Common Roots in Judaism

[Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen of Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?]

Some have asserted that similarities between the ethical teachings of Buddha and Jesus provide evidence that Jesus may have traveled to India.[i] The argument usually points out that the Bible makes no reference to events in Jesus' life when he was between the ages of twelve and thirty, providing ample time for these travels to have taken place. What makes this possibility unlikely is that Jesus was the son of a poor Jewish carpenter. It is doubtful that he could have afforded the 2,500 mile trip to India.

In this book, we set forth an alternative explanation: Buddha and Jesus were both significantly influenced by Judaism, in general, and the proverbs of Solomon, in particular.

Buddha/Jesus Similarities to the Books of Moses
The five books of Moses (the Torah) were first written around 1380 B.C., more than nine hundred years before Buddha lived and taught. In light of that fact, it is not unreasonable to suppose, when one of Buddha's key teachings is virtually the same as a key verse of Moses', that Buddha could have been echoing Moses' words. This likely was also the case with Jesus. The following provides a key example.

Love Your Neighbor
Moses (1300 B.C.)

"Love your neighbor as yourself."[ii]

Buddha (525 B.C.)

"Consider others as yourself."[iii]

Christ (A.D. 30)

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."[iv]

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."[v]

Given the close similarities of these sayings, would it be more reasonable to presume that Jesus was quoting Buddha or that he was quoting Moses? Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who often quoted Moses and other Old Testament authors. The Torah was very widely known in Israel for almost 1,400 years before Jesus quoted it. So, Jesus was probably quoting Moses.

Love Strangers
Let's look at another example. In the same chapter of Leviticus in which Moses exhorted his people to love their neighbors as themselves, he urged them to also love strangers from other cultures and peoples. Jesus taught that God loved men and women from every culture so much that God sent him to make salvation available to all people. In this, we again see the inclusion of every manner of stranger within the scope of God's love. It is much more natural to assume that Jesus inherited this "love strangers" principle from Moses than that he traveled to India and picked it up from Buddhism.

Moses (1300 B.C.)

"The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."[vi]

Buddha (525 B.C.)

"Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world."[vii]

Christ (A.D. 30)

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."[viii]

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."[ix]

Buddha's exhortation to love people everywhere reiterates the same theme that was sounded by Moses nine hundred years earlier.

Buddha's example of caring for anyone anywhere as a mother would her only child is echoed in Jesus' exhortation to lay down one's life for one's friends. It differs in that Jesus' exhortation is tighter in scope; however, this scope is widened to the whole world in the second quotation from Jesus.

[i] Swami Abhedananda, Journey into Kashmir and Tibet (the English translation of Kashmiri 0 Tibbate) (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vivekananda Math, 1987).

[ii] Leviticus 19:18b (NIV).

[iii] Dhammapada 10:1, in Marcus Borg, ed., with coeditor Ray Riegert and an Introduction by Jack Kornfield, Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 1997), 15.

[iv] Mark 12:31b (NKJV).

[v] Luke 6:31 (NIV).

[vi] Leviticus 19:34 (NKJV).

[vii] Buddha, Sutta Nipata 149-150, in Borg, Jesus and Buddha, 25.

[viii] John 15:12-13 (NKJV).

[ix] John 3:16 (NKJV).
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