John of Damascus

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Saint John of Damascus (Arabic: يوحنا الدمشقي Yuḥannā Al Demashqi; Greek: Ιωάννης Δαμασκήνος Iôannês Damaskênos; Latin: Iohannes Damascenus; also known as John Damascene, Χρυσορρόας/Chrysorrhoas, "streaming with gold"—i.e., "the golden speaker") (c. 676 – 4 December 749) was a Syrian Christian monk and priest. Born and raised in Damascus, he died at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem.[1]

A polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy, and music, before being ordained, he served as a Chief Administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus, wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and composed hymns which are still in everyday use in Eastern Christian monasteries throughout the world. 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.[2]

Contents

Biography

The most commonly used source for information on the life of John of Damascus is a work attributed to one John of Jerusalem, identified therein as the Patriarch of Jerusalem.[3] It is actually an excerpted translation into Greek of an earlier Arabic text. The Arabic original contains a prologue not found in most other translations that was written by an Arabic monk named Michael who relates his decision to write a biography of John of Damascus in 1084, noting that none was available in either Greek or Arabic at the time. The main text that follows in the original Arabic version seems to have been written by another, even earlier author, sometime between the early 9th and late 10th centuries AD.[3] Written from a hagiographical point of view and prone to exaggeration, it is not the best historical source for his life, but is widely reproduced and considered to be of some value nonetheless.[4] The hagiographic novel Barlaam and Josaphat, traditionally attributed to John, is in fact a work of the 10th century.[5]

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