Tag Archives: indian history

Alas and alack, Robert Beckford is no Dan Brown! – Ishwar Sharan


“Dr. Beckford’s ancestors where slaves brought from Ghana to Jamaica by European Christian traders who had a well developed “theology of slavery” to justify their inhuman trade. Considering this and the “divinely inspired” pro-slavery statement in St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, why does Dr. Beckford still run after the white man’s god?” – Ishwar Sharan


Dr. Robert Beckford: St. Peter never went to Rome!


On 23 March 2008 the Deccan Chronicle, Chennai’s leading pro-Christian newspaper—Paul Johnson, Paulo Coelho and the Hindu-baiting, missionary-sponsored Kancha Iliah are its religious columnists—published the following item “St. Peter not the first Pope” on its last page. Definitely, it was a “bottom line” article. It said:

The Apostle Peter, also known as St. Peter, was not the first Pope and he never went to Rome, a new documentary has claimed.

In the documentary, The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples on Channel 4 [in London], prominent academics have accused the Vatican City of misleading the world over the fate of St. Peter whose journey to Rome, the Church claims, led to the spread of Christianity in the West.

According to its presenter Dr. Robert Beckford of Canterbury Christ Church University,  “We found there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that St. Peter was buried in Rome, but yet the rival theory has not got out because it challenges the Church.

“If you undermine its basis for power you undermine the Church. It is tragic that the faith gets reduced to manipulating the facts and to one Church trying to make itself superior to others.”

Indeed, it is tragic that Christian believers have been manipulating history from the very inception of Christianity, and we wonder if Dr. Beckford isn’t up to the same tricks himself. He is a Christian theologian and Christian theologians have been revising history to fit their theological needs ever since “prophecies” of the birth of Jesus were interpolated into various Old Testament books. There is also the great scandal of Josephus, where early Christians rewrote parts of his history of the Jews to make it look like Jesus was a real historical person. In fact, there is no historical evidence for him outside of the New Testament. This is an extraordinary circumstance considering the public drama Jesus is alleged to have played out in Palestine and all the Jewish and Roman scholars who were alive and writing books at the time.


The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples


But to return to Dr. Beckford and his documentary of the Apostles which includes a section on St. Thomas in India (a subject the Deccan Chronicle was careful to avoid in its news item). The Channel 4 web page for The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples says:

Robert Beckford also tries to find out if there is any truth in the story of Thomas, who, according to one tradition, founded Christianity in India in 52 AD. Most western scholars dismiss this but archaeological digs in India shows a trade with Rome and ancient Jewish settlements, indicating that the story could be true. In 1599, Portuguese colonists tried to destroy the traditions and practices of the Thomas Christians. Do the western Churches still have an interest in trying to marginalise them?

When we contacted Channel 4 and asked what were Dr. Beckford’s conclusions about St. Thomas in India, they replied that “Channel 4 is not responsible for third-party websites” and directed us to the program maker Carbon Media Limited. The Carbon Media web page for The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples has this blurb:

In this revealing two-hour C4 special, theologian Robert Beckford travels across the globe – to Jerusalem, India, Greece, Spain, Italy and Turkey – to reassess the fate of the 12 disciples.

Queries sent to Carbon Media Ltd. about the film’s content on St. Thomas in India were not replied to, so we wrote to Dr. Robert Beckford himself and asked him to give us his opinion of the St. Thomas in India legend. We promised to reproduce his statement without editing or alteration. He, too, did not reply.

We then went to YouTube and found the documentary The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples on the video-sharing website (it has since been removed; it would be interesting to know why it has been removed).


St. Peter by Andrea Vanni


Dr. Beckford does not believe the legend that St. Peter went to Rome but he does believe the legend that St. Thomas came to India.

The legend that St. Peter went to Rome is not true, as Dr. Beckford maintains. There is no historical evidence for St. Peter in Rome. Vatican City is built on an ancient pre-Christian necropolis and St. Peter’s Basilica is built over a cave temple of Mithra that existed in this vast graveyard which once stood outside the walls of Rome.

But the legend that St. Thomas came to India is not true either. There is no historical evidence for St. Thomas in India except Bardesanes’s pious romance called the Acts of Thomas. The ancient churches attributed to St. Thomas in Kerala — there are seven and a half of them — are built on the remains of destroyed Hindu temple foundations. They were built by a second migration of Syrian Christians who arrived from West Asia in the eighth and ninth centuries.

The Syrian Christian traditions of St. Thomas are not history. They are only pious traditions. To argue, as Dr. Beckford does, that because there was an ancient sea trade between West Asia and India, St. Thomas must have come to India, is amateurish and motivated scholarship. It is communal propaganda, not history. And herein lies the secret to Dr. Beckford’s “documentary” film on the fate of the apostles.

Dr. Beckford is a reader in Black Theology and Culture at Canterbury Christ Church University. He is also a leader of the black Caribbean Pentecostal Church in England. He holds great animosity for the Roman Catholic Church. For him Roman Catholic traditions are not true as they are the traditions of an elitist white man’s church, while the traditions of the Syrian Christian are true because he sees the Syrian Christians as a marginalised community and a victim of Roman Catholic imperialism.


Nasrani menorah


Dr. Beckford is wrong on all counts. The Syrian Christians are one of India’s wealthiest communities. They are also India’s most caste-conscious “white” community. No brown Dalit Christian has ever set foot in their houses or churches. When the Portuguese arrived in India in the sixteenth century, the community aligned itself with the invaders against the Hindu community who had originally given them refuge in the fourth century. That the Syrian Christian Church later suffered at the hands of the Jesuits because they wouldn’t give allegiance to the Roman pope is a different matter. You can say it served them right for their ingratitude and treachery.

But to return to Dr. Beckford the black theologian and innovative historian and his belief that St. Thomas came to India in the first century—an idea that is originally found in the third century Acts of Thomas—we draw his attention to Dr. Koenraad Elst’s article “St. Thomas and Anti-Brahminism” in The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Dr. Elst writes:

Briefly, if it is true that the apostle Thomas came to India, then the following information furnished by the Acts of Thomas is also true:

• Thomas was an antisocial character;
• Jesus was a slave trader;
• Thomas was Jesus’s twin brother, implying that the four canonical Gospels are   unreliable sources which have concealed a crucial fact, viz. that Jesus was not God’s Only Begotten Son. In fact, Jesus and Thomas were God’s Twin-born Sons. In other words, accepting the Thomas legend as history is equivalent to exploding the doctrinal foundation of Christianity.

The original Christian doctrine on equality has been expressed by St. Paul, who opposed attempts by slaves to free themselves because “we have all been freed in Christ” and that should be enough. St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon is actually a covering note which he sent along with a runaway slave whom he returned to the legal owner, the Christian convert Philemon.

For St. Paul on slavery see Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-25 & 4:1, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, and Philemon. See also 1 Peter 2:18-25, which begins: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward.

What does Dr. Beckford the theologian have to say about this?


Slave trade


Dr. Beckford’s African ancestors were slaves brought from Ghana to Jamaica by European Christian traders who had a well-developed “theology of slavery” to justify their inhuman trade. Considering this and the “divinely inspired” pro-slavery quotations above, why does Dr. Beckford still run after the white man’s god?

The documentary The Secrets of the Twelve Apostles seems to have disappeared off of the Internet. Oh well, we will try to keep its memory alive here so that Dr. Beckford can tell his grandchildren about how he was duped by the “St. Thomas” Syrian Christians in India.


St. Peter: Of Bones and Boners – Frank R. Zindler


 

Tamil scholars condemn Christian author for misrepresenting Tiruvalluvar as St. Thomas’s disciple – R.S. Narayanaswami


“Dr. R. Nagaswami, eminent archaeologist, who had done some excavations at Santhome Church along with a Jesuit, quoted profusely from the writings of Jesuits and exploded the myth of the visit of St. Thomas to India.” – R.S. Narayanaswami


Dr. M. Deivanayagam: Inventor of the heretical 'Dravidian Religion' of Christianity.


The book titled Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppu Ayvu, written by one Deivanayakam,[1] was published in 1985-86. It attempted to compare Bible, Tirukkural and Shaiva philosophy and concluded that Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of St. Thomas and that his sayings were only sayings from Bible. The writer had attempted to distort and misinterpret the Shaiva Siddhanta to suit his conclusions that all these works emanated from the preachings of St. Thomas who is said to have visited India in the first century AD.

It was given to the Dharmapuram Math to issue a refutation. In spite of refutations from scholars through personal letters, Deivanayakam was unrelenting. Hence the Dharmapuram Shaiva Math had a book of refutation called Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppaayvin Maruppu Nool prepared by its very able Tamil and Shaiva scholar, Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar, and released it at a function.


Vidwan Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar


The function organised by the Shaiva Siddhanta Sabha, was not very well publicised yet it had a gathering of over three hundred Tamil and Shaiva scholars.[2 ] The hall was packed to capacity. Justice N. Krishnaswami Reddiar, retired high court judge, presided.

Tamil and Shaiva scholar M.P. Somasundaram, who made the opening speech, deplored that in independent India freedom and rights were being misused to such an extent that books denigrating the ancient religion of the land were allowed to be written. He said the Christian book was a bundle of distortions, misconceptions and misinterpretations of Tirukkural verses and Shaivite philosophical works to suit the conclusions of the author—namely that Christianity had influenced Tiruvalluvar and the Nayanmars. The book was mischievous in content and aim, he asserted. He commended Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar and the Dharmapuram Math for bringing out a refutation.


Justice Krishnaswami Reddiar


Justice Krishnaswami Reddiar strongly criticised the modern tendency of publishing trash in the name of research. He said research must have an aim, a purpose, to get at the truth. Research was not meant to find evidence to denigrate an ancient faith. Research should not start with pre-conclusions or prejudices. Here the author’s motive was to show the superiority of Christianity. Religion was based not only on facts but also on faith and beliefs. The book had hurt Hindu beliefs.

Justice Krishnaswami Reddiar quoted from the works of Sita Ram Goel and Ishwar Sharan and asserted that the visit of St. Thomas to India was a myth. He wondered how could such a book be published by [the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Adyar, Madras] set up by the Government. It was a crime that such a book had been written and published and awarded a doctorate degree [by the University of Madras], he said.

If such books were not refuted our progeny would find fault with us; and such books would pass as source material for future researchers. If there was no refutation, then such books would be accepted as telling the truth and would be used for further religious propaganda. He praised the Dharmapuram Math for taking pains to release the book of refutation.

This book by Tamil and Shaiva scholar Vidwan Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar is the refutation of Deivanayakam’s spurious doctoral thesis Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppu Ayvu. Mudaliar’s refutation called Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppaayvin Maruppu Nool was published in 1991 by the International Shaiva Siddhanta Research Centre, Dharmapuram, Tamil Nadu, India.

Sarojini Varadappan released the book of refutation. Swaminatha Thambiran of Dharmapuram Math said the math head had, by personal correspondence with Deivanayakam, tried to put the facts straight. But he was unrelenting. Then a conference of scholars was held at Dharmapuram to which Deivanayakam was invited. Though he was present, he stood his ground. Then only, the head of the math decided to prepare this book of refutation and release it.


R. Nagaswamy


Dr. R. Nagaswami, eminent archaeologist, who had done some excavations at Santhome Church along with a Jesuit, quoted profusely from the writings of Jesuits and exploded the myth of the visit of St. Thomas to India. It was a Portuguese ruse to spread Christianity in India. He said Deivanayakam had taken the visit of St. Thomas to India as an established fact and, based on that, built his theory and conclusions. The fact was St. Thomas had not visited India at all. According to the evidence available, and books on St. Thomas, he had visited only Parthia, Dr. Nagaswami said. He said it was a sad reflection on the Institute of Tamil Studies which had published this book. It was shameful that Madras University had awarded a doctorate for this book without going into its merits.

Vidwan Ambai Sankaranar said that the award of doctorate to the author of the book must be withdrawn as the author had not adduced any evidence as to how Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of St. Thomas. Vidwan Sundara Murthi pointed out how the Tirukkural verses were misinterpreted by Deivanayakam.

T.N. Ramachandran said chronology had not at all been taken into consideration by Deivanayakam while comparing the works. Had he been a student of St. Thomas, Tiruvalluvar would have mentioned it, he said.

Vanniyar Adigal said such books were being published taking advantage of the tolerance of Hindus and the liberty and rights given in the Constitution. He said a book by a Muslim showing the superiority of Koran over Tirukkural had also been published some years back. It was time for the Hindus to take cognizance of attacks on their doctrines, beliefs and sacred books.

Eighty-five-year-old Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar, the author of the book of refutation, who was honoured with a silk cloth and cash presentation, said that an attack on his faith was like an attack on his mother and that compelled him to refute the book of Deivanayakam.[3]


1. Dr. M. Deivanayakam (he now spells his name Deivanayagam) and Dr. R. Arulappa have worked together on the christianization of Tiruvalluvar and the Tirukkural. In 1975 they co-authored the book Perinba Villakku in which Tiruvalluvar is represented as being Christian.

2. That this important conference of Hindu scholars was not reported in the Madras editions of The Hindu and Indian Express is very revealing of the biased editorial policies of these newspapers.

3. This article was originally published under the title “Tamil scholars assail Christian bid to misrepresent Tiruvalluvar as St. Thomas” in Organiser, November 7, 1991, New Delhi.