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Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) :
Eight Homilies Against the Jews

Introduction

John Chrysostom is considered a "doctor of the Church", and among the greatest of the Greek Fathers. He was bishop of Antioch at the time of these sermons, although he became archbishop of Constantinople in 398. He was admired for his eloquence and gifts in preaching. As an introduction to these sermon, below is the discussion by James Parkes.

Bibliographical Hints

To find out more about this subject see:

John Chrysostom, Discourses against Judaizing Christians, translated by Paul W. Harkins. The Fathers of the Church ; v. 68 (Washington : Catholic University of America Press, 1979)
This is apparently the most up to date translation, and should be used by anyone wanting to comment on these texts in written work. It is also a mealy mouthed translation of the title.

Grissom, Fred Allen, Chrysostom and the Jews : studies in
Jewish-Christian relations in fourth-century Antioch,  Thesis (Ph. D.)--Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1979.

Meeks, Wayne A. and Robert L. Wilken, Jews and Christians in Antioch in the first four centuries of the common era, Scholars Press for the Society of Biblical Literature, c1978.

Wilken, Robert Louis, John Chrysostom and the Jews : rhetoric and reality in the late fourth century (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1983)

At the request of Catholic University of America I have had to remove these texts, which turn out to be Harkins; translation. This will of course leave the texts still online at the Catholic anti-Semetic site at http://holywar.org/txt/chrysostom.html and show the utter wrongheaded ness of those in the posted reactions claimed the texts were inferior to Harkin's text.  

This timimg is unfortunate in that in the UK in the past month Simon Schama has presented a TV  history of the Jews which excoriates Chrysostym based on these texts.,  (it will soon be on PBS). I intend to make it VERY clear that one Dr Thomas Gallagher and CUA are the culpable parties in this timimg.

CHRYSOSTOM AND THE JEWS OF ANTIOCH, pp. 163-166

from James Parkes: The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism, (New York: JPS, 1934)

While in their writings Hilary and Eusebius introduced the pagan world to this strange version of Jewish history, Chrysostom expressed similar theories with much greater violence from his pulpit at Antioch. In eight sermons which he delivered in 387 he speaks with a bitterness and lack of restraint unusual even in that place and century {PG Vol 97). If it were not for the exegetical background which has already been shown, it would be impossible to explain, let alone excuse, his tone. Christianity was no longer in any danger. He himself had not, like Athanasius, ever known any persecution from the Jews, and the period of trial under Julian had been very short. Even had they been a menace in old times, the rich and powerful Jewish community of Antioch was now hemmed in, like every other, by numerous imperial edicts issued under Christian inspiration. Moreover, Chrysostom was a man whose character excited the admiration of his contemporaries. If he was hated by politicians for his unswerving firmness, he was loved by the multitudes, and his commentaries on the gospels are still read and studied in the Orthodox Church because of their deep spiritual beauty.

Such was the man who in eight sermons covering more than a hundred pages of closely printed text, has left us the most complete monument of the public expression of the Christian attitude to the Jews in the century of the victory of the Church. In these discourses there is no sneer too mean, no gibe too bitter for him to fling at the Jewish people. No text is too remote to be able to be twisted to their confusion, no argument is too casuistical, no blasphemy too startling for him to employ; and, most astonishing of all, at the end he turns to the Christians, and in words full of sympathy and toleration he urges them not to be too hard on those who have erred in following Jewish practices or in visiting Jewish synagogues. Dealing with the Christians, no text which urges forgiveness is forgotten: dealing with the Jews only one verse of the New Testament is omitted: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'.

The only explanation of his bitterness contained in the sermons themselves is the too close fellowship between Jews and Christians in Antioch. There is no single suggestion that the Jews were immoral or vicious; no suggestion that Christians were actually corrupted by the contact, either in their morals or their orthodoxy. Only one contemporary event is referred to at all, apart from general denunciations of the visiting of the synagogue at times of Jewish feast or fast. This was the case of a Christian woman who was taken into a Jewish house to take an oath in a business affair, because the Christian with whom she had to deal believed that an oath taken in the Jewish manner was more binding than any other. What the actual affair was we are not told. To Chrysostom's eyes the crime was that a Christian woman had been taken into a Jewish house, not that she had been seduced or taught heretical doctrine or anything else. It was enough that she had been made to enter the house [Sermon I:3].

There is no material in these sermons for a study of contemporary Jewish life. Events and beliefs of centuries earlier are quoted as though still accepted. On the strength of Psalm xcvi, 37, he states that they ' sacrificed their sons and daughters to devils: they outraged nature; and overthrew from their foundations the laws of relationship. They are become worse than the wild beasts, and for no reason at all, with their own hands they murder their own offspring, to worship the avenging devils who are the foes of our life" [Sermon I:6]. It seems almost as if his hearers in Antioch objected to so monstrous a statement, for in his sixth sermon he returns to the charge, and says that even if they no longer murder their own children, they have murdered the Christ, which is worse  [Sermon VI:2, 3]. The synagogues of the Jews are the homes of idolatry and devils, even though they have no images in them [Sermon I:3; based on Jer. vii:11]. They are worse even than heathen circuses [Sermon I:3. The very idea of going from a church to a synagogue is blasphemous [Sermon II:3]; and to attend the Jewish Passover is to insult Christ. To be with the Jews on the very day they murdered Jesus is to ensure that on the Day of Judgment He will say ' Depart from Me: for you have had intercourse with my murderers'  [Sermon III:5 and VI:8] . Some say that the synagogue is hallowed by the fact that the Holy Books of the Law are to be found in it. One might just as well say that the temple of Dagon was hallowed by the Ark being in it, even though the Ark destroyed the idol to prove the opposite [Sermon I:5, ref to I Sam V]. It is truer to say that the fact that these Books are to be found in the synagogues makes them more detestable, for the Jews have simply introduced these Books, ' not to honour them, but to insult them, and to dishonour them'  [Sermon I:5 and VI:6]. The Jews do not worship God but devils [Sermon I:3, based on John 8:19], so that all their feasts are unclean   [Sermon I:6]. God hates them, and indeed has always hated them. But since their murder of Jesus He allows them no time for repentance  [Sermon VI:1]. It was of set purpose that He concentrated all their worship in Jerusalem that He might more easily destroy it  [Sermon IV:6]. The Jewish pretence that their misfortunes are due to Rome are not worthy of attention. ' It was not by their own power that the Caesars did what they did to you: it was done by the wrath of God, and His absolute rejection of you'   [Sermon VI:3]. It is childish in the face of this absolute rejection to imagine that God will ever allow the Jews to rebuild their Temple or to return to Jerusalem. Their experience under Julian should convince them of that [SermonV, passim. The whole sermon is an insulting sneer at their misfortunes and exile, and a gloating over the certainty of their damnation. Cf. the sermon ' That Christ is God: addressed to Jews and Pagans ' in the same volume]. When it is clear that God hates them, it is the duty of Christians to hate them too; and he begins his sixth sermon with a revolting analogy of a beast in the arena, who has tasted blood, and longs for it again. So he, Chrysostom, having once begun to denounce the Jews, cannot leave off [Sermon VI:1] for he who has no limits in his love of Christ must have no limits in his battle with those who hate Him [Sermon VII:1]. ' I hate the Jews ' he exclaims roundly, for they have the Law and they insult it'.

But when in the last sermon he comes to address those miserable sinners who had been frequenting Jewish celebrations his tone is unrecognizable. He insists that they must be dealt with gently, for the true attitude to a sinner is 'whenever we hear any good of him, to tell it to all; but when we hear any evil or wicked thing, to keep it to ourselves, and do all in our power to change It [Sermon VIII:3]. It is evident that Chrysostom's Jew was a theological necessity rather than a living person. If he looked different from the actual Jews living in Antioch it was part of the malice of the Jew, one of the snares of the devil, set to catch the unwary Christian. The comment of a Catholic theologian on these sermons is worth quoting [Murawski]: ' Das Gebot der Nächstensliebe wird man in diesen Reden nicht wiederfinden, und ebensowenig werden solche Reden fähig gewesen sein die Juden mit Sympathie für das Christentum zu erfüllen '. [ English: "One will not find the requirement to love one's neighbour  in these speeches, nor will such speeches have been able to fill the Jews with any sympathy for Christianity".]


Source.

John Chrysostom: Eight Homilies Against the Jews [Adversus Judeaus], Patrologia Greaca, Vol 98

 

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 halsall@fordham.edu, Updated, and last two homilies added, May 2002. CUA Material removed 2nd October 2013