Saturday Scenes

Thu 2 December 2010

Barlaam and Josaphat

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 20:43

The 27th of November is the Christian Feast Day of Barlaam and Josaphat.

Barlaam and Iosaph form the basis of a collection of parables which was adapted to a Christian epic in the 10th century. It became known as Barlaam and Josaphat in Western Europe after its translation into Latin in 1048.

The story is substantially as follows: Many inhabitants of India had been converted by the Apostle St. Thomas and were leading Christian lives. In the third or fourth century King Abenner (Avenier) persecuted the Church. The astrologers had foretold that his son Josaphat would one day become a Christian. To prevent this the prince was kept in close confinement. But, in spite of all precautions, Barlaam, a hermit of Senaar, met him and brought him to the true Faith. Abenner tried his best to pervert Josaphat, but, not succeeding, he shared the government with him. Later Abenner himself became a Christian, and, abdicating the throne, became a hermit. Josaphat governed alone for a time, then resigned, went into the desert, found his former teacher Barlaam, and with him spent his remaining years in holiness. Years after their death, the bodies were brought to India and their grave became renowned by miracles. Barlaam and Josaphat found their way into the Roman Martyrology (27 November), and into the Greek calendar (26 August). Vincent of Beauvais, in the thirteenth century, had given the story in his “Speculum Historiale”. It is also found in an abbreviated form in the “Golden Legend” of Jacobus de Voragine of the same century.

The Catholic Forum has The Golden Legend available online in English: The Golden Legend: The Story of Barlaam and Josaphat.

The interesting thing about this collection is that Wilfred Cantwell Smith traced the roots to a Sanskrit Mahayana Buddist text which was known in Muslim Baghdad in the 8th century as Kitab Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf in Arabic. This Christianised adaptation a few hundred years later is based on extracts of Buddha’s life and his parables.

Barlaam and Josaphat were adopted as unofficial saints with 27th of November as their feast day … thus making Buddha a saint of the Christian Church.

I think that’s kinda neat.

The 27th of November is also a great day for photography. On the 27th of November 2010, these wonderful people took a break from feasting and photographed the wonders in the world around them:

I wonder what their Twitterstreams will look like after centuries of transcriptions and translations:

It’s easy to take part: simply take a photograph on a Saturday and send the link to @SatScenes to be included.

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