John of Damascus: rewriting the division of heresy and schism


Abstract

St. John Damascene’s writings on heresies – specifically those texts against Nestorianism and Monophysitism – demonstrate a careful consideration of how thin the line is between schism and heresy. In the texts on heresies, Damascenus endeavors to reread the separation of certain Churches as an ecclesial problem and not only a theological problem. His writings blur the lines between heresy, nor­mally a theological concern, and schism, an ecclesiastical term normally reserved for the separation of Christian Churches. St. John Damascene’s teachings against heresies fit well within the culture of florilegia and compilations. John’s goal, particularly in the De haeresibus, seems to have been to contribute scholarly to the growing world of anti-heretical texts. His texts add to the already large list of known heresies, registering heresies that arose after the council of Chalcedon. Yet John’s texts against heresies are not meant simply to combat false tea­chings. In some cases, particularly Monophysitism, Damascenus contends that the terms used by orthodox (pro-Chalcedonian) Christians and Monophysite Chris­tians mean the same thing. We must read the Liber de haeresibus in the context of his other writings (e.g. Contra Jacobitas or Contra Nestorianos) in order to determine his true purpose. These definitions aim not to divide Christians based only on teachings, but to show the common understanding present in Christology in spite of different vocabulary. With a proper understanding of heresy, John of Damascus is able to provide a more complete description of the schisms in the Church of his time.


Keywords

John of Damascus; heresy; schism

Johannes Damascenus, Contra Jacobitas, ed. B. Kotter, in: Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, vol. 4: Liber de haeresibus. Opera polemica, PTS 22, Berlin 1981, 109-153.
Johannes Damascenus, Contra Nestorianos, ed. B. Kotter, in: Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, vol. 4: Liber de haeresibus. Opera polemica, PTS 22, Berlin 1981, 256-288.
Johannes Damascenus, Liber de haeresibus, ed. B. Kotter, in: Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, vol. 4: Liber de haeresibus. Opera polemica, PTS 22, Berlin 1981, 1-67, transl. F.H. Chase, Jr.: Saint John of Damascus, Writings, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation 37, Washington 1958, 111-163.
Brock S., The “Nestorian” Church: A Lamentable Misnomer, “Bulletin of the John Rylands Library” 78 (1996) fasc. 3, 23-35.
Brock S., The Syriac Churches and Dialogue with the Catholic Church, “Heythrop Journal” 45 (2004) 466-476.
Cameron A., How to Read Heresiology, “Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies” 33 (2003) 471-492.
Griffith S., Byzantium and the Christians in the World of Islam: Constantinople and the Church in the Holy Land in the Ninth Century, “Medieval Encounters” 3 (1997) 231-265.
Griffith S., John of Damascus and the Church in Syria in the Umayyad Era: The Intellectual and Cultural Milieu of Orthodox Christians in the World of Islam, “Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies” 11 (2008) fasc. 2, 207-237.
Griffith S., “Melkites”, “Jacobites”, and the Christological Controversies in Arabic in Third/Ninth Century Syria, in: Syrian Christians Under Islam: The First Thousand Years, ed. D. Thomas, Leiden 2001, 9-55.
Grillmeier A., Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2: From the Council of Chalcedon (451) to Gregory the Great (590-604), pt. 4: The Church of Alexandria with Nubia and Ethiopia after 451, transl. O.C. Dean, Jr., London 1996.
Knorr O., Zur Überlieferungsgeschichte des “Liber de haeresibus” des Johannes von Damaskus (um 650-vor 754): Anmerkungen zur Edition B. Kotters, ByZ 91 (1997) 59-69.
Lang U.M., The Controversies over Chalcedon and the Beginnings of Scholastic Theology: The Case of John Philoponus, in: The Mystery of Christ in the Fathers of the Church: Essays in Honour of D. Vincent Twomey SVD, ed. J.E. Rutherford – D. Woods, Dublin 2012, 78-93.
Louth A., St. John Damascene: Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology, Oxford 2002.
Download

Published : 2018-12-16


Keith, Z. (2018). John of Damascus: rewriting the division of heresy and schism. Vox Patrum, 68, 501-512. https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.3378

Zachary M. Keith 
The Catholic University of America  United States