Chrysostom, Bible-reading, and certainty-basicality

I thank Drake for these quotations.

Chrysostom, 3rd Sermon on Lazarus

“Who is there, to whom all is not manifest, which is written in the Gospel? Who, that shall hear, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, and the rest; would desire a teacher to learn any of these things, which are here spoken? As also the signs, miracles, histories, are not they known and manifest to every man? This pretence and excuse is but the. cloak of our slothfulness. Thou understandest not those things, which are written: how shouldst thou understand them, which wilt not so much as slightly look into them? Take the book into thy hand: read all the history; and, what thou knowest, remember; and, what is obscure, run often over it.

John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Second Thessalonians

“What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because you are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? And yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in theScriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words. Every day, you say, one hears the same things. Tell me, then, do you not hear the same things in the theaters? Do you not see the same things in the race-course? Are not all things the same? Is it not always the same sun that rises? Is it not the same food that we use? I should like to ask you, since you say that you every day hear the same things; tell me, from whatProphet was the passage that was read? From what Apostle, or what Epistle? But you cannot tell me— you seem to hear strange things. When therefore you wish to be slothful, you say that they are the same things. But when you are questioned, you are in the case of one who never heard them. If they are the same, you ought to know them. But you are ignorant of them.”

Chrysostom rejects the argument that one cannot read Scripture.   He advances the point further:  God has so constituted our faculties that we can read words and understand what they mean.




10 comments on “Chrysostom, Bible-reading, and certainty-basicality

  1. DCF says:

    Beautiful quotes. Do they disprove Orthodox ecclesiology,though? Does the fact that men are created with a rational mind = sola scriptura?

  2. No. It’s more addressing the more Romanist claim that you can’t interpret Scripture outside a magisterium. I have a Catholic convert friend who advances that claim to me on a weekly basis.

  3. Was John Chrysostom a Common Sense Realist?

  4. That is the conclusion I want to draw. The basic position is there: my cogntive faculties are reliable enough, etc., etc.

  5. jnorm says:

    Saint John Chrysostom, was trying to get his parishioners to read the Scriptures. He didn’t want them to have any excuses to not read them. And so he wasn’t saying this in a protestant context against the Roman Catholic Magisterium.

  6. I agree that he isn’t writing a pamphlet on Sola Scriptura. However, even granting your point, which I do, his argument *hinges* on the assumption that his hearers’ cognitive faculties work well enough to understand what the Bible says.

  7. Right. The Holy Spirit is at work when we employ the resources that God has appointed (ordinary means of grace, see WSC 88 and 89, note the importance placed not necessarily on personal devotion, but the preached word…yes we approach Scripture in daily devotion, but because the NT says a lot about Christ’s minister and his role, note the importance in WSC 89, its interesting, is all….)

  8. jnorm says:


    Doesn’t Rome make a distinction between Material vs. Formal Sufficiency? If so then how is this against the Roman view?

    Also, you said “””his argument *hinges* on the assumption that his hearers’ cognitive faculties work well enough to understand what the Bible says.”””

    My question is, is this within the context of the already illumined (Baptized, Chrismated/Confirmation, and partakers of Holy Communion)?

    For even the Scribes and Pharisees were able to read Scripture but they missed Christ! For the Scriptures were talking about him, and so at what point do these passages of Scripture play a role in your view?

    Also, it took time for the Apostles to correctly understand what the Scriptures were saying. They were with Jesus for 3 and a half years, yet, it took Jesus explaining it to them as well as the breaking of bread in order for them to really understand! To really get it!

    Luke 24:25-32
    “”He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

    As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

    When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?””

    The One who knows God is the one who prays! And so when reading God’s word, shouldn’t it be done with a prayerful heart?
    1 Corinthians 2:12-16
    “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,

    “Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”

    But we have the mind of Christ.”

    Is the comprehension of Scripture limited to the natural cognitive faculties alone? Or does the comprehension of Scripture transcends that? Meaning, all that stuff is included, but it’s not limited to that alone.

  9. If that distinction is true, then why do Romanists ask me “how I can understand Scripture at all without an infallible itnerpreter?” I don’t doubt that somewhere in the archives of Scholastic reasoning that distinction holds; I’ve just never seen a Romanist faithful to it.

  10. […] 3.  In what sense is the church “objective,” but the Bible is not?  Chrysostom thought it was objective. […]

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