Old Georgian phrases and sentences 14 (Barlaam and Ioasaph)   2 comments

Among the many hagiographic traditions that have found few linguistic bounds in the history of Christian literature is the story of Barlaam and Io(d)asaph, known in Georgian as the Balavariani. I don’t want to get into the question of how and where this tradition from India, going back to stories of the life of the Buddha (for accessible excerpts of which from the Pali Canon see here), was first made into a Christian text (see here e.g.); I only want to highlight this text in two ways: first, with a look at some lines from the beginning of the work to continue my Old Georgian phrases and sentences, and second, by putting together a convenient beginning bibliography on the text as it exists in Georgian and Greek, as well as some other languages of eastern Christianity. If the selected Georgian bit below is of no interest or use to readers, maybe the bibliography will be.

Ioasaph, apparently confused for Asaph (of the Psalms), in Walters 733, f. 36v; see here.

Ioasaph (?), apparently confused for Asaph (of the Psalms), in Walters 733, f. 36v; see here.

The Georgian text survives in two recensions (see Tarchnišvili 1958). The snippet here is from recension A, § 1 (available at TITUS here), and the accompanying English translation is adapted from Lang’s (1966).

(იყო იგი) შეყოფილი გონებითა ნებათა და საშუებელთა ამის სოფლისათა
He was tied to thinking on the desires and delights of this world

და დამონებულ ნებასა თავისა თჳსისასა,
and enslaved to his own will,

და ყოვლადვე ვერ წინააღმდგომელ შუებათა მიმართ განმხრწნელთა სულისათა.
and wholly unopposed to the indulgences that corrupt the soul.

The sentence of the Greek that most closely matches this one is κατὰ ψυχὴν δὲ ἐσχάτῃ πιεζόμενος πτωχείᾳ καὶ πολλοῖς κακοῖς συμπνιγόμενος, τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς ὑπάρχων μοίρας καὶ σφόδρα περὶ τὴν δεισιδαίμονα πλάνην τῶν εἰδώλων ἐπτοημένος (1.43-46, Volk 2006: 10). The Georgian text, a little before the above sentence, mentions the king’s non-christianity (იყო იგი წარმართი ფრიად, in recension B იყო იგი წარმართი, კერპთ მსახური), but the Greek expands it further here.

The text offers no difficulties in terms of grammar. As seen in the layout above, the structure is built around three participles (შეყოფილი, დამონებულ, [ვერ] წინააღმდგომელ) and their connected nouns. In the order of the text, here are all but the commonest words (but not all of these are uncommon):

  • შეყოფილი joined, bound
  • გონებაჲ thinking
  • ნებაჲ desire
  • საშუებელი treat, delight
  • დამონებული enslaved
  • წინააღმდგომელი opposing, antagonistic
  • შუებაჲ indulging
  • განმხრწნელი (also written with -ჴ-) corrupting, ruining


(For the older publications, see generally BHO 141-145 for Armenian [with Marr 1899 below), Arabic, and Gǝʕǝz (with Weninger 2003 below); for Syriac see GSL 97-98; and for Arabic, see GCAL I 546-548. Further works on the Georgian text are listed in D.M. Lang, Cat. of Georgian and Other Caucasian Printed Books in the British Museum (1962), cols., 25-27, and D. Barrett, Cat. of the Wardrop Collection (1973), p. 25. The non-Greek texts are treated more recently in Volk 2009: 495, but specifically on the Georgian text, see 98-115.)

Asmussen, J.P. (1988). Barlaam and Iosaph. Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 3, p. 801. Online here.

Beck, Hans-Georg. (1959). Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich. Byzantinisches Handbuch 2.1. Munich. Pages 482-483.

Doelger, F. (1953). Der griechische Barlaam-Roman ein Werk der H. Johannes von Damaskos. Ettal.

Krumbacher, Karl. (1897). Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur. 2d ed. Munich. Pages 886-891. Available here; unfortunately these pages are in part poorly scanned.

Lang, D. M. (1955). St. Euthymius the Georgian and the Barlaam and Ioasaph Romance. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 17(2), 306–325.

Lang, D. M. (1957a). The Life of the Blessed Iodasaph: A New Oriental Christian Version of the Barlaam and Ioasaph Romance (Jerusalem, Greek Patriarchal Library: Georgian MS 140). Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 20(1/3), 389–407.

Lang, D. M. (1957b). The Wisdom of Balahvar. A Christian Legend of the Buddha. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Lang, David Marshall. (1966). The Balavariani (Barlaam and Josaphat): A Tale from the Christian East Translated from the Old Georgian. With an introduction by Ilia Abuladze. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Available here.

Mahé, J.-P., & Mahé, A. (1993). La sagesse de Balahvar. Une vie christianisée du Bouddha. Paris: Gallimard.

Marr, N. Y. (1899). Армянскоь грузинскіе матеріалы для исторіи Душеполезной Повѣсти о Варлаамѣ и Іоасафѣ (Armeno-Georgian Materials for the Story of Barlaam and Ioasaph). Записки Восточного Отделениа Императорского Русскаго Археологическаго Общества, 11, 49–78.

Martin-Hisard, B. (2002). Le monde géorgien médiéval et l’Inde. Travaux et mémoires, 14, 457–471.

Tarchnišvili, M. (1958). Les deux recensions du «Barlaam» géorgien. Le Muséon, 71, 65–86.

Wolff, R. L. (1937). The Apology of Aristides: A Re-Examination. Harvard Theological Review, 30, 233–247.

van Lantschoot, Arnold. (1966). Deux paraboles syriaques (Roman de Barlaam et Josaphat). Le Muséon 79: 133-154.

Volk, Robert. (2006.) Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos VI/2. Historiae animae utilis de Barlaam et Ioasaph (spuria): Text und zehn Appendices. Berlin and New York.

Volk, Robert. (2009.) Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos VI/1. Historiae animae utilis de Barlaam et Ioasaph (spuria): Einführung. Berlin and New York.

Weninger, Stefan. (2003). Bärälam wäyǝwasǝf. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica 1: 472-473.

Wolff, R. L. (1939). Barlaam and Ioasaph. Harvard Theological Review, 32, 131–139.

Zotenberg, H. (1886). Notice sur le livre de Barlaam et Joasaph. Notice et extraits des manuscrits de la Biliothèque nationale 28: 1-166. Available here.

2 responses to “Old Georgian phrases and sentences 14 (Barlaam and Ioasaph)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hm, there is something strange about the illustration – these paper (?) fragments that supplement the parchment manuscript look like palimpsests, and there is nothing about the lower text in the decription of the manuscript (or at least I didn’t see it)
    We have Slavic translation of Barlaam and Iosaphat too, so it was really interesting to read your post and the bibliography is also very useful! Thanks!

    • thanks a lot, Yavor. Yes, I noticed that, too, about the Greek manuscript from the Walters. I know very little about the Slavic translation, but Volk’s very thorough introduction to his edition of the Greek text (2009) touches on it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: