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Ritter, Adolf Martin
Studia Chrysostomica. Aufsätze zu Weg, Werk und Wirkung des Johannes Chrysostomos (ca. 349–407).
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2012. XXIII, 233 S. = Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum, 71. Kart. EUR 69,00. ISBN 978-3-16-152035-8.
The best way to describe this volume is as a hybrid collection of published essays produced by a senior scholar over a lengthy career, which includes additional bonus material. The theme of all of the essays, evident from the title and subtitle, is the thought, work, and impact of John Chrysostom, a fourth-century bishop who produced more than eight hundred surviving works and who is revered as a saint and hierarch within Orthodox Christianity. The author Adolf Martin Ritter is a Protestant church historian and theologian, who is the most prominent scholar of Chrysostom in Germany. The project was prompted by the 1600 th anniversary of the death of John Chrysostom in 2007 and the desire of a former student at Heidelberg, Daniel Buda, to honour his professor and make R.’s magisterial scholarship available in Buda’s native Romanian. It was receipt of the Romanian-language publication that in turn prompted Christoph Markschies, an editor of the present series, to propose a reverse-engineering of the volume, so that the fruits of R.’s work and his accompanying updates and reflections might be available to a wider readership. The volume thus contains twelve essays published between 1971 and 2009 (ten in German, two in English), augmented by a newly-penned thirteenth, introductory reflection on how Lutherans approach the saints (e. g., Chrysostom) today, and by self-reflective footnotes, summaries, and appended new material. For the essays in German abstracts in English are provided, for the essays in English, abstracts in German. The topics of the original essays range, on the one hand, from reflections on charismatic ecclesiology in Chrysostom’s thought, the promotion of a moderating view of Chrysostom’s alleged anti-semitism, exploration of Chrysostom’s reception of and continuity with Pauline social ethics from a number of angles (particularly on the questions of poverty and slavery), and a comparison of Chrysostom’s and Ambrose’s view of church-state relations, and on the other, to reviews of some significant contributions to Chrysostom scholarship, and a positive reappraisal of Chrysostom’s reception in Lutheran pietism to the time of Bengel. The final essay – a more recent reflection on the relevance of key Chrysostomian concepts to the German Pro-testant church’s social response today – brings together the chief ideas on which R. has reflected over the course of his career. Many of these remain important positional essays.
From the point of view of current church-historical and Patristics scholarship, it is the additional material, in which R. explains or updates his ideas and responds to recent research, that makes the volume so valuable. This is especially the case with the substantial postscript (56–66) to his original essay Zwischen »Gottesherrschaft« und »einfachem Leben«. Dio Chrysostomus, Johannes Chrysostomus und das Problem der Humanisierung der Gesellschaft (IV), in which he engages both with subsequent scholarship on Dio of Prusa and with recent scholarship on John Chrysostom’s approach to wealth and poverty and his understanding of monasticism. The latter discussion, framed as the broader question of how one should read patristic texts on social ethical questions, is in reality a detailed and rigorous negative critique of the position and scholarship of Martin Illert and myself vis à vis Chrysostom’s own monastic formation and my own scholarship on Chrysostom’s approach to poverty. In this respect it makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about patristic responses to poverty in Late Antiquity. The summary and further questions appended (87–92) to the original essay John Chrysostom as an interpreter of Pauline social ethics (V) provide the opportunity for R. to engage in dialogue with the eminent American church historian Elizabeth Clark, whose response (in 1987) to and disagreement with that paper on a number of points is included. The important contribution here is in regard to questions of methodology and hermeneutics. In the course of discussing these an extract from R.’s contribution (Christentum I) to the Handwörterbuch Antike Sklaverei is included.
The broader contribution of this volume to contemporary ecumenism is carefully explained by Buda in his introduction. By rehabilitating the role played by Chrysostom in Lutheran piety, by demonstrating the space in Lutheran theology occupied by the saints, and by arguing for the relevance of Chrysostom to the contemporary Protestant church, R. demonstrates the common ground to be found between the Orthodox and Protestant Christian traditions in the theology of the Church Fathers.