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Saint Josaphat (also known as Jehoshaphat or Josaphat) is said to have lived and died in the 3rd century or 4th century in India.

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 someday 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 Baarlam.

The story of Josaphat and Baarlam was popular in the Middle Ages, appearing in such works as the Golden Legend. Josaphat and Barlaam were canonized in the Roman Catholic Church (feast day November 27) and are recognized among the Eastern Orthodox.

Wilfred Cantwell Smith traced the story from a second to fourth-century Sanskrit Mahayana Buddhist text, to a Manichee version, to an Arabic Muslim version, to an eleventh century Christian Georgian version, to a Christian Greek version, and from there into Western European languages. He traced Josaphat's name from the Sanskrit term bodhisattva via the Middle Persian bodasif.

Myths and legends

The Greek legend of "Barlaam and Ioasaph", sometimes mistakenly attributed to the 7th century John of Damascus [1] but actually written by the Georgian monk Euthymios in the 11th century [2], Oriental Buddhists say was 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 August 26, and in the West they were entered as "Barlaam and Josaphat" in the Roman Martyrology on the date of November 27.

The story was translated into Hebrew in the Middle Ages as "Ben-Hamelekh Vehanazir" ("The Prince and the Nazirite"), and is widely read by Jews to this day.



  1. Proved by Zotenberg in "Notices sur le livre de Barlaam et Josaphat" (Paris, 1886) and by Hammel in "Verhandl. des 7 interneat. Orientalisten Congresses", Semit. Section (Vienna, 1888).
  2. First published by Boissonade in "Anecdota Graeca" (paris, 1832), IV, and is reproduced in Migne, PG, XCVI, among the works of St. John Damascene

Published works

  • John Damascene. Barlaam and Ioasaph. (ISBN 0674990382)
  • John Damascene. The Precious Pearl: the Lives of Saints Barlaam and Ioasaph. (ISBN 1884729231)