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.
“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.
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.