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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Joannes ii, Mercurius, Bishop of Rome


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Joannes (347) II. (called Mercurius ), bp. of Rome after Boniface II., Dec. 31, 532, to May 27, 535, a Roman by birth who had been a Roman presbyter (Anastas. Lib. Pont. ) The canvassings and contests then usual delayed the election 11 weeks. Church funds were used and sacred vessels publicly sold for bribery (Ep. Athalaric. ad Joann. pap. ; Cassiodor. Variar. l. ix.; Ep. 15).

The most noteworthy incident of his brief reign is a doctrinal decision, in which he appears at first sight to differ from one of his predecessors. Pope Hormisdas had in 522 written in strong condemnation of certain Scythian monks who had upheld the statement that "one of the Trinity" (Unus ex Trinitate ) "suffered in the flesh." His rejection of the phrase had at the time been construed so as to imply heresy (Ep. Maxent. ad Hormisd.), and now the Acoemetae , or "Sleepless Monks," of Constantinople argued from it in favour of the Nestorian position that Mary was not truly and properly the mother of God; saying with reason that, if He Who suffered in the flesh was not of the Trinity, neither was He Who was born in the flesh. The emperor Justinian, supported by the patriarch Epiphanius, having condemned the position of the "Sleepless Monks," they sent a deputation to Rome, urging the pope to support their deduction from the supposed doctrine of his predecessor. The emperor, having embodied his view of the true doctrine in an imperial edict, sent it with an embassy to Rome and a letter requesting the pope to signify in writing to himself and the patriarch his acceptance of the doctrine of the edict, which he lays down as indubitably true, and assumes to be, as a matter of course, the doctrine of the Roman see (Inter. Epp. Joann. II. Labbe). But the edict was a distinct assertion of the correctness of the phrase contended for by the Scythian monks and so much objected to by Hormisdas. Its words are, "The sufferings, as well as miracles, which Christ of His own accord endured in the flesh are of one and the same. For we do not know God the Word as one and Christ as another, but one and the same" (Lex. Justin. Cod. 1, i. 6). In his letter Justinian expresses himself similarly.

John, having received both deputations, assembled the Roman clergy, who at first could come to no agreement. But afterwards a synod convened by the pope accepted and confirmed Justinian's confession of faith. To this effect he wrote to the emperor on Mar 25, 534 (Joann. II. Ep. ii.; Labbe) and to the Roman senators, laying down the true doctrine as the emperor had defined it, and warning them not to communicate with the "Sleepless Monks."

It is true that we do not find in the letters of Hormisdas any distinct condemnation of the phrase itself, however strongly he inveighed against its upholders, as troublesome and dangerous innovators. But the fact remains that a doctrinal statement which one pope strongly discountenanced, as at any rate unnecessary and fraught with danger, was, twelve years afterwards, at the instance of an emperor, authoritatively propounded by another. Justinian's view, which John accepted, has ever since been received as orthodox.

In 534 John, being consulted by Caesarius of Arles as to Contumeliosus, bp. of Riez in Gaul, wrote to Caesarius, to the bishops of Gaul, and to the clergy of Riez, directing the guilty bishop to be confined in a monastery.

A letter assigned to this pope by the Pseudo-Isidore, addressed to a bp. Valerius, on the relation of the Son to the Father, is spurious.

[J.B—Y.]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Joannes ii, Mercurius, Bishop of Rome'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/j/joannes-ii-mercurius-bishop-of-rome.html. 1911.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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