Holger Kersten (born 1951) is a German writer on myth, legend, religion and esoteric subjects. He is best known for the books about Jesus' early years and later years in India. In 2005 he led an expedition looking for the birthplace of Mithras.
Jesus Lived in India, 1983
Jesus Lived in India promotes the claims both of Nicolas Notovich (1894) regarding the unknown years of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30 in India, also Ahmadiyya founder Ghulam Ahmad's claims regarding the years aged 33 to age 120 in India, and the burial of Jesus at the Roza Bal shrine in Srinagar. Kersten also draws on earlier material by Jacolliot, Andreas Faber-Kaiser, and German popular novelist Siegfried Obermeier (also 1983).
Like others before him Kersten follows Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in his sources. For example a passage in the Bhavishya Purana which refers to Jesus as "Isa-Masih" (Jesus the Messiah). The passage describes the Hindu king Shalivahana travelling to mountains where he meets a man who calls himself Isa, son of a Virgin. Isa says he has ministered to the Mlecchas, explaining that he has reformed the lives of the mlecchas by recommending principles of mental purity, japa by chanting holy names, and meditation. Kersten interprets this as a record of Jesus in Kashmir. In reality the passage is a 18th Century dialogue also featuring Muhammed, and not an early source as Ahmad claimed. Most scholars consider this part of the Purana to be a 19th-century interpolation.
The book achieved great popularity in Germany and overseas, though competed with the better-known Siegfried Obermeier's book in Germany. The Indologist Günter Grönbold included a highly critical debunking of Obermeier and Kersten's interpretations of Buddhist sources among various expositions of Jesus in India theories in Jesus In Indien – Das Ende einer Legende (Jesus in India, the end of a Legend, 1985). Wilhelm Schneemelcher in introducing the subject of New Testament Apocrypha (1991) uses Kersten by way of illustration of the development of legendary Gospel traditions and notes how Kersten "attempted to work up Notovitch and Ahmadiyya legends with many other alleged witnesses into a complete picture." McGetchin notes that once his story had been re-examined by historians, Notovitch confessed to having fabricated the evidence.
The Original Jesus, 1994
In a later work co-written with parapsychologist Elmar R. Gruber (b. 1955), Der Ur-Jesus (1994), translated The Original Jesus (1995) Kersten argues that Buddhism appears to have had a substantial influence on the life and teachings of Jesus. They hold that Jesus was influenced by the teachings and practices of Therapeutae, described by the authors as teachers of the Buddhist Theravada school then living in Judaea, although the only account, the extensive description by Philo of Alexandria describes them as a charismatic Hellenistic Jewish community following the Law of Moses. Gruber and Kersten assert that Jesus lived the life of a Buddhist and taught Buddhist ideals to his disciples. In doing so their work draws on earlier comparisons between Buddhism and Christianity such as the Oxford New Testament scholar Burnett Hillman Streeter (1932) who argued that the moral teaching of the Gautama Buddha has four remarkable resemblances to the Sermon on the Mount.
The Jesus Conspiracy, 1997
The ideas of the two earlier books were developed and related to the Turin Shroud in Das Jesus-Komplott: die Wahrheit über das Turiner Grabtuch and Jesus starb nicht am Kreuz — Die Botschaft des Turiner Grabtuchs (1998) The Jesus Conspiracy: The Turin Shroud and the Truth About the Resurrection. The Jesus Conspiracy proposes that the Vatican interfered with the 1988 Radiocarbon 14 dating of the Shroud of Turin to show a medieval date for its origin. The authors propose that the shroud is authentic as the burial cloth of Jesus, but that evidence including blood tracks shows that Jesus was alive following his crucifixion. They argue that the Mandylion or Image of Edessa, known from the sixth century, was the Shroud, but folded to only show the face of Jesus. Because Jesus surviving the cross would contradict the teaching of the Resurrection, the central belief in Christianity, the authors allege that the Vatican used a piece from a 13th-century cloth with a similar herringbone weave to the Shroud of Turin as a substitute in the carbon dating. In part three, Elmar R. Gruber attempts to explain many details concerning what happened in "that dramatic hour of Good Friday". The book' repeats the author's earlier arguments that after the crucifixion Jesus moved to India. In a later book, they argued that he had become a Buddhist monk.
None of Kersten's works have found any support in mainstream scholarship — either Biblical or Indologist. The noted German scholar of New Testament Apocrypha Wilhelm Schneemelcher, in a revision of his standard work prior to his death in 2003, and in unusually strong language for the scholarly community states that Kersten's work is based on "fantasy, untruth and ignorance (above all in the linguistic area)" and "has nothing to do with historical research." Gerald O'Collins and Daniel Kendall view that "Kersten's discredited book" is simply the repackaging of Notovich and Ahmad's material for consumption by the general public.
- Penguin Books India
- Reinhard Feldmeier Die Bibel: Entstehung - Botschaft - Wirkung 2004 Page 164 "In Deutschland war es vor allem Holger Kersten, der mit seinem Buch »Jesus lebte in Indien« (zuerst 1984, Neuauflage 1993)23 die These vom Indienaufenthalt Jesu populär machte. Die bereits oben angesprochene »Lücke im Leben Jesu«"
- * Jesus lebte in Indien – Sein geheimes Leben vor und nach der Kreuzigung. Ullstein-Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-5483-5490-4, (1. Auflage: Droemer Knaur, München 1983, ISBN 3-426-03712-2).
- Mark Bothe Die Jesus-in-Indien-Legende Über eine alternative Lebensgeschichte des Jesus von Nazareth 3 Die modernen Autoren. Wie eingangs erwähnt sieht Grönbold diese Quellen als Grundsteine für die moderne JiIL an. Choudhury, Faber-Kaiser, Obermeier und Kersten hätten die Idee für ihre Theoreme aus diesen Quellen entnommen und ihre Beweisargumente gingen auf die Autoren der ersten Phase wie Jacolliot zurück.
- Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion, Penguin Books India, 2001, p.260.
- See Swami Parmeshwaranand, "Christ in the Bhavisya Purana", Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Purānas, Sarup, 2001, pp.278ff; Wendy Doniger, Purāna Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts, SUNY Press, 1993, p.105.
- Daniel Kendall - 1996 On reissuing Venturini in Gregorianum — Page 258 Pontificia università gregoriana (Rome) "The whole story of how this legend was simply created (without a shred of evidence in its support), spread widely among a gullible public and still finds such latter-day exponents as Holger Kersten is splendidly told by Günther Grönbold. In Jesus Survived Crucifixion Soami Divyanand offers a recent repetition of the legend originally fashioned by Ghulam Ahmad. Divyanand draws on Kersten' s discredited book, Jesus Lived in India."
- New Testament Apocrypha: Gospels and Related Writings - Page 84 Wilhelm Schneemelcher, R McL Wilson - 1991 "Kersten for example attempted to work up Notovitch and Ahmadiyya legends with many other alleged witnesses into a complete picture26. Thus Levi's Aquarian Gospel (1905)27 is pressed into service, along with the Turin shroud and the "
- Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism by Douglas T. McGetchin (Jan 1, 2010) Fairleigh Dickinson University Press ISBN 083864208X page 133 "Faced with this cross-examination, Notovich confessed to fabricating his evidence."
- Der Ur-Jesus — Die buddhistischen Quellen des frühen Christentums. Langen-Müller Verlag, München 1994, ISBN 3-7844-2504-6.
- Gruber, Elmar and Kersten, Holger. (1995). The Original Jesus. Shaftesbury: Element Books.
- Das Jesus-Komplott: die Wahrheit über das Turiner Grabtuch. Heyne-Verlag, München 1997, ISBN 3-453-12307-7.
- Jesus starb nicht am Kreuz — Die Botschaft des Turiner Grabtuchs. Langen-Müller Verlag, München 1998, ISBN 3-7844-2688-3, (mit Elmar R. Gruber).
- Sengupta, Reshmi (22 September 2005). "When Jesus came to India!". The Telegraph (Calcutta) (Calcutta, India). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- "The curious trail of Christ". The Telegraph (Calcutta) (Calcutta, India). 4 April 2006. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- Zohar, Danah (9 July 1995). "In search of the gospel truth". The Independent (London). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1: Gospels and Related Writings by Wilhelm Schneemelcher and R. Mcl. Wilson (Dec 1, 1990) ISBN 066422721X page 84. "Such works, in which fantasy, untruth and ignorance (above all in the linguistic area) are combined, and which are in addition marked by anti-Church feeling, have nothing to do with historical research. "
- Gerald O'Collins Daniel Kendall Essays in Christology and Soteriology 1996 p169