Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XII/Preface



The British edition of this translation has a preface in which is given a short “sketch” of Chrysostom’s history. As a fuller outline has been given in the course of the present reproduction of the homilies, it is considered advisable to omit this sketch here. (See Vol. ix. pp. 3–23.) The remainder of the English editor’s preface is as follows:

“The history and remains of St. Chrysostom are in one respect more interesting perhaps to the modern reader, than most of the monuments of those who are technically called the Fathers. At the time when he was raised up, and in those parts of the Christian world to which he was sent, the Patriarchates, namely, of Antioch and Constantinople, the Church was neither agitated by persecution from without, nor by any particular doctrinal controversy within, sufficient to attract his main attention, and connect his name with its history, as the name of St. Athanasius, e.g., is connected with the Arian, or that of St. Augustine with the Pelagian, controversy. The labours of St. Athanasius and St. Basil, and their friends and disciples, had come to a happy issue at the second Œcumenical Council; the civil power favoured orthodox doctrine, and upheld Episcopal authority. The Church seemed for the time free to try the force of her morals and discipline against the ordinary vices and errors of all ages and all nations. This is one reason why the Homilies of St. Chrysostom have always been considered as eminently likely among the relics of Antiquity, to be useful as models for preaching, and as containing hints for the application of Scripture to common life, and the consciences of persons around us.

Another reason undoubtedly is the remarkable energy and fruitfulness of the writer’s mind, that command of language and of topics, and above all, that depth of charitable and religious feeling, which enabled him, to a very remarkable extent, to carry his hearers along with him, even when the things he recommended were most distasteful to their natures and prejudices. It is obvious how much of the expression of this quality must vanish in translation: the elegance and fluency of his Greek style, the flow of his periods, the quickness and ingenuity of his turns, all the excellencies to which more especially his surname was owing, must in the nature of things be sacrificed, except in case of very rare felicity, on passing into a modern language. His dramatic manner indeed, which was one of the great charms of his oratory among the Greeks, and his rapid and ingenious selection and variation of topics, these may in some measure be retained, and may serve to give even English readers some faint notion of the eloquence which produced so powerful effects on the susceptible people of the East.

“However, it is not of course as composition that we desire to call attention to these or any other of the remains of the Fathers. Nor would this topic have been so expressly adverted to, but for the two following reasons. First, it is in such particulars as these, that the parallel mainly subsists, which has more than once been observed, between St. Chrysostom and our own Bishop Taylor: and it is good for the Church in general, and encouraging for our own Church in particular, to notice such providential revivals of ancient graces in modern times.

“Again, this profusion of literary talent, and eloquency and vehemence and skill in moral teaching, is of itself, as human nature now exists, a matter of much jealousy to considerate persons, found answerable to the profession implied in their works. And therefore it was desirable to dwell on it in this instance, for the purpose of pointing out afterwards how completely his life gave evidence that he meant and practiced what he taught.

“The Homilies on the first Epistle to the Corinthians have ever been considered by learned and devout men as among the most perfect specimens of his mind and teaching. They are of that mixed form, between exposition and exhortation, which serves perhaps better than any other, first, to secure attention, and then to convey to an attentive hearer the full purport of the holy words as they stand in the Bible, and to communicate to him the very impression which the preacher himself had received from the text. Accordingly they come in not unfitly in this series, by way of specimen of the hortatory Sermons of the ancients, as St. Cyril’s, of their Catechetical Lectures, and St. Cyprians, the Pastoral Letters, which were circulated among them.

“The date of these Homilies is not exactly known: but it is certain that they were delivered at Antioch, were it only from Hom. xxi. §. 9. ad fin. Antioch was at that time, in a temporal sense, a flourishing Church, maintaining 3,000 widows and virgins,[1] maimed persons, prisoners, and ministers of the altar; although, St. Chrysostom adds, its income was but that of one of the lowest class of wealthy individuals. It was indeed in a state of division, on account of the disputed succession in the Episcopate between the followers of Paulinus and Meletius since the year 362: but this separation affected not immediately any point of doctrine; and was in a way to be gradually worn out, partly by the labors of St. Chrysostom himself, whose discourse concerning the Anathema seems to have been occasioned by the too severe way in which the partisans on both sides allowed themselves to speak of each other. It may be that he had an eye to this schism in his way of handling those parts of the Epistles to the Corinthians, which so earnestly deprecate the spirit of schism and party, and the calling ourselves by human names.

“The Text which has been used in this translation is the Benedictine, corrected however in many places by that of Savile. The Benedictine Sections are marked in the margin thus, (2.) For the Translation, the Editors are indebted to the Reverend Hubert Kestell Cornish, M.A., late Fellow of Exeter College, and to the Reverend John Medley, M.A., of Wadham College, Vicar of St. Thomas, in the city of Exeter.”

J. K[eble].

The Homilies on the Second Epistle were issued four years later than those on the First, and were preceded by the following note:

“The present Volume completes the set of St. Chrysostom’s Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul, with the exception of that to the Hebrews, the Translation of which is preparing for the press. The edition of the original by Mr. Field has afforded the advantage of an improved text, in fact of one as good as we can hope to see constructed from existing mss.

“These Homilies were delivered at Antioch in the opinion of the Benedictine Editors, though Savile doubted it. The question depends on the interpretation of a passage near the end of Hom. xxvi., in which St. Chrysostom speaks of Constantinople, and presently says ‘here.’ This, it has been rightly argued, he might say in the sense of “in the place I am speaking of,’ while he was not likely to say, ‘in Constantinople’ if he were speaking there.

“For the Translation the Editors are indebted to the Rev. J. Ashworth, M.A., of Brasenose College.”

S. Clement, 1848.

C. M. M[arriott.]

This volume of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, embraces both volumes of the original London issue, one of which appeared in 1844, the other in 1848. The author of the latter had, as appears from his statement above, the advantage of using the recension of the Greek text which was prepared by the late Frederick Field, M.A., LL.D., and eminent textual critic whose labors leave nothing to be desired so far as concerns the materials at his command. The translators of the First Epistle did not have this advantage. Hence the present editor has made a diligent comparison throughout their work with Dr. Field’s text, and whenever it was necessary has silently conformed the rendering to that text, in a few instances omitting a note which made needless or inappropriate by the change. In both Epistles he has occasionally amended the translation to gain perspicuity and smoothness. The work of the English authors has been performed with great care and fidelity, and is literal almost to a fault, it apparently being their endeavor to reproduce the form as well as the spirit of the original. This has given to their pages a stiffness and constraint not altogether agreeable, yet it is a compensation to the reader to know that he has before him the precise thought of the great pulpit orator of the Greek Church. The American Editor’s notes have been enclosed in square brackets and marked with his initial.

The English text of the Epistles has been sedulously conformed to that of the Revised Edition of 1881, except in cases in which the Greek text used by Chrysostom varied from that adopted by recent Editors. All peculiarities of Chrysostom’s text have been faithfully preserved.

In these days when expository preaching is so loudly and generally demanded, it cannot but be of use to the rising ministry to see how this service was performed by the most eloquent and effective of the Fathers, John of the Golden-Mouth.

T. W. Chambers.

New York, June, 1889.

Footnotes edit

  1. Hom. 66. on St. Matt. t. ii. p. 422. ed. Savil.