Saint John, called Barsanuphius, was a native of Palestine. He was baptized when he was eighteen years old, and later became a monk. Because of his ascetic life, Saint John was consecrated Archbishop of Damascus. Because of his love for the solitary life, Saint John gave up his position as hierarch and secretly withdrew to Alexandria, calling himself Barsanuphius. Then he went into the Nitrian desert, arrived at a monastery, and begged the igumen to accept him into the monastery to serve the Elders. He conscientiously fulfilled this obedience by day, and spent his nights in prayer.
Theodore of Nitria saw the monk, and knew that he was a bishop. Saint John concealed himself again and withdrew into Egypt, where he lived in asceticism until the end of his days.