- Andrew Louth
ExtractLittle is known of the life of John of Damascus, save what can be deduced from his taciturn writings and a few references to him in chronicles; the later Greek life is unreliable. He seems to have come from a family in Damascus that had for several generations been in charge of fiscal matters; his grandfather, in Arabic Mansur ibn Sarjun, had apparently retained his position during the regime changes in the first half of the 7th century ce (Roman–Persian–Roman–Arab) and had been succeeded by John’s father, with whom John was initially employed. Most likely around 705, John left the service of the caliph and became a monk in or near Jerusalem (traditionally, but a late tradition, at the monastery of Mar Saba in the Judaean desert). He remained there for the rest of his life. For a time he seems to have been close to the patriarch of Jerusalem, John V (d. 735). He opposed the iconoclasm of the Byzantine emperors in three treatises (or one treatise, twice revised), the first from around 730. His opposition was known in Constantinopolitan circles (though not much of the detail of the treatises, perhaps); at the Synod of Hiereia in 754, he was anathematized, under his Arabic name, Mansur, along with Germanus of Constantinople and George of Cyprus, as already dead (“The Trinity has deposed the three of them”1).
- Near East