First, to refresh our memory, here is a modern technological version of the Birth of Jesus story:The Digital Story of Nativity (or Christmas 2.0) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZrf0PbAGSk
Or if you prefer:Mr Bean Recreates Birth of Jesushttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDOO3FvGsZ4
Now compare it with the introduction to the Nalaka Sutta from the Suttanipata:
Asita the seer, in his mid-day meditation,
saw the devas of the Group of Thirty
— exultant, ecstatic —
dressed in pure white, honoring Indra,
holding up banners, cheering wildly,
& on seeing the devas so joyful & happy,
having paid his respects, he said:
"Why is the deva community
so wildly elated?
Why are they holding up banners
& waving them around?
Even after the war with the Asuras
— when victory was the devas'.
the Asuras defeated —
even then there was no excitement like this.
Seeing what marvel
are the devas so joyful?
clap their hands,
So I ask you, who live on Mount Meru's summit.
Please dispel my doubt quickly, dear sirs."
"The Bodhisatta, the foremost jewel,
has been born for welfare & ease
in the human world,
in a town in the Sakyan countryside,
That's why we're all so wildly elated.
He, the highest of all beings,
the ultimate person,
a bull among men, foremost of all people,
will set turning the Wheel [of Dhamma]
in the grove named after the seers,
like a strong, roaring lion,
the conqueror of beasts."
Hearing these words,
Asita quickly descended [from heaven]
and went to Suddhodana's dwelling.
There, taking a seat, he said to the Sakyans:
"Where is the prince?
I, too, want to see him."
The Sakyans then showed
to the seer named Asita
their son, the prince,
like gold aglow,
burnished by a most skillful smith
in the mouth of the furnace,
blazing with glory, flawless in color.
On seeing the prince blazing like flame,
pure like the bull of the stars
going across the sky
— the burning sun,
released from the clouds of autumn —
he was exultant, filled with abundant rapture.
The devas held in the sky
a many-spoked sunshade
of a thousand circles.
waved up & down,
but those holding the whisks & the sunshade
couldn't be seen.
The matted-haired seer
named Dark Splendor,
seeing the boy, like an ornament of gold
on the red woolen blanket,
a white sunshade held over his head,
received him, happy & pleased.
And on receiving the bull of the Sakyans,
longingly, the master of mantras & signs
exclaimed with a confident mind:
"This one is unsurpassed,
the highest of the biped race."
Then, foreseeing his own imminent departure,
he, dejected, shed tears.
On seeing him weeping,
the Sakyans asked:
"But surely there will be
no danger for the prince?"
On seeing the Sakyans' concern
he replied, "I foresee for the prince
Nor will there be any danger for him.
This one isn't lowly: be assured.
This prince will touch
the ultimate self-awakening.
He, seeing the utmost purity,
will set rolling the Wheel of Dhamma
through sympathy for the welfare of many.
His holy life will spread far & wide.
But as for me,
my life here has no long remainder;
my death will take place before then.
I won't get to hear
the Dhamma of this one with the peerless role.
That's why I'm stricken,
afflicted, & pained."http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
We can see a number of interesting parallels between the two stories: People are expecting a saviour or messiah (or bodhisattva in Buddhism) to be born in the world and to lead everybody to salvation. As the quote below says:
"Close scrutiny of the accounts of the alleged saviors of the world’s religions shows significant parallels in the saviors’ attributes, experiences, and plans for human redemption. From this material I have extracted what seem to be the most distinctive conditions for being a savior:
The savior’s birth and life are foretold in prophecy; the savior has a miraculous birth; the savior has a royal genealogy; the savior is threatened in infancy; the savior is tempted by demons; the savior works miracles; the savior is a deity with a triune nature; the savior offers redemption through grace; there is a baptism of water; there is a communion of bread and wine (water); the savior condemns those who do not believe; the savior transfigures himself; and the savior rises from the dead and ascends into heaven.
It is my general thesis that the Savior Archetype was not the result of a direct interchange of ideas; rather, it was sui generis to the various religious cultures. The Savior Archetype manifests itself as something deeply psychological, and, therefore, it is not primarily due to religious syncretism. ..." The Saviour Archetypehttp://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/307/archetype.htm
Although the Buddhist story appears in the Suttanipata which contains some of the earliest Pali poetry, according to the commentary the Introduction (vatthugatha) was added later by monks who edited the scriptures during the great Councils (sangiti):
"The stereotyped expression in the prose of the Sutta Nipata does not permit one to infer that it preserves the exact words of the narrators or reciters of these ballads. Generally, ballad-reciters state in their own words, such facts as are necessary for the listeners to follow the narrative in the ballads. Here the prose states the same facts though clothed in the standard Canonical garb; and probably this standardisation has taken place long after the composition of the ballads themselves. Narrative prose should be compared with verse employed for narration, found in abundance in the Sutta Nipata. The Commentator himself attributes several stanzas to the sangitikara (reciters at a Sangiti or “Council”, i.e., compilers); e.g. Sn. 30, 251-252, 355d, 401d, 429cd,449.
Besides these similarities that the Sutta Nipata bears to the earlier Upanisads and epic literature, it has much in common with the earlier Sanskritic literature even in form. The narrative-ballads, viz. Pabbajja,Padhana and Nalaka (vatthugatha only) Suttas have their counterpart in the akhyana (ballad) literature in Sanskrit. Their common characteristic is the alternation of dialogue stanzas with narrative stanzas. Discussing these suttas Winternitz (op. cit., Vol. II, p. 96) remarks that they are “precious remnants of that ancient sacred ballad-poetry from which the later epic version of the life of Buddha grew, in the same way asthe heroic epic grew out of the secular ballads or akhyanas.”
The vatthu-gatha of the Nalaka Sutta and Parayana Vagga also belonged to the sangitikara according to the Commentary (SnA. 483 and 580 respectively). On a broad basis, the language, metre and style of the passages which are attributed to the sangitikara are no different from those of the other parts of the ballads to which they belong, for, their language, like that of the rest of the gathas in the Sutta Nipata preserves an earlier phase of Pali than the standard Canonical expression of the prose of the Sutta Nipata. (Also vide Geiger, Pali Literatur und Sprache, p. 1.). It is quite probable that in most cases this “narrative element” in verse goes back to the time of the composition of the ballads themselves. On the other hand, the narrative prose in its present form cannot, in any way, date back earlier than the period when the Canonical prose idiom was gradually being ﬁxed and acquired an accepted standard form. It is not improbable that this prose dates back only to the time of the arrangement of the Sutta Nipata as a separate work. Prior to that time no ﬁxed prose narrative may have been attached to these ballads, and the reciters used their own words when necessary. Thus, the prose in the Sutta Nipata can be considered as being much younger than the gathas."A Critical Analysis of the Sutta Nipata — N. A. Jayawickrama