YUHANNA THE DEACON
Also known as Yuhanna ibn Moesis, the spiritual son and disciple of Anba Moesis, the saintly bishop of Awsim. He lived around the middle of the eighth century, during the rule of the Umayyad caliphate. He compiled a series of patriarchal biographies up to his own time, and his work was utilized by SAWIRUS IBN AL-MUQAFFA‘ in his HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS. The original work, which is lost, appears to have been derived at least in part from another source by a certain Archdeacon Abu Jirjah, who lived in the seventh century and was a personal friend of SIMON I, forty-second patriarch (689-701).
This Abu Jirjah compiled the patriarchal biographies from CYRIL I (412-444) to ALEXANDER II (705-730), covering the period of the later ecumenical movement as well as the rise of Islam and the Arab conquest of Egypt. Also lost but incorporated in Yuhanna’s work, it continued the biographies down to the patriarchate of Theodore (731-743), which appears only in outline.
The real contribution of Yuhanna appears in the elaborate biography of Theodore’s successor, KHA’IL I (744-767). Being his contemporary, Yuhanna was able to assemble the major events of his patriarchate, which spanned the reigns of al-Walid ibn Yazid (743-744) to the last Umayyad caliph, Marwan II (744-750), and the early Abbasid caliphs al-Saffah (750-754) and al-Mansur (754-775). This is probably one of the richest and fullest biographies in the History of the Patriarchs.
It abounds in details that throw a flood of light not only on the internal history of the church and eighth-century Egypt in general but also on the foreign relations of other patriarchates and of the whole caliphate. The name of his spiritual mentor, Anba Moesis, appears continuously in his story, and they both figure as the primary movers of the selection of Kha’il to the throne of Saint Mark from among the monks of the monastery of Saint Macarius in Wadi al-Natrun. His work abounds in interesting details and deserves a special analytical study.
- Kamil Salih Nakhlah. Kitab Tarikh wa-Jadawil Batarikat al- Iskandariyyah al-Qibt. Cairo, 1943.
AZIZ S. ATIYA