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Medieval and Classical Library

BARLAAM AND IOASAPH
by
St. John Damascene (?)
("St. John of Damascus")
c. 676 - 749 A.D.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #20

It is not known where or when this story was written, but it is believed to have been translated into Greek (possibly from a Georgian original) sometime in the 11th Century A.D. Although the ultimate author is usually referred to as "John the Monk", it has been traditionally ascribed to St. John of Damascus.

The text of this edition is based on that published as ST. JOHN DAMASCENE: BARLAAM AND IOASAPH (Trans: G.R. Woodward and H. Mattingly; Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1914). This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN in he United States.

This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@EnterAct.COM), November, 1996.

[ Preparer's Note ]

CONTENTS


PREPARER'S NOTE:

Readers of this work will note some startling similarities between the story of Ioasaph and the traditional Tale of Buddha. The work seems to be a retelling of the Buddha Legend from within a Christian context, with the singular difference that the "Buddha" in this tale reaches enlightenment through the love of Jesus Christ.

The popularity of the Greek version of this story is attested to by the number of translations made of it throughout the Christian world, including versions in Latin, Old Slavonic, Armenian, Christian Arabic, English, Ethiopic, and French. Such was its popularity that both Barlaam and Josaphat (Ioasaph) were eventually recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as Saints, and churches were dedicated in their honor from Portugal to Constantinople. It was only after Europeans began to have increased contacts with India that scholars began to notice the similarities between the two sets of stories. Modern scholars believe that the Buddha story came to Europe from Arabic, Caucasus, and/or Persian sources, all of which were active in trade between the European and Indian worlds.

---DBK

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • ORIGINAL TEXT --
    Woodward, G.R. & H. Mattingly (Ed. & Trans.): "St. John Damascene: Barlaam and Ioasaph" (Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1914). English translation with side-by-side Greek text.
  • RECOMMENDED READING --
    Lang, David Marshall (Trans.): "The Balavariani: A Tale from the Christian East" (California University Press, Los Angeles, 1966). Translation of the Georgian work that probably served as a basis for the Greek text.