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Barlaam and Josaphat

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Saint Josaphat
Saint Josaphat preaching Christianity. 12th century Greek manuscript
Honored inRoman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast27 November

Barlaam and Josaphat or Joasaph is a Christianized version of the story of Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha.[1]. In the Middle Ages the two were treated as Christian saints, being entered in the Greek Orthodox calendar on 26 August, and in the Roman Martyrology in the Western Church as "Barlaam and Josaphat" on the date of 27 November.[2] In Eastern Orthodox, in the Russian tradition those two are commemorated on 19 November (corresponding to Gregorian 2 December) [1].

According to the legend, King Abenner or Avenier in India persecuted the Christian Church in his realm, founded by the Apostle Thomas. When astrologers predicted that his own son would some day become a Christian, Abenner had the young prince Josaphat isolated from external contact. Despite the imprisonment, Josaphat met the hermit Saint Barlaam and converted to Christianity. Josaphat kept his faith even in the face of his father's anger and persuasion. Eventually Abenner converted, turned over his throne to Josaphat, and retired to the desert to become a hermit. Josaphat himself later abdicated and went into seclusion with his old teacher Barlaam.[3]


Ioasaph (Georgian Iodasaph, Arabic Yūdhasaf or Būdhasaf) is derived from the Sanskrit Bodhisattva.[1][2][4] The Sanskrit word was changed to Bodisav in Persian texts in the 6th or 7th century, then to Budhasaf or Yudasaf in an 8th-century Arabic document (possibly[citation needed] by Arabic initial "b" ﺑ changed to "y" ﻳ by duplication of a dot in handwriting). This became Iodasaph in Georgia in the 10th century, and that name was adapted as Ioasaph in Greece in the 11th century, and then as Iosaphat or Josaphat in Latin.[citation needed]

The legend[edit]

The Greek legend of "Barlaam and Ioasaph" is sometimes attributed to the 7th century John of Damascus, but actually it was transcribed by the Georgian monk Euthymius in the 11th century.[5] The first Christianized adaptation was the Georgian epic Balavariani dating back to the 10th century. A Georgian monk, Euthymios of Athos, translated the story into Greek, some time before he was killed while visiting Constantinople in 1028. There the Greek adaptation was translated into Latin in 1048 and soon became well known in Western Europe as Barlaam and Josaphat.[6]

It was ultimately derived, through a variety of intermediate versions (Arabic and Georgian), from the life story of the Buddha.[1][2] Wilfred Cantwell Smith traced the story from a 2nd to 4th century Sanskrit Mahayana Buddhist text, to a Manichee version, which then found its way into Muslim culture as the Arabic Kitab Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf (Book of Bilawhar and Yudasaf), which was current in Baghdad in the 8th century.

The story of Barlaam and Josaphat was popular in the Middle Ages, appearing in such works as the Golden Legend, and a scene there involving three caskets eventually appeared, via Caxton's English translation of a Latin version, in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice".[7] A Middle High German version was described as "Perhaps the flower of religious literary creativity in the German Middle Ages" by Heinrich Heine.[8] The story of Josaphat was re-told as an exploration of free will and the seeking of inner peace Meditation in the 17th century.[citation needed]

Although Barlaam and Josaphat were never formally canonized, they were included in earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology (feast day 27 November) — though not in the Roman Missal — and in the Eastern Orthodox Church liturgical calendar (26 August in Greek tradition etc / 19 November in Russian tradition).


  1. ^ a b c
    1. REDIRECT Template:Cite Catholic Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b c Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.
  3. ^ The Golden Legend: The Story of Barlaam and Josaphat
  4. ^ Kevin Trainor (ed), "Buddhism" (Duncan Baird Publishers, 2001), p. 24
  5. ^ F.C. Conybeare, "The Barlaam and Josaphat Legend in the Ancient Georgian and Armenian Literatures" (Gorgias Press)
  6. ^ William Cantwell Smith, "Towards a World Theology" (1981)
  7. ^ Sangharakshita, "From Genesis to the Diamond Sutra - A Western Buddhist's Encounters with Christianity" (Windhorse Publications, 2005), p.165
  8. ^ Die Blüte der heiligen Dichtkunst im deutschen Mittelalter ist vielleicht »Barlaam und Josaphat«... See Heinrich Heine, Die romantische Schule (Erstes Buch) at heinrich-heine.net. (in German).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. REDIRECT Template:Cite Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Barlaam and Josaphat in Jewish Encyclopedia
  •  Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.

it:Barlaam e Iosafat hu:Barlám és Jozafát ro:Varlaam și Ioasaf