John of Ephesus

John of Ephesus

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John of Ephesus (c. 507 – c. 586) was a leader of the non-Chalcedonian
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

 Syriac-speaking Church in the sixth century, and one of the earliest and most important of historians who wrote in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

c.

Life


Born at Amida
Amida (Roman city)
Amida was an ancient city located where modern Diyarbakır, Turkey. The Roman writers Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius consider it a city of Mesopotamia, but it may be more properly viewed as belonging to Armenia Major....

 (modern Diyarbakır
Diyarbakır
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

 in southern Turkey) about 507, he was there ordained as a deacon in 529 by John of Tella
John of Tella
John of Tella was a monk and bishop in the Near East. John was a major proponent of moderate Monophysitism. Although his native language was Syriac he studied Greek in order to serve in the Byzantine administration. John was a native of Callincius. He was influenced to become a monk by reading...

 but in 534 we find him in Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, and in 535 he passed to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. The cause of his leaving Amida might have been the great plague
Pandemic
A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide. A widespread endemic disease that is stable in terms of how many people are getting sick from it is not a pandemic...

 which broke out there in 542. However he also had already been traveling the region before in order to collect stories for his collection of saints lives. He was back in Amida at the start of the furious persecution directed against the Monophysites by Ephrem, patriarch of Antioch, and Abraham (bishop of Amida c. 520-541). Around 540 he returned to Constantinople and made it his residence.

In Constantinople he seems to have early won the notice of Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, one of the main objects of whose policy was the consolidation of Eastern Christianity as a bulwark against the Zoroastrian power of Persia, through persecution of all the remaining pagans of the empire. John is said by Barhebraeus (Chron. eccl. i. 195) to have succeeded Anthimus
Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople
Anthimus I was a Monophysite patriarch of Constantinople from 535–536. He was the bishop or archbishop of Trebizond before accession to the Constantinople see. He was deposed by Pope Agapetus I before March 13, 536, and later hidden by Theodora in her quarters for 12 years, until her...

 as Monophysite bishop of Constantinople, but this is probably a mistake. In any case, he enjoyed the emperor's favor until the death of the latter in 565 and (as he himself tells us) was entrusted with the administration of the entire revenues of the Monophysite Church.

He was sent by Justinian on a mission for the conversion of such pagans as remained in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 in 542, and informs us that the number of those whom he baptized amounted to 70,000. He also built a large monastery at Tralles on the hills skirting the valley of the Meander, and more than 90 other monasteries, mostly on top of demolished pagan temples. Of the mission to the Nubians
Nubians
The Nubians are an ethnic group originally from northern Sudan, and southern Egypt now inhabiting North Africa and some parts of East Africa....

 which he promoted, though he did not himself visit their country, an interesting account is given in the 4th book of the 3rd part of his History. He was ordained bishop of Ephesus (Asia) for the anti-Chalcedonians in 558 by Jacob Baradaeus
Jacob Baradaeus
Jacob Baradaeus was Bishop of Edessa from 543 until his death. One of the most important figures in the history of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox churches generally, he was a defender of the Monophysite movement in a time when its strength was declining...

.

In 546 the emperor entrusted him with the task of rooting out the secret practice of idolatry in Constantinople and its neighborhood. He carried out this task faithfully, torturing all suspected of the "wicked heathenish error", as John himself calls it, and finding much worship of the ancestral gods amongst the Empire aristocracy. But his fortunes changed soon after the accession of Justin II
Justin II
Justin II was Byzantine Emperor from 565 to 578. He was the husband of Sophia, nephew of Justinian I and the late Empress Theodora, and was therefore a member of the Justinian Dynasty. His reign is marked by war with Persia and the loss of the greater part of Italy...

. About 571 John III the Scholasticus
John Scholasticus
John Scholasticus was the 32nd patriarch of Constantinople from April 12, 565 until his death in 577. He is also regarded as a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church....

, the orthodox or Chalcedonian patriarch, began (with the sanction of the emperor) a rigorous persecution of the Monophysite Church leaders, and John was among those who, ironically, suffered most. He gives us a detailed account of his sufferings in prison, his loss of civil rights, etc., in the third part of his History. The latest events recorded are of the date 588, and the author cannot have lived much longer; but of the circumstances of his death nothing is known.

Writings


John's main work was his Ecclesiastical History, which covered more than six centuries, from the time of Julius Caesar to 588, although John himself employs the Seleucid era
Seleucid era
The Seleucid era was a system of numbering years in use by the Seleucid Empire and other countries among the ancient Hellenistic civilizations. The era dates from the return of Seleucus I Nicator to Babylon in 311 BC after his exile in Ptolemaic Egypt, considered by Seleucus and his court to mark...

. It was composed in three parts, each containing six books. The first part seems to have wholly perished. The second, which extended from Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 to the 6th or 7th year of Justin II, was - according to F. Nau - reproduced in full or almost in full, in John's own words, in the third part of the Chronicle which was till lately attributed to the patriarch Dionysius Telmaharensis
Dionysius Telmaharensis
Dionysius Telmaharensis was a patriarch or supreme head of the Syrian Orthodox Church . He was born at Tell-Mahre near ar-Raqqa on the Balikh River....

, but is really the work of an unknown compiler. Modern research has shown that it is more likely that large parts are missing. Of this second division of John's History, in which he may have incorporated the so-called Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite
Joshua the Stylite
Joshua the Stylite is the attributed author of a chronicle which narrates the history of the war between the Later Roman Empire and Persians in 502 - 506, and which is one of the earliest and best historical documents preserved in Syriac.The work owes its preservation to having been incorporated...

, considerable portions are found in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 manuscripts Add. 14647 and 14650, and these have been published in the second volume of J. P. N. Land's Anecdota Syriaca. But the whole is more completely presented in the Vatican
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

 manuscript (Codex Zuquenensis, shelfmark Vatican Syriac 162), which incorporates much of John's chronicle in an autographon dated to the eighth century. (English translation, with notes, by Amir Harrak, The Chronicle of Zuqnin, Parts III and IV (Toronto, 1999) and by Witold Witakowski, Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre: Chronicle, Part III (Liverpool, 1997)).

The third part of John's history, which is a detailed account of the ecclesiastical events which happened in 571-588, as well as of some earlier occurrences, survives in a fairly complete state in Add. 14640, a British Museum manuscript of the seventh century. It forms a contemporary record of great value to the historian. Its somewhat disordered state, the want of chronological arrangement, and the occasional repetition of accounts of the same events are due, as the author himself informs us (ii. 50), to the work being almost entirely composed during the times of persecution. The same cause may account for the somewhat slovenly Syriac style. The writer claims to have treated his subject impartially, and though written from the narrow point of view of one to whom Monophysite "orthodoxy" was all-important, it is evidently a faithful reproduction of events as they occurred. This third part was edited by William Cureton
William Cureton
-Life:He was born in Westbury, Shropshire. After being educated at the Adams' Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire and at Christ Church, Oxford, he took orders in 1832, became chaplain of Christ Church, sublibrarian of the Bodleian, and, in 1837, assistant keeper of manuscripts in the British Museum...

 (Oxford, 1853) and E.W. Brooks (CSCO
Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium
The Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium is an important multilingual collection of Eastern Christian texts with over 600 volumes published since its foundation in 1903 by Louvain Catholic University in Belgium and The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C....

 105, Louvain, 1935), and was translated - sometimes paraphrase - into English by Robert Payne Smith (Oxford, 1860), into German by J. M. Schonfelder (Munich, 1862) and into Latin by Brooks (CSCO
Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium
The Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium is an important multilingual collection of Eastern Christian texts with over 600 volumes published since its foundation in 1903 by Louvain Catholic University in Belgium and The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C....

 106, Louvain, 1936).

John's other known work was a series of Biographies of Eastern Saints, compiled about 569. These have been edited by Land in Anecdota Syriaca, ii. 1-288, and translated into Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 by Douwen and Land (Amsterdam, 1889), and into English by Brooks (Patrologia Orientalis
Patrologia Orientalis
The Patrologia Orientalis is an attempt to create a comprehensive collection of the writings by eastern Church Fathers in Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, Coptic, Ge'ez, Georgian, and Slavonic. It is designed to complement the comprehensive, influential, and monumental Latin and Greek patrologies...

vols 17-19, 1923-26). An estimate of John as an ecclesiastic and author was given by the Louis Duchesne
Louis Duchesne
Louis Marie Olivier Duchesne was a French priest, philologist, teacher and a critical historian of Christianity and Roman Catholic liturgy and institutions....

in a memoir read before the five French Academies on October 25, 1892.

External links