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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Joannes Scholasticus, Bishop of Constantinople


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Joannes (125) III., surnamed Scholasticus , "The Lawyer ," 32nd bp. of Constantinople (Apr. 12, 565-Aug. 31, 577), born at Sirimis, in the region of Cynegia, near Antioch. There was a flourishing college of lawyers at Antioch, where he entered and did himself credit. This was suppressed in 533 by Justinian. John was ordained and became agent and secretary of his church. This would bring him into touch with the court at Constantinople. When Justinian, towards the close of his life, tried to raise the sect of the Aphthartodocetae to the rank of orthodoxy, and determined to expel the blameless Eutychius for his opposition, the able lawyer-ecclesiastic of Antioch, who had already distinguished himself by his great edition of the canons, was chosen to carry out the imperial will.

Little is known of his episcopal career. Seven months after his appointment Justinian died. The new emperor, Justin II., was crowned by the patriarch, Nov. 14, 565. John himself died shortly before Justin.

One of the most useful works of that period was the Digest of Canon Law formed by John at Antioch. Following some older work which he mentions in his preface, he abandoned the historical plan of giving the decrees of each council in order and arranged them on a philosophical principle, according to their matter. The older writers had sixty heads. He reduced them to fifty. To the canons of the councils of Nicaea, Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Gangra, Antioch, Ephesus, and Constantinople, already collected and received in the Greek church, John added 89 "Apostolical Canons," the 21 of Sardica, and the 68 of the canonical letter of Basil. Writing to Photius, pope Nicholas I. cites a harmony of the canons which includes those of Sardica, which could only be that of John the Lawyer. When John came to Constantinople, he edited the Nomocanon , an abridgment of his former work, with the addition of a comparison of the imperial rescripts and civil laws (especially the Novels of Justinian) under each head. Balsamon cites this without naming the author, in his notes on the first canon of the Trullan council of Constantinople. In a MS. of the Paris library the Nomocanon is attributed to Theodoret, but in all others to John. Theodoret would not have inserted the "apostolical canons" and those of Sardica, and the style has no resemblance to his. In 1661 these two works were printed at the beginning of vol. ii. of the Bibliotheca Canonica of Justellus, at Paris. Photius ( Cod. lxxv.) mentions his catechism, in which he established the Catholic teaching of the consubstantial Trinity, saying that he wrote it in 568, under Justin II., and that it was afterwards attacked by the impious Philoponus. Fabricius considers that the Digest or Harmony and the Nomocanon are probably rightly assigned to John the Lawyer. Fabricius, xi. 101, xii. 146, 193, 201, 209; Evagr. H. E. iv. 38, v. 13, Patr. Gk. lxxxvi. pt. 2; Theoph. Chronogr. 204, etc., Patr. Gk. cviii.; Niceph. Callist. iii. 455, Patr. Gk. cxlvii.; Victor Tunun. Patr. Lat. lxviii. 937; Baronius, ad. ann. 564, xiv. xxix.; 565, xvii.; 578, 5; Patr. Constant. in Acta SS. Bolland. Aug. i. p. * 67.

[W.M.S.]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Joannes Scholasticus, Bishop of Constantinople'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/j/joannes-scholasticus-bishop-of-constantinople.html. 1911.

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Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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