Ἀντιόχεια – Χρυσόστομος

Chrysostom would like all his audience to live like monks in relation to the rest of the city. He often cites them to strive to change and perfect their behaviour. This often meant that he wanted this audience to hold attitudes very different from those normally held by inhabitants of the city. He tells his audience that poverty and manual labour should no longer be reasons for shame and he encourages the rich to give charity to all the poor of Antioch rather than to put up buildings for the city purely for the sake of honour. …According to Chrysostom Christian charity should not be confined to euergetism and public works for the city itself.

…Chrysostom’s audience did not, however, always accept his attempts at Christianization of every part of their civic lives and complained that Chrysostom was expecting too much from them, saying “but we are not monks”. There is a certain amount of tension in Chrysostom’s sermons between how he wants his audience to behave and how they actually were behaving. His audience did, it appears, see being a Christian as something separate, which they did not have to carry over into their lives as a whole. Ho

…At other times he explicitly states that Christianity’s positive, un-revolutionary attitude to secular powers was intended to encourage pagan conversion. He says that Paul told Christians that they should obey secular laws “for in this way he (Paul) was more likely to draw the governors who were unbelievers to the religion” (On Rom. XXIII, PG. 60.615). Chrysostom made every effort to present the city as a Christian space and to persuade his audience to treat it as such. Laying claim to the city and presenting Christianity as a civic religion were thus both ways in which  Chrysostom could appeal to and debate with non-Christians.

…Chrysostom was trying hard to combat the views of those in his audience who wanted to keep their civic and religious lives separate. In on sermon he uses exegesis of 1 Corinthians X.31-32 “Whether you eat or drink or do anything else, do all for the glory of God”, to make this point. He tells his audience that eating, conversation and going into the market place could all be done thinking of God rather than in a “worldly” way.

…His most noteworthy attempts to give the whole of civic and daily life religious significance, whether positive or negative, take place at moments of concern over the boundaries between pagans  and Christians….it was just when the Church was facing problems of identity due to the conversion of Constantine and the large influx of new converts in the fourth century that it adopted a new polarisation of Christian and non- Christian.

I. Sandwell, Christian Self-Definition in the Fourth Century AD: John Chrysostom on Christianity, Imperial Rule and the City, στό: I. Sandwell – J. Huskinson (ἐκδ.), Culture and Society in Later Roman Antioch. Papers from a colloquium London, 15th December 2001, Oxford 2004, 35-58.

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