Dr. Christian Lindtner and
NEW TESTAMENT REVISIONISM
|The Revisionist Observer, published by Dr. H. Rhome, presents a glimpse into a fascinating but little-known field of revisionist history through the works of Christian Lindtner, Dr. Phil.|
A Report On The First International Seminar On New Testament Revisionism By A Group of Participants.
IntroductionWith the participation of Danish, German, Polish and Italian scholars of ancient Greek and/or Sanskrit, The First International Seminar on the recently discovered Buddhist sources of the New Testament Gospels was held at Hesbjerg Castle, near Odense, Denmark, on October 26-27, 2001.
The main purpose of the seminar - the first ever of its kind - was to present and discuss the newly discovered Buddhist Sanskrit sources of the celebrated Passion Narrative, as found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 26-28, with the parallel accounts in the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John.
Many professors of the New Testament were invited, but as a rule they declined the invitation , usually on the ground “that they did not know Sanskrit”.
BackgroundFor more than a century, i.e. ever since the Buddhist scriptures first became available in Europe in the 19th century,, scholars have discussed the possibility of the New Testament being to a smaller or lesser degree dependent upon Buddhist sources. Opinions have differed widely. Some scholars have been prepared to admit a large degree of Buddhist influence in the Gospels, others have denied any historical influence at all. Some have taken an intermediate stand.
In a recent book, The Bible and the Buddhists, the British Sanskritist and theologian, John Duncan M. Derrett (born 1922) has drawn attention to many parallels between the New Testament and Buddhist classics. Buddhist missions were long senior to the first Christian missionaries, who could learn techniques from the former. Entrepreneurs in the same line of business, working in the same fields, Derrett argues, they examined each other’s stock, and “put their heads together”.
Accordingly, Derrett points out eleven cases where the New Testament may have gained from Buddhist models. In almost twenty cases we may assume that Buddhists have adopted New Testament material. In many cases the literatures may have gained reciprocally, or it may be impossible to claim that either influenced the other.
Several other books published in recent decades, including E.R. Gruber and H. Kersten, The Original Jesus, Shaftesbury, Dorset 1995 and Zacharias Thundy, Buddha and Christ, Leiden 1993, also advance numerous arguments in support of the thesis that the New Testament has borrowed from Buddhist or other ancient Indian sources. The numerous parallels of ideas or motives “set up a case to be answered” as Derrett correctly observes (p. 17), and his book is the most recent - and the most serious and scholarly - attempt to answer it.
The first scholar to point out not mere parallels of ideas and motives but direct loans in terms of words and phrases was the Danish Sanskritist and Classical philologist, Christian Lindtner (born 1949). His comparative work on the Greek and Sanskrit sources was done on a much broader textual basis than attempted by any previous scholars, including the ones mentioned above.
Many years of careful textual study finally, in 1998, lead him to the conclusion that the New Testament Gospels were “artificial or funny translations done, by unknown authors, directly from the Sanskrit into Greek”.
His views were first presented to the public in the introduction to two volumes of Indian Buddhist texts translated into Danish directly from Sanskrit, Pâli, Tibetan and Chinese. These two volumes appeared in September 1998, and soon raised a storm of controversy in Denmark. No less than 23 Danish scholars demanded from the publisher, Spektrum of Copenhagen, that the two volumes be withdrawn from circulation, and burned. The international response to the books of Lindtner, however, was very positive and favourable. Several reviewers found the thesis of Lindtner highly interesting and probable, and even recommended that his books be translated into German and English. Since these reviewers included some of the most distinguished Sanskritists and Buddhologists in the world, the open opposition in Denmark, where none of Lindtner´s opponents knew Sanskrit, soon became silent.
On November 7th 1998, Lindtner, as a guest of the Indian government, presented his thesis about the New Testament Gospels as being “Judaized Buddhism” to a huge international audience in India. The thesis was, more precisely, announced in the form of the inaugural speech on “Future World Order”, at the Bauddha Mahotsav, in Sarnath - at the very place where the Buddha, long ago, had first delivered his celebrated Sermon of Benares- the so-called Dharmacakrapravartanam. His inaugural speech was published, in an expanded form, as an article with the title Buddhism in Relation to Science and World Religions. It was published by Ananda Buddha Vihara Trust, Buddhanagar, Tukaram Gate, North Lallaguda, Secunderabad - 500 017. A.P. India.
In Denmark, as said, the opposition to the novel thesis that the Gospels were “artificial and funny translations done directly from the Sanskrit into Greek”, met with violent opposition. Not one single counter-argument, however, was provided. Since none of the opponents knew Sanskrit, and therefore could not meet him on scholarly grounds or in an open debate, the opponents resorted to calumny. The Danish Council of Research which had for many years supported the Sanskrit studies of Lindtner, was forced to discontinue its financial support. Publishers were put under pressure so as not to print the books on the Buddhist sources of the New Testament prepared by Lindtner.
There was even an international pressure. Because of his revisionist views, Lindtner was, for instance, denied participation in The XIIth. Conference of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, held at Lausanne, August 23-28, 1999. A registered letter, dated February 1, 1999, read:
“Dr. Lindtner, Taking into account serious problems and reservations connected with your planned participation in the forthcoming congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (Aug. 23-28, 1999, Lausanne), the Congress Organizing Committee, with the support of the Board of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, has decided that your presence at the congress is unacceptable. Please note that you will not be allowed to register for this congress or participate in it in any way.”
The letter was signed by a certain Tom J.F. Tillemans, President of the Congress Organizing Committee, and Vice-dean of the Faculty of Letters, and by Oskar v. Hinüber, a German Professor, and General Secretary of the International Association of Buddhist Studies.
The latter subsequently confessed to a German colleague that he had been put under pressure to give his signature, and that Lindtner would have been arrested by Swiss police had he appeared at the conference. Many scholars learning about all this protested privately about the unprecedented decision. Copies of the letter were sent to various individuals, including Prof. Colette Caillat, Paris, President of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. She, too, accepted the exclusion of Lindtner without any protest. Lindtner, then, was not to be found among the two hundred scholars from various countries who read their papers at the Lausanne conference in August 1999. There were also attempts to exclude Lindtner from using public libraries, and he was, of course, excluded from presenting his discoveries in any of the Danish universities.
The conclusion, therefore, is clear: The public, who pays for such conferences, and for the running of the universities, cannot expect purely scientific interests to be served well by such unreliable bodies. In certain fields of research political, or religious correctness, counts much more than scientific or scholarly correctness.
Eventually, Lindtner´s work found supporters in and outside Denmark, men and women who cared and were concerned about the freedom of research and speech. Thus he could continue his research into the Sanskrit sources of the New Testament Gospels.
The Hesbjerg SeminarThe host of this seminar was the liberal theologian and the owner of Hesbjerg Castle near Odense, Jørgen Laursen Vig. As opposed to virtually all other Danish theologians and historians of religion who had been informed and invited to participate, Laursen Vig found no objections to comparative Christian-Buddhist studies on a historical and philological basis.
Thus it proved feasible, in spite of great odds, to assemble a body of Danish and other scholars most of whom knew Sanskrit and/or Greek.
The first presentation was by Professor Bangert, from Germany. He spoke about the translations of Buddhist texts into German by Karl Eugen Neumann, born in 1865. Neumann, who had studied with great scholars such as Weber, Oldenberg and Deussen, had, in the notes to his translations, pointed out many New Testament parallels to Buddhist texts. It was, however, not all that clear whether these parallels were valid. many seemed spurious. Nevertheless the work of Neumann should not be ignored, as more recent scholars have tended to do. Clearly, Neumann lacked some clearly articulated principles to guide him when comparing the parallels and deciding upon their historical relationship.
The main purpose of the seminar was, as said, simply to provide Lindtner with the opportunity to present to the public the Sanskrit sources of the Greek text of the Passion Narrative as found in the two final chapters of Matthew’s Gospel.
Lindtner pointed out how virtually each word and sentence found in the Greek text could be traced back to two independent texts belonging to the same corpus of Buddhist scripture, namely the Mûlasarvâstivinaya. One text provides the legend of Gautama, the eponymous progenitor of Gautama the Buddha. The other text is the Mahâparinirvânasûtra, first edited in Sanskrit, Pâli, Tibetan with a translation from the Chinese, by the late German scholar Ernst Waldschmidt.
It could then be shown how “Matthew” first had cut these two sources to little pieces and then pasted them together anew. In this way he had preserved nearly all the original words but created a new whole, a collage, a mosaic. The result therefore, was purely fictitious. “Matthew” displays a most artificial way of “translating” - a fact that has lead to much confusion. Sometimes he translated the sense of the words or sentences, sometimes he translated the sound of words and sentences, and sometimes he tried to combine the sound and sense of the original Sanskrit in the Greek. Nearly all the motives had been taken over from the two Sanskrit sources - e.g. the crucifixion and the Eucharist - but combined anew.
Lindtner also pointed out how the names of the four evangelists could be traced back to the original Sanskrit. For instance, the evangelist Mark is in Greek called Markos. The Sanskrit word is Kumâras, a name for the Buddha as a child. As can easily be seen, the consonants are the same in both languages, namely m-r-k-s. Each of these four consonants has a given numerical value, in this case 40+100+20+200. The numerical value, of course, remains the same, even if the original order of the individual consonants is changed. This rule is technically known as gematria, and gematria was extremely common in ancient Hebrew writings. Gematria also allows the use of anagramas, of course. And thus it can easily bee seen that San. Kumâras has the same value as Greek Markos, namely 360. Hence it is formally perfectly correct to “translate” Sanskrit Kumâras by Greek Markos. Such examples are extremely numerous, providing us with cumulative evidence to establish the direct historical relationship. For instance, the first disciple of the Buddha is called Putras. In Greek this person becomes the first disciple of “Jesus”, namely Petros. Here, as often, not only are the original consonants retained, but their original order is likewise retained. Nearly all personal names and names of places in the Gospels can be accounted for in this way. Many such examples were provided during Lindtner´s presentation.
As know, Hebrew writing only indicated the consonants. The reader must know the vowels by himself. Thus, for example, p-t-r can be read as Peter or as pater, depending on the reader himself. Playing anagram one may also read p-t-r as pirate. So, if only the same consonants as in Sanskrit were to be found in Greek, the “translation” was considered “faithful” to the original. Since each letter also has a specific numerical value, the evangelists also paid careful attention to the number of consonants and syllables of the original Sanskrit. This means that if a sentence in the original has e.g. 42 syllables, then the corresponding Greek also has 42 syllables.
Lindtner also called attention to a few hidden puns, i.e. cases where the Sanskrit has the same sound but not the same sense as a Hebrew word understood but not explicitly mentioned in the Greek text of the gospels. Such instances serve to illustrate the extremely artificial nature of the gospels.
Some of these numerical techniques are not quite unknown to traditional theologians. It must be recalled that since each letter also has a certain numerical value, a firm distinction between sounds and numbers cannot always be made. For instance, the Gospel of John 1:19-2:11 deals mainly with Christ. It has a size of exactly 1550 syllables. The Greek for the Christ is ho Khristos. The numerical value of ho Khristos, counting also the vowels, is 70+600+100+10+200+300+70+200 = 1550.Such examples of numerical literary techniques are so frequent that they cannot possibly be considered a matter of mere chance. They are deliberate, and their manifest presence proves beyond any doubt that the evangelists most carefully counted consonants and syllables.
The Buddha is often called Tathâgatas, or the (only) teacher. In Matthew 23:10, Jesus is called kathêgêtês, or the (only) teacher. The two words are thus not only synonyms, they have the same meaning; they are also homonyms, they have the same number of syllables and nearly the same consonants. In Matthew 26:28, the San. Tathâgatas, in the genitive case Tathâgatasya, suddenly is translated by Greek tês diathêkês, meaning “of the covenant”. Here the sound and the number of syllables is retained nicely, but the sense is violently distorted.
The full Sanskrit phrase says: Tathâgatasya kâyam, the body (kâyam)of the Buddha. This in Matthew becomes “the blood of the covenant”. Luke 22:20 has a different version of the same Sanskrit phrase, namely “The New Testament”, Greek hê kainê diathêkê. Here Greek kainê translates Sanskrit kâyam. Here, to be sure, one must know that m and n are both nasals and thus numerically equivalent. Also San. y is a semivowel having the same value as Greek i. Thus kâyam = kainê.
Thus the “real” or hidden meaning of “The New Testament” is “The body of the Buddha”.
Such “translations” surely strike us as funny or artificial. Perhaps we can hardly believe that the evangelists translated from the Sanskrit into Greek in this irresponsible and unserious fashion.
But the fact is that such funny and artificial translations were quite common not only among the ancient Jews but also among the Indian Buddhists. So seen in a historical perspective, the four Gospels have been “translated” according to the rules common in those days. Good parallels to this curious way of “translating” can still be found among the remaining fragments of the Greek version (Septuaginta) of the Hebrew Bible done by Aquila who lived during the reign of emperor Hadrian (117-138). Aquila aimed to be faitful to the syllables and the letters of the Hebrew even if the Greek translation became meaningless. For instance, making use of homophony, he rendered the Hebrew ´elôn, meaning “holm oak” by the Greek aulôn, meaning “hollow, ditch, gully”. Aquila´s “translation” was very much in favour with the rabbis! One must, in other words, know the original in order not to misunderstand the translation. (For more such examples, see N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context. Introduction to the Greek Versions of the Bible, Leiden 2000, pp. 115-118.)
Lindtner also pointed out that the strange procedure of combining different words and phrases from different sources was even to be seen in the way the gospels combined various Old Testament passages into a new whole. Later on, authors such as Tatian would combine passages from the gospels in the same way. A few words taken from e.g. Matthew would be combined with words taken from Luke etc. The result would be a “funny or artificial translation”, entirely fictitious in the literal sense of that term.
Nor does it come as a surprise that the Gospels are anonymous. We only know the first names of the authors. It is the same with the Buddhist scriptures.
At the seminar several participants expressed their curiosity about the motive for making such funny translations. And in what kind of historical milieu could such translations have originated?
For scholars familiar with Buddhist sources the answer to such questions is not difficult.
In Mahâyâna there is a very important concept called “skill in means” (upâya-kausalya). According to this principle the Buddhist missionary is allowed to avail himself of any means with the single purpose of “presenting the body of the Buddha” to even the most ignorant people - yes, even to animals and demons. From the point of view of Mahâyâna it is considered very meritorious to mention the word Tathâgata, or to make an image of Tathâgata. The idea is that common ignorant people will not be able to understand the philosophical principles of Buddhism. For them it is enough to have faith in Tathâgata. It is therefore, quite irrelevant whether the New Testament makes any sense at all. Paradoxes are welcome as long as one hears the word of Tathâgata. The important thing is that people believe, even in a purely fictitious Buddha or Bodhisattva - such as “Jesus”. Some of the Buddhist scriptures used by the evangelists claim that one can become liberated merely by mentioning the name or by “seeing” the body of one of the many purely fictitious Buddhas in which many Buddhists believe.
This fact not only accounts for the many puns on Buddhist names in the gospels but also, as said, for the very title: The New Testament - The Body of the Buddha (to those knowing the pun).
The celebrated idea of the secret of the Messiah could also be traced directly back to the Buddhist sources. This puzzle has remained a puzzle to theologians to this day - exactly as it was intended to.
History shows that the Buddhist missionaries were highly successful.
Thus the New Testament Gospels can be characterized as crypto- Buddhism, or, since its authors and audience were undoubtedly Jews, “Judaized Buddhism”.
ChallengesAt the seminar, where many other similar translations were presented and discussed, Lindtner came up with two challenges, one to theologians in general, and one to Christian priest in general.
The challenge to the theologians is that the Gospels, and other writings in the New Testament, cannot be properly understood without knowledge of the original Sanskrit sources. Theologians who ignore the Sanskrit sources, cannot be considered critical of their sources. They are, in other words, not real historians.
As for the Christian priests, at least the Lutheran ones, they have given the oath to preach the Gospels as they truly are without falsification of any kind. Since the Greek texts, taken at their face value, present a false, untrue and highly misleading picture of the original sense - as shown by some of the examples given above - this means, that the priests, if they want to be considered honest, must present the Gospels in the light of the Sanskrit originals. Modern translations, always based on the Greek, are, of course, even more unreliable than the Greek. Otherwise, if the ignore the Sanskrit, they break their oath.
The term “revisionism” may be taken to mean to revise the sources. In this sense, when speaking of the text of the New Testament, the time has come to revise the Greek in the light of the Sanskrit. No serious historian would base his views about past events on the basis of a highly misleading “artificial and funny translation” of the original. One would think that this goes without saying. And yet this is what theologians, priest and common Christians have been doing for about two millennia.
Lindtner concluded by saying that he had asked several theologians for one proof - just one proof - serving to demonstrate that the New Testament gospels must be considered serious scriptures. It is not enough merely to state that they are “the word of God”. A mere statement proves nothing. If it did, the opposite statement would also be true. But both statements cannot possibly be true at the same time - at least not without violating a fundamental principle of logic (the law of contradiction).
If nearly all the words, all the sentences, all the ideas found in the Passion Narrative can be traced back to Buddhists sources still available in the Sanskrit language, how, then, can one seriously claim that the gospels are “the word of God”!
To this day no theologian had been able to provided Lindtner with that proof.