The Jesus Sutras: Rediscovering the Lost Scrolls of Taoist Christianity

ISBN 10: 0345434242 / ISBN 13: 9780345434241
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Synopsis: In 1907, explorers discovered a vast treasure trove of ancient scrolls, silk paintings, and artifacts dating from the 5th to 11th centuries A.D.  in a long-sealed cave in a remote region of China.  Among them, written in Chinese, were scrolls that recounted a history of Jesus' life and teachings in beautiful Taoist concepts and imagery that were unknown in the West. These writings told a story of Christianity that was by turns unique and disturbing, hopeful and uplifting. The best way to describe them is collectively, with a term they themselves use: The Jesus Sutras.

The origins of Christianity seem rooted in Western civilization, but amazingly, an ancient, largely unknown branch of Christian belief evolved in the East. Eminent theologian and Chinese scholar Martin Palmer provides the first popular history and translation of the sect's long-lost scriptures--all of them more than a thousand years old and comparable in significance to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Gathered, deciphered, and interpreted by a team of expert linguists and scholars, these sacred texts present an inspiring use of Jesus' teachings and life within Eastern practices and meditations--and provide an extraordinary window into an intriguing, profoundly gentler, more spiritual Christianity than existed in Europe or Asia at the time, or, indeed, even today.

Palmer has devoted more than a decade to seeking the extant writings and other evidence of this lost religion.  His search was triggered by an encounter with an immense, mysterious carved (stele) stone from the 8th century that resides in a Chinese museum collection called the Forest of Stones. The Chinese text on this stone commemorates the founding of a "religion of light" in China by a great Western teacher and features a unique cross that merges Taoist symbolism with the Christian cross. The scrolls, the stone, and a strange map of the area around a hallowed temple (where Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching before disappearing forever) gave Palmer enough information to rediscover one of the earliest Christian monasteries.  At the site was an  8th century pagoda still intact, and within it, in 1998, Palmer and his team found more evidence, including statues, underground passageways, and artifacts, that helped them uncover and recreate the era and rituals of the Taoist Christians.  

The Taoist Christians, who wrote the Jesus Sutras recognized equality of the sexes, preached against slavery, and practiced nonviolence toward all forms of life. In particular, this tradition offered its followers a more hopeful vision of life on earth and after death than the dominant Eastern religions, teaching that Jesus had broken the wheel of karma and its consequent punishing, endless reincarnations.

Vividly re-creating the turbulence of a distant age that is remarkably evocative of our own times, Palmer reveals an extraordinary evolution of spiritual thought that spans centuries. A thrilling modern quest that is also an ancient religious odyssey, The Jesus Sutras shares a revolutionary discovery with profound historical implications--imparting timeless messages and lessons for men and women of all backgrounds and faiths.

Review: It's no secret that there were Christians in China as far back as the seventh century. But exactly what they believed has been difficult to discern. In his book The Jesus Sutras, translator and interfaith pioneer Martin Palmer begins to shed light on what he has come to call Taoist Christianity, referring to ancient texts found only a century ago and drawing on his own sleuthing in China. In a book of ambitious scope, Palmer recounts Christianity's spread eastward from Jerusalem, where it encountered and adapted to local cultures. One of those cultures was the most powerful and advanced civilization in the world--Tang China--but which was also steeped in a retro-shamanic faith known as Taoism. Just as the Chinese assimilated Buddhism by interpreting it in Taoist terms, a similarly fascinating fusion of beliefs appears to have taken place in China's Christian monasteries. Palmer takes us to the site of one of these sanctuaries, which was once the Taoist equivalent of Canterbury Cathedral and which the Chinese government is now excavating and restoring in earnest. He also offers full English translations of what he calls the Jesus Sutras, Christian tracts translated into Chinese from an unknown Eastern language. While bearing clear resemblance to traditional Christianity, differences, and what one may call advances, are also apparent--for instance, original sin becomes the goodness of original nature. The Jesus Sutras is a powerful combination of research, translation, and interpretation that not only brings the past to light but lights the way for future interfaith dialogue. --Brian Bruya

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Palmer, Martin, in association with Eva Wong, Tjalling Halbertsma, Zhao Xiao Min, Li Rong Rong, and James Palmer
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Book Description NY. August 2001. Ballantine Wellspring / Ballantine Publishing Group, 2001. light yellow hardbound 8vo. 8º (octavo). dustwrapper in protective plastic book jacket cover. fine cond. binding square & tight. covers clean. tiny shelf ding along bottom edge of rear cover. edges clean. contents free of markings. dustwrapper in fine cond. not worn or torn or price clipped. nice clean copy. no library markings or store stamps, no stickers or bookplates, no names, no inking , no underlining, no remainder markings etc ~. first edition so stated. first printing ( # 1 in # line). endpaper maps. decorative title pg. xvi+270p. + author bio note. 8 pages of glossy full color photo plates. b&w photos & illustrations. throughout. postscript. notes. bibliography. index. ancient history. archaeology. ancient religion. taosim. christianity. theology. philosophy. ancient literature. chinese history. chinese literature. ~ In 1907, explorers discovered a vast treasure trove of ancient scrolls, silk paintings, and artifacts dating from the fifth to eleventh centuries A.D. in a long~sealed cave in a remote region of China. Among them, written in Chinese, were scrolls that recounted a history of Jesus' life and teachings in beautiful Taoist concepts and imagery that were unknown in the West. These writings told a story of Christianity that was by turns unique and disturbing, hopeful and uplifting. The best way to describe them is collectively, with a term they themselves used: The Jesus Sutras. The origins of Christianity seem rooted in Western civilization, but amazingly, an ancient, largely unknown branch of Christian belief evolved in the East. Eminent theologian and Chinese scholar Martin Palmer provides the first popular history and translation of the sect's long~lost scriptures~all of them more than a thousand years old and comparable in significance to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Gathered, deciphered, and interpreted by a team of expert linguists and scholars, these sacred texts present an inspiring use of Jesus' teachings and life within Eastern practices and meditations~and provide an extraordinary window into an intriguing, profoundly gentler, more spiritual Christianity than existed in Europe or Asia at the time, or, indeed, even today. Palmer has devoted more than a decade to seeking the extant writings and other evidence of this lost religion. His determined search eventually led him to rediscover one of the earliest Christian monasteries. At the site was a still~intact eighth~century pagoda. Within it Palmer and his team found more evidence, including statues, underground passageways, and artifacts, that helped them uncover and re~create the era and rituals of the Taoist Christians. The Taoist Christians who wrote the Jesus Sutra recognized equality of the sexes, preached against slavery, and practiced nonviolence toward all forms of life. In particular, this tradition offered its followers a more hopeful vision of life on earth and after death than the dominant Eastern religions, teaching thai Jesus had broken the wheel of karma and its consequent punishing, endless reincarnations. Vividly re~creating the turbulence of a distant age that is remarkably evocative of our own time, Palmer reveals an extraordinary evolution of spiritual thought that spans centuries. A thrilling modern quest that is also an ancient religious odyssey, The Jesus Sutras shares a revolutionary discovery with profound historical implications ~ imparting timeless messages and lessons for men and women of all background and faiths. Bookseller Inventory # 12101602

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