Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Plagiarism In The New Testament- Preliminary Findings

There's a Buddhist parable that's something like The Prodigal Son. A young man leaves his father's house, larges it a bit, gets cleaned out and wants to go home. After that there's some divergence. In the Buddhist version he doesn't realise it's his father's house he's approaching and when his father sends to receive him he faints in terror. After that, his father, not wanting to scare him to death, employs him as a labourer and after twenty years disguises himself as a fellow labourer and goes to work beside him in the fields.  Gradually he reveals to his son the true state of affairs and the young man enters into his father's kingdom.  If Jesus stole this story, he improved it in the telling- making it snappier and more plausible. There is however, another problem with the charge of plagiarism. Buddha may have lived (if he lived at all) 500 years before Jesus, but the scripture in which the story appears- the Lotus Sutra- was written between 100 BC and 100AD. It could therefore be more recent than the Gospel of St. Luke- and the influence all the other way.

Then there's The Book of Enoch- a wearisomely repetitive apocalyptic text- featuring rebel angels, nephilim, visions of heaven and hell and some primitive cosmology. Christian interest centres on the appearance of a Messianic figure called the Son of Man. Is this where Jesus got his title from? Possibly. But, then again the portion of Enoch that deals with the Son of Man was written in the Christian era and some scholars- admittedly not the majority-  regard it as a Christian text. 

Finally,  the Pirkei Avot- the section of the Talmud that contains Hillel's version of the golden rule: it has many echoes of gospel language and gospel themes, but no other texts that directly parallel the words of Jesus. It's a collection of wise and witty sayings from the world of  the New Testament- but its atmosphere-  safe, conservative and beardy- is very different.  Again- though these rabbinic sayings may have been floating around in the oral tradition for ages- and probably were- they weren't actually written down until the 2nd century- which means our record of Jesus's version of the golden rule predates Hillel's. 

If the sayings of Jesus were plagiarised from other sources I've yet to find the evidence, but I'll keep on looking.
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