Chrysostom: Homilies on Corinthians

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Puritanboard Clerk
From the NPNF First Series, volume 12.

Among the church fathers, Chrysostom is the better of the exegetes. He handles the text in a proper way. His homilies on Corinthians are valuable in showing us how "messy" church was back then. Chrysostom has his hobby horses. Almsgiving might be the high point of Christian praxis. We have to understand the ancient world to know why. There was no economic safety net and many people couldn't get enough calories in the day. A local drought could plunge half the empire into famine and starvation. We don't have that today. I know this isn't popular, but capitalism and technology have created systems of which Chrysotom could not conceive. His comments on living a simple life, though, are worthwhile.

Homily 2

“All have a certain aptness towards virtue” (9). It is impossible that one should be good by necessity. Strong synergism in this homily.

Homily 3

The schisms arose from differences in contentiousness, not faith (11).

Chrysostom denies that the “rulers of this world” (1 Cor. 2) are demons. He says they have to be men because their dominion doesn’t extend beyond this present world. But that’s not really what the text is talking about. And there are numerous examples throughout the bible where demons (for lack of a better word) are connected to geographical locales. And Satan is called “the god of this world.”

Homily 10

“And Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 18-19). Chrysostom: “as a genuine offspring, not as a work.” Our gifts are on loan from God, so we should use them for the common good. Regarding wealth, “If you enjoy it alone, you too have lost it. But if you possess it jointly with the rest, then will it be more your own” (p. 57).

Homily 12

He begins with some comments about marriage, but then moves to the vanity of pre-marital daughter -aising when you try to make your daughter as beautiful as possible and parade her in front of others. I think that is what he is saying. Maybe it’s like a Southern debutante ball.

Part of it is legitimate. He attacks silly customs like processions. Hmm. I wonder what those church traditions that engage in marriage processions would say about this?

Interesting comment concerning that period of time right after the birth of a child: “What shall we say about the amulets and the bells which are hung on the hand….when they ought to invest the child with nothing else save the protection of the Cross” (71)! The whole homily is a frontal assault on religious folk-customs.

Homily 14

God made us a free agent (80).

Homily 16

He identifies the effeminate as those who abuse their own bodies (93). As to those who will not see the kingdom of heaven, he refrains from saying that is “hell.” He acknowledges the possibility but doesn’t want to go further than the actual text says (93).

Homily 17

Chrysostom defends the Resurrection. He also rejects the idea that Adam was mortal before he sinned (99). He goes on to say that “mortality is not the cause of sin,” but a wicked will.

Homily 18

He says fornication stains the whole body in a way that not even murder or usury does (101). He rather humorously proves it by saying that men always go to a bath after they visit a harlot.

Homily 19

“Good for a man not touch woman.” Somewhat breaking from his anchoretic roots, Chrysostom notes that intercourse between husband and wife doesn’t necessarily make one sinfully unclean, for how else could “the cleanness of the wife overcome the uncleanness of the husband” (107)? The uncleanness is not in the mixture of bodies but in the thoughts of the mind.

Chrysostom allows for women to leave their husbands if he is abusive (108).

Homily 22

Strong defense of free will (p. 129).

Homily 23

Concerning 1 Cor 10, “he uses the terms of the Truth even concerning the type.” Further, the punishments, like the blessings, also function as types (134).

Homily 24

Eucharist: The cup of blessing = thanksgiving = treasures of God (139). “For as the bread consisting of many grains is made one, so that the grains nowhere appear; they exist indeed, but their difference is not seen by reason of their conjunction; so are we conjoined both with each other and with Christ” (140). So there is a transubstantiation of sorts, only it is that we are made into the body of Christ.

Homily 26

Chrysostom rebuts those who while affirming equality of essence, argue for an essential subordination. In other words, he rejects ESS and its tritheist cousins. “‘Nay,’ say they, ‘it is not His being of another substance which we intend to show from hence, but that he is under subjection.’ What then are we to say to this? In the first place, when anything lowly is said of him conjoined as He is with the flesh,” it is of the Economy.

He then shows why such reasoning is flawed. If we take the term “head” in the like sense in all clauses, the Son will be as far removed from the Father as we are from Him. Nay, and the woman will be as far removed from us as we are from the Word of God (150).

Chrysostom notes that if Paul wanted to speak of subjection, he would have used the language of slavery, which was readily available.

Homily 27

Problems in the Lord’s Supper. It should be common, but they are making it a private matter.

Homily 29 (I Cor. 12:1-2)

Chrysostom draws out the Trinitarian allusion in verse 4.

He likens “the spirit of man” to the soul (173).

Homily 30

He does not say that we, being many, are of one body. But simply that the Body is many (175).
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