Desi Bible to have verses from Vedas, Upanishads

Courtesy: TOI

Pictures of a turbaned Joseph and sari-clad Mary with baby Jesus in an “Indianised” version of the Bible is set to create waves across the country. In a unique experiment, the Catholic Church is coming out with a version of the Bible with verses from ancient Indian texts like the Upanishads and Vedas to explain the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

This is an unprecedented attempt to encourage a contextual reading and understanding of the Bible, says the church spokesman, Paul Thelakat.

“The Biblical text remains the same but verses from Vedas and Upanishads have been used to interpret Christian teachings,” says Thelakat. As far as Catholics are concerned, they have to live and interpret their Christian faith and scriptures within the given culture, he adds.

Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop Sosa Pakiam, in his preface to the Bible, says a unique feature of the new Bible is that it has many references to the spiritual message and Biblical values found in the scriptures of other great Indian religions.

There are 24 line drawings, including those of mosque, temple and church with slippers outside, by the late Christopher Coelho. The New Community Bible is the product of a project commenced in 1990 by a team of 30 Biblical scholars.

Approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Council of India, the book will be published by a Mumbai-based Christian publishing house, says Thelkat.

“There are at least 70 references to Bhagawad Gita, Mira Bhai, Gandhiji, Gitanjali and Vedas,” says Thelakat. For instance, to illustrate Mary Magdalene’s sentiments for the resurrected Jesus, the book invokes Mira Bai’s immortal couplets in praise of Krishna.

“Treasure in heaven” as mentioned in Matthew 6:19,21, has been explained using the Bhagavad Gita’s call to disinterested action: “Work alone is your proper business never the fruits it may produce” (2:47). Does this mean the Church now accepts the teachings from Hindu scriptures?

“No. This does not mean that we accept all teachings of Indian tradition as those of the Church. We are merely adapting them to Christian teachings wherever we feel there are points of harmony,” emphasizes Thelakkat. There remain points of disagreement like the view of rebirth, he adds.

While the Church is upbeat about the experiment, it has invited cautious reactions from Hindu groups in the state. “The move is welcome, but it remains to be seen if it’s just another attempt to use Indian symbols to spread Christianity. In areas like north India where the roots of culture run deep, missionaries have often found it difficult to reach out to the masses with their philosophy,” says Jaya Prasad, a professor at the Sri Narayana college, Kollam and office bearer of Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, an RSS think tank.
“A selective approach is not proper. Accepting Mirabai should mean accepting Krishna and quoting from the Upanishad’s should mean backing philosophies like Advaita (non-duality). Is the Church ready,” he asks.
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