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Josaphat (saint)

From Academic Kids

Saint Josaphat is said to have lived and died in the 3rd century or 4th century in India. His story appears to be in many respects a Christianized version of Siddhartha Gautama's story.

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 Baarlam 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. Although Josaphat and Baarlam were canonized in the Greek Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church, there is no evidence that either ever existed.

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.

Author Holger Kersten proposes an alternate explanation: that "Josaphat" is derived from the Arabic "Judasaf" or "Budasaf", as written in an Urdu version of the tale. He ties this name to Yuz Asaf, a Muslim holy figure identified with Jesus. This idea, which proposes Jesus escaped crucifixion and died in India, was first introduced to the west by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

See also: List of saints, Saint Josaphat Kuncevyc

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