John Chrysostom (ca. 347–407)
Bp. of Constantinople (398–404). Born in Antioch in an affluent family, John studied under the renowned pagan rhetorician Libanius and was headed for a distinguished career in law or civil service until he fell under the influence of Bp. Meletius. John was baptized in 368 and spent several years as part of an informal ascetic brotherhood that included Theodore, later bp. of Mopsuestia, who had been John’s fellow student under Libanius. In 381 Meletius ordained John as a deacon and in 386 Bp. Flavian made him a presbyter, at which time he became famous in Antioch for his skillful and plain-spoken preaching. Though Greek-speaking, from the pulpit he praised the unpretentious faith of the indigenous Aramaic-speaking Christians who lived in the countryside around the sophisticated Greco-Roman city. In 398 he was called to fill the vacant see of Constantinople. Once in the imperial capital, John’s moralistic preaching and strong character won him powerful enemies. Bp. Theophilus of Alexandria, who had consecrated John, resented the rejection of his own candidate and was jealous of Constantinople’s growing prestige. Many of the city’s clergy opposed John’s rigorous reforms. Theodosius’s empress Eudoxia was incensed at John’s relentless critique of the wealthy, and of her in particular. At the Synod of the Oak (403), Theophilus had John deposed, but popular support for John made it necessary to recall him. Nevertheless, he was deposed again in 404 and exiled to Cucusus in Armenia. He died on 14 Sept. in 407, while en route to the even more remote Pithyus on the Black Sea. In 438 his body was translated in great honor to Constantinople.
Though the connection between John and the Orthodox eucharistic liturgy bearing his name is disputable, he left behind a great many homilies, letters, treatises, and extensive cycles of exegetical homilies on scripture. His reputation and writings made him immensely popular. His eloquence earned him the posthumous surname ‘Chrysostom’ (‘Golden-mouth’); his tendency towards literal interpretation and his moralizing (rather than dogmatic) applications ensured that his works would be translated from Greek into various languages and circulated widely across confessional boundaries. John was being translated into Syriac by the late 5th cent. A number of very early extant Syriac mss. contain portions of his works, primarily of W.-Syr. provenance, many of them earlier than extant Greek mss. Excerpts from his works appear in numerous W.-Syr. homiliaries, catenae, and other anthologies. His influence on the E.-Syr. tradition is obvious from the references in ʿAbdishoʿ’s ‘Catalogue’ (16; Assemani, BibOr, 3.1.24–7) and the Chronicle of Siirt (1.67), and is also evident in the quotations occurring in the commentaries of Ishoʿdad of Merv, the writings of Dadishoʿ Qaṭraya, and the vast exegetical compilation, Gannat Bussāme . The oft-repeated assertion that Ḥenana was responsible for bringing John into prominence in the E.-Syr. church as an allegorizing competitor to Theodore of Mopsuestia is probably unfounded. Whatever Ḥenana’s influence may have been, John Chrysostom was a respected resource in the E.-Syr. tradition alongside his friend Theodore by the late 6th cent.
Feast day 13 Nov. (13 Sept. in Rom. Catholic; or 27 Jan., to commemorate the translation of his body).
- CPG 4305–5197.
- P. Bruns, ‘Johannes Chrysostomus und die Kirche des Perserreiches’, in Giovanni Crisostomo. Oriente e Occidente tra IV e V secolo (Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 93/2, 2005), 733–44.
- J. Childers, ‘Chrysostom’s Exegetical Homilies on the New Testament in Syriac translation’, in StPatr , vol. 33, ed. E. Livingstone (1997), 509–16.
- J. Childers, ‘Patristic citations and versional evidence: The Syriac version(s) of Chrysostom’s Homilies on Matthew and the Old Syriac text’, LM 115 (2002), 129–56.
- J. N. D. Kelly, The Story of John Chrysostom (1995).
- C. Molenberg, ‘The silence of the sources: The sixth-century and East-Syrian ‘Antiochene’ Exegesis’, in Sixth century — End or beginning? ed. P. Allen and E. M. Jeffreys (Byzantina Australiensia 10; 1996), 145–62.
- K. Pinggéra, ‘John Chrysostom in East Syrian Theology of the Late Sixth Century’, Harp 18 (2005), 193–201.
- K. Pinggéra, ‘Das Bild des Johannes Chrysostomos in der ostsyrischen Kirche’, in Chrysostomosbilder in 1600 Jahren, ed. M. Wallraff and R. Brändle (2008), 193–211.
- A. B. Shippee, ‘The known Syriac witnesses to John Chrysostom’s Catecheses and new manuscript sources’, LM 109 (1996), 87–111.
- Vööbus, History of the School of Nisibis, 242–47.
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Jeff W. Childers, “John Chrysostom,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/John-Chrysostom.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Childers, Jeff W. “John Chrysostom.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/John-Chrysostom.
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