«THE RECEPTION HISTORY OF 2 THESSALONIANS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, HAIMO OF AUXERRE, AND JOHN CALVIN ANDREW RHETT TALBERT, B.A., ...»
This sentence follows the NPNF: “for they were not called,” which differs from Migne, who reads: “δεικνὺς ὅτι πολλοὶ καὶ ἀπεβλήθησαν.” The NPNF translator clearly relies on the Field critical text and the Catenae Graecorum Patrum (6.384), which read “οὐ γὰρ ἐκλήθησαν.” It is likely that Migne’s source misses the implicit understanding of martyrdom and attempted to resolve the difficulty of this reading through redaction. The difference in the above phrase and the absence of “But he speaks of that other calling” (Ἀλλ᾽ ἐκείνην τὴν κλῆσίν φησι) from the PG text means that the Migne text attempts to reconstrue “calling” as an eschatological goal, but this renders the text awkward. See John Chrysostom, 2 Thessalonians 3 (NPNF1 13:385); John Chrysostom, In epistulam ii ad Thessalonicenses 3 (FCT 5:463); John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 3 (PG 62:480).
Theodore of Mopsuestia, “In epist. ii Thess.,” 47–48.
“ὥστε ὑµᾶς ἀξιωθέντας τῆς κλήσεως.” Theodoret of Cyrus, epist. ii ad Thess. (PG 82:661). Hill translates this as “you have been granted the call”— bringing out the aoristpassive sense of Theodore’s reading. Theodoret of Cyrus, “2 Thessalonians,” 127.
deny that they have been called, but describes God as an “assistant” (συλλήπτωρ) in accomplishing “every desire of goodness and work of faith” (1:11) after the have been called.144 In the tenth century, Thietland of Einsiedeln initially pursues a similar reading to that of Chrysostom. He contends that, by his grace, God considered the Thessalonians “worthy” of his Kingdom (1:5), not because they suffered persecution.145 Yet Thietland does not connect this concept of worthiness with God making the Thessalonians “worthy of calling” (1:11). He still establishes this worthiness in the grace of God, but thinks of “calling” in terms of a purpose.146 ii. Modern Scholarship Looking at modern commentators, Wanamaker agrees that the prayer is for the salvation of Paul’s readers on the day of judgment, but he remains somewhat vague regarding the time of the call; describing it simply as “God’s call to the Thessalonians to share in eschatological salvation.”147 If the “eschatological connotation”148 of this call means an invitation to enter the kingdom in the eschaton, then he differs from the contemporaries of Chrysostom, but still does not approach his reading. Best weighs out only two possible readings of ἀξιώσῃ in terms of time, pointing out that reading it as “deem worthy” locates the action in the eschaton, whereas “make worthy” has the connotation of a process involving the participation of God, as John of Damascus saw it. In the end, he reads it as “make worthy,” but qualifies that John of Damascus, In epist. ii ad Thess. (PG 95:921) Thietland of Einselden, “In epistolam ii ad Thessalonicenses,” in Second Thessalonians: Two Early Medieval Apocalyptic Commentaries, trans. Steven R. Cartwright, Teams (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001), 43–44.
Wanamaker’s agreement with Frame in reading this as “consider worthy,” appears to locate his calling in the future. Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 233.
only God can help achieve this and that it leads to a salvific end.149 Rigaux likewise prefers reading it as “make worthy” because it fits with the intimate nature of the prayer (1:11-12) in which this phrase is situated.150 The text can clearly support either interpretation, yet Fee’s note that situating this quotation within the rest of the verse generates a sense that Paul is describing a present calling into a life oriented positively toward the eschaton. It is interesting that Chrysostom describes the other “types” of calling and yet rejects them as possible readings because of what he perceives the context dictates.
The issue of correctness lies in whether the bishop has posed a legitimate question to the text.151 Based on the reading of “calling” as having not yet taken place, Chrysostom’s view of the rhetorical function of Paul’s prayer to motivate a particular way of living in the community certainly stands.152 Associating it with martyrdom exclusively, though difficult, fits well with the tone of passage, despite the fact that it does not cohere with Paul’s general use of καλέω or κλῆσις elsewhere. Certainly, his prayer that God may “fulfil every good and every work of faith with power” (1:11) includes suffering or even death in persecution, but does it do so exclusively? In terms of relating “being made worthy” with suffering persecution, Chrysostom stands on solid biblical grounds,153 and in this way provokes the horizon of Western scholarship, not to mention that of his own context. The restriction of Best, Thessalonians, 268–69. Fee echoes this two-fold option, but notes that the rest of the sentence leads one to read it as “make worthy.” Fee, Thessalonians, 264.
Rigaux, Thessaloniciens, 639.
Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic, 185.
Witherington likewise notes, “One of the more effective ways of changing behavior is to let people overhear one’s prayers for them.” Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 199.
Cf. Acts 5:41 “κατηξιώθησαν” and 2 Thess 1:5 “καταξιωθῆναι.” Chrysostom comments on the latter in this series of homilies, but, peculiarly, associates it with general suffering in persecution.
calling to martyrdom limits the openness of this phrase, but Chrysostom raises an important question in his reading.
The anomalous nature of the reading likely accounts for its near immediate disappearance from exegetical consideration as well as its absence from the Glossa Ordinaria.154 At the same time, tradition does not always carry forward every question posed to the text because many are “erased by a definitive answer, others forgotten, renewed once more, or posed only at a comparatively late date.”155 It appears that Chrysostom’s question of the relationship of worthiness, calling, and martyrdom is a potential victim of either of the former two categories and a shift in Christian society from frequent martyrdom under pagan rulers to relative security. The fact that no one presents a nuanced version of “being made worthy of calling” as suffering persecution likely indicates this post-Constantine security. The relatively stable interpretive options on this passage, however, do not rescind Chrysostom’s aesthetically valuable reading.
V. Rhetoric: “Preparing Their Hearts” for Reproof A final example of Chrysostom’s rhetorical reading appears in the fifth homily, where he observes Paul’s transition from an uplifting prayer (3:5) into a command (3:6). In the former verse, Paul prays for and commends the Thessalonians “into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (3:5).
Thus “he prepares their hearts beforehand”156 with such kindness to render them willing to hear his reproof. Further, he perceives that the prayer exhorts The Glossa includes Chrysostom’s comments on 1:10. See “Epistola Pauli ii ad Thessalonicenses” in Nicholas de Lyra, Glossa Ordinaria, vol. 6 (Venice, 1603), 668.
Jauss, Question and Answer, 70.
Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 5 (PG 62:493). John Cassian makes similar similar observations regardin Paul’s rhetoric in 1 Thessalonians. John Cassian, The Twelve Books on the Institutes of Coenobia and the Remedies for the Eight Principle Faults 10.7 (NPNF2 11:268).
the community to behaving in a certain manner that demonstrates the love of God and patience of Christ. He also thinks of the love of God as patient endurance, thereby appearing to take the phrases “into the love of God” and “into the patience of Christ” as synonymous.
i. Contemporary Scholarship Theodore makes this synonymous reading clearer by arguing that it should simply read: “into the love and patience of God and Christ.” He thereby circumvents the confusion resulting from Chrysostom’s reading and the potential of subordinating the Son.157 Nevertheless, this colleague does not draw attention to the rhetorical function of the prayer.
Theodoret pursues a different route, apparently initiated by Basil of Caesarea,158 in reading this as a prayer to the Holy Spirit that gives a “glimpse of the Trinity.”159 It follows from the fact that the prayer reads “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (3:5).
Theodoret, like Basil, recognises “the Lord” as a reference to the Holy Spirit.
Chrysostom and Theodore, however, remain cautiously Binitarian when reading this verse.
ii. Modern Scholarship Malherbe notes the tendency of Patristic writers to interpret “Lord” as a reference to the Holy Spirit, yet he follows closer to Theodore and Chrysostom. The “Lord” is either a reference to God, in keeping with the trend of 3:1-5, or it may refer to both “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” as the use of κατευθύναι in 1 Thess 3:11 indicates.160 Like Chrysostom, he notes Theodore of Mopsuestia, “In Epist. Ii Thess.,” 61.
Basil of Caesarea, De Spiritu Sancto 21.52 (NPNF2 8:33).
Theodoret of Cyrus, “2 Thessalonians,” 131.
Malherbe, Thessalonians, 32B:447.
that this prayer precedes admonishment, though he sees it as an exhortation, rather than as a means of endearing the audience.161 Witherington looks at 2 Thess 3:1-5 as an “interlude” between the main arguments of the epistle, preceding the exhortatio in 3:6. Structurally, it prepares the reader/listener for the exhortatio, but the effect of the content does not receive attention. Instead, the prayer functions paraenetically, encouraging the Thessalonians to manifest the love of God and the endurance of Christ in their context. Chrysostom’s reading sharpens the perspective of Witherington and Malherbe at this point, by considering both the meaning of the verses and the dual function of this prayer to encourage and exhort.162 The closest modern ally to Chrysostom is Fee, who describes this prayer as “a bit of platitude”163 and an “introduction to the corrective that follows… in that he first presents the positive dimension of a group of believers, before settling in on those who are creating difficulties among them. Thus the whole group is being encouraged, while the recalcitrant are being set up in a positive way for the needed admonition that follows.”164 By reviving the rhetorical dimension in their interpretive framework the modern scholars approach Chrysostom’s reading.
Interestingly, the editor of the Catena recognises Chrysostom’s rhetorical observations as significant enough to include them while excluding other points of exegesis.
Fee, Thessalonians, 321.
2.4. Reading the “Word of God” Canonically165 As the previous section has shown, Chrysostom often enlists Scriptures external to 2 Thessalonians to support his reading of the epistle. This manner of reading is by no means unique in Chrysostom’s time, though the specific verses he incorporates in his exegesis of 2 Thessalonians might be. We contend that a particular understanding of the origin of Scripture shapes this manner of reading. This section links with rhetoric in that, while Chrysostom allows for the rhetorical particularities of the human writers of Scripture, he still situates this in the grander scheme of God as the true author.
I. Reading Canonically: The Origin of Scripture When Chrysostom looks at Paul’s command for the congregation to withdraw from the idle “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 3:6), he understands this to mean Christ actually issues the command to the Thessalonian Christians.166 It is clear that Chrysostom perceives the origin of the text in the divine.167 He expands this understanding elsewhere when he challenges the behaviour of his congregation, querying whether the wealthy members in particular realise that as they enter during the reading of Scripture, the announcement “thus says the Lord” is not a liturgical gesture, but an assertion that “they enter the presence of the God, that it is He who addresses Though this section may appear to blur the concepts of “canon” and “Scripture,” it holds to the distinctions made by Holmes regarding the biblical canon in the early Church.
Describing Chrysostom’s canon would necessitate more detailed study of his use of biblical texts in his writings. For the purpose of this section, we can say that Chrysostom accepts Sirach as canonical. Michael W. Holmes, “The Biblical Canon,” ed. Susan Harvey and David Hunter, The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
John Chrysostom, In epist. ii ad Thess. 5 (PG 62:493).
For a patristic understanding of inspiration, see Robert C. Hill, “Psalm 45: a locus classicus for Patristic Thinking on Biblical Inspiration,” StPatr 25 (1993): 95. According to Kranz, Chrysostom adheres to verbal inspiration in which the Holy Spirit “lends” the biblical author his voice, yet he distinguishes between the historical “voice of the prophet” and the ongoing “instruction of the Holy Spirit.” Dirk Kranz, “Abriss zur patristischen Inspirationslehre der Heiligen Schrift (II),” Alpha Omega 10, no. 3 (2007): 357–60. See also Robert C. Hill, “St. John Chrysostom’s Teaching on Inspiration in His Old Testament Homilies” (Pontificiam Universitatem S. Thomas de Urbe, 1981); Samuel Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics (Edinburgh: T. Clark, 1843), 120–22.
them.”168 He sharpens this point in the same homily by describing the Scriptures metaphorically as “letters sent by God.”169 Here, Chrysostom discloses two important points regarding his view of Scripture: 1.) God is the true author behind every Scripture, and; 2.) God continues to speak whenever Scripture is read.170 In essence, this latter point motivates Chrysostom in his preaching career, for God continues to proclaim and apply his Word in history.