Understanding Jesus, R. Rajendra Prabhu; ATC Publications, pp 239, Rs 150.00
By Manju Gupta
Written by a journalist who worked for nearly 47 years and was a Hindu by birth but accepted Jesus after a long internal struggle, the book under review is the author'sresponse to the queries about Jesus Christ from his large number of non-Christian friends.
Prabhu presents his own approach to understanding Jesus Christ and clarifies right in the beginning that the Catholic Church is not the only repository of truth, but quotes Apostle John from his Gospel when he said that Jesus is the ?fullness of truth? which does not preclude other people grasping truth in their own way. At the very outset, he admits that despite his lack of Biblical scholarship, his book is not on Christian doctrines but on the ?overarching personality of Jesus who is the Way, the Life and the Resurrection?.
The author directs his book especially to the Hindus who often have asked him why Jesus died on the Cross, why Christians adored the instrument of execution as religious symbol, why were they seeking to convert people and why they called Good Friday ?good? and what did resurrection signify?
Relating the story of the birth of Jesus in a carpenter'sfamily of Nazareth in modern Palestine, some 2,000 years ago, the author admits that little is known about His childhood since He came in public view at the 30 years of age only at a time when Palestine was under Roman Empire which demanded acceptance of the Emperor as God and which was unacceptable to the Jews who believed in a God above all earthly authority.
In the beginning the Jews believed that Jesus was their God-ordained saviour, but as Jesus walked from village to village preaching the message of the ?kingdom of God? without accepting any role for himself, enraged the Jewish leadership. Jesus began to foretell His disciple that He would be killed and resurrect, His followers began to leave Him. The Jewish leaders, concerned at Jesus? popularity got him arrested and crucified. When he died His followers decided to quit his teachings but when Jesus reappeared, the bunch of frightened and despondent group combined into a band of determined disciples and began preaching His message.
Prabhu explains the specific events in Jesus? life and their meanings, thereby seeking to provide an insight into the definition of the divine in the New Testament describing God as love. St. Paul said, ?Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.? The author considers the Gospel of John as ?deeply theological and infused with symbolism?. Most of us are aware of the life of Jesus and His teachings and may not find anything new in the book under review, but what may interest many of us is the comparison he draws with reference to Hindu beliefs as expounded upon by the Puranas.
In one instance, when Jesus lands on the shore after crossing a lake, the disciples are frightened and Jesus reassures them, ?It is I. Courage, don'tbe afraid?. Similarly the Bhagavad Gita says that even the mighty warrior Arjuna trembled like a leaf in the wind when he was shown the cosmic face of God. In another case, the disciples of Jesus beg that it was not enough for them to hear the glory of God but that they wanted to ?see? Him in that ?glory?. This forcefully expressed in the Bhagavad Gita, when after hearing Krishna, Arjuna begs the Lord to let him have darshan of His divine form. Just as in Hindu culture, touching one'selder'sfeet and washing them are marks of respect and salutation and which totally alien to Western culture, Jesus understood the meaning and when ?the hour came for Him to leave this world and go to the Father?, He washed the feet of His disciples as they sat at His table for the ritual meal.
The author has quoted the beatitudes (blessings) like ?the kingdom of Heaven is near? and compares it to the statemnent?anthasareere jyotirmayohishu-bhraoyampasyanthithayaha ksheenadokshaha?taken from the Mundakopanishad and which means that in the body in the space of the heart the pure in mind perceive the effulgent and pure over the soul. In essence the message is the same.
The book deals with several critical concepts in Christianity in a way easily intelligible to the non-Christians but what is incomprehensible is why the author has picked up certain portions for expounding why he leaves out many others.
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