John Iv The Faster, Saint (D. 595)

JOHN IV THE FASTER, SAINT (d. 595)

Patriarch of Constantinople engaged in a controversy over a title with two popes. John, born in Cappadocia, was called the Faster (Jejunator in Greek) because of his extreme asceticism. As patriarch from 582 to 595 he took the title “Oecumenical [universal] Patriarch,” which had been given to his predecessor by the emperor and had also been used in Rome. Pope II and his successor, Gregory I the Great, protested, since it made Constantinople spiritually equal to Rome. Nevertheless, John and his successors continued to use the title, which was also used by later popes. John was canonized by the Orthodox Church (feast day: 2 September).

A text on penitence attributed to John in the Greek tradition must be considered the work of another writer, for it seems to have been redacted in the twelfth century. A second work bearing his name, however, might be genuine. This is a homily, translated from the original Greek into Coptic, on penitence and abstinence ( patrum Graecorum 3. 7555; PG 88. 1937-77). It is a rather long text, mainly monastic in character and primarily of excerpts by Saint JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (this is especially true of the central section, cf. De Aldama, 1965, no. 269).

The Coptic translation has survived in its entirety in a of the seventh century (British Museum, London, Or. 6001) and also in some fragments from a codex dating from the eleventh century (National Library, Vienna, K 7602-7613). In the London codex, one part of the text has been changed in respect to both a Greek text in the and the Vienna codex, but we might assume that this occurred simply because of a displacement of pages in some preceding manuscript. Otherwise, the Coptic seems to match closely with the Greek.

In both codices, the author of this homily is named simply “John, archbishop of Constantinople.” For the Copts, this attribution was probably meant to identify the author with John Chrysostom (even the Greek tradition names the author as John Chrysostom now and again). However, at the time when he made his translation, the Coptic translator must surely have known that he was dealing with a different and later “John of Constantinople.” A modern critical edition of this homily should also take into account the Syriac translation (Baumstark, 1922, p. 81).

  • Aldama, J. A. de. Repertorium pseudo-chrysostomicum. Paris, 1965. Baumstark, A. Geschichte der syrischen Literatur. Bonn, 1922. Budge, E. A. W. Coptic Homilies in the of Upper Egypt. London, 1910.
  • Orlandi, T. Papiri copti di contenuto teologico. Mitteilungen aus der Papyrussammlung der österreichischen Nationalbibliothek: Nietzsche- 9. Vienna, 1974.