From an email I received recently:
Just out of curiosity, I did a quick web search on the historicity of the Buddha. Funny thing… Buddhists don’t really seem to be all that anxious about it. For them, it seems, the dharma is vastly more important than the person responsible for it. Possibly a subject for a blog entry?
One thing that truly bothers me about the accusation of hyperskepticism is the way the person making the accusation acts as if you might be hearing it for the very first time. It’s like the people who make the joke about God not making Adam and Steve. Seriously? And what’s really astounding is the way they’ll bring Julius Caesar into the fray. A guy who wrote books that we still have. A guy whose funeral mask is still extant (or at least a copy of it). A guy written about by contemporaneous historical figures. The fact that anyone would argue that Jesus has more historical cred than Gaius Julius Caesar proves that our schools have failed us.
I don’t know much about Buddhist history, but the first paragraph here reminds me of Albert Schweitzer’s call for Christianity to be grounded in a “metaphysic” that stands quite apart from the “historical Jesus”.
But so much Christian literature does stress the importance of history for Christianity. Interesting that mainstream Christianity has in the main been most opposed to Marxism, which also believes in history.
But the comparison with Buddhism is an interesting one. If Christianity really does need a correct “history” to survive as a religion, does that not make Christ’s kingdom something that is very much “of this world” after all?