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You Shall Know Them by Their Fruits…
Harry Potter: Sorcery and Fantasy

Jesus was a Buddhist, at this claim the left and Gnostics alike cheer. The thought that this carpenter from Nazareth was no one of authority. No, He is the meek mild Buddhist giving a gnostic message which plays nice all the other religions. There is one small issue – it’s a lie. This portrait they paint is not real. James Hanson may have concluded that the Jesus of history was really a Buddhist by reading into Jesus’ supposedly “lost years” as a lynch pin for his argument. Yet as we saw in Part 1 the Gospels do not know of these lost years. The portrait of Part 1 was strengthened in Part 2 where the texts were shown to be eyewitness encounters written just a brief time after the events. But Mr. Hanson has another bit of argumentation. He points out that the Buddhist emperor Ashoka sent out Buddhist missionaries to Egypt and Greece in 250 BC. 1Hanson, James M. “Was Jesus a Buddhist.” Buddhist-Christian Studies (University of Hawai’i Press), no. 25 (2005): 75-89, 76 He then argues that Buddhism would have been present in Israel at the time of Jesus. 2Hanson, James M. “Was Jesus a Buddhist.” Buddhist-Christian Studies (University of Hawai’i Press), no. 25 (2005): 75-89, 76-77 This would allow Jesus to come in contact and learn the system in His hometown – if it took root that is. If Buddhism existed in Israel at the time, maybe Mr. Hanson would have an argument. Simply put, it did not exist there. To answer this we will turn to several pieces of archeological evidences, which reveal a mindset of first century Israel and Judaism that is far from the inclusive mindset that would be needed for a foreign system like Buddhism to take root. We will here look at evidence from Sepphoris and inscriptions from the temple mount.

Before getting into the archeology we must first mention the truth in Mr. Hanson’s statement. The emperor Ashoka did send Buddhist missionaries to the ancient near east around 250 BC.3Robinson, Richard H., and Willard L. Johnson. The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1997, 66 This is not the issue. Sending missionaries to a region and the message they proclaim taking root are two different events. A Patriot fan may be at the AFC Championship game in Denver, but it does not follow that all of Denver will become Patriot fans because of it. Likewise, the issue is not whether Buddhism ever made it as far as Israel but rather, it have influence in the region? It did not.

In Parts 1 and 2, we cited evidence to show Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Nazareth was a small town of less than 500 people.4Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 13 The no-where-ville of its day. This would not be the intellectual epicenter of the region. That influence would reside in a major urban center. We don’t have to go far to find Sepphoris, which is only a few kilometers from Nazareth on a nearby major highway. The ideals of Sepphoris would trickle down and influence Nazareth. If the Buddhist theory has a shot it must be shown that Sepphoris was either thoroughly Buddhist or at the very least had a Buddhist population. This is where Hanson’s view runs into problems. The archeological evidence from Sepphoris does not speak of an inclusive, pluralistic society. It speaks of a society which is the opposite – an exclusive society that has nothing to do with anything un-Jewish. This is seen in the city’s dump. Note, archeology is like a layered cake only in rock; in order to determine the time period an archeologist looks at what layer of the cake the material is in.5Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 23 When they come to the pre 70 AD layer of this dump, what is not found holds significance. Pig bones are most notably absent, but a multiplicity of bones post 70 AD, which suggests a population observing Jewish law and practice.6Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 24 This may seem insignificant, but remember the Levitical code, pigs were an unclean animal. Pork chops and bacon are not on the Jewish menu. If a city was thoroughly Jewish, we should expect to find a lack of pig bones. Further there are no pagan temples, shrines, gymnasiums, and statues, which were common throughout the pluralist Roman world are not found here.7Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.26 There is no evidence of a population or a culture in this region that would willing bend to an outside idea. Think of the Amish in America. We have invented television, wireless internet, planes, etc. but go to an Amish community due to the cultural heritage and religion of the community they have none of these. The same is seen here in Sepphoris and the Galilean region. Different philosophies and arts are being created, but this little Galilean region is staunchly Jewish.

This point is strengthened by the pottery found throughout the region. There is a disproportionate amount of Jewish to Gentile pottery. While non-Jews purchased Jewish pottery, Jews would only purchase Jewish pottery due to purity issues.8Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 27 Once again this dates to pre 70 AD – before the Jews were expelled.9Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 28 The people in this region were thoroughly Jewish, they did not play patty cake with other ideas. Quite simply, “devout Jews were not advocates of multi-culturalism,”10Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 26 If the Galilean region held other views in contempt, then even if Buddhism had influence in Greece or Egypt it had no influence here, nor the rest of the Jewish world for that matter.

The Jewish temple shows that all of the Jewish world looked on all other religions with suspicion. It’s not just in this little “back woods” region that has very exclusive mentality, but in Jerusalem, the heart of first century Judaism, there is evidence for this mind set. An inscription found in Jerusalem around 1871 by C.S. Clermont-Ganneu reads as follows:

No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to thank for his ensuing death.11Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, 95

So emphatic were the Jews to the purity of the temple (the cornerstone of their religion) that any Gentile crossing the border would be put to death. The Romans even sanctioned Roman citizens to be subject to this penalty.12Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, 95 This was unheard of at the time that a Roman citizen would be subject to a subjugated people’s laws. This was how adamant the Jews were though. Anything non-Jewish was treated with contempt and disgust. This extreme mindset then would not allow any compromise to a heathen system.

Where does all this leave Buddhism? Yes, there were missionaries, but clearly there would be no Jew in Israel who would listen. Their entire mindset was Jewish – there was no compromise. Even Jesus in the Gospel indicated He was there to fulfill the Law and that the Law would not pass away. There wouldn’t have been mixing. The Buddhists were sent around 250 B.C. If the thought had taken root the Jews (having returned to Israel approximately 200 years prior) would have known the thought. But this philosophy would have been placed in a Gentile camp and avoided by the Jews. The inclusive, open minded thinking to mesh systems simply was not there for the Jews. If Jesus had spouted Buddhism the Jewish elites would have been able to spot it and isolate Him, but that is not the story. Jesus’ doctrine stirred controversy, yes, but not in the way of Buddhism. To this we shall turn next.Ω

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You Shall Know Them by Their Fruits…
Harry Potter: Sorcery and Fantasy

End Notes   [ + ]

1. Hanson, James M. “Was Jesus a Buddhist.” Buddhist-Christian Studies (University of Hawai’i Press), no. 25 (2005): 75-89, 76
2. Hanson, James M. “Was Jesus a Buddhist.” Buddhist-Christian Studies (University of Hawai’i Press), no. 25 (2005): 75-89, 76-77
3. Robinson, Richard H., and Willard L. Johnson. The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1997, 66
4. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 13
5. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 23
6. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 24
7. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.26
8. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 27
9. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 28
10. Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 26
11, 12. Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, 95