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Kirchengeschichte: Alte Kirche, Christliche Archäologie
Die Paulusinszenierung des Johannes Chrysostomus. Epitheta und ihre Vorgeschichte.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2012. XVI, 731 S. = Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum, 70. Kart. EUR 124,00. ISBN 978-3-16-150521-8.
The confluence of growing interest by New Testament scholars in the reception of Paul and his writings by the Church Fathers, on the one hand, and, after almost a century, of a renewed focus by those who study the Pauline enthusiast, John Chrysostom (fl. 380–407 CE), on the latter’s reception and transformation of Hellenistic rhetoric and philosophy, on the other, has given birth in recent years to the occasional monumental study. Margaret Mitchell’s The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Tübingen 2000) is one. Andreas Heiser’s thesis that Chrysostom (C) »stages« the apostle Paul via epithets is another. The two works are complementary. H. builds on, nuances, and expands Mitchell’s thesis about the centrality to C’s hermeneutic of his Pauline portraits (the epithets are referenced, but not a focus of her study). In particular, he seeks to answer a question that Mitchell posed: what is the function of the Pauline epithets that C employs? That is, why does C choose some, and leave out others? Read together, the two monographs add significantly to our understanding of not just C’s hermeneutic and theology, but also of Pauline reception in the second to fourth centuries.
Approached through the lens of Inszenierung (staging/mise en scène) – a methodology inspired by the role of the theatre and of theatricality in C’s rhetoric – the nine chapters (including introduction and conclusion) divide into five relatively discrete sections: rationale, context, and methodology; background to the use of epithets in the second sophistic and to Graeco-Roman epithet theory; an (increasingly) detailed survey of Pauline epithets in Christian literature from the first to fourth centuries; survey and analysis of Pauline epithets in C’s writings; and, the core of the volume, the synthesis of the findings regarding the epithets’ central function. The detailed table of contents, extensive bibliography, and six indices, including one dedicated to the Pauline epithets, which are grouped by theme as well as ancient author and cited in Greek, are of great assistance to the reader. Chapter 4, which will be of wider interest, examines the epithets attached to Paul by/in the following authors and works: 1 Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, Hegesippus, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabus, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Justin Martyr, Ad Diognetum, Hermias’ Irrisio gentilium philosophorum, Marcion, Basilides, Valentinus, Theodotus, Heracleon, Ptolemaeus, the Nag Hammadi codices, Irenaeus of Lyon, Origen, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Gregory of Nyssa. This 177-page-chapter alone fills a major gap in scholarship and is only one of a number of reasons why the contribution of this carefully conceived and executed study is, for the most part, fundamental.
Methodological rigour is a hallmark. While his dating of C’s epithet clusters can be challenged (H. chooses to accept the status quo rather than allow that many of the dates are questionable), he employs the best available editions (including, importantly, a preference for the Field text of C’s homilies on the »Pauline« epistles over that of Montfaucon). Statistical analysis is introduced to demon-strate the relative strategic employment of epithets by Origen, Diodore, Theodore, Gregory of Nyssa, and C. When this is combined with discussion of the interrelationship vis-à-vis epithets between variously identified categories of literary allusions (literarische Bezüge), links (Bindungen), and functions (Funktionen), it leads (234–38) to some significant conclusions. In Chapter 6 the epithet clusters are carefully numbered and analysed systematically. Additionally, Chapters 5–6 are prefaced by a helpful overview of the textual problems. The latter is an important strategy when facing a vast corpus whose boundaries remain blurred, whose transmission history is complex, and whose textual readings are not always stable.
What enriches this study is its theoretical underpinnings. In addition to an appeal to the concept of staging (of particular relevance to the performative aspect of ancient rhetoric, especially preaching), H. argues that in building on earlier epithets – whether explicitly applied to Paul or to other figures – C is engaging in intertextuality. The latter justifies the lengthy study conducted in Chapter 4, as well as directing the selection of authors (predominantly Greek-speaking, Christian, and from the Alexandrian, Antiochene, and Cappadocian contexts). Also helpful is an appeal in Chapter 1 to the original proponent of Frame Analysis, the sociologist Erving Goffman, re staging as deception with both positive and negative value. In applying the underlying hermeneutic of syn-katabasis (accommodation) in his staging, H. explains, C is engaging, like the physician, in deception with positive intent. On the other hand, here and in the concluding chapter the principle of synkatabasis itself is only lightly touched upon in the analysis. This principle, as David Rylaarsdam (Imitating Divine Pedagogy: The Coherence of John Chrysostom’s Theology and Preaching, Oxford, forthcoming) now shows in his substantial reworking of the doctoral dissertation to which H. refers (26 n. 6), permeates both C’s rhetoric and theology, especially all of the key components that H. identifies in his conclusion as driving C’s Pauline staging. Rylaarsdam’s work, which likewise owes a major debt to Mitchell, validates H.’s conclusions, but also indicates that there is a further level, only hinted at here, at which C’s staging of Paul via epithets (and indeed staging of other biblical figures as exemplars) can fruitfully be contextualized.
Some of the conclusions from Chapter 4 are unexpected; those from Chapters 5–7 less so. The idea that C paints Paul as an ascetic model (one who lives like the angels), already put forward by Mitchell, here receives further support. Paul’s humility, linked to voluntary poverty and withdrawal from society, garners him a privileged position; as missionary and teacher of the world C promotes the universal relevance of Paul’s transmission of the Scriptures; as an ascetic who lives the life of the angels Paul models an ascendance from the bodily to the spiritual state (a staging in which C carefully avoids the danger of claiming that human beings can approach the divine essence). One of the more novel (and potentially contestable) contributions here is H.’s contextualization of C’s strategy within the historical situation at Antioch (the subject of Chapter 7). There he argues for the relevance of the Antiochene schism, concluding that C’s ecclesiology is centred on a core community of Christians who live the angelic life. With the model of his youth (the urban asketerion) locally unavailable by the end of the fourth century, C shifted in sermons from holding up a living model to biblical models (Paul, above all) as exemplars for the ethic-al life.
These are just the highlights. The contribution of this lengthy monograph is greater than can be described here, particularly with respect to his study of the individual Pauline epithets and epithet clusters. H.’s thesis about the relationship between the increasing use of epithets in Patristic sermons and the development of hagiobiography and the cult of the saints also deserves consideration.