«THE RECEPTION HISTORY OF 2 THESSALONIANS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, HAIMO OF AUXERRE, AND JOHN CALVIN ANDREW RHETT TALBERT, B.A., ...»
Further, it lends itself better to the present possessing of past questions that leads to greater self-understanding and, thereby, to speaking about what the letter “means.” Restrictions enable us to offer an abbreviated theological Rezeptionsästhetik of 2 Thessalonians through a range of theological works,307 but this should hopefully demonstrate the importance of the program. The historically chronological progression of each chapter and the placement of the pre-modern interpreters in dialogue with modern scholars offers a diachronic image of the epistle’s history, thus temporarily stabilising a “canon” of 2 Thessalonians. We look now at our early Church example of the reception of 2 Thessalonians: John Chrysostom.308 With Knight we understand Gadamer’s omission of commentaries in a biblical Wirkungsgeschichte as indicative, rather than definitive. A thorough reception history explores all resources. Knight, “Wirkungsgeschichte,” 138–39; see also Luz, Matthew 1-7, 1:95. See also Räisänen’s emphasis on effects rather than media in note 283 above.
Arranging this project thus does not bypass either the aesthetically perceptual reading or the reflectively interpretive reading. In the case of the first, it seems more appropriate to allow the reader (subconsciously) to determine the aspects of 2 Thessalonians that they notice or prioritise. With the latter, interpretation may take place immediately in/after the first reading, but it also necessarily takes place and integrates material more fully after the “historical” reading, as Jauss himself shows when he reverses the order in his reading of Gen
3. Jauss, Question and Answer, 95–100.
Chapter 2: John Chrysostom
1. Background John Chrysostom (3491-407) was born in the Syrian city of Antioch in the midst of great political, cultural, and ecclesiastical upheaval in the Byzantine Empire. Despite having lost his father at a young age, Chrysostom’s social background saw that he was not without privilege and afforded him the finest education available during his time. This instruction included finishing school with formal training in rhetoric, which he completed under the renowned pagan rhetor of Antioch, Libanius, alongside Theodore, the eventual bishop of Mopsuestia.2 Though having the potential to pursue a successful career in public service, Chrysostom’s Christian background3 likely influenced his decision to receive baptism within a year of completing his studies (c. 367) and to take up service as an aide to Meletius, the pro-Nicene bishop of Antioch. In conjunction with this assignment, Chrysostom began frequenting a local askētērion led by the pious, ascetic instructors Diodore and Carterius, from whom he received a theological education and his initial exposure to asceticism.4 By 371, he was elevated to the position of lector under Meletius, but he abandoned his duties to pursue an ascetic lifestyle in the Syrian Though historically debated, recent arguments favour Chrysostom’s birth date in the year 349. See especially J. N. D. Kelly, Golden Mouth (London: Duckworth, 1995), 296–98.
See also Wendy Mayer and Pauline Allen, John Chrysostom, The Early Church Fathers (London: Routledge, 2000), 3; Rudolf Brändle, Johannes Chrysostomus (Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer, 1999), 13.
Kelly, Golden Mouth, 6–7; Brändle, Johannes Chrysostomus, 23; Jaroslav Pelikan, Divine Rhetoric: The Sermon on the Mount As Message and As Model in Augustine, Chrysostom, and Luther (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000), 16–18.
For this likelihood, see Kelly, Golden Mouth, 7.
For more on this educational period see Andrea Sterk, Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity (Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press, 2004), 142–44.
wilderness shortly after his appointment. This was likely accelerated by Meletius’ exile for adherence to Nicene Trinitarianism around the same time.5 During this retreat, Chrysostom spent four years taming his passions with a group of anchorite monks and an additional two years in isolation during which he applied himself to the memorisation of Scripture. His extreme denial eventually led to severe renal and gastro-intestinal issues that would affect him for the rest of his life. This debilitation, coupled with Meletius’ return, led Chrysostom back to Antioch, where he resumed his duties as a lector. Within two years he was ordained a deacon. And only five years thence he received ordination into the priesthood by Flavian, Meletius’ successor.6 Chrysostom found himself as a priest and soul-carer for one of the largest and strategically most important cities in the Byzantine Empire.7 It was a city marked by a drastic dichotomy between the wealthy echelon of society and the poorer constituents;8 a characteristic that it shared with Chrysostom’s later bishopric, Constantinople. For this reason, Chrysostom’s sermons frequently feature the topics of wealth and the Christian necessity of almsgiving.9 Chrysostom’s elevation to bishop of Constantinople (397) after the sudden death of Nectarius meant that Chrysostom found the ecclesial budget at his disposal, with which he was able to openly demonstrate the unity of his thought and praxis by quickly reconfiguring the expenditures and directing the primary funds away from building projects toward hospitals, This was followed by an attempt to forcefully ordain Chrysostom into the priesthood, for which he considered himself unprepared. Kelly, Golden Mouth, 25–26.
Mayer and Allen, John Chrysostom, 5–7.
Brändle, Johannes Chrysostomus, 13.
Impoverished parents were even known to blind their children in order to evoke sympathy from passersby. J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz, Antioch: City and Imperial Administration in the Later Roman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), 97–98.
Mayer and Allen, John Chrysostom, 46.Aideen M. Hartney, John Chrysostom and the Transformation of the City (London: Duckworth, 2004), 133–70.
poorhouses, and similar charitable causes.10 The combination of his confrontational character and his handling of episcopal power resulted in Chrysostom garnering powerful enemies in the ecclesial (notably Theopholis, bishop of Alexandria) and political realms (e.g. princess Eudoxia).
Collectively, these enemies rallied against the bishop and sentenced him to exile (in absentia) at the Synod of the Oak (403).11 The uproar that resulted led to a rescission of the order by the emperor, which he reinstated in 404.
This exile initially took Chrysostom to Cucusus in Armenia, but he was finally sent to Pityus on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, nearly 700 miles from Constantinople. Due to the speed of the journey and his already fragile health, Chrysostom died in transit (407).12 Approximately 900 extant texts from Chrysostom have endured the passage of time, with the homilies13 constituting the bulk of this collection.
I. 2 Thessalonians Homilies: Provenance, Audience, and Structure Earlier scholars dated the homilies on 2 Thessalonians to 402, thus placing them in the context of Constantinople near to the time of Chrysostom’s exile.14 Recent research has demonstrated, however, that the provenance of these and many (if not most) of Chrysostom’s works are difficult to assert with confidence.15 Therefore, we can only situate them “God needs no golden goblets, but rather golden souls” Brändle, Johannes Chrysostomus, 74–75.
The events leading to Chrysostom’s exile are complex and spread out over several years. For the list of charges, see Kelly, Golden Mouth, 299–301.
Mayer and Allen, John Chrysostom, 10–11. See also Frederic Chase, Chrysostom, a Study in the History of Biblical Interpretation (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1887), 13–17. For the combined factors that led to his exile, see J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz, Barbarians and Bishops: Army, Church, and State in the Age of Arcadius and Chrysostom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 198–222.
Over 250 of these homilies are on the Pauline Epistles, excluding Galatians, for which Chrysostom offers a commentary.
Liebeschuetz, Barbarians and Bishops, 172.
For an in-depth evaluation of the dating of Chrysostom’s homilies, see Wendy Mayer, The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom– Provenance, OrChrAn 273 (Rome: Pontifica Istituto Orientalo, 2005).
generally in the context of a large, prosperous city in the Byzantine Empire.
This also has some effect on the assumed audience of these homilies. If given in Constantinople, for example, much of the royal court, numerous monastics, and clergy would constitute part of the audience. Since the homilies do not appear to target these groups, however, we can assume a general audience that includes members from every social stratum.16 In terms of composition, we must also plead ignorance. Chrysostom may have composed the homilies in advance himself or preached extemporaneously with a stenographer recording. Even after the sermon, the homily would have been edited, with subsequent redactions occurring throughout the history of the text. Still, the texts maintain Chrysostom’s rhetorical features, display consistency of character, and provide a lasting legacy.17 Chrysostom’s homiletical structure varies according to the type of homily (e.g. exegetical, topical, polemical, or encomium), and the content hinges on the liturgical and civic calendars, topical events, catechesis, or more purely exegetical aims.18 His homilies on the Pauline epistles are best classed as exegetical and follow a general structure. He may offer an introductory homily (hypothesis), which gives an overview and introduces key themes from the letter,19 while the remaining homilies attend to consecutive sections of the For more on Chrysostom’s audiences, see Mayer and Allen, John Chrysostom, 25–30.
Ibid., 30–31. The Migne text of the 2 Thessalonians homilies is considered relatively stable. For important variations, I have consulted the Field Critical Text (FCT).
Ibid., 21. These factors can even result in variations within a homiletical series. For example, Chrysostom’s first homily on Genesis marks the beginning of Lent and focuses on fasting, employing Gen 2:16-17 late in the homily as a figurative reference to fasting (PG 53:23), while many of the remaining homilies proceed more exegetically through Genesis.
Young describes the introductory hypothesis and point by point examination of the text as characteristic of Antiochene interpretation. Frances M. Young, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 171. Wilken adds that it is “shaped by historical setting, the author's intention, and literary character of the epistle typically divided into two sections that present doctrine (the exegetical portion of the homily) and describe/exhort praxis (the “sermonic” portion of the homily). The sermonic portion may or may not be connected to the content of the epistle, and the homilies on a biblical book were not necessarily preached as a consecutive series.
This standard bipartite division betrays the esteem in which Chrysostom holds Paul, because it is modelled after a pattern he sees reflected in the letters of the apostle.20 This imitation can be traced in part to his rhetorical education, for a skilled rhetor follows the example of rhetors who precede him, and because it provides him with attention to structural and methodological detail. That is to say his rhetorical education does not result in a strict adherence to Greco-Roman rhetoric, but rather that it heightens his awareness of Paul’s rhetoric and better enables him to make use of it for his own homiletical purposes. Pelikan adds the patristic era marks a decided shift in classical rhetoric to a more clearly delineated Christian rhetoric because of its reference and subject matter, describing the Scriptural homily as an entirely “distinctive genre for Christian rhetoric.”21 Chrysostom’s five homilies on 2 Thessalonians fit with the pattern
Rezeptionsästhetik than other homiletical series because the exegetical and work.” Robert Louis Wilken, “In novissimis diebus: Biblical Promises, Jewish Hopes, and Early Christian Exegesis,” in Norms of Faith and Life, ed. E. Ferguson, Recent Studies in Early Christianity (New York: Garland, 1999), 148–49.
Chase, Chrysostom, 155; Young, Biblical Exegesis, 254–55.
Pelikan, Divine Rhetoric, 31, cf. 3-33.
Of the Pauline epistles, Chrysostom’s homilies on Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, and Philemon share the same pattern of a hypothesis homily followed by exegetical homilies. The remaining Pauline epistles have no hypothesis, but maintain the bipartite, exegetical structure. See PG 60-62. The NT narrative homilies (Matthew, John, and Acts) also differ slightly from this pattern, though they tend to maintain the two-part structure exegesis and exhortation.
practical portions of the homilies are connected topically, rather than discoursing on a current event.
The first homily, as a hypothesis, offers a reconstruction of Paul’s reasons for writing the letter: the Thessalonians were afraid the resurrection had passed and that the Judgment would soon follow because of the message of false teachers to this effect (correlating it with a similar situation in 2 Tim 2:1). The clear focus of 2 Thessalonians is to dispel this non-apostolic myth through a counter theology aimed at encouraging the Thessalonians in their current state of suffering as consistent with faith in Christ and by reasserting the events that must precede the resurrection, namely, the arrival of Antichrist.
In a rhetorical move, Chrysostom parallels the false theology in Thessalonica with an apparent false teaching in his own locale (both wrought by Satan) about Antichrist arriving in humility as revealed by 2 Thessalonians. The epistle affirms that pride will characterise Antichrist. This leads to an extended discourse on pride, which is inconsistent with the Christian life. Pride features as a theme through the rest of the homilies on 2 Thessalonians, implicitly in some cases.