I find it intriguing that the thesis putting forth much of Christianity as having been borrowed from Buddhism is so popular that it merits its own entry in Wikipedia. And all these years, I’ve been (erroneously) told that I am the only person in history who takes these purported parallels seriously! Indeed, so vehement has been the opposition to such a notion that it has been consistently (also erroneously) denied that there even are any parallels.
Naturally, having studied the subject in depth for many years, I was always well aware that there certainly are parallels and that they have been noticed by many people over the past several centuries, into the modern era with a number of respectable and respected scholars from a variety of pertinent disciplines.
As the Wiki article says:
There is speculation concerning a possible connection between both the Buddha and the Christ, and between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism originated in India about 500 years before the Apostolic Age and the origins of Christianity. Scholars have explored connections between Buddhism and Christianity. Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University, analyzes similarities between some Early Christian texts and Buddhism. Describing teachings in the non-canonical Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Pagels says, “Some of it looks like Buddhism, and may have in fact been influenced by a well-established Buddhist tradition at the time that these texts were first written.”
Albert Joseph Edmunds believed the Gospel of John to contain Buddhist concepts and others have compared the infancy account of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke to that of the Buddha in the later Lalitavistara Sutra… During the life of Jesus Christ and the period in which texts like the Gospel of Thomas were composed, Buddhist missionaries lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Historians believe that in the fourth century, Christian monasticism developed in Egypt, and it emerged with a corresponding structure comparable to the Buddhist monasticism of its time and place….
Queen Maya came to bear the Buddha after receiving a prophetic dream in which she saw the descent of the Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be) from the Tuṣita heaven into her womb, in the shape of a small white elephant. This story has some parallels with the story of Jesus being conceived in connection with the visitation of the Holy Spirit to the Virgin Mary.
The classical scene of the Virgin Mary being supported by two attendants at her side, may have been influenced by earlier iconography, such as the rather similar Buddhist theme of Queen Maya giving birth.
The iconography of Mary breastfeeding the child Jesus, unknown in the West until the 5-6th century (probable date of a frieze excavated in Saqqara), has also been connected to the much more ancient iconography of the goddess Hariti, also breastfeeding her child, and wearing Hellenistic clothes in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara….
There are several scholars in Europe who have written and/or spoken about this subject, including Dr. Burkhard Scherer, a “classical Philologist, Indologist and Lecturer in Religious Studies (Buddhist and Hindu Studies)” at Canterbury Christ Church University. As Dr. Scherer demonstrates, the fact that there is “massive” Buddhist influence in the gospels has long been well known among the elite scholars. Says he:
…it is very important to draw attention on the fact that there is (massive) Buddhist influence in the Gospels….
Since more than hundred years Buddhist influence in the Gospels has been known and acknowledged by scholars from both sides. Just recently, Duncan M. Derrett published his excellent The Bible and the Buddhist (Sardini, Bornato [Italy] 2001). With M. Derrett, I am convinced that there are many Buddhist narratives in the Gospels.