Mosaic of early missionary to the East St. Francis Xavier
The history of Buddhism goes back to what is now Lumbini, Nepal almost six centuries before Christianity, making it one of the oldest religions still practiced.
The origins of Christianity go back to Roman Judea in early first century. The four Christian gospels date from around 70-90 AD, the Pauline Epistles having been written before them around 50-60 AD. By early second century, post apostolic Christian theology had taken shape, in the works of authors such as Irenaeus Although Christianity is seen as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy regarding the "Messiah" which dates back much further.
In the 1930s, authors such as Will Durant, suggested that representatives of Emperor Ashoka who traveled to Syria, Egypt and Greece, may have helped prepare the ground for Christian teaching. Modern scholars generally hold that there is no evidence of any such influence, and most modern scholarly works do not support these suggestions. Some historians such as Jerry H. Bentley however suggest that there is a possibility that Buddhism influenced the early development of Christianity".
In the Middle Ages there was no trace of Buddhism in the west. In the 13th century, international travelers, such as Giovanni de Piano Carpini and William of Ruysbroeck, sent back reports of Buddhism to the west and noted some similarities with Nestorian Christian communities. When European Christians made more direct contact with Buddhism in the early 16th century, Catholic missionaries such as St. Francis Xavier) also sent back accounts of Buddhist practices.
With the arrival of Sanskrit studies in European universities in the late 18th century, and the subsequent availability of Buddhist texts, a discussion began of a proper encounter with Buddhism. In time, Buddhism gathered followers and at the end of the 19th century the first Westerners (e.g. Sir Edwin Arnold and Henry Olcott) converted to Buddhism, and in the beginning of the 20th century the first westerners (e.g. Ananda Metteyya and Nyanatiloka) entered the Buddhist monastic life.
Similarities and differences
Main article: Comparison of Buddhism and Christianity
In the 19th century, some scholars began to perceive similarities between Buddhist and Christian practices, e.g. in 1878 T.W. Rhys Davids wrote that the earliest missionaries to Tibet observed that similarities have been seen since the first known contact. In 1880 Ernest De Bunsen made similar observations in that with the exception of the death of Jesus on the cross, and of the Christian doctrine of atonement, the most ancient Buddhist records had similarities with the Christian traditions.
Late in the 20th century, historian Jerry H. Bentley also wrote of similarities and stated that it is possible "that Buddhism influenced the early development of Christianity" and suggested "attention to many parallels concerning the births, lives, doctrines, and deaths of the Buddha and Jesus". Some high level Buddhists have drawn analogies between Jesus and Buddhism, e.g. in 2001 the Dalai Lama stated that "Jesus Christ also lived previous lives," and added that "So, you see, he reached a high state, either as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened person, through Buddhist practice or something like that".
See also: God in Buddhism and God in Christianity
God the Father on a throne, Westphalia, Germany, late 15th century.
There are inherent and fundamental differences between Buddhism and Christianity, one significant element being that while Christianity is at its core monotheistic and relies on a God as a Creator, Buddhism is generally non-theistic and rejects the notion of a Creator God which provides divine values for the world.
The Nicene Creed, the most widely used Christian creed,