*Disclaimer* I am not a linguist by any means. My lack of understanding of Pali, Greek, and possibly English validates any grain of salt thrown at this post. Put your Skeptics hat on, my friends.
Around 250 BCE, the Third Buddhist Council convened under the patronage of Asoka, emperor of the pan-Indian Mauryan empire. The council’s purpose was to expunge the heretical and false, including both the views of dhamma and monastics. The council compiled the teachings and rules that would be considered the “teachings of the Elders”, Theravada.¹
These missionairies would have been called the Sons of the Elders, Theraputta. Although there is little record, Asoka claims to have reached Egypt and Greece with the dhamma.
Some time later, an account is given by Philo of a monastic order existing in Egypt. His account, recorded around 10 CE, was of the Therapeutae, who were to also influence the formation of the Christian monastic order. While it is conjectured of their Jewish origins, some have also pointed to their Buddhist origins. The origin of the name of the monastic order is uncertain, whether it means “physician” in their case of the soul, or “servants” of God. However, one linguist points to the Therapeutae and notes that it is simply a hellenization of the Theraputta.²
And of course, the English word “Therapeutic” comes from this same Greek root. I just find it novel that the roots are so closely tied. Of course I am missing something and this could just be one strange, self-serving theory or a coincidence. Any linguists out there?
1. History of Buddhism in India. http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/india.html
2. Thundy, Zacharis P. “Religions in Dialogue: East and West meet.” and “Buddha and Christ : nativity stories and Indian traditions.”