Defending the Theistic View

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The Parallels Between Jesus and Buddha — A Refutation of Acharya S

Between the years 563 to 483 BC, there was a man in India named Siddhārtha Gautama better known as the Buddha. He was a man who taught principles for peace, harmony as well as love. He was raised in luxury by his father Shuddodana who was determined to not allow his son to see anything unpleasant. This was to keep the fact that there was ugliness and suffering in the world away from him.

One day when Siddhārtha was twenty-nine, he asked his father if he could visit a neighboring city. His father decided to allow him, but also attempted to have the entire city cleaned before his son should arrive. This tactic worked at first, but Siddhārtha strayed away from the rout that his father was counting on him taking and then he saw four different men on which the “four signs” were based: One was old, one was ill, one was dead and the fourth was a beggar. And frm this he came to the realization that even he would grow old and die and he began wondering what was the point of life if one was going to die. From then on he renounced his life of ease to begin a life of begging on the streets.

— By the age of 35, he had supposedly gained great insight of the causes of pain and suffering and how to eliminate it and later he ban to teach. Among his teachings, he taught the “four noble truths” which claim that 1) all life is suffering, 2) that desire causes suffering, 3) one can overcome suffering, and 4) that is would be overcome by following the Eight Fold Path.

buddhaSeveral in the “Jesus Myth” crowd have attempted to tie the Buddha to Jesus Christ by mentioning several apparent similarities between the two. — D.M. Murdock, otherwise known as Acharya S, has been one of many of the mythers that do this. Following, her claims are placed in bold while my responses are in regular font.

Buddha was born of the virgin Maya, who was considered the “Queen of Heaven.”

It is certainly true that the birth of Siddhārtha Gautama was miraculous in itself, however the claim that his mother Maya was a virgin is unsubstantiated and isn’t found in Buddhist writings. The fact is that Buddhist tradition points out that Maya and her husband King Suddhodhana were already married for twenty years before their son was born which argues all out against Queen Maya’s virginity. Most certainly, their marraige would have been consumated long before Siddhārtha Gautama’s birth. (Text link)

If Ms. Murdock’s mention of Maya being the “Queen of Heaven” is an attempt to link her to the virgin Mary, then it should also be mentioned that the idea of such a title for Mary is purely Roman Catholic and has no Biblical basis. Protestant Christianity, which is more based on the Bible than Catholicism does not recognize Mary in any such way.

He was of royal descent.

This is true for both Jesus and Buddha, however it is also incidental with absolutely no relevance at all. Arguing that this is a relevant parallel is like saying that since Queen Elizabeth I of England and Nero, the Roman Emperor were both of royal descent that they are therefore connected. Such reasoning just doesn’t work.

He crushed a serpent’s head.

I cannot find any evidence that this was said about Buddha. Even if it was, it certainly is not said about Jesus in any of the four Gospels or (as far as I know) in the New Testament at all.  — The crushing of the serpent’s head (which is considered a Messianic prophesy) actually comes from Genesis 3: 15 which was written is at least 1397 BC over 800 before the Buddha was born. This pretty much means that even if such a thing was ever said about Buddha the Hebrew Bible had the saying many centuries before Buddhism ever had existed and therefore Jesus being a Jew would not have had to imitate Buddhism for this one detail.

The fact of the matter is that “crushing a serpent’s head” is actually out of the Buddha’s character because he had resolved not to harm a single creature. As a matter of fact there is a story of him protecting a serpent. (The Story of Buddha, page 7)

Sakyamuni Buddha had 12 disciples.

This is most definitely not true. — At first the Buddha, after his renunciation, had five companions (The Story of Buddha, Pages 40 & 41). Later on, not counting the Buddha’s immediate family or royal patrons, he had a total of eleven male disciples, nine female disciples, and five lay disciples making a total of twenty-five, more than double. (Click here)

In her footnotes Ms. Murdock cites a  Travel Guide page as proof  of  “the motif of Buddha and the 12.” The page she refers to mentions a large statue of Buddha accompanied by twelve smaller Buddhas. — The problem here is that this imagery comes from the Chinese Yuan Dynasty which is dated from the 13th and 14th centuries AD. So even if this was a reflection of Jesus’ twelve disciples, it’s from a period way too late to have affected Christianity. Buddhist tradition shows, however, that the Buddha had more than twelve followers.

Besides, her source suggests that this particular scene is the “Nirvana.” If this interpretation is correct then I must point out that Buddhist tradition says that the Buddha at the time was surrounded by 500 arachants who committed to memory his teachings. (The Story of Buddha, Page 93) If this is the case then the only reason that the Buddhist relief she refers to shows twelve men is because it is much easier than depicting 500.

He performed miracles and wonders, healed the sick, fed 500 men from a “small basket of cakes,” and walked on water.

It is true that the Buddha is associated with miracles. But this hardly proves anything because it goes without saying that miracle-workers are an expectation in any religion and therefore this alone does not imply any imitation on Jesus’ part.

Even though it is true that the Buddha did care for the sick, he used a much different method than Jesus who healed with a touch and even over long distances. Buddha would treat his patients with hot water and would bathe them. There were various patients that Buddha treated that didn’t regain their health and even died, which is not the case with Jesus. (Text Link)

I can’t find any Buddhist or Encyclopedic sources that show that Buddha fed 500 people with a “small basket of cakes.” Besides, it should be mentioned that Jesus didn’t use cakes, but rather five loaves of bread and two fish. — And as for the last claim of walking on water, this one is true. But it is also true that this parallel has its differences because the Buddha is said to have accomplished this by “levitating over a stream” to convert a non-believer to Buddhism. Jesus didn’t levitate, he just walked. And he didn’t do it to convert anyone. (Text Link)

 

He abolished idolatry, was a “sower of the word,” and preached “the establishment of a kingdom of righteousness.”

It would be a true statement to say that Buddha “asked his followers not to create images of him when he died,” though this doesn’t seem to be an actual command. But this really is not an issue because Buddhism is a “Non-Theistic” religion. (Click here)  Buddhist do bow to Buddha which, at least from a Christian perspective, is defined as Idolatry. — It should be mentioned that Jesus did not “abolish Idolatry,” nor did he need to because it was already legally prohibited by Jewish law. (Exodus 20: 4)

As for the last two claims that Buddha was a “sower of the word” and preached “the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness” — I can find absolutely no reference to them.

He taught chastity, temperance, tolerance, compassion, love, and the equality of all.

Okay, and so did Gandhi, Seneca and many others. These are very common ideas,  way too common to just assume that Jesus copied them from Buddha. Though these ideas are held in common between both Christianity and Buddhism, the truth is that there are differences between the two. The philosophical foundations of the two religions are actually quite different. (Text Link)

He was transfigured on a mount.

This is not true. He was transformed into the Buddha while he sat under a tree in a region in Northern India known as Bodhgaya. (Text Link) — I have been informed in an E-Mail correspondance by Eyal Aviv of George Washington University that this area is not even a mountain region.

Sakya Buddha was crucified in a sin-atonement, suffered for three days in hell, and was resurrected.

Again, this is completely false. Buddha did not die of crucifixion or even as a “sin-atonement.” He became ill and died at age eighty after eating a large meal of  “soft pork” which, according to a diagnosis of his sickness, was too large for his digestive system. (Click here) Also, he was not raised from the dead, rather his body was cremated after death. (Source)

As for suffering in hell for three days in hell, this is not true of either Buddha or Jesus.

He ascended to Nirvana or “heaven.”

Here, Ms. Murdock is showing blatant ignorance of the concept of “Nirvana.” — Nirvana is not a place, and it certainly isn’t “heaven.” It is to live on earth in a state of enlightenment which ends the cursed cycle of reincarnation for a Buddhist. (Click here)

Buddha was considered the “Good Shepherd”, the “Carpenter”, the “Infinite and Everlasting.”

There is no evidence that Buddha was ever called the “good Shepherd or even the “Carpenter.” — It is true that one sect of Buddhism (Mahayana) contains the idea of an everlasting Buddha.” But this is virtually a meaningless parallel between Jesus and Buddha considering the number of debunked parallel claims between the two made by Ms. Murdock.

He was called the “Savior of the World” and the “Light of the World.”

For once, there is truth to this. After Siddhārtha was born, a sage names Asita told his parents that if he renounced a life of luxury at the court he would indeed become the “savior of the world.” (Text Link) I cannot find a mention of Buddha being “the light of the world.” But even if it exists, it would not prove anyone did any copying.

After making these debunked claims, Ms. Murdock cites  Dr. Christian Lindtner to further prove her point that Jesus was copied from Buddhism. — Even though Dr. Lindtner is recognized in the field, he is also a noted “Jesus-Myther.” Many of the claims Ms. Murdock quotes him as saying have already been debunked such as the alleged “crucifixion” of Buddha and the “twelve disciples,” so I’m not going into too much detail. The fact that he is willing to make such easily refuted claims shows blatant dishonesty on his part.

Interestingly, he lists the “last supper” as a parallel between Jesus and Buddha. Though it is true that they had a “last supper,” the details of the two are completely different. Buddha simply ate his meal, got sick and died. — In Jesus’ case, the event was used to declare that he would be betrayed, killed and resurrected. This is way too different to assume that one account influenced the other.

He then repeats the claim that Buddha was resurrected but he leaves out the fact that if this were true then that would mean he never attained “Nirvana,” the  point of which was to prevent resurrection or reincarnation. But no dedicated Buddhist would accept this because this would mean that Buddha was not actually a Buddha. Considering that he is recognized in this field and that his claims are so easily disproved, I unfortunately have to question his honesty.

As I was researching for this blog post, I e-mailed Ms. Murdock’s claims of Jesus-Buddha parallels to several professors of Buddhism and I received a response from Eyal Aviv, Assistant Professor of the Department of Religion at George Washington University who said,

Generally, the claims made in the website you read are historically so problematic that I can simply say that they are not true [ . . . ] I would recommend you to be cautious with Web sources and rely on authoritative scholars or  religious writers from within the respective traditions you are interested in.

The truth is that even though there is what could be construed as evidence of Buddhist influence on Christianity, it is basically inconclusive. And just because there are certain similarities, this does not indicate beyond doubt that the similarities between them are a result of Buddhist influence on Christianity. (Text Link)

— So in conclusion, the claims that are made by Ms. Murdock (a.k.a., Acharya S) about parallels between Jesus and Buddha are mostly untrue. The claims that are true are so few in number and therefore can be assumed to be coincidence. Not to mention, in her list of parallels, she jumps to certain conclusions that lead her to misunderstand basic teachings of Buddhism. Considering the fact that Ms. Murdock claims to be an expert in comparative religion, this is pretty odd.


The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 6

After Zeitgeist, the movie makes several easily disputed claims (which I have refuted) about how similar pagan gods are to Jesus the film then goes on to list attributes to Jesus and then attempts to show that he is astrological. The point of listing them is to show further on that Jesus is no different than Horus, Dionysus or Mithras.

jesus

As attributes of Jesus, Zeitgeist lists that he was born of the virgin Mary on December 25 in Bethlehem which event was announced by a star in the east. He was then visited by three kings who adored him, was a teacher at twelve years of age, baptized at thirty years, traveled and performed miracles, was betrayed by Judas for 30 silver pieces, was crucified, placed in a tomb tor three days and then resurrected.

The film also mentions he was called “Alpha and Omega,” “King of Kings,” and the “Lamb of God.

A lot of what is listed here is true, but several of the assumptions made in the film are based on popular assumptions that have no basis in fact. The movie then also makes the claim that Jesus’ birth is astrological.

After showing the alleged “similarities” between Jesus and pagan mythological deities the film then poses a question: “Why these attributes? Why the virgin birth on December 25th? Why dead for three days and the inevitable resurrection? Why twelve disciples or followers?”

Several of these questions in previous posts have already been shown to be moot since there is no evidence found that any of them were born on December 25th, were dead for three days nor even had twelve disciples. However it is necessary to point out that a lot of what Zeitgeist, the Movie says depends heavily on Jesus being born on December 25th. — If it can be shown that he was not, then a good 50% of its claims are irrelevant, though I still plan on going into them. The truth is the Gospel of Luke indicates that Jesus was born during any season but winter (much less December 25). Luke 2:8 mentions that the same night he was born shepherds were out in the fields caring for their flocks. If this were winter they would have been sheltered away from the elements.

However, not taking this fact into account, the film claims,

The birth sequence is completely astrological. The star in the east is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which, on December 24th, aligns with the 3 brightest stars in Orion’s Belt. These 3 bright stars are called today what they were called in ancient times: The Three Kings. The Three Kings and the brightest star, Sirius, all point to the place of the sunrise on December 25th. This is why the Three Kings “follow” the star in the east, in order to locate the sunrise — the birth of the sun.

As I have just shown, Jesus was not born on December 25th, but there are details in this statement that have to be addressed. — It is true that Sirius is called the “star in the east” and that three stars in Orion’s belt are the “Three kings.” However it is not true that that’s what they were known as in ancient times. The earliest information available in which they are called the “Three Kings” is from the 17th century AD and is therefore about 1,700 years to late to be of any relevance. (Click here)

Even if they were known as such in ancient times it would still be irrelevant for two reasons: 1) They are called “magi,” not kings. And 2) Matthew (the Gospel that tells the story) never specifies their number. Also, it is untrue that Orion’s Belt and Sirius point to the sun’s travel route (Click here).

However it doesn’t stop here. Zeitgeist then claims that for three days when the sun reaches its lowest possible position in the sky it then stops moving or “at least perceivably so.” These three days are December 22, 23, and 24. Then on the 25th it apparently begins to rise again. Therefore it becomes the death of the “Sun” for three days and resurrection. The film then tries to tie this in withJesus’ death for three days and resurrection. However, there are problems with this: The earth always follows the elliptical orbit and therefore the sun doesn’t stop moving in the sky. (Click here)

Next, it claims,

During this three day pause, the sun resides in the vicinity of the Southern Cross, or Crux, constellation.

This claim which is to legitimize the Date of December 25th as Jesus’ day of birth is completely unfounded and its use of the southern cross to link it to Jesus’ death by placing the “Sun” in the vicinity of the constellation of the Southern Cross is factually inacurate. The fact of the matter is that the sun is in the vicinity of Saggitarius which has no significance at all to Christianity. For it to reside in the southern cross, our planet Earth would have to turn over by 40 degrees. (Click here)

There’s another fact that damages Zeitgeist’s case for linking the “Southern Cross” constellation (or the “Crux”) to the birth and death sequence of Jesus. Academics show  that the connection is impossible (click here),

Because it is not visible from most latitudes in the Northern hemisphere, Crux is a modern constellation and has no Greek or Roman myths associated with it. Crux was used by explorers of the southern hemisphere to point south since, unlike the north celestial pole, the south celestial pole is not marked by any bright star.

The “Southern Cross” constellation is a new discovery made in the 16th century AD and therefore cannot have anything to do with Jesus. — Zeitgeist gives the impression that the Southern Cross was well known in ancient times but that is known not to be the case.

Another claim the film makes is about the virgin Mary and the Constellation of Virgo,

The Virgin Mary is the constellation Virgo, also known as Virgo the Virgin. Virgo in Latin means virgin. The ancient glyph for Virgo is the altered “m”. This is why Mary along with other virgin mothers, such as Adonis’s mother Myrrha, or Buddha’s mother Maya begin with an M. Virgo is also referred to as the House of Bread, and the representation of Virgo is a virgin holding a sheaf of wheat. This House of Bread and its symbol of wheat represents August and September, the time of harvest. In turn, Bethlehem, in fact, literally translates to “house of bread”. Bethlehem is thus a reference to the constellation Virgo, a place in the sky, not on Earth.

It claims that Mary represents the constellation of Virgo because Virgo is Latin for virgin. It is true that Virgo means virgin, but it also means a maiden or a young girl. (Source) Also, it is far more likely that Virgo stands for Astraea, Zeus’ young virgin daughter who was chased away by the what she was offended by in the Bronze Age (Source) According to Greek Mythology, Zeus placed her among the stars and she became Virgo and, except for being a young virgin, has absolutely nothing in common with Mary.

The film here also indicates that Myrrha (Adonis’ mother) and Maya (Buddha’s mother) were virgins when their children were born and also ties them to Virgo. The problem is that this is not true. — Myrrha committed incest with her father and that her son was “conceived in sin.” (Text link) — Also as for Maya, she and her husband, King Suddhodhana, were married for twenty years when the soon-to-be Buddha was born so it is not likely for her to have been a virgin at his birth. (Source)

Also, the argument that the “M” like symbol for Virgo stands for Mary, Maya and Myrrha as virgins because their names start with M is moot because the film doesn’t take into account that Hebrew, Hindi and Greek do not use our Alphabet, though Greek is the closest.

Next, the film tries to tie Virgo to Bethlehem where Jesus was born saying that they both indicate “house of bread.” It is true that Bethlehem, in fact, does mean “house of bread,” (Bible Dictionary Vol. 8 Commentary Reference Series page 136) however there is no evidence that “Virgo” has any such meaning.

As for Jesus’ twelve disciples, Zeitgeist claims,

Now, probably the most obvious of all the astrological symbolism around Jesus regards the 12 disciples. They are simply the 12 constellations of the Zodiac, which Jesus, being the Sun, travels about with. In fact, the number 12 is replete throughout the Bible. This text has more to do with astrology than anything else.

The claim is that Jesus’ twelve disciples are the same at the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.  — All through the film Zeitgeist uses a play on words to connect Jesus to the Zodiac by saying that “‘Sun’ of God” is the same as “‘Son’ of God.” This is an attempt to show that Jesus is a solar deity (i.e., a Sun god.) Of course the hardest piece of evidence is this particular play on words which only works in English.

The trouble is that “SUN” and “SON” cannot be equated. In Hebrew “Son” is pronounced as ben and “sun” is shemesh. In Greek “son” is huios and “sun” is pronounced as helios. (Bible Dictionary Vol. 8 pgs. 1033-50) — Given that the two terms are only similar in English but not in the original Biblical languages, the most important piece of evidence that supposedly identifies Jesus as a Sun god and as the center of the Zodiac is superficial.

With these facts taken into account, it turns out that the number twelve is only a coincidence. The most likely reason why Jesus would have 12 disciples is because of the twelve tribes of Israel. — Also, as the film says, it is true that the number twelve is “replete throughout the Bible.” But so are many other numbers such as 3, 7, 30, and 40. There is no indication that 12 is any more sacred than the others.

Not satisfied with its distortions, the film mentions the cross and tries to link it to the Zodiac,

This is not a symbol of Christianity. It is a Pagan adaptation of the cross of the Zodiac. This is why Jesus in early occult art is always shown with his head on the cross, for Jesus is the Sun, the Sun of God, the Light of the World, the Risen Savior, who will “come again,” as it does every morning, the Glory of God who defends against the works of darkness, as he is “born again” every morning, and can be seen “coming in the clouds”, “up in Heaven”, with his “Crown of Thorns,” or, sun rays.

This claim is just as dependent on the falty assumption that “Sun = Son” as the last, so that detail needs no further refutation.

It is true that the cross is also a pagan symbol, but apparently what the film maker doesn’t know is that “all the historical examples of actual “Celtic Crosses” are from indisputably Christian contexts.” (Link) — Also, as pointed out by Steven Walker, a Celt,

Ironically, the Pagan Roots of the Celtic Cross is essentially a Christian legend in its development. It is only in the last quarter of the 20th century that the “Christians stole it” spin of the story has become widespread, promoted mainly by those who make no secret of their distrust of Christianity. But there is more irony yet. The negative version of the story is also spread by some Christians, who unaware of the Celtic Revival version, believe the Neo-Pagan version of the story as true and feel compelled to spread the alarm, lest their fellow Christians unwittingly offend God by use of a pagan symbol.

The film claims that because of the Zodiac, Jesus’ head in art depictions (like the one above) is on the cross with the sun in the back. — It is true that this circular shape was used by pagans before the Christians adopted it. For example, the Greeks used it to portray their gods (especially the Sun-god). After then, the Romans adopted it.

Besides the fact that this symbol of the Halo has nothing to do with the origins of Christianity, the first Christians found the symbol unattractive because of its pagan origins and therefore they did not use it. However they started to use it in art by the sixth century AD to depict, not just Jesus, but the virgin Mary and other saints. (After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity, pg. 297)

Not only is the adoption of the halo in the 6th century too late to bear any relevancy to Christianity, I cannot find any reference that ties it to the Zodiac. Also, the claim that Zeitgeist makes that Jesus’ crown of thorns is a representation of “sun rays” has no real basis and hangs on a very thin thread.

To make a long story short, the supposed “evidence” that Zeitgeist, the Movie gives to show that Jesus is a solar Sun god that is based on the Zodiac is either superficial or completely incorrect. Since his evidence of Jesus representing the Zodiac is based of the superficial coincidence that “sun” and “son” are pronounced the same in English (but not in the original Biblical languages) there is no reason to believe that his 12 disciples are to be equated to the 12 constellations.

The claim that that Jesus’ birth sequence is only astrological is based on falty claims that any investigation  can refute. Since Jesus was not born on December 25, a lot of the arguments presented in Zeigeist (which are dependent on that date) are worthless. — The attempts to tie the Virgin Mary to the constellation Virgo are also flimsy at best. The film maker shows a lot of ignorance of the facts, too much to make a movie that supposedly refutes the origins of Christianity.