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Title: The purpose of perichōrēsis in the polemical works of John of Damascus
Author: Ables, Scott
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 5461
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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John of Damascus was an early eighth century theologian in the Jerusalem Patriarchate. His family supplied financial administrators in Syro-Palestine for most of the seventh century, who were involved in surrendering Damascus to the Arabs if not also to the Persians. They thrived in the sectarian environment under the Umayyads. Numerous Greek Lives paint John in legendary terms; however, these are late and unreliable. I deconstruct the Lives decoupling his timeline from Byzantine Iconoclasm, arguing that there is no evidence and good reason to think that he did not leave the Arab administration because of vexed piety, persecution or administrative language change. Rather, focusing on the chronicler's treatment of John's family, I argue that John left office for his own reasons. I propose that John was instrumental in a quid pro quo: cathedral for patriarchate negotiation. Consequently, the Arabs built the Damascus Mosque on the site of the cathedral church of St John the Baptist, and the (dyothelite) Chalcedonian party moved to Jerusalem, where they reestablished the Jerusalem Patriarchate. Thus, I argue the context of John's polemical works is Jerusalem and patriarchal policy. Further, I argue that John was commissioned to produce something like 'proto-school' texts in the context of debate in the Anastasis with internal Maronite and external West and East Syrian interlocutors. Then I look at one example of John's theological creativity to show how this context impinged on his theological program. John appropriates Maximus the Confessor's term perichoresis and reduces its scope to the Incarnation while moving it into the doctrine of God for the first time. I show that he does this for polemical reasons in order to contravene each of his interlocutors with a simple biblical rhetorical model providing Chalcedonian monks in debate with a simple formula against better educated foes. This thesis demonstrates that reading John out of context fails to appreciate his creative response to these local exigencies.
Supervisor: Edwards, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Church history--8th century ; Theology ; Doctrinal--History--Middle Ages ; 600-1500