Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More on Christ in the Rig Veda (with a Question Mark)

This will be a post about David Marshall, but it will not concern his book that I am currently reading: True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture. Rather, it will revisit his argument in Jesus and the Religions of Man that the Indian Rig Veda talks about someone who is like Jesus Christ. See here for my last post on this topic.

My problem with Marshall and the source that he used for this claim, Indian Christian Mr. Mandapaka, is that they did not cite primary sources in a manner that was accessible to me, and so I was not able to check them out to see if Marshall and Mr. Mandapaka were interpreting them correctly (as far as I could make such a determination, of course, with my limited knowledge of Hinduism). Their citation of primary sources was not specific enough, or I did not know enough about Indian Scripture to be able to track down the references that they were mentioning. But I found a blog post that actually cited the Rig Veda chapter-and-verse. The blogger calls himself Jl, and my impression is that he is an Indian Catholic. Jl links to the testimony of Aravindaksha Menon, a former Brahmin priest who converted to Roman Catholicism after studying the Vedas and concluding that they predicted Jesus Christ. (See also here for more references.)

What I’ll do here is two things. First, I will do a search on the one whom Jl considers to be the Jesus figure in the Rig Veda, Prajapathy, and see what I find. Second, I will post Jl’s reference to the Rig Veda (in whatever translation he is using), then I will search for the reference or a summary of it online and write what I found and concluded. I’ll link to what I find so that you can have access to the sources and make your own determination.

First of all, who is Prajapathy, which Jl says means “man savior”? I hate to use wikipedia as my source here, but just remember that I’m not writing this post to be the final word on the subject. Wikipedia states the following (see here): “In Hinduism, Prajapati…’lord of creatures’ is a Hindu deity presiding over procreation, and protector of life. He appears as a creator deity or supreme God Viswakarma Vedic deities in RV 10 and in Brahmana literature. Vedic commentators also identify him with the creator referred to in the Nasadiya Sukta…In later times, he is identified with Vishnu, Shiva, with the personifications of Time, Fire, the Sun, etc. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 8.8.16 cites Viśvákarma is one of the prajāpatis, the sons of Lord Brahmā who generate progeny. He is also identified with various mythical progenitors, especially (Manu Smrti 1.34) the ten lords of created beings first created by Brahmā…” The article then goes on to list ten Prajapatis. Later, the article states: “The name of /PRA-JĀ[N]-pati/ (‘progeny-potentate’) is etymologically equivalent to that of the oracular god at Kolophōn (according to Makrobios), namely /PRŌto-GONos/.”

I’m not sure what to say here! I suppose that there’s some overlap between Prajapathy and Jesus, in that both are creators, yet (in some sense) come from somebody else. I don’t see anything about the sacrifice of Prajapathy in that article, but perhaps wikipedia does not say everything that can be said about him. I notice that there can be more than one Prajapathy in some Hindu traditions, and that seems to differ from Christian claims about Jesus (though, at the same time, Christianity does teach that all believers are sons of God). There also appears to be a difference of opinion as to how to translate the term “Prajapathy”. Jl says it means “man savior”, but wikipedia translates it as “lord of creatures” and says later on that the term is equivalent to “progeny”, which makes some sense, since Prajapathy presides over procreation. Whether Jesus can be considered a god of procreation and a protector of life, well, I don’t know. Somewhat, I guess.

Second, the references to the Rig Veda. After giving you the translation that Jl uses, I’ll be drawing from Ralph T.H. Griffith’s translation of the Rig Veda (see here), and, when appropriate, wikipedia’s summary.

Rig Veda 10:90:7: “At the time of sacrifice, the son of God will be tightly tied to a wooden sacrificial post using iron nails by hands and legs, he will bleed to death and on the third day he will regain his life in a resurrection.”

Griffith’s translation says: “They balmed as victim on the grass Puruṣa born in earliest time. With him the Deities and all Sādhyas and Ṛṣis sacrificed” (see here). The context appears to be the sacrifice of Purusha and the use of his parts to fashion elements of the cosmos and also the Indian caste system. You can read wikipedia’s article on Purusha here. As with Prajapathy, I have a hard time understanding or clearly conceptualizing what Purusha is: his name means “man”; he is the self that pervades the cosmos; deities called the devas dismembered him and used him to make the moon, the sun, and the wind; he was a primeval giant whom the gods sacrificed; he is the personification of absolute truth; and he is pure consciousness.

Rig Veda 10:121:1: “In the beginning, God and his supreme spirit alone existed. From the supreme Spirit of the God proceeded Hiranya Garbha, alias Prajapathy, the first born of the God in the form of light. As soon as he was born, he became the saviour of all the worlds.”

Griffith has: ” IN the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, born Only Lord of all created beings. He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven. What God shall we adore with our oblation?” (see here). I don’t see anything about Prajapathy being the savior of all the worlds, though, apparently, Hiranya Garbha does sustain the cosmos. The only explicit reference that I see to Prajapathy (by the name “Prajapathy”, that is) in this chapter is in v 10: “Prajāpati! thou only comprehendest all these created things, and none beside thee. Grant us our hearts’ desire when we invoke thee: may we have store of riches in possession.” As far as I can see, this chapter is exhorting people to praise this god as the creator and sustainer (although other gods are acknowledged to exist).

Rig Veda 10:90:2: “This man, the first-born of God is all that was, all that is and all that will be. And he comes to this world to give recompense to everybody as per his deeds.”

Griffith has: “This Puruṣa is all that yet hath been and all that is to be; The Lord of Immortality which waxes greater still by food.”

Purusha does mean “man”, so I can understand where Jl is getting “This man”. I don’t see anything about an impending judgment, though.

Rig Veda 10:90:16: “This (sacrifice) is the only way of redemption and liberation of mankind. Those who meditate and attain this man, believe in heart and chant with the lips, get liberated in this world itself and there is no other way of salvation.”

Griffith has: “Gods, sacrificing, sacrificed the victim these were the earliest holy ordinances. The Mighty Ones attained the height of heaven, there where the Sādhyas, Gods of old, are dwelling.” What I get from this (which could be wrong) is that the gods went to heaven after sacrificing Purusha and making the cosmos out of him.

I don’t know why Griffith’s translation and the one that Jl is using are so different. Jl does not claim to be presenting a targum—-a mixture of translation and interpretation—-but rather a translation, period. (At least that is what I gather from his format.)

2 comments:

  1. I agree with your conclusion. Purusha Suktha in Rig Veda relates to cosmic giant and it is how the Veidc composers described creation of the universe. This is somewhat similar to what is in Book of Daniel - Dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Purusha Suktha is also similar to other mythologies in Greek, Latin, Persian and Ymir. But to equate Purusha to Jesus is far fetched.

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  2. I really appreciate your comment here, Ravi. I have a basic understanding of Hinduism----which I got as an undergraduate----but there's so much that I don't know about it. So I'm glad someone like you, who has thought extensively about these issues, can give me your understanding.

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