The Beginning of Heaven and Earth

The Beginning of Heaven and Earth: The Sacred Book of Japan's Hidden Christians

Translated and Annotated by Christal Whelan
Copyright Date: 1996
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    The Beginning of Heaven and Earth
    Book Description:

    In 1865 a French priest was visited by a small group of Japanese at his newly built church in Nagasaki. They were descendants of Japan's first Christians, the survivors of brutal religious persecution under the Tokugawa government. The Kakure Kirishitan, or "hidden Christians," had practiced their religion in secret for several hundred years. Sometime after their visit the priest received a copy of the Kakure bible, the Tenchi Hajimari no Koto, "Beginning of Heaven and Earth," an intriguing amalgam of Bible stories, Japanese fables, and Roman Catholic doctrine. Whelan offers a complete translation of this unique work accompanied by an illuminating commentary that provides the first theory of origin and evolution of the Tenchi. Today, the few Kakure Kirishitan communities still in existence view the Tenchi as strange and flawed, expressing a distorted form of Christianity. It is, however, the only text produced by the Kakure Kirishitan that depicts their highly syncretistic tradition and provides a colorful window through which to examine the dynamics of religious acculturation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6160-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Manuscript List
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-36)

    For Westerners of the mid-sixteenth century, Japan, known then as Zipangu, was a remote country revealed to Europeans through the Far Eastern travel accounts of the Venetian explorer Marco Polo (1254–1325). No European had yet reached Japan, although Polo’s hearsay account later earned it fame as a place where “the king’s palace is covered with gold” (Mazzali 1982:123). It was Polo’s book, too, that had inspired Christopher Columbus to set sail for Asia—not in search of India and its spices but of Zipangu and its gold.

    The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Japan. In 1543,...

  7. The Beginning of Heaven and Earth
    • 1. The Beginning of Heaven and Earth
      (pp. 39-42)

      In the beginning Deusu was worshiped as Lord of Heaven and Earth, and Parent of humankind and all creation.² Deusu has two hundred ranks and forty-two forms,³ and divided the light that was originally one, and made the Sun Heaven, and twelve other heavens. The names of these heavens are Benbō or Hell, Manbō, Oribeten, Shidai, Godai, Pappa, Oroha, Konsutanchi, Hora, Koroteru, and a hundred thousand Paraiso and Gokuraku.⁴

      Deusu then created the sun, the moon, and the stars, and called into being tens of thousands of anjo just by thinking of them. One of them, Jusuheru, the head of...

    • 2. The Evil Fruit Cast to Middle Heaven
      (pp. 42-44)

      Deusu thought that the fruit of themasanwas an evil thing for both heaven and earth, so he sent it to thetenguresiding in Middle Heaven. Ewa’s children departed and met in the vicinity where they had discovered a lode ofgōjaku. Then straight from heaven a naked sword came hurling down. It flew to earth piercing the ground in that very spot where the two had gathered. This was the miraculous deed that Deusu had foretold, and both Chikorō and Tanhō stood silent in great awe. The woman, Tanhō, without thinking hurled a needle that pierced the...

    • 3. The Division of Deusu’s Body for the Salvation of Humankind
      (pp. 44-47)

      Those seven whose lives were saved in a timely way by boarding the canoe decided to settle down and make Ariōshima their home. But eventually they had no way to distinguish married persons from single ones.

      Thus, the practice of married women shaving off their eyebrows and blackening their teeth began at this time.²⁷

      As before, the population grew steadily but everyone who had been born and died up until this point had necessarily fallen into Benbō. Deusu felt pity and said, “Oh, anjo, look here. What can I do? How can I help them?” Deusu’s anjo answered, “Deusu, if...

    • 4. The King’s Death
      (pp. 47-49)

      When the gentle snows had ceased to fall, the mental state of the King of Roson was close to dementia. He felt as if he were waking from a dream and kept murmuring, “Maruya, where have you gone? Maruya . . . Maruya.” Although the king searched for the girl Maruya, she had already gone up to heaven and there was no way to see her anymore. But the king continued to long for her so much and so pitifully that at last in this state of bewilderment and yearning he died.

      Meanwhile, Maruya had reached heaven immediately in the...

    • 5. The Tribulations of Santa Maruya
      (pp. 49-54)

      When Santa Maruya arrived home that day, for the first time her parents detected that their daughter was pregnant. Furious, they spoke harshly, berating her, “You who spurned the king, where and from what kind of person is this child that fills your belly?⁴³ We can’t understand your debauchery. If word of this should reach the king we will all be destroyed. Not another minute will you be allowed to traipse around this house like that.” They continued to scold her, trembling with anger all the while. “Get out of here this very minute” were their last words.

      Maruya had...

    • 6. The Five Mysteries of the Morning
      (pp. 54-56)

      During the Holy One’s twelve years of study his sacred mother, Santa Maruya, gathered spiderwebs wherever she could and wove the webs into heavenly silks. In this way she made many garments for the Holy One.

      A nearby place—Barandō—was famous for a person named Gakujūran.⁶⁰ When the Holy One heard how Gakujūran was reputed to have mastered the Buddhist scriptures and other texts, he thought, “I want to study with him, too,” and he hurried off to Barandō.

      For three days and three nights the Holy Mother, Santa Maruya, searched for her son. When at last she found...

    • 7. A Nationwide Search
      (pp. 56-58)

      Although King Yorotetsu searched feverishly for the Holy One, soaring high and digging into the deepest crevices, he was unable to find the hiding place in the whole Kingdom of Beren. He felt anxious and feared that the Holy One might be lost among the masses of common people. For this reason he commanded that all children in his land from newborns up to those seven years of age be killed with no exceptions. The number of infanticides reached a total of 44,444.⁶⁹ Each one of them was executed, and if you say that this was a sacrilege and a...

    • 8. Yorotetsu Captures the Holy One
      (pp. 58-59)

      Yorotetsu in Beren was rounding up his forces in order to capture the Holy One. He organized Ponsha and Piroto and an army of people. He hurried them off to Roma. When they arrived at the temple of Santa Ekirenja, they surrounded it in two columns and Ponsha and Piroto shouted out the command, “Don’t let him escape.” But the Holy One, unruffled, only asked, “Where has Judatsu gone?” The disciples answered, “We upbraided him for his hideous appearance, and so ashamed was he that he ran to the mountains and there he took his own life.”

      The Holy One...

    • 9. Up Karuwaryu Hill
      (pp. 59-60)

      In a place called Sanchiishima,⁷⁸ an enormous tree called the Cross Tree grows.⁷⁹ Its height is sixty-six units of 6shaku, and the girth of its trunk is thirty-three units of 6shaku. The trunk portion is reserved for future use. The tree will ultimately be set on fire by Deusu, who will descend from heaven for this express purpose. This fire will have no end and will continue to burn. The fire will travel through all of its veins and branches, and when the tree is completely burned up so too will the whole world. Fire from heaven and...

    • 10. Money Bedazzled
      (pp. 61-62)

      Day after day in monotonous succession, tortures on Karuwaryu Hill continued. Hearing of this turn of events and lamenting, the forty-six disciples performed various austerities: fasting, laughing in death’s face, they held firm to the desire to imitate the Holy One’s way.⁸² The Holy One too discerned that they were performing all of these austerities and composed the Go-passho Orassho.⁸³

      Impatient, Yorotetsu said repeatedly, “Soldiers, hurry up and snuff out his spirit at its very source.” Making obeisances, they took up their swords, but no matter how hard they tried, their bodies lost their strength; their arms and legs would...

    • 11. The Kirinto
      (pp. 62-63)

      On Friday the Holy One came down to earth and remained there until Saturday. He stood on top of his coffin and many of his disciples came to worship him. He then returned to heaven and on the third day he sat on the right side of Deusu, his Parent. After that, for the sake of the salvation of both the living and the dead, he descended from heaven and went to the temple of Santa Ekirenja.

      This is the origin of the five mysteries of the evening.⁸⁸

      His head disciple—Pappa—went to see the Holy One at the...

    • 12. The Holy One’s Selection
      (pp. 63-63)

      The thousands of children who Yorotetsu had massacred years before had been wandering ever since in Koroteru. The Holy One gave them all names and brought them to Paraiso.⁹² Then he chose the owner of the inn where he was born, followed by the Three Kings of Turkey, Mexico, and France. He did not omit a single disciple, nor the second group of wheat sowers, and Beronica the woman who gave him water. He brought them all as a group to Paraiso.

      The Holy Mother Maruya then turned to Deusu and said, “Someone died of love for me because of...

    • 13. Establishment of the Officials
      (pp. 63-64)

      San Migiri received the position of keeping the scales.⁹⁴ In the temple of Jurisharen,⁹⁵ he inquires about the sins and lets the good people go to Paraiso and the bad people fall to Inheruno. Depending also on the circumstances of the sins, he punishes them in such a way that sinful people feel ashamed of their sins.

      Even though a person is good, thetenguwill still try to possess him. But Migiri with his almighty knife scatters them. He does not want to give a person up to thetengu, so he lets them go instead to Furukatoriya.⁹⁶ Those...

    • 14. The Destruction of Our World
      (pp. 64-66)

      When the time draws near for the destruction of this world, a great fireball will descend. Winds will roar, torrential rains fall, and insects plague the earth. All kinds of human negligence will be visible. For seven years things will remain in this chaotic state. That is why food shortages will be rampant and the food and possessions of affluent people will be taken from them by force. When their food is all eaten up, people will start turning on their neighbors and nearly devour one another.¹⁰¹

      Thetenguwill arrive at this time. With a secret desire to entice...

    • 15. Addendum
      (pp. 66-68)

      Once there were two friends. The world had never seen the likes of them for closeness. One of them said to the other, “If you die before I do, please tell me in full detail what the hereafter is like. But if I die first, I’ll report to you within three days.” They made a pact to this effect. However, when one of them died, the remaining one grieved terribly, tumbling to the ground and crying to heaven. Although he grieved and cried, it was of no use, for already three days and nights had passed with still no news...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 69-114)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 115-128)
  10. Index
    (pp. 129-135)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 136-136)