St. John Chrysostom: Anti-Semite?

Questions to think about during this lesson…

  • What is anti-Semitism?
  • In some cases, why is it unfair to judge the people of the past according to the standards and values of our time and our culture?
  • What manner of speech did St. John Chrysostom employ?
  • Why doesn’t Dr. Jeannie believe that St. John Chrysostom was an anti-Semite?
  • We live in a super-sensitive culture. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and so we often don’t say what we really want to say. But that wasn’t Chrysostom’s world. What was the main style of communication at that time and what was it like?
  • Why do we have more statements about Jews from Chrysostom than other Fathers?
  • In antiquity, there was no effort to be “fair” and not to cause offense. These are very modern notions that would have never entered the mind of a person from antiquity or possibly even 100 years ago. Why is it so important to understand this when reading early Christian writings?  (Hint: Think about the example she used of the language in the letters St. Ignatius wrote on his way to martyrdom.)
  • Why is it a popular sentiment in Evangelical circles to portray St. John Chrysostom as an anti-Semite?
  • In the time of St. John Chrysostom, what were relations between the Jews and Christians like?
  • What is Judaizing?
  • Who are Messianic Jews?
  • Why are there canons in the Church against Judaizing? In other words, why are there canons that forbid Orthodox Christians from participating in Jewish festivals and adopting Jewish practices? (Hint: See Romans 3:20-30 and Galatians 3:10-14)
  • Chrysostom preached a series of sermons entitled Against the Judaizing Christians. What was that about?
  • Why do some people accuse St. John Chrysostom accused of being an anti-Semite?
  • What is the “Curse of the Nazarenes” or “Curse on the Heretics”?
  • If Chrysostom is anti-Semitic, how do you explain the fact that he praises the seven brothers in Maccabees who are Jews?
  • What was Chrysostom’s view on forced conversions, and what does this view have to do with why Dr. Jeannie doesn’t think he was a raving, hateful anti-Semite?
  • Another attack made against Chrysostom is that he is a misogynist — that he hates women. This is frequently made against him especially by woman theologians and feminist scholars. How does Dr. Jeannie respond to these attacks?

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