A Photographic Look at the 7 Men Who Claim to Be Jesus Christ

INRI Cristo is wheeled around their compound on a rolling pedestal. "INRI" are the initials that Pontius Pilate had written on top of Jesus's cross, meaning "Jesus Christ, King of the Jews."
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Jesus of Kitwe (born Mupeta Chishimba) proselytizing in a market place. Big crowds gather, recording his every word on their mobile phones.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Moses Hlongwane, otherwise known simply as Jesus, on the day of his wedding to one of his disciples.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Communal feast during an all-day pilgrimage march for Vissarion's birthday on January 14th. This date is known as the true Christmas to his followers.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
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INRI Cristo, 66 years old. INRI first had his revelation that he was Jesus Christ's second coming in 1979. "INRI" are the initials that Pontius Pilate had written on top of Jesus's cross. Brazil, 2014. Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
On January 14th, Vissarion's birthday, his disciples enter the community's innermost and holiest village, Obitel Rassveta, or The Abode of Dawn. This date is known as the true Christmas to his followers, and is celebrated by big communal processions and ceremonies.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
INRI Cristo preaches to his followers from the top of the compound guardhouse. The disciples live a quiet and secluded life inside the compound, growing most of their own food and focusing on INRI's mission.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
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Moses Hlongwane, otherwise known simply as Jesus, giving a sermon during his wedding to Angel, one of his disciples. In Moses's theology, his wedding day was the start of the End of Days.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Vissarion, the Christ of Siberia. Formerly a traffic policeman in the 1980s, he got his first revelation that he was Jesus Christ at the same time as the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since then he has gathered a following of 5,000–10,000 disciples in the Siberian forest. There they live in separate villages with their own infrastructure and social systems.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Jesus of Kitwe walks around a marketplace spreading the message of the returned Christ.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
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Messiah David Shayler watching a solar eclipse from the same mountain where he delivered his own Sermon on the Mount in 2008.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
INRI Cristo rides a bike around his compound outside of Brasilia, known as the New Jerusalem. "INRI" are the initials that Pontius Pilate had written on top of Jesus's cross.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
Vissarion addresses his disciples on his birthday, January 14th, otherwise known as Christmas to his followers.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
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Disciple of Moses Hlongwane during a liturgy.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)
David Shayler giving a sermon on the Law as his cross-dressing alter ego, Dolores. David says his partial identity as a woman gives the Messiah practical insight into the world from a female perspective. England, 2015.
Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)

Jonas Bendiksen has photographed one of the most important events of all human history: the Second Coming. And he’s done it seven times.

Over the last three years, Bendiksen documented individuals claiming to be Jesus Christ and has compiled the images and a personal account of his experience in the new book The Last Testament. After hearing of Vissarion of Siberia (the last Jesus featured in his book) while traveling in the Russian region, Bendiksen found himself fascinated with the idea of the Second Coming and started to investigate others who make the same end-times claim.

Cap of Moses Hlongwane, the Jesus of South Africa. Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)

“You can walk into any mental institution in New York and find people who claim to be Jesus,” he told Observer. But for Bendiksen, his subjects needed to do more than just declare themselves Him.

“They had to…have a consistent revelation over a long period of time, in most cases decades…and they have to live like that consistently,” he explained, which allowed him to narrow it down from thousands of Christs to just over half a dozen.

The book contains a visual chronicle of these seven Second Comings. From Jesus Matayoshi in Japan, who formed the World Economic Community Party, to former M15 agent David Shayler and his alter ego Dolores Kane in England, Bendiksen made multiple visits with most of the men and documented their lives through images as well as a diary of his experience.

“If I go to Inri Cristo in Brazil or Moses in South Africa, when I am with them…I take everything they say, everything they show me at face value,” Bendiksen said. Most of the men welcomed Bendiksen warmly into their lives. Moses Hlongwane—the sixth Jesus featured—even asked Jonas to sleep alongside him in bed on his first visit.

In the compound chapel, disciples shut the curtains in front of INRI Cristo after he has delivered the sermon of the day. Jonas Bendiksen; from The Last Testament (Aperture, 2017)

Bendiksen isn’t from a family of faith, which could be why this body of work is so impressive. He explains that he’s always been fascinated with reading scripture and with faith itself. “How did I prepare [for this project]? Armed with curiosity and my own fascination,” he said.

“The whole project was a thought experiment,” he continued. “I didn’t go in there trying to de-cloak anyone.” And this is clear through the honesty in his written accounts and the level of intimacy that the photographs have. Obvious too are the personal relationships developed during the project, making the book an honest page-turner.

The fascinating book pulls the reader in immediately with the biblical appearance of the cover and binding, edges complete with gold gilding. It, no doubt, evokes a different response for each reader, based on their relationship (or lack of relationship) with faith and the Bible.

“There are people around the world who are waiting for Jesus to come back,” Bendiksen said. But it’s not just them who will find this body of work intriguing. People of all faiths, those without and even art enthusiasts will be captivated by the images of Jesus Christ walking among us.

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