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The Oldest Buddhist Manuscripts

Remember the Dead Sea Scrolls , the 2000 year old manuscripts that tell us that everything attributed to Jesus–and Christianity–is borrowed from an extremist Jewish sect that existed in the Qumran region of Palestine on the west shore of the Dead Sea. Now, some manuscripts which are called the Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism have been dated to between the first and fifth centuries A.D.

The majority of the manuscripts were found in Bamiyan in Afghanistan and were smuggled out to a collector.

It was in 1996 that the first group of manuscripts was discovered. The finders set off towards Pakistan, and after being chased by the Taliban in the Hindu Kush they managed to cross the Khyber Pass, eventually reaching Islamabad. There the manuscripts passed through dealers before being acquired by London specialist Sam Fogg, who sold the 108 fragments to Mr Schøyen. This was followed by further batches, which were considerably larger and usually included hundreds of folios and the occasional complete manuscript. Altogether around 15 separate consignments of Bamiyan material have been acquired by Mr Schøyen.[Buddhism’s “Dead Sea Scrolls” for sale to Norway]

The antiquity of the manuscripts make it an important link in the history of Buddhism.

“Buddhism was originally an oral tradition but little is known about how it developed from spoken word to written word, so the discovery and date confirmation will give us a unique insight into the development of Buddhist literature,” he said. The new manuscripts are therefore the missing link in the historical chain.[‘Dead Sea scrolls’ may be missing link in Buddhism]

One article in the line says

“The Senior collection dating is of particular importance as this result makes a major contribution to Indian chronology in showing that an early date of 78 AD for a key historical figure, the Kushan emperor Kanishka, is no longer tenable.” ‘Dead Sea scrolls’ may be missing link in Buddhism]

There is no explanation on how this conclusion was reached. After reading all this, I am confused as to why these manuscripts are called the equivalent of Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls challenge the origin of Christianity while so far we have not seen anything similar in the Buddhist documents. The only similarity between them is that both are old, which is nothing new in the field of archaeology. So why not just call it ancient Buddhist documents without any reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

One Response to The Oldest Buddhist Manuscripts

  1. indianchristian March 9, 2006 at 6:13 pm #

    First, this is no doubt an exciting discovery and I wish archaeologists could have examined and excavated the area of the find. This could also shed light on the influence of Buddhism in the Bactrian empire.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls do not have any books that shed information on the life of Jesus. The only books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls belong to the Old Testament which is an entirely Jewish corpus and the oldest book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls is the Book of Isaiah. The scrolls themselves pre-date Jesus by at least 80 years and are primarily used as information regarding the Essenes and life of the Jews during the Second Temple. The roots of Christianity have always been Judaic so I am not sure how the Dead Sea Scrolls “challenge(s)” the origin of Christianity.

    With this information the parallels to the newly discovered manuscripts in Buddhism can easily be identified.

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