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Using a Lie for the Truth?
By Scott Noble
This paper brings out a few reasons why Christians should not use the
Buddha's "prophecy" about Metteyya. People who use this "prophecy" say
Metteyya is Jesus Christ, based on a text found in Northern Thailand and
some texts found elsewhere. I hope to show that in spite of an "academic"
stamp of approval for this method by John R. Davis, this method should
definitely be tossed out of the faithful Christian's arsenal of evangelistic
I. Both the form and the content betray this "prophecy".
1. The "form" is that of the old Thai language. If we are to believe
prophecy really came from the Buddha, to be anywhere near ancient enough, it
should be written in either Pali or Sanskrit, not old Thai. This situation
is like someone coming up with another "gospel" of Jesus Christ written not
in Greek, but in old English. How much credibility would that have?
2. The "content" of this "prophecy" with it's emphasis on grace rather
works is also in contradiction to the Pali Canon, which itself was written
down several hundred years after the Buddha, but still did not contain this
teaching of salvation by "grace." In fact, the well known Thai Buddhist
scholar P.A. Payutto has said, "No matter where Buddhism spreads to, or how
distorted the teaching becomes, this emphasis on human endeavor never
varies. If this one principle is missing, we can confidently say that it is
no longer Buddhism." If the Buddha really did make such a prophecy and
really was as a John the Baptist (pointing people to Jesus), why weren't all
of India and Asia (or at least a significant number) converted, at the first
proclamation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified? The fact stands that the
Buddha's teaching is diametrically opposed to the ways of Jesus Christ, and
this "prophecy" is nothing but a very late fabrication by someone.
II. Who is "Metteyya"?
The only prophecy of Metteyya that is in the Pali Canon speaks of him as a
Buddha (this Pali text is tottally different from the old Thai quote, though
it uses the same name- Metteyya). Since the old Thai quote uses the same
name (Metteyya in the Pali- Maitreya in the Sanskrit), referring to the Pali
Canon, we see who Metteyya is supposed to be- a Buddha- and a Buddha is
always supposed to follow a certain pattern- his mother dies when he is 7
days old, he is UNcircumcised, he must be born in India, and other things
which make him NOT Jesus Christ (e.g. he is supposed to appear when human
life spans are back to 80,000 years). The English translation (found in
John R. Davis' books) of the quotation is as follows.
"Regardless how many laws you may have kept, or even if you pray five times
a day, you shall not be saved. A sin is too great to be washed away; even
though I become a hermit for more than eight 'A-song-kai'.The Brahmin asked
what Metteyya's character is. The Buddha replied that 'in his hands
feet are wounds, his side has a wound which was pierced and his forehead is
full of scars from wounds. He is the gold ship to carry you to heaven
you will find the Tri-pra (the crystal Triune god). Thus give up following
the old way. A spirit from heaven will come and dwell in your heart by
which you will overcome your enemies for both four and eight directions.'"
There are a few discrepancies between this translation and the Thai version
I have. Most notable is the omission of the word nirvana (nibbana in Pali)
in the English version. Any wonder why that word was left out? In
Thai, instead of saying "heaven" it says "nirvana heaven." Nirvana is by
means a synonym for heaven, and in fact it was the later Mahayanists who
developed such a notion of nirvana. For a Theravadin Buddhist, nirvana is
absolute extinction, which bears no resemblance to the biblical meaning for
Also, and this is speculation on my part, since my Thai is not at the fluent
level, but it does seem the Thai phrase "na pra gaew 3 pra gaan" could be
translated as the triple gem, namely the Buddha, the Sangha, and the Dharma.
Another question is why the title of this passage has the word for
Cambodia in it. Davis tries to say that Metteyya can be translated as
"prince of peace," however the only dictionary I found which translated this
name, translates it as "unconquerable." Again it seems he is trying a
little too hard to make it fit what it doesn't.
In the ONLY text in the Pali canon referring to Metteyya, Buddha states.
"At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One
named Metteyya, Arahant, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness,
happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals
willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha,
even as I am now."
He is clearly supposed to be a Buddha, following the set pattern for
In the commentary of the Pali Canon, being fixed in form around the 5th
century AD, but going back as far as the 1st century AD (already after
Christ, thus not a very impressive "prophecy" even if it were there), there
still is no mention such as the old Thai quote would suggest. In the
commentaries, Metteyya is still spoken of as a Buddha. Here is one
" In this Bhadda-eon four Buddhas arose. Which four? Kakusandha,
Konagamana, Kassapa, our Buddha, and the Lord Metteyya will arise. Thus
this eon, praised by the Lord, is called a Bhadda-eon on account of its
being much beatified by the arisings of five Buddhas."
Thus, since this "prophecy" did not come from the Buddha to begin with, and
both the commentaries and the Pali Canon refer to Metteyya as a Buddha, and
since both the commentaries and the Pali Canon define how a Buddha is
characterized (uncircumcised, born in India, etc.), it is absurd, and
dishonest to use this "prophecy" for Jesus Christ. Does it make any sense
to use a lie to bring people to the truth?!
Why not just preach the gospel instead of trying to find some extra-biblical
key to unlock the culture, or to "build bridges" of understanding between
"faith communities" when the separation is between man and God, not man and
man (although I could add a note here that the lifestyle of many
missionaries is quite isolated from the common man, making the gospel more
out of reach)? And the separation was caused by sin, thus a suitable
"bridge" will not be a Buddhist "prophecy" labeling Jesus Christ with the
"other god" name of Metteyya, but a proper understanding of sin, and the
only name under heaven by which men are saved- Jesus Christ. Again, the
gospel when preached and lived has the power through Jesus Christ, to do the
job, without the aid of secret keys glorifying the anthropologist and in
this case the Buddha.
footnote: There is one other mention of Metteyya in the
this is considered to be an interpolation added later. Even if it is
canonical, it's only one verse, which simply refers to Metteyya as a Buddha.
Scott Noble (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Faculty of Liberal Arts (English)
Sansai District, Chiang Mai