What About Jesus’ Teaching and Life Fits With Being a Taoist?

Taoism was started roughly 5oo years before Jesus lived. Making it possible that he heard of Taoist teaching and practises.

Being a significant religious figure.

Was Jesus a Taoist?

It is highly improbable that Jesus was a Taoist since his teachings revolved around a personal God, a message of repentance, and the coming kingdom of God. Contrast the Taoism principle of achieving harmony with the impersonal energy known as Toa.

It may not be an open and closed case.

Please continue with me as I explain how Jesus’ life and teaching do not represent Taoism.

What is Taoism?

Taoism, sometimes called Daoism, was a religion or philosophy based on the teachings of Lao Tzu around 500 B.C.E., recorded in the Tao Te Ching. A collection of poetry and sayings that serve as a guide for one’s thoughts and actions, aiding in achieving harmony.

Taoism was started roughly 5oo years before Jesus lived. Making it possible that he heard of Taoist teaching and practises.

Being a significant religious figure.

Was Jesus a Taoist?

It is highly improbable that Jesus was a Taoist since his teachings revolved around a personal God, a message of repentance, and the coming kingdom of God. Contrast the Taoism principle of achieving harmony with the impersonal energy known as Toa.

It may not be an open and closed case.

Please continue with me as I explain how Jesus’ life and teaching do not represent Taoism.

What is Taoism?

Taoism, sometimes called Daoism, was a religion or philosophy based on the teachings of Lao Tzu around 500 B.C.E., recorded in the Tao Te Ching. A collection of poetry and sayings that serve as a guide for one’s thoughts and actions, aiding in achieving harmony.

National Geographic provides a nice, simple definition of the religion to guide us in answering if Jesus was a Taoist.

“Taoism is an ancient Chinese philosophy and religion that instructs believers on how to exist in harmony with the universe.”

National Geographic

This ancient teaching is based on the idea of Toa as a force or energy behind and in all things. Of which we must seek to live in harmony with.

Now that we’ve outlined the core principles of Taoism, let’s consider the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the gospels to explore any possible parallels.

Was Jesus Aware of Taoism?

Jesus lived in a time and location that was influenced by many outside thoughts and religions.

If you get deep into the weeds of second-temple Judaism, you will see a lot of thought, ideas and theology developing from Babylonian influence.

So, it is not beyond possibility that Jesus could have heard about Taoism.

With the frequent visits of eastern trades, possibly some as far off as ancient China. The birthplace of Taoism. The traders could have brought with them Taoism ideas along with silk and spices. Jesus learned of these religious ideas and incorporated them into his faith.

A good way would be to analyze Jesus’ actions and teachings to see if his beliefs have been influence by Taoism.

Did Jesus Teach Taoism?

The central teaching of Taoism is harmony with the Tao. The ultimate principle or power of the universe. This power flows in and through everything.

A popular example of such teaching and practices is seen in Star Wars. Where the Jedi seek power and balance within “The Force.” The force in Taoism is called Te (pronounced “day”).

“It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi

There are some differences between the Force and Taosim, but the central idea is that Te is in everything, and we must live in harmony with it.

But in Taoism, do not think of Te being a god. For it is only the energy that flows through all things. There are gods in Taoism too, but they are merely a part of Tao.

Jesus also held to a central tenant.

‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:29,30

Yes, you could say that Israel’s God is in all things and binds all things together. But Jesus viewed “it” as a personal, knowable being whom he called “Father.”

Beyond focusing your being on loving this deity, Jesus followed it up with a similar statement regarding others.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Mark 12:31

Similar to living in harmony with others. But the focus is not on the universe and nature but on people.

One of the most well-known and often not even associated with Taoism is the Yin-Yang symbol. And how the dark and light elements in the universe work together to create balance in the universe and our lives.

Ying and Yang in Balance

The guiding principle is to find balance in your life and Te. But with Jesus, the guiding principle is love. Love of God and one another. Harmony is found not in balance but in love.

In Taoism, harmony is the main goal. But Jesus’ message at the beginning of his ministry was not a call to harmony but repentance and preparation for the becoming kingdom of God.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Matthew 4:17

This message of kingdom and repentance is so dominant throughout his ministry that many scholars think that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. But in regards to him being a Taoist, the key is his message of repentance and kingdom, not harmony with the universe.

Did Jesus Practise Daoist Disciplines

The disciples of Taosit are similar to its teaching is harmony.

For such a goal, Taoists practice stillness meditation, internal alchemical meditation, ritual, martial arts, life-nourishing through diet, qigong exercise and living in harmony with the seasons and calendar.

Jesus did practise some of these activities, like meditation. Often withdrawing from people to be alone and pray (Mk.1:35). Not quite the same as Taoist meditation, but surely a focus time on his spiritual well-being.

Meditation

It is possible that he sought a life-nourishing diet. But keep in mind that he was accused of being a glutton (Matt.11:19). Which seems to hint that he enjoyed sharing food with others.

Crossan highlights Jesus’ eating habits as a defining aspect of his life. Not in regards to what he ate but who he shared it with. I don’t agree with Crossan’s interpretation of Jesus’ life but do agree that who Jesus ate with was a big part of his ministry and life.

Jesus did seem to be aware of significant calendar events and arranged his life around them. In the Gospel of John, in particular, he appears more concerned with religious observance than harmony.

Now it’s not that Jesus did not practise mystic disciplines seeking connection to the spiritual world. But these are more in a general sense than directly connected to Taoism.

Resources:

  • https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/taoism/
  • https://francis-ritchie.com/jesus-and-the-tao/
  • https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Compare-Christ-to-Taoism
  • http://revgregsmith.blogspot.com/2013/11/christ-and-tao.html
  • https://www.taoiststudiesinstitute.org/taoism–cultivation.html
  • https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/whp-origins/era-3-cities-societies-and-empires-6000-bce-to-700-c-e/35-development-of-belief-systems-betaa/a/read-daoism
  • https://youtu.be/kij4kKSGzCE?si=Jo3QUFawqVmABHOW
  • https://youtu.be/Ug0rIG6ZctY?si=ppb7jh1GBhGiwwyR

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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