John of Damascus
b Damascus (Syria) c675, d c749. Taught by the elder Cosmas, a captive Sicilian monk; John’s father adopted another Cosmas (‘the melodist’, also a hymnwriter), who with John enrolled at the monastery of St Sabas nr Jerusalem, c730. While Cosmas jnr became a bishop, John remained in or around Jerusalem where he wrote doctrinal works, including 3 orations in defence of ikons (726–730), and many hymns for which he also composed tunes. His major book was The Fount of Wisdom, as an exposition of orthodox Christian faith and a bulwark against heresy, strong on the arguments for the existence of God and on the incarnation. He also wrote a full commentary on the letters of Paul, an exposition of the transfiguration and other prose homilies. At some point, possibly in his middle years, he was ordained, and became the penultimate ‘father of the Gk Church’, held in honour especially by many later Gk theologians and praised by J M Neale as the greatest poet of his church. Indeed, ‘As all have agreed,’ says Ellerton, he is ‘the greatest of Greek hymn-writers’. Neale’s paraphrase Come, ye faithful, raise the strain, more or less ‘altd.’, is also in wide use, mainly among Anglicans. Common Praise has 2 of his translated texts; EH had 4, naming him as ‘St John Damascene’, indexed under ‘D’. No.472.