TODAY I HAD INTENDED to complete my discussion on the topic on which I spoke
to you a few days ago; I wished to present you with even clearer proof that God's nature
is more than our minds can grasp. Last Sunday I spoke on this at great length and I
brought forward as my witnesses Isaiah, David, and Paul. For it was Isaiah who exclaimed:
"Who shall declare his generation?" David knew God was beyond his comprehension
and so he gave thanks to him and said: "I will praise you for you are fearfully
magnified: wonderful are your works". And again it was David who said: "The
knowledge of you is to wonderful for me, a height to which my mind cannot attain".
Paul did not search and pry into God's very essence, but only into his providence; I
should say rather that he looked only on the small portion of divine providence which God
had made manifest when he called the gentiles. And Paul saw this small part as a vast and
incomprehensible sea when he exclaimed: "O the depth of the riches and of the wisdom
and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable
(2) These three witnesses gave us proof enough, but I was not satisfied with prophets
nor did I settle for apostles. I mounted to the heavens and gave you as proof the chorus
of angels as they sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will
among men". Again, you heard the Seraphim as they shuddered and cried out in
"Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is filled with his
glory". And I gave you also the cherubim who exclaimed: "Blessed be his glory in
(3) So there were three witnesses on earth and three in Heaven who made it clear that
God's glory cannot be approached. For the rest, the proof was beyond dispute; there was
great applause, the audience warmed with enthusiasm, you assembly came aflame. I did
rejoice at this, yet my joy was not because praise was coming to me but because glory was
coming to my Master. For that applause and praise showed the love you have for God in your
souls. If a servant loves his master and hears someone speak in praise of that master, his
heart comes aflame with a love for him who speaks. This is because the servant loves his
master. You acted just that way when I spoke: by the abundance of your applause you showed
clearly your abundant love for the Master.
(4) And so I wanted again today to engage in that contest. For if the enemies of the
truth never have enough of blaspheming our Benefactor, we must be all the more tireless in
praising the God of all. But what am I to do? Another very serious illness calls for any
cure my words can bring, an illness which has become implanted in the body of the Church.
We must first root this ailment out and then take thought for matters outside; we must
first cure our own and then be concerned for others who are strangers.
(5) What is this disease? The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to
march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the
feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do.
Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in
keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from
the Church right now. My homilies against the Anomians can be put off to another time, and
the postponement would cause no harm. But now that the Jewish festivals are close by and
at the very door, if I should fail to cure those who are sick with the Judaizing disease.
I am afraid that, because of their ill-suited association and deep ignorance, some
Christians may partake in the Jews' transgressions; once they have done so, I fear my
homilies on these transgressions will be in vain. For if they hear no word from me today,
they will then join the Jews in their fasts; once they have committed this sin it will be
useless for me to apply the remedy.
(6) And so it is that I hasten to anticipate this danger and prevent it. This is what
physicians do. They first check the diseases which are most urgent and acute. But the
danger from this sickness is very closely related to the danger from the other; since the
Anomians impiety is akin to that of the Jews, my present conflict is akin to my former
one. And there is a kingship because the Jews and the Anomians make the same accusation.
And what charges do the Jews make? That He called God His own Father and so made Himself
equal to God. The Anomians also make this charge-I should not say they make this a charge;
they even blot out the phrase "equal to God" and what it connotes, by their
resolve to reject it even if they do not physically erase it.
But do not be surprised that I called the Jews pitiable. They really are pitiable and
miserable. When so many blessings from heaven came into their hands, they thrust them
aside and were at great pains to reject them. The morning Sun of Justice arose for them,
but they thrust aside its rays and still sit in darkness. We, who were nurtured by
darkness, drew the light to ourselves and were freed from the gloom of their error. They
were the branches of that holy root, but those branches were broken. We had no share in
the root, but we did reap the fruit of godliness. From their childhood they read the
prophets, but they crucified him whom the prophets had foretold. We did not hear the
divine prophecies but we did worship him of whom they prophesied. And so they are pitiful
because they rejected the blessings which were sent to them, while others seized hold of
these blessing and drew them to themselves. Although those Jews had been called to the
adoption of sons, they fell to kinship with dogs; we who were dogs received the strength,
through God's grace, to put aside the irrational nature which was ours and to rise to the
honor of sons. How do I prove this? Christ said: "It is no fair to take the
children's bread and to cast it to the dogs". Christ was speaking to the Canaanite
woman when He called the Jews children and the Gentiles dogs.
(2) But see how thereafter the order was changed about: they became dogs, and we became
the children. Paul said of the Jews: "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers,
beware of the mutilation. For we are the circumcision". Do you see how those who at
first were children became dogs? Do you wish to find out how we, who at first were dogs,
became children? "But to as many as received him, he gave the power of becoming sons
(3) Nothing is more miserable than those people who never failed to attack their own
salvation. When there was need to observe the Law, they trampled it under foot. Now that
the Law has ceased to bind, they obstinately strive to observe it. What could be more
pitiable that those who provoke God not only by transgressing the Law but also by keeping
it? On this account Stephen said: "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart, you
always resist the Holy Spirit", not only by transgressing the Law but also by wishing
to observe it at the wrong time.
(4) Stephen was right in calling them stiff-necked. For they failed to take up the yoke
of Christ, although it was sweet and had nothing about it which was either burdensome or
oppressive. For he said: "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart", and
"Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light". Nonetheless
they failed to take up the yoke because of the stiffness of their necks. Not only did they
fail to take it up but they broke it and destroyed it. For Jeremiah said: "Long ago
you broke your yoke and burst your bonds". It was not Paul who said this but the
voice of the prophet speaking loud and clear. When he spoke of the yoke and the bonds, he
meant the symbols of rule, because the Jews rejected the rule of Christ when they said:
"We have no king but Caesar". You Jews broke the yoke, you burst the bonds, you
cast yourselves out of the kingdom of heaven, and you made yourselves subject to the rule
of men. Please consider with me how accurately the prophet hinted that their hearts were
uncontrolled. He did not say: "You set aside the yoke", but "You broke the
yoke" and this is the crime of untamed beasts, who are uncontrolled and reject rule.
(5) But what is the source of this hardness? It come from gluttony and drunkenness. Who
say so? Moses himself. "Israel ate and was filled and the darling grew fat and
frisky". When brute animals feed from a full manger, they grow plump and become more
obstinate and hard to hold in check; they endure neither the yoke, the reins, nor the hand
of the charioteer. Just so the Jewish people were driven by their drunkenness and
plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of
Christ, nor did they pull the plow of his teaching. Another prophet hinted at this when he
said: "Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn heifer". And still another called
the Jews "an untamed calf".
(6) Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what
happened to the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for
slaughter. This is why Christ said: "But as for these my enemies, who did not want me
to be king over them, bring them here and slay them". You Jews should have fasted
then, when drunkenness was doing those terrible things to you, when your gluttony was
giving birth to your ungodliness-not now. Now your fasting is untimely and an abomination.
Who said so? Isaiah himself when he called out in a loud voice: "I did not choose
this fast, say the Lord". Why? "You quarrel and squabble when you fast and
strike those subject to you with your fists". But if you fasting was an abomination
when you were striking your fellow slaves, does it become acceptable now that you have
slain your Master? How could that be right?
(7) The man who fast should be properly restrained, contrite, humbled-not drunk with
anger. But do you strike your fellow slaves? In Isaiah's day they quarreled and squabbled
when they fasted; now when fast, they go in for excesses and the ultimate licentiousness,
dancing with bare feet in the marketplace. The pretext is that they are fasting, but they
act like men who are drunk. Hear how the prophet bit them to fast. "Sanctify a
fast", he said. He did not say: "Make a parade of your fasting", but
"call an assembly; gather together the ancients". But these Jews are gathering
choruses of effeminates and a great rubbish heap of harlots; they drag into the synagogue
the whole theater, actors and all. For there is no difference between the theater and the
synagogue. I know that some suspect me of rashness because I said there is no difference
between the theater and the synagogue; but I suspect them of rashness if they do not think
that this is so. If my declaration that the two are the same rests on my own authority,
then charge me with rashness. But if the words I speak are the words of the prophet, then
accept his decision.
Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable
one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion. I said that the
synagogue is no better than a theater and I bring forward a prophet as my witness. Surely
the Jews are not more deserving of belief than their prophets. "You had a harlot's
brow; you became shameless before all". Where a harlot has set herself up, that place
is a brothel. But the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of
robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. Jeremiah said: "Your house has become for me
the den of a hyena". He does not simply say "of wild beast", but "of a
filthy wild beast", and again: "I have abandoned my house, I have cast off my
inheritance". But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When
God forsakes a place, that place becomes the dwelling of demons.
(2) But at any rate the Jews say that they, too, adore God. God forbid that I say that.
No Jew adores God! Who say so? The Son of God say so. For he said: "If you were to
know my Father, you would also know me. But you neither know me nor do you know my
Father". Could I produce a witness more trustworthy than the Son of God?
(3) If, then, the Jews fail to know the Father, if they crucified the Son, if they
thrust off the help of the Spirit, who should not make bold to declare plainly that the
synagogue is a dwelling of demons? God is not worshipped there. Heaven forbid! From now on
it remains a place of idolatry. But still some people pay it honor as a holy place.
(4) Let me tell you this, not from guesswork but from my own experience. Three days
ago-believe me, I am not lying-I saw a free woman of good bearing, modest, and a believer.
A brutal, unfeeling man, reputed to be a Christian (for I would not call a person who
would dare to do such a thing a sincere Christian) was forcing her to enter the shrine of
the Hebrews and to swear there an oath about some matters under dispute with him. She came
up to me and asked for help; she begged me to prevent this lawless violence-for it was
forbidden to her, who had shared in the divine mysteries, to enter that place. I was fired
with indignation, I became angry, I rose up, I refused to let her be dragged into that
transgression, I snatched her from the hands of her abductor. I asked him if were a
Christian, and he said he was. Then I set upon him vigorously, charging him with lack of
feeling and the worst stupidity; I told him he was no better off than a mule if he, who
professed to worship Christ, would drag someone off to the dens of the Jews who had
crucified him. I talked to him a long time, drawing my lesson from the Holy Gospels; I
told him first that it was altogether forbidden to swear and that it was wrong to impose
the necessity of swearing on anyone. I then told him that he most not subject a baptize
believer to this necessity. In fact, he must not force even an unbaptized person to swear
(5) After I talked with him at great length and had driven the folly of his error from
his soul, I asked him why he rejected the Church and dragged the woman to the place where
the Hebrews assembled. He answered that many people had told him that oaths sworn there
were more to be feared. His words made me groan, then I grew angry, and finally I began to
smile. When I saw the devil's wickedness, I groaned because he had the power to seduce
men; I grew angry when I considered how careless were those who were deceived; when I saw
the extent and depth of the folly of those who were deceived, I smiled.
(6) I told you this story because you are savage and ruthless in your attitude toward
those who do such things and undergo these experiences. If you see one of your brothers
falling into such transgressions, you consider that it is someone else's misfortune, not
your own; you think you have defended yourselves against your accusers when you say:
"What concern of mine is it? What do I have in common with that man"? When you
say that, your words manifest the utmost hatred for mankind and a cruelty which benefits
the devil. What are you saying? You are a man and share the same nature. Why speak of a
common nature when you have but a single head, Christ? Do you dare to say you have nothing
in common with your own members? In what sense do you admit that Christ is the head of the
Church? For certainly it is the function of the head to join all the limbs together, to
order them carefully to each other, and to bind them into one nature. But if you have
nothing in common with your members, then you have nothing in common with your brother,
nor do you have Christ as your head.
(7) The Jews frighten you as if you were little children, and you do not see it. Many
wicked slaves show frightening and ridiculous masks to youngsters-the masks are not
frightening by their nature, but they seem so to the children's simple minds-and in this
way they stir up many a laugh. This is the way the Jews frighten the simpler-minded
Christians with the bugbears and hobgoblins of their shrines. Yet how could their
ridiculous and disgraceful synagogues frighten you? Are they not the shrines of men who
have been rejected, dishonored, and condemned?
Our churches are not like that; they are truly frightening and filled with fear. God's
presence makes a place frightening because he has power over life and death. In our
churches we hear countless homilies on eternal punishments, on rivers of fire, on the
venomous worm, on bonds that cannot be burst, or exterior darkness. But the Jews neither
know nor dream of these things. They live for their bellies, they gape for the things of
this world, their condition is not better than that of pigs or goats because of their
wanton ways and excessive gluttony. They know but one thing: to fill their bellies and be
drunk, to get all cut and bruised, to be hurt and wounded while fighting for their
(2) Tell me, then, are their shrines awful and frightening? Who would say so? what
reasons do we have for thinking that they are frightening unless someone should tell us
that dishonored slaves, who have no right to speak and who have been driven from their
Master's home, should frighten us, who have been given honor and the freedom to speak?
Certainly this is not the case. Inns are not more august then royal palaces. Indeed the
synagogue is less deserving of honor than any inn. It is not merely a lodging place for
robbers and cheats but also for demons. This is true not only of the synagogues but also
of the souls of the Jews, as I shall try to prove at the end of my homily.
(3) I urge you to keep my words in your minds in a special way. For I am not now
speaking for show or applause but to cure your souls. And what else is left for me to say
when some of you are still sick although there are so many physicians to effect a cure?
(4) There were twelve apostles and they drew the whole world to themselves. The greater
portion of the city is Christian, yet some are still sick with the Judaizing disease. And
what could we, who are healthy, say in our own defense? Surely those who are sick deserve
to be accused. But we are not free from blame, because we have neglected them in their
hour of illness; if we had shown great concern for them and they had the benefit of this
care, they could not possibly still be sick.
(5) Let me get the start on you by saying this now, so that each of you may win over
his brother. Even if you must impose restraint, even if you must use force, even if you
must treat him ill and obstinately, do everything to save him from the devil's snare and
to free him from fellowship with those who slew Christ.
(6) Tell me this. Suppose you were to see a man who had been justly condemned being led
to execution through the marketplace. Suppose it were in your power to save him from the
hands of the public executioner. Would you not do all you could to keep him from being
dragged off? But now you see your own brother being dragged off unjustly to the depth of
destruction. And it is not the executioner who drags him of, but the devil. Would you be
so bold as not to do your part toward rescuing him from his transgression? If you don't
help him, what excuse would you find? But your brother is stronger and more powerful than
you. Show him to me. If he will stand fast in his obstinate resolve, I shall choose to
risk my life rather than let him enter the doors of the synagogue.
(7) I shall say to him: What fellowship do you have with the free Jerusalem, with the
Jerusalem above? You chose the one below; be a slave with that earthly Jerusalem which,
according to the word of the Apostle, is a slave together with her children. Do you fast
with the Jews? Then take off your shoes with the Jews, and walk barefoot in the
marketplace, and share with them in their indecency and laughter. But you would not chose
to do this because you are ashamed and apt to blush. Are you ashamed to share with them in
outward appearance but unashamed to share in their impiety? What excuse will you have, you
who are only half a Christian?
(8) Believe me, I shall risk my life before I would neglect any one who is sick with
this disease-if I see him. If I fail to see him, surely God will grant me pardon. And let
each one of you consider this matter; let him not think it is something of secondary
importance. Do you take no notice of what the deacon continuously calls out in the
mysteries? "Recognize one another", he says. Do you not see how he entrusts to
you the careful examination of your brothers? Do this in the case of Judaizers, too. When
you observe someone Judaizing, take hold of him, show him what he is doing, so that you
may not yourself be an accessory to the risk he runs.
(9) If any Roman soldier serving overseas is caught favoring the barbarians and the
Persians, not only is he in danger but so also is everyone who was aware of how this felt
and failed to make this fact known to the general. Since you are the army of Christ, be
overly careful in searching to see if anyone favoring an alien faith has mingled among
you, and make his presence know-not so that we may put him to death as those generals did,
nor that we may punish him or take our vengeance upon him, but that we may free him from
his error and ungodliness and make him entirely our own.
(10) If you are unwilling to do this, if you know of such a person but conceal him, be
sure that both you and he will be subject to the same penalty. For Paul subjects to
chastisement and punishment not only those who commit acts of wickedness but also those
who approve what they have done. The prophet, too, brings to the same judgment not only
thieves but also who run with the thieves. And this is quite reasonable. For if a man is
aware of a criminal's actions but covers them up and conceals them, he is providing a
stronger basis for the criminal to be careless of the law and making him less afraid in
his career of crime.
But I must get back again to those who are sick. Consider, then, with whom they are
sharing their fasts. It is with those who shouted: "Crucify him, Crucify him",
with those who said: "His blood be upon us and upon our children". If some men
had been caught in rebellion against their ruler and were condemned, would you have dared
to go up to them and to speak with them? I think not. Is it not foolish, then, to show
such readiness to flee from those who have sinned against a man, but to enter into
fellowship with those who have committed outrages against God himself? Is it not strange
that those who worship the Crucified keep common festival with those who crucified him? Is
it not a sign of folly and the worst madness?
(2) Since there are some who think of the synagogue as a holy place, I must say a few
words to them. Why do you reverence that place? Must you not despise it, hold it in
abomination, run away from it? They answer that the Law and the books of the prophets are
kept there. What is this? Will any place where these books are be a holy place? By no
means! This is the reason above all others why I hate the synagogue and abhor it. They
have the prophets but not believe them; they read the sacred writings but reject their
witness-and this is a mark of men guilty of the greatest outrage.
(3) Tell me this. If you were to see a venerable man, illustrious and renowned, dragged
off into a tavern or den of robbers; if you were to see him outraged, beaten, and
subjected there to the worst violence, would you have held that tavern or den in high
esteem because that great and esteemed man had been inside it while undergoing that
violent treatment? I think not. Rather, for this very reason you would have hated and
abhorred the place.
(4) Let that be your judgment about the synagogue, too. For they brought the books of
Moses and the prophets along with them into the synagogue, not to honor them but to
outrage them with dishonor. When they say that Moses and the prophets knew not Christ and
said nothing about his coming, what greater outrage could they do to those holy men than
to accuse them of failing to recognize their Master, than to say that those saintly
prophets are partners of their impiety? And so it is that we must hate both them and their
synagogue all the more because of their offensive treatment of those holy men.
(5) Why do I speak about the books and the synagogues? In time of persecution, the
public executioners lay hold of the bodies of the martyrs, they scourge them, and tear
them to pieces. Does it make the executioners' hands holy because they lay hold of the
body of holy men? Heaven forbid! The hands which grasped and held the bodies of the holy
ones still stay unholy. Why? Because those executioners did a wicked thing when they laid
their hands upon the holy. And will those who handle and outrage the writings of the holy
ones be any more venerable for this than those who executed the martyrs? Would that not be
the ultimate foolishness? If the maltreated bodies of the martyrs do not sanctify those
who maltreated them but even add to their blood-guilt, much less could the Scriptures, if
read without belief, ever help those who read without believing. The very act of
deliberately choosing to maltreat the Scriptures convicts them of greater godlessness.
(6) If they did not have the prophets, they would not deserve such punishment; if they
had not read the sacred books, they would not be so unclean and so unholy. But, as it is,
they have been stripped of all excuse. They do have the heralds of the truth but, with
hostile heart, they set themselves against the prophets and the truth they speak. So it is
for this reason that they would be all the more profane and blood-guilty: they have the
prophets, but they treat them with hostile hearts.
(7) So it is that I exhort you to flee and shun their gatherings. The harm they bring
to our weaker brothers is not slight; they offer no slight excuse to sustain to the folly
of the Jews. For when they see that you, who worship the Christ whom they crucified, are
reverently following their rituals, how can they fail to think that the rites they have
performed are the best and that our ceremonies are worthless? For after you worship and
adore at our mysteries, you run to the very men who destroy our rites. Paul said: "If
a man sees you that have knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not his
conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are sacrificed to
idols"? And let me say: If a man sees you that have knowledge come into the synagogue
and participate in the festival of the Trumpets, shall not his conscience, being weak, be
emboldened to admire what the Jews do? He who falls not only pays the penalty for his own
fall, but he is also punished because he trips others as well. But the man who has stood
firm is rewarded not only because of his own virtue but people admire him for leading
others to desire the same things.
(8) Therefore, flee the gatherings and holy places of the Jews. Let no man venerate the
synagogue because of the holy books; let him hate and avoid it because the Jews outrage
and maltreat the holy ones, because they refuse to believe their words, because they
accuse them of the ultimate impiety.
That you may know that the sacred books do not make a place holy but that the purpose
of those who frequent a place does make it profane, I shall tell an old story. Ptolemy
Philadelphus had collected books from all over the world. When he learned that the Jews
had writings which treated of God and the ideal state, he sent for men from Judea and had
them translate those books, which he then had deposited in the temple of Serapis, for he
was a pagan. Up to the present day the translated books remain there in the temple. But
will the temple of Serapis be holy because of the holy books? Heaven forbid! Although the
books have their own holiness, they do not give a share of it to the place because those
who frequent the place are defiled.
(2) You must apply the same argument to the synagogue. Even if there is no idol there,
still demons do inhabit the place. And I say this not only about the synagogue here in
town but about the one in Daphne as well; for at Daphne you have a more wicked place of
perdition which they call Matrona's. I have heard that many of the faithful go up there
and sleep beside the place.
(3) But heaven forbid that I call these people faithful. For to me the shrine of
Matrona and the temple of Apollo are equally profane. If anyone charges me with boldness,
I will in turn charge him with the utmost madness. For, tell me, is not the dwelling place
of demons a place of impiety even if no god's statue stands there? Here the slayers of
Christ gather together, here the cross is driven out, here God is blasphemed, here the
Father is ignored, here the Son is outraged, here the grace of the Spirit is rejected.
Does not greater harm come from this place since the Jews themselves are demons? In the
pagan temple the impiety is naked and obvious; it would not be ease to deceive a man of
sound and prudent mind or entice him to go there. But in the synagogue there are men who
say they worship God and abhor idols, men who say they have prophets and pay them honor.
But by their words they make ready an abundance of bait to catch in their nets the simpler
souls who are so foolish as to be caught of guard.
(4) So the godlessness of the Jews and the pagans is on a par. But the Jews practice a
deceit which is more dangerous. In their synagogue stands an invisible altar of deceit on
which they sacrifice not sheep and calves but the souls of men.
(5) Finally, if the ceremonies of the Jews move you to admiration, what do you have in
common with us? If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, our are lies. But if
ours are true, as they are true, theirs are filled with deceit. I am not speaking of the
Scriptures. Heaven forbid! It was the Scriptures which took me by the hand and led me to
Christ. But I am talking about the ungodliness and present madness of the Jews.
(6) Certainly it is the time for me to show that demons dwell in the synagogue, not
only in the place itself but also in the souls of the Jews. As Christ said: "When an
unclean spirit is gone out, he walks through dry places seeking rest. If he does not find
it he says: I shall return to my house. And coming he finds it empty, swept, and
garnished. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself
and they enter into him and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So
shall it be also to this generations".
(7) Do you see that demons dwell in their souls and that these demons are more
dangerous than the ones of old? And this is very reasonable. In the old days the Jews
acted impiously toward the prophets; now they outrage the Master of the prophets. Tell me
this. Do you not shudder to come into the same place with men possessed, who have so many
unclean spirits, who have been reared amid slaughter and bloodshed? Must you share a
greeting with them and exchange a bare word? Must you not turn away from them since they
are the common disgrace and infection of the whole world? Have they not come to every form
of wickedness? Have not all the prophets spent themselves making many and long speeches of
accusation against them? What tragedy, what manner of lawlessness have they not eclipsed
by their blood-guiltiness? They sacrificed their own sons and daughters to demons. They
refused to recognize nature, they forgot the pangs, of birth, they trod underfoot the
rearing of their children, they overturned from their foundations the laws of kingship,
they became more savage than any wild beast.
(8) Wild beasts oftentimes lay down their lives and scorn their own safety to protect
their young. No necessity forced the Jews when they slew their own children with their own
hands to pay honor to the avenging demons, the foes of our life. What deed of theirs
should strike us with greater astonishment? Their ungodliness or their cruelty or their
inhumanity? That they sacrificed their children or that they sacrificed them to demons?
Because of their licentiousness, did they not show a lust beyond that of irrational
animals? Hear what the prophet says of their excesses. "They are become as amorous
stallions. Every one neighed after his neighbor's wife". He did not say:
"Everyone lusted after his neighbor's wife", but he expressed the madness which
came from their licentiousness with the greatest clarity by speaking of it as the neighing
of brute beasts.
What else do you wish me to tell you? Shall I tell you of their plundering, their
covetousness, their abandonment of the poor, their thefts, their cheating in trade? the
whole day long will not be enough to give you an account of these things. But do their
festivals have something solemn and great about them? They have shown that these, too, are
impure. Listen to the prophets; rather, listen to God and with how strong a statement he
turns his back on them: "I have found your festivals hateful, I have thrust them away
(2) Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them? He did not say this or that
festival, but all of them together. Do you wish to see that God hates the worship paid
with kettledrums, with lyres, with harps, and other instruments? God said: "Take away
from me the sound of your songs and I will not hear the canticle of you harps". If
God said: "Take them away from me", do you run to listen to the trumpets? Are
these sacrifices and offerings not an abomination? "If you bring me the finest
wheaten flour, it is in vain: incense is an abomination to me". The incense is an
abomination. Is not the place also an abomination? Before they committed the crime of
crimes, before they killed their Master, before the cross, before the slaying of Christ,
it was an abomination. Is it not now all the more an abomination? And yet what is more
fragrant than incense? But God looks not to the nature of the gifts but to the intention
of those who bring them; it is this intention that he judges their offerings.
(3) He paid heed to Abel and then to his gifts. He looked at Cain and then turned away
from his offering. For Scripture says: "For Cain and his offerings he had no
regard". Noah offered to God sacrifices of sheep and calves and birds. The Scripture
say: "And the Lord smelled a sweet odor", that is, he accepted the offerings.
For God has no nostrils but is a bodiless spirit. Yet what is carried up from the altar is
the odor and smoke from burning bodies, and nothing is more malodorous than such a savor.
But that you may learn that God attends to the intention of the one offering the sacrifice
and then accepts or rejects it, Scripture calls the odor and the smoke a sweet savor; but
it calls the incense an abomination because the intention of those offering it reeked with
a great stench.
(4) Do you wish to learn that, together with the sacrifices and the musical instruments
and the festivals and the incense, God also rejects the temple because of those who enter
it? He showed this mostly by his deeds, when he gave it over to barbarian hands, and later
when he utterly destroyed it. But even before its destruction, through his prophet he
shouted aloud and said: "Put not your trust in deceitful words for it will not help
you when you say: "This is the temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord"! What
the prophet says is that the temple does not make holy those who gather there, but those
who gather there make the temple holy. If the temple did not help at a time when the
Cherubim and the Ark were there, much less will it help now that all those things are
gone, now that God's rejection is complete, now that there is greater ground for enmity.
How great an act of madness and derangement would it be to take as your partners in the
festivals those who have been dishonored, those whom God has forsaken, those who angered
(5) Tell me this. If a man were to have slain your son, would you endure to look upon
him, or accept his greeting? Would you not shun him as a wicked demon, as the devil
himself? They slew the Son of your Lord; do you have the boldness to enter with them under
the same roof? After he was slain he heaped such honor upon you that he made you his
brother and coheir. But you dishonor him so much that you pay honor to those who slew him
on the cross, that you observe with them the fellowship of the festivals, that you go to
their profane places, enter their unclean doors, and share in the tables of demons. For I
am persuaded to call the fasting of the Jews a table of demons because they slew God. If
the Jews are acting against God, must they not be serving the demons? Are you looking for
demons to cure you? When Christ allowed the demons to enter into the swine, straightway
they plunged into the sea. Will these demons spare the bodies of men? I wish they would
not kill men's bodies, that they would not plot against them. But they will. The demons
cast men from Paradise and deprived them the honor from above. Will they cure their
bodies? That is ridiculous, mere stories. The demons know how to plot and do harm, not to
cure. They do not spare souls. Tell me, then, will they spare bodies? They try to drive
men from the Kingdom. Will they choose to free them from disease?
(6) Did you not hear what the prophet said? Rather, did you hear what God said through
the prophet? He said that the demons can do neither good nor evil. Even if they could cure
and wanted to do so-which is impossible-you must not take an indestructible and unending
punishment in exchange for a slight benefit which can soon be destroyed. Will you cure
your body and destroy your soul? You are making a poor exchange. Are you angering God who
made your body, and are you calling to your aid the demon who plots against you?
(7) If any demon-fearing pagan has medical knowledge, will he also find it easy to win
you over to worship the pagan gods? Those pagans, too, have their skill. They, too, have
often cured many diseases and brought the sick back to health. Are we going to share in
their godlessness on this account? Heaven forbid! Hear what Moses said to the Jews.
"If there arise in the midst of you a prophet or one that says he has dreamed a dream
and he foretell a sign and a wonder, and that sign or wonder which he spoke come to pass,
and he say to you: "Let us go and serve strange gods whom our fathers did not know,
you shall not hear the words of that prophet or dreamer".
(8) What Moses means is this. If some prophet rises up, he says, and performs a sign,
by either raising a dead man or cleansing a leper, or curing a maimed man, and after
working the wonder calls you to impiety, do not heed him just because his sign comes to
pass. Why? "The Lord your God is trying you to see whether you love him with all your
heart and all your soul". From this it is clear that demons do not cure. If ever God
should permit demons to cure, as he might permit a man to do, his permission is given to
test you-not because God does not know what you are, but that he may teach you to reject
even the demons who do cure.
(9) And why do I speak of bodily cures? If any man threatens you with Gehenna unless
you deny Christ, do not heed his words. If someone should promise you a kingdom to revolt
from the only-begotten Son of God, turn away from him and hate him. Be a disciple of Paul
and emulate those words which his blessed and noble soul exclaimed when he said: "I
am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, no height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be
able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ our Lord".
(10) No angels, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other
creature separated Paul from the love of Christ. Do you revolt to cure your body? And what
excuse could we find? Certainly we must fear Christ more than Gehenna and desire him more
than a kingdom. Even if we be sick, it is better to remain in ill health than to fall into
impiety for the sake of a cure; for even if a demon cures you, he has hurt more than he
has helped. He has helped the body, which a short time later will altogether die and rot
away. But he has hurt the soul, which will never die. Kidnappers often entice little boys
by offering them sweets, and cakes, and marbles, and other such things; then they deprive
them of their freedom and their very life. So, too, the demons promise cure of a limb and
then dash the whole salvation of the soul into the sea.
(11) Beloved, let us not put up with that; in every way let us seek to keep ourselves
free from godlessness. Could Job not have heeded his wife, blasphemed against God, and
been free from the disaster which beset him? "Curse God and die" she said. But
he chose to suffer the pain and to waste away; he chose to endure that unbearable blow
rather to blaspheme and be free from the evils which beset him. You must emulate him. If
the demon shall promise you ten thousand cures from the ills which beset you, do not heed
him, do not put up with him-just as Job refused to heed his wife. Chose to endure your
illness rather than destroy your faith and the salvation of your soul. God does not
forsake you. It is because he wishes to increase your glory that oftentimes he permits you
to fall sick. Keep up your courage so that you may also hear him say: "Do you think I
have dealt with you otherwise than that you may be shown to be just"?
I could have said more than this, but to keep you from forgetting what I have said, I
shall bring my homily to an end here with the words of Moses: "I call heaven and
earth to witness against you". If any of you, whether you are here present or not,
shall go to the spectacle of the Trumpets, or rush off to the synagogue, or go up to the
shrine of Matrona, or take part in fasting, or share in the Sabbath, or observe any other
Jewish ritual great or small, I call heaven and earth as my witnesses that I am guiltless
of the blood of all of you.
(2) These words will stand by your side and mine on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you heed them, they will bring you great confidence; if you heed them not or conceal
anyone who dares to do those things, my words shall stand against you as bitter
accusations. "For I have not shrunk from declaring to you the whole counsel of
(3) I have deposited the money with the bankers. It remains for you to increase the
deposit and to use the profit from my words for the salvation of your brothers. Do you
find it an oppressive burden to denounce those who commit these sins? It is an oppressive
burden to remain silent. For this silence makes you an enemy to God and brings destruction
both to you who conceal such sinners and to those whose sins go unrevealed. How much
better it is to become hateful to our fellow servants for saving them to provoke God's
anger against yourselves. Even if your fellow servant be vexed with you now, he will not
be able to harm you but will be grateful later on for his cure. But if you seek to win
your fellow servant's favor, if you remain silent and hurt him by concealing his sin, God
will exact from you the ultimate penalty. Your silence will make God your foe and will
hurt your brother; if you denounce him and reveal his sin, you will make God propitious
and benefit your brother and you will gain as a friend one who was crazed but who learned
from experience that you served him well.
(4) Do not think, then, that you are doing your brothers a favor if you should see them
pursuing some absurdity and should fail to accuse them with all zeal. If you lose a cloak,
do you not consider as your foe not only the one who stole it but also the man who knew of
the theft and refused to denounce the thief? Our common Mother (the Church) has lost not a
cloak but a brother. The devil stole him and now holds him in Judaism. You know who stole
him; you know him who was stolen. Do you see me lighting, as it were, the lamp of my
instruction and searching everywhere in my grief? And do you stand silent, refusing to
denounce him? What excuse will you have? Will the Church not reckon you among her worst
enemies? Will she not consider you a foe and destroyer?
(5) Heaven forbid that anyone who hears my words of advice should commit such a sin as
to betray the brother for whom Christ died. Christ poured out his blood on his account.
Are you too reluctant to utter a word on this account? I urge you not to be so reluctant.
Right after you leave here, stir yourselves to the chase and let each of you bring me one
of those suffering from this disease.
(6) But heaven forbid that so many be sick with it. Let two or three, or ten or twenty
of you bring me one man. One the day you do and when I see in your nets the game you have
caught, I will set before you a more plentiful table. If I see that the advice I gave
today has been put to work, I shall be more zealous in undertaking the cure of those men,
and this will be a greater boon both for you and them.
(7) Do not regard my words lightly. Be scrupulous in hunting out those who suffer from
this sickness. Let the women search for the women, the men for the men, the slaves for the
slaves, the freemen for the freemen, and the children for the children. Come all of you to
our next meeting with such success that you win praise from me-and, before any praise of
mine, that you obtain, from God a great and indescribable reward which in abundant measure
surpasses the labors of those who succeed. May all of us obtain this by the grace and
loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the
Father together with the Holy Spirit now and forever, world without end. Amen.
John Chrysostom: Eight Homilies Against the Jews [Adversus Judeaus], Patrologia
Greaca, Vol 98
This translation, here cleaned up for typos, etc, was on an anti-Semitic website [as a
justification for current anti-Semitism]. So far I have been unable to track down the
translator. There were eight homilies by Chrysostom on the subject. This seems to be the
MELVYL reports a translation C. Mervyn Maxwell, Chrysostom's homilies against the
Jews : an English translation, Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Chicago, 1967. I am
trying to find out whether these texts are Maxwell's or an earlier translators'.
This text is part of the Internet
Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and
copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational
purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No
permission is granted for commercial use.
© Paul Halsall, August 1998 firstname.lastname@example.org,
Updated, and last two homilies added, May 2002.