Ponderings about Chrysostom

I suppose I should share what I am thinking regarding this the dialogue of the past few days.

Eric made a valid point. Chrysostom’s homilies do not deal with a very large number of exegetical problems at all. A question then arises in my mind:

 Is the lack of exegetical detail on these many problems a result of his pre-modern/ancient mind in contrast to the scientific rigor that is seen in commentaries today? Or is it because of the fact that he speaks Greek natively and we do not?

The second question that follow from that one is:

Is it possible to validate whether Chrysostom’s view of ἀλλήλων as mutual is a result of not recognizing any linguistic difficulty in the meaning of the word?

It seems that the best way to answer the first question is a full fledged study of Chrysostom’s homilies on Ephesians, though even that might not give an definite answers to the question. This would include examining those instances where he does give multiple options regarding what the text means to see if there is any common thread between them regarding the kind of exegetical problems they are.

My guess is that the answer to the first question (or I should say first pair of questions) will probably be somewhere between the two. The amount of detail Chrysostom gives is still impressive and it seems to me that his examination of the text of Ephesians is focused on his historical meaning.

The second question is a bit easier to answer and requires a bit less work than the first (which hopefully, I will be able to answer in time). I think the best way to validate Chrysostom’s words is to consider how other ancient expositors, preferably Greek, understood this clause in 5.21. If there is consensus with Chrysostom regarding the mutuality of the clause, I will be inclined to conclude that my estimation and exegesis a couple posts back is correct and valid.

All of this essentially means that I need to find the texts of  Theodore of Mopsuestia, Ambrosiaster, others who wrote expositions of Paul’s letters.

Clement of Alexandria quotes Ephesians 5.21, but says very little more. Pope Anterus also quotes the verse as well. What is interesting about these two quotes is that Clement quotes verse twenty-one along as part of the following verses through verse 29, while Anterus quotes verses 1-21. Polycarp potentially quoted verse 21 in his letter to the Philippians. And Ambrose makes the interesting statement, Or as Paul wrote: “Submitting yourselves mutually to God and the Father in the fear of Christ” (NPNF2, vol 10, 303).

At some point, I’ll take a look at these more closely. But for now, I need to go to work at the library.

5 thoughts on “Ponderings about Chrysostom

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  1. I find the dichotomy offered in your first question a bit too restrictive. In my opinion, yes, a premodern no matter how sophisticated and brilliant would still not write according to the same expectations as modern scholars. However, that’s not the main thing I personally suspect is behind Chrysostom’s infrequency of giving explicit consideration to gthe lexical and grammatical options.
    I think the main thing is simply the purpose of his homilies as homilies, not commentaries. He didn’t think his audience needed to go through all of the exegesis. It may even have been rhetorically unadvisable to bring up all the possible arguments against his own views.
    But especially in the case of Eph 5:21 I would never expect him to entertain a different meaning of allhlwn than what he does because of the way he followed the lectionary division of the text, using a MS which further hid the epexigetical nature of v. 22 by adding the extra imperative.
    Incidentally, though, I checked Silva’s quote about Chrysostom in his Philippians commentary. And, ironically enough, I found myself fairly compelled that the argument worked in that particular grammatical point. In the case he mentioned I couldn’t help thinking that Chrysostom’s silence was noteworthy. I can’t put my finger on whether or not I’m just applying his dictum inconsistently, or if there’s a casuistic regulation of how to apply it that I recognize subliminally and can’t articulate.

  2. Also, as you survey the other patristic authors, be careful to note what their text reads for v. 22. If they used a text that included the extra imperative, then, in my mind, their reading of allhlwn as mutual would not be determinative for the syntax that exists without that imperative.
    If, however, you find that your argument using Chrysostom applies even in cases of fathers who did have the shorter text, I would find that more compelling.
    This caveat is based on the fact that a major part of the argument for reading 5:22ff as epexegetical to 5:21 is the syntax of a verbless dependent clause.

  3. I did not intend to create a dichotomy with the two possibilities mentioned nor did I view them as mutually exclusive. Although, now I can easily see how they are easily read in such a way.

    Regarding Chrysostom and Silva, I would also suggest taking a loot at pages 29-31 in Silva’s book, Explorations in Exegetical Method. He goes into more detail discussing the use of Chrysostom. It seems to me that what he says might present the unknown reason why you found his usage fairly compelling while mind, not so much.

    I think the unspoken question in your mind might be. And I think its a result of the very different understanding of the meaning of αλληλων in the New Testament. Because you came into this discussion already having concluded that in the context αλλήλων applies to all the relationships of 5.22-6.9, a view that I disagree with.

    Thus, I think the question in your mind might be something like:

    “Has there been any semantic shift between Chrysostom and Paul or does Chrysostom read an Attic understanding of αλληλων into the text?”

    This question actually applies to either υποτάσσω or αλληλων.

    These are issues I’ll also have to address if I want to sustain my argument. But in the mean time, I do have a question for you. Why cannot Paul have used his discussion of husbands and wives in verses 22-33 be intended to explain the difficult concept of “mutual submission,” where the wife submits and the husband loves sacrificially? Are the household codes so strict as preventing such an understanding? I think it is telling that the only imperative in the passage is to the husband. She does not receive a command until verse 33 – an imperatival ἵνα. Could it be that the “true” household codes do not begin until verse 33? From what I have read about household codes, it seems to me that they, as a source/form, have distracted interpreters from how Paul makes the material truly his – just like other forms such as his thanksgivings at the beginning of his letters as hymns and what not. Now, I do not have a definite argument for this view of the passage, but its something that’s been brewing in me for a good six months now and I intend to test this hypothesis.

    I feel as if I should point out that I do not think that verse 22 is epexegetical to 21. What we have here in verse 22 is in an instance of positive ellipsis (or what Jeffrey Reed refers to as a co-classificational tie in his essay on discourse analysis in A Handbook to the Exegesis of the New Testament edited by Stanley Porter).

    The paper I had asked Suzanne McCarthy if she would like to read was 30 pages on how ellipsis functions in Paul’s letters (and really how it functions in general), specifically as related to Ephesians 5.21-22. I’ve also written a very brief post on positive and negative ellipsis on my blog, if you want to click the ellipsis tag on the right in the tag cloud. It’s not much of a discussion and there is a lot more detail that I could have (and probably should have) given. I’ll have to getting around to either updating that particular post or writing a new and more in depth one.

  4. “But in the mean time, I do have a question for you. Why cannot Paul have used his discussion of husbands and wives in verses 22-33 be intended to explain the difficult concept of “mutual submission,” where the wife submits and the husband loves sacrificially? Are the household codes so strict as preventing such an understanding?”

    I won’t say that Paul cannot have done that. I will say, however, that it is important to notice that the instruction to the wife (implicit in the shorter reading and explicit in the longer) is the same verb as that in 5:21. So he follows up the general instruction to submit with a particularization for the wife that is precisely submission, not submission defined by other words, but just submission in the same sense as she submits to Christ. The change of verb to “love” for the husband is then important. If Paul saw this also as submission he did not say so in a way that would make it clear the way he did for the wife by way of his ellipsis. Likewise, the commands for children and slaves to obey seem quite naturally to fall under the (perhaps broader) category of submission, whereas the commands to fathers and masters do no seem to.
    Please understand that I do read that love command as absolutely important to the passage in both exegesis and application. I just don’t think it is equivalent to submission.

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