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(wiki: transcription checking) How to avoid falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism / a very short transcript of a part of a Venerable Sujato’s Workshop

earlybuddhism
quote
sujato
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#41

The basic idea is, samsara based on karma, established in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad and Chandogya Upanishad.


#42

Or… the virgin birth idea could have been a wonderfully creative solution adopted by someone to explain a teenage /awkward pregnancy. Genius, turn a difficult social situation and ward off parental anger and start a fundamentalist movement all in one stroke!


#43

I read a long time ago (and thus cannot identify sources) that maiden was the socially sanctioned term for any woman of a certain age who had not been married and had not had children; and that over time, the use of the term became “virgin”, and confused. And eventually, a miracle which could be interpreted inline with prophesies.


#44

The greek septuagint translation of Isaiah reads that a “virgin” shall conceive, while the hebrew just says “young woman.” Matthew used the septuagint “virgin” reading to argue the virgin birth fulfilled Hebrew scriptures. However, Luke also records a virgin birth without mentioning the Isaiah prophecy, so it’s unlikely Isaiah was the only source for the idea.


#45

Interesting to see a discussion of the virgin birth on a Buddhist website! :slight_smile:

On early Christian sources, obviously these are far far less extensive than the Buddhist ones. However, I think the earliest written ones for Christianity would not be the gospels as such but rather the Pauline Epistles (particularly the seven that almost all scholars agree are authentic; there are three more that receive mixed opinions and another three that generally are not considered written by Paul). In terms of earliness, these would have been written from less than 20 years after Jesus’ death for the first to less than 25 years for the later ones. And in terms of Paul’s story, he would have converted to Christianity about 3 to 4 years after the crucifixion and spent time in Jerusalem, about 10 years after the event, meeting some of the main people involved (stayed 15 days with Peter and met James, brother of Jesus, who would lead the Jerusalem church for about its first 30 years; at a later trip to Jerusalem he met others like the apostle John). This is about as early as any source gets.

On the virgin birth, curiously, there’s no mention of it at all in the Pauline Epistles (there’s a mention about Jesus simply being born of a woman). The gospels were written several decades later. The gospels of John and Mark do not mention it either. Matthew and Luke do, but you’d have to wonder if they merely incorporated a tradition, including the whole Christmas story, that developed in later decades (possibly scripturally motivated).

Interestingly, most of the big ticket items of Christian doctrine are present in these seven epistles: the Holy Spirit, the human and divine nature of Jesus, his crucifixion, his raising after three days, various appearances afterwards to Peter, the twelve, a group of 500, baptism, forgiveness of sins, Eucharist, Jesus’ imminent return before that generation had passed away, which was a belief held by most very early Christians and something that obviously didn’t happen! Curiously, there’s also, I think, no mention of miracles or healings (though the resurrection is). IMO this basic creed was something probably formulated in the immediate years just after the event. Of course, it’s possible that a lot of Paul’s own ideas made their way into his own Epistles. However, I tend to think the main ideas he describes probably would not really have departed too much from what was circulating early on. Most of the disputes seemed to center on how to treat non-Jewish converts. James and the Jerusalem Church wanted them to take on all Jewish observances, Paul was at the other extreme, advocating jettisoning most of them, with Peter stuck somewhere in the middle. I reckon we are only getting one side of the story here.

I think the gospel of Mark and its abrupt ending was mentioned above. Many, though not all, consider it the oldest gospel. It has been speculated that perhaps the original ending in its codex was lost. At least two endings have been tagged on at various stages. However, I wouldn’t say that there’s no reference at all to the resurrection belief in the ending. The final verses that all versions share talk of Mary Magdalene and other female followers going to the tomb and discovering it empty and encountering a young man dressed in white saying:

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing"

It’s rather a sudden ending, but still fairly consistent with the picture painted by Paul. Generally, the standard four gospels and Acts are several decades further in time away than the Pauline Epistles. Some various agendas are apparent. For example, the whole Pontius Pilate hand-washing thing seems fairly implausible. It appears that Pontius Pilate (judging from other sources) was later recalled to Rome for excessive cruelty in a different province, something that took some doing given the ungentle nature of the Roman Empire! This benign hand-washing seems a bit out of character in that light, so a bit of adjusting of the narrative to make things a bit more Roman friendly (as many converts in that period would have been) seems more likely.

I suspect most of the other apocryphal gospels are even later again and somewhat less reliable. Some interesting name frequency analysis has been done on these documents, making use of painstaking research undertaken out by Jewish researcher Tal Ilan. She constructed a comprehensive compendium of name frequencies of the area for around that time (looking at sources like names inscribed on ossuaries). The frequency pattern of the most common names is something usually rather specific to a time and place. Name frequencies in the gospels closely match the name frequencies she uncovered for the purported time and place that they occurred. The apocryphal gospels have name frequencies that usually mostly depart a fair bit from these. IMO this probably indicates most of these are situated yet a bit further away from the source events, written by people less intimately familiar with the names and places of early first century Palestine.

Apologies for the digression (straying quite far from aims of the site). Have had an interest in such things in the past, and thought I’d throw in my two cents! :slight_smile: