NEW DELHI – Hollywood's production of a movie in which Jesus Christ visits the Indian subcontinent during his "missing years" may end up in creating confusion and controversy, expressed Catholic church leaders in India.
"There is no historic proof to show Jesus came to India and the Church has apprehensions that such portrayal could create confusion," commented Father Paul Thelekat, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in India's Kerala state.
The script for the movie, "The Aquarian Gospel," was inspired by Levi Dowling's "The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ," Nicholas Notovitch's "The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ" and from what movie producers John F. Sullivan and William Sees Keenan describe as "the lost gospels that shed light on Jesus' secret teachings predating the four canonized Gospels," according to the Hollywood Reporter. It portrays Jesus as a wandering mystic who traveled across India, living in Buddhist monasteries and speaking out against the iniquities of the country's caste system.
Sullivan and Keenan claim to have unraveled the life of Jesus between the ages of 13 and 30, a period untouched by the recognized gospel accounts.
"I literally felt goose bumps when Will told me this story, and knew immediately it was my next project," said director Drew Heriot, according to the Reporter.
"The Bible devotes just seven words to the most formative years of Yeshua's life saying: 'The boy grew in wisdom and stature,'" Heriot noted in another interview, referring to Jesus by what is believed to be his name in Aramaic. "The film will follow Christ's journey to the east where he encounters other traditions, and discovers the principles that are the bedrock of all the world's great religions."
The $20 million movie will reportedly be shot using actors and high computer animation and will follow the travels of Yeshua from the Middle East to India.
In addition to Jesus' purported journeys from Israel to India, Tibet, Persia, Greece and Egypt, the original "Aquarian Gospel," written by Dowling during the late nineteenth century, makes the following claims, among others:
• Jesus was distinct from Christ, or "The Christ." By making himself, through effort and prayer, a fit vessel, Jesus enabled The Christ to dwell within him.
• Jesus was conceived by a human father.
• Jesus came to earth to show the way back to God via his lifestyle and teachings. He is the example we must model our own lives after, if we seek salvation.
• Reincarnation exists, and is the explanation for various seeming injustices. Reincarnation allows people to settle debts they have incurred in past lives.
• Humanity has forgotten God and is currently working its way back to fully remembering God.
• Time is separated into ages. These ages last approximately 2,000 years. We are now nearing the start of the Aquarian Age.
• All souls will eventually mature and become perfect, like Jesus, thus ending the cycle of reincarnation.
• No soul is ever abandoned by God.
"I have personally investigated many of these claims and they remain what they first seem: fiction," responded John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, which represents 16 million churchgoers. "I am sure it (the film) will make money but I do not think it will displace thousands of years of biblical thought."
Kerala Catholic Church spokesman Thelekat added that the Church "is not against artistic and imaginative productions" and in fact welcomes them "provided it is true to the spirit of Jesus Christ and does not distort historical facts."
Various publications have called into question the accuracy of the "Aquarian Gospel." Such works generally make the following claims, among others:
• Dowling misidentified the ancient ruler known as Herod.
• Dowling's transcription of the Akashic records disagrees with Edgar Cayce's description of them.
• Dowling's claim that Jesus knew Meng-tse of Lhasa, Tibet, cannot be true, because Meng-tse lived 300 years before Jesus' time.
The film version is due for release in 2009.
Christian Post correspondent Dibin Samuel in New Delhi contributed to this report.