Talk:Prester John

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Good articlePrester John has been listed as one of the Philosophy and religion good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article milestones
DateProcessResult
November 12, 2005Peer reviewReviewed
November 14, 2006Good article nomineeListed
June 16, 2009Good article reassessmentKept
April 6, 2015Featured article candidateNot promoted
Current status: Good article

Neutrality check:[edit]

I have nominated this article to be checked for neutrality. The reason was given in the summary, but the tag was soon removed again, cont rary to policy, by another editor, on the pretext that I needed to give a reason on the talk page. So here is the same explanation again, from my edit summary:

This article clearly has a point-of-view, but it's not a very neutral one, it represents only one opinion and scorns others

According to my understanding, it is not considered helpful to remove neutrality concern tags, when an editor raises neutrality concerns. If an editor raises neutrality concerns, it means there is a neutrality concern that needs to be worked out. If another editor then summarily removes the tag, it looks like that editor is assuming he is above all others, "owns" the article, and alone knows what is best. That is exactly why the policy says not to remove those tags UNTIL the neutrality issue is addressed to everyone's satisfaction. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 17:58, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

Calm down. I removed the tag because your edit summary was extremely vague as to the reasons why you added it, and you did not explain yourself on the talk page. Placing NPOV tags without appropriate explanation is not helpful to improving an article, and I know of no policy (or guideline) indicating that inappropriately placed tags must be left in place. What point of view does this article have? What is the "one opinion" represented here? What others does it "scorn"? Virtually every statement here is cited to reliable sources, and most of it is just an account of the various incarnations of the legend through the years. You'll have to elaborate.--Cúchullain t/c 18:16, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I admit that I was also puzzled by the tag. Would you please explain as specifically as possible your concerns about the neutrality of the article. Aramgar (talk) 19:17, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm still newish here, but as near as I can tell, there's no way to do a POV check without Til Eulenspiegel describing the POV problem? Cretog8 (talk) 18:16, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
There's no way to address his concerns if he doesn't tell us what they are. Placing a template like that is useless without discussion.--Cúchullain t/c 19:33, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

GA Reassessment[edit]

This discussion is transcluded from Talk:Prester John/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the reassessment.

GA Sweeps: Kept[edit]

As part of the WikiProject Good Articles, we're doing Sweeps to go over all of the current GAs and see if they still meet the GA criteria. I went through the article and made various changes, please look them over. I believe the article currently meets the criteria and should remain listed as a Good Article. Altogether the article is well-written and is still in great shape after its passing in 2006. Continue to improve the article making sure all new information is properly sourced and neutral. I would recommend sourcing the following statements: "He told Otto, in the presence of the pope, that Prester John, a Nestorian Christian who served in the dual position of priest and king, had regained the city of Ecbatana from the brother monarchs of Medes and Persia, the Samiardi, in a great battle "not many years ago."" and "Perhaps due to Buchan's work, Prester John appeared in pulp fiction and comics throughout the century." (don't want to risk OR; if source can't be found then reword). It would be beneficial to update the access dates for all of the online sources. If you have any questions, let me know on my talk page and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. I have updated the article history to reflect this review. --Happy editing! Nehrams2020 (talkcontrib) 01:27, 17 June 2009 (UTC)


Assyrian / Nestorian[edit]

Hi, I tagged one of the sentences as needing a citation. This is because I've been doing quite a bit of cleanup on some other "Christianity in Asia" articles, and have found several places where someone seems to have done a global search & replace, swapping "Nestorian" for "Assyrian Church of the East". In one place they even changed a quote from a source, to say "Assyrian" instead of "Nestorian", even though the "Assyrian" term doesn't appear anywhere in the book! So I'm trying to do a big sweep and get things set right. I see that other sentences in that paragraph are referenced to a book by Silverberg. I don't have that source handy, but when I checked it via Google Books, I was told that the term "Assyrian Church of the East" does not appear in the book anywhere, which is why I've tagged the sentence. Can anyone who does have the source, verify the usage of the name? Or if it's true that it's not in the book, and we can't find some other reliable source, let's please pull that sentence. Thanks, --Elonka 02:30, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

Silverberg does not use the name Assyrian Church of the East (he just uses "Nestorian"), but that's clearly what he's talking about: the Christian church called the "Nestorians" in the medieval West. It matters in this case since for whatever reason, Wikipedia has two articles, one on the early heresy of Nestorius, which is titled Nestorianism, and one on the church known as "Nestorian" to medieval Europeans, here titled Assyrian Church of the East. Just linking to Nestorianism will not take the reader to appropriate article. The other common name for the church, Church of the East, is a dab page directing the reader to "Assyrian Church of the East" and several other churches. Can you suggest a better way of addressing this problem?--Cúchullain t/c 19:27, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Hi, happy to work with you to try and come up with a consensus version. :) To move forward, could you explain more about why do you feel that the article on Nestorianism wouldn't work? I've recently given it an overhaul, so it might address things better now. My own opinion for the easiest fix as far as the Prester John article might be to simply quote what Silverberg says, and leave it at that. --Elonka 20:11, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Oh, I hadn't seen your much-needed work at Nestorianism. The article formerly focused on Nestorianism as a doctrine (the Nestorian heresy), while discussion of the actual "Nestorian church" and its activities in the Middle Ages was located at the article "Assyrian Church of the East". My only desire in terms of this article is for readers being told about a medieval church to be linked to the article discussing that church, and not to an article about a doctrine with a fairly opaque connection to the later church. If the Nestorianism article is made into such an article, then I'm fine with just linking to Nestorianism and being done with it. The problems among our articles on Nestorianism and Church of the East is something to be dealt with elsewhere; hopefully it will be worked out effectively.--Cúchullain t/c 21:06, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
I've made an amendment, but kept a link to the Church of the East, since that article contains a lot of relevant information. What do you think?--Cúchullain t/c 21:12, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Hmm, I'm reluctant to link anything about Prester John to the Assyrian Church of the East unless we have an actual reliable source which makes this connection. I've gone ahead and edited the paragraph a bit to something I like better. Feel free to keep tweaking, and maybe we can circle in on consensus that way. :) --Elonka 21:26, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
(followup) In looking at the Assyrian Church of the East article, I'm seeing several statements which look like straight copy/pastes of incorrect sections from other articles as well. It's looking like sometime over the past couple years, someone went through several articles on Wikipedia and made a concerted copy/paste effort to replace "Nestorian" with "Assyrian Church of the East" in several locations. Or in other words, in trying to find out what the actual historic reality is, please don't rely on Wikipedia articles... We're going to need to actually produce reliable secondary sources to get things straightened out. --Elonka 21:41, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Yes, quite so... It does seem to be a pretty substantial problem across the board. I don't know how much help I could be in terms of a wider solution, but it seems to me that the article on "Nestorianism" should contain information on the Nestorian Christianity; if we need a separate article on the Nestorian doctrine, it should go elsewhere, perhaps Nestorianism (doctrine), Nestorian heresy, or something like that. --Cúchullain t/c 21:52, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
This is also made more complicated because there is also a lengthy, really annoying edit war all over Wikipedia about whether to use "Syriac", "Assyrian", "Chaldean", or "Nestorian" to refer to (what I would call) Syriac Christians. Good luck with that :) Adam Bishop (talk) 23:57, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Hi Adam! And yes, I've been seeing remnants of it as I've been trying to cleanup the Nestorian-related articles... What are your own favorite sources on the issue? --Elonka 04:18, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
I don't know, I don't really have any, so I've tried to stay out of this dispute (aside from stopping edit wars occasionally). Personally, I've only ever met people who identified as "Assyrian", and for my own work, they are called Syrians or Jacobites, but that is a narrow time and place and not really the same thing. I know I've read about the Mongols being Nestorians, so I assume that "Assyrian" means a group that stayed in the Near East, and Nestorians were a group that moved further east. Adam Bishop (talk) 09:17, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
This seems to be quite a wide reaching problem (read: clusterfuck). But anyway, under whatever title, we need a good base article for discussing all related "Nestorian" groups. From what I can tell Adam is right that the surviving church variously known as the "Church of the East", the "Persian Church", and the "Assyrian Church (of the East)" is the branch of the wider Nestorian movement now existing mainly in the Middle East. As such it's hardly the best place to discuss the pan-Asian Nestorian Christian sect. Britannica discusses this under "Nestorian (Christian sect)"; though this may have its own problems, it seems like the most reasonable course.--Cúchullain t/c 15:23, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
My own general impression is that most of the reliable sources refer to the medieval term as "Nestorian". However, there is this modern Assyrian Church of the East that identifies as Nestorian, so my guess is that there are some modern-day church members who feel that since they have the "Nestorian" name, that they can then claim credit for everything that happened under that name. So they're going through and trying to nail it down in all the historical articles and make clear that it's "Assyrian" not "Nestorian" (I even saw one spot where they changed a quote from Runciman to make it look like he said Assyrian instead of Nestorian!). Anyway, I think the Nestorianism article is as good a place as any to try and collect all the information. I was working on the Assyrian Church of the East in China article yesterday, which seems to be effectively about Nestorianism, so perhaps we should merge that article into Nestorianism? It looks like there was at one time a Nestorianism in China article, but it ran afoul of the Assyrian camp, an effective duplicate was created as Assyrian Church of the East in China, and then someone set the Nestorianism in China article as a redirect to the Assyrian article! My recommendation is we change things back:
How's that sound? --Elonka 16:13, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
Sounds great. Shall we move the discussion to Talk:Nestorianism?--Cúchullain t/c 16:21, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
Works for me. :) --Elonka 02:05, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

A comment on Ismisms[edit]

I term the libidinal tendency to seek to cathegorise ideologies, movements and so on with terms having the -ism suffix as ismism. In regard of the discussion above regarding the so called edit war about labeling the christology pertaining to the Patriarch Saint Nestorius (according to the Syriac Orthodox Church) for Nestorianism it is obviously frustrating for people pertaining to churches in line with the Nestorian Christology to be labeled heretics or Nestorianists. That is not very strange. It certaintly has been labeled a heresy from the Rome for centuries, but the ecumenic situation is totally different in modern time. The Roman Curia is aware of the widespreadness of the Nestorian point of view, and is today in ecumenic relationship with the Assyrian Church, or Methodists for that matter (who may also should have been labelled Nestorianists). The Syriac perspective on the relationship between the human and divine nature have been to such a degree extensive that to label it Nestorianism makes a wrong idea of what it's all about, and arguably derogative. Probably not even Nesorius would associate himself as Nestorian. The undisputed point that he tried to make clear, was that Jesus Christ was one hundred percent Human, and one hundred percent God. The Easter churches are no more geographically bound to Syria than the Church of Rome is bound to Rome. A little know sincerity (nowbody really talks about?) is that from the Greek orthodox view (point in the middle), The Church of Rome is actually an offspring of the Antiochian apostolic throne, allthough it is accepted as the fifth apostolic throne in the Pentarchy of Christendom. In terms of authority within the church in regard of apostolic succession, the Holy See of Rome may represent the biggest number, but it is not elevated above the other Holy Sees, except from in the eyes of the most conservative Roman Catholics, and in history those of Rome most ardently rejecting the doctrine of the Pentarchy. Saint Peter was the first bishop not merely of Rome, before that he was episcopos of Antioch. This congregation, the first to have been called christians is inherited by those here termed as the Nestorian sect, the Nestorian heresy, and whose christology is referred to as Nestorianism. It's a bit out of touch. European culture othered Islam by calling it Muhammedanism, we've stopped that. I don't see why we should keep on othering oriental christianity anymore either. The scholarly discussion above feels symptomatic for how many academic researches fail to go beyond mere classification, to such an extent that the ism of rationalism appears to be its irrational blind spot. --Xact (talk) 05:47, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Here, we're not talking so much doctrine, we're talking about the church as an institution. The church is more appropriately known as the Church of the East, but it's obvious it has been known as the "Nestorian Church" by Westerners (and by members themselves, for that matter), so the real issue for this article was making that clear.--Cúchullain t/c 13:23, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Prester John in India?[edit]

It comes as a complete surprise to me to find that Prester John was ever associated with India. I thought he was always reckoned to live somewhere in central Asia, to the east of Persia. I can't find a citation in this article quoting a source for his alleged connection with India, and I would be very interested to see one. I hope it's more than just one of the many dubious traditions of the Saint Thomas Christians.

Djwilms (talk) 06:27, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

The localization in India (or the "Three Indias") came to a head with the Letter of Prester John; there are several sources given in that section, but you can find translations and different versions in a few places online (for example the Welsh one is here) Prior to that there were two associated texts, only briefly mentioned here, that describe an archbishop or patriarch (not a king, but in one he's specifically named John) coming from the "Shrine of Saint Thomas" in India to the West. Otto of Freising does not localize Prester John, and with the coming of the Mongols, he was often associated with Central Asia (and sometimes specifically identified with Wang Khan), but some later writers maintained the old connection with India (John of Mandeville, John of Hildesheim, and Wolfram von Eschenbach). Later still, Prester John was relocated to Ethiopia. Hope that helps.--Cúchullain t/c 15:32, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Well well, one lives and learns. So it's one of the many dubious traditions of the western churches instead. My apologies to the Saint Thomas Christians. Much obliged for that fascinating information.
Djwilms (talk) 01:45, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

What is "Prester"?[edit]

So... what is Prester (currently a bad redirect)? Is it a given name, or a title (corruption of pastor, perhaps?)? I am a bit surprised this article achieved a GA status without addressing this issue. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 19:38, 13 May 2010 (UTC)

It's an Old French form of the Greek presbyter. The modern French "prêtre", and the English "priest", come from the same word. Adam Bishop (talk) 19:45, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
What he said. It probably ought to be made clear somewhere in the article.--Cúchullain t/c 19:51, 13 May 2010 (UTC)
With a reference, hopefully. Thanks, --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 02:06, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Prester looks to be a corruption of the word "Presbyter" or "Priest" according to Sabine Baring-Gould, who attributes the origin of Prester to Sir John Mandeville's travel diaries.

He quotes, "Sir John Maundevil gives the origin of the priestly title of the Eastern despot, in his curious book of travels. “So it befelle, that this emperour cam, with a Cristene knyght with him, into a chirche in Egypt: and it was Saterday in Wyttson woke. And the bishop made orders. And he beheld and listened the servyse fulle tentyfly: and he asked the Cristene knyght, what men of degree thei scholden ben, that the prelate had before him. And the knyght answerede and seyde, that thei scholde ben prestes. And then the emperour seyde, that he wolde no longer ben slept kyng ne emperour, but preest: and that he wolde have the name of the first preest, that wente out of the chirche; and his name was John. And so evere more sittiens, he is slept Prestre John.” Enterthesansan (talk) 16:08, 2 May 2016 (UTC)

Forgery or art?[edit]

A strong notion of a binary way of regarding things compells me to ask in when I read the following: "certainly a forged Letter of Prester John". This letter is a most fascinating piece of litterature. I'm not primarily arguing against the point that this letter hardly can be written by the legendary Priestly King John the Devine. But the negative connotation of the word 'forged' make it sound as if the letter is made up for a politically dubious purpose, or something like that. It is a letter that not unlikely originates from an oriental nestorian christian source, and copied in various versions, more or less claiming authenticity to varying degree. The letter may very well have a authentic original, stemming from a source within a cultural context of a somewhat different history/tradition in regard of codes of conduct regarding the demarkation lines distinguishing between fiction and fact. It may even be characterised as part of a broader scope of what we may term as Shambhala litterature. As a matter of fact, at least, Djenghis Khan, a probable candidate for being the first to entitle himself Dalai Lama, may even have been entitlet what is here translated Prester John, in context of the Nestorians in the Mongolian court. The Vajrayana Buddhist concept of reincarnation is parallelled in Christian tradition, even though the notion is still rejected by mainstream occidental christianity today (confer Catharism, Bogomilism and present day Anthroposophy and other continuous traditions of esoteric christianity such as the ones pertaining to Master Peter Deunov. It is important not to mistake this for an argument for any specific alternative, other than an insistment on keeping possibilities open, and for being less reductive and narrow in perspectivation. I'm not arguing that the letter was written by Djenghis Khan or any former Dalai Lama, but pointing to the fact that the authorship of this letter may have been of similar credence. The fantastic style of the letter is not itself a proof for its lack of authenticity. The authorship may have had honest intentions; thus another wording would be preferable than 'clearly forged'. The letter may be a forgery, but I cannot see the proof; copies of it evidently exist, and appearantly some has tried to make a profit out of claiming authenticity of the copies. Pre-Guthenberg litterature is a totally different situation in regard of degrees of authenticity and the power of the word.

Thus to express in our time this litterature as a forgery could be compared to a present situation: if His Holiness Dalai Lama writes a letter to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, would we say it is a forgery? simply because it is outside of credibility from a secular or western christian worldview, that he could possibly be the fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama? --Xact (talk) 03:43, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Actually, it is now considered unlikely the letter ever had a Nestorian origin. It is more likely to have had a Western origin; according to the Silverberg book it may have been written by Latin Christians in the Crusader States. It was certainly not written by Prester John, and there's no evidence it is some kind of transmutation from an earlier authentic letter written by someone else. "Forgery" would seem to be an appropriate word here.--Cúchullain t/c 13:38, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Christian Kings in India?[edit]

First, I apologize, I know this isn't a forum, but while reading through the talk page, it occurs to me that the data I am curious about may have been deleted due to some over reaching 'neutrality' policies. I recall that several Christian kingdoms of antiquity were adjacent to India and that a few them were actually IN India. Of course, all of them have been wiped off the planet utterly by Islamic encroachment. In fact, as I recall, it's only been in the last hundred years or so that the Pakistani Christians were massacred, and the country converted to Islam. Anyway, about half way in to this article, I had to re-read the statement about John being a King within the borders of India several times. Well.. there once WERE Christian kings within the borders of India, but the Muslims wiped them out. What are the odds that this portion of the 'legend' is related to those Christians?

Anyway, that's just me thinking in my head. My question would be to you knowledgeable scholars, on what documents and language the quotes originated in, is it even POSSIBLE to track them down in their original form, or is it possible to track the representative back to an actual court, church or entity that he could have represented? I forget the name of the scholar who has been documenting and archiving all of the ancient Muslim conquests, but it would be terribly interesting to get him to compare notes with the dates and pertinent information surrounding this quote to see if he could add any veracity to the alleged Christian kingdom. :)

Again, I apologize for making a scholarly request here not directly related to the article.. but this IS where the scholars knowledgeable on the subject will see the request. If a more appropriate forum for this specific request does exist.. kindly point me in the right direction. Thanks so much! - James Long

p.s. I couldn't resist looking up the name of the scholar who has been documenting the Islamic conquests. Bill Warner, PhD. :) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Crogonint (talkcontribs) 15:03, 30 August 2018 (UTC)

You might be looking for something like reddit. They've got all sorts of places for people to ask questions, like AskHistorians. This is a place for discussing specific ways to improve the article, not for general discussion of the topic. The relevant talk page that rules this stuff out is WP:NOT:FORUM. Alephb (talk) 00:06, 31 August 2018 (UTC)
I would say this is a perfectly relevant question for this topic. We do have a pretty good article about Christianity in India which talks a lot about ancient and medieval Christians. There weren’t any Christian kingdoms though, just Christian populations living in various other states. Also Bill Warner is not an historian and is the very definition of an unreliable source for Wikipedia. Adam Bishop (talk) 10:06, 31 August 2018 (UTC)
Bill Warner PhD is an anti-Muslim physicist. See the link above. His research is crap. Doug Weller talk 15:34, 31 August 2018 (UTC)