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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:

Jonathan P. Stanfill

Abstract

Walking in the street functioned as a critical site for the public performance of identity in the Roman world. Doing so in the company of others, whether as part of an entourage or a procession, was especially important for visibly establishing one’s membership in a patronage network or politeia. For Christians in late antiquity, liturgical processions were similarly utilised as a tool for reifying group identity and demarcating the boundaries between different ecclesial communities. John Chrysostom, in particular, recognised the significance of processions for cultivating his vision for Nicene Christianity. As this chapter will demonstrate, one overlooked feature of Chrysostom’s citywide liturgical processions was the participation of Nicene Goths. However, it is also shown that their participation would have been viewed with suspicion and hostility by a faction that believed the Goths were uncivilised and heretical. Thus, the participation of the Goths in Chrysostom’s processions provides another avenue by which we can see the fault lines between the bishop and his antagonists as they competed over the boundaries of the Nicene church in Constantinople. Yet there is no record of the bishop’s rationale for incorporating them. This chapter, therefore, draws upon Judith Butler’s theory of performative assembly to interpret the visible participation of the Goths in Chrysostom’s processions as a speech act in its own right; one that could function both as the embodied performance of Nicene identity by the Goths and the public enactment of Chrysostom’s inclusive brand of Nicene Christianity.

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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.

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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.

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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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Samantha L. Miller

Abstract

With the rise of Christianity in the global south, new expressions of Christianity are receiving attention, such as the deliverance movement in Pentecostal and charismatic groups, a movement centered on exorcism and relief from evil spirits. This deliverance movement raises the question of moral responsibility. If people believe demons are real and that demons are afflicting them or others, causing sin and requiring “deliverance” by the Holy Spirit, does this preclude responsibility for sin, bypass sanctification, and create a shortcut to Christian perfection? To explore this question, I place the practitioners of deliverance in conversation with John Chrysostom. With a focus on Chrysostom’s De diabolo tentatore hom. 1-2 and De prophetiarum obscuritate hom. 3, I argue that by comparing Chrysostom’s demonology to that of deliverance ministers, it becomes clear that Chrysostom’s own demonology highlights his anthropology and his emphasis on self-determination, which he uses to encourage virtue among his congregation. I first outline the contours of deliverance ministry: where it began, what it looks like, and its basic demonology. Second, I show the similarities between both deliverance practitioners’ and Chrysostom’s worldviews and places of apparent agreement. Finally, I demonstrate the core difference between deliverance demonology and Chrysostom’s demonology to be the issue of moral responsibility, funded by Chrysostom’s emphasis on human προαίρεσις and virtue.

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Paschalis Gkortsilas

Abstract

When scholars discuss the influence of Greek philosophy on early Christianity the discussion often revolves around Platonism (both in its original and Neoplatonic forms) and Stoicism. Cynicism barely enters discussion. Yet, as this chapter shows, John Chrysostom was engaged with a number of Cynic ideas. His treatment of the Cynics is particularly worthy of investigation because it both raises questions about his reception of an anti-Cynic tradition and exhibits a tension between his interpretation of the Cynics as individuals and the main tenets of Cynicism, especially as they relate to ethics. The focus of his chapter is on John’s and the Cynics’ common or divergent understanding of autarkeia. It argues that to a certain extent the common fight for the ideals of freedom, poverty, and asceticism united Cynics and Christians in an ideological alliance that would otherwise have been unthinkable, considering the different roots of each movement. In order to place this in context, a brief overview of patristic attitudes towards Cynicism and the Cynic heritage is first supplied. Through the lens of John Chrysostom a more detailed picture of the tensions in Christianity’s attitude to Cynicism in late antiquity is thus derived.

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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.

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Pak-Wah Lai

Abstract

Protestant scholarship has often found Chrysostom’s soteriology wanting, or even Semi-Pelagian. Recent studies, however, suggest that a proper understanding of his soteriology must account for the rhetorical nature of his teachings. This study presents a two-fold argument. Firstly, based on Chrysostom’s didactic teachings, we assert that the theory of recapitulation is an important, if not primary, feature of his soteriology. According to Chrysostom, the Son of God was incarnated in order to fulfil the Law, restore the cosmic order and redeem humanity. In so doing, He enables Christians to transcend their human nature by the Spirit and participate in his life of obedience. Secondly, the richness of Chrysostom’s theory cannot be fully grasped until we pay due attention to the ways he develops and nuances this doctrine in his exemplar portraits. By analysing his rhetorical portrayals of the angels, Adam and Eve, and the ascetics, we conclude that Chrysostom’s vision of the Christian life shares several traits similar to that of the angels. Nevertheless, it is also unique and different in a few significant ways. Namely, it is to be lived out in the body, characterised by the enjoyment of God’s providential care, moderated by ascetic practice and enabled by the Spirit. Ultimately, it is a life that surpasses that of the angels because it is no less than a participation in Christ’s divine and yet human life. As seen from his Pauline portraits, Chrysostom frequently explicates and reinforces these and other aspects of his recapitulation theory in his listeners’ minds by employing the meta-narratives of transcendence and imago Christi in his depiction of the saints.

Series:

James Cook

Abstract

Recent studies have made a persuasive case that John Chrysostom should be considered a “medico-philosophical psychic therapist” in the classical tradition. Like the philosophers before him, he prescribed a regimen of spiritual exercises to bring the disordered passions under control. This chapter, however, will re-examine the extent of his dependence on the philosophical tradition, and in particular will argue that the scriptures and the Christian tradition exercise a more important influence on the fundamental nature of his diagnosis of spiritual sickness and its therapy. Whilst for the classical philosophers the ultimate goal of therapy was the achievement of happiness or wellbeing in the present, for Chrysostom it was to be found in avoiding God’s judgement for sin and receiving the blessings of eternal life. For him, the sick are those who are facing the judgement of God, and a key part of his therapy of the soul is to awaken in them a fear of hell that they may live more obedient lives and “receive the good things that are to come.” He was therefore in many ways more similar to the prophets of the Old Testament and the Christian preachers of the New: his preaching largely focussed on a message of repentance and obedience to a God who would be his congregation’s judge at the resurrection.