Jesus in Asia

R.S. Sugirtharajah. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (315p) ISBN 978-0-674-05113-3
This detailed history from Sugirtharajah (The Bible and Asia) surveys textual portrayals of Jesus by Korean, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese theologians in confrontation (and occasionally collaboration) with Western notions of the “historical Jesus.” There is no unified depiction of Jesus that emerges here; instead, Sugirtharajah considers a mosaic of descriptions from over a millennium, including scholarship primarily from the Chinese Taiping revolution (1850-1864), the Korean Minjung uprising of the 1970s, and the Indian and Sri Lankan anticolonial movements of the 20th century. These reconstructions, predominately from male and elite sources, situate Jesus in Asian contexts and challenge prevailing notions of how people can learn about Jesus as a spiritual figure, including a reimagining of Jesus as a kind of Jain tirthankara, an enlightened spiritual master who achieved perfect knowledge through a life of asceticism. The book’s claim that Jesus was reconceived in Asia concurrently to—and largely independently of—the Western search for the historical Jesus is more clarifying than illuminating; no cohesive argument emerges from the slew of examples of Jesus refashionings throughout Asia. A glaring flaw, which the author admits but doesn’t excuse, is his omission of Asian women’s voices. Despite this, Sugirtharajah’s trenchant book will be useful to anyone looking for an introduction to some of the many Asian representations of Christ. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
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