Chrysostom on Ephesians 5.21: Translation & Comment

I’ve spent the afternoon working on translating John Chrysostom’s discussion of Ephesians 5.21. Most of it is complete – there’s one paragraph left. Here’s what I have so far. I’ve put the Greek text in it to the right for Eric. Its literal in that it accurately conveys Chrysostom’s meaning (and hopefully some of his speaking skill too…):

“Submit to each other”, he declares, “in fear of God.” If you submit because of rulers, money or honor, how much more should you submit because you fear God? There should be an exchange between slavery and submission so that there is no true slavery. No one sits in the rank of the freeman while another sits in the rank of the slave. Instead, both the master and the slave become slaves to each other. It is so much better to be a slave like this than free any other way. Let me explain: Ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις, φησὶν, ἐν φόβῳ Θεοῦ. Εἰ γὰρ δι’ ἄρχοντα ὑποτάττῃ, ἢ διὰ χρήματα, ἢ δι’ αἰδὼ, πολλῷ μᾶλλον διὰ τὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ φόβον. ἔστω δουλείας καὶ ὑποταγῆς ἀντίδοσις· οὕτω γὰρ οὐκ ἔσται δουλεία. Μὴ ὁ μὲν ἐν τάξει καθεζέσθω ἐλευθέρου, ὁ δὲ ἐν τάξει δούλου, ἀλλὰ καὶ δεσπότας καὶ δούλους ἀλλήλοις δουλεύειν βέλτιον· πολλῷ βέλτιον οὕτως εἶναι δοῦλον, ἢ ἑτέρως ἐλεύθερον. Καὶ δῆλον ἐκεῖθεν·
Suppose there is a person with a hundred slaves who would never serve any of them. But suppose there was also someone with a hundred friends, regularly serving each other. Which one would have the better life? Who lives more happily and comfortably. For one of them there is no anger, no irritation, no angst, or anything else of that kind, while for the other there is only anxiety and fear. In one case, they are forced, but in the other, all choose freely. In one case, they are constrained, but in the other, they serve and enjoy mutual benefaction and reciprocity. ἔστω τις οἰκέτας ἔχων ἑκατὸν, καὶ μηδεὶς ἐν αὐτοῖς διακονείτω· ἕτεροι δέ τινες ἔστωσαν ἑκατὸν φίλοι, ἀλλήλοις διακονούμενοι· τίνες ἄμεινον βιώσονται; τίνες μετὰ πλείονος ἡδονῆς, μετὰ πλείονος εὐφροσύνης; Οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκεῖ ὀργὴ, οὐδὲ παροξυσμὸς, οὐδὲ θυμὸς, οὐδὲ ἄλλο τῶν τοιούτων οὐδέν· ὧδε φόβος καὶ δειλία· κἀκεῖ μὲν ἀνάγκης, ἐνταῦθα δὲ προαιρέσεως τὸ πᾶν· κἀκεῖ μὲν βιαζόμενοι, ἐνταῦθα δὲ χάριν ἔχοντες ἀλλήλοις δουλεύουσιν.
And that’s God’s desire; that is why he washed the disciples’ feet. But there’s more! If anybody carefully studies this issue, they will find there is indeed an exchange between the slave and the master! Surely your pride won’t suffer by accepting such an exchange of service? When a person makes himself available for service, you must provide for him physically: food, clothing, and shoes. This, I tell you, is the way you should serve, because if you do not follow through on your end, the slave won’t either. He’ll be free and no law will constrain him nor will food convince him. And what’s more, if this is the case for slaves, what’s so unusual about it being the same with freemen? Οὕτω βούλεται ὁ Θεός· διὰ τοῦτο ἔνιψε τοὺς πόδας τῶν μαθητῶν, Μᾶλλον δὲ, εἰ θέλεις ἀκριβῶς ἐξετάσαι, καὶ ἐπὶ δεσποτῶν ἀντίδοσίς ἐστι δουλείας. Τί γὰρ, εἰ ὁ τῦφος οὐκ ἀφίησι φανῆναι τὴν ἀντίδοσιν; Ὅταν γὰρ οὗτος μὲν τὴν σωματικὴν διακονίαν παρέχῃ, σὺ δὲ τὸ σῶμα τρέφῃς, καὶ θεραπεύῃς καὶ τροφαῖς καὶ ἐνδύμασι καὶ ὑποδήμασι, καὶ οὗτος δουλείας ἐστὶ τρόπος· ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ παρέχῃς καὶ σὺ τὴν σὴν, διακονίαν, οὐδὲ ἐκεῖνος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ, ἀλλ’ ἔσται ἐλεύθερος, καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτὸν ἀναγκάσει νόμος καὶ μὴ τρεφόμενον τοῦτο ποιεῖν. Εἰ τοίνυν καὶ ἐπὶ δούλων τοῦτό ἐστι, τί ἄτοπον, ἐὰν καὶ ἐπὶ ἐλευθέρων τοῦτο γίνηται;


Obviously, our friend John had a very high Christology. Every time he mentions God in this passage, he is referring to Jesus.

But the other question is this: How does Chrysostom view slavery? The first two paragraphs are positively against slavery. But the third comes back to the more moderate, but traditional view of the issue. And so I ask, should we right the first two paragraphs in light of the more traditional third? Or the third paragraphs in light of the rather progressive sounding first two?

Let’s have a vote!