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«THE RECEPTION HISTORY OF 2 THESSALONIANS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, HAIMO OF AUXERRE, AND JOHN CALVIN ANDREW RHETT TALBERT, B.A., ...»

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Though variously and often incosistently defined by the Fathers, Chrysostom’s homiletical conclusions could be categorised as “a spiritual illumination in the mind of... the later exegete.” Bradley Nassif, “Theõria,” ed. Everett Ferguson, Michael P. McHugh, and Frederick W. Norris, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York: Routledge, 1999), 1123.

Nassif helpfully clarifies that Alexandrians also employed θεωρία, though it essentially amounted to allegory. Our definition of theoria also closely approaches Breck’s. John Breck,

Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood:

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001), 36–37. Young describes historia, as “pure” accounting, as the foundational lens through which Scripture in Antiochene exegesis is read. Theoria has a mirroring coherence with the historia of the text, which differs from allegoria typified in the works of Origen and other Alexandrian exegetes. In the few cases of proper allegory in Scripture, Chrysostom argues that the text always offers an explanation (see Interpretatio in Isaiam prophetam 5 (PG 56:60). Young, Biblical Exegesis, 176–82.

This was viewed as the purpose of reading and rhetoric in Chrysostom’s day. Young, Biblical Exegesis, 81 and 248.

text through this combined moral aim and θεωρία, drawing a parallel through the rhetorical intent of the text and the belonging of his own congregation to the biblical narrative.41 Though Origen’s exegetical work influenced the flourishing school of Antioch under Lucian,42 Chrysostom’s divergence from Origen’s homiletic structure reflects the development of Antiochene exegesis under Diodore. We look now at aspects from each homily that exemplify this Antiochene influence.

I. Homily 1 (ὑπόθεσις): An Example of θεωρία and Paranaesis In his first homily on 2 Thessalonians, Chrysostom lays out two catalysts for the epistle’s composition. Primarily, the “devil… took a different path” from teaching a false doctrine by means of “certain corrupt people… who said that the resurrection had already happened” in the first epistle to circulating the idea that “the Judgment and Christ’s [P]arousia were imminent.”43 Therefore, Paul had to correct a dogmatic issue concerning the eschaton. Secondly, through this correction and the letter at large, Paul hoped to encourage the faithful so that they “might [not] faint on account of [their] sufferings.”44 In this process, Chrysostom focuses on the dominating presence of Antichrist in the letter and is able to make a connection with his congregational context with reference to a legend about Antichrist coming “on bended knees.”45 From the description in the epistle that “he will exalt himself against everything that is called god or object of worship, so as to sit in the Ibid., 171–73 and 248–54.

Chase, Chrysostom, 3–5. For Antioch’s gradual break and then denunciation of Origen, see James L Kugel and Rowan Allen Greer, Early Biblical Interpretation, 1st ed.

(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 178–90.

“ὁ διάβολος… ἑτέραν ἦλθεν ὁδὸν, καὶ καταθεὶς ἀνθρώπους τινὰς λυµεῶνας… Τότε µὲν οὖν ἔλεγον ἐκεῖνοι τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἤδη γεγονέναι·” John Chrysostom, In epistulam ii ad Thessalonicenses 1 (PG 62:468).

Ibid.

“τοῦ κάµπτειν τὰ γόνατα.” Ibid., 470.

temple of God exhibiting himself as if he is God” (2 Thess 2:4), Chrysostom counters the local folklore and reveals how this text serves as a key for θεωρία. This Scripture corrects a current misconception, but it also reveals a deep truth about the character of Antichrist, namely that he is “anointed unto pride.”46 Being the chief characteristic of Antichrist, Chrysostom warns his congregation to avoid and dispel pride at all costs so as not to “fall into his condemnation.”47 From this entry point, Chrysostom demonstrates how pride is the chief of sins in terms of origin. Pride stretches beyond venial sin to identification with Satan and the eschatological enemy of Christ. All of this he perceives through careful attention to the character of the Antichrist despite the fact that the term “pride” never appears in 2 Thessalonians. Close attention to Paul’s aim, the occasion of writing, the text, and his own context yields θεωρία. The motivation for discussing pride in this depth also stems from inherited theological traditions and his general pastoral concern for his congregation, but these points will receive attention later.

The reading of this strand of apocalyptic material not only as descriptive of eschatological events, but also a perennial problem of human conduct mirrors an approach developing simultaneously in the West through the Donatist Tyconius (d. late 4th century) and Augustine. Tyconius’ Book of Rules exhibits a keen interest in understanding “prophetic” texts and their implications for the lives of contemporary Christians.48 In a modified manner, Augustine appropriated the seven interpretive rules of Tyconius into his John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Thessalonians 1 (NPNF1 13:378).

John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 1 (PG 62:470).

Tyconius’ definition of “prophecy” extends broadly through the biblical literature.





Pamela Bright, The Book of Rules of Tyconius: Its Purpose and Inner Logic (Notre Dame:

University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), 9. See his preamble in F. Crawford Burkitt, The Book of Rules of Tyconius (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1894), 1.

exegetical-theological enterprise,49 which resulted in his shift to the Donatist’s perspective on the Millennium.50 His rules on “the Lord and his body” and “the devil and his body” parallel his rule on genus in species, which describes how a biblical reference to an individual entity may be an expression for its larger whole (e.g. a city within a nation) or vice-versa (e.g. Israel as a reference to the faithful within the larger nation). In this way, we can see how the pride of Antichrist applies aptly to the members of his body in a manner similar to Tyconius’ rules.51 II. Homily 2 (2 Thess 1:1-8): Examples of Translation, Paraenesis, and Exhortation The latter homilies on the epistle examine the Scipture more closely, with the initial portions structured similarly to the commentaries of Theodore, Theodoret,52 and Severian of Gabala.53 Chrysostom proceeds through the text, commenting on a verse at a time. In these homilies, the Scripture receiving comment contains part of the impulse that leads him into the “sermonic” portion of the homily. His Antiochene background shines through in his thorough explanation of the term εἴπερ in the phrase εἴπερ δίκαιον παρὰ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι τοῖς θλίβουσιν ὑµᾶς θλῖψιν (1:6). He clarifies that εἴπερ (if) is essentially synonymous with ἐπεὶ (because), so that it is not a question Augustine, De doctrina Christiana 3.30-37 (PL 34:16-121).

Augustine, The City of God 20.7 (NPNF1 2:426-27); Irena Backus, Reformation Readings of the Apocalypse: Geneva, Zurich, and Wittenberg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), xiii–xiv.

In Tyconius’ commentary on Revelation (extant only through later scholars) his methodology leads to a similar end, for “Antichrist ceased to be a person, but became identified with the corpus diaboli, the omnipresent evil, and the false Christians.” Ibid., xiii.

It is noteworthy that, even if one were to excise the sermonic sections from his homilies, Chrysostom’s exegetical sections would form a larger commentary than either Theodore or Theodoret. His argument alone is lengthier than his contemporaries’ combined.

In the case of Severian, however, we have only fragments of a commentary on 2 Thessalonians. Based on the obvious parallels in the samples available, though, it is reasonable to assume that his commentary would have looked similar to those of Theodore and Theodoret in its complete form.

whether it is just for God to punish those who afflict the Thessalonians.54 Indeed, the ambiguity of this term raises concerns with Theodore, Theodoret, and Severian as well, to the extent that they feel it necessary to offer similar explanations.55 John of Damascus, who often copies Chrysostom, reflects the influence of his forebears three centuries later in contending similarly.56 Lastly, of the modern commentators, Malherbe and Witherington both rely on his contention regarding εἴπερ to support their own readings.57 Chrysostom’s eventual attention to the description of the judgment in “flaming fire” and “vengeance” (1:8) leads into encouragement and paraenesis for his own community. Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians becomes the encouragement for future congregations: “Therefore, when we are in affliction, let us consider these things.”58 Beyond this, however, the epistle provides a description of hell that Christians ought always consider, “for no We see similar attention in his translation of ἔνδειγµα (1:5) in the first homily, though he accounts for the term through its relationship to the content that precedes and follows it, rather than through the substitution of a synonym (PG 62:475). A closer example appears in Homily 22 on Ephesians, in which he suggests that “ἐν” from the phrase “πρὸς τὰ πνευµατικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις” can also mean “in behalf of” or “on account of” (“τὸ ἐν ὑπέρ ἐστι, καὶ τὸ ἐν, διά ἐστιν”; PG 62:159). As Chase points out, however, Greek enculturation also results in his overlooking important nuances of terms elsewhere in the NT.

Chase, Chrysostom, 91–92.

Theodore of Mopsuestia, “In epistolam B. Pauli ii Thessalonicenses,” in In epistolas B.

Pauli commentarii, ed. H. B. Swete, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1880), 44–45; Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation epistolae ii ad Thessalonicenses (PG 82:660); and Severian von Gabala, “Fragmenta in epistulam ii Ad Thessalonicenses,” in Pauluskommentare aus der griechischen Kirche, ed. Karl Staab (Munich: Verlag der Aschendorffschen Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1933), 332. Chase contends that Pelagius relied on the Antiochenes, particularly Theodore, for his commentaries on the Pauline epistles. Thus the influence of Diodore’s exegetical tradition spread quickly to the West. Chase, Chrysostom, 25; see also Wallace-Hadrill, Christian Antioch, 162–63. Compare Pelagius: “Hic ‘si tamen’ confirmatis est, non dubitantis, quasi si dicat”; with Theodore: “nam quod dicit si iustum est, hoc dicit: si tamen iustum est” (italics original). In addition to the reference for Theodore above, see Pelagius, “Exposito in Ii Thessalonicenses,” in Pelagius’s Expositions of Thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, ed. J. Armitage Robinson, vol. 9, Texts and Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), 440.

“Ἀντὶ τοῦ, ἐπείπερ δίκαιον.” John of Damascus, In epistulam ii ad Thessalonicenses (PG 95:920).

Abraham Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, vol. 32B, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 396; Ben Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A SocioRhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 193. Witherington also makes reference to Theodoret.

John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 2 (PG 62:476).

one holding hell before their eyes will fall into hell.”59 Chrysostom unlocks a “hidden meaning” of Scripture’s function for the community of God while cautiously preserving “the underlying sense (λέξις) of the text.”60 III. Homily 3 (2 Thess 1:9-2:5): Paul’s Rhetorical Aim In his third homily, Chrysostom attends to Paul as the speaker and considers what he is doing with this portion of the letter. By encouraging the Thessalonians not “to be shaken in mind” (2:2), for example, Paul “gives security”61 to the early church. Further, Chrysostom expounds on Antichrist from the mention of the “man of sin” (2:3), determining that he is both the “apostasy,” because he causes many to fall away, and that he is “the son of destruction,” because he is destined to that end.62 Chrysostom also clarifies that the meaning of Antichrist “exhibiting himself as though he is God” (2:4) must be understood as demonstrative action and not simply as verbal claims on the part of this individual.63 Paul’s question to the Thessalonians about their memory of instruction already given (2:5), leads into a discussion regarding the importance of repeated biblical instruction as a means to dehydrate and destroy the thorny roots of sin through the application of these “fiery” texts on the coming judgment.64 Chrysostom does not draw an analogy between the text and his present, but concentrates his congregation’s attention on the extra-contextual promise of judgment.

Ibid., 477.

Wessel, Cyril of Alexandria, 250.

John Chrysostom, 2 Thessalonians 3 (NPNF1 13:386).

Though the UBS reads ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνοµίας, the variant read by Chrysostom has early support in manuscripts A and D. Additionally, his geographically close contemporaries Theodore, Theodoret, and Severian (all of whom trained in Antioch) have the same variant in their commentaries. Though Chrysostom on occasion makes text-critical observations (see Chase, Chrysostom, 84.), he may simply not have had access to this variant reading.

“Ἀποδεικνύντα, φησὶν, ἑαυτὸν Θεόν. Οὐκ εἶπε, λέγοντα, ἀλλὰ, πειρώµενον ἀποδεικνύναι· καὶ γὰρ ἔργα µεγάλα ἐργάσεται, καὶ σηµεῖα ἐπιδείξεται θαυµαστά.” John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 3 (PG 62:482).

Ibid., 483.



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