The Performative Preaching of John Chrysostom A Warning from History

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Ian Birch


This article offers a critical review on John Chrysostom’s Homilies Against the Jews,1 first preached in Antioch in 386 CE. They are the supreme example of anti-Judaic writing among the patristic Fathers, and arise out of this author’s work on the history of interpretation of anti-Jewish texts in Matthew’s Gospel. Other scholars have undertaken to provide an account of John Chrysostom’s preaching,2 but here I offer my own analysis of his homilies for those who may be only vaguely aware of his antisemitic convictions. The importance of keeping this material in the public eye is to sensitise ourselves to antisemitic currents in Christian history, to be cognisant of the contribution Christians have made to the terrible atrocities perpetrated against the Jews throughout history. Reviewing the sermons of John Chrysostom against the Jews is also to be reminded of the power of the pulpit, and the responsibility of all who preach to perform words that contribute to the peace of God’s kingdom, to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

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Author Biography

Ian Birch

Revd Dr Ian Birch is principal of the Scottish Baptist College, in the University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland, UK. Prior to working at the college, he was a Baptist pastor for eighteen years in English and Scottish churches.