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Barlaam and Ioasaph (Loeb Classical Library) Hardcover – 1 Jul 1989

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David Lang has been employed at Bucyrus International, Inc. since 1967. A structural design background and Civil Engineering degree at Michigan Technologocial University combined with acquired mechanical engineering skills at Bucyrus has enabled him to participate in a number of challenging excavator and drill design development projects. With family history in the drilling business, this subject is close to David's heart and soul.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Classic of Eastern Christanity 19 Sept. 2000
By Lloyd A. Conway - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Each of the major Christian traditions may be said to have a classic that expresses it's spirit in words. For Catholicism, Dante's "Divine Comedy" can arguably be said to be the greatest literary work by a believer. Reformed Protestantism might claim "Paradise Lost" in the same way. For Independant Protestentism, Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" serves as a common touchstone and expression of the faith. All are well-known to educated Westerners. From the East, nothing older than Dostoyevesky enjoys a wide reading. St. John Damascene's "Baralam and Iosaph" takes the place within Eastern tradition that the other classics do in their own. Early Church tradition held that St. Thomas converted India. That conversion did not hold. St. John of Damascus, writing in the 6th century, told the story of India's second conversion. The story may be a legend based on the life of the Bhudda, who lived a millenium before. Certainly there are resemblences: St. John writes of a prince, brought up in a palace, who never sees anything but beauty and ease, until he leaves as a young adult. On the first day of his journey, he meets with a cripple, a sick man, and an old man, and is thrown into a spiritual crisis. This is consistent with Bhuddist traditions regarding their founder. The stories differ with what comes after. Unlike the Bhudda, Iosaph does not found a religion; rather, in fleeing his father, King Abenneir, he takes counsel from a monk, Baralaam, who imparts the faith to him. Eastern Christanity, in the sixth century, was in a state of spiritual ferment, as the faith constructed what Malachai Martin called "castle visions" in his book, "The New Castle." The castle vision was a culture's original but fully-developed concept of how life on Earth ought to be, and what Man's relationship to God was meant to be. (The other great castle visions included Catholicism, the Lutheran Reformation, Angkor Wat, and American idealism, according to Martin.) St. John wrote in a century that saw the rise of Mohammad and Islam; the fall of the Zoroastrian Persian Empire; and the Iconoclast schism that threatned to tear the early church apart. Other heresies abounded: Arian kings ruled Gothic lands in the West; Nestorians abounded in the East, even reaching China. A writer of the previous century remarked that when one asked the baker for a loaf of bread, the reply was likely to include a discussion of the nature of the Son, or on His procession through the Father, or on the two Natures in one Person, and the like. Stylites stood upon pillars for as much as a half-century, praying and fasting, in all weather, wearing their beards for garments, living on what the birds and pilgrims brought them. The world was then near the zenith of what Spengler called "Magian" civilization, in his "The Decline of the West." Magian civilization was the name given to all the religous movements, beginning with Zoroaster in the 7th Century, B.C., and the post-Captivity Jewish prophets, including both Christanity, Islam, and the host of neo-Platonist, Gnostic, and other movements, that looked beyond this world to a Judgement Day and taught that a spiritual war was being fought between Good and Evil. Even as these religons were, in many cases, mutually exclusive, they shared the common characteristics noted above, and gave a distinct flavor to the age between the conversion of Constantine and the Crusades. In this milieu, St. John wrote of Iosaph's flight from his angry father, of his life in the desert with Baralaam, and of their eventual capture by Abenneir. Iosaph's meek and holy example broke through the old King's hard heart, and he, too becomes a monk, after a life lived as a bloody tyrant. (Abenneir is even named on the feast day of Baralaam and Iosaph in some Eastern communities.) The passages on Iosaph and Baraalam's life as desert monks will conjur strange feelings in Western minds: the joy with which they fasted, denied their bodies, and voluntarily endured pain in pursiut of holieness are utterly strange to our way of life. Whether or not St. John was passing on a legend of the Bhudda unknowingly or not, the spirit of the East, when it was first and fully the East, prevades this remarkable work. Reading it is like opening a wondow into the soul of a distant world, yet one that was, in time and space, much nearer to the beginning of Christanity than we are (and perhaps nearer spiritually, too). -Lloyd A. Conway
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Christianity Meets Buddhism 10 Nov. 2001
By Robin Friedman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I came upon this book by chance through a reference to an early Christian text which was based upon the story of the Buddha. I was intrigued and needed to read the book for myself.
This book, Barlaam and Iosaph, has long been attributed to St. John of Damascus and was written in about 750 A.D. subsequent to the Nicene Creed (mentioned in the text) and about the time, the editor informs us, of the Iconoclastic Controversy within the Christian Church.
The book begins with an introduction which describes a journey of an Apostle to India for purposes of encouraging conversions to Christianity. A remarkable feature of the story is the clear parallels it has to the life of the Buddha.
There was a mighty king, Abener, a pagan who persecuted the Christians. He had a son, Iosaph. At his birth, it was predicted he would be either a world ruler or a Christian holy man. The king sheltered Iosaph in a palace and gave him every pleasure imaginable. At Iosaph's entreaties, he was allowed to see the palace grounds. During these sheltered trips, he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a beggar and became aware of the transitory, suffering character of human life.
This story, of course, will be familiar to every student of Buddhism.
Iosaph is tutored in secret by a Christian ascetic, Barlaam. After many lengthy discourses on the nature of Christian doctrine, based primarily upon the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and upon Church fathers, Iosaph converts to Christianity. He is persecuted by his father. We see a debate between defenders of Christianity and the idolators. Iosaph is tempted in the flesh by a lovely wanton woman but with the help of God resists the temptation -- with great difficulty. Abener offers Iosaph one-half his kingdom. Iosaph accepts and Christianity is spread throughout this land.
Abener sees the error of his ways, repents of his persecution of the Christians and of his son, converts to Christianity, and dies redeemed. Then, Iosaph meets his destiny. He renounces his kingdom and leaves to assume the life of a mendicant monk in the desert.
He is able to find Barlamm and continues under his tutelage until Barlaam's death. Iosaph renounces his kingship at the age of 25, we are told, and spends 35 years as a monk wandering the desert.
There is much Buddhism here but much of early Christianity as well. The closing scenes of the book, including Iosaphs' renunciation of his kingdom and the description of his life in the desert as a monk, are for me powerful moments, strange as they may be to current sensibilities. There are also a good many digressions and parables throughout the text that help take the weight from the lengthy expositions of doctrine.
This book is one of the earliest in the Loeb Series of the classics. I didn't know about early Christian awareness of Buddhism and this book showed it to me. There many books that explore current relationships between Buddhism and Christianity and Judaism. Here we have it at and early date, and I would love to learn more.
This is a tale of the life of the spirit which still has power to move the reader with the power of the religious, ascetic life.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "An Epic of Faith and Triumph" 27 Sept. 2000
By Johannes Platonicus - Published on
Format: Hardcover
To place this on the shelves of classic christian literature would indeed be appropriate. This book is essential for the layman or scholar alike. I would also suggest reading it to your children at home. The content of the text has a serene fluidity that will keep you paced and at ease with the storyline. Although, there are no really big climatic peaks in this story, but the book just seems to maintin a poetic and heartwarming balance the whole way through. I will read this masterpiece again, and I hope you will grasp ahold of this wonderful relic of Christian literature.
5.0 out of 5 stars It makes for fine leisure reading 10 Jun. 2015
By Alexandra Glynn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book helps tilt us away from the Western perspective, towards Middle Asia. It makes for fine leisure reading, and as an extra benefit, there is a great deal of scripture quoting.
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