Is Kersey Graves guilty of fabrication in his seminal work The World’s 16 Crucified Saviors?

In the past several years, the Jesus-mythicist school has been embroiled in a Kersey Graves-induced Beddru-ha-ha that has left insolent Christian apologists cackling and howling in a most unprofessional and unseemly manner. Joining in this cacophony has been the woefully uninformed response from the unbelieving world. Woefully uninformed, I say, because to my knowledge no one of the past 130 years or so since Kersey Graves wrote The World’s 16 Crucified Saviors has ever looked as in depth as I have into the sources of the many assertions made by Graves. Despite this lazy lack of investigation and study of a salient subject that surely merits nothing less than a CSI-style forensic examination, the naysayers have nevertheless written contrived and capricious commentary which reveals that they are indeed less than expert on the subject, in a variety of ways, but especially as concerns Graves himself and the reasons for his claims. In fact, it is obvious that several of these hypo-critics have not even read Graves’s book in the first place!

Suns of God cover imageIn my own book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, I spill a significant amount of ink showing that Kersey Graves has been much maligned without foundation (to be redundant), as I demonstrated repeatedly where Graves got his information. Many of Graves’s most disputed contentions can be found in the works of Godfrey Higgins, Edward Moor and Sir William Jones. Without repeating the findings I published in Suns of God and in the 9-page “Foreword” I wrote for the AUP edition of The World’s 16 Crucified Saviors, I will say that I feel I effectively dispelled the erroneous, untoward and libelous notion that Kersey Graves fabricated any of these most germane assertions. I can now add yet another unfounded aspersion to the list. As I have written before, the one thing that would have spared Graves all the grief would have been more careful citation. After an intensive multi-year study of this particular matter and of comparative religion in general, it is my educated guess that much of this information had already been published and that it was well known enough among the elite, who were reading the same books, such that Graves may have thought it unnecessary to cite his sources more judiciously. Also, Graves promised another volume but died without completing it, to my knowledge. Naturally, I would love to see any unfinished works Graves may have left.

In the meantime, let us return to the back-slapping Beddru-ha-ha that has the normally apoplectic apologists in stitches, mistakenly believing that this one purported gaffe in itself will allow them to dismiss Graves’s entire opus and with it the whole mythicist case. Obviously, this careless conclusion is in itself erroneous, illogical and unscientific, to name a few appropriately dismissive adjectives. There is, naturally, much more to both Graves’s work and that of the mythicist school, so all the cackling and heckling is quite inappropriate and objectionable. This Beddru-ha-ha revolves around the fact that in Graves’s highly controversial book, which has weathered the storm of over a century and a quarter, one “Beddru of Japan” is included among a list of 20 or so would-be world saviors from around the pre-Christian world. The impudent impugners of Graves’s character have been bandying about this word “Beddru” as a “mistake” and “fabrication,” because they have been unable to find the term in Japanese mythology, where Graves said it would be, or in any other mythology or etymology. It should be noted that Graves does not specifically make the claim that this “Beddru” is one of his crucified saviors, because this list is not depicting only those 16. Preceding the list, Graves states:

More than twenty claims of this kind — claims of beings invested with divine honor (deified) — have come forward and presented themselves at the bar of the world with their credentials, to contest the verdict of Christendom, in having proclaimed Jesus Christ, “the only son, and sent of God:” twenty Messiahs, Saviors, and Sons of God, according to history or tradition, have, in past times, descended from heaven, and taken upon themselves the form of men, clothing themselves with human flesh, and furnishing incontestable evidence of a divine origin, by various miracles, marvelous works, and superlative virtues; and finally these twenty Jesus Christs (accepting their character for the name) laid the foundation for the salvation of the world, and ascended back to heaven.

Graves goes on to list these 20 or so beings, including “Beddru of Japan.” In reality, the reason detractors have been unable to find the term “Beddru” is because they’ve been looking for the wrong word. With the help of a friend who made a simple but brilliant observation, I determined that “Beddru” is a TYPO of the kind not uncommon in the 19th century, when manuscripts were handwritten, such that the typesetters could easily make such a mistake. I have noticed many such typos in numerous books from that era. Even in the computer era, typos make their way into the best proofread texts, and there is an unfortunate amount in those I have written as well.

This conclusion that “Beddru” is a typo – which I am quite sure is true – is based on the fact that the word “Beddru” only appears once in the book, on page 30, while the word “Beddou,” which I am equally certain was Graves’s original intention, appears three times, in Chapter 38, on pp. 372-373. In that chapter, Graves says:

But without recapitulating further, we will recite some new historic facts not embraced in any of the preceding chapters of this work, and tending to demonstrate still further the universal analogy of all religions, past and present, in their claims for a miraculous power for their Gods and incarnate Saviors. The “New York Correspondent,” published in 1828, furnishes us the following brief history of an ancient Chinese God, known as Beddou: ­­

“All the Eastern writers agree in placing the birth of Beddou 1027 B.C. The doctrines of this Deity prevailed over Japan, China, and Ceylon. According to the sacred tenets of his religion, ‘God is incessantly rendering himself incarnate,’ but his greatest and most solemn incarnation was three thousand years ago, in the province of Cashmere, under the name of Fot, or Beddou. He was believed to have sprung from the right intercostal of a virgin of the royal blood, who, when she became a mother, did not the less continue to be a virgin; that the king of the country, uneasy at his birth, was desirous to put him to death, and hence caused all the males that were born at the same period to be put to death, and also that, being saved by shepherds, he lived in the desert to the age of thirty years, at which time he opened his commission, preaching the doctrines of truth, and casting out devils; that he performed a multitude of the most astonishing miracles, spent his life fasting, and in the severest mortifications, and at his death bequeathed to his disciples the volume in which the principles of his religion are contained.”

Thus, we possess a cited source of Kersey Graves’s Beddou claim that some industrious person may be able to track down. It is well known that “Fot” is the Chinese name for Buddha, and the god’s springing from the right side of his virgin queen mother is likewise understood as the story of Gautama Buddha. It is probable that this information is found in the writings of Abbe Huc, who traveled to Asia and discovered virtually the entire Catholic religion there. It seems that Graves got some of his information not only from Huc but also from the monk Georgius’s highly significant Alphabetum Tibetanum, in which the father describes the crucified gods he found abundantly in Tibetan crossroads, a logical place for a benevolent god with his arms extended in grace, the image set upon a piece of wood, to be found. In his tome, Georgius or Giorgi remarks upon an image of a crucified god from Asia:

Nam A effigies est ipsius Indrae crucifix signa Telech in fronte manibus pedibusque gerentis.

This passage is translated thus:

For A is the representation of Indra himself crucified, bearing on his forehead, hands and feet the signs Telech.

To my knowledge, Georgius’s revealing book in Latin was never translated into any other language, which, in view of the preceding passage and others, is not surprising.

“Beddru” is Buddha

In any event, it is obvious that “Beddru” is supposed to say “Beddou.” What is also evident is that Graves is naming “Beddou” as one of the many variants of “Buddha,” whom we know was revered as a god and a godman all over Asia, including India, Tibet, China and Japan. In Suns of God, concerning the word “buddha,” I write:

In actuality, Buddha’s “name” is a title that does not represent a single individual, and there were, according to Buddhist tradition, countless Buddhas prior to the purported advent of Gautama, he himself having myriad previous incarnations. Because of this fact of plurality, it is impossible and virtually pointless to attempt to create a “biography” of a “real person” named Buddha. Even the godman’s title itself changes from country to country, era to era and writer to writer. As Doane observes:

“It is said that there have been several Buddhas. We speak of Gautama. Buddha is variously pronounced and expressed Boudh, Bod, Bot, But, Bud, Badd, Buddou, Bouttu, Bota, Budso, Pot, Pout, Pots, Poti and Pouti. The Siamese make the final t or d quiescent, and sound the word Po; whence the Chinese still further vary it to Pho or Fo. Buddha – which means awakened or enlightened…is the proper way in which to spell the name.”

In discussing “the same god, who reigns under different names in the nations of the East,” Volney remarks:

“The Chinese adore him in Fot, the Japanese in Budso, the Ceylonese in Bedhou, the people of Laos in Chekia, of Pegu in Phta, of Siam in Sommona-Kodom, of Thibet in Budd and in La.”

He then notes:

“The original name of this god is Baits…. The Arabs pronounce it Baidh, giving to the dh an emphatic sound which makes it approach to dz. Kempfer…writes it Budso, which must be pronounced Boudso, whence is derived the name of Budsoist…. Clement of Alexandria, in his Stromata, writes it Bedou, as it is pronounced also by the [Singhalese]; and Saint Jerome, Boudda and Boutta. At Thibet they call it Budd; and hence the name of the country called Boud-tan and Ti-budd: it was in this province that this system of religion was first inculcated in Upper Asia. The Chinese have neither b nor d, have supplied their place by f and t, and have therefore said Fout.”

In his studies of Buddhism, published in the 1850’s in a number of books, including A Manual of Budhism, the pious Christian R. Spence Hardy used some 465 texts from Ceylon/Sri Lanka, in the original Sanskrit, Pali, etc. These texts were collected during Hardy’s many years as a missionary in Sri Lanka, much of which time was spent with “Sramana priests,” Sramana being a title for Buddha that means “tamer of the senses.” Sramana also refers to priests who perform “hard penances” and are not allowed to speak falsehoods. In any event, as concerns “Buddha,” Hardy, a respected authority on the subject (Dr. Inman calls Hardy’s work “very prejudiced” yet “extremely suggestive”), relates:

“The name of the founder of Budhism has been spelled by European authors in the following modes, and probably in many others that have not come under my notice: Fo, Fod, Foe, Fohe, Fohi, Fho, Fuh, Futh, Pot, Pott, Poot, Poota, Pootah, Poth, Poti, Pout, Phuta, Wud, Bod, Bot, Bud, But, Buth, Budh, Buddh, Bood, Boodh, Boudh, Bhood, Baoth, Bauth, Budo, Buto, Budud, Booda, Bodda, Budda, Butta, Budha, Buddha, Budhu, Buddhu, Budho, Buddho, Buddow, Bodhow, Budhoo, Budso, Budha, Boudha, Boudhu, Boudhoo, Bouddha, Bouddhu, Boutta, and Bouddho.”

These copious variants are not only transliterations limited to Western writers; indeed, not a few of them are the result of the culture in which the ideology was developed. Moreover, this “founder” of which Hardy speaks is not a person at all but a mishmash of myths and sayings that go back centuries and millennia prior to the alleged advent of “the Buddha,” i.e., Siddhartha, Gautama, Sakyamuni or other name.

Furthermore, in his Stromata (I, XV), early Church father Clement of Alexandria (150?-212?) refers to “the Buddha” as “Boutta” and says that the Indians revere him as a god. St. Jerome specifically designated Buddha’s mother as a “virgin,” and it is asserted that the “Archelaos of Carrhae” wrote about the Buddhist virgin birth a century earlier than Jerome.

There can be no question that in referring to “Beddou” Graves – and The New York Correspondent, which he quotes – is talking about plain old Gautama Buddha aka Siddhartha aka Sakyamuni, et al. So this mystery, which has perplexed so many, is quite simply resolved: “Beddru” is a typo for “Beddou,” which is a variation of “Buddha.”

Buddha Crucified?

Moreover, even though Graves himself does not cite this variant “Beddou” specifically among the crucified in his short discussion of the article in The New York Correspondent, he does list “the Buddha” as one of the 16 cross-borne saviors, and it is evident that he thought of the two as the same individual. The basis for Graves’s claim regarding the crucifixion of Buddha is not unfounded, nor did he “just make it up” as his uninformed detractors like to charge. In Suns of God, I spend considerable time on the alleged crucifixion of Buddha, preceding it with a long chapter on the purported crucifixion of Krishna, in order to establish a pattern of sacred-king sacrifices and gods depicted in cruciform. Once again, Graves got this information from Godfrey Higgins, but Higgins was followed also by the Christian lawyer Henry O’Brien in The Round Towers of Ireland, who was adamant that the crucifixes above doors of the mysterious Irish towers were not of Christ but of Buddha. (For more on that subject, the reader is referred to Suns of God.)

In his Anacalypsis, Godfrey Higgins discusses Buddha being taken as a criminal and crucified after picking a flower in a royal garden. This story sounds genuinely ancient, and it appears that Higgins knew about ancient Sanskrit texts that contained this or a similar tale possessing its most germane aspect: To wit, that Buddha was represented as having been crucified. In fact, independently of Graves’s work this Buddha crucifixion in Sanskrit texts has been determined by Sanskrit scholar and professor Dr. Christian Lindtner, who possesses a PhD in Buddhist Studies, as appearing in pre-Christian Buddhist literature. In this regard, Dr. Lindtner states:

In the original Buddhist source, one Gautama, a predecessor of Sâkyamuni, has been impaled, or “crucified.”

Dr. Lindtner further states:

The Sanskrit manuscripts prove without a shadow of doubt:

  • Everything that Jesus says or does was already said or done by the Buddha.
  • Jesus, therefore, is a mere literary fiction.
  • The Last Supper was the Last Supper of the Buddha.
  • Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was baptism in the name of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Samgha.
  • All the miracles performed by Jesus had already been performed by the Buddha.
  • The twelve disciples of Jesus were, in fact, the twelve disciples of the Buddha.
  • It was king Gautama–not Jesus–who was crucified.
  • It was Tathâgata–not Jesus–who was resurrected….
  • There is nothing in the Gospels, no person, no event, that cannot be traced back to cognate persons, events or circumstances in the Buddhist gospels.
  • …Jesus is a Buddha disguised as a new Jewish legislator, teacher, Messiah and king of Israel.
  • The Gospels, forming the foundation of Christianity, are, therefore, typical Buddhist literature, fiction, designed for missionaries whose language was Greek.

One would think that such stunning revelations would be fascinating and exciting to those who are passionate about this important subject. Unfortunately, the most vocal camps are those who are incapable of appreciating such astounding information because of mind-dulling “religious” conditioning and those who are equally hypnotized by their ability to digest and regurgitate encyclopedia entries as “comprehensive studies.”

In the end, once again unfairly disparaged Kersey Graves may be absolved of the specious and fallacious charges of “fabrication” or worse that have been slung his way for over a century by misinformed and ill-advised individuals in both the believing and non-believing circles, ironically uniting them in their commonly held, unscientific analyses. Perhaps in this unanticipated and unusual union in dissent of normally warring factions, the freethinker Graves has done the world his greatest act of service.