Tag Archives: Barlaam and Jehosaphat

Barlaam and Josaphat

When I went to write this I had two obvious choices to pick from, based on today being between two holy days, to wit, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter Sunday.

I crossed off St. Paddy because, unlike many early Catholic saints, he apparently actually did exist. He was not the first Christian missionary to attack, I mean preach to, the Irish pagans, and he is not even a real saint. He has never officially been declared one by any authoritative sanctifying body outside of a pub. Besides which, the thingy about him chasing the snakes out of Ireland, which is to say, he drove out the Celtic pagan priests, the Druids, by name, is objectionable to me as a pagan.

Easter got crossed off because I’ve done it twice already, once as “Ah, Easter”, and once as “X Marks the Spot”.

So, let’s get on to the Christian martyred saints, Barlaam and Josaphat.

Firstly, again as with many early Catholic martyred saints, they never existed. But, nonetheless, their story was quite popular in the middle ages.

The story first showed up in Christian circles in the 10th century when Euthymius of Athos, a Georgian monk, translated a Georgian story, the Balavariani, from Georgian, into Greek. Not the state Georgia, treasonously named after King George, but the country Georgia, notably not named treasonously after King George.

I’m not going to tell you the story itself, which says that the two lads were Christian Indians, India Indians, not woo-woo Indians, who got themselves martyred way back not long after St. Thomas evangelized in India. That’s St. Thomas the apostle, not the Virgin island.

Nobody really knows who evangelized in India, because St. Thomas is known to have never existed, while St. Thomas the island certainly does. You can see it on Google Earth. But, be that as it may.

The fun part about these two non-existent martyrs is that their story is actually derived from that of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.

Again, I am not going to tell their story. Go look it up. It is obviously a retelling of the life of Gautama Buddha, except for the martyrdom part.

Josaphat, in Georgian, was “Iodasaph”, which came from the Arabic “Būdhasaf”, which came from the old Persian “Bodisav”, which came from the Sanskrit “Bodhisattva”. Bodhisattva was one of the titles of Gautama Buddha.

Nobody seems to know why the unknown Georgian, who wrote the Balavariani, saw fit to plop Barlaam, the other martyred Christian, into the story he stole from the Buddhists, but then, Christians always seem to bugger up everything they stole from the pagans.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

For the reading impaired, an audio version of this quasi theory may be found here: