As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, theologian Dr Robert Beckford investigates remarkable parallels to the Christ story in other faiths, some of them predating Christianity by thousands of years.
The Hindu god, Krishna, was conceived by a virgin and his birth was attended by angels, wise men and shepherds. Buddha was also the result of a miraculous birth, and was visited by wise men bearing gifts. He, too, began his ministry at about 30-years-old and performed such miracles as walking on water and feeding 500.
Some people in India believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but escaped from Roman Palestine and ended up in Kashmir. There, they say, he continued to preach, had a wife and child, and later died and was buried.
Jesus was, of course, born a Jew, and Christians believe he is the Messiah prophesied in the Torah, which is the holy scripture of the Jews. Meanwhile, Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet but do not believe he died on the cross. Instead, according to Islam, God saved him and took him up to heaven, and he will return and be buried next to Muhammed.
In this Channel 4 (UK) Christmas Day programme, Robert Beckford attempts to unravel the mystery of why there are so many versions of the Christ story across the world and asks which is the real one, and where this leaves the Christian story and his own belief in Jesus.