The last great figure in Greek theology John of Damascus

John of Damascus is regarded as one of the greates greatest figures in the theology of the Orthodox Church. It is significant that he is important, not for original thought, but for his systematization of that which had gone before him, John belongs to the first half of the eighth century. He was born in Damascus, the son of a high official in the court of the Caliph, then located in that city. He succeeded to his father's position, but resigned it and entered the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem. He was deeply religious, as can be seen from the important share that he had in the hymn-writing which helped to shape that part of Byzantine worship.

John's main theological work was The Fountain of Knowledge. In this there were three parts, first an exposition and application to theology of Aristotle's Dialectic, second a description of heresies, reproducing and bringing down to date an earlier work by Epiphanius, and, third and most important, "An Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith." Here was a complete theological system based on the teachings of the fathers and the findings of the councils of the Catholic Church.

John thought of the Christian faith in its Orthodox or Catholic form as having already been defined. What he attempted to do was to make a comprehensive synthesis of what had been established. In this he did not differ substantially from the great Cappado-cians, Basil of C^sarea and Gregory of Nyssa. To be sure, they had Platonic assumptions and arrived at the idea of the unity in the Trinity after stressing first the fact of Three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then coming to the insight of unity, while John, inclined to Aristotelianism, started off with the unity of the Godhead and then discerned in it the Trinity. John began with the nature of God, went on to the creation, the nature of man, providence, foreknowledge, predestination, and the salvation of man, and concluded with the resurrection and speculations as to what would develop as the entire purpose of God in the universe is disclosed.

The work was so comprehensive, so clearly written, and stated so well what was believed in the Greek wing of the Catholic Church, that it became standard in its field for that branch of the Church and through a twelfth century Latin translation also influenced the Western section of the Church, including notably Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas.

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