BARLAAM AND JOSAPHAT:
A romantic tale under this title, giving extracts from the life of Buddha and some of his parables in Christian form, which has led to the adoption of the two titular heroes, as unofficial saints, into the calendar of the Catholic Church, thus making Buddha a saint of the Christian Church. The story is of a heathen king who was warned that a son would come to him and would change his faith in later years. In order to prevent this, the king keeps his son shut up from all knowledge of sin, disease, and death, until, going out one day from his palace, he sees a leper and a funeral, and so learns of the existence of evil. A sage comes to him and teaches him a new faith; he exchanges clothes with the sage and goes away. On his return there is a public disputation between the old and new faiths, in which the latter is victorious; thereupon the prince becomes an ascetic.
The Hebrew version of the tale was identified by Steinschneider ("Z. D. M. G." v. 91) under the title ("Prince and Dervish"), translated or adapted by Abraham ibn Ḥasdai, the first edition of which appeared in Constantinople, 1518, and others at Mantua 1557, Wandsbeck 1727, Frankfort-on-the-Oder 1766 (with German translation), Frankfort-on-the-Main 1769, Zolkiev 1771, Fürth 1783, Leghorn 1831, Lemberg 1870, Jitomir 1873, and Warsaw 1884. A German paraphrase by W. A. Meisel appeared at Stettin in 1847, and a second edition at Budapest in 1860. An earlier translation into German is contained in a Munich manuscript, written in Hebrew characters, No. 345. A Yiddish version appeared at Lublin in 1874. The exact origin of Ibn Ḥasdai's version is difficult to trace, though several Arabic translations and one Georgian have been recently discovered.
The relation of these various editions to one another and to the Greek, which is the original of the western European versions, may be indicated by a comparative table of the chief parables contained in most of them.
The Hebrew contains, besides those mentioned in the following table, ten which are not found in most of the other versions: Bird and Angel (ix.), Cannibal King (xii.), Good Physician (xiv.), King and Pious Shepherd (xvi.), Oasis and Garden (xvi.), Hungry Bitch (xvii.), Power of Love (xviii.), Eel and Dog (xxiii.), Language of Animals (xxiv.), and Robbers' Nemesis, only in Hebrew ( = Jataka, No. 48).
The numbers in the subjoined table are those in the respective editions.
|Man in Well||4||....||4||5|
|King of Year||6||xiii.||6||7|
|King and Vizier||7||xvi.||7||8|
|Rich Man and Beggar's Daughter||8||xviii.||8||9|
|Men and Nightingale||9||xxi.||9||4|
The last two are certainly from Indian sources, and yet are found only in the Hebrew version of the "Barlaam," which would seem to imply that it is closer to the original Buddhist source than any of the others. This is, however, not definitely proved, as the latter part of the Hebrew version diverges after chapter xxvi. from the legend of the life of Buddha, and does not resume the ordinary course of the legend until chapter xxxv. According to F. Hommel, Ibn Ḥasdai took his tales from an original Arabic source, an abstract of which exists in a Halle manuscript. The exact position of the Arabic versions must be settled before Ibn Ḥasdai's source can be determined. There are a few traces of the use of "Barlaam and Josaphat," or at least of the tale of "The Three Friends," in Jewish literature, by Baḥyah, "Kad Haḳemaḥ," p. 12, and in Pirḳe R. El. cxxxiv.; but there is no evidence in either case that the story was taken direct from the "Barlaam."
- Weisslovits, Prince und Derwisch, ein Indischer Roman Enthaltend die Jugendgeschichte Buddha's in Hebräischer Darstellung, etc., 1890;
- I. Levi, Revue Etudes Juives, xviii. 83 et seq.;
- Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebers. pp. 863-867;
- E. Kuhn, Barlaam und Josaphat, Munich, 1893;
- Wiener, Bibliotheca Friedlandiana, pp. 186, 187;
- Jacobs, Barlaam and Josaphat, 1896.