« Prev Chrysostum Next »

Chrysostom:

Of the three Fathers I have chosen to look at, Chrysostom (345- 407) expressed the clearest if not the most in-depth understanding of the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ. Chrysostom was called the "golden-mouthed," and this passage2727John Chrysostom, "Homilies on St. John" in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff, ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1980) vol. 14:8. on John 1:1 should explain why:

"For the intellect, having ascended to `the beginning,' enquires what `beginning': and then finding the `was' always outstripping its imagination, has no point at which to stay its thought; but looking intently onwards, and being unable to cease at any point, it becomes wearied out, and turns back to things below. For this, `was in the beginning,' is nothing else than expressive of ever being and being infinitely."

Chrysostom's point is the same as made previously on the basis of the imperfect en in 1:1 - it is timeless. A little later he adds, "...(the) first `was,' applied to `the Word,' is only indicative of His eternal Being..." In the same manner, he keys on the term pros as well, saying "For he does not say, was `in God,' but was `with God': declaring to us His eternity as to person. Then, as he advances, he has more clearly revealed it, by adding, that this `Word' also `was God.'"2828Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 14:12. The eternality of the Word was one of Chrysostom's main ideas in his exegesis of John 1, and he repeatedly stressed the concept.2929Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 14:18. His entire exegesis found in pages 10-19 is excellent.

Nor did Colossians 1:15-17 escape Chrysostom's notice. Keying on verses 16-17, he attacked the gnostic concept of the creation and its duality by pressing the list of things created by Christ, claiming that obviously Paul was including all of creation under the Son's reign.

"...the subsistence of all things depends on Him. Not only did He Himself bring them out of nothing into being, but Himself sustains them now, so that were they dissevered from His Providence, they were at once undone and destroyed."3030Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 13:271.

Most importantly, Chrysostom contributed greatly to the understanding of Philippians 2:5-11. He wrote:

"What does Paul wish to establish by this example? Surely, to lead the Philippians to humility. To what purpose then did he bring forward this example? For no one who would exhort to humility speaks thus; `Be thou humble, and think less of thyself than of thine equals in honor, for such an one who is a slave has not risen against his master; do thou imitate him.' This, any one would say, is not humility, but arrogance!...If he were exhorting servants to obey the free, to what purpose could he bring forward the subjection of a servant to a master? of a lesser to a greater?"3131Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 13:207-208.

The point has already been made (in the exegesis section) that the understanding of Paul's exhortation to humility is, in this writer's opinion, the key to understanding the passage, and here Chrysostom makes this point quite well.


« Prev Chrysostum Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection