The hagiographic homilies of St John of Damascus
: a study in Byzantine homiletics

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis focuses on a particular group of sermons delivered by the eighth-century monastic and theologian St John of Damascus. More specifically, John of Damascus’ three hagiographic homilies (Encomium of St Barbara; Encomium of St John Chrysostom; Passion of St Artemius) are translated and analysed to provide a model for the treatment of the homiletic literature of the middle Byzantine period. 
The originality of the study lies in the astute and coherent close reading of the corpus. Sensitive to the lack of contextual information with regard both to the homilies and the preacher himself, an attempt is made to bring to the surface the wealth of content and meaning contained in these texts and flesh out aspects of the sermons which are otherwise neglected or insufficiently understood. This is also the first thorough study of John of Damascus’ writings as literature, with an emphasis on style, composition, primary sources, and intertextuality. Although the basic line of approach can be said to be literary, the thesis touches on a number of areas and themes, such as theology, hagiography and asceticism, power and political authority, and approaches to the ‘self’, all of which demonstrate the intricacy of John’s sermons. 
The study begins with an examination of the circumstances in which the homilies were delivered (chapter 1). In chapter 2 the focus moves to John Damascene’s use of literary sources and their decisive influence on his hagiographic encomia. Chapter 3 then proceeds to discuss the insight that homilies provide into John’s diffusion of family and monastic ideals into the personal lives of the faithful. From that point attention shifts to John’s efforts to create negative models of political authority and heresy as a means of alluding to politically driven religious disputes affecting contemporary Christians at community level (chapter 4). Finally, the homilies are approached as reflections of the preacher’s self, a literary space for the expression of thought and emotion revealing John’s view of himself as a monk, theologian, and preacher (chapter 5). The last three chapters comprise the translations of the three homilies.
Date of Award1 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorIoannis Papadogiannakis (Supervisor), Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe (Supervisor) & Dionysios Stathakopoulos (Supervisor)

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