RELIGION
08/30/2012 04:43 pm ET

'Japanese Jesus' Legend: Christ Escaped Jerusalem, Lived In Japan With Family As Rice Farmer

It's one of the world's most ancient stories, familiar to millions across the globe: after escaping Jerusalem, Jesus Christ journeyed to Shingo, Japan, where he worked as a rice farmer, had a family, and ultimately died at the ripe old age of 106. OK . . . maybe that's a slight variation on the classic script.

Most Christians dismiss this 'Japanese Jesus' legend as blasphemy, but the BBC reports the tale has its fair share of believers, too.

In 1935, the legend goes, ancient documents were discovered by a Shinto priest that spelled out Jesus' activities in Japan's rural north.

According to the BBC, those documents have long since disappeared (a point which has given rise to innumerable conspiracy theories), though CNN believes local idiosyncrasies give credence to the legend.

Among those: Shingo used to be named "Herai," which is only one phoneme away from "Heburai," the Japanese word for "Hebrew." Also, adds CNN, a folk song indigenous to the region doesn't contain any Japanese words, and sounds an awful lot like Hebrew.

Perhaps of even more interest, the ancient documents purportedly led to the discovery of two tombs. One, according to ABC, is the grave site of Jesus. The other allegedly contains Jesus' brother's ears and a lock of The Blessed Virgin Mary's hair.

True or not, locals who tend the grave and manage a small museum nearby are quick to deflect the legend's implications for Christianity.

"We're not saying that the story is true or what is written in the Bible is wrong," explained Masaoki Sato, a village official, to the BBC. "All we are saying is that this is a very interesting old legend. It's up to the people who come here to decide how they interpret it."

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