Similarities to Solomon’s Proverbs

 

[Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen of
Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?]

There are many examples of the words of Buddha (and of Christ) echoing the writings of Solomon. Often, the similarities are so striking that one can only wonder whether Solomon’s influence was direct. Here are two such examples:

Love Your Enemies

Solomon (950 B.C.)

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”[i]

Buddha (525 B.C.)

“For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.”[ii]

“Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!”[iii]

Christ (A.D. 30)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.”[iv]

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”[v]

 

Note that Buddha’s first proverb above ends with the words, “This is an old rule.”  This is direct evidence that at least one of the proverbs in the Dhammapada came from an earlier source than Buddha himself.

Solomon’s proverb may have had its roots in these words of Moses, who in this verse is recording a portion of the commandments to the Israelites as given to him by God:

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.[vi]

The natural tendency of people to distrust and even to hate people of a different race or culture is very common. Why should you feed your enemy if he is hungry, and give him water if he is thirsty?  Isn’t it to melt your enemy’s animosity, so that he will be persuaded to be kind and caring?  Buddha’s teachings closely parallel Solomon’s proverb, and his exhortation to love echoes Moses’ teaching.

Jesus expanded on Solomon’s proverb.  He starts with doing good, and then adds spiritual ways of loving your enemy—by blessing them and praying for them. In Jesus’ second quotation above, additional examples are provided.

Care for Your Companions

The concept of caring for others as one would within a close-knit family was expressed by Solomon centuries before Buddha.

Solomon (950 B.C.)

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”[vii]

“. . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”[viii]

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later, I’ll give it tomorrow’—when you now have it with you.”[ix]

Buddha (525 B.C.)

“If you do not tend to one another then who is there to tend to you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick.”[x]

Christ (A.D. 30)

“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”[xi]

 

Buddha’s wisdom and Jesus’ teaching echo Solomon’s emphasis on caring for one another. Buddha equates tending to the sick and suffering with tending to him personally. In the following explanation of what will happen at the last judgment, Jesus made the same comparison much more clearly:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”[xii]

The unitalicized passages above directly mirror Buddha’s teaching, and the meaning is reinforced by the entire passage.

Buddha’s and Jesus’ words above are much more similar to one another than they are to Solomon’s proverbs. At first this might be taken as evidence that Buddha influenced Jesus. However, it should be remembered that Solomon was the wealthiest and most powerful king of his time, so the notion of someone caring for him out of compassion for his needy state would have been ludicrous. On the other hand, both Buddha and Jesus were very poor, and doing something to care for them personally would have been a very natural thing to do.


[i] Proverbs 25:21 (NKJV).

[ii] Dhammapada 5.

[iii] Ibid., 223.

[iv] Luke 6:27b–28 (NKJV).

[v] Matthew 5:38–42 (NIV).

[vi] Leviticus 19:34 (NKJV).

[vii] Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 (NASB).

[viii] Proverbs 18:24b (NASB).

[ix] Proverbs 3:27–28 (NIV).

[x] Buddha, Vinaya, Mahavagga 8.26.3, in Borg, Jesus and Buddha, 21.

[xi] Matthew 25:40b (NASB).

[xii] Matthew 25:31–40 (NIV) (emphasis added).

Common Roots in Judaism?

Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?

[Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen of
Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?]

Some have asserted that similarities between the ethical teachings of Buddha and Jesus provide evidence that Jesus may have traveled to India.[i] The argument usually points out that the Bible makes no reference to events in Jesus’ life when he was between the ages of twelve and thirty, providing ample time for these travels to have taken place. What makes this possibility unlikely is that Jesus was the son of a poor Jewish carpenter. It is doubtful that he could have afforded the 2,500 mile trip to India.

In this book, we set forth an alternative explanation: Buddha and Jesus were both significantly influenced by Judaism, in general, and the proverbs of Solomon, in particular.

Buddha/Jesus Similarities to the Books of Moses

The five books of Moses (the Torah) were first written around 1380 B.C., more than nine hundred years before Buddha lived and taught. In light of that fact, it is not unreasonable to suppose, when one of Buddha’s key teachings is virtually the same as a key verse of Moses’, that Buddha could have been echoing Moses’ words. This likely was also the case with Jesus. The following provides a key example.

Love Your Neighbor

Moses (1300 B.C.)

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”[ii]

Buddha (525 B.C.)

“Consider others as yourself.”[iii]

Christ (A.D. 30)

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[iv]

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”[v]

Given the close similarities of these sayings, would it be more reasonable to presume that Jesus was quoting Buddha or that he was quoting Moses? Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who often quoted Moses and other Old Testament authors. The Torah was very widely known in Israel for almost 1,400 years before Jesus quoted it. So, Jesus was probably quoting Moses.

Love Strangers

Let’s look at another example. In the same chapter of Leviticus in which Moses exhorted his people to love their neighbors as themselves, he urged them to also love strangers from other cultures and peoples.  Jesus taught that God loved men and women from every culture so much that God sent him to make salvation available to all people.  In this, we again see the inclusion of every manner of stranger within the scope of God’s love.  It is much more natural to assume that Jesus inherited this “love strangers” principle from Moses than that he traveled to India and picked it up from Buddhism.

Moses (1300 B.C.)

“The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” [vi]

Buddha (525 B.C.)

“Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world.” [vii]

Christ (A.D. 30)

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”[viii],

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” [ix]

Buddha’s exhortation to love people everywhere reiterates the same theme that was sounded by Moses nine hundred years earlier.

Buddha’s example of caring for anyone anywhere as a mother would her only child is echoed in Jesus’ exhortation to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. It differs in that Jesus’ exhortation is tighter in scope; however, this scope is widened to the whole world in the second quotation from Jesus.


[i] Swami Abhedananda, Journey into Kashmir and Tibet (the English translation of Kashmiri 0 Tibbate) (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vivekananda Math, 1987).

[ii] Leviticus 19:18b (NIV).

[iii] Dhammapada 10:1, in Marcus Borg, ed., with coeditor Ray Riegert and an Introduction by Jack Kornfield, Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 1997), 15.

[iv] Mark 12:31b (NKJV).

[v] Luke 6:31 (NIV).

[vi] Leviticus 19:34 (NKJV).

[vii] Buddha, Sutta Nipata 149–150, in Borg, Jesus and Buddha, 25.

[viii] John 15:12–13 (NKJV).

[ix] John 3:16 (NKJV).

R. E. (“Ed”) Sherman’s Newest Book, Now Available!

Wisdom 365Wisdom 365: Daily Buddha and Daily Solomon
 

Need encouragement? Guidance? Insight? Inspiration? Motivation? Wise advice on how to live? How to find happiness? How to handle stress? How to relate to others? Advice on relationships? Coping when bad things happen? How to make a difference? Where can you turn?

Why not take advice from two of the wisest men in history, the Buddha and Solomon? This ground-breaking book provides a topically arranged collection of their terse, penetrating insights, presented side-by-side. 365 daily readings. Soak in their proverbs. Take a few minutes each day and you will embark on a life-changing journey.

Though they lived 400 years and 3,000 miles apart in two very different cultures, the Buddha and Solomon often spoke with nearly the same voice. Each reinforced and complemented what the other said. These sayings are like diamonds that sparkle in revealing ways when viewed from different angles.

There are basically four different civilizations that coexist on Planet Earth: Judaism/Christianity, Islam, secularism and Eastern religions (Hinduism & Buddhism). The need for better understanding and communication between these civilizations has never been greater. Wisdom 365 provides a solid link between two of them in a way that has never been done before and to an extent that few if any have envisioned. Followers of Eastern religion believe that their truths come from deep within, through meditation and exclusion of outside voices. Followers of Western religions and Islam believe that their truths come from above (God) through revelation.

What Wisdom 365 does is to simply lead you through ALL of the Buddha’s proverbs in short daily readings, while also connecting you with proverbs of Solomon that COVER THE SAME GROUND. The result is an unexpected linking of Eastern and Western truths. Take just 2-3 minutes a day to tap into and be inspired by daily insights from two of the wisest men who have ever lived. You will grow wiser and more able to navigate life and avoid its pitfalls.

The Buddha’s 423 proverbs appear together in the book, Dhammapada, published around 252 BCE, about 230 years after his death. We thought about producing a book of 365 daily readings where a similar (or contrasting) proverb of Solomon would appear side-by-side with each proverb of the Buddha. We wondered what would happen to the 423 if we grouped each pairing of the Buddha’s proverbs that were direct contrasts were shown together, and this brought the number of pages down to about 365. Such a pairing might look like this:

If you are a specific type of positive person, certain kinds of good things will happen to you. But if you are the opposite type of person, these (corresponding) bad things will happen to you.

After finishing the book, we were astonished to find that we had found a proverb of Solomon (or, in a few instances, one of his contemporaries) similar to each proverb of the Buddha, for 100% of the Buddha’s proverbs. This was far beyond what we originally thought would be the case.

In comparing the two collections of proverbs, it was strikingly obvious that the biggest difference was that the Buddha was silent about several topics that were prominent subject areas among Solomon’s approximately 1,300 proverbs. Those topics were highly predictable: God, family, women, children, government and commerce. At age 29, prince Buddha left his palace, wife and children to pursue a life of solitary meditation, self-denial, poverty and itinerant teaching.

Get started today discovering illuminating wisdom and practical advice for your life: Wisdom 365.

Was Buddha Influenced by Solomon?

Buddhism is an Eastern religion that resonates with many Westerners. Why is that? Is it possible that it came about as a blending of an Eastern and a Western religion (i.e., Jainism, a protest movement against Hinduism, and Judaism)? There is much to suggest this.

Most of Buddha’s numerous proverbs are quite similar to those of Solomon, who lived 400 years earlier. In fact, every key part of the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Noble Path and Five Moral Precepts of Buddha were expressed somewhere in Solomon’s writings or in the Ten Commandments. Furthermore, most of the emphases that Buddhists are noted for were also important facets of Solomon’s beliefs and practices. These include peace, tolerance, viewing this world as an illusion and a place of suffering, meditation, overcoming ignorance with wisdom, enlightenment, monks (priests) and secular ethics. It may not be a coincidence that a high percentage of Western Buddhist leaders have a Jewish background.

That is not to say that there aren’t major differences. However, most of them are due to two things. First, Solomon was a Jew and Buddha was raised in Hindu India. Second, Solomon held onto his wealth and power, while Buddha renounced it.

What is also curious is that Solomon’s proverbs are more comprehensive in subject matter than Buddha’s. The areas where there are absences in Buddha’s proverbs are predictable, based on his life. There is a dearth of proverbs relating to government, women, marriage and family in Buddha’s collection of sayings, whereas Solomon devotes many proverbs to these topics.

Consider the following chronology:

  • Solomon died in 931 BC.
  • Buddha was born in 563 BC.
  • The first colony of Jews settled inIndiain 562 BC.
  • Buddha became enlightened in 528 BC.

So, Buddha’s enlightenment took place over 400 years after Solomon died. The Old Testament tells us that “the whole world sought audience with Solomon,”[1] and that “world” most likely included India. The Jews had a documented practice of copying their sacred writings on parchment for at least 100 years before they were driven from their homeland by the conquering Babylonians (in 583 BC). They wandered through the harsh lands of Persia and Afghanistan for 20 years before coming to the lush land of India, where there was great interest in any religious ideas that differed from Hinduism. It is quite plausible that two of those receptive ears were Gautama Buddha’s.

Perhaps Buddha’s enlightenment came when he realized that by blending Solomon’s ethics with a moderated form of the asceticism of the Jains, he would have a “Middle Way” that would provide a constructive alternative to the anti-Hindu views of the Jains. That alone would have been a major accomplishment. But then he spent the last 45 years of his life refining and proclaiming his teachings.

Even if there is no substance to the Solomon-Buddha link, looking at Buddhism through this lens can help people with a Judeo-Christian background to grasp many aspects of Buddhism. Facilitating cross-cultural understanding is a worthwhile objective.


[1] I Kings10:24 (NIV).