Against the Jews and the trumpets of their Pasch
Delivered at Antioch in the Great Church
AGAIN THE JEWS, the most miserable and wretched of all men, are going to fast, and
again we must make secure the flock of Christ. As long as no wild beast disturbs the
flock, shepherds, as they stretch out under an oak or pine tree and play their flutes, let
their sheep go off to graze with full freedom. But when the shepherds feel that the wolves
will raid, they are quick to throw down the flute and pick up their slingshots; they cast
aside the pipe of reeds and arm themselves with clubs and stones. They take their stand in
front of the flock, raise a loud and piercing shout, and oftentimes the sound of their
shout drives the wolf away before he strikes.
(2) I, too, in the past, frolicked about in explicating the Scriptures, as if I were
sporting in some meadow; I took no part in polemics because there was no one causing me
concern. But today the Jews, who are more dangerous than any wolves, are bent on
surrounding my sheep; so I must spar with them and fight with them so that no sheep of
mine may fall victim to those wolves.
(3) That fast will not be upon us for ten days or more. But do not be surprised that
from today on I am taking up my tools and building a fence around your souls. This is what
the hard-working farmer does. When he has a rushing stream nearby which may wash away the
fields he has tilled, he does not wait for winter. Long beforehand he fences in the banks,
builds tip dikes, digs ditches, and makes every preparation against the flood. While the
stream runs quietly and is low in its bed, it is a simpler matter to restrain it; when it
has become swollen and is swept along with a violent rush of waters, it is no longer so
simple to oppose the flood. And so it is that long beforehand the farmer anticipates the
surge of the torrent and contrives by every means to keep his fields secure in every way.
(4) As well as farmers, every soldier, sailor, and reaper makes it a practice to
prepare ahead. Before the hour of battle, the soldier cleans off his breastplate, examines
his shield, makes ready the bridle and bit, feeds and cares for his horse, and sees to it
that he is well prepared in every way. Before the sailor launches his ship into the
harbor's waters, he prepares the keel, repairs the sides, hews and shapes the oars,
stitches together the sails, and makes ready all the other equipment of his ship. Many
days before the harvest, the reaper sharpens his sickle. gets ready the threshing-floor,
his oxen, his wagon, and everything else which may help him in the harvest. Indeed you can
see men everywhere making preparations for their business beforehand so that, when the
time does come, it is an easy matter for them to carry on their enterprise.
(5) I am following the example of these men. Many days beforehand I am making your
souls secure by exhorting you to flee from that accursed and unlawful fast. Do not
tell me that the Jews are fasting; prove to me that it is God's will that they fast. If it
be not God's will, then their fasting is more unlawful than any drunkenness? For we must
not only look at what they do but we must also seek out the reason why they do it.
(6) What is done in accordance with God's will is the best of all things even if it
seems to be bad. What is done contrary to God's will and decree is the worst and most
unlawful of all things-even if men judge that it is very good. Suppose someone slays
another in accordance with God's will. This slaying is better than any loving-kindness.
Let someone spare another and show him great love and kindness against God's decree. To
spare the other's life would be more unholy than any slaying. For it is God's will and not
the nature of things that makes the same actions good or bad.
Listen to me so that you may learn that this is true. Ahab once captured a king of
Syria and, contrary to God's decree, saved his life. He had the Syrian king enjoy a seat
by his side and sent him off with great honor. About that time a prophet came to his
companion and "said to him: 'In the word of the Lord, strike me.' But his companion
was not willing to strike him. And the prophet said to him: 'Because you would not hearken
to the word of the Lord, behold, you will depart from me and a lion will strike you.' And
he departed from him, and the lion found him and struck him. Then the prophet found
another man and said: 'Strike me.' And the man did strike him and wounded him, and the
prophet bandaged up his face."
(2) What greater paradox than this could there be? The man who struck the prophet was
saved; the one who spared the prophet was punished. Why? That you may learn that, when God
commands, you must not question too much the nature of the action; you have only to obey.
So that the first man might not spare him out of reverence, the prophet did not simply
say: "Strike me" but said: "Strike me in the word of God. That is, God
commands it; seek no further. It is the King who ordains it; reverence the rank of him who
commands and with all eagerness heed his word. But the man lacked the courage to strike
him and, on this account, he paid the ultimate penalty. But by the punishment he
subsequently suffered, he encourages us to yield and obey God's every command.
(3) But after the second man had struck and wounded him, the prophet bound his own head
with a bandage, covered his eyes, and disguised himself. Wily did he do this? He was going
to accuse the king and condemn him for saving the life of the king of the Syrians. Is Now
Ahab was an impious man and always a foe to the prophets. The prophet did not wish Ahab to
recognize him and then drive him from his sight; if the king drove him away, he would not
hear the prophet's words of correction. So the prophet concealed his face and any
statement of his business in the hope that this would give him the advantage when he did
speak and that he might get the king to agree to the terms he wanted.
(4) "When the king was passing by, the prophet called aloud to him and said: 'Your
servant went forth to the campaign of war. Behold, a man brought another man to me and
said to me: "Guard this man for me. If he shall leap away and bound off, it will be
your life for his life, or you will pay a talent of silver." And it happened that as
your servant turned his eyes this way and that, the man was not there.' And the king of
Israel said to him: 'This is your judgment before me: You slew the man.' And the prophet
hurried to take the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized that he was
one of the sons of the prophets. And he said to the king: 'So says the Lord: "Because
you let go from your hand a man worthy of death, it will be your life for his life, and
your people for his people.' ....
(5) Do you see how not only God but men make this kind of judgment because both God and
men heed the end and the causes rather than the nature of what is done? Certainly even the
king said to him: "This is your judgment before me: you slew the man." You are a
murderer, he said, because you let an enemy go. The prophet put on the bandage and
presented the case as if it were not the king but somebody else on trial, so that the king
might pass the proper sentence. And, in fact, this did happen. For after the king
condemned him, the prophet tore off the bandage and said: "Because you let go from
your hand a man worthy of death, it will be your life for his life, and your people for
(6) Did you see what a penalty the king paid for his act of kindness? And what
punishment he endured in return for his untimely sparing of his foe? The one who spared a
life is punished; another, who slew a man, was held in esteem. Phinehas certainly slew two
people in a single moment of time-a man and his wife; and after he slew them, he was given
the honor of the priesthood. His act of bloodshed did not defile his hands; it even made
(7) So you see that he who struck the prophet goes free, while he who refused to strike
him perishes; you see that he who spared a man's life is punished, while he who refused to
spare a life is held in esteem. Therefore, always look into the decrees of God before you
consider the nature of your own actions. Whenever you find something which accords with
His decree, approve that-and only that.
Let us examine the matter of fasting and apply this rule to it. Suppose we should not
apply this rule but merely take the act of fasting and consider it with no reference to
anything else. The result will be great tumult and confusion. It is true that highwaymen,
grave-robbers, and sorcerers have their sides torn to pieces; it is also true that the
martyrs undergo this same suffering. What is done is the same, but the purpose and reason
why it is done is different. And so it is that there is a great difference between the
criminals and martyrs.
(2) In these cases we not only consider the torture but we first look for the intention
and the reasons why the torture is inflicted. And this is why we love the martyrs-not
because they are tortured but because they are tortured for the sake of Christ. But we
turn our backs on the robbers-not because they are being punished but because they are
being punished for their wickedness.
(3) So, too, in the matter of fasting, you must pass a judgment. If you see people
fasting for the sake of God, approve what they do; if you see that they do this against
God's will, turn your back on them and hate them more than you do those who drink, revel,
and carouse. And in the case of this fasting we must inquire not only into the reason for
fasting but we must consider also the place and the time.
(4) But before I draw up my battle line against the Jews, I will be glad to talk to
those who are members of our own body, those who seem to belong to our ranks although they
observe the Jewish rites and make every effort to defend them. Because they do this, as I
see it, they deserve a stronger condemnation than any Jew. Not only the wise and
intelligent but even those with little reason and understanding would agree with me in
this. I need no clever arguments, no rhetorical devices, no prolix periodic sentences to
prove this. It is enough to ask them a few simple questions and then trap them by their
(5) What, then, are the questions? I will ask each one who is sick with this disease:
Are you a Christian? Why, then, this zeal for Jewish practices? Are you a Jew? Why then,
are you making trouble for the Church? Does not a Persian side with the Persians? Is not a
barbarian eager for what concerns the barbarians? Will a man who lives in the Roman empire
not follow our laws and way of life? Tell me this. If ever anyone living among us is
caught in collusion siding with the barbarians, is he not immediately punished? He is
given neither hearing nor examination, even if he has ten thousand arguments in his own
defense. If ever anyone living among the barbarians is clearly following Roman custom and
law, again, will he not suffer the same punishment? How, then, do you expect to be saved
by defecting to that unlawful way of life?
(6) The difference between the Jews and us in not a small one, is it? Is the dispute
between us over ordinary, everyday matters, so that you think the two religions are really
one and the same? Why are you mixing what cannot be mixed? They crucified the Christ whom
you adore as God. Do you see how great the difference is? How is it, then, that you keep
running to those who slew Christ when you say that you worship him whom they crucified?
You do not think, do you, that I am the one who brings up the law on which these charges
are based, nor that I make up the form which the accusation takes? Does not the Scripture
treat the Jews in this way?
(7) Hear what Jeremiah says against those same Jews: "Go off to Kedar and see;
send off to the islands of the Kittim and find out if such things have happened. What
things? "If the gentiles will change their gods, and indeed they are not gods, but
you have changed your glory and from it you will derive no profit." He did not say:
"You have changed your God," but, "your glory." What he means is this.
Those who worship idols and serve demons are so unshaken in their errors that they choose
not to abandon them nor desert them for the truth. But you, who worship the true God, have
cast aside the religion of your fathers and have gone over to strange ways of worship. You
did not show the same firmness in regard to the truth that they did in regard to their
error. That is why Jeremiah says: "Find out if such things have happened, if the
gentiles will change their gods, and indeed they are not gods; but you have changed your
glory and from it you will derive no profit." He did not say: "You have changed
your God," for God does not change. But he did say: "You have changed your
glory." You did no harm to me, God says, because no harm has come to me. But you did
dishonor yourselves. You did not make my glory less, but you did diminish your own.
(8) Let me also say this to those who are our own-if I must call our own those who side
with the Jews. Go to the synagogues and see if the Jews have changed their fast; see if
they kept the pre-Paschal fast with us; see if they have taken food on that day. But
theirs is not a fast; it is a transgression of the law, it is a sin, it is trespassing.
Yet they did not change. But you did change your glory and from it you will derive no
profit; you did go over to their rites.
(9) Did the Jews ever observe our pre-Paschal fast? Did they ever join us in keeping
the feast of the martyrs? Did they ever share with us the day of the Epiphanies? They do
not run to the truth, but you rush to transgression. I call it a transgression because
their observances do not occur at the proper time. Once there was a proper time when they
had to follow those observances, but now there is not. That is why what was once according
to the Law is now opposed to it.
Let me say what Elijah said against the Jews. He saw the unholy life the Jews were
living: at one time they paid heed to God, at another they worshipped idols. So he spoke
some such words as these: "How long will you limp on both legs? If the Lord our God
is with you, come, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." Let me, too, now say
this against these Judaizing Christians. If you judge that Judaism is the true religion,
why are you causing trouble to the Church? But if Christianity is the true faith, as it
really is, stay in it and follow it. Tell me this. Do you share with us in the mysteries,
do you worship Christ as a Christian, do you ask him for blessings, and do you then
celebrate the festival with his foes? With what purpose, then, do you come to the church?
(2) I have said enough against those who say they are on our side but are eager to
follow the Jewish rites. Since it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle
line, let me extend my instruction further. Let me show that, by fasting now, the Jews
dishonor the law and trample underfoot God's commands because they are always doing
everything contrary to his decrees. When God wished them to fast, they got fat and flabby?
When God does not wish them to fast, they get obstinate and do fast; when he wished them
to offer sacrifices. they rushed off to idols; when he does not wish them to celebrate the
feast days, they are all eager to observe them.
(3) This is why Stephen said to them: "You always oppose the Holy Spirit."
This is the one thing, he says, in which you show your zeal: in doing the opposite to what
God has commanded. And they are still doing that today. What makes this clear? The Law
itself. In the case of the Jewish festivals the Law demanded observance not only of the
tune but also the place. In speaking about this feast of the Passover, the Law says to
them something such as this: "You will not be able to keep the Passover in any of the
cities which the Lord your God gives to you." The Law bids them keep the feast on the
fourteenth day of the first month and in the city of Jerusalem. The Law also narrowed down
the time and place for the observance of Pentecost, when it commanded them to celebrate
the feast after seven weeks, and again, when it stated: "In the place which the Lord
your God chooses." So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles.
(4) Now let us see which of the two, time or place, is more necessary, even though
neither the one nor the other has the power to save. Must we scorn the place but observe
the time? Or should we scorn the time and keep the place? What I mean is something such as
this. The Law commanded that the Passover be held in the first month and in Jerusalem, at
a prescribed time and in a prescribed place. Let us suppose that there are two men keeping
the Passover. Suppose one of them neglects the place but observes the time; suppose the
other observes the place but neglects the time. Let the one who observes the time but
neglects the place celebrate the Passover in the first month, but far away from Jerusalem;
and let the one who observes the place but neglects the time celebrate the feast in
Jerusalem but in the second month instead of the first.
(5) Next, let us see which of these two is charged and accused, and which receives
approval and esteem. Will it be the one who transgressed in the matter of time but
observed the place, or the one who neglected the place but observed the time? If the man
who transgressed about the time so as to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem clearly deserves
esteem, but the one who observed the time while neglecting the place deserves to be
charged and accused for his impious action it is quite obvious that those who do not keep
the Passover in the proper place are transgressing the Law, even if they maintain a
thousand times over that they are observing the proper time.
(6) Who will make this clear to us? Moses himself. As he tells it, even after some men
had observed the Passover outside Jerusalem, "they came up to Moses and said: 'We are
unclean through touching the body of a dead man. We should not fail to offer the Lord's
offering at its proper time among the sons of Israel, should we'?.' And Moses said to
them: 'Stay here and I shall listen to what the Lord will command in your regard.' And the
Lord spoke to Moses and said: 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say: "If any man be
unclean through the body of a dead man, or if he be afar off oil a journey, whether he be
one of you or of your descendants, he shall keep the Pasch in the second month.' ....
(7) He means something such as this. If anyone be away from home in the first month.
let him not keep the Passover outside the city: but let him return to Jerusalem and keep
it in the second month. Let him disregard the time so as not to fail in the matter of the
city. In this way he shows that observance of the place is more necessary than observance
of the time.
(8) But what could the Jews say if they observe the Passover outside the city of
Jerusalem? Since they transgress in the more necessary matter of place, their observance
in the less important matter of time cannot be urged in their defense. The result is that
they are guilty of the worst transgression of the Law, even if it is obvious a thousand
times over that they are not neglecting the matter of time.
(9) This is certain not only from what I have said but also from the prophets. What
excuse would the Jews of today have when it is clear that the Jews of old never offered
sacrifice, nor sang hymns in an alien land, nor did they observe any such fasts as they do
today? To be sure, the Jews of old were expecting to recover the way of life in which they
could observe these rituals. Therefore, they remained obedient to the Law and did what it
commanded, for the Law told them to expect this. But the Jews of today have no hope of
recovering their forefathers' way of life. In what prophet can they find proof that they
will? They have no hope, but they cannot bear to give up these practices. And yet, even if
they were expecting to recover the old way of life, even so they ought to be imitating
those holy men of old by neither fasting nor observing any other such ritual.
To prove to you that the Jews in exile observed none of these rituals, hear what they
said to those who asked them to do so. For their barbarian captors were urging them by
force and demand to play their musical instruments. "Sing to us a hymn of the
Lord," they said. But the Jews clearly understood that the Law commanded them not to
do so. Therefore, they said: "How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange
land?" And, again, the three boys who were captives in Babylon said; "At this
time we have no prince or prophet nor place to offer sacrifice in your sight and find
mercy." Certainly there was much room for a place of sacrifice in the country, but
since the temple was not there, they steadfastly refrained from offering sacrifice.
(2) And again God spoke to his people through the lips of Zechariah: "For these
seventy years you have not kept a fast for me, have you? He was speaking of the captivity.
Tell me. By what right, then, do you Jews fast today, when your ancestors neither offered
sacrifices, nor fasted, nor kept the feasts? And this makes it especially clear that they
did not observe the Passover. Where there was no sacrifice, there no festival was held,
because all the feasts had to be celebrated with a sacrifice.
(3) Let me provide proof for this very point. Listen to the words of Daniel: "In
those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate not desirable bread, and neither
flesh nor wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself with ointment in those weeks. And
it came to pass on the twenty-fourth day of the first month that I saw the vision. Pay
careful heed to me here, for this text makes it clear that they did not observe the
Passover. Let me tell you how this is. The Jews were not permitted to fast during the days
of the feast of unleavened bread. But for twenty-one days Daniel took no food at all. And
what proves that the twenty-one days included the days of the feast of unleavened bread?
We learn this from what he said, namely, that it was on the twenty-fourth day of the first
(4) But the Passover comes to an end on the twenty-first of that month. If they began
the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and then continued it for seven days,
they then come to the twenty-first. Nonetheless, Daniel steadfastly continued his fast
even after the Passover had come and gone. For if Daniel had begun his fast on the third
day of the first month and then continued through a full twenty-one days, he passed the
fourteenth, went on for seven days after that, and then kept fasting for three more days.
(5) How, then, do the Jews of today avoid being cursed and defiled? The holy ones of
old followed no such observances of what the Law prescribed, because they were in a
strange land. Are today's Jews doing just the opposite so that they may stir up
contentiousness and strife? If some of the holy ones of old who spoke and acted tiffs way
were lax and irreverent, perhaps we would have considered their failure to observe these
precepts as a sign of their laxity. But they loved and revered God, they gave their very
lives for what God had decreed. So it is abundantly clear that failure to keep the Law was
not the result of their laxity. Rather, their failure to keep the Law was prompted by the
Law itself, because the Law said they must not observe those rituals outside Jerusalem.
(6) This brings us to a conclusion on another matter of great importance. The
observances regarding sacrifices, Sabbaths, new moons, and all such things prescribed by
the Jewish way of life of that day were not essential. Even when they were observed they
could make no great contribution to virtue; when neglected they could not make the
excellent man worthless, nor degrade in any way the sanctity of his soul. But those men of
old, while still on earth, manifested by their piety a way of life that rivals the way the
angels live. Yet they followed none of these observances, they slew no beasts in
sacrifice, they kept no feast, they made no display of fasting. But they were so pleasing
to God that they surpassed this human nature of ours and, by the lives they lived, they
drew the whole world to a knowledge of God.
(7) Who could match a Daniel? Who could match the three boys in Babylon? Did they not
anticipate the greatest commandment which the Gospels give, the commandment which is the
chief source of all blessings? Had they not already proved this by their deeds? For John
says: "Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life of his friends.
But they laid down their lives for God.
(8) We must admire them for this. But we must also admire them because they were not
doing it for any reward. This is why the boys in Babylon said: "There is a God in
heaven, and he can save us; but if lie will not, be it known, O king, that we will not
worship your gods." The prophet means: The reward is sufficient for us that we are
dying for God. And they gave proof of this great virtue even though they were observing
none of the Law's prescriptions.
You Jews will say: "Why, then, did God impose these prescriptions if he did not
wish them observed?" And I say to you: If he wished them observed, why, then, did he
destroy your city? God had to do one or the other of two things if he wished these
prescriptions to remain ill force: either he had to command you not to sacrifice in one
place, since he intended to scatter you to every corner of the world; or, if he wished you
to offer sacrifice only ill Jerusalem, he was obliged not to scatter you to every corner
of the world and he should have made that one city impregnable, because it was there alone
that sacrifice has to be offered.
(2) Again the Jews will say: "What is this, then? Was God contradicting himself
when he ordered the Jews to sacrifice in one place but then barred them from that very
place?" By no means! God is very consistent. He did not wish you to offer sacrifices
from the beginning, and I bring forward as my witness of this the very prophet who said:
"Hear the word of the . . . Lord, you rulers of Sodom, give ear to the law of our
God, you people of Gomorrah." But it was really to the Jews the prophet spoke, not to
those dwelling in Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet he calls the Jews by the names of these people
because, by imitating their evil lives, the Jews had developed a kinship with those who
dwelt in those cities.
(3) In fact Isaiah called the Jews dogs and Jeremiah called them mare-mad horses This
was not because they suddenly changed natures with those beasts but because they were
pursuing the lustful habits of those animals. "'What care I for the number of your
sacrifices?' says the Lord. But it is clear that those who dwelt in Sodom never offered
sacrifices. Isaiah is aiming his remarks against the Jews when he calls them by the name
of those brute animals, and he does so for the reason I just mentioned." 'What care I
for the number of your sacrifices' says the Lord 'I am filled up with your holocausts of
rams I desire not the fat of sheep, and the blood of bulls, not even if you come to appear
before me. For who required all these things from your hands?' Did you hear his voice
clearly saying that he did not require these sacrifices from you from the beginning? If he
had made sacrifice a necessity, he would also have subjected the first Jews to this way of
life and all the patriarchs who flourished before the Jews of Isaiah's day.
(4) Then the Jews will ask: "How is it that he straightway did permit the Jews to
sacrifice?" He was giving in to their weakness. Suppose a physician sees a man who is
suffering from fever and finds him in a distressed and impatient mood. Suppose the sick
man has his heart set on a drink of cold water and threatens, should he not get it, to
find a noose and hang himself, or to hurl himself over a cliff. The physician grants his
patient the lesser evil, because he wishes to prevent the greater and to lead the sick man
away from a violent death.
(5) This is what God did. He saw the Jews choking with their mad yearning for
sacrifices. He saw that they were ready to go over to idols if they were deprived of
sacrifices. I should say, he saw that they were not only ready to go over, but that they
lad already done so. So he let them have their sacrifices the time when the permission was
granted should make it clear that this is the reason. After they kept the festival in
honor of the evil demons, God yielded and permitted sacrifices. What he all but said was
this: "You are all eager and avid for sacrifices. If sacrifice you must, then
sacrifice to me." But even if he permitted sacrifices, this permission was not to
last forever: in the wisdom of his ways, lie took the sacrifices away from them again.
(6) Let me use the example of the physician again-there is really no reason why I
should not. After lie has given into the patient's craving, he gets a drinking cup from
his home and gives instructions to the sick man to satisfy his thirst from this cup and no
other. When he has gotten his patient to agree, he leaves secret orders with the servants
to smash the cup to bits; in this way lie proposes, without arousing the patient's
suspicion, to lead him secretly away from the craving on which lie has set his heart.
(7) This is what God did, too. He let the Jews offer sacrifice but permitted this to be
done in Jerusalem and nowhere else in the world. After they had offered sacrifices for a
short time, God destroyed the city. Why? The physician saw to it that the cup was broken.
By seeing to it that their city was destroyed, God led the Jews away from the practice of
sacrifice, though it was against their will. If God were to have come right out and said:
"Keep away from sacrifice," they would not have found it easy to keep away from
this madness for offering victims. But now, by imposing the necessity of offering
sacrifice in Jerusalem, he led them away from this mad practice: and they never noticed
what he had done
(8) Let me make the analogy clear. the physician is God, the cup is the city of
Jerusalem, the patient is the implacable Jewish people, the drink of cold water is the
permission and authority to offer sacrifices. The physician has the cup destroyed and, in
this way, keeps the sick man from what lie demands at an ill-suited time. God destroyed
the city itself, made it inaccessible to all, and in this way led the Jews away from
sacrifices. If lie did not intend to make ready an end to sacrifice, why did God, who u
omnipresent and fills the universe, confine so sacred a ritual to a single place? Why did
he confine worship to sacrifices, the sacrifices to a place, the place to a time, and the
time to a single city, and then destroy the city? It is indeed a strange and surprising
thing. the whole world is left open to the Jews, but they are not permitted to
sacrifice there; Jerusalem alone is inaccessible to them, and that is the only place where
they are permitted to offer sacrifice.
(9) Even if a man he completely lacking ill understanding, should it not be clear and
obvious to him why Jerusalem was destroyed? Suppose a builder lays the foundation for a
house, then raises up the walls, arches over the roof, and binds together the vault of the
roof with a single keystone to support it. If the builder removes the keystone, he
destroys the bond which holds the entire structure together. This is what God did. He made
Jerusalem what we might call the keystone which held together the structure of worship.
When he overthrew the city, he destroyed the rest of the entire structure of that way of
Let then my battle with the Jews wait awhile. I did fight a skirmish of words with them
today, but I said only what was enough to save our brothers from danger. Perhaps I said
much more than that. But I must now exhort those of you who are here in church to show
great concern for the fellow members of our body. I do not want to hear you say:
"What concern is this of mine? Why interfere and meddle in other people's
(2) Our Master died for us. Will you not take the trouble to say a single word? What
excuse or defense will you find for this? Tell me this. If you look the other way when so
many souls are perishing, how will you find the confidence to stand before the judgment
seat of Christ.'? I wish I could know which ones are running off to the synagogue. Then I
would not have needed your help but I would have straightened them out with all speed.
(3) Whenever your brother needs correction, even if you must lay down your life, do not
refuse him. Follow the example of your Master. If you have a servant or if you have a
wife, be very careful to keep them at home. If you refuse to let them go to the theater,
you must refuse all the more to let them go to the synagogue. To go to the synagogue is a
greater crime than going to the theater. What goes on in the theater is, to be sure,
sinful; what goes on in the synagogue is godlessness. When I say this I do not mean that
you let them go to the theater, for the theater is wicked; I say it so that you will be
all the more careful to keep them away from the synagogue.
(4) What is it that you are rushing to see in the synagogue of the Jews who fight
against God? Tell me, is it to hear the trumpeters? You should stay at home to weep and
groan for them, because they are fighting against God's command, and it is the devil who
leads them in their revels and dance. As I said before, if there once was a time when God
did permit what is against his will, now it is a violation of his law and grounds for
punishments beyond number. Long ago, when the Jews did have sacrifices, they did sound
their trumpets; now God does not permit them to do this.
(5) At least listen to the reason why they got the trumpets. God said to Moses:
"Make for yourself trumpets of beaten silver. Next God explained how the trumpets
were to be used, for he went on to say: "You will sound them over the holocausts, and
the sacrifices for your deliverance.
(6) But where is the altar? Where is the ark? Where is the tabernacle and the holy of
holies? Where is file priest? Where are the cherubim of glory? Where is the golden altar
of incense? Where is the mercy-seat? Where is the bowl? Where are the drink offerings?
Where is the fire sent down from heaven? Did you lose all those and keep only the
trumpets? Do you Christians not see that what the Jews are doing is mockery rather than
(7) I blame the Jews for violating the Law. But I blame you much more for going along
with the lawbreakers, not only those of you who run to the synagogues but also those of
you who have the power to stop the Judaizers but are unwilling to do so. Do not say to me:
"What do I have in common with him? He is a stranger, and I do not know him." I
say to you that as long as he is a believer, as long as he shares with you in the same
mysteries, as long as he comes to the same church, he is more closely related to you than
your own kinsmen and friends. Remember, it is not only those who commit robbery who pay
the penalty for their crime; those, too, who could have stopped them but did not, pay the
same penalty. Those guilty of impiety are punished, and so, too, are those who could have
led them from godless ways but did not, because they were too timid or lazy to be willing
to do so.
(8) To be sure, the man who buried his talent gave it back to his master whole and
entire; yet he was punished because he did not make a profit from it. Suppose, then, that
you yourself remain pure and free from blame; if you fail to make a profit from your
talent, if you fail to bring back to salvation your brother who is perishing, you will
suffer the same punishment which he does.
(9) Is it some great burden I am asking of you, my beloved? Let each one of you bring
back for me one of your brothers to salvation. Let each one of you interfere and meddle in
your brother's affairs so that we may come to tomorrow's service with great confidence,
because we are bringing gifts more valuable than any others, because we are bringing back
the souls of those who have wandered away. Even if we must suffer revilement, even if we
must be beaten, even if we must endure any other pain whatsoever, let us do everything to
win these brothers back. Since these are sick brothers who trample us underfoot, revile
us, and rail against us, we are not stung by their insults; we want to see one thing and
only one thing: the return to health of him who behaved in this outrageous way.
(10) Many a time a sick man tears the physician's clothes. But the physician does not
let this stop him from trying to cure his patient. It is normal, then, for physicians to
show such concern for their patients' bodily health. When so many souls are perishing, is
it right for us to slacken our efforts and to think we are suffering no terrible harm,
even if our own members are rotting with disease? Paul did not think so. What did he say?
"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire?" See
to it that you catch this fire.
(1l) Suppose you see your brother perishing. Even if he reviles you, if he insults you,
if lie strikes you, if he threatens to become your foe, if lie menaces you in any other
way, show your courage and endure all these insults so that you may win his salvation. If
he should become your foe, God will be your friend and will give you in return many great
blessings on that day.
(12) May the prayers of the saints save those who have wandered into error, may you who
are faithful be successful in your hunt, may those who have blasphemed God be freed from
their ungodliness and come to know Christ, who died for them on the cross, so that all of
us may, with one accord and one voice, give glory to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, to whom be glory and power together with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. 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.
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© Paul Halsall, August 1998 firstname.lastname@example.org,
Updated, and last two homilies added, May 2002.