It should not be surprising that what we know about the historical origins of a holy scripture differs in important ways from its creation myth. The further removed those origins are from the present, the thicker the patina of sanctity becomes. But assuming it were possible, just for a moment, to set aside the thorny question of divine inspiration, it is likely that the origins of all sacred texts would seem equally mundane.
Donald S. Lopez, Jr. is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. His most recent book is The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography published by Princeton University Press.