«THE RECEPTION HISTORY OF 2 THESSALONIANS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, HAIMO OF AUXERRE, AND JOHN CALVIN ANDREW RHETT TALBERT, B.A., ...»
IV. Homily 4 (2:6-3:2): Translating τό κατέχον In the fourth homily, Chrysostom addresses Paul’s nebulous reference τό κατέχον (2:6), considering two dominant interpretations of the phrase circulating at his time and Paul’s reason for indirect speech. Of the options that this refers to the Holy Spirit or the Roman Empire, Chrysostom argues that Paul certainly had in mind the Roman Empire and that his surreptitious language was to deflect unnecessary persecution that may have resulted had he been more explicit. Though the difference in gender of τό κατέχον (2:6) and ὁ κατέχων (2:7) has caused a great deal of consternation for modern commentators, Chrysostom does not openly refer to it as a difficulty. Instead, he perceives the “mystery of lawlessness at work” (2:7) as a reference to Nero and connects his role as emperor to the specific exertion of the restraining power. The emperor functions as the personal force of restraint within the general power of the Empire.65 From a historical perspective, the reading of Nero causes some difficulty for Chrysostom, as it is largely assumed that the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians is contingent upon its having been written within a few months of the first epistle. If we assume the general consensus that dates 1 Thessalonians to sometime around 50 CE66 and that the “mystery of Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 4 (PG 62:486-87).
The general trend in scholarship has been to date the Thessalonian correspondence with reference to Gallio’s proconsulship. As representative of this view, Morris dates 1 Thessalonians to 50 CE, with a potential variance of one to two years based on Gallio taking office in Corinth during the summer of 51. Second Thessalonians would have followed shortly thereafter. Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 14; similarly Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 6 and 241. Donfried and Lüdemann mark the general exception to this dating by locating the correspondence in the early 40s. Karl P. Donfried, “1 Thessalonians, Acts, and the Early Paul,” in The Thessalonian Correspondence, ed. R. F. Collins, BETL (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 1990), 4–8.
Slingerland expands the dating of the epistles (or at least the first) to 47-54 CE. Dixon Slingerland, “Acts 18:1-18, the Gallio Inscription, and Absolute Pauline Chronology,” JBL 110, no. 3 (1991): 439-449.
lawlessness” refers to Nero because he persecuted the early Christians beginning in 64 CE,67 it would mean that the second epistle could not have been written until after the persecution began. This implied distance in time makes it difficult to account for the verbal agreement between 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Chrysostom, however, does not explicitly associate the “mystery of lawlessness” with Nero because of his persecution, but only because “this one wanted to be esteemed [as] a god.”68 Even so, should Nero have staked his divine claim from the moment of assuming the purple in 54 CE,69 three to four years makes the reliance issue somewhat difficult to overcome.
Chrysostom briefly draws attention to the verses asserting that those who “received not the love of the truth… might be judged” (2:10-12), noting that the phrase emphasises their condemnation, not their punishment, for Paul assumes their punishment prior to the judgment. The judgment simply leaves them without excuse for avoiding the punishment.70 As he draws to the point of Paul’s request for supplication, Chrysostom points to this as a clear model for the necessity of prayer as well as for the congregation to pray for the wellbeing of their leader. Prayer by the multitude on behalf of the priest or bishop aids the leader in their weighty task of caring for the congregation, and in Chrysostom’s case it is the weight of a massive congregation in a flourishing metropolis.71 Chrysostom grounds the fullness of the passage’s meaning in the way that it extends to the Church.
Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2003), 35.
John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 4 (PG 62:486).
Ferguson, Backgrounds, 33.
John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 4 (PG 62:487).
V. Homily 5 (3:3-18): Translating “Patience” and Moral Formation When Chrysostom reaches the prayer of Paul for the Lord to “direct their hearts… into the patience of Christ” (3:5), he notes that “into the patience” may be understood in three ways: 1.) that we are to endure as Christ endured; 2.) that we should do those things that Paul commanded, or; 3.) that we wait patiently for the Parousia of the Lord. For Chrysostom, these options are not mutually exclusive and “patience” always implies endurance in affliction.72 As he continues, he cautiously discusses the instruction Paul gives for admonishing a fellow Christian, noting the necessity of its enforcement by the way Paul seals the exhortation with the prayer “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways” (3:16). Chrysostom’s attention to the optative mood of δῴη enables this reading.73 Later, Chrysostom attends to the “signature” that closes the epistle, which has caused no small amount of controversy in the history of 2 Thessalonians. Paul concludes the epistle by noting that he has inscribed the “greeting with [his] own hand, which is how [he] write[s] in every letter” (3:17). Chrysostom, Theodore, and Theodoret do not share Grotius’74 difficulty with the autograph by recognising a practise common in their own era. The “greeting” is not a “signature,” but the closing portion of the epistle and the handwriting indicated its authenticity. Despite Grotius’ objection, modern scholars have come to confirm the Antiochenes’ reading of this John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 5 (PG 62:493).
The emphatic signature in 2 Thessalonians and its absence from 1 Thessalonians caused Grotius to reverse the order of the epistles and regard the primary letter somewhat
suspiciously. Hugo Grotius, Annotationes ad Novum Testamentum, vol. 7 (Gronigae:
Zuidema, 1829), 180–82.
John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 5 (PG 62:493); Theodore of Mopsuestia, “In epist. ii Thess.,” 65; Theodoret of Cyrus, “The Second Letter to the Thessalonians,” in Commentary on the Letters of Saint Paul, trans. Robert Charles Hill, vol. 2 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001), 133.
phrase. Even Wanamaker, who advocates reversing the order of the epistles like Grotius, recognises that the “greeting” is at least the full phrase, “Ὁ ἀσπασµὸς τῇ ἐµῇ χειρὶ Παύλου,” and the indication of the way Paul writes is the change in handwriting in the autograph, rather than simply the signature.76 Careful exegesis in the fifth century turns out to be good scholarship in the twentieth and it “satisfies”77 both ancient and modern horizon of expectation.
As Chrysostom closes, these points of prayer and admonishment become the focus of the exhortation for his own congregation. For Chrysostom, Paul models how to admonish well those who have deviated from the traditions of the Church.78 Furthermore, having an awareness of what deserves admonishment, his audience knows how they ought to live, such that they are put in the position of “teaching” others by means of their upright living.79
components for Chrysostom’s homilies because they advocate careful attention to the text with the open expectation of reaching θεωρία. In the same way, it guides his exegetical attention to specific terminology, which he strives to explicate contextually. The hermeneutical approach alone does not dictate the precise structure of the homily, but only the elements contained therein. In any given exegetical homily of Chrysostom, one can expect focused exegesis and a degree of practical instruction. These free-floating elements are locked into place by other structural influences. One such influence, his esteem for Paul, merits attention as it mature out of the Antiochene influence.
Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 292.
Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic, 25.
John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 5 (PG 62:496-97).
2.2. Esteem for Paul As Mitchell’s recent work on Chrysostom has shown, the apostle Paul exerts a commanding influence on the Church Father. The affection for Paul might be traced in part to his Antiochene provenance, where Paul was a favoured saint, alongside Peter.80 An obvious example of his regard for Paul appears in his seven encomia on the apostle (PG 50:477-514), which Mitchell classifies as a form of epideictic rhetoric that extols a person in a threefold division of praise for the individual’s “body, soul, and external circumstances.”81 This form of rhetoric, as an exegetical endeavour, does not simply describe the person in question, but aims at persuading the audience to adopt what has been praised. Thus, Paul’s program of “imitation” (1 Cor 4:16, 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6-7) aligns well with this strand of classical rhetoric, and Chrysostom advances it to the fore.82 Beyond the encomia, and throughout the entire corpus of his work, however, Paul continually materialises as “example, authority, conversation partner, and icon.”83 Additionally, Chrysostom clearly perceived the overlap between the his own life and the apostle’s, as one forcefully placed into Christian ministry, constantly addressing contentious pastoral issues, and ending his life in exile.84 What follows are several examples of Paul’s influence on Chrysostom’s 2 Thessalonians homilies.
I. Structural Influence The clearest evidence for Chrysostom’s esteem for the apostle Paul in his 2 Thessalonians homilies is their twofold division. He takes the first John Chrysostom, Homilia in Acta 25 (PG 60:192); Margaret Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 67.
Ibid., 98. See also 404-7 for a distinction between encomium and vita.
portion of Paul’s epistles as a communication of doctrine, while the latter section describes practical issues for the community.85 He explains the Scriptures because they must be taken as the basis of Christian thought and living, but he adds to it an excursus on the practical outworking (meaning) of certain points of the doctrine. In this sense, θεωρία is not distant theological abstraction, but rather it becomes guidance for living theologically. Looking again at the second homily, we note his close attention to Paul’s “doctrine,” which revolves around consolation in affliction by means of the grace of God.86 This concentration leads into Chrysostom’s exhortation that his congregation continually keep hell before their eyes so as to keep them from buckling under the weight of affliction and falling under condemnation at the Judgment.87 The same bifurcation as a means of imitating the style of Paul follows for the remaining homilies on 2 Thessalonians.88 II. Exegesis of Epistolary Practices In addition to the structural contribution of Chrysostom’s esteem for Paul to these homilies, there are also numerous exegetical points that highlight this regard. Chrysostom directs attention to the thanksgiving “We are bound to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right” (1:3a), and calls his congregation to “witness [the] excess of humility”89 in the apostle. For the thanksgiving is given to God for the good actions of the Thessalonians, which, Chase, Chrysostom, 155–56.
C.f. διὰ τοῦτο ὑποµιµνήσκει αὐτοὺς πρὸ πάντων τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Θεοῦ,… ἐκεῖθεν ἔχωσι τὴν παραµυθίαν· John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 2 (PG 62:473).
This extends even to the introductory homily, or hypothesis, as Chrysostom covers the doctrine of the epistle in broad strokes before relating it to the need for Christians to expel pride from their lives at all costs. Though not divided into two, equal parts, the transition into the practical section is clear: Ἠπόρουν µὲν οὖν τότε οἱ Θεσσαλονικεῖς ταῦτα, ἡµῖν δὲ χρησίµη γέγονεν ἡ ἐκείνων ἀπορία· John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 1 (PG 62:470).
Ὅρα ταπεινοφροσύνης ὑπερβολήν· John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 2 (PG 62:473). In painting such a “portrait” of Paul, Chrysostom is summoning his hearers to mimesis. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 51.
Chrysostom contends, should be the hope of every Christian— that in seeing the good of the believer, people are directed to God, not the one performing the good.
The preceding sections have established an important foundation for reading Chrysostom. I would like now to introduce more clearly defined sections of contemporary and modern scholarship to illustrate the axes of diachrony and synchrony in the history of 2 Thessalonians, and to draw out its meaning potential to engage with a modern horizon of expectations.
i. Contemporary Scholarship Theodore likewise comments on 2 Thess 1:3a, though he takes it as an extension of the grace from the previous verse. He does not perceive this as a humble expression on the part of Paul, rather it indicates how great the behaviour of the Thessalonians must be for Paul to give thanks to God for them. Therefore, this thanksgiving directs one’s attention to the greatness of what follows this verse: the reason(s) for the thanksgiving.90 Theodoret follows his predecessor at Antioch by focusing on the impulse for the thanksgiving, namely their “perfect virtue”91 demonstrated in their faith and love, rather than the direction of the thanksgiving to God and the character of Paul for such an emphasis. John of Damascus concentrates solely on the traits of faith and love that Paul commends.92 In its synchronic appearance, therefore, Chrysostom provokes the contemporary horizon of expectations with an interpretation that shifts the reader’s focus to a theological principle based on the structure of the text.
Reading against the grain of history helps recover the distinctiveness of Theodore of Mopsuestia, “In epist. ii Thess.,” 42–43.