JOHN OF DAMASCUS(called Chrysorrhoas, "streaming with gold," i.e., the golden speaker):


The last of the Greek Fathers and the most authoritative theologian for the whole Eastern Church; b. presumably in Damascus and before 700; d., in all probability at the monastery of Mar Saba (8 m. s.e. of Jerusalem), shortly before 754 (cf. acts vi. and vii. of the Second Council of Nicæa,787, in Mansi, Concilia, xiii. 356, 400). His family, though Christian, held a high hereditary public office under the Moslem rulers of Damascus, apparently that of head of the tax department for Syria. John's father filled this position, as did John himself for a time. The Arabs gave to the family the surname Mansur, which was also borne by John. Shortly after 730 he became a monk and went to Mar Saba, whither his brother by adoption, the poet Cosmas, and his teacher had preceded him. The latter was an Italian monk who had been brought to Damascus a prisoner of war and was freed by John's father. To him John owed his introduction into theology and philosophy and his comprehensive knowledge of secular science. He was ordained priest by Patriarch John V. of Jerusalem shortly after entering the monastery, but declined further advancement in hierarchical rank. When called to Jerusalem as priest of the Church there he soon returned to Mar Saba. There he wrote his chief works. Toward the end of his life he gave his writings a careful revision. His grave was shown at Mar Saba in the twelfth century, but in the fourteenth his body is said to have been transferred to Constantinople. He is honored as a saint by the Greek Church on Dec. 4, by the Latin on May 6.

Writings in Defense of Images.

Probably the earliest of John's writings, at any rate those which made his reputation, are the three "Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images" (Eng. transl. by Mary H. Allies, St. John Damascene on Holy Images, Followed by Three Sermons on the Assumption, London, 1899), called forth by the vigorous measures of the Emperor Leo III. (see IMAGES AND IMAGE-WORSHIP, II). The first (MPG, xciv. 1232 sqq.), written while John was still in public life in Damascus, is complete, learned, and skilful, and straightway put a good literary defense in the hands of the friends of images. Since John was out of his power, Leo attempted to bring him under suspicion of treason to the caliph (cf. "Life," ut inf., chaps. xv.-xvi.). Addressing himself to the people and patriarch of Constantinople, John professes to write reluctantly, from a sense of duty, wishing only "to reach a helping hand to truth when attacked." His manner is definite and incisive, yet restrained and dignified, that of a man of good breeding, inflexible energy, and knowledge of ecclesiastical matters. Images are justified on the ground that God, who is "not to be attained unto, without body, invisible, not circumscribed in space, and without form," yet has become visible in the Logos, which was made flesh. Therefore an image of "the flesh of God which has been seen" can be made, and in making it there is nothing forbidden or unchristian. The Mosaic prohibition was directed against some thing quite different. "Worship" (proskunesis) is a symbol of dependence and reverence; it has many forms, the highest being latreia, which is due to God alone; elsewhere for Christians it is merely an expression of reverence (sebeia), and is properly accorded to everything connected with salvation--the cross, the Gospels, the altar, etc. "I worship not the material [hyle]," he declares, "but I worship the fabricator [demiourgon] of the material, the one who . . . through the material has wrought my salvation." The image becomes for him one of the means of salvation, and it and the God-man approach so close together that there is little practical difference between them. Refined speculations, like the attempt to measure the extent of the consonance, belong to a later stage of the controversy. Furthermore, John does not attempt to brand the Christology of the iconoclasts as heretical. Images of the "mother of God" are to be tolerated beside those of Christ, and also of the saints. Finally, he cites passages from the Fathers with comments to show that the entire doing away with images would be a sad departure from tradition. The second and third treatises (MPG, xciv. 1284 sqq.) contain nothing essential which is not also in the first. The second is the most popular and vehement, the third the most formal and theological. The second presupposes the situation of 730


when Leo had deposed the Patriarch Germanus, the third may have been written or revised after John became a monk; it is to some extent a compilation of the other two. The "Demonstrative Treatise about the Images" (MPG, xcv. 309 sqq.), the "Letter to Theophilus" (MPG, xcv. 345 sqq.), and the tract in MPG, xcvi. 1348 sqq., are not genuine.

Chief Dogmatic Work.

John was no mystic, and he hardly touched the problems which later agitated the mystagogic theology (see MYSTAGOGIC THEOLOGY); but nearly all fruitful and instructive theological questions were treated by him, and his treatment is definitive for the East. In the West, too, his influence has been considerable, but here men like Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas surpassed and displaced him. For the East his great work, the "Fount of Knowledge" (MPG, xciv. 521 sqq.) became the standard. It is commended by substantial merits in the author. He is pious and scientific, deferential to authority but learned and acute, able to accept the current body of dogmas and yet give it new significance and spiritual vitality. If he never rises above the level of a good average excellence, he never falls below it. He had no ideas of his own and so never disturbed the peace of the Church or fell under suspicion as an unsafe leader. For modern times he presents a convenient and instructive summary of what the ancient Greek Church accomplished in the field of dogma--a sum total of holy concepts enigmatical in character and supernaturally perceived. The work is dedicated to John's brother by adoption, Cosmas, at one time a monk of Mar Saba, later (743?) bishop of Majumas (the port of Gaza). John explains this plan as threefold. First, he will present "the best things of the wise among the Greeks" and, like a bee, "will gather salvation from the enemy" (i.e., the philosophers, especially Aristotle). Then he will set forth "the vaporings of heresies hated by God." Thirdly, he will exhibit the truth in the words of "the God-inspired prophets and the God-taught fishermen and the God-filled [theophoros] shepherds and teachers"; that is, by quotations from the Bible and the Fathers, the latter receiving much the greater consideration. The "Philosophical Chapters" (part i.; 68 chapters in Le Quien and Migne; a shorter edition in 15 may be earlier) comprise a comprehensive treatise on dialectics and are cited under this title. In the second part John follows Epiphanius for the older time (the first 80 heresies), then Theodoret and others, and finally makes some independent remarks, especially concerning Mohammedanism. Some codices give 100 heresies, others a few more. The third part ("Exposition of the Orthodox Faith"; Eng. transl. in NPNF, 2d ser., ix.) was divided by John himself into 100 chapters. Later and in the West it was made up in four books, of which the first treats of the God-head (the Trinity), the second of the created universe (heaven and earth, angels, devils, mankind, freedom of the will, providence), the third chiefly of the person of Christ, then the mysteries, images, church festivals and customs, and the like, finally of Antichrist and the resurrection. Manuscripts often contain only parts i. and iii., part ii. being less important and copied separately.

His Teaching

John writes clearly and concisely, speaking for the most part in the words of his sources, but seldom names his authorities, the chief of whom are Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Dionysius the Areopagite, and Leontius. As philosopher he is an Aristotelian of the fifth and sixth centuries, that is, with a strong infusion of Neoplatonism. Philosophy furnishes the first principles, but it is unable to apprehend and develop them aright especially as concerns the true knowledge of God, being but the handmaiden of faith, which is the queen. In final analysis, philosophy for John is merely the teacher of the right terminology, theology is nothing more than a working over of the opinions of "the holy fathers," who have first been able to understand the terms correctly. It is the juristic method applied to dogmatics—in fact, scholasticism in general is the incursion of jurisprudence into the field of theology. John's conception of God stops short of making him a person. It is true he ascribes personal attributes to the supreme being and herein influenced appreciably the Eastern Church; but, notwithstanding, he attained to no other idea of fellowship and communion with God than a physical blending through theoria, "vision." Herein is the religiously significant motive of the image question. More extended analysis of John's idea of God will be found in F. Kattenbusch, Vergleichende Konfessionskunde, i. 310 sqq., Freiburg, 1892. For his doctrine of the Trinity and Christology the histories of dogma mentioned in the bibliography must be consulted; that by Bach (i. 49 sqq.) is particularly instructive. John does not allegorize the Scriptures, and he propounds no doctrine of the Church or the hierarchy. He refrains from discussion of the creed and characterizes the formula of faith ("Orthodox Faith," iv. 11) as a simple and inartistic composition, showing that he had the creed before him. His section on the creation ("Orthodox Faith," ii.) is a whole treatise on astronomy and geography with the science of water, air, and fire. His doctrine of the Eucharist deserves mention because it is one of the few vital questions on which he did not speak the final word for his Church, although he gave the direction to later thought (cf. Steitz, Die Abendmahlslehre der griechischen Kirche in Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie, xii. 275 sqq., Gotha, 1867; Kattenbusch, Konfessionskunde, ut sup., i. 415 sqq.). The chief points are three: (1) that there is a real change (metabole) and remaking (metapoiesis); (2) that the eucharistic body which results from the change is that born of the Virgin Mary; (3) that the change is analogous to that by which food is assimilated and changed into our flesh. He disclaims the doctrine that Christ's body comes again to earth in any manner in the eucharistic form, and teaches not transubstantiation, but "transformation" through "assumption." The "Fount of Knowledge" was brought to the West in the twelfth century and was translated into Latin by Burgundio of Pisa in the time of Pope Eugenius III. (1144-53). Neither


Burgundio's translation nor another by Panetius, a Carmelite, has been printed.

The "Sacred Parallels."

A counterpart to the "Fount of Knowledge" is furnished in the "Sacred Parallels" (MPG, xcv. 1040-xcvi. 544), ascribed to John of Damascus, but not universally accepted as his work. As printed in Le Quien and Migne it has two prefaces, of which the second outlines a collection of ethical and hortatory maxims from the Bible and the Fathers arranged alphabetically under titles. There are to be three books treating respectively of God, human things, and virtue and vice. The title is given simply as "the Holy Things" (ta hiera), and, indeed, it is hard to see how the matter of books i. and ii. could be arranged in parallels. The first preface, however, which is much shorter, gives a description for the entire work applicable only to the third book of the second preface, and promises to set "the virtues and the corresponding vices" as "parallels." Quotations from Philo and Josephus are to be added to those from the Fathers. The work which follows in Le Quien and Migne in not in three parts, but is a single book, although it contains material which fits the plan of the second preface and is alphabetically arranged. It is very evidently a revision of another and more extensive writing, made, presumably, by combining and compressing the three books into one and arranging the matter alphabetically. The manuscripts differ widely. Loofs showed that the two manuscripts known to Le Quien are both based upon an original work in three parts, two of which are preserved independently and separately and the third in a revision by the so-called Antonius Melissa (more correctly in the Melissa of the monk Antonius) of the eleventh century. The conclusions of Holl are to be accepted in the main as correct. He says: "The Hiera comprised originally three books. . . . In each the matter was arranged in a long list of chapters (titloi), some more comprehensive, some more concise. . . . The chapters of the first and second books were arranged alphabetically according to the catch-words; in the third book the author abandoned this arrangement and, following a favorite method, chose to set a virtue and a vice one against the other, whence he named this book 'the Parallels.' . . In richness and copiousness the work surpassed all similar collections; the citations reached to the thousands and included parts of sermons of Basil and Chrynostom. To this great extent of the work is it due that it has not been preserved entire. . . . Neither of the two extant codices of books i. and ii. is a faithful copy, but each is an abridgment of the corresponding book of the original work." Concerning the author, Holl pronounces decidedly for John of Damascus, arguing from the very good tradition which ascribes the work to him and a comparison of the "Sacred Parallels" with the "Fount of Knowledge." Loofs, relying on a scholium to the manuscript of the second part, suggested Leontius of Byzantium (d. 543). Holl finds that John was largely dependent on Maximus Confessor, from whom he borrowed the ides of an edifying book made up of sentences from the Bible and the Fathers, even incorporating a work of Maximus in his own. However, in the number of themes treated and authorities cited, as well as in the length of the passages quoted, he greatly surpassed Maximus; and he attempted to give an orderly arrangement to his work as Maximus did not. "It is surprising," Holl continues (p. 392), "what antitheses are set side by side--motives of the most paltry worldly wisdom by the side of ideas of the highest moral import; and there is as great lack of connection between the individual ethical problems as of effort to solve them by any principle." The explanation is not far to seek. "There is no close connection between dogma and moral duty. Only two dogmas enter at all--the doctrines of the Trinity and of the last judgment form the framework in which the whole is enclosed." The "Parallels" are a true picture of the type of moral thought which remains peculiarly that of the Greek Church.

Hymns and Minor Writings.

John is not only the most renowned theologian of the Eastern Church, but, with his brother Cosmas, he is also its most esteemed hymn-writer. He was formerly thought to be the originator of the oktoichos (the hymn-book for the daily service), but more probably he only revised and improved it. Like Eastern hymn-writers in general he composed both words and music. His "canons" (compositions of highly complicated structure consisting of eight or nine hymns, each of three or four strophes and each having its own form and melody) reached the highest point of art and skill. Those in iambic meter for Christmas, Epiphany, and Pentecost are peculiar in that they are both quantitative and rhythmical; they are also very difficult acrostics and two have each 130 lines and the same number of letters in the distichs. Of minor writings ascribed to John, the early "Tract on Right Thinking" (MPG, xciv. 1421 sqq.) is genuine. It is a reverent and submissive apology for everybody under the metropolitan of Damascus, treating first of the creed, then naming all heresies which were to be rejected. A dislike, even contempt, for Origen, is evident (vi.). Theologically the tract has little significance. But it shows the regard felt for John in Damascus. Perhaps the same may be said of the "book" which immediately follows in Migne (xciv. 1436 sqq.), said to have been written at the request of Peter, metropolitan of Damascus, for an exposition of the faith. Other tracts are interesting because of their form (some of them dialogues) or because they are designated as "dictated" by John and so present him answering questions propounded by disciples (e.g., the "Dialogue against Manicheans," MPG, xciv. 1505 sqq.; the "Conversation between a Saracen and a Christian," MPG, xciv. 1585 sqq.; the "Introduction to Elementary Dogmatics," MPG, xcv. 99). For other dogmatic tracts, consult Langen, 161 sqq., 173 sqq. The contents of John's ascetic writings are important for the Greek Church. Langen gives summaries of them, as of all of John's writings (for "On the Fasts," MPG, xcv. 64 sqq., cf. Langen, 166 sqq.; for "On the Eight Spirits of Vice," MPG, xcv., 80 sqq., cf. Langen, 169 sqq., and O. Zöckler, Das Lehrstück von den


Sieben Hauptsünden, pp. 53 sqq., Munich, 1893). The "On Dragons" and "On Witches" (MPG, xciv. 1600 sqq.) are only fragments of a larger work. The two short expositions of the Eucharist (MPG, xcv. 401 sqq.) and the tract "On the Unleavened Bread" (MPG, xcv. 388 sqq.) are of doubtful authenticity. The great commentary (on all the Pauline epistles and the Hebrews) ascribed to John (MPG, xcv. 441 sqq.) needs further investigation. For the many homilies which go under his name (MPG, xcvi. 545-814; Eng. transl. of three on the Assumption in Allies, St. John Damascene, ut sup.), consult Langen, 213 sqq. For the "Barlaam and Josaphat," see the article under that title. The "Letter on Confession and on Binding and Loosing" (MPG, xcv. 284 sqq.) belongs to Symeon the New Theologian (cf. K. Holl, Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt im griechischen Mönchtum, Leipsic,1898).


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The indispensable edition of the works of John is by M. Le Quien, 2 vols., Paris, 1712, Venice, 1748, practically reproduced in MPG, xciv.-xcvi. The prolegomena to Le Quien are excellent. There is an Eng. transl. of the De fide orthodoxa in NPNF, 2 ser., vol. ix. His work on "Holy Images" and three "Sermons on the Assumption" are translated by Mary H. Allies, in St. John Damascene, ut sup. The early life, by "John, Patriarch of Jerusalem" (possibly the one who died c. 970, cf. Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, iii. 466 sqq., Paris, 1740) and based upon an older lost Arabic work, is in MPG, xciv. 429-489. It is hagiographic in style and selection of facts. The best modern treatise is J. Langen, Johannes von Damaskus, Gotha, 1879, in which summaries of the writings of John are given. Other monographs are: F. A. Perrier, Strasburg, 1861; J. D. Grundlehner, Utrecht, 1877; J. H. Lupton, London, 1883. On the theology of John consult the works on the history of doctrine (Dogmengeschichte) of F. A. B. Nitzsch, Berlin, 1870; J. Bach, Vienna, 1873; G. Thomasius, ed. Bonwetsch, Leipsic, 1886; F. Loofs, Halle, 1893; R. Seeberg, vol. i., Erlangen, 1895; A. Dorner, Berlin, 1899, and Harnack, Dogma, vols. iii.-vii., passim. Further references are F. Nève, in Revue belge et étrangère, xii (1861), i. sqq., 117 sqq.; DCB, iii. 409-423 (an elaborate discussion); Krumbacher, Geschichte, pp. 68 sqq., 674 sqq.; O. Bardenhewer, Patrologie, Freiburg, 1894; and especially F. Kattenbusch, Vergleichende Konfessionskunde, vol. i., Freiburg, 1892. On the "Sacred Parallels" consult Krumbacher, ut sup., pp. 216 sqq., 600 sqq.; F. Loofs, Studien über die dem Johannes von Damaskus zugeschriebenen Parallelen, Halle, 1892; K. Boll, in TU, xvi. 1 (1897), xx. 2 (1899). On John as a hymnologist and for specimens of his hymns consult: MPG, xcvi. 817-856, 1364-1408 (the canons at 1372-1408 are for the most part erroneously ascribed to John); Anthologia Graeca, ed. W. Christ and M. Paranikas, pp, xliv.-xlv., 117 sqq., 205 sqq., Leipsic, 1871; Kattenbusch, ut sup., i. 484 sqq.; Krumbacher, ut sup., pp. 674 sqq., 690 sqq.; J. Jakobi, in ZKG, v (1882), 177 sqq.; A. Nauck, Mélanges gréco-romain, vi. 2 (1894); Julian, Hymnology, pp.603-604; Eng. transl. of nineteen pieces in B. Pick, Hymns and Poetry of the Eastern Church, pp. 111 sqq.. New York, 1908. Consult also W. F. Adeney, The Greek and Eastern Churches, pp. 211, 284, New York, 1908.


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