John Chrysostom on Paul as Founder of Churches

In: Religion and Theology
Chris L. de Wet Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa P.O. Box 392, UNISA, 0003, RSA

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The purpose of this article is to examine John Chrysostom’s view of Paul as founder of churches. The article is written in dialogue with the research done by James Hanges on Paul as a founder-figure. The study argues that by the fourth century, especially in the works of Chrysostom, we a have a vision of Paul as founder of the church that has become interwoven with the very substance of the (orthodox) church’s subjectivity – a very different dynamic that was present in the first two centuries at least. Being a Christian, being part of the church, for Chrysostom, also means embodying something of the subjectivity of Paul. Paul was more than a hermeneutical bridge between the Old and the New Testament. Paul and Paulinomorphism became the very language of ecclesiastical power, a rhetoric with an impetus on correction, discipline and social protection. The fourth-century Chrysostomic reconstruction of Paul, the founder of churches and the church, operated as a central discursive formation in the reproduction of Christian identity. The appellations of Paul as builder, physician and father formed part of an interconnected web of power-language with the capacity to ramify group boundaries and also to pathologize heretical groups. The power-language of Paul also sustained orthodox Christian identity in its curative and corrective measures.

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