barryevans wrote:Thanks everyone for your responses, much appreciated. I meant no offense asking the question—I think some responders may have thought I did.
I guess I thought I'd just have to google, "Historical Buddha" and the information would jump out at me! But even his birth-death dates, for instance, is all over the place. Kim says, “the Buddha lived c. 480 - 400 BCE according to recent (sound, historical) research.” (can you pls. reference, Kim?). On the other hand, “In Sri Lanka, 483 BC is accepted as the date of his nirvana while in Burma 544 BC is accepted. In Tibet it is believed to be 835 BC, while in China, 11th century BC is the accepted date. Buddha was an Indian and the Indian Puranic tradition believes that the nirvana took place in 1793 or 1807 BC.” (Bharateeya Historiography, http://www.hindubooks.org/hist_ssathe/b ... /page4.htm).
Kim writes, “You compare Buddhism to 'every other religion [you] know about' but I doubt that those include Taoism, Hinduism or Mithraism...Can you cite contemporary written evidence of their origin?” I think it’s pretty well accepted that at least some of the Vedas are Bronze Age, 1000 BCE at least (and we certainly have very old statuary). Mitra (one of the members of Zoroaster’s trinity) is mentioned 1400 BCE in the extant Mitanni treaty. Don’t know much about Taoism—Wikipedia sez, “Laozi received imperial recognition as a divinity in the mid second century B.C.E.”
I was hoping for something more concrete about historical Buddha. Any takers?
Returning after some time without checking this thread ... sorry ... I'll answer as well as I can.
The dates I gave are those I ended up with when I was looking into Buddhist history two or three years ago, and I don't appear to have kept details of my sources (more accurately, I suspect I've still got them but I can't find them at the moment ) but I did a quick google search and found a summary of the kind of research I was looking at.
If you download http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic138396.files/Buddha-Dates.pdf you'll have an overview plus references for as much further scholarly reading as you're likely to want.
For a rather sceptical contrarian view, go to http://www.umass.edu/wsp/lectures/buddha.html. I don't think his reasoning is particularly convincing, but do note that he doesn't for a moment doubt the existence of the historical Buddha and doesn't want to change the dates by more than a century (that's about 4% of the time since the Buddha was around - hardly a huge difference!).
BTW, you haven't cited dated contemporary documentary evidence for the other religions I mentioned.
I'm all in favour of knowing what is factual and what isn't, but I do acknowledge that there are real limits to accuracy and certainty in all our knowledge. At some point we have to say we do (or don't) accept that X is historical truth. The evidence for the historical Buddha is strong enough for me.