John Chrysostom on worldly and spiritual songs

I was reading John’s homily on the 42nd psalm this morning, and came across this passage. I rather liked it, so I decided to translate it and post it here.

Ἀπὸ μὲν γὰρ τῶν ἔξωθεν ᾀσμάτων βλάβη, καὶ ὄλεθρος, καὶ πολλὰ ἂν εἰσαχθείη δεινά· τὰ γὰρ ἀσελγέστερα καὶ παρανομώτερα τῶν ᾀσμάτων τούτων τοῖς τῆς ψυχῆς μέρεσιν ἐγγινόμενα, ἀσθενεστέραν αὐτὴν καὶ μαλακωτέραν ποιοῦσιν· ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ψαλμῶν τῶν πνευματικῶν πολὺ μὲν τὸ κέρδος, πολλὴ δὲ ἡ ὠφέλεια, πολὺς δὲ ὁ ἁγιασμὸς, καὶ πάσης φιλοσοφίας ὑπόθεσις γένοιτ’ ἂν, τῶν τε ῥημάτων τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκκαθαιρόντων, τοῦ τε ἁγίου Πνεύματος τῇ τὰ τοιαῦτα ψαλλούσῃ ταχέως ἐφιπταμένου ψυχῇ. Ὅτι γὰρ οἱ μετὰ συνέσεως ψάλλοντες τὴν τοῦ Πνεύματος καλοῦσι χάριν, ἄκουσον τί φησιν ὁ Παῦλος· Μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματι. Ἐπήγαγε δὲ καὶ τὸν τρόπον τῆς πληρώσεως. Ἄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν τῷ Κυρίῳ. Τί ἐστιν, Ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν; Μετὰ συνέσεως, φησίν· ἵνα μὴ τὸ στόμα μὲν λαλῇ τὰ ῥήματα, ἡ διάνοια δὲ ἔξω διατρίβῃ πανταχοῦ πλανωμένη, ἀλλ’ ἵνα ἀκούῃ ἡ ψυχὴ τῆς γλώττης. (PG 55.157)

For in the songs of the world there is harm, ruin, and much that would lead to danger. For all the licentiousness and lawlessness of these songs bring about divisions in the soul. But in the spiritual psalms, there is great gain, great benefit, great sanctification, and every tenant of philosophy may be found. By these words, the soul is cleansed, and the Holy Spirit is quick to be with the one who sings in this manner. For those who sing with understanding invoke the grace of the Spirit, which is why Paul says, “do not get drunk on wine, in which there is debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. ” Following this phrase on fullness, we hear, “singing and psalming in your hearts to the Lord.” What does it mean to sing “in your hearts to the Lord”? It means to sing with understanding, so that your mouth may not merely speak the words while your mind perishes, entirely deceived and separated. Instead, the soul should heed the tongue.

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 6)

This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, three, four, and five.

This post should round out my posts on πίστις Χριστοῦ, at least for now. This one should be rather brief. John’s comments on Eph 3:12, “In him, and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence,” are very brief. He does have a few interesting things to say about faith when discussing the prayer around 3:17ish. Thus, let us begin.

The first place to start is 3:12. John quotes the verse and then offers a comment or two: “‘In whom’, he says, ‘we have the boldness to approach him with confidence, through faith in him.’ Not as captives, he says, do we approach him, nor as those worthy of pardon, nor as ones who have sinned. This boldness, he says, we have in confidence. That’s to say, we have it with courage. Where does it come from? It comes from faith in him. (Πόθεν; Διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὺτοῦ.).” The comments are sufficiently vague that they could be rendered as “through his faithfulness” if that could be established elsewhere. But since he usually means “through faith in him” where that comes up, it’s proper to read it as we have traditionally: “through faith in him.” Though I do wonder about the article. What’s the difference between Διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὺτοῦ. as we have here and διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in Romans? Anything significant? Anything that we could actually know? I guess I’ll have to defer to the linguists for now. I don’t have a clue!

Next, we’ll look at a few things he has to say about the prayer in 3:14-21. “‘So that he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner beings, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts though faith.’ See how he prays good things for them, and with such great desire, so that they may not waver. But how does this happen? Through the Holy Spirit, in your inner beings, Christ lives through faith in your hearts. How? In love, being rooted and established, so that you may experience together with all the saints, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Later on, after tying 3:14-21 to the prayer in chapter 1, he continues, “This power, he says, strengthens us to bear temptations, so that we may not lead astray. How does Christ dwell in hearts? Hear the words of Christ himself, “The father and I, we will come and make a dwelling place with him.” And he doesn’t just dwell, but he dwells in your faithful hearts, which rooted are rooted in his love, not being lead astray.”. Later he talks about “knowing that Christ lives in us through faith.” The cognitive element is fairly strong here, just like it is in Philippians. The last little bit shows that that Christ’s dwelling in us results in us having “faithful hearts,” (ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ταῖς πισταῖς) that are “rooted in his love,” and “not led astray.” Thus, this knowledge of Christ does impact us. It enables our own faithfulness. John thus sees our faithfulness as part of that prayer, perhaps even the reason Paul prays it. The faithfulness of God isn’t in sight, but ours is.

Essentially, these passages back up much of what we see in Philippians. Faith is knowing and experience Jesus through the Spirit. John’s comments on 3:12, though ambiguous, support a “faith in Christ” reading since he doesn’t offer any indication to the contrary. We know Christ through faith, and this knowing results in Christ dwelling in us through the Spirit. It creates faithfulness in our own hearts as we are strengthened in him, rooted in his love. Faith and faithfulness are intertwined, though distinct.

ἐν πίστει αὐτοῦ,

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 5)

This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, three, and four.

Unfortunately (or fortunately considering the length of the last post), I forgot a fascinating portion that comes right before John’s discussion in Eph 2:8. It provides some prior context for his discussion on faith then. After talking at length about the being raised and seated with Christ, he goes into this passage:

We are in need of the Spirit of revelation, so that we may know the depth of these mysteries. Then, so that you will not disbelieve, see what follows. “So that he may display, in the coming ages, the surpassing riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” As he said these things concerning Christ, do they matter to us? Some say, “what is it to us, if he rose?” But he shows that these things are indeed for us, if he is joined to us. Else, he would be saying these things about himself, “while we were dead in transgressions, he raised us and seated us with him.” Thus, as I have been saying, don’t disbelieve! He takes up this demonstration to show his goodness from the first things and the head. How does he show this, if these things have not yet happened? [being seated in the heavenlies] They happen in the coming ages. What [is proved]? That his good works were astounding, and that he was the most faithful of all. Currently these things seem foolish to the unbelievers, but then all will know.

Some of this I’ve found very difficult. The bolded part has had me puzzled for several days now. The emphasis here is on faith. John wants to tie Christ’s destiny (his rising and being seated with the father) with the believer’s destiny. The passage says such extravagant things about believers that he warns them to “not disbelieve.” The bolded bit has something about the “first things,” (προτέρων), the head (κεφαλῆς), and “wanting to show him(self?) to be the best,” as the reason for “taking up this demonstration.” He will demonstrate in the coming ages the greatness of his deeds, and that he was the most faithful of all. It’s not entirely clear here to me John here is referring to Christ or the Father. Is it the Father who “shows himself to be more faithful than all” or Christ? Ephesians 2 suggests that it’s the Father. “God, who is rich in mercy…” But Christ gets much more mention by name in this passage. My money is on the Father, but perhaps it’s a silly question. Whatever the case, part of this “demonstration” is to prove that God/Christ is the “most faithful of all.” God’s faithfulness provides a perfect basis for our faith

We have another interesting passage right before this. Discussing the transition from 2:3 to 2:4 we get, “‘On account of his great love, with which he loved us.’ Then he shows just how he loved us. These were not worthy of love, but of wrath and punishment on the last day. Thus, this was from great mercy! ‘And while we were dead in in our transgressions, he made us alive with Christ.’ Again Christ is the middle, as is his accomplishment that is worthy of faith (καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀξιόπιστον). For if the firstfruits lives, so shall we. He made him alive, and so too will he make us.

Here it is evident that we are “made alive with Christ” by his “worthy-of-faith” deed. Our faith is rooted in Jesus’ accomplishment in the incarnation-life-death-resurrection. Christ’s “deed” or “accomplishment” here probably does refer to his entire life. In Philippians, John talks at length about the necessity of faith in the incarnation and the resurrection, at one point saying that “these things accomplish righteousness.” I’d imagine that he has a similarly wide view here. God’s love is expressed chiefly through the coming, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of his son.

As for the πίστις Χριστοῦ, these are only tangentially related. Human faith is clearly in view. John urges his listeners to “not disbelieve,” and he also describes Jesus’ life as “worthy-of-faith.” God’s faithfulness, however, is also in view. God (or Christ) will prove himself in the coming ages to be a “doer of great deeds” and the “most faithful of all.” When it comes to 2:8-9 (discussed in part 4), it shows that God’s faithfulness (or Christ’s) is on his mind. What I need to do there is see how John uses δῶρον elsewhere. In 2:8, after saying, “this faith is not ours,” he says, “The gift (δῶρον) is of God. What is the gift? faith? Jesus? salvation? Faith is the most likely candidate in the immediate context. Later he talks about a woman “offering her firstborn son, the son of prayer [ie, an answer to her prayer], the entire gift (δῶρον), back to God.” (PG 62.173) Alas, we shall see!

ἐν πίστει τῃ του αὐτοῦ,

Here are the Greek passages (please look at the bold and offer suggestions!):

Ὄντως Πνεύματος χρεία καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως, ὥστε τὸ βάθος νοῆσαι τῶν μυστηρίων τούτων.
Εἶτα, ἵνα μὴ ἀπιστήσῃς, ὅρα τί ἐπάγει· Ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς
ἐπερχομένοις τὸν ὑπερβάλλοντα πλοῦτον τῆς χάριτος αὑτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς
ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ εἶπε τὰ περὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ταῦτα δὲ οὐδὲν ἦν πρὸς ἡμᾶς
(Τί γὰρ, φησὶ, πρὸς ἡμᾶς, εἰ ἐκεῖνος ἀνέστη); ἔδειξε μὲν οὖν ὅτι καὶ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, εἴ γε
οὗτος ἡμῖν ἥνωται· πλὴν ὅτι καὶ τὰ ἡμῶν κατ’ ἰδίαν φησίν· Ὄντας γὰρ ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς
τοῖς παραπτώμασι συνήγειρε καὶ συνεκάθισεν. Ὥστε, ὅπερ ἔφην, μὴ ἀπίστει, ἀπό τε
τῶν προτέρων ἀπό τε τῆς κεφαλῆς ἀπό τε τοῦ βούλεσθαι ἐνδείκνυσθαι αὐτὸν τὴν
ἀγαθότητα λαβὼν τὴν ἀπόδειξιν.
Πῶς γὰρ ἐνδείξεται, ἂν τοῦτο μὴ γένηται; Καὶ
ἐνδείξεται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις. Τί; Ὅτι καὶ μεγάλα τὰ ἀγαθὰ ἦν, καὶ
πάντων πιστότερα. Νῦν μὲν γὰρ λῆρος εἶναι δοκεῖ τοῖς ἀπίστοις τὰ λεγόμενα, τότε δὲ
πάντες εἴσονται. (PG 62.33)

∆ιὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὑτοῦ, ἣν
ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς. ∆είκνυσι πόθεν ἡμᾶς ἠγάπησε. Ταῦτα γὰρ οὐκ ἀγάπης ἄξια, ἀλλ’
ὀργῆς καὶ τιμωρίας τῆς ἐσχάτης. Καὶ οὕτω οὖν ἀπὸ πολλοῦ ἐλέους. Καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς
νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασι, συνεζωοποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. Πάλιν ὁ Χριστὸς μέσος,
καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀξιόπιστον. Εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀπαρχὴ ζῇ, καὶ ἡμεῖς· ἐζωοποίησε κἀκεῖνον, καὶ
ἡμᾶς. (PG 62.32)

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 4)

This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, and three.

This time, Ephesians is the object of our study. The first passage to look at is Ephesians 2:8-10, especially 2:8, which reads: “ Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·” (By grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is God’s gift). The passage does not contain the whole phrase, “πἰστις Χριστοῦ,” but John devotes an entire paragraph to discussing faith here and makes some rather intriguing statements. In the next post, I’ll look at 3:12 and 3:17.

John’s preaching on 2:8 is probably the most difficult of the passages I’ve looked at in the series, since he seems have a rhetorical interlocutor opposing him, at least in the latter part of our passage. I’ll offer a translation and then place the Greek at the end. Here’s the excerpt from 2:8:

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” “By grace you have been saved,” he says. So that you may not extol the greatness of good works, see how you he restrains you: “by grace you have been saved,” he says, “through faith.” Then, so as not to have free-will (τὸ αὑτεξούσιον) ruined, he writes these things about us (ἒθηκε καὶ τά ἠμῶν suggestions welcome). Again he takes up the subject and says, “This is not from us.” Neither is faith, he says, “from us.” If he had not come, if he had not called, how could we have believed? “How then,” he says, “will they believe unless they hear?” Thus, this is not our faith. (Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον.)[1] For he says, “it is God’s gift, not from works.” “But is faith really enough to save?” ones says. Rather, [Paul] says that, so as not to save the vain or idle, God has sought (required?) faith. [Paul] says, “faith saves, but through God.” Since God has willed it, faith saved us. But how does faith save, tell me, apart from works? This is the gift of God himself, so that “none may boast,” so that you, being occupied with grace, may do acts of loving-kindness. (ἵνα εὐγνώμονας περὶ τὴν χάριν ποιήσῃ) “Why then,” one says, “does he prevent justification from works?” Of course he prevents it! Instead, he tells us that no one is justified by works, so that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be demonstrated. He has not rejected those having works. Rather, he saved by grace those who had abandoned works, so that no one would have room to boast.

He then begins a discussion of good works: “Then, that at hearing this, “that is not from works but by faith that all are set straight,” that idleness might not remain, see what follows….” (The sentence is every bit that difficult in Greek, at least for me).

Whew! Where even to start… John is concerned that free-will be upheld. He appears to ground it, though, in God’s gracious gift. He is also concerned that there should be no boasting on the basis of works, and stresses that Christ/God are the source of our salvation, not our works, or even our own faith. That brings us to interesting bit, “Neither is this faith, he says, from us. If he had not come, if he had not called, how could we have believed? … Thus, this faith is not ours.” Might this be God’s πίστις, or faithfulness? The next sentence begins, “Θεοῦ, φησὶ, τὄ δῶρον.” “The gift, he says, is God’s.” That τὸ δῶρον is readily available suggests that the reason “this faith is not ours” is because it is God’s gift to us. I don’t think he’s merely saying that God is the source of faith, because then he could have said “ἡ πίστις οὑκ ἐξ ἡμῶν again instead of “Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον.” Because of the mention of Jesus’ coming it seems plausible to read πίστις here as referring to God’s faithfulness expressed through Jesus’ coming. Whatever the exact meaning of the phrase, it’s tied to Jesus’ coming, Jesus’ call, and “the gift.” (Jesus? Faith?)

John then moves on to a discussion of the sufficiency of faith. Things get a bit tricky with his interlocutor, but the point seems to be that, yes, faith is sufficient for our justification. Faith saves apart from works so that God may display his grace and loving-kindness. Interestingly, the tense of “saves” changes here. It goes back an forth between aorist and present (even in the indicative). I’m not sure if there’s significance there, but it did stick out. Finally, John proceeds to show how justification by faith is not opposed to good works, spending a lot of time in 2:10 exhorting his listeners to good works.

[1] The grammar here seems a bit strange, but I think Ignatius’ Smryneans 5:1 provides a similar construction (substantive ἡμέτερος plus genitive): οὒς οὐκ ἔπεισαν αἱ προφητεῖαι οὐδὲ ὁ νόμος Μωύσεως, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ μέχρι νῦν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, οὐδὲ τὰ ἡμέτερα τῶν κατ’ ἄνδρα παθήματα. Holmes translates as: Neither the prophecies nor the law of Moses have persuaded them, nor, thus far, the gospel nor our own individual suffering.

And here’s the Greek text of the excerpt, with a few parts bolded. It’s in PG 62.34.

Ὢ βάθος πλούτου καὶ σοφίας
καὶ γνώσεως Θεοῦ! Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, φησίν. Ἵνα γὰρ μὴ τὸ μέγεθος
τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν ἐπάρῃ σε, ὅρα πῶς σε καταστέλλει· Τῇ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, φησί.
∆ιὰ πίστεως. Εἶτα ἵνα μὴ πάλιν τὸ αὐτεξούσιον λυμήνηται, ἔθηκε καὶ τὰ ἡμῶν· καὶ
πάλιν αὐτὸ ἀνεῖλε, καί φησι· Καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ἡμῶν. Οὐδὲ ἡ πίστις, φησὶν, ἐξ ἡμῶν·
εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἦλθεν, εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἐκάλεσε, πῶς ἠδυνάμεθα πιστεῦσαι; Πῶς γὰρ, φησὶ,
πιστεύσουσιν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀκούσωσιν; Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον. Θεοῦ, φησὶ,
τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων. Μὴ γὰρ ἤρκει ἡ πίστις σῶσαι, φησίν; Ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ κενοὺς
μηδὲ ἀργοὺς σώσῃ, ταύτην ἐζήτησεν ὁ Θεὸς, φησίν· Εἶπεν, ὅτι ἡ πίστις σώζει, ἀλλὰ
διὰ Θεοῦ· ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ὁ Θεὸς ἠθέλησεν, ἡ πίστις ἔσωσεν. Ἐπεὶ πῶς σώζει ἡ πίστις, εἰπέ
μοι, ἄνευ ἔργων; Τοῦτο αὐτὸ Θεοῦ δῶρόν ἐστιν, Ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται, ἵνα
εὐγνώμονας περὶ τὴν χάριν ποιήσῃ. Τί οὖν, φησὶν, αὐτὸς ἐκώλυσεν ἐξ ἔργων
δικαιωθῆναι; Οὐδαμῶς· ἀλλ’, Οὐδεὶς, 62.34 φησὶν, ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, ἵνα δειχθῇ
τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ φιλανθρωπία. Οὐχὶ ἔχοντας ἔργα ἀπώσατο, ἀλλὰ
προδεδομένους ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων χάριτι ἔσωσεν, ὥστε μηδένα λοιπὸν ἔχειν καυχᾶσθαι.
γʹ. Εἶτα ἵνα μὴ ἀκούσας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἀλλὰ πίστει τὸ πᾶν κατωρθώθη, ἀργὸς
μένῃ, ὅρα τί ἐπήγαγεν·

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 3)

Parts one and two.

Moving along through the πίστις Χρισοῦ passages, the next one to examine is Philippians 3:7-11. Πίστις Χριστοῦ and Πίστις Θεοῦ are basically synonymous for John. In this passage, faith has a strong cognitive element, with Jesus Christ as its object. He spends a lot of time arguing against pure reason. Rather, he says, we receive all of the great truth through faith (δία πίστεως), in or by faith (simply πίστει and from/by faith, (ἀπό πίστεως. Righteousness is obtained by this faith, and not through “toil and sweat,” but there must also be works coming from this faith, especially sacrificial good works for the benefit of the poor. Faith especially empowers us to share in Jesus’ sufferings (and John quotes Col 1:24, 2 Cor 4:10 in addition to Phil 3:10 as evidence). Thus, we should not complain about suffering, since it is the method by which we are conformed to Christ’s death. Instead, we should rejoice and marvel at what God does through them.

Here are some salient excerpts:

If then Paul, who had righteousness [according to the law], on account of it not be righteousness, ran to this righteousness [the righteousness δία πίστεως], then how much more should those who have no righteousness run along with him! He rightly said, “Not having a righteousness of my own,” since he did not attain it through sweat and toil. Rather, he found it by grace (ἀπό τῆς χάριτος), as he said. Thus, if the upright one [Paul] is saved by grace, how much more all of you! Since then, it seemed reasonable for him to say to them, “the righteousness through toil is better,” he shows that it is rubbish compared to this [the righteousness by grace]. “For I was not upright at that time, but throwing it away I ran to this [the righteousness of grace].” But of what sort is this righteousness? It is by faith in God (ἡ ἀπό πίστεως Θεοῦ. That’s to say, it is given by God (καὶ ἅυτη παρὰ Θεοῦ δέδοται).

Initially I thought the bolded it referred back to faith, but now I think righteousness is the better antecedent. Either would be grammatically correct, but the whole discourse seems to be about righteousness, so I think he’s saying that “righteousness is given by God” rather than “faith is given by God.” He then picks up the discussion on faith:

What then, is this faith? It’s “on the basis,” he says, “of knowing him [Christ]. After all: knowledge is through faith, and faith without knowing him does not exist. But how? Through faith one must know the power of his resurrection. By what manner of reasoning does he prove the resurrection? None at all! Rather, it is faith.” [He discusses the resurrection and the virginal conception, proving that the virginal conception is a greater act. The point is that both must be received with faith, and not reason]. These things [the virginal conception and the resurrection] accomplish righteousness. This you must believe, that he was able [to do these things]. But how did his power work these things? That is not to demonstrate now. The sharing of sufferings is by faith. How? If we have not believed, we have not suffered. If we have not believed, that those who persevere with him will rule with him, neither will we suffer these sufferings, since by faith the genesis [virgin birth] and resurrection are received.

He then turns to works: “Don’t you see, then, that there must not only be faith, but also works through faith? (the last part makes no sense to me: ἀλλὰ δι’ ἔργων. Is there some elision here, so that he’s saying that faith must not stand alone, but must express itself through works?). For the one who believes best that Christ is risen, is the one who is eager to give himself to those in danger, the one who shares in sufferings. This is the one who shares in the resurrection. Later, after discussing discussing suffering further, and quoting Paul’s statements about “carrying in his body the death of Christ” and “filling up in his flesh the sufferings of Christ” John continues, And this [Paul’s suffering] happened by great faith (ἀπὸ πίστεως πολλῆς γίνεται).

So then, we see here the interplay in John (and Paul’s) thought between righteousness, law, grace, and works. John juxtaposes righteousness from the law and righteousness by grace. Righteousness by grace is given by God, and is by faith. Faith is on the basis of knowing him, and all our knowledge of him is received in faith. Knowledge especially concerns knowing Jesus’ redemptive life, which bring about, or accomplishes, the righteousness we enjoy by faith. Finally, faith must find expression in works, especially in the sharing of Jesus’ sufferings. In reference to the πίστις Χριστοῦ, human faith is almost entirely in sight here. There’s one potentially subjective genitive: ἡ ἀπό πίστεως Θεοῦ. τουτὲστι, καὶ ἅυτη παρὰ Θεοῦ δέδοται in the first part could be interpreted as, “It [righteousness] is by the faith of God. That’s to say, the faith which is given by God.” In such a case, the faith would not be the faithfulness of Jesus, the faith we trust for salvation. Still, it’s much more likely that John speaks of “righteousness” being given by God (rather than faith), and that the ἡ ἀπό πίστεως Θεοῦ. is an objective genitive (faith in God).

On the other hand, John does point out what a lot of subjective genitive folks want to emphasize: that it is Jesus’ faithfulness in his earthly life that enables us to be righteousness. Speaking of Jesus’ virginal conception and resurrection, he says “these things accomplish righteousness.” He’s also quick to point out the participatory implications of 3:10, that having faith in Jesus implies that we must share in his sufferings, and that good works must come from that faith. He brings in Col 1:24 and 2 Cor 4:10 as good parallels.

So, I suppose John emphasizes what many of the “faithfulness of Christ” people want to emphasize, but he goes about it a different way. Πίστις is consistently human faith, even cognitive faith, but he also discusses the redemptive significance of Jesus’ life and the response in us that our faith should bring about.

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (part 2)

This post is part of a series. Parts: one, three.

I’ve continued to work carefully through the relevant πίστις Χριστοῦ texts. Romans 3 was the next in the list. Quite interestingly, Chrysostom’s text doesn’t appear to have Jesus in it! Here’s how it reads:

Εἰπὼν γοῦν, ∆ικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, ἐπήγαγε, ∆ιὰ τῆς πίστεως, εἰς πάντας καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας.

The NA27 reads:

δικαιοσύνη δὲ θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας.

I assume that makes a “faithfulness of Jesus” rendering impossible here, and that seems consistent with the rest of the passage. Right before quoting quoting v. 22, he says,
“So that no one may say, ‘and how are we saved, as those who have not accomplished any of these great things [the great deeds of the OT saints]?’ He shows that we who enter in [ie, the Gentiles?] have no small place in this matter. I’m speaking of faith.”

Later he says, “Therefore do not doubt! It [righteousness] is not from works (εξ εργων), but with faith (απο πιστεως). Do not flee the righteousness of God! Its goodness is two-fold, as it is easy to attain and always available. Do not be ashamed or blush.

Apparently (as John goes on to explain) some where making fun of justification by faith, claiming it was an “easy” or “feminine” doctrine. Overall, John’s focus here is on righteousness. Faith doesn’t get much mention. It comes up a few times in contrast with works, but John spends much more time explicating God’s righteousness as manifested in Jesus. He wants particularly to defray the claim that Christianity is an innovation. He spends a lot of time showing the “types” in the Old Testament, and how they were fulfilled in Christ.

So, there’s quite a bit going on in his homily, but not much directly referring to faith. The omission of “of Jesus Christ” in his text is quite curious, but otherwise it’s fairly evident that the faith in view here is human faith. That’s also clear in Romans 1:16-17, which I didn’t mention. The next post will look at Philippians 3, and then I’ll move onto Ephesians, where it really gets interesting!

ἐν πίστει Χριστοῦ,

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom

This post is part of a series. Parts: two, three.

So for my long paper topic, I’ve decided to look at πίστις (the Greek word for faith or faithfulness) in John Chrysostom’s exegesis of Paul. John was one of the best early exegetes of the Church, and has left us many pages of homilies on the Scriptures. He was especially fond of Paul, and did quite a bit of exposition. I’m currently interested in the πίστις Χριστου debate. For those unfamiliar, the debate has to do with a particular phrase in Paul, (πίστις Χριστου) which can be interpreted as either “faith in Christ” (the traditional reading), or “the faith(fulness) of Christ.” One example is Galatians 2:20, which reads in the NIV: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” That’s the traditional reading, but the grammar is ambiguous enough to support the following interpretation. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The focus in this interpretation would be Jesus’ faithfulness on earth, especially his “obedience to death, even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-11). I’m inclined to this reading (especially in Gal 2:20, where contextually it’s stronger than in other places, like Gal 2:16). However, I trust Chrysostom’s mastery of Greek much more than my own, so I wanted to see how he would take it. What follows is some of my findings in Galatians.

I’ve been surprised, so far, to find evidence already that John understands the phrase πίστις Χριστου as “Christ’s faithfulness” in at least one location. His discussion in Galatians 2:16 mostly deals with the Law (especially polemic against those who still follow Jewish practices). However, once we get to 2:20 we have this little gem:

Ἐπειδὴ καὶ ὁ νόμος κατηγόρησε, καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἀπεφήνατο, ἐλθὼν ὁ Χριστὸς καὶ εἰς θάνατον ἑαυτὸν ἐκδοὺς, πάντας ἡμᾶς ἐξήρπασε τοῦ θανάτου. Ὥστε Ὃ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκὶ, ἐν πίστει ζῶ. Ἐπεὶ εἰ μὴ τοῦτο ἦν, οὐδὲν ἐκώλυσε πάντας ἀφανισθῆναι· ὃ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ γέγονεν· ἀλλ’ ἡ τοῦ Χριστοῦ παρουσία στήσασα τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν ὀργὴν, διὰ τῆς πίστεως ζῇν ἡμᾶς ἐποίησεν. Ὅτι γὰρ τοῦτό φησιν, ἄκουσον τῶν ἑξῆς· εἰπὼν γὰρ, ὅτι Ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκὶ, ἐν πίστει ζῶ, ἐπήγαγε· Τῇ τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με, καὶ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ. (PG 61.646-647)

Here’s my translation of the passage, which will no doubt be rough, but I’m hoping it will be accurate enough.

Since the Law had brought charges, and God had announced his own evidence, Christ came and gave himself over to death, snatching us all from death. Thus, “my present life in the flesh, ἐν πίστει ζῶ.” Thus, if this had not happened, nothing would have stopped anyone from being destroyed, which happened at the time of the flood. But the coming of Christ, stilling the wrath of God, accomplished this for us through his faithful life.( διὰ τῆς πίστεως ζῇν). Listen to what follows! For this reason it says, “The life I now live in the flesh, I live in the faithfulness,” and it continues, “that is of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

He then goes on to chide Paul for “hogging what is common for himself,” since he talks about Christ “loving me” instead of “loving us.” I found this eternally amusing, though he goes on to explain Paul’s “usurping” in Old Testament terms.

As we see here, John believes that Paul is living in the faithfulness that Jesus expressed in his life on earth, especially his obedience in “handing himself over to death.” Some of it I’m not clear on (especially the ὃ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ γέγονεν, though I know it has something to do with judgment). The “through his faithful life” or “through his faithful living” seems pretty clear though. Can any of you greeklings confirm my translation/interpretation of John here?

And, of course, John’s understanding of πίστις Χριστου doesn’t settle anything entirely, but it’s always helpful to have the early Greek fathers supporting you on a grammatical issue!

Update: My professor clarified the line that was giving me trouble: ὃ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ γέγονεν. The translation now reads, “which happened at the time of the flood.”

Chrysostom and Paul

Currently, I’m trying to puzzle through what I want to write about for my final paper in my Paul class. I know that I want to write about some aspect of John Chrysostom’s exegesis on Paul, but I’m not sure what to write about. I’d thought about discussing John’s analysis of Paul’s “image” language (Col 1:15, 3:10, etc). I’m shying away from that, as he doesn’t seem to have much to say in his commentaries on “image” except for some polemic against Arianism in Col 1.

I could also do some comparative study on some of the early exegetes. I could do some comparison of the Antiochene interpretation versus Alexandrian by comparing Origen and John for example. Romans 7 might be worth examining, as it’s a tricky passage where opinions abound. I could also pull in some of the other Antiochene exegetes like Theodoret.

In the mean time, I’ve been reading John and reading about him. I particularly enjoyed working through his comments on the end of 2 Corinthians 3, with its notoriously tricky, “ὁ δὲ κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν.” (Either “The Lord is Spirit,” or “the Spirit is Lord”). I’ve also been reading through J.N.D. Kelley’s excellent biography: Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom-Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop. I’m almost 200 pages in, and I’ve immensely enjoyed the work. I’ve also worked through a good bit of Margaret Mitchell’s The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation. (Which is still $4.99 as of this date at CBD!). I really enjoyed this one early on, but I’ve become slightly blogged down in the middle though.

Any ideas? Or even some good background reading?

On Allegory

One of the things you have to come to terms with when studying early Christianity is allegorical exegesis.  Most academics don’t care for it (or actively despise it), but most of the early Christians had no such inhibitions.  They saw Christ hiding behind every corner of the Old Testament.  Origen was known to embrace apparent contradictions on the surface level to find the eternal meaning of the text.  Of course, it wasn’t just Alexandrian flights of fancy where we find allegory.  Paul tells the Galatians, after doing some OT exposition on the Hagar and Sarah, that “these things may be understood allegorically.”  Likewise, he tells the Corinthians, “these things [the stories of the Israelites in the desert] happened as models for us, so that we wouldn’t desire evil, as they did.”  Hebrews is in many ways, one extended meditation on Psalm 110, Jesus being a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus himself, of course, actively modeled his own work after those of the prophets, and employed parables (allegorical stories) in much of his teaching.

So how do we properly appropriate allegory?  There are all sorts of weird pitfalls.  I come from a movement where OT texts are regularly interpreted “prophetically” to say some strange things (ie, whatever the pastor wants the text to say at the moment).  Allegorical exegesis often is far more dependent on the ingenuity of the allegorist than the text as the author construed it.

On the other hand, we are invited, even commanded, to read the Old Testament in light of Jesus.  This doesn’t mean we can’t read them for historical content, or reconstruct what they would meant to their original audience (even if such a reconstruction is terribly fragile most of the time), but can we give these readings (valuable though they are) hermeneutical priority when “the reality, however, if found in Christ” ?  Epistemologically, do we not have to start with Christ and work back into the OT, especially as Gentile believers?

Honestly, I love reading the OT through the eyes of the early Church.  While I might be able to appreciate the history and language of early Christianity without a particularly strong faith, I don’t think I could ever appreciate the Old Testament without faith to spur me on.  The early Church has been my entry way into the Old Testament.  I never understood or enjoyed the Psalms until I started reading them in Greek, with John Chrysostom and Eusebius of Caesarea to guide me.  I know one day I’ll learn Hebrew and be able to appreciate the OT without necessarily reading it along with the early Church.  However, I’m quite content until then to read the OT in Greek, with some of the most brilliant saints of old to teach me.

So I suppose I’m a son in search of an answer.  How do we embrace allegory without going off the deep end?  How do affirm both the “original meaning” (insofar as it can be known), and what Christians down through the ages have seen it pointing to?  What is the relationship between the two, and which has primacy?

Thoughts are welcome!

More on the Fathers and the Charismata

The confusion continues! (well, not so much). Yesterday I wrote a post on John Chrysostom and miracles here. In it, I pointed out that John seems to argue for present day miracles as evidence for Christianity’s superiority to Judaism. Matthew over at crypto-theology was rightfully perplexed, since in his homilies on 1 Corinthians, John clearly acknowledges a cessation of the gifts. (See the comments for a relevant excerpt).

All of this led to some google searches. After looking at a published translation. I’m pretty sure I’m understanding John right. It also led me to a rather interesting post at the Continuationalism blog that examined some of the Patristic evidence on the issue. Note that I embarrassed myself in the comments by not reading the whole post before commenting! There I finally learned where Augustine changed his mind on the charismata. In the post there’s a quote from one of Augustine’s homilies that acknowledges a cessation, but in a later work (the City of God), he speaks of miracles happening up into the present day. I don’t know if Augustine changed his mind only with regard to healings, or if it was more broad (encompassing also prophetic gifts and glossalalia).

Finally, with regard to Chrysostom’s (perhaps?) change of heart, I read was able to track down an article by the same author who translated the homilies I mentioned earlier. He argues that John wrote and delivered these homilies in his youth, and they may have been his first exegetical work. There does appear to be evidence mentioned in the article, but he mostly just referred to the introductory notes in his translation. I’ve requested the translation via an inter-library loan, so hopefully I’ll get to see what he has to say on the issue! The bibliographic information for the article is:

Hill, Robert C. “Psalm 41 (42): a classic text for Antiochene spirituality.” Irish Theological Quarterly (March 1, 2003): 25 -33.