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The Jesus Sutras are early Chinese language manuscripts of Christian teachings. They are connected with the 7th century mission of Alopen, a Nestorian bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East.

The sutras date from between 635 CE, the year of Alopen's arrival in China, and 1005, when the Mogao Cave, near Dunhuang, in which they were found was sealed. Four of the sutras are said to be located in private collections in Japan, while one is in Paris. Their language and content reflect varying levels of interaction with Chinese culture, including use of Buddhist and Taoist terminology.

List of sutras

The following list gives some approximate English titles for the various writings. Scholars are still debating the best translation for many of the terms. Until a good modern translation appears in English, P. Saeki remains the best source for the texts.

Doctrinal sutras

  1. Sutra on Almsgiving of the World-Honored One, Part Three (世尊布施論第三).
  2. Sutra on the Oneness of Heaven, Part One (一天論第一).
  3. Sutra of Origins, or Parable, Part Two (喻第二). The first three texts in this list appear together in a single manuscript entitled Treatise on the One God, Part Three (一神論巻第三).
  4. Sutra on the Origin of Origins (大秦景教宣元本經). An inscribed pillar discovered in Luoyang in 2006 supplements the incomplete version from Dunhuang.
  5. Sutra of Hearing the Messiah, or Sutra of Jesus the Messiah (序聽迷詩所經).

Liturgical sutras

  1. Da Qin Hymn of Perfection of the Three Majesties (大秦景教三威蒙度贊).
  2. Let Us Praise or Venerable Books (尊經; Zūn jīng).
  3. The Sutra of Ultimate and Mysterious Happiness (志玄安樂經).
  4. Da Qin Hymn to the Transfiguration of the Great Holy One (大秦景教大聖通真歸法贊). This text is suspected of being a modern forgery.

The Xi'an Stele

Main article: Nestorian Stele

The Xi'an Stele was erected in 781 to commemorate the propagation of the Da Qin Luminous Religion ("Da Qin" is the Chinese term for the Roman Empire). Martin Palmer recently claimed that a pagoda near Lou Guan Tai was part of a Da Qin monastery. Lou Guan Tai was the traditional site of Lao Tzu's composition of the Tao Te Ching. The stele was unearthed in 1625 and is now on display in nearby Xi'an, the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty.


Sutra (literally "binding thread") is a Sanskrit term referring to an aphorism or group of aphorisms. It was originally applied to Hindu philosoph], and later to Buddhist canon scripture. In the case of the Jesus Sutras, the term applies indirectly. In Chinese, all religious and classical books are referred to as jing (經), including indigenous Chinese works, Buddhist scriptures, and other foreign works such as the Bible and the Qur'an. In the context of Buddhist scriptures, jing is conventionally translated as "sutra". The Jesus Sutras do not carry canon status but they do comingle Christian philosophy with Buddhist and Taoist thought.


  • A.C. Moule, Christianity in China Before the Year 1550, (1930) London.
  • P. Y. Saeki, The Nestorian Documents and Relics in China, (1937) Academy of Oriental Culture, Tokyo: Tokyo Institute, second edition, 1951. Contains the Chinese texts with English translations.
  • Martin Palmer, The Jesus Sutras: Rediscovering the Lost Scrolls of Taoist Christianity (2001), Wellspring/Ballantine, ISBN 0-345-43424-2. Texts translated by Palmer, Eva Wong, and L. Rong Rong.
  • Li Tang, A Study of the History of Nestorian Christianity in China and Its Literature in Chinese: Together With a New English Translation of the Dunhuang Nestorian Documents (2002), Peter Lang Publishing, 2003 paperback: ISBN 0-8204-5970-4. A fresh scholarly translation by a Chinese academic, with historical background and critical linguistic commentary on the texts.
  • Thomas Moore and Ray Riegert (editors) The Lost Sutras of Jesus: Unlocking the Ancient Wisdom of the Xian Monks (2003), Seastone, ISBN 1-56975-360-1. Texts translated by John Babcock.
  • Christoph Baumer, The Church of the East, an Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006).
  • W. Lin & X. Rong, “Doubts Concerning the Authenticity of Two Nestorian Chinese Documents Unearthed at Dunhuang from the Li’s Collection.” China Archaeology and Art Digest Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1996), 5-14.

See also

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jesus Sutras. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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