John Damascene

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John Damascene


Born circa 675 in Damascus; died before 753. Byzantine theologian, philosopher, and poet. Born into a Christian Arab family.

John Damascene received an encyclopedic education in the Greek manner. He was apparently a minion of the caliph. He later became a monk (prior to 700) and emerged as the leading ideological spokesman against iconoclasm.

John Damascene completed and systematized the Greek patristics. He did not aim at originality of thought or theory but remained true to his motto: “I will say nothing on my own.” His versatile knowledge enabled him to combine heterogeneous philosophical material into a unified closed system. Systematizing science under the aegis of church dogma and on the basis of Aristotelian logic, John Damascene laid the foundation of the Scholastic method, which was later further developed by medieval theologians in the West who learned from him. His principal work, entitled Source of Knowledge, is a compendium of philosophical and theological knowledge and an anticipation of the summae of the Western Scholastics. The Latin translation of the third part, done in the mid-12th century, influenced Peter Lombard, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas. His works were well known in the countries of Eastern Christendom as well, including Georgia and ancient Rus’. His belief that philosophy was the handmaiden of theology influenced the further extension of this thesis by the Western Scholastics (particularly Peter Damian).

John Damascene is remembered in literary history as an eminent poet who composed a number of outstanding church songs. In his liturgical lyrics he restored the use of classical prosody, and he made the architectonics of his canon unusually sophisticated, embellishing his lyrics with intricate acrostics and giving them, as it were, a crystal-like structure, which affects the imagination by the elaborate design and symmetry. At the same time he was capable of expressing simple heartfelt emotions (such as the funeral hymn “Such Sweetness in This Life”). It has not been ascertained that the romance Barlaam and Josaphat was written by him.


Opera omnia, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1860. (Patrologiae cursus completus: Ser. graeca, vols. 94–96. Edited by J.-P. Migne.)
Schriften, vol. 1. Berlin, 1969.
In Russian translation:
Poln. sobr. tvorenii, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1913.
In Antologiia mirovoi filosofii, vol. 1, part 2. Moscow, 1969. Pages 621–26.
Pamiatniki vizantiiskoi literatury IV–IX vekov. Moscow, 1968. Pages270–80.


References in periodicals archive ?
1) St John Damascene, Treatise on the Holy, Images, 1.
There was some very interesting work done, from John Damascene through Peter the Venerable and later, which hasn't really been repeated.
26) As will be seen later in John Damascene, [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] can also be employed of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, but not of the Father.
Thus it is obvious why John Damascene, who in his Christology, as will be seen below, at first endorses the distinction made by the De Sectis, then attempts to overcome it.
The latest person from the Christian East named as a Doctor of the church (in 1890) was Saint John Damascene, the great defender of the use of icons in the church.
ilm al-kalam, responding to the agenda of the Muslim mutakallimun and drawing more on the Syriac tradition of Ephraem rather than on the Greek of John Damascene.
Not familiar with much postmodern philosophy or theology, I was out of my depth here, as Bachelard reads Corbin and the Persian poets by way of Wallace Stephens; as the Chabad Lubavitcher Kabbalistic teachers dialogue with Pseudo-Dionysius; and as Judith Butler, Whitehead, and Deleuze find common currency with John Damascene and Nicholas of Cusa.
A key text is the Letter to the Emperor Theophilus, written around 847 and attributed to John Damascene, reproduced almost verbatim in a ninth or tenth century manual for religious painters entitled On Bodily Characteristics by Ulpius the Roman.
At the same time, these windows also reflect our belief, as expressed by Saint John Damascene and the Second Council of Nicea (787), that in making such images we are not worshiping matter but praising the God who created us and took on our flesh.
Yet there was also a history of ascribing bodily pain to Mary at least as old as John Damascene (c.
Like later Greek authors Romanos the Melodist and John Damascene, Cyril makes Mary a partner in God's work of salvation, which culminates with the repentance of the nations.
Jahrhunderts (Munster, 1981(2)), 272-83; John Damascene, De Haeres.