St. John Criticism - Essay

Arthur Cushman McGiffert (essay date 1932)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "John of Damascus and the Eastern Church of the Middle Ages," in A History of Christian Thought, Vol. I: Early and Eastern, from Jesus to John of Da-mascus, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949, pp. 308-32.

[In the essay below, originally published in 1932, McGiffert locates the theological work of John of Damascus within the broader context of the early Christian church. In particular, the critic focuses on the third book of the Sources of Knowledge—the Exposition of the Orthodox Faith—finding that it provided no new or profound insights, but acknowledging that it significantly influenced the theology of the Eastern church for many ensuing decades.]


(The entire section is 8066 words.)

John Ernest Merrill (essay date 1951)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Of the Tractate of John of Damascus on Islam," in The Muslim World, Vol. 41, No. I (January 1951): 88-97.

[In the essay that follows, Merrill discusses the response John of Damascus makes to the Muslim charge that Christianity encourages idolatry and polytheism, and documents the limits of the information about Islam available to John of Damascus.]

"The first outstanding scholar to enter the field of polemic against the Moslem was John of Damascus. (He is) known to history as the most honored of the later theologians of the Greek Church.… His great dogmatic work on the Sources of Knowledge includes an important section 'Concerning...

(The entire section is 4467 words.)

John Meyendorff (lecture date 1963)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Byzantine Views of Islam," in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, No. 18, 1964, pp. 113-32.

[In the following essay, originally delivered as a lecture in 1963, Meyendorff contends that although there was some sophisticated understanding on each side of the Christian-Moslem confrontation, the two realms generally "remained impenetrable" in terms of real influence. The critic also discusses the superficiality of the interpretations of Islam that were instituted largely by John of Damascus.]

No knowledge of the Islamic teachings is evident in Byzantine literature before the beginning of the eighth century. We know that the spiritual and intellectual encounter of Muhammad and...

(The entire section is 9026 words.)

Daniel J. Sahas (essay date 1972)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Text and Its Content," in John of Damascus on Islam: The 'Heresy of the Ishmaelites,' E. J. Brill, 1972, pp. 67-95.

[In the following essay, Sahas examines John of Damascus's criticisms of Islam as an idolatrous and superstitious heresy, and contends that he had an extensive knowledge of early Islamic theology.]

It is important to study closely what John of Damascus had to report and remark on Islam. It is only then that one can draw a picture of his knowledge and his evaluation of Islam.1

1. "There is also the deceptive superstition of the Ishmaelites, prevailing until now …" (764A)


(The entire section is 13224 words.)

David Anderson (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to On the Divine Images: Three Apologies against Those Who Attack the Divine Images, by St. John of Damascus, translated by David Anderson, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980, pp. 7-12.

[In the introduction that follows, written in 1979, Anderson argues that On the Divine Images, in which St. John of Damascus defended the veneration of images, retains its significance even today, especially with regard to tensions within present-day Christianity.]

The iconoclastic controversy begun in the eighth century by the Byzantine emperor Leo III (717-741) and continued by his successor Constantine V (741-775) cannot be considered in isolation from...

(The entire section is 1726 words.)

Kenneth Parry (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Apophaticism and Deification," in Depicting the Word: Byzantine Iconophile Thought of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries, E. J. Brill, 1996, pp. 114-24.

[In the following essay, Parry examines the paradoxical characterization of God by John of Damascusin which he described God's humanity as well as His divinityand discusses how this depiction affected the iconoclastic controversy.]

The two doctrines of apophaticism … and deification …, are here treated together because they often complement one another in Byzantine theology. For example, Pseudo-Dionysius writes: 'Since the union of deified minds with that light which is beyond all deity...

(The entire section is 4372 words.)