St John Damascene : Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology: Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology

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Oxford University Press, UK, Jul 4, 2002 - Religion - 348 pages
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This is the first examination of the whole range of the thought of John Damascene, one-time Arab civil servant, later a Palestinian monk, who thought of himself as a Byzantine churchman. He was one of the most influential of Byzantine theologians, whose work came to provide an essential resource for later Western theology. Many will be surprised by his subtle theology of images, defended against iconoclasts, and manifest in his sermons and sacred poetry. - ;John Damascene, one-time senior civil servant in the Umayyad Arab Empire, became a monk near Jerusalem in the early years of the eighth century. He never set foot in the Byzantine Empire, yet his influence on Byzantine theology was ultimately determinative, and beyond that his theological work became a key resource for Western theology from Scholasticism to Romanticism. His searching criticism of Imperial Byzantine iconoclasm earned him harsh condemnation from the Byzantine iconoclasts. This is the first book to present an overall account of John's life and work; it makes use of recent scholarship about the transformation of the former Byzantine territories of the Middle East after the seventh-century Arab Conquest, and the new critical edition of the Damascene's prose works. It sets John's theological work in the context of the process of preserving, defining, defending, and also celebrating the Christian faith of the early synods of the Church that took place in the Palestinian monasteries during the first century of Arab rule. John's own contribution is explored in detail: his amazing three-part Fountain Head of Knowledge, which provided the logical tools for arguing theologically, outlined the multifarious forms of heresy, and set out with clarity and learning the fundamental doctrines of Orthodox Christianity; as well as his treatises against iconoclasm, his preaching, for which he was famous in his lifetime, and, the work for which he is most renowned in the Orthodox world, his sacred poetry that still graces the liturgy of the Orthodox Church. The life and thought of this subject of the Arab Caliphs, a Christian monk who thought of himself as a Byzantine, poses intriguing questions about identity in a rapidly changing world, and the deeply traditional nature of his presentation of Christian theology calls for reflection about the relationship between tradition and originality in theology. - ;Any new publication by Andrew Louth is bound to be welcome to readers interested in thoughtful, literate, historically grounded theology ... In this new book, Louth offers us a comprehensive, detailed survey of the achievement of St John of Damascus. - The Way;... the first serious general monograph on the Damascene's work in at least forty years, and probably the first ever in English; but the book's importance and value as a theological study go far beyond the simple fact that it fills a gaping scholarly hole. - The Way;Andrew Louth's study brilliantly covers the whole of John's literary and theological achievement ... Abundantly furnished with scholarly detail and a rich bibliography, the book is also an admirable introduction to John's thought for those who have litte acquaintance with patristic studies. - The Way;It is written with elegance, unfailing clarity, and thought-provoking theological depth, and is carefully and beautifully produced by the Oxford University Press. Louth's work seems destined to be the standard general treatment of John Damascene, in any language, for decades to come, and should fill that role with distinction. - The Way;... a superb study of all major aspects of the saint, locating him firmly in his Byzantine context, yet without in any way minimizing his impact on the Western theological world as well. - Irish Theological Quarterly;... offers a careful analysis of John's theology, cosmology, anthropology, and defence of orthodoxy against various heresies. - Irish Theological Quarterly;... written with elegance as well as erudition. - Irish Theological Quarterly;Students of patrology, Byzantine studies, Church history, spirituality and liturgy, will all gain much from Louth's book. It is set to become an indispensable introduction, not only to the Saint of Damascus, but to the history of middle-Byzantine theology. - Irish Theological Quarterly;The strength of this book is the way in which the author is able to illustrate the varied influences which are discernible in the writings of John. - The Journal of Theological Studies;... very learned work. - The Journal of Theological Studies;With this study Andrew Louth comes to the climax of his trilogy of Byzantine theologians ... Louth's scholarly manner combines the historical analysis of literary connexions with the exposition of the ideas content of the texts and demonstrates an enviable familiarity with the entire range of Greek patristic literature ... a wonderful book. - Journal of Ecclesiastical History;... a remarkable combination of theology and scholarship, a fit monument to one who, as the final chapter demonstrates, has come as close to the first rank in theology as anyone ever did while being also a first-rate poet. - Mark Edwards, Times Literary Supplement;... the first definitive work on John in English. - Mark Edwards, Times Literary Supplement;... an attractive thesis, argued with extraordinary lucidity and an impressive grasp of the relevant primary and secondary literature. - The Catholic Historical Review;There is much to stretch and expand our theological understanding in this fine book ... a clear introduction to an important and too little known writer. - Church Times;While being rigourous and detailed, the author is careful to write in an accessible and clear way, so that a reasonably well-informed reader can easily follow the argument. - Church Times;Louth's work is a monument of Patristic scholarship. - 8th Day Books catalog

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User Review  - SWagnerWassen - LibraryThing

In this book by Dr. Louth there is finally a definitive scholarly work in English on both the life and the works of St. John of Damascus. Dr. Louth’s breadth and depth of learning is evident on every ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)


Andrew Louth is Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, and General Editor (with Gillian Clark) of Oxford Early Christian Studies

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