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Chrysostom: A Study In The History Of Biblical Interpretation

BEFORE reviewing in detail any specimens of Chrysostom’s exegesis, it will be worth while to gather from his Commentaries, especially those on St Matthew and St John, what may be called a brief ‘Introduction to the Gospels.’

Chrysostom has two main arguments to prove the early date of the Gospels. Their antiquity is certified by the very opponents of the faith Celsus and Porphyry. They would not have controverted books later than their own time. Again, their universal acceptance is their warrant, an acceptance which must not be taken apart from the growth and vigour of the Church. All this in turn was the subject of prophecy, and the prophecies in their Greek dress are in the hands of enemies, and cannot be gainsaid.

Passing on to speak of the Evangelists themselves, Chrysostom notes that of so many disciples, two only among the Apostles, two only among their immediate followers, wrote Gospels. “One Evangelist might indeed have sufficed. But when there are four, writing at different times, in different places, without meeting or consulting together, yet always speaking as with one mouth, a very strong demonstration of their truthfulness is thereby given” (vii. 5 B). Two characteristics in which all share strike Chrysostom forcibly. All were of humble birth and station. St John is described as absolutely uneducated (ὁ ἰδιώτης ἰδιωτείαν καὶ ταύτην τὴν ἐσχάτην), the son of a father who was abjectly poor. Such men can only have written what they did through the grace of the Spirit. Again, they were utterly truthful. “Truth was the one and only thing which they cared for.”

Bound together by this one sublime purpose the Evangelists differ from each other. Chrysostom insists on the great contrast between St John and the Synoptists. Yet, he notes, the former does not neglect the Lord’s human life, nor the latter pass over in silence His eternal preexistence (vii. 7, viii. 27, 96, 101).

Nor does the difference between the first three Evangelists escape Chrysostom’s notice. “St Matthew is said to have composed his Gospel in Hebrew, when the Jews who had believed came to him and requested him to bequeath to them in writing what he had taught them by word of mouth. St Mark wrote in Egypt, likewise at the earnest request of the disciples” (vii. 7). In Chrysostom’s opinion St Matthew is the earliest of the Evangelists; hence his minuteness in dealing with the genealogy. St Mark followed him; hence his brevity, for the history had been already narrated. St Luke, writing for no special class, traces the Lord’s descent to Adam. Further, St Mark and St Luke follow each the distinguishing style of his master; the latter the impetuous flow of St Paul (ὑπὲρ τοὺς ποταμοὺς ῥέοντα), the former the conciseness of St Peter.

The later date of St John’s Gospel likewise suggests to Chrysostom an explanation of some of its phenomena. Hence comes the omission of many events already noticed by the other Evangelists (viii. 97). Hence too the complete silence as to the Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (vii. 734). At the same time Chrysostom implies that in his judgment little more than a generation intervened between the events narrated and the publication of the record. Thus, discussing the readings Bethany and Bethabara (i. 28), he notes that the Apostle “was not about to tell of events long past, but such as had taken place but a little while before. So he calls those who had been actual eyewitnesses to confirm his story” (viii. 96). For the same reason the name Malchus (viii. 491) and the name Lazarus (ii. 646) are given in this Gospel.

But while Chrysostom thus rightly calls attention to the definiteness of this Gospel, he again and again points out that here the facts of the Lord’s life fill a less space than in the other Gospels. “It was the Evangelist’s aim to devote the larger part of his Book to the words and discourses of the Lord” (viii. 248). “This Apostle is very lofty, full of many sublime doctrines, and lingering over them more than over aught else” (viii. 15). The other Evangelists had treated of the Lord’s earthly life (τῷ τῆς οἰκονομίας λόγῳ); St John’s special function was to bear witness to His Divinity (vii. 7). Yet in this ‘Spiritual Gospel’ Chrysostom finds no mere ideal romance in which the chief actor is a docetic phantom. “Why is it that this Evangelist is so deeply concerned to tell us ever and again that Jesus wept, and that He restrained Himself? It is that thou mightest know that verily He clothed Himself in our nature. For as he utters sublime truths about Him more than the other Evangelists, so in things pertaining to His body he here speaks in far more lowly fashion than do they” (viii. 377). Elsewhere, dwelling on this characteristic of St John, Chrysostom emphatically states his own belief that the full truth of the Incarnation is “no mean portion of the doctrines of the Church and the chief thing (τὸ κεφάλαιον) in the matter of our salvation” (viii. 176). The fact that the Anomoean heresy is always before Chrysostom in these Homilies on St John puts these protests against unreal teaching as to the Lord’s Humanity in strong and clear relief.

There is one subject, on which Chrysostom has much which is valuable to teach, which must find a place in this brief ‘Introduction.’ What is the true view of the mutual relations of the Gospels as to their narrative portion? Here Chrysostom seems to hold two complementary principles.

On the one hand the absolute unanimity of the Gospels in all which is essential is strongly insisted on. Thus “the unity or want of unity must not be estimated by the number of the writers, but by the oneness or the divergence of what they say. Clearly then the four Gospels are One Gospel” (x. 667 E). “Though the persons of the writers differ, the grace of the Spirit which moved the soul of each of them is one” (iii. 37 D). Of this unanimity there are to the mind of Chrysostom two great external witnesses. It is proved by the universal acceptance of the Gospels. Again its guarantee is heresy. “For heresies arose, holding opinions at variance with the Gospels; and some of them accepted the Gospels as a whole, some of them received but parts. Now had not the Gospels been at agreement, the former class would not have received them as a whole, nor would the latter have been convicted of error by that which they received.… As in a small portion of a rib, you may find elements of all the component parts of the body, so in each fragment of the Scriptures the kindred nature of the whole plainly appears”.

On the other hand in this true agreement, the proof and pledge of its perfect honesty, there is divergence. “Had there been a minute agreement among the Evangelists, even in matters of date and place and details of language, their enemies would never have believed that they did not meet together, and thus in accordance with some merely human compact compose their histories. Such agreement as this would not be consistent with candour” (vii. 5 B). At the same time “variation in statement must be distinguished from contradiction” (ἕτερόν ἐστι διαφόρως εἰπεῖν καὶ μαχομένους εἰπεῖν. vii. 8 B).

Chrysostom’s theory is wise. A few examples will shew how far his practice is consistent.

Chrysostom compares the narrative of St Matthew with that of St Mark. Thus the former (xviii. 1) tells us that the Disciples came to Jesus and asked Him who was the greatest in the Kingdom. St Mark (9:33, 34) mentions only the dispute among themselves. Chrysostom finds an explanation in the probability that this was no isolated case, and that now they both disputed among themselves and asked their Master. The real difficulty, it will be noted, is passed over. Nothing is said of the probing question of the Lord in St Mark’s account (vii. 587 A). Again, ‘the word of Jesus’ is differently recorded by St Matthew (26:75) and St Mark (14:72). The former says ‘before the cock crow,’ the latter ‘before the cock crow twice.’ Chrysostom quaintly reconciles the Evangelists by urging that in each single cock-crowing (καθʼ ἑκάστην ἀγωγήν) the cock crows three or four times. It should be added that he accounts for St Mark’s greater minuteness by the fact that he was St Peter’s pupil.

More important cases arise when the Gospels of the First and of the Third Evangelist are considered side by side. Chrysostom, for example, rejecting an opinion (only plausible, he urges, from its simplicity) that the Evangelists are narrating different miracles, starts an elaborate theory of his own to explain their divergent accounts of the healing of the Centurion’s servant. The Centurion, he thinks, would fain have gone himself, but was hindered by the Jews who flattered him and promised themselves to fetch Christ. And whereas they should have told the Lord all this, their envy of the man kept them silent. But when the Centurion was rid of them, he sent friends to the Lord saying that it was from no lack of earnestness that he failed to come himself. If one Evangelist says that he came himself, the other that he sent friends, this is of no consequence. The question is whether both alike represent the eagerness of the man, and the fact that he had a true view about the Christ. Besides, men in trouble often change their plans, and it is likely that after sending friends he came himself. Thus the Evangelists omit each one point. They are not at variance, but each supplies that detail which was passed over by the other (vii. 316). Again, if St Matthew mentions two demoniacs at Gadara, St Luke, Chrysostom insists, does not say that there was one demoniac and no more, but rather speaks only of the worse case of the two; hence the tragic tone of his description. Here too there is a variation, but no contradiction (vii. 335 E). On the other hand Chrysostom rightly refuses to identify St Matthew’s parable of the Talents with St Luke’s parable of the Minae (vii. 753 C).

Lastly, Chrysostom is careful to warn against illusory parallels between the narrative of the Synoptists and that of St John. Thus he distinguishes two callings of the disciples, two cleansings of the Temple. He will not identify the Nobleman of St John with the Centurion of St Matthew, nor the paralytic mentioned by the latter (ix. 2 sq.) with that one whose healing is recorded by the former (v. 1 sq.). The Lord, he tells us, twice walked on the sea, was twice anointed. Again, in Chrysostom’s view St John takes up a history at an earlier stage than the other Evangelists, when he makes the Lord put the question to Philip ‘Whence are we to buy bread?’, another history at a later stage than the rest, when before the Triumphal entry, he pictures Him as Himself finding the ass. Once more, if St Luke tells us that ‘Satan entered into Judas’ before the bargain was struck, while St John speaks of the traitor’s inspiration in connexion with the beginning of supper, and again of Satan’s entrance into him after he had received the sop, Chrysostom sees a reconciliation of the two accounts in the awful working of the spiritual world. Satan first tries the metal of a man (διακωδωνίσας), he makes less determined assaults upon him; it is only when he sees that all is prepared for his entrance that he possesses him entirely.

Such in general are the views which Chrysostom held as to the form and character of the Gospels. I propose to summarise a few of his Expositions (1) of Gospel Histories (2) of the Lord’s discourses.

Typical Expositions of Gospel Histories

St Matthew 1:1–16. Chrysostom distinguishes no less than eight questions suggested by St Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Genealogy. They are these. (1) Why is the genealogy of Joseph given? (2) What proof is there that the Lord was of David’s line, seeing that the Virgin’s genealogy is not recorded? (3) Why is this last not given? (4) Why does the Evangelist mention women in the genealogy? (5) Why does he pass over the holy women, and include those who were sinful in life and foreign in descent? (6) Why does he omit the three kings in the middle section? (7) Why in the last section of the genealogy does he, while professing to mention fourteen, really refer only to twelve generations? (8) Why are the names which St Luke records different and more numerous? (7:14, 45). Chrysostom’s answer to the first of his own questions is the only one which must find a place here. The reason why Joseph’s genealogy is recorded is twofold. There is an historical reason. According to Jewish custom the genealogies of women were not recorded. Had the Evangelist inserted that of the Virgin, he would have exposed himself to the charge of innovation. Had he kept back that of Joseph, we should not have known the Virgin’s ancestry (26 C). But another account, of deeper and more mystical import (τὴν μυστικωτέραν καὶ ἀπορρητοτέραν ἐκείνης), may be given. “It was not God’s will that at the time of the Birth the Jews should know that the Christ was born of a Virgin. Be not troubled at the strangeness of what I say. The word is not mine; it is that of our fathers, wonderful and notable men.… Here was involved the safety of the Virgin and the avoidance of base suspicion” (33 A). The apologetic tone in which this ‘mystical’ explanation is introduced is characteristic. As for the general subject of the genealogies, perhaps modern critics might echo the preacher’s words, “there is need of diligence not only to solve the problems, but also to learn what problems need solution” (15 A).

St Matthew 3:13–4:11. Why, Chrysostom asks, does the Lord come to the Baptism of John at the age of thirty? His answer is perhaps a reminiscence of the well-known passage in Irenaeus (ii. 33. 2). Each age of man has its special temptation, thoughtlessness, pleasure, avarice. The Lord passed through each successive stage, each bringing its typical trial. In all He perfectly kept the law. Then and not till then He came to the Baptism of John. By His Baptism having fulfilled all righteousness, thenceforth He began to abolish the Law (vii. 140, 161 D). The Temptation succeeds the Baptism. ‘Then was Jesus led up,’ after the descent on Him of the Holy Spirit (the dove bringing no olive branch as of old, but the adoption of sons to the whole family of man), after the voice from Heaven. It was the Holy Spirit which led Him into the wilderness, (for the Devil besets men most sorely when he sees them alone), that Christians might learn to find in greater temptations after their Baptism no unexpected trial, and might never lightly rush into temptation, for Christ said ‘Pray that ye enter not into temptation’. As to the details of the history, Chrysostom marks the words which preface the first two temptations. The Devil had heard the witness of the Baptist and the Heavenly commendation; he could not believe the Lord to be a mere man. Again, he saw Him hungering; how could He then be God? His words reflect his doubt, ‘If Thou art the Son of God,’ But in this address when repeated on the pinnacle of the Temple there is a special force. As at the beginning, so now the Devil slanders God. “Vainly did He call Thee Son; He did but mock Thee with His gift. Else give proof of its reality.” Chrysostom thus explains the words with which St Luke closes the history, “To my mind the Evangelist by ‘every’ means the chief of the temptations, as though all the rest were included in these; for these gather in themselves countless evils, slavery to the belly, the prompting of vain glory, the mad desire for gain.” “And behold angels came: for while the struggle lasted, He suffered them not to appear, that He might not so scare away His prey; but when He had wholly confuted him and put him to flight, then do the angels appear, even as they came and took Lazarus after the fiery trial of his poverty and hunger”.

St Matthew 16:13–20 (18:18). Chrysostom begins his homily on the passage by noting two points as to the place. The name of the founder of the town is mentioned to distinguish it from that other Caesarea which bore the name of Strato. Again, the Lord led His disciples here of set purpose, that now being far from the Jews they might tell Him all that was in their hearts with perfect freedom. The answer of St Peter, ‘the coryphaeus of the chorus of the Apostles,’ is contrasted with two previous confessions. The sailors in the ship had believed that Christ was Son of God (υἱὸς θεοῦ), counting Him one of many sons. Nathanael had greeted Him, ‘Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God.’ But neither the former nor the latter were commended. Indeed Chrysostom curiously reads into Christ’s answer to Nathanael a tone of rebuke. It is different with St Peter. He owns the Lord to be very Son of God (γνήσιον υἱόν): hence his reward. As to details, the preacher finds a dogmatic bearing even in the words of Christ’s answer to St Peter. “It is almost as though He would say, as thou art Son of Jonah, of the same nature as thy father, so am I Son of God Else it were superfluous to add the father’s name.” The rock on which the Church shall be built is ‘the faith of the confession.’ The chief interest of the promise ‘I will give to thee the keys’ is again controversial. It is ‘I will give,’ not ‘I will ask the Father to give.’ Elsewhere however Chrysostom supplies his omission in this place (ii. 731, iii. 78, vii. 608). By a blunder of terrible significance he converts the neuter into the masculine, ‘whatsoever’ into ‘whomsoever,’ a direction as to Church order into a grant of spiritual despotism. To use Chrysostom’s striking phrase, the apostleship granted to the ‘President of the Church’ becomes a ‘spiritual consulship (ὑπατία πνευματική).’ The sequel of the history however supplied Chrysostom with a thought which might soften down the difficulty of Christ’s words, read as he read them. Christ commended the Apostle at Caesarea Philippi; there also he sternly rebuked him. “Peter, who should hereafter be entrusted with the Church, himself the pillar of the Churches, the haven of the faith, the teacher of the whole world, was allowed to sin that so he might be pitiful to his fellows. And we priests (οἱ ἱερεῖς),” Chrysostom continues, “who sit upon the throne and teach, we too are tied and bound by sins.”

St Matthew 17:24–27. It is strange how little light Chrysostom throws on questions of Hebrew antiquities or Eastern customs. In this passage he is at fault. The reference is to the half-shekel which each Israelite was bound to pay as ‘a ransom for his soul (Exod. 30:12 sq.). Chrysostom however understands the allusion to be to the redemption money paid once for all by 273 firstborn Israelites (Num. 3:11 sq.). The anxieties of controversy warped his judgment. According to his interpretation the Lord is reckoned as πρωτότοκος. Naturally the Commentator interprets Christ’s words to St Peter as a strong confirmation of the Nicene doctrine. Christ is the Son of the Heavenly King, else the illustration drawn from the custom of earthly kings is pointless. Christ is true and very Son; this is required by the distinction which He Himself drew between sons and strangers. The miracle which follows completes the testimony of Christ’s words. “Thereby He shews that He is God of the Universe, Ruler of the sea.”

St Matthew 21:1–8. In his exposition of the history of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem Chrysostom indulges in an allegorical treatment not usual with him. The Lord, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, Himself performs an act which is prophetic. He foretells the call of the Gentiles. The foal is the Church, the new people of God, once unclean, but after Jesus rested thereon clean. As the disciples loosed the asses, so by their means the Gentiles were called and brought to Christ. The ass follows the foal: so the Gentiles’ welcome should provoke the Jews to jealousy. The owner’s consent, the clothes of the disciples laid on the colt (2 Cor. 12:15), the gentleness of the foal, all have their counterpart in the Apostolic history.

It is worth while to bring together what Chrysostom has to say on the Lord’s miracles in general, and on some special miracles.

The miracles of the Gospels do not stand alone, though their profusion is in contrast with the paucity of those in the time of the Prophets. The wonders of old time, Chrysostom says, were wrought mainly to draw proselytes to Israel, or to overawe in Egypt or in Babylon an imperious conqueror. Yet some, as for example the signs in the wilderness, were for the sake of the Israelites alone. “For with ourselves also, when we were coming forth from error, many marvels were shewn. Afterwards, when true religion was planted everywhere, they ceased. Miracles since then have been few and far between. Yet even in our own generation in the case of Julian, a man who exceeded all others in impiety, there happened many strange things.” As instances the preacher mentions the portents which stopped Julian’s attempt to rebuild the Temple, the death of his uncle and namesake in the torments of a disease which the conscience of man seems to reserve for persecutors, the visitations of drought and famine in the cities cursed with the Emperor’s idolatrous presence (vii. 46)

The miracles of the Gospel fall under a general law of God’s working. “In the beginning of strange spiritual movements sensible appearances and signs are vouchsafed for the sake of those who lack understanding.… That which these miracles shewed forth once for all at the beginning, that thou must receive in faith, that there may be no more miracles” (vii. 163 C, 181 A, x. 45 E). Miracles then in Chrysostom’s view were ‘outward and visible signs’ of the unseen working of a great spiritual crisis. They were the tangible proofs of the Lord’s victorious contest in the spiritual region, the credentials of Christ the Redeemer (viii. 70). They pointed to Christ as the world’s Creator and Sustainer. He who converts the rain as it passes through the root of the vine into wine, wrought in a moment at the marriage feast that which He is ever doing in the slow processes of nature. Only the results of His immediate working were far fairer and better than the outcome of His activity through nature. The limb restored was stronger than that which had never ailed. The wine He made was the best, the bridegroom and the ruler of the feast being, witnesses (viii. 128, 129; vii. 204 E). Here too lay the proof of His Divine Mission and of His equality with the Father. He worked with authority as Himself Divine; He prayed tracing all to the Father that He might thereby reveal that He came from the Father (vii. 505 E).

But the Lord’s miracles were not wrought at random. They had constant reference to the moral state of those around Him. “Signs were given to the unbelieving, yet not to those who asked only that they might tempt” (viii. 138 B). “Prophecies and teaching influenced the more thoughtful, signs the duller, minds. Still to those whom the teaching won, signs gave new stedfastness” (viii. 132, 137, 296). Even the Disciples were educated by miracles. By these the Master, παιδοτρίβης τις ἄριστος, trained His followers. Thus Chrysostom beautifully draws out the contrast between the two storms on the Lake. On the first occasion Christ was in the boat with them, asleep indeed, but at hand to reassure them. Not so on the second occasion. Now He subjects their patience to a sterner trial. He is absent from them when He suffers the storm to rise. Now too it is night. Nor does He come to them at once, for He would kindle in them a deeper longing for Himself and a more constant remembrance. Thus gently and by degrees He leads them on, teaching them a noble endurance (vii. 333 C, 513 D). And if Christ, like a wise and skilled physician, suits his treatment to the case before Him, the result is always perfect and always complete. There is no time of slow renewal to Peter’s wife’s mother; no gradual subsiding of the storm. The waves are at once stilled, even as the winds are hushed.

Once more, Chrysostom notes the pregnant words of Prophecy which the Evangelist cites (Matt. 8:17). Isaiah does not say He removed (ἔλυσε), but He took, He bare. He uses, that is, a kindred phrase to that with which the Baptist describes the office of the Lamb of God. And if it be asked why the Evangelist applies the prediction to the healing of disease, Chrysostom answers, either because he read the prophecy in the after light of the actual history, or because most diseases of the body arise from carnal sins (vii. 327 D).

St Matthew 15:21–28. Chrysostom finds a subtle connexion here with the history immediately preceding. The Lord had just released men from the bondage of minute rules in matters of food; He now departs into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon: just as St Peter is first taught by the Vision that the law is done away, and is then sent to Cornelius. Some however, the Commentator adds, suggest an allegorical treatment. The woman represents the Universal Church. Christ departed from Judaea; then the Church came out of her borders and ventured to approach Him. But as the history proceeds, Chrysostom gives the strangest turn to the interference of the Disciples. They felt for the woman’s sorrow, and would plead her cause. Yet they did not venture directly to ask the boon from their Master, but, like men who would fain win some one over to their side, and in their diplomacy ask for the very opposite of what they desire, they said ‘Send her away.’ In tracing the working of the woman’s ‘noble shamelessness’ (ἀπηναισχύντησε καλὴν ἀναισχυντίαν), Chrysostom seems to recognise the shade of meaning conveyed by τὰ κυνάρια (the dogs of the household). “On the very words of the Lord she founds her plea. If I am a dog (κυνάριον), she says, I am no alien.”

St Matthew 21:18, 19. To explain the difficulties of the history Chrysostom has recourse to the supposition that the Evangelists do but record here the impressions (ἡ ὑπόνοια) of the yet untrained disciples. They fancied that the Lord went to the tree if haply He might find fruit on it; they fancied that He cursed it because He found none. The true meaning is this. The Lord had always done kindnesses; He had punished no one. It was needful that He should give a proof of His power to execute judgment, that disciples and Jews alike might learn that, though he was able to blast His persecutors, yet of His own will He endured the Cross. Such is Chrysostom’s interpretation. He mentions, only to reject it, an opinion held by some that the fig tree represented the Law. The phrase ‘the time of figs was not yet’ is decisive against it. “For the fruit of the Law is faith, and the time for this fruit had then come.”

St John 2:1–11. Chrysostom has a fine passage on the remarkable words ‘Mine hour is not yet come.’ Recognising in them a lower meaning, “I am not yet known to those here, nor are they aware that the wine has failed,” he notes their nobler aspect. Christ, the maker of times and seasons and the Creator of the ages, was not subject to the constraint of the exact observance of a single hour. Yet here He shews that He does all things at the right moment. The creation must be finished, but it was not all completed at once; man and woman must be formed but they were not formed at the same time. The condemnation of man must be followed by the Resurrection; the Law must be given, and after that the grace of the Gospel; but in each case there is a wide interval. All the parts of the dispensations were ordered at their proper seasons.

St John 5:2–9. The manner of the cure, Chrysostom urges, is not recorded without meaning; rather the history sketches for us in type and figure what then was future. Baptism was soon to be given, which should cleanse all sins and give life to the dead. Of Baptism the Pool was a parable. For the figures of the truth as they draw nearer to the truth in time are clearer than those of old days, as courtiers near the king’s person are in more gorgeous array than those at a distance from him. An angel coming down troubled the water (καταβαίνων ἐτάραττε τὸ ὕδωρ) and infused into it healing virtue. This was done that the Jews might learn that much more can the King of angels heal all the diseases of the soul. As then the natural water healed not, save only through the operation of the Angel, so with us the water availeth nothing; but when it receives the grace of the Spirit, then it remits all sins. Around the Pool there lay the great company of sick ‘waiting for the troubling of the water (ἐκδεχομένων τὴν τοῦ ὕδατος κίνησιν).’ His very sickness was then a hindrance to the man who would be healed; now all may come. For now it is not an Angel who troubles the waters; it is the Lord of Angels who does all. Though all the world should come, grace is not exhausted; its energies are not squandered; it ever remains the same.

It will be noticed that Chrysostom shews a knowledge of both the interpolated clauses (vv. 3b, 4). Indeed he appears to be the earliest Greek Father in whose writings their presence can be traced.

Typical Expositions of the Lord’s Teaching

Chrysostom lays stress on the words with which the Evangelist introduces the Sermon on the Mount, ‘He opened His mouth and taught them.’ He taught men, he says, by His silence. Sometimes He opened His mouth, sometimes He uttered His voice through His works. We turn now from Christ’s works to Christ’s words.

St Matthew 5. Naturally we look first to the Sermon on the Mount, the foundation, as Chrysostom calls it, of the New Polity. I select his interpretation of some detached passages in it. He puts aside decisively the explanation of some which made the earth which is the inheritance of the meek to be a spiritual (νοητήν) earth. Such an expression is unknown to Scripture. The Lord sets before men a material reward, as does St Paul (Eph. 6:2, 3), and as, he curiously adds, Christ does again Himself, ‘To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.’ The world says that the meek man loses his all; Christ that his possessions alone are secure. Indeed, that His words might not always have a strange sound in them, He weaves into His discourse a familiar phrase (Ps. 37:11). Similarly Chrysostom makes righteousness to be the equivalent, not of virtue generally, but of that special virtue which is the opposite of covetousness. Christ commends those who follow after this righteousness with full desire. “Do what is righteous, and then fear not poverty or hunger.” The contrast between this interpretation and that of Augustine is suggestive. “Very beautifully Augustine draws from John 6:26–65 a commentary on this text, making ‘righteousness’ here equivalent with ‘bread from heaven’ there, and urging that in both passages we should understand nothing short of Christ Himself … He cites the words of St Paul (1 Cor. 1:30) in proof that ‘righteousness’ here is equally exchangeable for Him in whom all righteousness is contained.”

These least commandments’ (v. 19) are the laws of Christ’s kingdom. They are indeed great and sublime, yet here called ‘least’ because the Lawgiver is the Lord who humbled Himself and whose words are humble. Besides, He speaks with modesty because as yet there was a suspicion of novelty about His laws. Yet whoever breaks them and teaches others to break them, ‘shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven.’ By the kingdom is here meant the time of the Resurrection and the awful day of the Advent. He who is least in that day “shall be cast away, being last; and he who is last shall fall into Gehenna.” In the passage which speaks of the three stages of anger Chrysostom, having εἰκῆ in his text, naturally lays stress upon it. We are forbidden to be angry ‘out of season,’ that is, in defence of ourselves (Rom. 12:19) or of our goods (1 Cor. 6:7). Raca is a term of disparagement and contempt. “As we in giving orders to a servant or to some one of mean rank say Go you; take you this message (ἄπελθε σὺ, εἰπὲ τῷ δεῖνι σύ), so those who use the Syrian language used Raca, an equivalent to our you (σύ).” Those who take the word ‘Fool’ in any but the literal sense are warned of their danger. If friendship makes grievous things light, so enmity gives slight things a serious meaning. Elsewhere (i. 124) Chrysostom insists on the absurdity of others who carefully avoid the word itself, but indulge freely in its equivalents. The council is the court of the Hebrews (τὸ δικαστήριον τῶν Ἑβραίων), for Christ did not wish always to use strange and startling terms. This punishment is light; it is of this world. Next, for the first time, Christ speaks of Gehenna. “Thou didst despise the lesser doom; thou didst go on to greater cruelty. I chastise thee no more with these finite penalties, but with the immortal punishment (τῇ ἀθανάτῳ κολάσει), that thou mayest not break out into murder.”

Chrysostom has much that is good on ‘the gift left before the altar.’ He finds a special warning in the Lord’s words for “the Initiated who approach the Table with enmity in their hearts.” But there is an application also to ‘the Uninitiated’; for they too offer a gift and sacrifice, prayers, that is, and alms. The adversary is to be taken literally. He is not the Devil, as some think making agree with equivalent to have nothing to do with. “To me,” Chrysostom says, “the Lord seems to speak of earthly judges, of the road to the law court, and of an earthly prison.”

A review of these interpretations reveals one of Chrysostom’s great defects in dealing with the Gospels. He misses the paradoxical form in which the Lord clothes so much of His teaching, especially in this great discourse. Grammatical and logical principles of interpretation defeat their own ends unless the Commentator has an insight into the spirit of a passage. Chrysostom lays much stress on the need of this sympathy in the exposition of the Epistles. In dealing with the Lord’s sayings, so much simpler and so much harder, it is in this point he fails.

Matthew 9:14–17. St Matthew tells us that the Pharisees, St Luke that the disciples of John, put the question, ‘Why do Thy disciples fast not?’ Chrysostom suggests that the Pharisees had made an alliance with John’s disciples, as they afterwards did with the Herodians; so the question was put by both. When the Publicans were attacked (v. 11), the Lord has sharp words for their critics; now that He and His own disciples are ridiculed, He answers with all gentleness. Just before He called Himself a physician; now He claims the part of a bridegroom; disclosing unspeakable mysteries by both names, and by the latter recalling to these disciples of John the parable of their Master (John 3:29). The illustrations from common life (τὰ κοινὰ ὑποδείγματα) which follow are both of them suggested by the subject of the dispute, for it was a question of gluttony and feasting; both find a parallel in a single passage of an Old Testament Prophet (Jerem. 13:10–12). The old worn garment, the shrivelled wine skins, represent, it seems, according to Chrysostom’s explanation, the weakness of the Apostles. Anyone who should seek to infuse into them high and lofty doctrines would render them permanently useless. It was for this reason Christ Himself spoke many things which fell beneath His own proper dignity (John 16:12).

St Matthew 12:31, 32. Why does the Lord speak of blasphemy against Himself as capable, of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost as incapable, of forgiveness? Chrysostom assumes that those to whom Christ was speaking had been guilty of this sin. To them Christ said, “The blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven you, no not if ye repent.” The addition is a serious one. For the preacher goes on to point out that some of these Jews afterwards did believe, and all was forgiven them. Hence he is driven to another gloss, weakening, as the other had exaggerated, the force of the simple words. “More than all else (ὑπὲρ πάντα) is this sin without forgiveness.” The period however during which the distinction held good was limited. For Chrysostom would lay the stress on the words, ‘against the Son of Man.’ The Jews did not know who Jesus was, stumbling at Him because of the garb of flesh which He wore. ‘Whatsoever blasphemies ye speak against me before the Cross, I forgive.’ But it was not so with the Holy Spirit. The Prophets had spoken through Him. The Jews knew that to cast out devils and to perform cures was His work. Thus in accusing Christ of an alliance with Satan they were guilty of this sin.

St Matthew 24. The τότε of v. 23 in Chrysostom’s view divides the great eschatological discourse into two parts. The first part, prefaced by a warning of immediate dangers, deals with the destruction of Jerusalem. Chrysostom is very distinct about this. The calamities of which the Lord speaks, falling thick as the flakes of snow (τὰς νιφάδας τῶν κακῶν), should come upon that murderous generation. The rising of ‘nation against nation’ is explained as the preface of the Jewish troubles. The apostolate of St Paul, embracing all lands from Jerusalem to Spain, justifies the description of the Gospel ‘preached for a testimony’ (i.e. as an indictment, an accusation) ‘to all the nations.’ The end to which all this leads is the fall of Jerusalem. But what of the Disciples? The sight of the abomination of desolation, that is, the Roman armies, in the Holy Place, would be warning enough for them. And then, lest any recalling the falls and resurrections of Israel in old time, the days of Sennacherib and the days of Antiochus, should indulge the hope that fortune would veer round in this crisis, the Lord tells how men would be thankful to escape without their garment, their lives given them for a prey. “Except those days had been shortened, if the Roman war had lasted a longer time (ἐπὶ πλέον ἐκράτησε), ‘no flesh would have been saved,’ all Jews, (for all the world over they were outlawed and persecuted), would have perished. But for the sake of the faithful found in their midst those days should be shortened.”

At this point the second part of the prophecy begins—‘Then if any man shall say unto you.’ The sequence is not immediate. The phrase is to be contrasted with ‘immediately after the tribulation &c.,’ and compared with, ‘in those days’ (3:1); it assumed, in Chrysostom’s view, that Christ’s hearers had already placed themselves in that future of which He was about to tell, the season of His Return. Two images describe that Coming. The sudden lightning flash is self-revealing; it needs no herald to proclaim its advent. Again, ‘where the carcase is, there also are the eagles.’ To Christ there is gathered the company of angels and martyrs and saints. ‘After the tribulation of these days,’ this tribulation of Anti-Christ and false-prophets, there follow the signs in Heaven. These Chrysostom interprets literally. Creation itself is transformed. The Sun is overpowered by the brightness of His Coming. The stars fall, useless when night is no more. ‘The powers of the Heavens are shaken,’ the Angels, that is, ‘who when the stars were made praised Me with loud voice’ (Job 38:7 LXX.), shudder and marvel at the awful change. At last ‘the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in Heaven,’ the Cross, the proof of the Jews’ guilt; then the Son of Man Himself, not resting on the Cross, but seated on the clouds, even as in a cloud He was received up. When Christ added, ‘This generation shall not pass away till all these things be accomplished,’ He did not mean the generation then alive, but the generation of the faithful, in Scriptural use the limitation of the word depending not on time but on religious and spiritual character: ‘This is the generation of them that seek the Lord.’ One difficult question connected with this discourse remains. ‘Of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the Angels in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.’ Chrysostom discusses the words at some length. The Son knew the Father with perfect knowledge. He was the Creator of the ages, therefore of that day. Further He told of the immediate signs of that day (v. 38–41). Here are proofs that He Himself knew that about which He would prevent His disciples asking. But now, as again just before the Ascension, He would assure them that the Father had put these seasons in His own power. Yet inasmuch as He would fain honour them and hide nothing from them He makes Himself one of them; He assigns all here to the Father. Thus Christ’s words are represented not as true but as expedient. The dangerous principle of ‘œconomy’ is at work.

Chrysostom’s treatment of the parables recorded by the Synoptists deserves a brief notice.

As to the object and character of the parables, Chrysostom remarks that the Lord, like the prophet Ezekiel, used mean and paltry illustrations; putting Himself on a level with the weakness of His hearers (vii. 419 E, 483 D). Often the parables are drawn from Nature, and this of set purpose, to shew that whatsoever the Lord spoke was as certain of accomplishment as the very processes of nature (vii. 483 C). If a contrast is drawn between the Lord’s earlier teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and His later teaching by parables, Chrysostom finds the reason for the change of method in the presence of the Scribes and Pharisees (vii. 470 B). Elsewhere he explains the use of parables on the ground that Christ wished at once to give vividness and distinctness to His words, and also to infuse into His teaching a pleasanter savour, that it might be more abiding (viii. 197). Again, Chrysostom is clear as to the main scope of the parables. “All Christ’s parables aim at producing virtue shewn forth in works. For of doctrines He seldom speaks” (vii. 640 C). When the battle of the Creeds was not yet fought out, it required some boldness to emphasize the fact that virtue and not orthodoxy was the one lesson enforced by the most characteristic portion of the Lord’s teaching.

The principles of the Antiochene School are well illustrated in Chrysostom’s method of interpreting the parables. “We must not press the interpretation of the parables to every detail of expression; else many are the absurdities which will follow. To teach us this Himself, Christ explains the parable (of the Tares). He does not say what the servants represent; but when, passing by this detail, He expounds the essential portions, for the sake of which the parable was spoken, He shews that He introduced them to connect the several parts of the story and complete the image … The drift of a parable must be seized: curiosity must ask no more” (vii. 487 E, 638 E, 639 C, viii. 466).

To take the exposition of some parables in detail. The parable of the Sower, says Chrysostom, is placed first to arrest the attention of the hearers. The Sower is none other than the Lord Himself. His coming forth implies no migration, no change save in relation to us (σχέσει καὶ οἰκονομίᾳ τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς). He drew nearer to us by robing Himself in our flesh. The field is the souls of men. Of the seed three parts are wasted, one alone is saved. But the Sower is not to blame. It is not said that He cast the seed, but some fell, by the wayside. Moreover in the spiritual application it is possible for the ground to be changed, for the evil to become good. In this parable Christ speaks of those who reject, in that of the Tares of the heretics who distort, His teaching. Chrysostom’s exposition of the latter parable is in one point worthy of special note. The Lord said, ‘Lest ye root up the wheat with them,’ to prevent wars and bloodshed. We must not slay a heretic, else a truceless war would break forth upon the world. The words themselves either mean “If ye put heretics to the sword, many also of the saints must fall with them; or, it is possible for the tares to change and become wheat.… The Lord does not forbid us to restrain heretics, to stop their mouths, to deprive them of liberty of speech, to break up their assemblies and confederacies; only we must not kill them.” The next two parables correct whatever of gloom the first two might suggest. The Lord re-invigorates the faith of the disciples. The leaven is hidden but not destroyed. Its power is great. That which has been leavened in its turn becomes leaven. It should be added that the phrase ‘three measures,’ which has sorely exercised the ingenuity of some commentators, is in Chrysostom’s view simply equivalent to ‘many.’

This pair of parables sets forth the power and ultimate victory of the Gospel; the two which follow describe its preciousness. “It spreads abroad like a mustard plant; it wins its way like leaven; it is costly as a pearl; it contains untold wealth like a treasure.” The parable of the Draw-net completes the group. It corrects a possible error which those which went before might suggest. It is a warning against confidence in the mere preaching of the Gospel, against the fancy that faith alone suffices for salvation. Both here and in the parable of the Tares some are saved and some lost. But the two differ in this. In the earlier parable heresy, in this viciousness of life, is the cause of ruin. Chrysostom notices that as if to increase its awful significance the Lord interprets it unasked. This solemnity of warning is indeed the thought which Chrysostom emphasises as he closes his exposition of the group. Markest thou how many roads there are to destruction? The rock, the thorns, the wayside, the tares, the net. Truly the Lord said, ‘Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby.’

The difficulties of the parable of the ‘Labourers in the Vineyard’ are obvious. Chrysostom recognises them, though his treatment of them is not successful. In his view the main object of the parable is to kindle to new energy those who late in life own Christ. In a brief season they may retrieve all. The vineyard represents the Commandments of God; the hours of working the present life. The complaint, ‘No man hath hired us,’ is not to be pressed. God for His part, Chrysostom characteristically remarks, called all at the same time. The will of those called made the difference; they did not all obey at the same time (comp. Gal. 1:15). The great problem of interpretation which the parable suggests is the murmuring of those called first against their fellows. Chrysostom holds that this is merely a part of the machinery of the parable. It puts vividly before us the greatness of the blessing, vast enough to create envy. With this interpretation Chrysostom is forced to disconnect from the parable the words, ‘So the last shall be first and the first last.’ This, he thinks, is not a conclusion drawn from the parable. The So means simply that the truth of the parable is a guarantee of the truth of this prophecy.

Passing over the parable of the Two Sons, which Chrysostom explains by a reference to Rom. 2:13, we take his treatment of the two allied parables of the Wicked Husbandmen and the Marriage Feast. There is much which is common to both parables; but the second completes the teaching of the first. The first speaks of the kingdom of Heaven being given to another nation; the second reveals the character of that nation. In the first Christ is calling the Jews before His Passion; in the second He is represented as after His death earnestly striving to win them to Himself. But here Chrysostom neglects his own reiterated warnings against a fantastic interpretation of details. Observing that the image of a marriage feast is meant to set forth God’s yearning love and the bright joyousness of the Kingdom, he asks why the King, that is God the Father, does not himself espouse the wife. “Because,” he answers, “she who is espoused to the Son is espoused to the Father, forasmuch as there is no difference of essence (διὰ τὸ ἀπαράλλακτον τῆς οὐσίας).” Again, Chrysostom insists that the Son who in the first parable is slain is in the second the bridegroom. The guilt of the Jews is complete. They slew the Son: called to the marriage of Him whom they had slain, they will not come, but feign excuses. The last part of the parable warns the Gentiles. “That the Gentiles might not rest their confidence on faith alone, the Lord speaks to them of the judgment which awaits evil deeds.… The wedding garment is a holy life and conduct. The calling and the cleansing are of grace; but for him who has been called and who has put on clean raiment to keep that raiment clean, that pertains to his own earnest care.”

The exposition of the parable of the Ten Virgins errs in a different direction. The subject of the parable is the duty of almsgiving, but the lesson is enforced only in the case of one particular class. The Virgins in the parable represent actual virgins. The Lord had commended virginity (Matt. 19:12). But virgins had need of some special warning, lest having conquered one form of evil, they should be careless as to other sins. Hence indeed the epithet foolish: they had endured the harder, now they succumb to the lighter, trial. The lamps therefore represent the grace of virginity; the oil, almsgiving; the sleep of all, death. The night either is a detail not to be pressed or implies that the Resurrection will be at night. Those that sell are the poor of this world. To them the foolish virgins depart, but they gain nothing thereby. Here also Chrysostom allows the possibility that we have only part of the framework of the parable, admitting however the alternative that we are thus warned that to grow kindly disposed towards others after we depart hence will profit us nothing.

A curious explanation is given of the sheep and the goats. The former are fruitful, the latter unfruitful, in wool and milk and stock. Hence their separation at the end. Here, as in the other parables, Chrysostom insists that a holy life, rather than doctrine, is the Lord’s supreme lesson.

In Chrysostom’s interpretation of St John’s Gospel the dogmatic interest largely predominates. It could hardly indeed be otherwise. The haunting spectre of Arianism had not yet been laid. The axe had still to be brought home to the root of the poisonous tree. It was impossible but that the Gospel which speaks so clearly of the Divine Nature of the Lord should, to the partial exclusion of a broader and more spiritual application, become too often a controversial manual.

Chrysostom’s treatment of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus is a good illustration. Nicodemus had no adequate sense of what the Lord was. His greeting, implying that Christ needed help in doing His miracles, was couched in the language of the heretics. By a dark saying Christ in reply tries to lead Nicodemus to a truer view. “Except thou art begotten from above, except thou partakest of the Spirit which is given through the laver of Regeneration, and receivest the true doctrine, thou dost wander outside, thou canst not think rightly of Me, thou art far from the Kingdom of Heaven.” Thus the main lines of the interpretation are laid down. The bearing of the passage however on Christian Baptism is insisted on. “Listen,” cries the Preacher, dealing with the 5th verse, “you who have no part in the Enlightenment; fear and lament; for terrible is the doom.” The Lord’s words rebuke a laxity of practice as well as an error of doctrine. “Once,” so Chrysostom paraphrases the Lord’s teaching, “I fashioned men of earth and water: now I fashion them of water and of Spirit.”

But again, the strictly theological aspect of the passage is insisted on. The words, ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh,’ at once suggest a question as to Christ’s birth of the Virgin, and also vindicate the Divinity of the Holy Spirit (comp. 1:13). Two other details in Chrysostom’s interpretation may be noted. (1) In ‘we know,’ ‘we speak,’ the Lord may refer only to Himself, or the plural may imply, ‘the Father and I.’ (2) What are the ‘earthly things’ and the ‘Heavenly things’ of verse 12? Rejecting an interpretation which would make the former refer to the parable of the wind—“If I uttered a figure drawn from earthly things, and even so ye did not believe, how will ye be able to learn sublimer things?”—Chrysostom takes it to mean Baptism, earthly either as accomplished on earth or in contrast with His own awful generation. “For though this generation (in Baptism) is Heavenly, yet when compared with that which is the true generation, that which is of the Father’s essence, it is earthly.”

St John 5:17. Chrysostom points out that when our Lord defends His disciples against the charge of breaking the Sabbath, He pleads the example of David their fellow-servant; when He defends Himself, He goes straight to the Father Himself, shewing His oneness with Him in honour, both because He claimed Him as Father in an especial sense (ἰδιαζόντως), and because He did the same works as the Father. Read in this light the words which follow, ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself,’ imply no subordination. They rather emphasize the absolute unity of Father and Son. “The Son cannot do anything at variance with, alien to, the Father.” The equality is invariable and complete. A somewhat similar interpretation is given of the clause, ‘The Father gave all judgment to the Son.’ The word gave excludes the thought that the Son is unbegotten, or that there are two Fathers. The phrases ‘He gave all judgment to the Son,’ ‘He gave the Son to have life in Himself,’ mean simply The Father begat the Son as Judge, as Life.

The Lord spoke in this way, Chrysostom urges, that His language might be made acceptable, and that He might prepare the way for loftier utterances. “If any man’s duty is to speak highly of himself, he has a reasonable excuse for humbler language, if he uses it with an ulterior purpose (οἰκονομίας τινὸς ἕνεκα).” The converse, he adds, does not hold good.

St John 6. Chrysostom’s treatment of the discourse at Capernaum is not wholly without confusion. In verse 35 Christ speaks of Himself for the first time as the Bread of Life. From this point all is explanation. The fundamental thought is the same, but the manner of the gift is unfolded. The Incarnation consummated on the Cross is brought more clearly into view.

Commenting on this verse, ‘I am the Bread of Life,’ Chrysostom says, “He is going now to enter on the subject of the bequest of the Mysteries. And first of all He speaks of His Godhead, I am the Bread of Life. For this does not apply to His Body, for it is of that He says at the close, ‘And the Bread which I will give is my Flesh.’ But for the present He speaks of His Godhead. For because of the Divine Word His Godhead is bread, as indeed this bread (of the Eucharist) because of the Spirit which descends upon it becomes Heavenly bread”. Later on he appears to hesitate. “He calls Himself the Bread of Life because He sustains our life, this present life and the future life. Hence He adds, ‘He that eateth this bread shall live for ever.’ By bread He means either His body or the saving doctrines and faith in Him; for both give force to the soul.” A rhetorical passage at the close of one of these discourses shews that Chrysostom’s application of this Chapter is essentially Eucharistic. His exposition however lacks coherence.

St John 13–16. The chief use to which Chrysostom puts the last discourses of the Lord is controversial. He finds them an armoury against the assaults of Arians, Sabellians, Macedonians. Such treatment was perhaps inevitable. But controversy always impoverishes, not least when it is the ruling instinct of an interpreter of the Bible.

To examine one or two details of interpretation. On 14:20 ‘Ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you,’ Chrysostom characteristically notes, “In respect of the Father the expression involves Essence (i.e. unity in Essence); in respect of the Disciples the communion and help which is from God.” Or we may take his interpretation of the words, ‘The Father is greater than I’ (14:28). “The disciples knew not as yet of the Resurrection; their view of Christ was inadequate, but they held that the Father was great. The Lord says then, ‘Though ye fear for me, thinking me unable to protect myself, yet ye should have rejoiced when I told you that I am going to the Father, seeing that I am departing to One who is greater than I and able to abolish all danger.’ The words are words of condescension stooping to the weakness of the Disciples (comp. Matt. 26:53). But if any one asserts that the Father is greater in the sense that He is the cause of the Son, I will not oppose this view. This however does not imply that the Son is of different essence.” Thus Chrysostom admits the orthodoxy of the explanation which refers these words to the Divine Nature of the Son, if properly guarded. He himself prefers the interpretation which regards them from the point of view of the Disciples.

Though Chrysostom is not explicit, it is not hard to see the meaning which he attaches to the word Paraclete. Thus on 14:26, “Christ often calls Him the Paraclete because of the afflictions then pressing upon them”; and again on 15:26, “To the intent that knowing all this they might not be troubled, mark what encouragement He adds (οἵαν ἐπάγει παράκλησιν), ‘when the Paraclete is come’ ”. ‘I will send’ is explained by the paraphrase, ‘I will prepare you to receive Him,’ and is represented as asserting difference of Person. ‘He shall receive of mine,’ is referred either to the gift of grace (ἐκ τοῦ χαρίσματος) which pertained to the Lord’s Humanity, or to the knowledge common to the two Divine Persons (comp. 14:10). The phrase ‘things to come’ is made strictly equivalent to ‘that which shall be in the future,’ for mankind is greedy (λίχνον) of the knowledge of the future more than of all other things.

Lastly the interpretation of xvi. 21 may be noticed. “The Lord uses a comparison often employed by the Prophets. His meaning is this: Pangs shall seize you, but birth pangs become the cause of joy. He at once assures the Disciples of the Resurrection, and shews that to come forth from the grave is like coming forth from the womb into the bright light of day. Marvel not, the Lord means, that through grief I bring you to that which shall advantage you; for the mother attains motherhood through sorrow. He hints too at a mystical thought, that He loosed the pangs of death and hath caused a new man to be born. He says not child but man, for He hints at His own Resurrection. He says not to her but into the world, for He should be born, not to Death which travailed with Him, but to the Kingdom.” Here Chrysostom characteristically attempts to combine two interpretations. The travailing woman represents first the Disciples, then the Grave. The first reference harmonizes with the general thought (comp. Apoc. 12).

St John 20:11–17. There is no passage in the Gospel of St John where the harmonies are deeper and subtler than in the history of the scene which has called forth the ridicule of assailants of Christianity from Celsus to Renan, the Revelation to Mary Magdalene. Chrysostom finds a striking detail implied in the Record. Mary is speaking with the Angels of the Sepulchre: suddenly she turns round and sees, but does not know, the Lord. “It seems to me that Christ suddenly appeared behind her and struck the angels with wonder, and that they by posture and look shewed that they saw the Lord. This caused the woman to turn round. To them the Lord appeared thus in glory, but not so to the woman, that He might not fill her with amazement when first she saw Him. Of her He was seen in humbler fashion as aforetime.” But what of the seemingly repellent words of the Lord, ‘Take not hold of me’? Chrysostom puts aside the view of some who held that the words implied the grasp of a suppliant; “She asks for some spiritual grace, having with the Disciples heard Him saying ‘I will ask the Father and He shall give you another Comforter.’ ” “I think,” says Chrysostom, “that she wished still to be with Him as of old, and by reason of her joy she had no high view of what He was. Drawing her from such a desire to talk familiarly with Him, He raises her thoughts of Himself. Now to say, ‘approach me not as aforetime,’ would have seemed proud and haughty: but to say ‘I have not yet ascended,’ means the same thing and would not pain her. He shews that He is pressing and hastening thitherward, and Him who is going there she must not regard with the same thoughts as hitherto. When the Lord adds, ‘my Father and your Father, my God and your God,’ these words belong to His Human nature (τῆς οἰκονομίας ἐστὶ), for to ascend pertained to the flesh.” It is perhaps the same delicacy of perception which, as will appear later, gives Chrysostom so great a power in dealing with some parts of the Pauline Epistles, that guides him to discern rightly the tone in which the Lord replied to the action of the first witness to His Resurrection.

In turning to the work on the Book of the Acts which bears Chrysostom’s name, a critical question demands a brief notice. A doubt has been felt as to the authenticity of these Homilies. The ground of this doubt is twofold. In the first place it is urged that the arrangement of these discourses differs from that which Chrysostom elsewhere adopts. Having read a passage of this Book over and given a brief résumé of its meaning, he enters with some such phrase as, ‘Let us consider afresh that which is written,’ on a more detailed exposition. In the second place it is obviously true that the treatment of the subject is not so full and firm, nor the literary style of so high an order, as we find in the unquestioned works of Chrysostom. In reply to the first argument it may fairly be said that the prevailing ignorance of this Book, of which the opening sentence of the Exposition so bitterly complains, is a sufficient explanation of a difference of treatment. The second argument loses something of its force when it is noticed that these expositions were delivered at a time when the Archbishop was occupied with a great public crisis, and, his own troubles so soon succeeding, they may well be thought to lack his revision and corrections.

Besides these there are other considerations. These Homilies are rich in allusions to the customs and life of the time. We expect a forgery to be cautious and therefore colourless, or else to betray itself by inconsistencies. Again, the author represents himself as the Archbishop; and it may be fairly pleaded that any writer who could deal with the vices of the time as forcibly as the author of these sermons undoubtedly does, would not have deserted the usual method of Chrysostom, nor contented himself with so unambitious an imitation of his manner. On the whole it is not unlikely that these Homilies represent with more or less accuracy the substance, however they fail to preserve the form, of Chrysostom’s interpretation of the Acts.

The general character of the Book has seldom been more accurately described than here. “The Gospels are a history of what the Christ did and said; the Acts of what the other Paraclete did and said.” From another point of view the Book is said to portray the historical fulfilment of the Lord’s promise, ‘Greater works than these shall ye do,’ and of His prophecy, ‘Ye shall be brought before governors and kings.’ The main lines of the Apostolic teaching are accurately laid down. The Apostles say but little directly of the Divinity of the Lord. They, like Christ Himself, are anxious above all to shew that He had come from the Father. For them the proof of this, on which they can raise their converts to a loftier height, lies in the closing facts of the Gospel history, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The preacher, as he traces out the story of their work, emphasises the providential ordering of every detail. The whole is the sure proof of a Divine οἰκονομία (ix. 2 A, 9 B, 212 B).








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