John Rufus

Also known as John of Beth Ruphina and John of Maiuma. An anti-Chalcedonian presbyter, monk, and hagiographer of the 5th and 6th cent.; dates of birth and death unknown. He was probably born in the province of Arabia, and seems to have spent some time as a student of law at Beirut before his ordination as presbyter in Antioch by Peter the Fuller about 475. During the confusion that followed upon Emperor Zeno’s expulsion of Peter the Fuller in 477, and the appointment of Calandion as new head of the church of Antioch, John found refuge in Ascalon where he became a monk under Peter the Iberian, the spiritual leader of the anti-Chalcedonian communities in Palestine. After the death of Peter in 491, John was entrusted with the service of the altar in the church of a newly built monastery at Maiuma, dedicated to the memory of Peter the Iberian. In the title of one of his works (Plerophories), he is styled ‘bishop of Maiuma at Gaza’.

From John Rufus three works have survived, originally composed in Greek but preserved solely in Syriac: the ‘Life of Peter the Iberian’, the ‘Commemoration of the Death of Theodosius’, and the ‘Plerophories’. The most important of these works is unquestionably the ‘Life of Peter the Iberian’, to which we owe much of our knowledge about the first generation of opposition to Chalcedon. The text has been anonymously preserved, but in 1912, Eduard Schwartz proved its proper attribution to John Rufus, mainly through an evaluation of internal evidences. The narrative, rhetorically and stylistically advanced, covers Peter the Iberian’s life from birth to death, but draws particular focus on the travels throughout the eastern provinces which Peter the Iberian undertook to provide spiritual support to those who refused Chalcedonian communion. The much less extensive ‘Commemoration of the Death of Theodosius’, written as an appendix to the ‘Life of Peter the Iberian’, deals with the martyrdom of Theodosius, the Palestinian monk who seized the Patriarchal throne in Jerusalem from Juvenal immediately after Chalcedon. The Plerophories, finally, seems to have been composed during the patriarchate of Severus of Antioch (512–18) and consists of a collection of eighty-nine anecdotes about prophesies, visions, and other signs received by holy men against the council of Chalcedon. As a result of its harsh and relentless language and imagery, the Plerophories may be considered one of the most aggressive and eccentric instances of anti-Chalcedonian polemics.

    Primary Sources

    • CPG 7505–7507.
    • E. W.  Brooks, Vitae virorum apud monophysitas celeberrimorum (CSCO 7–8; 1907), 21–7 (Syr.); 15–9 (LT). (entitled Narratio de obitu Theodosii Hierosolymorum et Romani Monachi)
    • C. B.  Horn and R. R.  Phenix, John Rufus: the Lives of Peter the Iberian, Theodosius of Jerusalem, and the Monk Romanus (2008). (ET)
    • F.  Nau, Jean Rufus, évêque de Maïouma. Plérophories: c’est-a-dire témoignages et révélations contre le concile de Chalcédoine (PO 8.1; 1911).
    • R.  Raabe, Petrus der Iberer: Ein Charakterbild zur Kirchen- und Sittengeschichte des fünften Jahrhunderts (1895).

    Secondary Sources

    • B.  Flusin, ‘L’hagiographie palestinienne et la réception du Concile de chalcédoine’, in ΛΕΙΜΩΝ: Studies presented to Lennart Rydén on his sixty-fifth birthday, ed. J. O. Rosenqvist (1996), 25–47.
    • C. B.  Horn, Asceticism and christological controversy in fifth-century Palestine. The career of Peter the Iberian (2006).
    • E.  Schwartz, ‘Johannes Rufus: ein monophysitischer Schriftsteller’, in Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse 3.16 (1912), 1–28.
    • J.-E.  Steppa, John Rufus and the world vision of anti-Chalcedonian culture (2002).


How to Cite This Entry

Jan-Eric Steppa, “John Rufus,” 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-Rufus.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Jan-Eric Steppa, “John Rufus,” 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-Rufus.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Steppa, Jan-Eric. “John Rufus.” 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-Rufus.

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

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