John bar Aphtonia (d. 537) [Syr. Orth.]

Monastic founder and author. John was born in Edessa, the child of a rhetor and his mother, Aphtonia. He was a monk of the monastery of St. Thomas at Seleucia Pieria on the Orontes (near Antioch) until he and other monks were driven out as a result of imperial persecution of non-Chalcedonian monasteries (ca. 530). The group chose John to be their Abbot and founded the Monastery of Qenneshre on the Euphrates, an establishment that came to produce many influential church leaders, scholars, and translators. John is remembered as having played a significant role in facilitating the transmission of Greek literary culture into a Syriac milieu. He participated in the Miaphysite negotiations with Justinian in Constantinople (ca. 531) before he died in 537. John wrote a biography of Severus of Antioch, and a commentary on the Song of Songs, fragments of which survive in catenae. He is credited with having written a number of hymns in Greek that were added to collections associated with Severus and later translated into Syriac.

    Primary Sources

    • E. W.  Brooks, The Hymns of Severus of Antioch and Others in the Syriac Version of Paul of Edessa (PO 6; 1909), 1–179; (PO 7; 1911), 593–802. (Syr. with ET)
    • R. Köbert, ‘Syrische Fragmente eines griechischen Kommentars zum Hohenlied’, Biblica 48 (1967), 111–14.
    • P.  Krüger, ‘Johannes bar Aphtonaja und die syrische Übersetzung seines Kommentars zum Hohen Liede’, OC 50 (1966), 61–71.
    • M. A.  Kugener, Vie de Sévère par Jean de Beith-Aphtonia (PO 2.3; 1907), 204–64. (Syr. with FT of The Life of Severus)
    • F.  Nau, ‘Histoire de Jean bar Aphtonia’, ROC 7 (1902), 97–135.
    • F.  Nau, Vie de Jean bar Aphtonia (1902). (Syr. with FT)

    Secondary Sources

    • Vööbus, History of Asceticism, vol. 3, 435–6.
    • J. W.  Watt, ‘A portrait of John bar Aphtonia, founder of the Monastery of Qenneshre’, in Portraits of Spiritual Authority, ed. H. W. Drijvers and J. W. Watt (1999), 155–69.


How to Cite This Entry

Jeff W. Childers , “John bar Aphtonia,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/John-bar-Aphtonia.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Jeff W. Childers , “John bar Aphtonia,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/John-bar-Aphtonia.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Childers, Jeff W. “John bar Aphtonia.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/John-bar-Aphtonia.

A TEI-XML record with complete metadata is available at https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/John-bar-Aphtonia/tei.

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