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Nick Gier, UI Department of Philosophy 

      Krishna devotees, like Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami, claim that all Vedic scripture was composed 5,000 years ago by several sages in direct contact with Krishna, the “Supreme Personality of the Godhead.”  The Vedas are indeed the world's oldest scripture, but not as old as this. Historical- critical scholars believe that some of the Vedas were composed and used by Aryan priests as early as 1800 B.C.E. Radhakrishnan and Moore state that “there is evidence to indicate with some certainty that the hymns [of the Rig-Veda] were current in 1500 B.C.E., somewhat in the arrangement in which we have them at the present time.”  Most scholars agree that there were no official written texts of the Vedas until ca. 1000 B.C.E.   

    While many of the Vedic gods continue to play a role in the Upanishads (over 200 of them written between 800 and 200 B.C.E.), their religion and philosophy are decidedly different from the original Vedic religion. In the Vedas there is a definite qualitative difference between gods and humans and a sort of “barter system” of religion whereby the Aryans got power in return for their divine sacrifices. In contrast there is a clear subordination of the gods in the Upanishads in favor of a mystical union with an impersonal Godhead named Brahman.  This is the “absolute monism” (i.e., there is only one reality and that reality is a divine unity) which characterizes the powerful “Vedantist” tradition in Hindu thought.

    Many people mistakenly identify this philosophy as the only descendent of the Vedic religion and the real expression of “Hinduism”; but there has always been a strong undercurrent of personal theism (explicitly preserved in the Upanishads themselves) which culminated in the Bhagavad-Gita. In the Bhagavad-Gita (400-200 B.C.E.) Krishna is identified with the Purusha, the first human sacrificed for the creation of the world.  This creation hymn is found in the oldest strata of the Vedas (Rig-Veda X. 90.1-16). Krishna is never mentioned by name in the Vedas, just as Jesus is never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. Nevertheless, the devotees of Krishna, like A. C. Bhaktivedanta, claim many allusions and prophecies of Krishna in the Vedas.   The complete birth stories of Krishna are found in the pre-Christian Puranas, but their written form stems from the third to the tenth centuries C.E.  Krishna's acts and promises as a divine savior are in the Bhagavad-Gita, a part of the Mahabharata, the world's longest religious epic, written over a period of 600 years between 400 B.C.E.  and 200 C.E.