10 Unusual Ideas About Jesus That Challenge Common Beliefs
People have argued about the nature of Jesus Christ for almost two millennia. While some have declared that He was fully human or fully divine, still more believe that He was equally human and divine.
In ancient times, people criticized Jesus as a charlatan. In our more modern world, some question whether He even existed. But those arguments are widely known. Here are 10 truly unusual ideas about Jesus that challenge our widely accepted beliefs.
10 Buddhist Monk
Some Buddhists point to the striking similarities between early Christianity and Buddhism as evidence that Jesus was exposed to the teachings of the Buddha and was perhaps even a monk Himself. At that time, Buddhism was over 500 years old. Missionaries were present in Alexandria, so the faith may have been known in Judea, which was an important trade hub for shipping between India and the West.
According to American historian Will Durant, the Indian emperor Ashoka had “sent Buddhist missionaries to all parts of India and Ceylon, even to Syria, Egypt and Greece, where, perhaps, they helped prepare for the ethics of Christ.” Some ascetic Jewish sects, particularly the Essenes, may have been influenced by these Buddhist teachings.
The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, written by Nicolas Notovitch, claims that Jesus spent time in India between the ages of 14 and 29, a period where no biblical account exists of His actions or whereabouts. While visiting a monastery in Himis near Leh, Ladakh, in 1888, Notovitch claimed to find texts that referred to Jesus as “Issa.” According to these writings, Jesus traveled throughout India preaching, accepting the Shudras and other untouchables, and getting into fights with the elite Brahmans.
Immediately, Notovitch’s claims generated controversy. Attacks by scholars soon revealed that most of the account was fabricated. In an interview at that time, the Chief Lama at Himis said that no foreign visitors had come to the monastery and he had no idea who “Issa” was. However, many people were still convinced that too many similarities existed between the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Buddha for it to be mere coincidence, including details of their childhoods, ministries, doctrines, resistance of demonic temptation, and persecution by elite religious orders.
Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” while Buddha said, “Consider others as yourself.” At an angry mob who wanted to stone an adulteress, Jesus admonished, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.” Similarly, Buddha said, “Do not look at the faults of others or what others have done or not done; observe what you yourself have done and have not done.” It seems that Jesus was better at turning a phrase, but the parallels between Him and Buddha are rather uncanny.
9 Son Of An Architect Or Stonemason
Jesus is usually known as the adopted son of the carpenter Joseph, but Dr. Adam Bradford’s book The Jesus Discovery claims otherwise. Bradford claims that the son of a poor, lower-class carpenter could not have reached the position that Jesus did within Jewish society at the time, so it is more likely that He was the son of a respected, middle-class architect. In Bradford’s view, the misconception comes from a faulty translation of the Greek word tekton, which was used to describe Joseph’s profession. According to Bradford, tekton means “architect” or “master builder.” In the Bible, Jesus is also described with the word tekton.
As an architect, Jesus had the social status to spread His views as well as access to rabbinical authorities during King Herod’s construction of a gigantic Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Preaching in the Temple and chasing away money changers would have caused problems for a lower-class Jew, but Jesus had social status. Throughout the Bible, He is referred to as “Rabbi” and “Doctor of the Law,” high positions in Jewish society at the time.
In 22 BC, King Herod commissioned the construction of a great temple, conscripting 10,000 skilled craftsmen to assist 1,000 priests and teach them the craftsmen’s arts. Bradford believes that Joseph was one of those craftsmen, who brought young Jesus along to the major festivals. As a protege, Jesus was protected by priests whom His father had instructed and rose to become a high-ranking rabbi until He was accused of blasphemy.
Hebrew scholar Kwon Sung-dal has a different view. He believes that Jesus became a stonemason rather than a carpenter because Israel had little wood and Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth was surrounded by stone. Kwon was likely influenced by the work of Professor James Tabor, who again blames the discrepancy on the tricky Greek word tekton, which can also be interpreted as “stonemason.” That theory ties in quite well with some esoteric Freemason ideas of Jesus Christ being a “Master Mason.”
The second-century Greek philosopher Celsus was an early opponent of Christianity. He not only denied Jesus’s miracles, Celsus also claimed that Jesus was merely a clever magician who had learned sorcery in Egypt. According to Celsus, Jesus’s followers were merely gullible, lower-class fools deceived by the tricks of a charlatan who had evil intentions. Celsus also claimed that the resurrection story was a myth because he couldn’t reconcile it with the Platonic notion of the separate natures of the body and the spirit.
In 1978, Morton Smith wrote “Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?” which analyzed those like Celsus who believed that Jesus was not the Son of God but merely a talented con artist. Many of their arguments focused on the occasional failure of miracles, alleged demonic possession, and the ignobility of His capture and execution. One telling verse is Matthew 13:58: “He could not do many miracles there because of their unbelief,” which does sound like an attempt at damage control. Smith also investigates how many of the miracles ascribed to Jesus, like healing and exorcism, were similar to the sorts of things done by a goes, which was an ancient Palestinian shaman who could communicate with spirits of the underworld.
In the ruins of the ancient great harbor of Alexandria in 2008, a team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio found a bowl with an inscription that they claim is the first historical reference to Jesus Christ. Dating to between the late second century BC and the early first century AD, the bowl is inscribed with the words, DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS, meaning either “by Christ the magician” or “the magician by Christ.” However, some people claim that the bowl could have been used by a fortune-telling magus who had heard of the miracles of Jesus in Judea and was using His name in ritual invocations.
7 Reincarnation Of Lord Krishna
Hindus believe that Lord Krishna was the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu, born somewhere between 900 BC and 1200 BC. Krishna’s religious teachings have been preserved in the Bhagavad Gita. Many people see similarities between the teachings and life stories of Jesus and Krishna, such as miraculous conception, persecution by a tyrant, miracles, asceticism, and an insistence that only through him could salvation be found.
Supposedly, there is even an extracanonical Hindu tradition stating that Krishna was crucified. According to some people, this is evidence that Jesus Christ was born 1,000 years later in a faraway land as a reincarnation of Lord Krishna.
In BG 10:20, Krishna said, “I am the beginning, the middle, and the end,” while Revelation 1:8 states, ” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’ ” Both Jesus and Krishna said that their missions were to lead people to the kingdom of God.
According to the Hare Krishna, the name Christ, meaning “anointed one,” comes from the Greek “Christos,” which is almost identical in sound with the Sanskrit “Kristo,” meaning “all-attractive.” Therefore, they are all simply variations on the name of Krishna.
Hare Krishna thinker Srila Prabhupada once said:
If one loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus also. And if one perfectly loves Jesus he must love Krishna, too. If he says, “Why shall I love Krishna? I shall love Jesus,” then he has no knowledge. And if one says, “Why shall I love Jesus? I shall love Krishna,” then he has no knowledge either. If one understands Krishna, then he will understand Jesus. If one understands Jesus, you’ll understand Krishna, too.
According to research scholar Dr. Vedavyas, the birth of Jesus was predicted in the Bhavishya Purana, which spoke of Isha putra, the son (putra) of God (Isha), who would be born of an unwed woman called Kumari. Others, however, consider the Bhavishya Purana to be unreliable and the supposed prophecies to have been crudely inserted into Hindu texts by 18th-century Christian missionaries.
6 Julius Caesar
Francesco Carotta has argued that the traditional story of Jesus Christ was actually a corruption and misinterpretation of the life of Julius Caesar and that early Christianity was really derived from the Julian cult of Rome. We are all familiar with Julius Caesar as a general and politician. But he was also known for his clemency and mercy, for which he died. Even the wreath he wore resembled the crown of thorns.
Carotta points to a number of similarities between their lives as well as curious linguistic coincidences—such as Caesar in Gaul, Jesus in Galilee, Caesar stabbed by Cassius (Longinus), Jesus stabbed by Longinus. Carotta even draws parallels between the people in Caesar’s and Jesus’s lives and suggests that they were actually one and the same: Pompey/John the Baptist as political godfather, Brutus/Judas as betrayer, Cleopatra/Mary Magdalene as “special friend,” etc.
Carotta claims that some of Caesar’s most famous quotes were cribbed for use in the Gospels but twisted through translation. Veni vidi vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) became the Gospel’s “I came, I washed and I saw” about the healing of the blind due to a mistranslation of the Greek enipsa (“I washed”) rather than enikisa (“I won”). Similarly, Caesar’s military victories are misinterpreted and portrayed as real miracles of Jesus. The fighting with the Caecilii, Claudii, and Metelli became the healing of the blind (caecilius), lame (claudius), and crippled (metellus corrupted from mutilus, which means “mutilated”).
This idea ties in with the publication of Caesar’s Messiah by Joseph Atwill, which later became a documentary. Due to the massive damage caused by wars in Judea, the Romans desperately sought a way to neutralize the threat of Jewish millennialism. The Gospels are supposedly little more than postwar propaganda designed to calm the population, a Jewish veneer over a melange of pagan ideas and Stoic philosophy with the life of Jesus mostly an allegorical retelling of the campaign by Titus Flavius to crush the Jewish rebellion.
5 The Archangel Michael
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus never claimed to be God at all. Instead, he is the Archangel Michael. The Book of Jude refers to Michael as the “archangel,” which means “chief angel.” Meanwhile, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice.” In Revelation, there are references to both Michael and Jesus leading hosts of warrior angels. The Witnesses believe it’s unlikely that two armies of angels would head to war under different commanders, so Jesus and Michael must be one and the same.
Some Christians disagree, pointing to Hebrews 1:5–13 which says that Jesus is superior to the angelic host as the only begotten Son who will sit at the right hand of God. Furthermore, Hebrews 2:5 states that “it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come.” There is also the discrepancy between Michael being unable to face up to Satan in an argument—only whining “The Lord rebuke you!”—while Jesus had no qualms about calling Satan a murderer and a liar.
Further evidence can be found in the Book of Enoch, the noncanonical text that was nevertheless accepted by many early church leaders. The book clearly identifies Jesus as the Son of Man and names seven important angels and their roles:
Uriel, one of the holy angels who is over the world and over Tartarus; Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men; Ragual, one of the holy angels who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries; Michael, one of the holy angels, to wit, he that is set over the best part of mankind and over chaos; Saraqael, one of the holy angels, who is set over the spirits, who sin in the spirit; Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim; Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise.
American communist leader Eugene Debs saw no contradiction between his respect for Jesus Christ and his radical politics. Indeed, he saw the two as deeply intertwined, though he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Instead, Debs saw Jesus as a revolutionary martyr in the fight against the rich, exploitative elite. His message shook the Roman Empire until the ruling class realized that fighting Christianity wasn’t working and it would be better to subvert the message into a myth that could be used to oppress the common people.
Debs described Jesus as:
[The] martyred Christ of the working class, the inspired evangel of the downtrodden masses, the world’s supreme revolutionary leader, whose love for the poor and the children of the poor hallowed all the days of his consecrated life, lighted up and made forever holy the dark tragedy of his death, and gave to the ages his divine inspiration and his deathless name.
Many believe that the early Christian church practiced a form of communism or socialism, referencing Acts 2:44–45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
Some claim that the situation described in Acts was only a temporary one in the face of persecution and represented a situation of charity rather than communism. Others claim that Jesus’s call for people to give up their wealth was merely a moral choice, not a condemnation of private property. Debs notwithstanding, it tends to be Americans who have this view.
Latin American liberation theologians have a different view. Jose Porfirio Miranda, who drew many parallels between the Christian Bible and the works of Karl Marx, saw Marxism’s refusal to acknowledge God as a defect. He wrote:
The notion of communism is in the New Testament right down to the letter—and so well put that in the twenty centuries since it was written no one has come up with a better definition of communism than Luke in Acts 2:44–45 and 4:32–35. In fact, the definition Marx borrowed from Louis Blanc, “From each one according to his capacities, to each one according to his needs,” is inspired by, if not directly copied from, Luke’s formulation eighteen centuries earlier. There is no clearer demonstration of the brainwashing to which the establishment keeps us subjected than the officially promulgated conception of Christianity as anticommunist.
The letter “j” is only around a few centuries old. It was distinguished from the letter “i” after 1600. The original King James Bible is said to have referred to Jesus as “Iesus.” According to some nontraditional Christians, this is a serious problem. They claim that the original name of the Messiah was “Yahshua,” which became the Jewish name “Yesua” as part of the Jewish tradition of concealing the true name of God. “Yesua” was rendered in Greek as “Iesous”—which is, according to some, literally the Greek translation of “Hail, Zeus” or perhaps “Healing Zeus.”
It has been claimed that the Greeks added the endings “sus,” “seus,” and “sous” to names and places in order to honor the supreme god Zeus. Jesus was given this name to remove His Jewish roots and make Him more palatable for Greeks used to worshiping pagan gods. It is imperative to return to the original name of Jesus, they say, quoting their version of Acts 4:10,12:
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Yahshua Hamashia of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom YAH raised from the dead. [ . . . ] And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.
Critics point out the obvious etymological tinkering going on here, shoehorning the made-up “Yah” into the established name of “Yeshua,” a shortened version of the name “Yehoshua,” which meant “YHWH delivers” or “God saves.” Indeed, the English equivalent of “Yehoshua” is Joshua. Also, the Greek name Zeus was actually pronounced something closer to “Zevs.”
2 Islamic Prophet
In the Islamic tradition, Jesus Christ was born of a virgin through the intervention of Allah, but he was merely a prophet and messenger like Adam and Moses before him. As an infant, he spoke to his mother, Maryam, in Arabic. He said “Verily! I am a slave of God, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet!”
Muslims believe Jesus performed miracles, but they don’t believe that he was the Son of God. However, they do believe he was nothing more than human. God is said to have revealed to Jesus a book called the Injeel, which contained divine wisdom, some of which is still in the New Testament. However, Muslims reject the Bible because they believe that the words of the Injeel went through alterations, additions, and omissions that changed the meanings of the original scriptures.
Muslims also don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross or was killed by mortals. They quote the Quran (Surah 4:157–158):
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
Some believe that the man on the cross was actually a volunteer imposter who was made to resemble Jesus by Allah, while others believe that he didn’t actually die on the cross but merely swooned.
There are quite a few theories that Jesus Christ is an alien or alien hybrid. One example ties Jesus with the Annunaki, the gods and deities in the Sumero-Babylonian mythology whom modern conspiracy theorists claim to actually be aliens from the planet Nibiru.
According to this theory, Nibiru passes by Earth every few thousand years, and the Annunaki hop over and meddle with the progress of humankind during that time. Supposedly, Nibiru was the star of Bethlehem, and Jesus was born of the union of a human woman with an Annunaki identified with the angel Gabriel in later interpretations. As a demigod, Jesus survived his execution, was picked up by a spaceship, and is probably alive today.
Another interpretation comes from Presbyterian pastor Barry Downing, who wrote The Bible and Flying Saucers in 1968. Downing claimed that the three wise men probably followed a UFO to Bethlehem and a similar UFO might have taken Jesus Christ away at the Ascension, as well as hovering over Paul and his followers on the road to Damascus. Downing is said to have mused: “Biblical religion was planted and nurtured by persons from another world, [and] works not for the betterment of humanity, but for its enslavement.”
In early 2005, the BBC staged an apparently serious debate on the issue of whether religious leaders in history like Jesus Christ and the Buddha were actually space aliens in disguise. Mark Bennett, the head of the esoteric Aetherius Society, said, “We believe that various religious leaders from history have an interplanetary origin. We believe that Jesus and Buddha came from Venus, that Sri Krishna came from Saturn, that Saint Peter came from Mars, and so on.” Civilizations on these worlds are said to vibrate at higher levels, but Jesus was a “master of love” who guided the human race.
Hilarity ensued when the mainstream Christian panelists mocked his beliefs, with one even asking, “Where is the evidence?” Suddenly, the audience turned from laughing at Bennett to backing him up. Bennett went on to say, “It makes much more sense to say that Jesus was an interplanetary being who came to Earth to help mankind, than to say that God created a one and only son, who was also himself at a random point in history, who came to come to Earth and forgive people their sins for some reason we don’t really know.”
One Twitter wag noted: “A Christian fundamentalist and a man who thinks Jesus was a Venusian on the BBC and the Christian sounds crazier.”
David Tormsen isn’t sure how divine he is, but he hopes to get the test results back soon. Email him at [email protected].