Saint John of Damascus
Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός (Greek)
Ioannes Damascenus (Latin)
يوحنا الدمشقي (Arabic)
Saint John Damascene (Arabic icon)
|Doctor of the Church|
|Born||c. 675 or 676|
Damascus, Bilad al-Sham, Umayyad Caliphate
|Died||4 December 749|
Mar Saba, Jerusalem, Bilad al-Sham, Umayyad Caliphate
|Canonized|| Pre-congregation by Eastern 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
|School|| Aristotelianism |
|law, theology, philosophy, Criticism of Islam, Geometry, Mariology, arithmetic, astronomy and music|
|Icon, Dormition/Assumption of Mary, Theotokos, Perpetual virginity of Mary, Mediatrix|
|Part of a series on the|
|Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Part of a series on|
Saint John of Damascus (Medieval Greek Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός, Ioánnis o Damaskinós, Byzantine Greek pronunciation: [ioˈanis o ðamasciˈnos] ; Latin : Ioannes Damascenus, Arabic : يوحنا الدمشقي, ALA-LC: Yūḥannā ad-Dimashqī), also known as John Damascene and as Χρυσορρόας / Chrysorrhoas (literally "streaming with gold"—i.e., "the golden speaker"), was a Byzantine monk and priest. Born and raised in Damascus c. 675 or 676, he died at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem on 4 December 749.
Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, is the stage of the Greek language between the end of Classical antiquity in the 5th–6th centuries and the end of the Middle Ages, conventionally dated to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.
Damascus is the capital of the Syrian Arab Republic; it is also the country's largest city, following the decline in population of Aleppo due to the battle for the city. It is colloquially known in Syria as aš-Šām (الشام) and titled the "City of Jasmine". In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major cultural center of the Levant and the Arab world. The city has an estimated population of 1,711,000 as of 2009.
A polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy, and music, he is said by some sources to have served as a Chief Administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus before his ordination.He wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and composed hymns which are still used both liturgically in Eastern Christian practice throughout the world as well as in western Lutheranism at Easter. He is one of the Fathers of the Eastern 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.
A polymath is an individual whose knowledge spans a significant number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. The term entered the lexicon in the 20th century and has now been applied to great thinkers living before and after the Renaissance.
Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.
Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also especially with epistemology, and asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.
The most common 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. Michael 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 centuries AD. 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.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem or Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, officially Patriarch of Jerusalem, is the head bishop of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III. The Patriarch is styled "Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Holy Land, Syria, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Holy Zion." The Patriarch is the head of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, and the religious leader of about 130,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land, most of them Palestinians.
Barlaam and Josaphat are legendary Christian martyrs and saints. Their life story is likely to have been based on the life of the Gautama Buddha. It tells how an Indian king persecuted the Christian Church in his realm. When astrologers predicted that his own son would some day become a Christian, the king imprisoned the young prince Josaphat, who nevertheless met the hermit Saint Barlaam and converted to Christianity. After much tribulation the young prince's father accepted the Christian faith, turned over his throne to Josaphat, and retired to the desert to become a hermit. Josaphat himself later abdicated and went into seclusion with his old teacher Barlaam. The tale derives from a second to fourth century Sanskrit Mahayana Buddhist text, via a Manichaean version, then the Arabic Kitab Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf, current in Baghdad in the eighth century, from where it entered into Middle Eastern Christian circles before appearing in European versions. The two were entered in the Eastern Orthodox calendar with a feast-day on 26 August, and in the Roman Martyrology in the Western Church as "Barlaam and Josaphat" on the date of 27 November.
John was born in Damascus in the third quarter of the 7th century AD, to a prominent Damascene Christian family known as "Mansoūr".The family was named after John's grandfather, Mansour 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.
Heraclius was the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 610 to 641. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.
Khālid ibn al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīrah al-Makhzūmī, commonly known as simply Khalid ibn al-Walīd, and also known by his kunya as, Abu Sulaiman was a companion of Muhammad and an army commander under Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab. It was under his military leadership that Arabia, for the first time, was united under a single political entity, the Caliphate. Having remained undefeated, he is widely considered to be one of the greatest warriors and military generals in history.
The term Melkite, also written Melchite, refers to various Christian churches of the Byzantine Rite and their members originating in the Middle East. The term comes from the common Central Semitic root M-L-K, meaning "royal", and by extension "imperial" or loyal to the Byzantine Emperor. The Melkites accepted the Council of Chalcedon. Originally they used Greek and, to a lesser extent, Aramaic in worship, but later incorporated Arabic in parts of their liturgy.
Though information about the tribal background of the Mansour family are absent in contemporary sources, biographer Daniel Sahas speculates the name Mansour could have implied that they belonged to the Arab Christian tribes of Kalb or Taghlib.Moreover, the family name was common among Syrian Christians of Arab origins, and Eutychius noted that the governor of Damascus, who was likely Mansour 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 [Mansour] could have been given an Arabic name when the Arabs took over the government." 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.
The Banu Kalb or Kalb ibn Wabara was an Arab tribe. Prior to the Muslim conquest of Syria in the 630s, the Kalb's territory spanned much of northwestern Arabia, the Palmyrene steppe, the Samawah, the Hawran plain and the Golan Heights. One of their main centers was the desert town of Dumat al-Jandal. The Kalb became involved in the tribal affairs in the eastern frontiers of the Byzantine Empire since the 4th century and were likely the tribe of Mavia, the Bedouin queen of southern Syria. By the 6th century, the Kalb had largely become Monophysite Christians and came under the military authority of the Ghassanids, Arab vassals of the Byzantines.
The Banu Taghlib, also known as Taghlib ibn Wa'il, were an Arab tribe that originated in Najd, but inhabited Upper Mesopotamia from the late 6th century onward. Their parent tribe was the Rabi'ah, and they thus traced their descent to the Adnanites. The Taghlib were among the most powerful and cohesive nomadic tribes of the pre-Islamic era and were known for their bitter wars with their kinsmen from the Banu Bakr, as well as their struggles with the Lakhmid kings of al-Hira in Iraq. The tribe embraced Monophysite Christianity and remained largely Christian long after the advent of Islam in the mid-7th century. After early opposition to the Muslims, the Taghlib eventually secured for themselves an important place in Umayyad politics. They allied with the Umayyads and engaged in numerous battles with the rebellious Qaysi tribes during the Qays–Yaman feuding in the late 7th 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, hailing from Mecca. The third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, was a member of the Umayyad clan. The family established dynastic, hereditary rule with Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of Syria, 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. Syria remained the Umayyads' main power base thereafter, and Damascus was their capital.
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.
The Muslim conquest of the Levant, also known as the Arab conquest of the Levant occurred in the first half of the 7th century. This was the conquest of the region known as the Levant or Shaam, later to become the Islamic Province of Bilad al-Sham, as part of the Islamic conquests. Arab Muslim forces had appeared on the southern borders even before the death of prophet Muhammad in 632, resulting in the Battle of Mu'tah in 629, but the real invasion began in 634 under his successors, the Rashidun Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab, with Khalid ibn al-Walid as their most important military leader.
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.
The Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas, known in Syriac as Mar Saba, is a Greek Orthodox monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley at a point halfway between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, within the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank. The monks of Mar Saba and those of subsidiary houses are known as Sabaites. Mar Saba is occasionally referred to as the Convent or Monastery of Santa Sabba.
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 (the future St. Cosmas of Maiuma), John is said to have made great advances 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 had at least one and possibly two careers: one (less well-documented) as a civil servant for the Caliph in Damascus, and the other (better-attested) as a priest and monk at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. One source believes John left Damascus to become a monk around 706, when al-Walid I increased the Islamicisation of the Caliphate's administration.However, 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 AD, iconoclasm, a movement opposed to the veneration of icons, gained acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III (who had forced the emperor 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 Helandarion monastery of the Holy Mountain.
John died in 749 as a revered Father of the Church, and is recognized as a saint. He is sometimes called the last of the Church Fathers by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1890 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII.
When the name of Saint 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 the saint'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.
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.
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.
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 Saint 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 in many languages (German, Russian and English).
Two translations exist of the 10th century hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat , traditionally attributed to John:
The 8th century is the period from 701 to 800 in accordance with the Julian calendar. The coast of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula quickly come 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.
Year 715 (DCCXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 715 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.
Saracen was a term widely used among Christian writers in Europe during the Middle Ages to refer to Arab Muslims. The term's meaning evolved during its history. In the early centuries of the Common Era, Greek and Latin writings used this term to refer to the people who lived in desert areas in and near the Roman province of Arabia Petraea, and in Arabia Deserta. In Europe during the Early Middle Ages, the term came to be associated with tribes of Arabia. The oldest source mentioning the term Saracen dates back to the 7th century. It was found in Doctrina Jacobi, a commentary that discussed the event of the Arab conquests on Palestine.
Musa bin Nusayr served as a Umayyad governor and a Arab general under the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid I. He ruled over the Muslim provinces of North Africa (Ifriqiya), and directed the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania.
Sophronius 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.
The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. It is headed by Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi since 2011, seated in Bkerke north of Beirut, Lebanon. Officially known as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, it is part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage.
Written in Syriac in the late seventh century, the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius shaped and influenced Christian eschatological thinking in the Middle Ages. Falsely attributed to Methodius of Olympus, a fourth century Church Father, the work attempts to make sense of the Islamic Conquest of the Mediterranean world. The Apocalypse is noted for incorporating numerous aspects of Christian eschatology such as the invasion of Gog and Magog, the rise of the Antichrist, and the tribulations that precede the end of the world.
Saint Cosmas of Maiuma, also called Cosmas Hagiopolites, Cosmas of Jerusalem, or Cosmas the Melodist, or Cosmas the Poet, was a bishop and an important hymnographer of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Arab–Byzantine wars were a series of wars between the mostly Arab Muslims and the Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 11th centuries AD, started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs in the 7th century and continued by their successors until the mid-11th century.
Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam from the Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam series is a book by scholar of the Middle East Robert G. Hoyland.
Bahira, or Sergius the Monk to the Latin West, was an Arab Ebionite, 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”.
Elias III was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from about 879 to 907.
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.
The Hesychast controversy was a theological dispute in the Byzantine Empire during the 14th century between supporters and opponents of Gregory Palamas. While not a primary driver of the Byzantine Civil War, it influenced and was influenced by the political forces in play during that war. The dispute concluded with the victory of the Palamists and the inclusion of Palamite doctrine as part of the dogma of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as the canonization of Palamas.
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.
John V was Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (706–735).
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 ibn Marwan. 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 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.
|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 .|