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The Pauline Formula Induere Christum With Special Reference To The Works Of St. John Chrysostom by Saint John Chrysostom

Before applying the results of this investigation to the Pauline formula, we shall restate them in a summary way. In the first chapter we reviewed the various interpretations of the formula by exegetes in the Middle Ages and in modern times. Owing to the utter confusion concerning the meaning of our phrase, we had recourse to the greatest authority on exegesis in the early Greek Church, St. John Chrysostom. The study of Chrysostom yielded the following results:

1. ΕΝΔΥΕΣΘΑΙ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΝ =

a) to surrender oneself to the possession and dominion of Christ, to become His property and possession.

b) Christ exercises His power over us out of love by

α) uniting us to Himself most intimately, so that we actually possess Christ or He actually dwells in us, and

β) conforming us to Himself.

The precise nature of this conformity must be determined by the context or circumstances in which the ἐνδύεσθαι is used. Therefore, in Rom. 13:14, the ἐνδύεσθαι regards the conformity to Christ’s virtues; in Gal. 3:27, it regards the conformity to Christ’s nature.

2. The ἐνδύεσθαι Χριστόν is to be taken, not figuratively, but literally: we actually become Christ’s property and possession, and consequently Christ really dwells in us and conforms us to Himself. In this reality consists the “horrendum mysterium,” of which Chrysostom speaks.

3. The grand historical fact by which we first become the property and possession of Christ is Baptism.

4. His interpretation of the Pauline formula Chrysostom confirmed by the popular proverb ὁ δεῖνα τὸν δεῖνα ἐνεδύσατο and thus pointed to the Greek usage of the term ἐνδύεσθαι as the source of the ἐνδύεσθαι Χριστόν and of his explanation of it, thereby giving us a touchstone wherewith to test the merits of his interpretation and to establish beyond all doubt the meaning of the formula.

The investigation of the meaning of (ἐν) δύειν-(ἐν) δύεσθαι in the Hellenic literature resulted in a powerful confirmation of Chrysostom’s interpretation:

1. The first and fundamental idea connected with (ἐν) δύειν(ἐν) δύεσθαι from its first use in Homer to its use in the κοινή period, is that of possession and dominion.

2. When used in its naive material sense, the term = to move from one place to another; either the subject that moves is a power or the place to which it moves is a place of domination.

3. In its more developed literal sense, as in its figurative meaning, the term expresses:

a) Possession and dominion, which implies

b) Union, and effects

c) Conformity of the possessed to the possessor. The precise nature of this conformity is determined by the context or the circumstances.

4. a) The active (ἐν) δύειν, except the II aorist, generally = to take possession and control of.

b) The middle (ἐν) δύεσθαι always = to surrender to the possession and control of, to become the property of and to be dominated by.

c) The II aorist active may have either meaning; the context must decide the meaning in each case.

5. In the phrase of Dionysius of Hal. τὸν Ταρκύνιον ἐκεῖνον ἐνδυόμενοι, we have a strict parallel to the Pauline formula, current already before Paul wrote. It means to surrender to the possession and power of Tarquin; to become his property and to be controlled by him.

The result is further confirmed by the use of ἐνδύειν-ἐνδύεσθαι in the LXX and the N. T., especially in St. Paul’s writings. Here again the fundamental idea connected with the term is possession and dominion, which implies a union, and effects a conformity of the possessed to the possessor. In the Biblical literature, however, the II aorist active is not used, and the active always = to take possession and control of; the middle always = to surrender to the possession of, to come under the dominion and power of, to become the property of.

In the light of these overwhelming proofs there can be no doubt about the meaning of the Pauline formula in Rom. 13:14, and Gal. 3:27. There is no possibility of explaining it in any other sense than that which the term uniformly has in Hellenic literature, profane as well as sacred. Both the usage of St. Paul, as we have seen, and the context of the phrase, as we have noted in Chrysostom’s explanation and as we shall see presently, not only favor this interpretation, but demand it.

The Pauline formula ἐνδύεσθαι Χριστόν, then, undoubtedly means to surrender to the possession and power of Christ, to give ourselves up to His power and dominion, so that we become His property and possession and He dominates us. In the parallel to Paul’s formula, which we found in Dionysius of Hal. the phrase τὸν Ταρκύνιον ἐκεῖνον ἐνδυόμενοι means to give oneself up to the possession of Tarquin, to become his property, and to be controlled by him; but this is a figurative expression: the decemvirs are merely conceived as being the property and as being controlled by Tarquin. But the words of Paul ἐνδύεσθαι Χριστόν are not to be taken figuratively, but literally; they express a dread reality, a “horrendum mysterium.”

This, then, is, in brief, the fundamental meaning of ἐνδύεσθαι Χριστόν: to surrender ourselves to the actual possession of Christ, so that we become actually His property and are actually controlled by His power; consequently, Christ really dwells in us and actually conforms us to Himself.

The great historical fact by which the ἐνδύεσθαι is first effected is our Baptism into Christ as St. Paul says: ὅσοι γὰρ εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε, Χριστὸν ἐνεδύσασθε. In Baptism we commit ourselves, our whole being, to Christ; we surrender ourselves to His possession and power; we become His property and possession, which He is to rule and dominate.

Christ, the Son of God, exercises this power by uniting us most intimately to Himself, so that He actually and personally dwells in us, and by conforming us to Himself. This conformity consists in our participation of His μορφή, His nature, our elevation to the dignity of sons of God. This is not mere figurative language; it expresses a dread reality, a “horrendum mysterium.”

But the ἐνδύεσθαι Χριστόν is to be perfected by our lives. Therefore, Paul exhorts the Romans, who have been already baptized: Ἐνδύσασθε τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. We should, by our deeds, practically renew our surrender to Christ’s possession and seek to do His will, whose property and possession we have become by Baptism. If we do this, then, as Chrysostom explains, Christ, moved by His love for us, will unite us yet more closely to Himself (which expresses again a dread reality, a “horrendum mysterium”) and will effect in us a conformity to His virtues. In Baptism, we became other Christs by receiving His μορφή; in leading good lives, we become other Christs by assimilating His virtues. In the one case, we become sons of God by our nature; in the other, we become sons of God, as Chrysostom says elsewhere, by our works.

In conclusion, we may remark that, since the phrase ἐνδύεσθαί τινα was current in the Greek literature before St. Paul wrote, all the opinions of commentators who would see in the Pauline formula an allusion to some fact or custom, whether Christian, Jewish, or pagan in origin, are unfounded.








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