John of Damascus

Saint John of Damascus
Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός (Greek)
Ioannes Damascenus (Latin)
يوحنا الدمشقي (Arabic)
John Damascus (arabic icon).gif
Saint John Damascene (Arabic icon)
Doctor of the Church
Bornc. 675 or 676
Damascus, Bilad al-Sham, Umayyad Caliphate
Died4 December 749
Mar Saba, Jerusalem, Bilad al-Sham, Umayyad Caliphate
CanonizedPre-congregation by Eastern Orthodox Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Commemorated in Lutheranism
FeastDecember 4
March 27 (General Roman Calendar 1890–1969)
AttributesSevered hand, icon
PatronagePharmacists, icon painters, theology students

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 Syrian 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.[1]

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.[2][3] 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.[4] He is one of the Fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church and is best known for his strong defence of icons.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[7] 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.[8] The hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat, traditionally attributed to John, is in fact a work of the 10th century.[9]

Family background

John was born in Damascus in the third quarter of the 7th century AD, to a prominent Damascene Christian family known as "Mansoūr".[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[11][12] Eutychius, a 10th-century Melkite patriarch, mentions him as one high-ranking official involved in the surrender of the city to the Muslims.[13]

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.[14] 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.[14] However, Sahas also asserts that the name does not necessarily imply an Arab background and could have been used by non-Arab, Semitic Syrians.[14] 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";[15] 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."[16] 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.[17]

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.[11][13] John's father, Sarjun (Sergius), went on to serve the Umayyad caliphs.[11] 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.[18] 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.[11][19]

Other Languages
asturianu: Xuan Damascenu
azərbaycanca: Dəməşqli İoann
беларуская: Іаан Дамаскін
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ян Дамаскін
български: Йоан Дамаскин
brezhoneg: Yann Damask
català: Joan Damascè
čeština: Jan z Damašku
español: Juan Damasceno
français: Jean Damascène
Bahasa Indonesia: Yohanes dari Damaskus
latviešu: Damaskas Joans
Malagasy: Jean Damascène
português: João Damasceno
Simple English: John of Damascus
slovenčina: Ján Damaský
slovenščina: Janez Damaščan
српски / srpski: Јован Дамаскин
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jovan Damaskin
Türkçe: İoannis (aziz)
українська: Іван Дамаскін
Tiếng Việt: Gioan thành Damascus