8 Differences Between The Buddha and Jesus.


1. The Meaningfulness of Their Existence.

In 1960 a theologian by the name of Paul Tillich visited Japan, and in conversation with some Buddhist scholars, he asked that: “If some historian should make it probable that a man of the name Gautama never lived, what would be the consequence for Buddhism?

These Buddhist scholars responded by saying that the question of the historicity of Gautama Buddha has never been an issue for Buddhism: “According to the doctrine of Buddhism, the dharma kaya [the body of truth] is eternal, and so it does not depend upon the historicity of Gautama” (1).

So, whether Gautama actually lived as a historical person, or if he never said and did what is recorded of him saying and doing, it does little to discredit Buddhism.

However, such is antithetical to the Christian religion. The historicity of Jesus is intrinsic to the Christian faith; without Jesus there is no Christianity. The apostle Paul in one of his epistles emphasized this. In his letter to the Corinthians he states that if Jesus was not raised from the dead then the Christian faith is futile and useless, and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:14–19). The very pinnacle, the very center point, of Christianity is Jesus’ atoning death on the cross for the salvation of mankind, and this of course means that Jesus had to be a historical figure that actually died on a cross, and was resurrected. Take Jesus out of the equation then the Christian faith goes with it.

2. Their Historicity.

The sources we have for the historical Jesus far surpasses that of what we have for Buddha in its earliness and abundance. To that end we can sketch a more reliable portrait of the Jesus of history. For Jesus we have numerous sources to go on, namely the biographical Gospels, the Pauline epistles, non-Pauline epistles, and the general epistles. That amounts to +- 12 authors who had authored some 27 books within 60 years of Jesus’ life. Our early apostolic church fathers as well as others further corroborate Jesus’ historicity and the events in his life independently, such being the likes of the historians Josephus Flavius and Cornelius Tacitus. Furthermore, the earliest New Testament writings were written about 50 or 51 AD (Pauline pestle’s) that only leaves a gap of 17 to 21 years from the time of Jesus’ death to the first writings. The latest book, Revelation, comes in at no later than 60 – 65 years of Jesus’ death. But what do we have for the Buddha?

For him we rely on information from sources far removed from his existence, and this is a reason why there is much uncertainty surrounding his life. The earliest Buddhist scriptures come to us around the end of the 1st century BC (Buddha lived either from 566–486 BC or 448–368 BC), and the Buddhacarita (The Acts of the Buddha which is an epic poem written by Aśvaghoṣa) was written around the 2nd century AD. Either way the earliest source comes 300 to 400 years after his life. Following the Buddhacarita we have the Lalitavistara Sūtra, Mahāvastu, and the Nidānakathā all of which come in 100 year increments. Other sources would include the Jātakas, the Mahapadana Sutta, and the Achariyabhuta Sutta, and they house accounts that may be earlier than the biographies, but which are still late and not exhaustive on giving us historical information on the Buddha.

From this we can be historically sure of what the earliest followers of Jesus thought of him as such a short time span between the real life events of Jesus’ ministry and the time at which the Pauline epistles and Gospel accounts were penned is just too short for unhistorical elements to embellish the historical core. On that note such cannot be said for the Buddha since centuries elapsed before our first written texts appear. Whereas miracles are heavily associated with Jesus in all levels of New Testament tradition and strata at the earliest times, such cannot be claimed for the Buddha.

3. Their Self-Concept.

Buddha insisted that he was not divine, and that his problem with life was suffering of people and even animals. He taught that in order to eliminate suffering from one’s life, one had to let go of desire, and in turn live a life of moderation and self control. Some time after one would reach a state of happiness and bliss (known as Nirvana) where you will no longer be reborn into a life of suffering.

Jesus, on the other hand, claimed to be equal with God (seen in his favourite self-designation of the “Son of Man” which was prophesied in Daniel 7 of the Old Testament, read my article for a slightly more detailed analysis of this title), and his mission was to come and save his people by getting them to repent of their sins, and to turn to God. A major aspect of his ministry was on the emphasis of evil. Jesus’ solution is to repent, love God and other humans, as well as to keep the Ten Commandments.

4. Their Concept God.

The Buddha rejected the existence of God, and said that that was irrelevant to the notion of suffering (2). According to one scholar of Buddhism if by “God” we mean a Creator God then:

“…the Buddha is an atheist and Buddhism in both its Theravada and Mahayana forms is atheistic. . . . In denying that the universe is a product of a Personal God, who creates it in time and plans a consummation at the end of time, Buddhism is a form of atheism” (3).

The Buddha made no claim to special inspiration or revelation from any divine source. On the other hand Jesus was a monotheist (he believed in one God), and accepted the Old Testament understanding as authoritative. He also claimed equal status with the one true God, and convinced many via his miracle working, his authority via his teachings, and most noticeably in his resurrection from the dead. To this end the Buddha and Jesus are quite different.

5. Their Miracles.

Jesus’ miracles are multiply and independently attested. They are also very early, and we find them in Q, L (special material for Luke), M (special material for Matthew), Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul. The “Signs Gospel” preceding John also contains several miracle narratives, and the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius affirmed that Jesus was known for his wonders. Jesus was known to be a miracle worker by followers, foes and the surrounding people in villages. As one prominent New Testament historian comments: “Whatever you think about the philosophical possibility of miracles of healing, it’s clear that Jesus was widely reputed to have done them” (4).

This leads me to suggest that on historical grounds (particularly due to their extreme earliness of reporting, and multiple attestation) that Jesus really was a miracle worker. The only possible negation is that Jesus was some fraud of immense genius to fool thousands of people, his critics, and his followers whom suffered and died for him. However, such a possibility of Jesus being a fraud can be dismissed, for the reasons above, and because he went to his gory, bloody, and excruciating painful death by crucifixion as a result of his self-proclamation and ministry. Jesus, with great historical certainty, really did perform wonders of healing and exorcisms. That is indisputable on historical grounds and is widely supported by modern scholarship. As Borg explains:

“Despite the difficulty which miracles pose for the modern mind, on historical grounds it is virtually indisputable that Jesus was a healer and exorcist” (5).

How does the Buddha fare with regards to miracles? The Buddha once responded to a request for miracles by saying, “I dislike, reject and despise them,” and then refused to comply with the request (6). When he was a baby anywhere he placed his feet a lotus flower blossomed (7). At another time he allegedly performed the twin miracle whereby he produced flames from the upper part of his body and streams of water from the lower part of his body. After this he took three giant steps and arrived in Tavatimsa. When he was there the Buddha preached the Abhidharma to his mother who had been reborn there as a Deva named Santussita. There are also other miracle accounts that are alleged to have happened such as his ability to multiply into a million and then return to normal, he could travel through space, he could make himself as big as a giant and then as small as an ant.

However, the miracle accounts surrounding the Buddha are late developments, hence probably unhistorical since our earliest Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon, comes 450 years after his life, and this time gap allows ample time for non-historical embellishments to mar the historical core. Some of the miracles ascribed to him seem obviously mythological such as his ability to shape shift to different sizes, walk through mountains, and use telepathy and divine seeing. These don’t seem historical, or on par as a meaningful act of God. They seem akin to the mythological embellishments found in the late Gnostic texts of Jesus making birds out of clay, cursing his playmates of whom subsequently die, and some parents he curses of whom then become blind.

Due to their earliness, abundance and multiple attestation the miracles of Jesus in the Gospel accounts surpass those ascribed to the Buddha.

6. Their Answer to the Human Predicament.

The Buddha taught one to eliminate suffering by getting rid of their desire, in other words one needed to suppress their desires. However, Jesus came into the world to allegedly bridge the chasm that sin caused between God and man. So, the Buddha taught a philosophy and the other came as our saviour (and brought a philosophy along). Ravi Zacharias, an Indian man who converted to Christianity when he was still young, compares the God of the Bible to the Buddha:

“It does not seem accidental that the night Gautama Buddha left his palace to pursue an answer to pain and suffering was the very night his wife was giving birth to their son. In his quest to eliminate suffering, he actually walked out and left his wife alone in the throes of her pain. Contrast this with the God of the Bible, who came into this world Himself in the person of His Son to suffer on the cross, to embrace pain and suffering for the sake of humanity. Buddha walked away from his son and from pain. In Christianity, God is part and parcel of the solution” (8).

According to Jesus the problem intrinsic to mankind is more significant than just the suppression of desires, as the Buddha taught. For Jesus it is sin that is at the center of the human predicament particularly because sin is the deliberate rejection of God’s righteous ways.

7. Salvation vs. Liberation.

According to the pedagogics of early Buddhism we are each responsible for attaining our own liberation, such is antithetical to the view of Jesus. According to Jesus we cannot save ourselves because of the divide that separates man from God. The Buddha pronounced the dharma, the true teaching, which results in liberation, but it is still up to the individual to grasp the truth to attain nirvana. As one scholar of Buddhism comments:

“If the Buddha is to be called a ‘saviour’ at all, it is only in the sense that he discovered and showed the Path to Liberation, Nirvana. But we must tread the Path ourselves” (9).

According to Jesus we are helpless and hopeless without his atoning death on the cross by the grace of God. Jesus was an exclusivist throughout our gospel sources, and especially in his claim,  as alleged in John’s gospel, to be the only way to God (14:6), and equal with God (10:30). According to the Bible only in Jesus can we find salvation.

8. A Matter of an Empty Tomb:

Both the Buddha and Jesus died, Buddha was cremated and Jesus was crucified. However, Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty, and this is affirmed by the majority of scholars: “In fact in a bibliographical survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection in English, French and German since 1975, the researcher Gary Habermas found that 75 percent of scholars accepted the historicity of the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb” (10).

For the Buddha there is no reliable, or early, historical record of him or any others apart from Jesus, being resurrected, or appearing, after their deaths. In Jesus’ case this is evidently well established within early Christianity, and was a historical fact to Jesus’ closest disciples. Even one atheist historian admits that: “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’s death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ” (11).

To this end the alleged resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from the Buddha, and puts the Christian faith in a different category from Buddhism and other Eastern religions.


1. Robert, W. 1961. “Tillich Encounters Japan” in Japanese Religions 2. p. 48–71.

2. Nyanaponika, T. 1996. Buddhism and the God-idea. Available.

3. Jayatilleke, K. 1974. The Message of the Buddha. p. 105.

4. Ehrman, B. 1999. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. p. 199.

5. Borg, M. 1987. Jesus, A New Vision. p. 61.

6. Walshe, M. 1995. The Long Discourses of the Buddha.

7. Buddhist Studies. 2008. The Life of the Buddha: The Birth of the Prince. Available.

8. Zacharias, R. 2014. Why Suffering? p. 131.

9. Walpola, R. 1959. What the Buddha Taught.

10. Craig, W. 2013. Accounting for the Empty Tomb. Available.

11. Ludemann, G. 1995. What Really Happened? p. 80.


17 responses to “8 Differences Between The Buddha and Jesus.

  1. One more, just for the sake of discussion….

    > Due to their earliness, abundance and multiple attestation the miracles of Jesus in the Gospel accounts surpass those ascribed to the Buddha.

    I take “earliness” refers to the earliest written descriptions of such act. So, all oral cultures describing events are in huge problem here, irrespective of the events they are describing!

    By “abundance” do you mean the number of miracles or number of testimony? I imagine it’s the second, so, how many exactly testify jesus miracles and how many testify the Buddha’s super natural acts?

    > So, the Buddha taught a philosophy and the other came as our saviour.

    Buddhists understand be free from suffering as the ultimate salvation. So that side-by-side comparison of presenting a philosophy (of what?) and presenting a salvation (from what?) is too vague to carry any meaning.

    > “It does not seem accidental that night […] (Zacharias, Ravi. ‘Why Suffering?’)

    Zacharias quote shows him moving away from Buddhism on the basis of biographical accounts of the Buddha — and accounts you yourself have argued against being factual, historically-wise. That’s not reasonable. Also, from the buddhology side, it’s generally accepted that much of the biographical accounts detailing the Buddha’s life (e.g. jakarta stories and other compositions), which are not present in the earliest volumes of the pali canon, are later compositions. So even buddhologists would not readily accept Zacharias descriptions of the Buddha’s life as authentic.

    > To this end the resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from the Buddha, and puts the Christian faith in a different category from Buddhism and other Eastern religions.

    How exactly?

    For the christians, coming to life again is not intrinsic to our nature, for buddhist it is. Jesus is said to be resurrected and Buddha is said to have attained final nirvana. From the buddhist perspective, that Jesus resurrected is unfortunate, not fortunate.

  2. Your research may right but who knows seeing is believing
    may be lord Jesus body was hidden by his follower because of the king
    in my point of view both are same
    send by the One who we call God

  3. In the end, They’re BOTH right. They both teach us to repent and carry your own cross. What comes around goes around, same as karma. They both want us to be at peace BUT it’s our OWN damn fault for sinning. How can a father show love to HIS son (s) if he doesn’t discipline us? Just because Jesus said I will save you from your sins, don’t mean let me do wrong Monday thru Saturday & repent on Sunday with Christ. That’s what we humans tend to do. Christ said to go ask for forgiveness to your brothers that YOU’VE sinned against before coming to my alter. Buddhism is not a religion, it’s a way of life. People, stop blaming and pointing fingers at others for YOUR choice of thinking….just saying

  4. Pingback: Jesus e Buda - semelhanças ou diferenças?·

  5. I wonder, could any fellow Christians reach Jesus or any Buddhists reach the Buddha physically, to have a direct conversation with them?
    If not, how could we actually verify the truthfulness of the Bible or the Pali Canon?
    These scriptures might be historically authentic (or not), but that doesn’t indicate the truthfulness of the teachings. The writers, Jesus or the Buddha might have made false claims, intentionally (to deceive the audience) or otherwise. There is just no prove.

    If we could in no way prove that 1) the words in the scriptures are directly quoted from the speakers (Jesus for NT; Buddha for Pali Canon) without any alterations and 2) the speakers were being 100% truthful,
    but we still choose to believe in them, it is based not on facts but faith. Faiths are totally personal, and there is no point proving to others the reliability of one’s faith (: . We can choose to believe anything, isn’t it?

    And here’s a note for the author: Actually, according to the scriptures, Buddha didn’t teach about suppression of desires, but rather, understand desires by observing them. Since desires are the causes of suffering, understanding them naturally bring about letting go of them and subsequently the cessation of suffering.
    Have you never experienced loosing your grip on something negative (e.g. sadness, hatred, worry) when you truly understand it?

    • The Pali canon is a perfect example of a “telephone game” while the origin of the Bible is completely scrutinized. Buddhism came from man’s perspective (so as Hinduism), ONLY Christianity came from eye witnesses accounts.

      This is the origin of the Biblical canon:
      Early church fathers such as Clement of Rome & Ignatius of Antioch quote several gospels and epistles in the 1st century (meaning that gospel and letters already existed), but the collection of the Biblical canon begin within the first 2 centuries because there were several books around houses considered inspired without been authorized, and possible heresies could arise such as Marcion of Sinope did, by which he form part of the first canon by considering inspired the “Gospel of Luke” and “ten Paul’s epistles”, Marcion didn’t want to take the other gospels and other global epistles (including Revelation) because Marcion was angry with Jews thinking that the God of the Old Testament was a revenge God and everything that had Jews influence needs to be discard. Then the early church and holy preachers step in and this scrutinizing process took 6 centuries.

      Since there were around about 50 books of all sorts to choose from (such as Apollo’s epistles, a different gospel of Matthew, Nativity of the Virgin Mary, Gospel of Thomas, Epistle of Barnabas, The Diageo Didache was part of the inspired books that didn’t make it into the Bible), it was so complicated that the pilgrimage begun and to find out which books were inspires and which ones wasn’t, they used 3 different tests in which they end up selecting the 27 books of the New Testament:

      *1. That they were directly from an apostle or an apostolic origin (eyewitness) or someone that knew an eyewitness.
      *2. That all the books have a theological consistency or same theological root.
      *3. That the books had ecclesiastic usage and that it has an authority by the church (that the book was used before as authentic by church fathers (meaning apostle’s disciples (2nd generation))).

      It was such a great scrutinized job by which the first councils only canonize 20 books in the first 4 centuries and 7 didn’t qualify yet (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Hebrews, Jude, James & Revelation), Revelation didn’t make it until the council of Toledo.

      The first 20 book are known as the protocanonical books of the New Testament and last 7 books are consider deuterocanonical books of the New Testament. The book of Revelation was a conflicted book to make it because it was hard to understand.

      The first 20 books already approved by the council of Hippo (393 A.D.) and their files were open to considering the rest of the books since the early church was fascinated by Revelation, by the book of James for the social work, Hebrew for the high priesthood of Christ. So the Hippo council take those as a possibility until the 3rd council of Carthage (397 A.D. (in Africa)) 6 more books were incorporated except Revelation until the 4th council of Carthage (419 A.D) finally made it (and the Alexandrian Canon (73 books) was officially accepted) but discomfort still existing, but those books still stumble until a more radical council, the 4th council of Toledo (633 A.D.) in Spain was presided by a great theologian Isidore of Seville, finally with him the canon was closed and the Alexandrian Canon was accepted, and they state that he who reject Revelation or James, will be considered anathema and will be excommunicated from the church. Then the Orthodox Church (Greek Church) approve it in the Quinisext Council ((Council of Trullo) 692 A.D.) approved the 27 books.

      The texts were so scrutinized that it went from Rome all the way from the Mediterranean Sea down to the Alexandria Egypt, all agreeing to an infinitesimal degree.

      That is why we have the Hebrew Canon (66 books) and the Alexandrian canon (73 books). That which some people call Catholic Bible (in reality is call Alexandrian canon) were apocryphal books from “Greek spoken Jews adding to the Tanakh after the council of Jamnia finish it, then conservative Hebrew spoken Jews reject them because they had a Greek influence. But those apocryphal books became the deuterocanonical book (second canon) of the Old Testament because they were really precious books that the deuterocanonical book such as the book Maccabees is consider by Jews not just historical but also a miracle because if Jews didn’t survive the time of Hanukkah, it wouldn’t be Christianity because Greeks were determined to exterminate the Jews and God rise Judas Maccabees and provoke an impressive rebellion, it was a clash between truth and Greek philosophical influence, so any Jews that doesn’t read Maccabees will not understand what is the Hanukkah and there is Spiritual richness among the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.

      Even Peter mention Paul’s letters in (2 Peter 3:16) as reliable. But the Bible is the most compelling collection of books from over 1500 years of textual scrutiny with over 5200 pieces of manuscripts, the Bible is not even close to being considered “corrupted”.

  6. Your understanding of Buddhism is limited to Buddha Gautama. There are three vehicles: Theravada (also called Hinayana), Mahayana and Vajrayana. Under Vajrayana teachings, there are many miracles performed by Vajrayana buddhists in the last 100 years. The most famous Vajrayana buddhist is Dalai Lama. Coincidentally, even though these three vehicles are stretched apart geographucally, they are not in conflict. Personally I believe in God and pray to God, a lot. Coincidentally, I have studied deeply into buddhism and experienced some miracles performed by Buddhist masters. So I repeat, your writing and understanding of buddhism is insufficient to make a thorough comparison.

  7. There is also a misconception that Buddha is just one person. Actually in Vajrayana text in The Lotus Sutra and Mahayana, the sutras mentions and names numerous Buddhas before this Eon. In fact, Buddha as in Prince Gautama is the 4th Buddha of this eon. Before this eon, there there countless of Buddhas in the previous eon. Hope this fact helps.

  8. Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (12-21-2017) – 1 Peter 4:12-16·

  9. Buddha can be understood only in the context of Vedism that was prevalent in his times. I am a Christian, deeply in love and honour Lord Jesus Christ. There is no comparison between Buddha and Christ. They both enrich us with their life and teachings.

  10. Definitely a worthwhile article, my favorite quote from it is “Whatever you think about the philosophical possibility of miracles of healing, it’s clear that Jesus was widely reputed to have done them”

    An important question is why did Christianity succeed?

    Its founder was killed only after 3 years of public ministry and itself was inside of devout community of several million Jews itself part of a greater Roman Empire of 60-100 million which had long established religions.

    For the first 300-400 years Christianity was at a severe disadvantage, followers being bullied, with many going the way of their founder, Jesus Christ, to their deaths. Yet by slow ascendancy, Christians and their ideals eventually ‘conquered” Rome; WITHOUT weapons.

    This PBS Frontline article discusses it was superior theology that did it.

    While it is entirely politically incorrect to suggest that one religion has doctrines that are superior than another, let us examine for a moment reincarnation, an important component Buddhism (since this article is about Buddhism though the following can apply to other reincarnation religions as well).

    Suppose for a moment we accept the claims of Buddhism, that reincarnation is TRUE.
    Also suppose we accept the claims of Jesus is TRUE, that if a person accepts him as their Savior, they will dwell eternally in Heaven with those others who have accepted the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

    According to Buddhism, one must continuously reincarnate lifetime after lifetime, trying to purify from bad karma from previous lifetimes and avoiding more bad karma in the present. And this, I understand, is to assume a person don’t get sidetracked during incarnations, forgetting in a lifetime what they are supposed to do in order to achieve Nirvana. And Nirvana itself is described as “a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self,” meaning among other things, one loses their personal identity.

    In exchange for devotion to him, Jesus offers eternal life at the end of THIS span, with full consciousness and identity. We need only to look to the Transfiguration where Jesus has his meeting with personages of ancient times, Elijah and Moses, to understand this. (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36)

    Why should one go through lifetime after lifetime trying to achieve Nirvana when what appears to be a far better alternative is available.. that can be given at the end of one’s CURRENT term?

  11. Well, the human predicament in Buddhism, is far more complicated than a “suppression of desire.” As a matter of fact, mere suppression would be considered useless in Buddhism. Most Westerners cannot dump their cultural baggage to the point that they can understand the Prajnaparamita and also apply it to their condition. Also it is a dubious claim that there is such concrete evidence for the existence of Jesus. I suppose it is easier to claim such evidence exists if we assume every religious source is objective and ignore confirmation bias. As for an historical Gautama? His remains have been verified by archaeologists. Nat Geo even did a watered down show on it for the masses. Other than that – why a “versus” paradigm? No true practitioner of either tradition would share in this spirit of competition and it honestly lowers the discourse to a sort of “my football team is better than yours” level.

  12. great article thank you. Im reading the book of giants now and it mentions Buddha as a disciple. Im wondering if this book was corrupted or just miss-translated.

  13. Both Buddha and Jesus we’re saints but human being all miracles in Bible and if any miracles by Buddha were seems to be unnatural against the law of nature thus look fakes

  14. Pingback: Jesus vs. Confucius: Historical Evidence Comparison (Part 2) | David Jetre·

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