Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Joannes II, bishop of Jerusalem

Joannes (216) II., bp. of Jerusalem, 386–417, in succession to Cyril; a prelate known to us chiefly through the invectives of Jerome, and hence particularly difficult to estimate. Imbued with that tendency of Eastern church teachers which formed their chief difference from those of the Western church, he with difficulty brought himself to acquiesce in the condemnation of Origenism or to take any steps against Pelagius, with whom he was brought in contact at the close of his episcopacy, and the presence of Jerome and other immigrants from Italy, and the anti-Origenistic vehemence of Epiphanius of Salamis and Theophilus of Alexandria, made it impossible for him to escape the reproach of laxity and even at times of heresy.

Born between 350 and 356 (Hieron. Ep. lxxxii. 8, ed. Vall.), he passed as a young man some time among the monks of Nitria in Egypt. There he, no doubt, imbibed his affection for Origen's teaching, and probably became acquainted with two persons who had much to do with his own subsequent history and with that of the Origenistic controversy—the monk Isidore (one of the Long Monks) and Rufinus. During the troublous times before the accession of Theodosius, when Arianism was in the ascendant, he declined, teste Jerome (cont. Joan. Jerus. 4), to communicate with the orthodox bishops exiled by Valens. But no imputation of Arianism rests upon him. He was evidently esteemed very highly, and of great eloquence (ib. 41) and subtlety of mind. His flatterers compared him with Chrysippus, Plato, and Demosthenes (ib. 4). He was little more than 30 years old (Hieron. Ep. lxxxii. 8, ed. Vall.) when chosen to succeed Cyril as bp. of Jerusalem. It was a see of great importance, subject in certain respects to the metropolitan at Caesarea, but acting at times independently; of great wealth (cont. Joan. Jerus. 14), and of great interest for its holy places, which were visited by pilgrims from all parts. It had also a special interest from the settlements of distinguished persons from the West, which made it during his episcopate a focus of Christian and literary activity, and with two of which, that of Rufinus and Melania on the Mount of Olives,

and of Jerome and Paula at Bethlehem, he was destined to have close but similar relations. Jerome accuses him of making a gain of his bishopric and living in luxury (Comm. in Joann. c. 14, and Ep. lvii. 12); but this may be only the common animus of monk against bishop, embittered by momentary resentment. The clergy of Jerusalem were certainly attached to him. Rufinus thought it a sufficient defence of his own faith to say that it was that preached at Jerusalem by the holy bp. John (Ruf. Apol. i. 13). But the most important testimony is given by the pope Anastasius, in a letter to him in 401, a time when the adversaries of John, Pammachius, and Marcella had access to the pope, and only two or three years after Jerome's Philippic was composed. Anastasius speaks of the splendour of his holiness and his divine virtues; his eminence and his praise are so conspicuous that he cannot find words equal to his merits. He accounts it an honour to have received praise from one of so serene and heavenly a disposition, the splendour of whose episcopate shines throughout the world (see Vallarsi's Rufnus, pp. 408, 409; Migne's Patr. Lat. xxi.).

When John became bishop, Rufinus had already been settled on the Mount of Olives some nine years, and Jerome and his friends were just entering on their work at Bethlehem. At first he lived in impartial friendship with them both, seeking out Jerome especially (";nos suo arbitrio diligebat," Hieron. Ep. lxxxii. 11, ed. Vall.), and making use of Rufinus, whom he ordained, as a learned man, in business which required his special talents. After some six years their peace was disturbed. A certain Aterbius (Hieron. cont. Ruf. iii. 33), who by his officious insinuations and imputations of Origenistic heresy caused the first breach between Jerome and Rufinus, had, no doubt, some dealings with the bishop also; and, probably through him, the suspicions of Epiphanius, the venerable bp. of Salamis, were aroused. When Epiphanius came to Jerusalem in 394, the strife broke out. For the controversy see EPIPHANIUS (1) and HIERONYMUS (2). During the dispute between Jerome and Rufinus, John in no way intervened. Zöckler (Hieron. p. 249) thinks him to have inclined rather to the side of Jerome. We certainly find Jerome, in a letter to Theophilus, in commendation of his encyclical (Ep. lxxxvi., ed. Vall.), pleading for his bishop. John had accepted a person under the ban of Theophilus who had come from Jerusalem to Alexandria, and thus had incurred the wrath of that fierce prelate; but Jerome represented that Theophilus had sent no letters condemnatory of this person, and that it would be rash to condemn John for a supposed fault committed in ignorance. As regards Rufinus, John wrote a letter to pope Anastasius, the tenor of which can be only dimly inferred from the pope's extant reply. John was apparently less anxious to defend Rufinus than to secure his own freedom from implication in the charges made against Rufinus by Jerome's friends at Rome. The pope, with fulsome expressions of esteem for John, bids him put such fears away and judge Rufinus for himself. He professes to know nothing about Origen, not even who he was, while yet he has condemned his opinions; and

as to Rufinus, he only says that, if his translation of the works of Origen implies an acceptance of his opinions (a matter which he leaves to his own conscience), he must see where he can procure absolution. That John was not then in familiar communication with Rufinus, but was with Jerome, may be inferred from the fact that Jerome used this letter in his controversy with Rufinus (cont. Ruf. ii. 14), while Rufinus did not know of its existence, and, when he heard of it, treated it as an invention of Jerome (ib. iii. 20). The reconciliation of John with the monks of Bethlehem is further attested by Sulpicius Severus (Dial. i. 8), who had stayed six months at Bethlehem, and says that John had entrusted to Jerome and his brother the charge of the parish of Bethlehem. A letter from Chrysostom to John in 404 (Migne's Patr. Gk. vol. lii.) shews that he had taken Chrysostom's part; then we hear nothing more of John for 12 or 13 years, when the Pelagian controversy brings him forward once more. Pelagius and Coelestius, having come in 415 to Jerusalem, were encountered by Orosius, the friend of Augustine, who had come to visit Jerome, and afterwards by the Gaulish bishops Heros and Lazarus. Orosius, who recounts these transactions in the first nine chaps. of his Liber de Arbitrii Libertate, addressed himself to John, as did also Pelagius; but John was not willing to accept without inquiry the decrees of the council of Carthage and resented their being pressed upon him by Orosius. The two parties were in secret conflict for some time, till John determined on holding a synod to end the strife, on July 28, 415. John was the only bishop present; the rest were presbyters and laymen. He shewed some consideration towards Pelagius, allowing him, though a layman, to sit among the presbyters; and when there was a clamour against Pelagius for shewing disrespect for the name and authority of Augustine, John, by saying, "I am Augustine," undertook both to ensure respect to that great teacher and not to allow his authority to be pressed too far against his antagonist. "If," cried Orosius, "you represent Augustine, follow Augustine's judgment." John thereupon asked him if he was ready to become the accuser of Pelagius; but Orosius declined this duty, saying that Pelagius had been condemned by the African bishops, whose decisions John ought to accept. The proceedings were somewhat confused from the necessity of employing an interpreter. Finally, it was determined to send a letter to pope Innocentius and to abide by his judgment. Meanwhile, John imposed silence upon both parties. This satisfied neither. The opinions of Pelagius continued to be spread by private intercourse, and Augustine wrote to remonstrate with John against the toleration of heresy. On the arrival of the Gaulish bishops Heros and Lazarus, another synod was held at Diospolis (416) under the presidency of Euzoïus, the metropolitan bp. of Caesarea, in which John again took part. Augustine, in his work against Julianus, records the decision of this council, which was favourable to Pelagius, but considers his acquittal due to uncertainties occasioned by difference of language, which enabled Pelagius to express

himself in seemingly orthodox words; and both in this work and in his letter to John he treats John as a brother-bishop whom he holds in high esteem. Meanwhile, the more intemperate partisans of Pelagius resorted to open violence. The dialogue of Jerome against the Pelagians, though mild compared with his other controversial works, incensed them, and they proceeded to burn the monasteries of Bethlehem. The attitude of John at this time cannot be gathered with any certainty. That he was in any way an accomplice in such proceedings is incredible. Nothing of the sort appears from the letters of Jerome, though he speaks in a resigned manner of his losses. Complaints, however, of the ill-treatment of Jerome and the Roman ladies at Bethlehem reached pope Innocent, who wrote to John a letter (Hieron. Ep. cxxxvii., ed. Vall.) of sharp rebuke. He does not imply that John had been accessory to the violence; but, considering that a bishop ought to be able to prevent such acts or at least relieve their consequences, he bids him take care that no further violence is done, on pain of the laws of the church being put in force against him. The view here taken of these transactions, which is that of Zöckler (Hieron. pp. 310–316), is opposed by Thierry (St. Jerome, bk. xii. c. iii.), who looks upon John as a partisan of Pelagius and as the enemy of Jerome to the end. John was now at the close of his career. Possibly the letter of Innocentius never reached him, for it can hardly have been written, as Vallarsi shews (pref. to Hieron. sub. litt. cxxxv.–cxxxviii.), before 417, and John died (see Ceillier, vii. 497, etc.) on Jan. 10 in that year. After a troubled episcopate of 30 years and a life of from 60 to 65 years, failing health may have prevented his exercising full control in this last and most painful episode of his career.

Several works are attributed to him (see Ceillier, vii. 97, etc.). Gennadius (30) mentions one which he wrote in his own defence; but no work of his is extant. He must, therefore, always be viewed through the medium of other, mostly hostile, writers, and through the mists of controversy.