J. Duncan M. Derrett
The Bible and the Buddhists
From about 1870 to 1919 a violent controversy raged. It was vigorously claimed, and denied, that the four gospels had been compiled with the aid of traditions handed down from the Buddha Gotama. Since 1940 knowledge has increased on several fronts. Fruitful contacts between Greater India and Syria now seem less problematical. In 1995 it was asserted, once again, that Jesus was educated by Buddhists, so that parallels between gospels and sutras were only to be expected.
In this book are marshalled many parallels between the New Testament and Buddhist classics, whose ages are not so firmly settled as was once believed. Buddhist missions were long senior to the first Christian missionaries, who could learn technique from the former: to both groups presentation was as important as content. Christian accounts of the "story of Salvation" would, by coincidence, greatly delight partisans of the Mahåyåna school of Buddhism. Collaboration can have taken place, for often priority cannot be assigned to either side where similarities are striking.
Entrepreneurs in the same line of business, working in the same fields, they examined each other's stock, and "put their heads together". So phenomena which caused more heat than light a century ago remain of intellectual interest. We perceive how both sides took presentation seriously, leaving doctrine (so far as they were aware) untouched. The explanation offered in this book ought to serve for other parallels which can safely be brought to light hereafter. The topic throws light on ancient India as an intellectual coloniser, and on Hellenism as a fine arena for propagandists for a religion.
"The possibility of contact must be regarded as established; the probability remains a matter of individual judgment, which could hardly be better informed than by attending to Derrett's lively and judicious treatment of a complex, yet tantalizing, debate." Times Literary Supplement
J. DUNCAN M. DERRETT, doctor of laws and doctor of theology, taught Hindu Law in the University of London from 1949 to 1982 and has devoted himself to the New Testament since 1957. He wrote Law in the New Testament (1970), Studies in the New Testament, 6 vols. (1977-1995); Sermon on the Mount (1994); Two Masters (Jesus and the Buddha) (1995), and Law and Morality (1998). Readers of Bibbia e Oriente will be familiar with his work.
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