The Influence Of John Of Damascus On The Development Of Early Islamic Theology -- By: Daniel Janosik

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 10:2 (Fall 2012)
Article: The Influence Of John Of Damascus On The Development Of Early Islamic Theology
Author: Daniel Janosik


The Influence Of John Of Damascus On The Development Of Early Islamic Theology

Daniel Janosik

What part did John of Damascus play in the development of Islamic theology? Was he simply an observer or was he also a participant? If he were only an observer, what did he see from his office in the developing government of the caliphate? From the analysis of his writings on Islam, as well as the study of his explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity, it has become evident that John had first–hand knowledge of the Umayyad government, that he was aware of the controversies taking place in mid–eighth century Islamic theology, and that he was cognizant of the Muslim practices of his day.1 If he were a participant in the debates taking place, what would his contributions have been? Could John of Damascus have influenced some of the theological disputations

taking place in the mid–eighth century in Damascus? The initial scholarly reaction to this last question is that of denial or simply limiting the parameters of John’s influence to within the Christian community.

Scholars such as G. R. Hawting claim that theological developments in religion take place more from within the community of believers than through the influence of outside religions and cultures. Hawting reasons,

At least from before the Christian era until about the time of the Renaissance it seems, the important developments within the monotheist tradition have occurred as a result of debates and arguments among adherents of the tradition rather than from confrontation with opponents outside it. Those debates and arguments have often involved charges that one party or another which claimed to be monotheistic in fact had beliefs or practices that — in the view of their opponents — were incompatible with, or a perversion of, monotheism.2

If this were to be the case, then the argument that John had any impact on Islamic development would be clearly implausible. Upon a more careful reading, however, the views held by Hawting actually support the idea of John influencing the development of Islamic theology.

Inter–Communal Monotheism, Intermediate Monotheism, Or Reactive Monotheism

Hawting considers Islam as a religion within the monotheistic traditions of Judaism and Christianity and therefore sees Islam as being ultimately the result of an intra–monotheist polemic.3 He reasons that “in a general way, Islam is envisaged here as arising within a larger (but perhaps not very large) monotheist group and as developing over...

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