Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Thesis: Condescension

This is not an excerpt from my thesis, but is an idea I've been thinking through...

The core of my thesis is to test the data of Chrysostom's sermons on John's Gospel, against the criteria of 9 strategies, largely derived from Lewis Ayres' Nicaea and its Legacy, that correlate to a pro-Nicene hermeneutic. So far I've taken notes on about 40 out of 88 sermons in the corpus, most of which do not touch upon trinitarian texts. In terms of the gospel, I'm about to finish chapter 5. Chrysostom spends much more time preaching on the first chapters than the latter ones. I wonder if he ran out of time in his planned sequence?

I've noticed that Chrysostom uses 'condescension' as an explanatory hermeneutic in a number of places, and not only in sorting out the Economy of the Incarnation. So, for example, in dealing with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Chrysostom is constantly asking, "And why is this said here?", or "Why is it said in this manner?", and so on - evidence in my opinion of Chrysostom's literary-critical exegesis. His answer, more often than not, is that Christ, as do the prophets and the scriptures and the apostles, and God, is accommodating his speech for the purpose of (a) making his teaching more palatable and persuasive, (b) in order to lead his interlocutor from lower conceptions to more sublime conceptions. This is seen further in his treatment of chapter 5, where the accomodation of the discourse is seen in the movement *between* lofty statements of Christ's equality and so forth, and lower statements meant in a more figurative manner. Christ is seen to make his more sublime teachings more acceptable, by first persuading them of less offensive propositions, and then returning to lower statements, so as not to offend them.

I think this trend in Chrysostom is very interesting, since he applies it not only to God's accommodation in general, or in the Economy, but systematically uses it as an hermeneutical principle.

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This work by Seumas Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.

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