Sr. Louise Zdunich

July 16, 2012

QuestionI'm curious about where Jesus spent the time between 12 and 30. The New Testament says little about this period. A university professor writes that modern research illuminates a theory that the "lost years" were spent in India and Tibet, where Jesus studied Buddhist teachings.

Are you aware of any research that would indicate where Jesus was in this period of his life?


AnswerThere are varied theories in circulation. One is about Jesus in India while others put him in Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Japan and England. In some cases, he is said to have returned to Israel. In others, he died and was buried in the country he visited. In some of these, Jesus spent time travelling during the "lost years"; in others, after his crucifixion.

The most pervasive story details his time in India. A Russian, Notovich, stayed at a Buddhist monastery in Kashmir in India in 1887. Here a monk told him about a saint Issa, whose teachings were similar to Christ's. Notovich was given access to writings by a Muslim about Issa and recorded them in a book.

An Indian swami and others visited the monastery and viewed the same text. In 1907, Levi Dowling published the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ about Jesus' time in India, Persia and Tibet. Books and reports of psychics were published in the early and mid-1900's.

These reports have been refuted many times. A reputable scholar F. Max Muller questioned this document's existence since it is not recorded in Tibetan literature. He also cites a woman who visited the monastery where Notovich supposedly stayed and there she was told there was no truth to the tale.

In 1895, J. Archibald Douglas interviewed the lama who was the monastery's head during Notovich's supposed visit who stated that none of this was true nor were there any writings on Jesus there. This interview was recorded and witnessed on June 3, 1895.

Often, details in these reports contradict one another. To which, of the many countries mentioned, did Jesus go? Did Jesus' travels take place during his early adulthood? Or, after his crucifixion, and presumably resurrection?

Also, there are serious historical inaccuracies. It seems, there were no Buddhist monasteries in Tibet in Jesus' time. The Aquarian Gospel puts Herod of Antipas ruling Jerusalem but he ruled in Galilee. This book also has Jesus visiting Meng, the great sage of China, but Meng died in 289 BC, long before Jesus' time.


If Jesus acquired all this knowledge from Hindus and Buddhists, it's strange that he never mentioned them in his teaching. A perusal of the Gospels shows that the only source from which Jesus repeatedly drew were the Hebrew Scriptures.

We can't definitely know what Jesus did since the Gospel writers did not tell us much about those years and they are the source closest to Jesus' lifetime. They do tell us "he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years (or stature) and in divine and human favour" (Luke 2.51-52).

NT texts show that Jesus was well known as a carpenter living in Nazareth: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary" (Mark 6.3). Because of his ordinary background, they were astonished at his knowledge: "They said, 'Where does he get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands?'" (Mark 6.2).


Luke (4.2) tells about the same episode. Therefore, it sounds like Jesus stayed in Nazareth and was well known by the locals. If Jesus had been elsewhere, they wouldn't have been surprised at his wisdom but would have expected him to share his knowledge. And Jesus would have done so.

Obviously, for those who recorded Jesus' life, his ministry was the important factor. Mark doesn't even mention Jesus' early life. The infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke likely were additions after the rest was written.

Today, when someone becomes famous, we go back and look at his or her early life. Otherwise, we barely mention it. Look at obituaries. They may mention the parents and siblings but generally focus on the adult life and work, not the childhood, of the one who is being remembered.

It seems to me that this hype is another way to try to distract Christians from believing and being who they really are.

Let's not be taken in by it.

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Letter to the Editor - 08/20/12