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John, Monophysite (Missionary) Bishop of Ephesus,

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John, Monophysite (Missionary) Bishop Of Ephesus,

generally called Episcopus Asioe, as Ephesus is the most important see of Asia Minor (see Assemani, Bibl. Orient. t. 2, Diss. de Monophysit. § 9, s.v. Asia), was a native of Amid (?), Syria, and lived in the 6th century (about 591). He resided chiefly in Constantinople, and was highly esteemed at court, especially during the reign of Justinian. The latter appointed him to inquire into the state of the heathen, of whom there was yet a large number in the empire, even in Constantinople and to secure their conversion.

Quite successful in his efforts at home, the emperor authorized John to take a missionary tour through the whole empire, and we are told that this time he converted 70,000 people, and founded 96 churches (comp. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 43). He seems not to have had any direct spiritual jurisdiction over the metropolis of Asia Minor, but to have been honored with the title simply on account of his great success as a missionary, and we are inclined to believe that in reality he was simply a "missionary bishop," for he is often styled "he who is sat over the heathen" (Syr. דצל חנפא ), and also "the destroyer of idols" (Syr. מחבר פתכרא ). How long John remained a favorite with Justinian we do not know, but have reason to suppose that his fate depended upon the success of his Monophysite brethren. In the reign of Justin II he shared largely in the sufferings which befell the Monophysites at the instigation of John of Sirimis. The period, circumstances, and place of his death are uncertain. He is probably the John Rhetor mentioned by Evagrius and Theodorus Lector, and whom the former calls (lib. 5, c. 24) his compatriot and his relative. Assemani (Bibl. Orient. 2, 84) opposes this identity, but without good reasons. John wrote a historical work, in three parts, in Syriac, which is of great importance for the Church history of the East.

The first part appears to be totally lost, and of the second only a few fragments, quoted by Assemani, are preserved to us. It is indeed the third part alone that has come down to us, and that only in a somewhat mutilated form. Dionysius of Telmahar, in his chronicle (from Theodosius the younger to Justin II), used this part freely; and Assemani obtained his passages (Biblioth. Orient. 1, 359-363, 409, 411-414; 2, 48 sq., 51, 52, 87-90, 312, 328, 329) from this source and from Bar-Hebraeus (Chron. Syr. ed. Bruns and Kirsch, p. 2, 83, 84). These were the only sources through which the work of John was known to us until the third part of it (somewhat incomplete) was discovered by William Cureton among the Syrian MSS. brought to England from the Syrian monasteries of Egypt by Dr. Tattam and A. Pacho, in 1843, 1847, and 1850. This third part was published under the title The Third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John, Bishop of Ephesus. Now first edited by William Cureton (Oxf. 1855, 4to, pp. 420). The first two parts, forming twelve books, contained, as the author himself says (p. 2), the history of the Church from the beginning of the Roman Empire to the sixth year of the reign of Justinus II, nephew of Justinian, and consequently to the year 571. The third part forms six chapters, of which we have only the second and fifth in full; the others are all more or less incomplete (see Bernstein, Zeitsch. der D. Morgenl. Gesellschaf, 8, 397).

It continues the history to the third year after the death of Justinus II (581) (see bk. 6, ch. 25, p. 402), and mentions even later dates down to 583. We find in it accounts of many facts of ecclesiastical history not to be discovered in other sources. It is the more important from the fact that the author, although a partisan of the Monophysite doctrine, and occasionally somewhat over credulous, was a contemporary, and often an eyewitness of the facts he relates. Cureton promised an English translation of the work, but to our knowledge it has not yet appeared. The German scholar Schonfelder (Die Kirchengeschichte des Johannes von Ephesus. Aus dem Syrischen ü bersetzt. Mit einer Abhandlung u. d. Treiheiten [Munch. 1862, 8vo]) has, however, furnished a German translation, of which those who do not read the Oriental languages can avail themselves in their studies of the Eastern Church. In 1856 a young Dutch scholar, Dr. Land, published a treatise on John, Bishop of Ephesus, the first Syriac Church historian (for the full title, see below), in which he discussed the general relations of Syriac literature, and the productions of the Syriac Church historians in particular, the person and history of bishop John, his style and treatment of Church history, and the contents of his work. Since then, Dr. Land has continued his studies of the Syriac writers, and in vol. 2 of his Anecdota Syriaca (also under the special title Joannis, Episcopi Monophysitoe Scripta Historica [Leyd. 1868, 8vo]), has published all the inedited works of John of Ephesus. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 6, 747; Kitto, Journ. Sac. Lit. 16, 207 sq. (J.H.W.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'John, Monophysite (Missionary) Bishop of Ephesus,'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/j/john-monophysite-missionary-bishop-of-ephesus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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