Friday, May 04, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 18: Dr Ikel Tafari's "AFRICAN CROSSROADS: Krishna and Christ"

On Monday, April 30, 2007, Dr Ikel Tafari, director of the Commission for Pan African Affairs of Barbados, published an article in the Barbados Nation, with the above title. It was brought to my attention by an astute reader of this blog's posts. At her urging, I respond in what follows -- thank you, "sister X"!

The article is of interest on preparing Caribbean Christians to live, serve and witness in the C21, as it shows just how easily the infoglut provided by the Internet can lead to unnecessary confusions if we fail to learn and apply appropriate basic critical thinking skills.

Let us therefore start our exploration, as if we were hearing about the particular claims for the very first time. So, logically, we start by looking for background information on Dr Tafari's source, as no authority is better than his facts, reasoning and assumptions.

Immediately, something is wrong!

For, even a glance at so humble a source as Wikipedia -- not exactly a pro-Cristian source, and sometimes its ideological biases get out of hand, but it is a useful first stop-off -- shows us that the article begins with an unfortunately uncritical citation of Kersey Graves' 1875 "classic": The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours.

So, even a first basic fact check by the author or the editors at The Barbados Nation should have put them on notice:

The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, or Christianity Before Christ was an 1875 book written by 19th century lecturer and sceptic Kersey Graves. It alleges that Jesus was not an actual person, but was a creation largely based on earlier stories of deities or god-men saviours who had been crucified, and descended to and ascended from the underworld.

Much of what is found in the book contradicts established facts about various mythologies mentioned, and several of the beliefs and traditions alleged to coincide with Christianity post-date Christianity's advent.[Emphasis added here]

Indeed, a follow up to the critical review at the skeptics' site [linked through the Wiki article], will at once show that even dyed in the wool skeptics caution on the poor quality of this "classic" source. So, to round out, a few notes on particular points -- much of it drawn from Wikipedia consulted as an example of a simple first level fact check -- will rapidly show us:
1] Jesus' existence is one of the best authenticated facts of the history of classical times. Indeed, to insist that the evidence on Jesus' existence is inadequate, is to so trash reasonable standards of scholarship that one would have to either surrender all historical knowledge of classical times [and much else besides] or else end up in hopelessly inconsistent standards of evidence one accepts. That is, the fallacy of selective hyperskepticism lurks here.

2] Similarly, "The term Krishna in Sanskrit has the literal meaning of "black" or "dark", and is used as a name to describe someone with dark skin. The Brahma Samhita describes Krishna's complexion as being "tinged with the hue of blue clouds",[2] and he is often depicted in paintings with blue or dark-blue skin. In murthis, Krishna is more commonly portrayed as being dark skinned or black." That is, Dr Tafari is simply wrong to asseret on the strength of Graves, that the name Krishna "means Christ in Sanskrit."

3] "Christ" is not even a name, it is the Greek form of a Hebrew title/description: anointed, in the sense of [a] with oil to take up the position of a priest or a king, and beyond that, [b] with the Spirit of God, as a supernaturally selected, led and empowered agent of God.

4] More to the point, Dr Tafari in making this mistake, is actually claiming on the strength of Mr Graves' flawed work that:
" . . . in all its details, the Christ story bears striking resemblance to the earlier legend of Krishna (which means Christ in Sanskrit). This incarnation of the Hindu saviour-god predated the birth of Christ in the gospels by a thousand years. Born like Jesus in a cave, of a virgin, Devaki, Krishna's arrival, like that of Jesus, was heralded by a star in the heavens. The account in the New Testament of the visit to the newly born Christ-child by 'wise men from the East' was apparently taken verbatim from the Mahabharata story of Krishna's birth . . . . In point of fact, 346 parallels between Krishna and Christ are recorded, including . . . the transfiguration, crucifixion, burial and resurrection . . . . Carved in the age-old rocks of India is the record of their Lord and Saviour, Krishna who offered himself in expiation for a sin-stricken world, shedding sacrificial blood as he was impaled on a cross."
5] This is of course intended to undercut the historical credibility of the NT account and reduce it to the status of the sagas and legends of Krishna of India, the intended implication being that the Christian faith and Scriptures are but a pale copy of the earlier Hindu ones. But such fails even quite basic fact checks:
  • As Wiki documents, Krishna according to the Hindu legends, was born in a prison [his parents being imprisoned by a usurper King, Kamsa, who imprisoned his sister, Devaki, and her husband, so that he could kill her offspring at birth]. So, unlike Jesus, he was not born an inn-keeper's stables "because there was no room in the inn," on his parents' going to the family hometown to pay a poll-tax by the decree of Caesar Augustus. This first point of comparison is plainly exaggerated and distorted by Mr Graves.
  • Similarly, it does not at all seem that Krishna was the subject of a miraculous, virginal conception as the Gospels report of Jesus: "After killing the first six children, and Devaki's apparent miscarriage of the seventh, Krishna took birth. As his life was in danger he was smuggled out to be raised by his foster parents Yasoda and Nanda in Gokul, Mahavana. Two of his siblings also survived, Balarama (Devaki's seventh child, transferred to the womb of Rohini, Vasudeva's first wife) and Subhadra (daughter of Vasudeva and Rohini born much later than Balarama and Krishna)."
  • That is, Krishna was the eighth child in an established family, again utterly not parallel to the NT nativity, where Mary on the Annunciation, said "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" [Lk 135]. Nor, is the situation comparable to the action of Joseph, who on the strength of a revelation from God, did not "put [Mary] away privily" but instead "took unto him his wife. And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son . . . Jesus." [Mt 1:19 - 25.]
  • Further as Wiki observes, "[t]raditional [Hindu] belief based on scriptural details and astrological calculations gives Krishna's birth date as July 19th 3228 B.C.E.[4]". This calculated date is over 3,000 years before the birth of Jesus, and it is a matter of legends and astrology, not at all parallel to the well-recorded history of Judaea towards the end of Herod the Great's murderous and paranoid reign. (And, BTW, given the nature of that reign, the slaughter of 20 - 30 "unimportant" children in a village on the king's whim would hardly be remarkable. For, he had killed his own son on thinking him a threat to his throne!)
  • It would be astonishing indeed, to see that in the relevant Hindu scriptures we would find that such wise men came to visit Herod's palace following up on their star, then go onto find Jesus living with his parents in a house in Bethlehem near to Jerusalem, where they made gifts to the family. (That is the NT account is plainly not a "verbatim" copy of Hindu writings not available in the Roman Empire circa AD 60, when the Gospel of Luke was probably initially composed.)
  • But none of these is truly central. What is is the claim that Krishna was a crucified and risen saviour; a concept that depends on an understanding of our sinful fallenness and need for reconciliation with God that is alien to the Hindu-pantheist worldview.
  • Unsurprisingly, therefore, Wiki notes on accounts of Krishna's death (in the Hindu writings from which any sculptures would have been made): " . .. at a festival, a fight broke out between the Yadavas who exterminated each other . . . Krishna retired into the forest and sat under a tree in meditation. A hunter mistook his partly visible foot for a deer and shot an arrow wounding him mortally."
  • This hunting accident is of course utterly different from Jesus who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. Then, on the strength of 500+ eyewitnesses who could not be shaken, the church was sent forth into the world to teach the nations the gospel of the crucified and risen savcoour who has power to save men t from sins.
  • Indeed, the most likely explanation for the claimed statue of a crucified Krishna that Dr Tafari leads his story with, is the fact that the church of Thomas in India claims to be founded by the Apostle of that name, and would naturally have in it icons of their faith that are indianised just as European church art europeanises Jesus. That is, even if the Thomas tradition is not fully so, Christians have been present in India for a long, long time, an India to which crucifixion was an alien judicial practice. So, the undated artifact is most likely a Christian one, if Mr Graves is accurate in his report that it exists.
6] Dr Tafari then multiplies similar claims based on Mr Graves' work. But it should be clear that the fundamental ly flawed scholarship we have seen should at once lead us to suspect that such further claims are ju stas likely to be dubious as what we have just seen.

7] In turn, that underscores how important it is for Christians in today' Caribbean to be equipped to give to those who ask us the reason for trhe hope we have. And, to be able to carry out basic research wand critical analysis to see just what the facts are on the multitude of unfamiliar, confusing contrary claims that we are going to see more and more of in an era of infoglut -- an era in which many are desperate to "prove" to themselves that they need not pay attention to the Gospel..
And, that brings us right back to the increasingly urgent need for a Cyber College for Christians across our region, one that equips us for living, thinking, serving and leading as Christians in the perilous, deceptive and confusing days ahead. END

UPDATE, May 5:
additional remarks on virginal conception, and on Herod's slaughter of theinnocents. A bit of general cleanup.


Collin Brendemuehl said...

It reads like Wiki is taking the Gnositc route to "truth". Good post.


Gordon said...

Hi Colin

Thanks for taking time to look at Kairosfocus. [I consider you a distinguished guest!]

How's your own blog doing?

I of course used WIki on this one to show that even a simplistic web search would show that there was something very wrong with what was published in Barbados' leading daily newspaper, things that will unfortunately confuse and mislead the many who don't know enough to be able to see what has gone wrong with the reasoning here. [AKA: When backs away from your main "classic" source, what does that tell you . . .?]

Turns out a basic review on Krishna's life story is enough here . . .

Thence, the urgent need for serious critical awareness training in our region . . .


PS How's stuff over at EO these days?

Collin Brendemuehl said...

EO has been a hoot. Take a look and laugh a while.
I've had a few issues, though not quite so humorous as Joes.

Gordon said...


I see, on Mr Blumenthal, "Jr" -- a bit of web basics [technical and ethical] will help online journalists, methinks. (But, his problem is deeper than that . . .)

In short, understand how the web works -- including images, and links more generally -- and use your own bandwidth to post images. (AKA, do a screen-shot if necessary, as Joe or his staff did on HP, putting it up on FRC's blogsite. In my old days when I did edu sites, I sought permissions for LINKS! Those were the days when people were glad for fed-in traffic . . .)

But the underlying agenda of malicious, jaundiced slander against the Christian faith is sobering, given "all men will hate you" and "If they call your Master the Devil . . ." (Also, I see Mumon, Boonton and co are still at it! Imagine, B pretending that he does not habitually resort to "turnabout red herrings leading out to strawmen" that he then pummels while pretending to actually address the matter on the merits!)

Indeed, the incident links from EO to this blog post's theme: why do you think a PhD would "forget" to do a basic fact check and quality check on a "major" source? [That is sort of soaked into the bones stuff for serious level scholarship -- y'know the kind of thing that made me seem pedantic over at EO. But, notice that the other side eventually realised that they could not shake my use of sources.]

There is going to be a need to set out a serious Christian Wiki and FAQ site, just to set the record straight on basics and address the wave of slanders that is building . . .

I expect the 2008 US campaign season to surpass the 04 and 06 campaigns for unrestrained anti-Christian and anti-Christ bigotry and even outright hatred. And, courtesy American media dominance [with the kind assistance of the BBC etc] it will be splashed globally, creating many distorted and hostile perceptions across the world.

And then, when hateful people torture and murder innocent Christians as a result, there will be a studied single mention that omits vital details, then silence. [Cf what just happened in Turkey.]

We have our work cut out for us.

God bless


PS: You may find the thread on thermodynamics and the inference to design interesting.

Gordon said...


The thought struck me -- such a wiki and FAQ site would be capital as a feature of a Christian Cybercollege!


Collin Brendemuehl said...

Last fall I started my seminary work. (At age 51 it's no small task.) Trinity (TEDS) has an extension just 1.5 miles from my home, so it's quite convenient. Right now I'm looking @ the MA in Christian Thought, perhaps Philosophical Theolology with a bunch of systematic along for the ride. The goal is to teach undergrad when its completed.
My paper for this past semester's ST class was on Radical Orthodoxy, and I published the paper on my .


Gordon said...