John of Damascus
| Doctor of the Church,|
Monk, Teacher of the Faith
|Born||c. 675 or 676|
Damascus, Bilad al-Sham, Umayyad Caliphate
|Died||April 30 749|
Mar Saba, Jerusalem, Bilad al-Sham, Umayyad Caliphate
|Venerated in|| Orthodox Church |
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Commemorated in Lutheranism
March 27 (General Roman Calendar 1890–1969)
|Attributes||Severed hand, icon|
|Patronage||Pharmacists, icon painters, theology students |
|Philosophical Chapters |
An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
|Era|| Medieval philosophy |
|Law, Christian theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, Criticism of Islam, Geometry, Mariology, Arithmetic, Astronomy, and Music|
|Icon, Dormition/Assumption of Mary, Theotokos, Perpetual virginity of Mary, Mediatrix|
John of Damascus (or John Damascene, Greek : Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός, romanized: Ioánnēs ho Damaskēnós, IPA: [ioˈanis o ðamasciˈnos] ; Latin : Ioannes Damascenus) was a Christian monk, priest, and apologist. Born and raised in Damascus c. 675 or 676; the precise date and place of his death is not at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem on 4 December 749, as tradition also confirms, with his cell being a venerated and magnificently maintained place of pilgrimage ever since.
A polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy, and music, he was given the by-name of Chrysorrhoas (Χρυσορρόας, literally "streaming with gold", i.e. "the golden speaker"). He wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and composed hymns which are still used both liturgically in practice throughout the world including in the west Lutheranism at Easter.
He is one of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church and is best known for his strong defence of icons.The Catholic Church regards him as a Doctor of the Church, often referred to as the Doctor of the Assumption due to his writings on the Assumption of Mary. John is at the end of the Patristic period of dogmatic development, and his contribution less that of theological innovation than that of a summary of the developments of the centuries before him. In Roman Catholic theology, he is therefore known as the "last of the Greek Fathers".
The main source of information for the life of John of Damascus is a work attributed to one John of Jerusalem, identified therein as the Patriarch of Jerusalem.This is an excerpted translation into Greek of an earlier Arabic text. The Arabic original contains a prologue not found in most other translations, and was written by an Arab monk, Michael, who explained that he decided to write his biography in 1084 because none was available in his day. However, the main Arabic text seems to have been written by an earlier author sometime between the early 9th and late 10th century. Written from a hagiographical point of view and prone to exaggeration and some legendary details, it is not the best historical source for his life, but is widely reproduced and considered to contain elements of some value. The hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat , traditionally attributed to John, is in fact a work of the 10th century.
John was born in Damascus, in 675 or 676, to a prominent Damascene Christian family.His father, Sarjun ibn Mansur, served as an official of the early Umayyad Caliphate. Sarjun (Sergius) was himself the son of a prominent Byzantine official of Damascus, Mansur ibn Sarjun, who had been responsible for the taxes of the region during the reign of Emperor Heraclius. Mansur seems to have played a role in the capitulation of Damascus to the troops of Khalid ibn al-Walid in 635 after securing favorable conditions of surrender. Eutychius, a 10th-century Melkite patriarch, mentions him as one high-ranking official involved in the surrender of the city to the Muslims.
The tribal background of Mansur ibn Sarjun, Johns grandfather, is unknown, but biographer Daniel Sahas has speculated that the name Mansur could have implied descent from the Arab Christian tribes of Kalb or Taghlib.The name was common among Syrian Christians of Arab origins, and Eutychius noted that the governor of Damascus, who was likely Mansur ibn Sarjun, was an Arab. However, Sahas also asserts that the name does not necessarily imply an Arab background and could have been used by non-Arab, Semitic Syrians. While Sahas and biographers F. H. Chase and Andrew Louth assert that Mansūr was an Arabic name, Raymond le Coz asserts that the "family was without doubt of Syrian origin"; indeed, according to historian Daniel J. Janosik, "Both aspects could be true, for if his family ancestry were indeed Syrian, his grandfather [Mansur] could have been given an Arabic name when the Arabs took over the government." When Syria was conquered by the Muslim Arabs in the 630s, the court at Damascus retained its large complement of Christian civil servants, John's grandfather among them. John's father, Sarjun (Sergius), went on to serve the Umayyad caliphs. According to John of Jerusalem and some later versions of his life, after his father's death, John also served as an official to the caliphal court before leaving to become a monk. This claim, that John actually served in a Muslim court, has been questioned since he is never mentioned in Muslim sources, which however do refer to his father Sarjun (Sergius) as a secretary in the caliphal administration. In addition, John's own writings never refer to any experience in a Muslim court. It is believed that John became a monk at Mar Saba, and that he was ordained as a priest in 735.
John was raised in Damascus, and Arab Christian folklore holds that during his adolescence, John associated with the future Umayyad caliph Yazid I and the Taghlibi Christian court poet al-Akhtal.
One of the vitae describes his father's desire for him to "learn not only the books of the Muslims, but those of the Greeks as well." From this it has been suggested that John may have grown up bilingual.John does indeed show some knowledge of the Quran, which he criticizes harshly. (See Christianity and Islam.)
Other sources describe his education in Damascus as having been conducted in accordance with the principles of Hellenic education, termed "secular" by one source and "classical Christian" by another.One account identifies his tutor as a monk by the name of Cosmas, who had been kidnapped by Arabs from his home in Sicily, and for whom John's father paid a great price.
Under the instruction of Cosmas, who also taught John's orphan friend, Cosmas of Maiuma, John is said to have made great advances[ clarification needed ] in music, astronomy and theology, soon rivalling Pythagoras in arithmetic and Euclid in geometry. As a refugee from Italy, Cosmas brought with him the scholarly traditions of Latin Christianity.
John possibly had a career as a civil servant for the Caliph in Damascus before his ordination.
He then became a priest and monk at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. One source suggests John left Damascus to become a monk around 706, when al-Walid I increased the Islamicisation of the Caliphate's administration.This is uncertain, as Muslim sources only mention that his father Sarjun (Sergius) left the administration around this time, and fail to name John at all. During the next two decades, culminating in the Siege of Constantinople (717-718), the Umayyad Caliphate progressively occupied the borderlands of the Byzantine Empire. An editor of John's works, Father Le Quien, has shown that John was already a monk at Mar Saba before the dispute over iconoclasm, explained below.
In the early 8th century, iconoclasm, a movement opposed to the veneration of icons, gained acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III (who had forced his predecessor, Theodosius III, to abdicate and himself assumed the throne in 717 immediately before the great siege) issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places.
All agree that John of Damascus undertook a spirited defence of holy images in three separate publications. The earliest of these works, his Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images, secured his reputation. He not only attacked the Byzantine emperor, but adopted a simplified style that allowed the controversy to be followed by the common people, stirring rebellion among the iconoclasts. Decades after his death, John's writings would play an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea (787), which convened to settle the icon dispute.
John's biography recounts at least one episode deemed improbable or legendary.Leo III reportedly sent forged documents to the caliph which implicated John in a plot to attack Damascus. The caliph then ordered John's right hand be cut off and hung up in public view. Some days afterwards, John asked for the restitution of his hand, and prayed fervently to the Theotokos before her icon: thereupon, his hand is said to have been miraculously restored. In gratitude for this miraculous healing, he attached a silver hand to the icon, which thereafter became known as the "Three-handed", or Tricheirousa. That icon is now located in the Hilandar monastery of the Holy Mountain.
John of Damascus was a prominent exponent of perichoresis . He employed the concept as a technical term to describe both the interpenetration of the divine and human natures of Christ and the relationship between the hypostases of the Trinity.
When the name of John of Damascus was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1890, it was assigned to 27 March. The feast day was moved in 1969 to the day of John's death, 4 December, the day on which his feast day is celebrated also in the Byzantine Rite calendar,Lutheran Commemorations, and the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church.
John of Damascus is remembered in the Church of England with a commemoration on 4 December.
The 1884 choral work John of Damascus ("A Russian Requiem"), Op. 1, for four-part mixed chorus and orchestra, by Russian composer Sergei Taneyev, is dedicated to Saint John.
In 1890, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII.
Besides his purely textual works, many of which are listed below, John of Damascus also composed hymns, perfecting the canon, a structured hymn form used in Byzantine Rite liturgies.
As stated above, in the final chapter of Concerning Heresy, John mentions Islam as the Heresy of the Ishmaelites. He is one of the first known Christian critics of Islam. John claims that Muslims were once worshipers of Aphrodite who followed after Mohammad because of his "seeming show of piety," and that Mohammad himself read the Bible and, "likewise, it seems," spoke to an Arian monk that taught him Arianism instead of Christianity. John also claims to have read the Quran, or at least parts of it, as he criticizes the Quran for saying that the Virgin Mary was the sister of Moses and Aaron and that Jesus was not crucified but brought alive into heaven. John further claims to have spoken to Muslims about Mohammad. He uses the plural "we", whether in reference to himself, or to a group of Christians that he belonged to who spoke to the Muslims, or in reference to Christians in general.
Regardless, John claims that he asked the Muslims what witnesses can testify that Mohammad received the Quran from God – since, John says, Moses received the Torah from God in the presence of the Israelites, and since Islamic law mandates that a Muslim can only marry and do trade in the presence of witnesses – and what biblical prophets and verses foretold Mohammad's coming – since, John says, Jesus was foretold by the prophets and whole Old Testament. John claims that the Muslims answered that Mohammad received the Quran in his sleep. John claims that he jokingly answered, "You're spinning my dreams."
Some of the Muslims, John says, claimed that the Old Testament that Christians believe foretells Jesus' coming is misinterpreted, while other Muslims claimed that the Jews edited the Old Testament so as to deceive Christians (possibly into believing Jesus is God, but John does not say).
While recounting his alleged dialogue with Muslims, John claims that they have accused him of idol worship for venerating the Cross and worshipping Jesus. John claims that he told the Muslims that the black stone in Mecca was the head of a statue of Aphrodite. Moreover, he claims, the Muslims were wrong not to associate Jesus with God if Jesus is the Word of God. John claims that, if Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word of God has always existed with God, then the Word must be a part of God, and therefore be God himself, whereby, John says, it would be wrong for Muslims to call Jesus the Word of God but not God himself.
John ends the chapter quickly by claiming that Islam permits polygamy, that Mohammad committed adultery with a companion's wife before outlawing adultery, and that the Quran is filled with ridiculous stories, such as the She-Camel of God and God giving Jesus an "incorruptible table."
It is believed that the homily on the Annunciation was the first work to be translated into Arabic. Much of this text is found in Manuscript 4226 of the Library of Strasbourg (France), dating to 885 AD.
Later in the 10th century, Antony, superior of the monastery of St. Simon (near Antioch) translated a corpus of John Damascene. In his introduction to John's work, Sylvestre patriarch of Antioch (1724–1766) said that Antony was monk at Saint Saba. This could be a misunderstanding of the title Superior of Saint Simon probably because Saint Simon's monastery was in ruins in the 18th century.
Most manuscripts give the text of the letter to Cosmas,the philosophical chapters, the theological chapters and five other small works.
In 1085, Mikhael, a monk from Antioch, wrote the Arabic life of the Chrysorrhoas.This work was first edited by Bacha in 1912 and then translated into many languages (German, Russian and English).
Two translations exist of the 10th-century hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat , traditionally attributed to John:
|Part of a series on the|
|Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Part of a series on|
Hesychasm is a mystical tradition of contemplative prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Based on Jesus's injunction in the Gospel of Matthew that "whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you", hesychasm in tradition has been the process of retiring inward by ceasing to register the senses, in order to achieve an experiential knowledge of God.
The 8th century is the period from 701 (DCCI) through 800 (DCCC) in accordance with the Julian Calendar. The coast of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula quickly came under Islamic Arab domination. The westward expansion of the Umayyad Empire was famously halted at the siege of Constantinople by the Byzantine Empire and the Battle of Tours by the Franks. The tide of Arab conquest came to an end in the middle of the 8th century.
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The third caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, Uthman ibn Affan, was also a member of the Umayyad clan. The family established dynastic, hereditary rule with Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of al-Sham, who became the sixth caliph after the end of the First Muslim Civil War in 661. After Mu'awiyah's death in 680, conflicts over the succession resulted in a Second Civil War and power eventually fell into the hands of Marwan I from another branch of the clan. The region of Syria remained the Umayyads' main power base thereafter, and Damascus was their capital.
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ibn al-Hakam was the fifth Umayyad caliph, ruling from April 685 until his death. A member of the first generation of born Muslims, his early life in Medina was occupied with pious pursuits. He held administrative and military posts under Caliph Mu'awiya I, founder of the Umayyad Caliphate, and his own father, Caliph Marwan I. By the time of Abd al-Malik's accession, Umayyad authority had collapsed across the Caliphate as a result of the Second Muslim Civil War and had been reconstituted in Syria and Egypt during his father's reign.
Al-Mansur or Abu Ja'far Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Mansur (; Arabic: أبو جعفر عبدالله بن محمد المنصور; 95AH – 158 AH was the second Abbasid Caliph reigning from 136 AH to 158 AH and succeeding As-Saffah. He is known for founding the 'Round City' of Madinat al-Salam which was to become the core of imperial Baghdad.
Mu'awiya I was the founder and first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate serving from 661 until his death. He became caliph less than 30 years following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and very shortly after the reign of the four "rightly guided" (Rashidun) caliphs. Mu'awiya was the first caliph whose name appeared on coins, inscriptions, or documents of the nascent Islamic empire.
Sophronius, called Sophronius the Sophist, was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 until his death. He is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Before rising to the primacy of the see of Jerusalem, he was a monk and theologian who was the chief protagonist for orthodox teaching in the doctrinal controversy on the essential nature of Jesus and his volitional acts.
Abu Mansur Nizar, known by his regnal name as al-Aziz Billah, was the fifth caliph of the Fatimid dynasty, from 975 to his death in 996.
In Palamite theology, there is a distinction between the essence (ousia) and the energies (energeia) of God. It was first formulated by Gregory Palamas (1296–1359) as part of his defense of the Athonite monastic practice of hesychasmos against the charge of heresy brought by the humanist scholar and theologian Barlaam of Calabria.
During the Middle Ages, Christendom largely viewed Islam as a Christian heresy and Muhammad as a false prophet. Various Western and Byzantine Christian thinkers considered Muhammad to be a perverted, deplorable man, a false prophet, and even the Antichrist, as he was frequently seen in Christendom as a heretic or possessed by demons. Some of them, like Thomas Aquinas, criticized Muhammad's promises of carnal pleasure in the afterlife.
The plague of Amwas, also spelled plague of Emmaus, was a bubonic plague epidemic that afflicted Islamic Syria in 638–639, during the first plague pandemic and toward the end of the Muslim conquest of the region. It was likely a reemergence of the mid-6th-century Plague of Justinian. Called after Amwas in Palestine, the principal camp of the Muslim Arab army, the plague killed up to 25,000 soldiers and their relatives, including most of the army's high command, and caused considerable loss of life and displacement among the indigenous Christians of Syria. The appointment of Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan to the governorship of Syria in the wake of the commanders' deaths paved the way for his establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate in 661, while recurrences of the disease may have contributed to the Umayyad dynasty's downfall in 750. Depopulation in the Syrian countryside may have been a factor in the resettlement of the land by the Arabs unlike in other conquered regions where the Arabs largely secluded themselves to new garrison cities.
Palamism or the Palamite theology comprises the teachings of Gregory Palamas, whose writings defended the Eastern Orthodox practice of Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam. Followers of Palamas are sometimes referred to as Palamites.
Bahira was an Arab Nestorian or possibly Gnostic Nasorean monk who, according to Islamic tradition, foretold to the adolescent Muhammad his future as a prophet. His name derives from the Syriac bḥīrā, meaning “tested and approved”.
The siege of Damascus (634) lasted from 21 August to 19 September 634 before the city fell to the Rashidun Caliphate. Damascus was the first major city of the Eastern Roman Empire to fall in the Muslim conquest of Syria.
Elias III was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from about 879 to 907.
The Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) divisions of Christianity began to take on distinctive shape in 7th-century Christianity. Whereas in the East the Church maintained its structure and character and evolved more slowly, in the West the Bishops of Rome were forced to adapt more quickly and flexibly to drastically changing circumstances. In particular, whereas the bishops of the East maintained clear allegiance to the Eastern Roman emperor, the Bishop of Rome, while maintaining nominal allegiance to the Eastern emperor, was forced to negotiate delicate balances with the "barbarian rulers" of the former Western provinces. Although the greater number of Christians remained in the East, the developments in the West would set the stage for major developments in the Christian world during the later Middle Ages.
Christianity in the 8th century was much affected by the rise of Islam in the Middle East. By the late 8th century, the Muslim empire had conquered all of Persia and parts of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) territory including Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. Suddenly parts of the Christian world were under Muslim rule. Over the coming centuries the Muslim nations became some of the most powerful in the Mediterranean basin.
Cosmas the Monk was a 7th-century clergyman who features in Chalcedonian traditions. Any knowledge of Cosmas comes from the notably unreliable 10th-century hagiography of John of Damascus.
Abū Thābit Sulaymān ibn Saʿd al-Khūshani was an Arab administrator of the Umayyad Caliphate who proposed and implemented the conversion of Syria's dīwān from Greek to Arabic in 700 under Caliph Abd al-Malik. From the time of the Muslim conquest of the region from the Byzantine Empire in the 630s, Greek had remained the language of the bureaucracy in Syria and the change in 700 formed part of the wider centralization efforts undertaken by Abd al-Malik. In recognition of this achievement, Sulayman was appointed as the head of Syria's fiscal administration, replacing the Melkite Christian veteran Sarjun ibn Mansur. Sulayman continued in this office under caliphs al-Walid I and Sulayman, the beginning of the reign of Umar II and then again through the reign of Yazid II.
Sarjun ibn Mansur was a Melkite Arab Christian official of the early Umayyad Caliphate. The son of a prominent Byzantine official of Damascus, he was a favourite of the early Umayyad caliphs Mu'awiya I and Yazid I, and served as the head of the fiscal administration for Syria from the mid-7th century until the year 700, when Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan dismissed him as part of his efforts to Arabicize the administration of the Caliphate.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: John of Damascus|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John of Damascus .|