visiting Hemis, she had a scathing comment about the monastery. "It is dawning on me that people who in England profess to have been living in Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and to have learnt there the mysteries of Esoteric Buddhism are frauds. The monasteries one and all are the most filthy places. The Lamas are the dirtiest of a very dirty race. They are fearfully ignorant, and idolaters pur et simple; no----neither pure nor simple. I have asked many travellers whom I have met, and they all tell the same story." (The Alleged Sojourn of Christ in India)

Madame Caspari
Mrs. Prophet in "The Lost Years of Jesus" tells of one of her Church members, Madame Caspari, encountering the Notovitch manuscript. When she was eighty-five she shared her story at a Summit University Forum interview, apparently for the first time. Mrs. Caspari had tucked away this incident in her memory, only volunteering it many years later after having heard [apparently for the first time] of Notovitch's discovery and controversy surrounding it.

It was in 1939 that Madame Caspari, a member of the Mazdaznan sect at that time, journeyed to Tibet and attended a festival at the Hemis monastery. A Mrs Clarence Gasque organized the trip. Mrs. Gasque was President of The International Vegetarian Union, a Vice-President of The Vegetarian Society, and an advocate of the teachings of Dr. Otoman Hanish, founder of Mazdaznan.

Monk Himis

The picture at the right is taken from "The Lost Years of Jesus". Madame Caspari relates that a few days after the performance Mrs. Gasque and Madame Caspari were alone when they were approached by the librarian of the convent and two other monks. Supposedly, Mrs. Gasque was well respected and honored by the Tibetans, everywhere she went she received royal treatment. She was called 'Mother Gloria by the Mazdaznan followers. So it would not have been unusual that the monks treated her differently if they revered her for her religious acceptance of Buddism. The monks were carrying three manuscripts which the librarian unwrapped and presented one of the parchments leaves to Mrs. Gasque and with great reverence said, "These books say your Jesus was here." They were written in Tibetan so never knew what was said in them, but they turned the pages.

Mrs. Prophet believed Jesus spent his lost years in India and Tibet. She also took a dictation from "El Morya" saying that Jesus went on to live on earth, and made his ascension from Shamballa at the age of 81 in A.D. 77, after his passing in Kashmir. She also taught that Mary Magdalene is his twin flame and they may have married after Jesus' crucifixion.

The Conclusion
It appears the monks must have lied to some who visited the Hemis Monastery, either that, or the individuals themselves who related their story lied. Unfortunately, we may never know because now supposedly, the manuscripts have disappeared. Roerich traveled extensively around Europe and Central Asia. He wrote in his books the rumors he heard that Saint Issa was in India. Although he saw a manuscript in Hemis, he took no pictures and it is not clear if that would have been the same one Notovitch claimed he saw and translated.

Notovitch's reputation was not good. Mackenzie Wallace described him as “an unscrupulous adventurer”. Sir Francis Younghusband, the redoubtable Victorian explorer and soldier, recorded in his book The Heart of a Continent, published in 1896, that on his expedition across the Himalayas he bumped into Notovitch in the mountains. Younghusband was a British officer at a time and his brief account of their meeting he shares in his book. He writes that Notovitch had not made "a very favourable reputation in India.” and "No one, however, who knows M Notovitch’s reputation, or who has the slightest knowledge of the subject, will give any reliance whatever to this pretentious volume."

There is a question as to why the original merchants would have changed Jesus' name to Issa since other names they kept the same in their translations, such as Pontius Pilate. Notovitch was told the Life of Jesus was well known in Tibetan literature, though only by the learned, yet everywhere Roerich went he heard legends of Issa. If the monks so revered and respected this Saint Issa as the Christian Jesus, why was it kept hidden for thousands of years that Jesus (Issa) had traveled throughout India and Central Asia?

Many modern scholars believe there is no historical foundation for this legend. Professor James Leslie Houlden stated that "Although modern parallels between the teachings of Jesus and Buddha have been drawn, these comparisons emerged after missionary contacts in the 19th century and there is no historically reliable evidence of contacts between Buddhism and Jesus." (Jesus: The Complete Guide, 2006, by Leslie Houlden)

Marcel Theroux wrote a commentary on Jesus' lost years and published on TSL. He did extensive research on Nicolas Notovitch and he concluded that the translations and story was a fake. Although, he said, "the lure of celebrity and financial gain was one of Notovitch's motivations for the 'Life of Saint Issa' , there was a hidden motive. Theroux believed "he smuggled in the real message of his text: an assertion that would vindicate the Jewish people of a charge that had dogged them for centuries." He then goes on to detail what it was like to be a Russian Jew, or a Jew anywhere in the world. The Russian Empire at the time Notovitch published his book was deeply anti-Jewish. Jews could escape the so-called 'persecution' by converting to Christianity, as Notovitch and his brother did.

The idea that the Jews bear special responsibility for the death of Christ dates to the Synoptic Gospels. Yet Jews and the priests and elders are vindicated in Notovitch's book. One verse states: "Hearing of the sufferings and tortures inflicted on their saint, the principal priests and learned elders begged the Governor to liberate Issa on the occasion of an approaching great feast." And in another verse, "We have seen the man whom thou accusest of inciting our people to rebellion, we have heard his preaching and know that he is of our people."

In this verses at the trial of Jesus, the Jews are as much the victims of the trial as the man, Jesus, and that the real villains are Pilate and the Roman Empire. In other words Pilate and not the Jews/Sanhedrin are responsible for the death of Jesus and that the Jews/Sanhedrin believed in Jesus' status as the Messiah, but were forced into going along with Pilate's judgment for the greater good of the Jewish people.

I have already shared several discrepancies between the texts of Notovitch, Roerich, and Swami Abhedananda. The Swami states in his book that the old manuscript that they showed him says that Christ moved to India at thirteen, partially to escape his parents and keep them from forcing him to marry. Nicholas Roerich wrote in Himalaya, quoting one of the Life of Issa verses he translated, "Issa secretly left his parents and together with the merchants of Jerusalem turned towards SInd to become perfected in the Divine Word. And for the study of the laws of the Great Buddha."

These types of discrepancies can be discounted by the fact that rumors do morph over their life. Yet some of these claims are supposed to have been translated from manuscripts about Issa's sojourn in India, and they do differ. The idea that Christ was influenced by Buddhist doctrines has been put forward by several popular writers. The bottom line is, is the Jesus we know in the Gospels the same we learn about in the Life of Issa? No, he is not. If we are to accept the new Jesus of Buddhism we have no choice but to throw out all the Gospels as just "stories" written by men to create an image of a man they made into a King.

The Jesus who was supposed to have learned from the Buddhas, did not practice Buddhist ways throughout the Gospels. He was not a vegetarian, unlike most of the Buddhist and Tibetan monks, since he ate fish, taught his disciples to eat fish and even multiplied it to feed the thousands. Jesus turned water into wine, and gave it to the multitudes. Buddhists look up to the Buddha and the Tibetans the Dalai Lama, not God, as Buddha taught by example that there is no personal God or God creator. On the contrary, with Jesus, God the Father was frequently spoken of, and Jesus taught "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). 

Jesus had a vast knowledge of the Torah and he explicitly taught Jewish scripture, and the proper understanding of Jewish scripture. He quotes the Hebrew Scriptures all throughout His ministry to the point of correcting even the Jewish hierarchy of His day. His teaching style was also consistent with the Jewish itinerant teachers of that era.  

Buddha and Jesus' ministries differ in a fundamental respect: Buddha claimed to discover a way, and Christ said I AM the way. When Jesus teaches in the Temple courts in John 7, the people are amazed at his teaching, because they realized Jesus had never been a disciple of anyone. Jesus responds to their amazement by asserting that His teaching came from God the Father: "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me."

No book has undergone as much scrutiny or endured so many attempts to extinguish it than the Bible, yet it is still here, still changing lives and still attesting to the truth of Jesus Christ.

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8).