Talk:John of Damascus

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his pen???

2008 Comments[edit]

This is singularly inept biography. I imagine that it needs to be totally rewritten.

One matter that I can contribute to is his family even though what I say is, in fact, original research in the sense that I made the deductions. Nevertheless surely someone else has made the same deductions and published them in referencible form. His father's name is said to be Mansur. This, of course, needs a reference. His father is also said to be that Sargun ibn Mansur who was Mu'awiya's chief administrator. The time span between Sargun and John is too long. Hence Sargun was his grandfather and Mansur ibn Sargun his father. Unless we have evidence to the contrary it seems necessary to assume that the family lost all their caliphate offices when Abd al-Malik Arabized the government (AH 70-75) which is probably before John was born.

In any case, this article is in desperate need of better references. I cleaned up the ones that were there. (talk) 20:47, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

First to condemn Muhammad?[edit]

It is also notable that he may have been the first Christian to condemn Muhammad in writing (in De haeresibus), calling him "the forerunner of the Antichrist"(podromos tou antichristou) and a false prophet (pseudoprophetes). (PG, XCIV, 764A, 764B). The Jade Knight 05:37, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

quite right, John has clear and concise criticism of Islam, which make sense textually, they are not here nor on the page of criticism of Islam. That is not true encyclopedia, it is nonsensical (talk) 16:35, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
they should be here, but only listed by footnote 30 (talk) 17:25, 27 May 2013 (UTC)


... was almost certainly not written by John. See R. Volk, ed., Historia animae utilis de Barlaam et Ioasaph (Walter de Gruyter, 2006), brief summary here. Altering article accordingly, --Javits2000 13:52, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Regarding the Pictures[edit]

I'm considering a change in the picture used, as it's a little choppy (both are, but I'm more concerned with the top image). Can anyone give me an opinion regarding the following images? Forgive that I'm not so familiar with the image policy, so if there could be a conflict with the rules, let me know. Here are the images:

I could also attempt to photograph the icon of him at my church when I get the chance, if the above images are unavailable for use. Please let me know which would work best. --C.Logan 14:42, 25 May 2007 (UTC)


Sorry C.Logan if I misunderstood you. I agree with the version now. Thanks--Aziz1005 12:11, 13 October 2007 (UTC)

Yahya Ibn Mansur?[edit]

The correct name of St John was Yahya ibn Sarjun. His father was Sarjun b. Mansur. His grandfather Mansur ibn Sarjun. --Cloj 18:26, 5 November 2007 (UTC)

I've found one source to this effect; all other sources, while not listing his Arabic name as such, state his family name as "Mansur/Monsur". The translation of his full name being "John Mansur" is almost universally excepted, and the Catholic Encyclopedia states "Mansur was probably the name of John's father". Do you have any reliable sources to support your argument?--C.Logan 19:51, 5 November 2007 (UTC)

WikiProject Class Rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 04:11, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Assumption of Mary???[edit]

It is cited in the article that saint John has written about the Assumption of Mary, but in fact the doctrine of the Assumption had not yet been defined in the church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church in fact the doctrine that is held is about the Dormition of Mary, not the Assumption, and the position held by Eastern Orthodox is that saint John Damascene has written about Her Dormition. Should this be corrected in the first paragraph of the article? --K kokkinos (talk) 21:16, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

It doesn't matter that it wasn't defined; all the more likely people talked about what the Church didn't clarify. (talk) 06:03, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

Oriental Orthodox saint?[edit]

Which Oriental Orthodox church venerates John of Damascus? Deusveritasest (talk) 20:55, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

Strange conclusions[edit]

What I meant bythat was that your edit Rafy strung togetherd tidbits from Sahas that seem to indicate John of Damascus was not an Arab, when even Sahas himself entertains the strong possibility that he was. For eg, you write his name does not necessarily indicate an Arab background, while omitting info that it is not Greek and is popular throughout the Islamic world. There is undue focus on determining whether he is racially Arab, when this is irrelevant given that he is culturally and linguistically Arab and that suffices to be counted as Arab by most. Anyway, rather than go specifically into what was wrong with your edits, why don't you tell me what you think should be restored that I have removed or altered? I've also made some additions of my own, as you can see. Tiamuttalk 18:04, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

Please also note additional sources say:

"of Arab origin" p.28 of The great Arab conquests: how the spread of Islam changed the world we live in By Hugh N. Kennedy
and there are others in the article and which can be produced if required. This is pretty uncontroversial stuff and undue highlighting of a speculation that he is not arab sn't reflective of the scholarship here. Tiamuttalk 18:33, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
These are general sources not specialised ones. If a book dedicated to his life and works couldn't make a conclusion regarding his origin why should the article emphasise on him being Arab then? It is indicated throughout the book that he was nether culturally nor linguistically Arab, as all his writings and correspondences were either in Greek or Syriac. He probably was able to communicate in Arabic as a second language though.[1] I don't see how his origin can be drawn from the fact that modern "Christian Arabs" consider him one of them, this is after all a historical debate not a nationalistic one.--Rafy talk
You are privleging the non-conclusion of one book from 1972 over many other more recent books by specialists in the area and period which do make unequivocal conclusions that he was an Arab. These re not nationalistic Christian Arab sources ... and not everyone has to write a biography dedicated to the man to be able to be used as an RS on his origins. It suffices to be an area, period, or theme specialist. Tiamuttalk 18:53, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
Afaik this is also the only book which discusses his origin with such details, it is still cited despite being written 40 years ago. You will find sources calling him Arab,"john+of+damascus"+arab you will also find others counting him as a Greek.[2]--Rafy talk 19:44, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
Irfan Shahid discusses his life in detail as his arab origins in one of his works mentioned in a footnote on the page i just linked to to add info on his perfection of the kanun. what source says he i greek? his writings are in greek, none of his earlier arabic writings survived, but im not aware of rs saying his family origin is greek. could you provide some? Tiamuttalk 19:58, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
There are no writings in Arabic because he simply didn't write any.[3] Irfan Shahidd doesn't make any argument attesting his Arabic origin and simply refers to another reference. Brown doesn't his mention him being "Taghlibi" where did his full name come from?
Here are some references calling him Greek:
It is also noteworthy that he never described himself as an Arab, his writing are pretty critical of the Ishmaelites in general, the name by which the Arabs were known to Levantines.--Rafy talk 22:47, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
Rafy, can you read inside those sources? I cannot, but from what I can see they are not saying he is of Greek origin. The first says he was Greek Orthodox, which as you know is a sect of Christianity that does not denote an ethnic identification (I am Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Melkite but Palestinian Arab, not Greek). The second says he was a Greek writer, but this is probably referring to how he wrote in Greek. Indeed, all his religious writings were in Greek; however, he did write in Arabic when in the employment of the caliphate before becoming a monk. I also don't believe the third source is saying he is of Greek origin but because I cannot see the full sentence, I cannot be sure. Can you provide full quotes please?
About Taghlibi, I believe that name was added by someone else. I have no problem removing it if its not in the sources cited, and restoring information about his possible affiliation with the Taghlib sourced to Sahas. Sahas, by the way, says he was of "Semitic ancestry" (according to another source which I will add to the article shortly). Shahid's work of his Arab origins is available and I will find a copy online tonight if possible. . Your speculation that his writings on the Ishamelites were about Arabs is interesting but unless sources to an RS, irrelevant. And nowhere in the article do we currently say he was Arab, but only of Arab ancestry, which is what the sources say. How he self-identified is not discussed by the sources I have read thus far. Tiamuttalk 12:36, 18 November 2011 (UTC)
Unfortunately I as well have no access to the full text of those references. This sources shows that Syriac writers called Arabs "Ishmaelites" before Islam. To summarise the background section on the light of most sources which discuss his ancestry is that: "he was culturally and linguistically Hellenic, nonetheless, based on what we have, no clear conclusion can be made regarding his descent, one possibility is that he hails from Arab Taghlibis or Kalbids." How do you find this?--Rafy talk 22:20, 18 November 2011 (UTC)
Without access to the full text, I can't consider those sources as supporting your argument that John was Greek. The sources we have do not say that he was culturally and linguistic Hellenistic either. Did you read the Vila essay cited in the article? Pages 454 and 455 here say quite clearly that he came from a prominent Arab Christian family, he undertook both a Muslim and Greek education, was situated firmly in the Arab/Muslim milieu, and that he was bicultural and bilingual. So no, I cannot agree to your proposal, as I don't see it as borne out by what sources I do have access to have to say. Tiamuttalk 15:50, 20 November 2011 (UTC)
Again, most sources say he a native speaker of Greek, a major source (Sahas) is questioning his Arab origin in details, another one mentions that "Arab Christians (you being one Face-smile.svg) try to highlight his Arab connections, although there are scholars who doubt he ever even spoke Arabic"[4], his most renowned work was a critique of the heresy of the Ishmaelites (i.e. Arabs), and yet you still refuse to include any think that question his Arabian ancestry. I have requested a third opinion since I think we have reached a dead end here.--Rafy talk 00:30, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm a native speaker of English, that does not make me any less Arab. Sahas, who wrote his book 40 years ago, is not the authoritative source on John but even he says he was of semitic ancestry. I'm not citing my personal opinions to make conclusions about his ancestry, but rather scholars who are not Arab Christians. The link you gave is to page 20 of a work by Thomas which does not say what you claim it does, and in fact says that John did belong to world of the arabs and Islam. I welcome hearing other opinions ... I hope they take the time to read the sources linked to in the article. Tiamuttalk 11:01, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
I looked at the Thomas text again, and I see what you were referring to on page 21 where it says that there are scholars who doubt that he spoke Arabic. He lists one such person, listed in another scholar's work. He, however, doesn't seem to subscribe to that theory and places John of Damascus as comfortable in both the Arab society and in contributing to the Hellenistic ecclesiastical milieu.I'm not against introducing more information about his biculturality, which is already mentioned, but I do not think the idea that he was not Arab is held by a significant minority of scholars. I'm open to bring proved wrong, and eilling to include information that is supported by reliable secondary sources. I'm not willing to make synth conclusions like, "he was linguistically and culturally Hellenistic", when multiple sources indicate that's only half the truth. Remember he undertook a traditional "Saracen" or Arab education before being expised to Greek traditions according to multiple biograpers. This is hy multiple scholars, including Thomas, place him as spanning two traditions, both Arab and Hellenistic. Tiamuttalk 16:27, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
Here are some more references disputing his Arab origin:John of Damascus and the Church in Syria in the Umayyad Era ("probably Aramaean, possibly Arab"), Antioch and Syriac Christianity ("Melkite Syriac"), A short history of the Middle East: from the rise of Islam to modern times (Syriac Christian). Many other sources call him "Syrian" which is usually synonymous of "Syriac".--Rafy talk 20:54, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
I looked at the links you provided and cannot find where they say he was of Syriac origin. Could you provide exact quotes please? Syrian may also mean Arab, and its best not todraw conclusions about what writer means by Syrian ourselves. Tiamuttalk 21:14, 21 November 2011 (UTC)

sources on his origins[edit]

Rafy, please feel free to add sources here, in the same format I have, that make different conclusions about his ancestry. Tiamuttalk 09:04, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

I am not going to search the internet looking for references as I'm busy these days. There are two dedicated sources above questioning his Arab ancestry. More sources simply describe him as "Syrian Christian" or "Melkite". BTW did you know that "Sargon" (rendered "سرجون" Sarjun in Arabic) is a typical Syriac name? All I ask is to --Rafy talk 19:17, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
When you decide you the time to participate by providing sources then we will have something further to discuss. I'm pressed for time too, but took the time to present evidence, not my opinion, on how reliable sources discuss his origin. the sources you have linked to often do not say what you claim they do or else I have missed the reference which is why I initiated ths format to eliminate any confusion. Perhaps later then? Tiamuttalk 20:10, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Why don't we just leave it to a third party to decide whether or not to include informations about his possible non-Arab origin. There are a couple of links above which are easily identifiable and accessible.--Rafy talk 21:35, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
As I said, I would be happy to hear the opinions of others on the matter following their review of the sources. I don't think any one person's opinion is going to be decisive in this matter, but I'd like to hear what other people think about how we should present the material in question. Tiamuttalk 08:13, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

I would like to give my humble "third party" opinion.

John of Damascus was part of the local population of Damascus. His family was a local high-class family who served first the Greek Byzantines, and later the Arab Caliphs, who both came from far countries. The local population of Damascus in such age spoke Syriac, a semitic language similar to Arabic but anyway a separate language. The high-class local population in the town spoke also Greek due its historical relations with the Byzantine. So for sure the young John spoke as mother languages both Syriac and Greek. It is also probable that he learnt also Arabic, the imported language of the new conquerors, but only as a foreign language.
The term "Arab" used in such historical context refers only to original Arabic populations, i.e. population coming from the Arabic Peninsula and speaking their own language mother language, the Arabic. Under this strict point of view, the ethnicity of John was not "Arabic", but the more proper term would be "Syriac". In a broad sense, the term "Arabic" is sometime used to cover all semitic populations in the area because these populations were later subject to a "arabization", in the mother language, in the culture and in the religion. Many not-specialized sources say, imprecisely, that John was "Arabic" simply to point out that he was from the local semitic population (and not ethnically a Greek). However John of Damascus is one of the last example of Syriac pre-Arab culture and population.
The article contains many other little mistakes, for example, surely he studied the Muslim culture of the conquerors of his town, but he was never raised as a Muslim: he and his family were always and only Christian, and he never converted to Christianity. His name was "Yuhanna b. Mansur b. Sarjun", and Yuhanna is the Syriac for John, so he did not had an Arab name and a Christian name, at least he could have a baptism name and a religious name (as a monk), both Christian even if originally in Syriac. Or he could not be under the influence of Western Scholastic though, because the Scholastic arose 400 years later. That is the problem to use not specialized sourced randomly from internet. A ntv (talk) 12:48, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Thank you for your opinion, but you did not discuss the sources provided, nor have you provided any of your own. Could you indicate which of the sources above are not "specialized" enough to count as a reliable source for this article so that we can discuss that issue at RSN? And could you provide "specialized" sources that say he is Syriac, as you claim above? Please note that the sources above do not say he was "Arabic"' but rather that he was of "Arab origin" or that his family was "Arab Christian". Tiamuttalk 15:12, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
a serious and specialized source is Daniel J. Sahas John of Damascus on Islam here. At page 7 it clearly states that we we cannot determine if the ancestors of John were of Arabic descent or simply they came from the local Syrian population. Thus I suggest that in the wiki Article we simply state that he was not Greek but that he belonged to the local population. As I repeat the today use of the term Arab cannot be used for the 7th and 8th century in Syria, as unfortunately many easy-going source make. A ntv (talk) 16:16, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
So the Sahas book, published in 1972, is a reliable source on his origins, but none of the other sources listed above are? and the criteria to determine reliability in this case is what? Whether or not the source agrees with your understanding of ethnicity and Arabness in 7th and 8th century Syria? In The rise of Western Christendom: triumph and diversity (2003), p. 307, it says: "Long before the Arab conquests, Damascus had a large population of settled Arabs." Clearly, there are scholars who disagree with you and Sahas, whose work was published 40 years ago. I will open a discussion at RSN about this, based on your response, so please indicate if all the sources above are unacceptable, so that I know whether to list all them or not. Thanks. Tiamuttalk 17:02, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I opened a discussion at RSN here: Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard#John of Damascus. Tiamuttalk
I've not said that the Brown is not reliable, but it is however a general manual which covers 1000 years. On the contrary the Sahas is a specific study on the cultural background of John of Damascus, which IMHO is more appropriate to answer such specific issue.
About this issue, none doubts that Damascus in the 7th century had a large group of settled Arabs, i.e. of foreign population which came from the South, while most of the population was Syriac. The issue is if John's family belonged to this Arabic group or to the Syriac majority. IMHO all issues about ethnicity shall stay out of Wiki, but you want a answer the Sahas examines seriously the problem and states that we have no enough elements to give a sure judgment. A ntv (talk) 18:30, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Okay then, let's say I accept your argument that Sahas is a better source than the six sources above because he did a specific study on the cultural background of John of Damascus. did you know that Sahas revisted the subject in a paper he wrote in 1984? and that work appears to have concluded that John of Damascus was of Arab origin. See Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century: pt. 1, Toponymy, monuments, historical geography, and frontier studies p. 269 in the footnote 256, where Irfan Shahid, the author, writes: "His grandfather's name was Mansur, and such a name in pre-Islamic times can only imply he was an Arab. The Greek vita is more explicit on the saint's Arab origin; see D. Sahas, "John of Damascus on Islam Revisited" in Abr-Nahrain 23 (1984-85) , 105-118 ..." So it seems that Sahas ultimately agreewith the other sources listed above. Is there any other source that contests his Arab origin? Or was he it? Tiamuttalk 19:21, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
The Greek vita (life) is the ancient text perhaps legendary about his life, used and checked by scholars. About the Sahas' Article in the Ancient Near Eastern Studies n. 23, the library of my town lacks the years before the 1990, so I cannot check if Sahas changed his mind. However you can write in the article something like: "JoD was surely part of the not-Greek population of Damascus, and according to the the vita (a 10th-century biography of JoD) his family belonged to the Arabs who settled in Damascus" adding as a reference the Sahas. However the Wiki Article should point out that he acted in the Syriac and Greek cultural environment. Thanks for the new point. A ntv (talk) 20:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Thank you for providing an example text that you think represents the best scholarship on the issue. As I go through more and more sources, it is quite clear that there is a general consensus that he was Arab. Some more description of his Greek cultural participation would entich the article and a new source I just found and listed above might help with that. About his relationship to Syriac culture, I have yet to find anything. Can you suggest a resource? Tiamuttalk 20:55, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
You can look at the recent St John Damascene: tradition and originality in Byzantine theology by Andrew Louth (2005) here, a whole text about JoD, at pag 5 states "John's family was Semitic, probably Syrian rather than Arab, but whatever their racial background,..., they are like to have been throughly Hellenized." This book has also a very good and updated bibliography which can be used in case you need further investigations. A ntv (talk) 21:43, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Obviously the Arabic origin claim enjoys considerable support within some general sources. However, more in-depth sources refute this claim. Could you rephrase the section accordingly to reflect all these views? Also, should we keep the Category:Arab Christians cat or replace it with the ambiguous Category:Syrian Christians, or would you rather suggest keeping them both.--Rafy talk 15:32, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't see a refutation of his Arab origins in either Louth or Sahas. both still entertain the possibility he was Arab, and do not propose an alternate semitic identity. The feedback t RSN indicated the sources cited above were reliable. They are not o be discounted. One of them says clearly that his being an Arab Christan isa generally accepted fact. If you want to add one line anout how Louth says he was possibly Arab but more probably zsyrian and he Sahas says he was of Semitic ancestry, without specifying which etnicity exactly, that eould be fine with me, but no more than that should be added given the broad consensus in the seven sources cited above. Tiamuttalk 16:00, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Maybe "refutation" is an exaggerated word, but I think both views should be represented.--Rafy talk 19:25, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree with adding the info but with faithful representation of the sources. Th sources do not preclude the possibility he was Arab and neither one offers a specific alt identity. Its not clear what Louth means by Syrian, some Syrians were Arab and most are today. Tiamuttalk 17:29, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
We know that Louth mentioned that he was Semitic (non-Greek) and not Arab, that doesn't leave much for speculation does it? The fact Syrian is synonymous to Syriac does settle this issue. Regarding his ethnic identity, you had absolutely no problem with putting him in the same category with Muhammad and Ali, why do you subject on calling him Syriac then?--Rafy talk 18:37, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Please note that both Arab and Syrian are Semitic people (and both are Semitic language). At JoD time with the term Arab were considered the population who came from the Arabic peninsula and spoke Arabic. At that time the Arabs were not confused with Syriacs (or with the Palestinians), only later the arabization superseded (almost completely) the previous ethnicities, languages and religions. A ntv (talk) 19:54, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
The issue is that Tiamut wikilinks Arab Christians and insists on removing the wikilink to Syriacs.--Rafy talk 20:24, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

I've read Sahas. What he says is that Mansur is not a Greek name, but is common among the "Syrian Christians of Arab descent", and that there is other late evidence that John's grandfather was an Arab; however, the name is not proof of an Arab background, since it could be given to non-Arabs. That valid doubt is not sufficient for us to assert that John was Syriac, but the reasoning is worth noting. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 03:11, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

birth year[edit]

There are three different years I've seen given so far: 645, 655(see page 454), and 676. Anyone have any insight on how to deal with this discrepancy? Tiamuttalk 20:03, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

See Alexander Hamilton. It should be easier here, especially if all of those are modern estimates; say c. 650 and add a footnote. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 16:43, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Okay, I'll add an ppoximation. Perhaps we could use a section discussing the discrepancy which is covered in some sources. Tiamuttalk 17:26, 1 December 2011 (UTC)


I reverted this edit because it repeats information discussed in the subsection directly above it, but incorrectly. The 11th century biography is based on an earlier 9th century text. His being named Mansur is mentioned explicitly and deduced by other sources based on descriptions of his grandfather. And Syrian does not always equal Syriac. At least one source excerpted in the sections above uses Syrian while also identifying John as Arab. There were Syrian Arabs, Syrian Syriacs, Syrian Romans, Syrian Greeks, etc. Unless the source specifically uses Syriac, we should not be assuming that is what they meant. Tiamuttalk 07:23, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

So if he is a Semite Syrian (which is most frequently used to describe Syriac Christians), how could he be Greek or Roman then? Mainstream scholars think the latter two are Indo-Europeans, i.e. non-Semites, you know.--Rafy talk 13:44, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
A Semitic Syrian could be Arab, Hebrew, Syriac, or other. As I said, its best not to introduce conclusions not made by the source. Syrian Is a broad geographical descriptor and can encompass many different sub identities at that time. The sources are being vague not precise about possible alternate idenities to Arab and use language that can include Arabs, who as you know are also Semites). We should follow their lead and not forge paths of our own. Tiamuttalk 16:51, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
I appreciate your ref formatting efforts, but you reintroduced a link to Syriac even though its not borne out by the sources cited. Coulyou please revert your reintroduction of this material? Should we request an Rfc? Tiamuttalk 16:55, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
Please go ahead.--Rafy talk 14:22, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
Could you please revert your reintroduction of this material? Tiamuttalk 19:06, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
I gave you a valid reason, "Syrian" is used synonymously with "Syriac", just consult any book with reference to Syrian Christians. Even if we follow your argument that Syrian might as well denote Arabs, Greeks and Romans, the fact that the references claim he was of Semitic and probably non-Arabic background doesn't leave any other interpretation to the word.
We have already had a third opinion from a very knowledgeable user in the field of Oriental Christianity. Your denial shows that you are only interested in spreading you nationalist views.--Rafy talk 20:24, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

Can John of Damascus be described as being of Syriac origin based on the information provided in this source? [5] Tiamuttalk 21:06, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

please also review the related subsection above Talk:John of Damascus#sources_on_his_origins for more background information. Tiamuttalk 21:56, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment: I don't really get the distinction between Syrian and Syriac, but from the source provided, it looks like Syriac is the language??? Also, the argument that "Syrian is used synonymously with Syriac" is not a valid. Unless the source specifically says he was Syriac, then we're looking at a case of WP:SYNTH. – Adjwilley (talk) 22:37, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
The term "Syriac" in English is a modern rendition of "Syrian" probably under influence from French. Syriac (ܣܘܪܝܐ), Greek (συριακή) and even Latin (Syriaca), however, make no distinction between Syriac and Syrian, Arabic use Suryani (سرياني) for Syriac, the name Syria (سوريا) doesn't appear in pre 19th century Arab literature except in Christian religious or when referring to Byzantine texts, the Arab instead used Bilad al-Sham (بلاد الشام).
Going back to the term "Syrian" appears in Greek sources in reference to Aramaic speaking peoples of the Levant and northern Mesopotamia (See [6]), their language appears to have transformed from Aramaic to Syrian[7]. Those were later split to Eastern Syrians (Nestorians) and Western Syrians (Jacobites, Maronites and Jacobites). The Melkites (such as Tiamut) were however so Arabised and they stopped identfying as "Syrians" in the early centuries of Islam, the Maronites followed suit some centuries later.
As for references, probably the most authoritative biography on his life is written by Andrew Louth, there he describes John as "Syrian rather than Arab" (p.5) and as "Syrian Melkite" (p.12). To confirm that he meant Syriac by Syrian he describes Bardaisan as Syrian as well (p.62), and on p287 he re-afferms this when he asserts his "Hellenised Syrian stock" and affinity with "Syriac Christian tradition".--Rafy talk 00:09, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
Rafy, Louth says "probably Syrian rather than Arab" and never uses Syriac as a descriptor for John of Damascus, even though he does use the term elsewhere. If he meant Syriac, he would have used it. Also he cites this statement to Sahas, who as we know says John was of Semitic ancestry, term that is too broad to make specific conclusions about but which also does not discount Arab. Seven sources above say he was of Arab origin and Louth and Sahas don't discount the possibility that he was Arab, offering another non-Arab Semitic identity that is not specified as the alternative. The sources simply do not say Syriac or offer Syriac origin as a possibility. Its your interpretation of them only. Tiamuttalk 19:01, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Well, just ask anyone with a basic knowledge on oriental Christianity what a "Syrian race" might be. I'm not discounting the possibility of him being Arab, major specialised sources have their doubts and this must reflect on the article accordingly.--Rafy talk 20:27, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
The author doesn't use the term "race", that's your interpretation. He may be using Syrian as a geographical descriptor or a cultural one. Its not clear. Considering other sources bove describe John as Syrian and Arab, its clear that there is more than one meaning for the word and that the to are not mutually exclusive. The possibility that he may not be Arab is now included in the article. The problem is you have edit warred to include his origin as Syriac, when not a single source actually says that. Tiamuttalk 09:57, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
He mentions that he is of "Syriac stock", a quick look at webster reveals the following:


a : the original (as a person, race, or language) from which others derive : source
b (1) : the descendants of one individual : family, lineage <of European stock> (2) : a compound organism
c : an infraspecific group usually having unity of descent
d (1) : a related group of languages (2) : a language family.--Rafy talk 10:08, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
No, he says his family was "doubtless of Syrian stock", not Syriac stock. Considering that he himself is unsure of whether or not John was Arab, he would not be using this in a racial sense. Tiamuttalk 10:18, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
I have removed Syriac from the article, as it is pure synth. if and when a source stating Syriac is provided, it may be readded. Tiamuttalk 10:57, 15 December 2011 (UTC)

Inching forward[edit]

Hi Rafy. This edit introduces a couple of problems. First, by replacing Semitic with Syrian and removing mention of Arab, the source is being misrepresented a bit. Louth doesn't discount the possibility John was Arab, and his phrasing indicates that he does not view Syrian and Arab to be mutually exclusive. He also cites Sahas as his source for his position of John's ancestry (along with Cox). We know Sahas uses "Semitic" and that's what Louth uses in the footnote (if I recall properly). Inany case, I'd like to change it back to what it said before, unless you have another suggestion on hrasing you would like to consider.

About John's Arabic name ... the source cited does say in a footnote that Yanah is an older form of Yuhanna, so thats not synth in any way. Both those names mean "John". iyanis is an English transliteration of the arabic transliteration of the Greek form of John. i retained the Qurin of Coptic writers in a footnote. I'm not sure that was a first name for him though (rather than say a title). All that material on his name needs more work and a more thorough review of the sources. Tiamuttalk 19:52, 15 December 2011 (UTC)

I don't think that he suggests that "Yana" is an older form of "Yuhanna" since the first is Syriacised Hebrew and the second a Hellenised one. What I understood is that his name according to Agapius was "Yana" in older manuscripts mention and this turned to "Yuhanna" in later ones.
Sources say 1) he might or might not be Arab (Sahas) 2) he is probably Syrian rather than Arab (Louth). The only problem is that you refuse to insert any word that suggest could link to a non-Arab article.--Rafy talk 20:57, 15 December 2011 (UTC)

Comment 2: I forgot to put the article on my watchlist, but I've read the above discussion, and it's way beyond my expertise. It sounds like Rafy has a good knowledge of the languages involved, while Tiamut is more familiar with Wikipedia policies. I can't tell if the discussion has been resolved, but I get the feeling there's some underlying issue fueling the debate. Anyway, the best of luck to you both. ~Adjwilley (talk) 02:13, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for your opinion. I will leave this issue now until a better definition is found for those included by Category:Syrian Christians.--Rafy talk 14:38, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Discussion on the subject of what to be included in the category has been started at Category talk:Syrian Christians. Any and all input is more than welcome. Thank you. John Carter (talk) 00:23, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Taghlib and Banu Kalb[edit]

It states that he could have descended from the Promenent Christian Arab Tribes of Taghlib and Banu Kalb. Neither of thosr tribes are (mostly) Christians - most of those tribes today are Muslim, and were wuite early to convert to Islam. This the description that they are Christian Arab is misleading, and so I removed it. Furthermore, as far back as the Islamic Conquests, "Arab" has been used as a linguistic term as opposed to an ethnic term. It was used to describe people with no descent from the Bedouin Tribes of the Syrian Desert and the North Arabian Desert. In the possibility that John of Damascus was descended from those tribes, his ethnicity would be more accurately described as "Bedouin". Thus that is what I have replaced "Christian Arab" with. Please reply and discuss before editting, or I will automatically revert. Peace. SaSH172 (talk) 15:42, 4 January 2014 (UTC)


Clearly, this article needs substantial work, which I too don't have the time to perform, so I'm setting forth my thoughts here. I'm not at all interested in disputing his ethnicity, per all the comments on this page, and the substantial intro. First, I think the article should explicate his other title, Chrysorrhoas (Golden Speaker). Was he an eremetical priest-monk, or one who went out into the world, per Golden Speaker rather than Golden Writer?

Most importantly, the legend about John's hand being cut off either fascinates or puzzles me, especially in connection with the tradition that high level civil servants could retire to (or be confined in) monasteries, as well as Byzantine scheming. Clearly, it shouldn't be prefaced as improbable or legendary--only the reattachment seems to deserve that, and I'm not sure from this as written even what era of hagiographic bios from long after his death gave rise to that implausibility. Of course, Byzantines were known for treachery, and leaking forged letters has been done many times in history. Was John in fact adjudged by his caliph, punished and later vindicated? Was the controversy over treason, forgery or something else? I'm pretty sure treason was a capitol offense, and maiming was used for a wide variety of crimes, probably also garden variety corruption. Thus, losing a hand for suspected collusion with the Byzantines in Constantinople seems inappropriate, but a monk or priest missing a hand (or with an artificial limb) certainly would be memorable. I also noted the sentence that Muslim sources only mention his father's retirement. Was John blackballed and intentionally forgotten, or did he lose his nepotistic patron? If the Caliph really trusted and protected John from the Byzantine iconoclasts, why did he move to a monastery in Jerusalem, which probably had more Byzantine pilgrims (even if smaller and less prosperous)? The article says John was an administrator before his ordination, and I presumed that was in Damascus proper, but maybe it was elsewhere. Did John prepare all or some of his iconodule writings while also functioning as a civil servant in the Muslim government (moonlighting)? Seems more likely that he had more incentive to write after ordination, and time to write if confined in the monastery, but that if his faith told him to speak, he could have chosen Jerusalem as a platform. Just my 2 cents (or drachma, or dinar!)... Jweaver28 (talk) 14:29, 4 December 2014 (UTC)

Doctor of the Church - 1890 not 1883[edit]

I've changed the date 1883 to 1890. This is the correct date - the decretum "Urbis et Orbis" of Aug 19, 1890 says: "Ecclesiam ita concedi posse censuit, nimirum ut de S. Ioanne Damasceno Confessore fiat die XXVII Martii sub ritu duplici minori, addita Doctoris qualitate." This can be confirmed in several sources, such as Vacant-Mangenot, "Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique" VIII.1 p. 695. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tirachinas (talkcontribs) 05:47, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

A Syriac family called Mansour ?[edit]

Why was this article vandalized ? The only way you could be called Mansour in this time was if you were of Arabian background. GoulGoul1 (talk) 19:23, 23 December 2016 (UTC)