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Series:

Chris L. de Wet and Wendy Mayer

Abstract

This chapter introduces the themes and approaches exemplified in the volume’s chapters on John Chrysostom, his life and works. It argues that three trends, in particular, may be observed in the essays: redescriptive biography, which explores the discursively-constructed Chrysostom and leaves behind the “historical” John; development and utilisation of new and alternative interdisciplinary models for dealing with socio-historical data; and a reframing of how we view Chrysostom and theology. These trends, which are set here within their larger context, intertwine with and sometimes lead developments within the field of late antiquity.

Series:

Peter C. Moore

Abstract

The title refers to two metaphors from Chrysostom’s Homily 15 on Matthew. In the course of expounding the Beatitudes, Chrysostom argues that godly affections (amongst other things) can bind heaven-bound Christians together in the midst of trouble. He mentions first the strength of a “woven” chain which comes from a combination of well-ordered “strands,” in this case a variety of emotions and attitudes. He also calls Christians a rank of troops which gains its power from a combination of well-ordered soldiers. The point is that there is safety in numbers and rightly oriented affections represent vital protection for a Christian standing side by side with other believers: bound together and bound for heaven. In this study of Chrysostom’s exploitation of mutual emotions in the Christian church in complex and anxious times, the author exploits data from his doctoral project which argued for the influence of Chrysostom upon the preaching of John Calvin. Turning his attention to the idea of mutual emotions in Chrysostom, Moore first defines “a community of emotional mutuality.” He then offers a sketch of Chrysostom’s attitudes to emotions overall, including his stance towards the stronger emotions or “passions.” Next he explores the motivating power of emotions and then Chrysostom’s ambitions for emotion in creating communities of emotional mutuality. Finally, Moore raises the possibility of a contemporary application for Chrysostom’s pastoral strategy in our own complex and uncertain times.

Series:

Jessica Wright

Abstract

John Chrysostom often presented himself as a physician of the soul. He performed psychic therapy through consolation, encouragement to overcome the passions, and instruction in ascetic discipline. He also drew regularly upon his medical learning to provide detailed metaphors of sickness and healing. Like many preachers of his generation, he was steeped in classical learning, which included the naturalistic medical tradition. This chapter examines the attention that Chrysostom pays to the brain and the nervous system. Largely neglected in studies of the late-antique body, the brain and nerves were, as primary instruments of the rational and governing part of the soul, central to fourth-century anthropology, and also to the political imagination. Using a framework adopted from history and philosophy of medicine, this chapter argues that Chrysostom appropriates a medical model of the brain and nervous system in order to situate himself as a physician not only of the individual soul, but of the ecclesial body as a whole. Interpreting Christ as the “brain,” which distributes spirit to the members through the nerves, Chrysostom destabilises the boundaries of individual bodies in order to emphasise their mutual interdependence, while at the same time reinforcing the boundaries of the church. The nervous system supplies a model of organic hierarchy, through which Chrysostom might establish a norm, as well as a category of deviance, with regard to participation in the body of the church.

Series:

Justin M. Pigott

Abstract

Scholarly analysis of John Chrysostom’s time at the head of the Constantinopolitan church is deeply influenced by his reputation as a fiery disciplinarian and demanding moralist. In particular, John’s severe temperament is placed front and centre in explaining the hostility he faced from within his clergy. The clerical reforms John enacted on arriving at Constantinople, which are traditionally explained as an uncompromising attempt by the Syrian to impose his own unusually high standard of behaviour on his clergy, are widely cited as central in earning John the animosity of many within the church. However, this chapter argues that such a view of John’s management of the clergy fails to take into account the full scope of Constantinople’s episcopal abnormality. Entrenched teleological perspectives of early Constantinople’s development have concealed the extent to which the city’s episcopal environment was, at John’s arrival, an aberration. Without due consideration of the degree to which the unique development and heavy imperial patronage of Constantinople’s Nicene church altered the parameters of the episcopate there, John’s clerical programme can indeed appear unduly harsh. However, by placing the institutional characteristics of the city at the forefront of analysing John’s management of the clergy, rather than preconceived notions of the bishop’s personality, this chapter argues that John’s strategies do not bear the mark of unique severity but can be situated well within the normative bounds and expectations of a bishop.

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Geert Roskam

Abstract

This chapter provides a systematic interpretation of a neglected homily of John Chrysostom, viz. Peccata fratrum non evulganda (CPG 4389). A systematic close reading of this sermon throws light on its general argumentative structure and on the different rhetorical strategies which John uses in order to negotiate the response of his listeners. As such it does not merely enhance our understanding of this particular sermon, but also shows the generic value of several statements that John makes about his homiletic approach. Especially remarkable is John’s respect for his audience’s autonomy. This respect is characteristic of an emancipatory approach, the influence of which can be felt both in the moralising and in the exegetic sections of the homily.

Series:

Courtney Wilson VanVeller

Abstract

Scholarship on John Chrysostom’s anti-Judaic rhetoric has focused on eight sermons in which John violently defames Jews in order to dissuade his congregants from associating with Jewish people, places and practices. In such polemics, John invokes the apostle Paul as a central voice of authority, exalting his beloved apostle as the principal exemplar of a thoroughly non-Jewish Christianity. Yet, in his broader corpus on Acts and the Pauline epistles, John encounters in Paul not only a fellow preacher warning against Christian Judaizers, but also a self-identified Israelite who preaches in Jewish places and observes elements of the Law. In this chapter, I use John’s interpretation of Paul’s rhetoric as philosophic therapy of the soul to illumine John’s interpretations of Paul’s complex identity as a Jew, especially as presented in Acts. Depicting Paul as an exemplary therapist of souls, John frames Paul’s persistent participation in Jewish places and practices as strategic therapies that serve to manage Jewish pathē and thus more effectively guide Jewish souls out of Judaism. John’s framing of Paul’s Jewishness as a strategic therapy for weak Jewish souls bolsters his characterisation of Jews as diseased and of Paul as an exemplary model of non-Jewish Christian orthodoxy. Thus, while John’s explicit invective against Jews has long been recognised for its anti-Judaic legacy, attention to John’s psychagogic interpretations of Paul points to a more subtle and pervasive anti-Judaism undergirding John’s exemplification of Paul and categorisation of Christian orthodoxy.

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Leslie Dossey

Abstract

In recent years, there has been a burgeoning scholarship on how nighttime activities and sleep itself changed in the early modern period due to the impact of urbanisation and the first street lighting. The exploration of similar topics in the ancient world is still in its infancy. Even so, it has long been recognised that the closest ancient parallel to modern street lighting was in the porticoed streets of late-antique cities like Antioch. Chrysostom’s sermons offer us a window, albeit a distorted one, into the everyday lives of the people of Antioch and Constantinople. This chapter will explore what his sermons have to tell us about nighttime work, sleep, prayer, and insomnia in an urban environment. The ultimate aim is to answer whether residents of large late-antique cities were closer to the modern or traditional pattern in their experience of the night.

Series:

Chris L. de Wet

Abstract

Relying on recent theoretical advances in Chrysostomic studies pertaining to his views on medicine and the therapy of the soul, the aim of this chapter is to examine John Chrysostom’s views on regimen, thus revisiting his stance on gluttony, and to ask how his stances on diet, eating habits, exercise, but also sleep and bathing, feature in his broader understanding of psycho-somatic health. The chapter investigates how Chrysostom operates as a psychic iatrosophist—a teacher of the health and pathologies of the embodied soul—with a focus on how he understands the physiology of the stomach and the risks of gluttony, and the relation and effect of these on the soul. Additionally, the study aims to append a very minor annotation to the more general cultural history of dietetics, obesity, and bariatrics.

Series:

Isabella Sandwell

Abstract

This chapter seeks to outline and challenge some of the assumptions that have underlain scholarship on Chrysostom’s preaching. Using work from modern communication theory on dialogue and mass communication as competing modes of communication, it argues first that too often Chrysostom scholars have made the mistaken assumption that Chrysostom’s preaching must have acted as a form of dialogue with his audience to have been affected. It then goes on to develop the model of mass communication as more fitting to Chrysostom’s preaching using the findings of cognitive science on how people comprehend verbal discourse and of the cognitive science of religion. Finally, it seeks to apply this new model to a small example from Chrysostom’s first two homilies on Matthew. Overall, this chapter hopes to propose not just a new model for thinking about the reception of Chrysostom’s preaching by his audiences, but also a new way for thinking about preaching’s role in the transmission and success of Christianity in late antiquity.

Series:

Wendy Mayer

Abstract

The preaching in Syrian Antioch by John Chrysostom of a series of sermons against the Jews has frequently been viewed both as some of the most extreme anti-Jewish Christian discourse and as a watershed moment in the emergence from anti-Judaism of antisemitism. In the wake of the horror of the Holocaust, the problem of reconciling these disquieting sermons with John’s status as one of the most admired Christian preachers of all time has led scholars to respond in a variety of ways. The bulk of these explanations have sought to explain the author’s intent or the context that gave rise to this particular set of sermons. Little attention has been paid to quantifying the sermons’ original impact. This is despite the fact that the sermons’ negative impact in later centuries—that they contributed to antisemitic sentiment—has long been assumed. In light of current events in Syria in which some of the same language of “infidels” and “dogs” is being employed not by Christians against “Jews,” but by radical Muslims against western “secular” governments and their constituents, in this chapter we seek to revisit these sermons within the larger context of religious conflict and the radicalising impact of language upon the listener. In particular, using explanatory models from moral psychology, conceptual metaphor theory and the neurosciences we conclude that the intent of the author, the original context or social reality, and even the reasoned argument, matter less than we would like to think. Of insidious influence are the pre-conscious conceptual frameworks and intuitions that the words employed activate and neurally strengthen in the brain of the listener. This finding supports the pessimistic claim of John Gager that, if “the Judaizers are the targets of [John’s] wrath,” it is “the Jews [who are] its victims.”