A gracEmail subscriber writes, “My husband was witnessing to a co-worker today who said that the Buddhist Bible was written before any other Bible. He asked how anyone can convince a Buddhist to believe in anything else but their own Bible since it precedes all others. Can you offer any suggestion on how we can deal with this when trying to share Christ?”
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Your husband’s co-worker is a tad confused. Prince Siddhartha, the Indian philosopher and founder of Buddhism, lived in India from approximately 563-483 B.C., which made him a contemporary of the later prophets of the Old Testament. The prince is remembered by his followers as the Gautama Buddha. Gautama was his family name; “Buddha” is an honorific title meaning an “Enlightened One.” God gave the Law of Moses to Israel at Mount Sinai many centuries before Siddhartha was born. Scholars date the Exodus either about 1450 B.C. or about 1250 B.C. You might also explain to your friend that while various world religions have their “scriptures” or “sacred writings,” the “Bible” is the name of the Christian Scriptures.
God made his covenant with Abraham to bless the world through Abraham’s descendant some 2,000 years before Christ, or 1400 years before Siddhartha’s birth. Christianity is the fruit of God’s fulfillment of that promise to Abraham, since Jesus was Abraham’s descendant through whom God blesses the entire world (Acts 3:25-26; Gal. 3:16-19). Prince Siddhartha Gautama’s followers revere him as the Enlightened One but Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5).
New Age philosophies have incorporated certain Buddhist ideas into the popular culture today, but such philosophies cannot meet essential human needs. Siddhartha did not claim to forgive sins, for example, or to reconcile sinners to God, or to give eternal life. Instead, Buddhism denies a personal God and ignores the reality of sin. It teaches people to escape earthly suffering by “extinguishing” such appropriate human characteristics as sympathy and desire. I would point out that from a biblical perspective we need not deny or become detached from the emotional aspects of our humanness. Instead, God (in Christ) acknowledges the reality of these conditions, leads us directly through them (in Christ’s substitutionary and representative doing and dying), and finally gives his people eternal victory (over the negative aspects) and eternal fulfillment (of the positive ones). Buddhists and all other human beings need to know Jesus Christ, who alone gives fullness of life now and eternal life hereafter.