Barlaam and Josaphat


Barlaam and Josaphat

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Josaphat
birth_date=unknown
death_date=4th Century
feast_day=November 27
venerated_in=Eastern Orthodox Church



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caption=Saint Josaphat preaching Christianity. 12th century Greek manuscript
birth_place=
death_place=India
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Barlaam and Josaphat are said to have lived and died in the 3rd century or 4th century in India. In the middle ages, they were often considered to be Christian saints, but Josaphat's story appears to be in many respects a Christianized version of the story of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

The Greek legend of "Barlaam and Ioasaph", sometimes mistakenly attributed to the 7th century John of Damascus but actually written by the Georgian monk Euthymios in the 11th century, was ultimately derived, through a variety of intermediate versions (Arabic and Georgian) from the life story of the Buddha. The king-turned-monk Ioasaph (Georgian "Iodasaph", Arabic "Yūdhasaf" or "Būdhasaf") ultimately derives his name from the Sanskrit Bodhisattva, the name used in Buddhist accounts for Gautama before he became a Buddha. Barlaam and Ioasaph were placed in the Greek Orthodox calendar of saints on 26 August, and in the West they were entered as "Barlaam and Josaphat" in the Roman Martyrology on the date of 27 November.

The legend

According to legend, a 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 himself converted, turned over his throne to Josaphat, and retired to the desert to become a hermit. Josaphat himself later abdicated and went into reclusion with his old teacher Barlaam.

The story of Barlaam and Josaphat was popular in the Middle Ages, appearing in such works as the "Golden Legend". 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).

Origins and spread of the legend

It seems that St. Josaphat is actually a Christianized version of the Buddha. 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", which was current in Baghdad in the 8th century. The first Christianized adaptation was the Georgian epic "Balavariani" dating back to the 10th century. A Georgian monk Euthymius 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".

Recent linguistic and geographic research of the spread of Buddha’s tale across Asia and Europe also points toward the saint’s name and tale originating with Buddha. Josaphat’s name may be traced to the Sanskrit term "bodhisattva" via the Middle Persian "bodasif". Investigation by researchers at the Korean Seoul National University indicates that the name "Buddha" or "Bodhisatta" in Sanskrit changed to "Bodisav" in Persian texts in the sixth or seventh century, then to "Budhasaf" or "Yudasaf" in an eighth-century Arabic document (Arabic initial "b" could become initial "y" by duplication of a dot in handwriting), and "Iodasaph" in Georgia in the 10th century. That name was then adapted to "Ioasaph" in Greece in the 11th century, and "Iosaphat" or "Josaphat" in Latin since then. Besides their names, the stories of the two individuals are strikingly similar. [http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/culture/200507/kt2005070420024111680.htm] ]

Author Holger Kersten proposes an alternate explanation: that "Josaphat" is derived from the Arabic "Judasaf" or "Budasaf", as written in an Urdu version of the tale. He ties this name to that of a sage 'Yuz Asaf' entombed in Kashmir, the name being thus understood as Kashmiri for "Son of Yuz," i.e. Joseph, and which Kersten (following an old story ) interprets as evidence that Jesus lived and died in India. However, "Yuz Asaf" is simply the Persian and Urdu pronunciation of the Arabic Yūdhasaf, and does not go back any farther than the Arabic story, which is itself demonstrably derived from Buddhist stories.

The story of Josaphat was re-told as an exploration on free will against fate in the 17th century Spanish play "La vida es sueño" ("Life is a dream") by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. In "The Romantic School", [ [http://www.heinrich-heine.net/schule/schuled1.htm] ] Heinrich Heine called it the "blood of the holy poetic arts in the German Middle Ages."

Notes

ee also

*Barlaam and Josaphat (book)
*Gautama Buddha in world religions
*Thomas the Apostle
*Abraham and Brahman
*Buddhism and Christianity

External links

* [http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/relg/historygeography/BarlaamandIoasaph/toc.html Barlaam and Ioasaph] (Legend in form attributed to St John of Damascus)
* [http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/golden329.htm Version in "Golden Legend"]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02297a.htm Barlaam and Josaphat] in Catholic Encyclopedia
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=296&letter=B Barlaam and Josaphat] in Jewish Encyclopedia
* [http://bible.tmtm.com/wiki/BARLAAM_AND_JOSAPHAT_(Jewish_Encyclopedia) Barlaam and Josaphat (Jewish Encyclopedia)]


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