Christianization and Communication in Late Antiquity: John Chrysostom and his Congregation in Antioch
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How did ordinary people and Church authorities communicate with each other in late antiquity and how did this interaction affect the processes of Christianization in the Roman Empire? By studying the relationship between the preacher and his congregation within the context of classical, urban traditions of public speaking, this book explains some of the reasons for the popularity of Christian sermons during the period. Its focus on John Chrysostom's sermons allows us to see how an educated church leader responded to and was influenced by a congregation of ordinary Christians. As a preacher in Antioch, Chrysostom took great care to convey his lessons to his congregation, which included a broad cross-section of society. Because of this, his sermons provide a fascinating view into the variety of beliefs held by the laity, demonstrating that many people could be actively engaged in their religion while disagreeing with their preacher.
through hagiography, liturgy, and sermons, and often the end result was not the same orthodoxy that its proponents had envisioned. Again, the democratization of theology and religious life was both ascending and descending. Our sources and various strands of scholarship emphasize the importance of power and authority in the spread of Christianity, but much was out of the reach of authorities. Not all aspects of life would be Christianized. In Chrysostom’s case, the fact that he had to
ordination. Despite Libanius’ attacks on some Christians – namely, monks who destroyed ancient shrines in the countryside – he enthusiastically congratulated Amphilochius on his new position, because the episcopal throne gave him an opportunity to display his talent as a public speaker: When I found out that you had become a great steal [stolen from the rhetoricians by the Church, presumably] and you were on the throne and had been given some base of operations for making speeches, I
Classics. See Saddington, “The Function of Education according to Christian Writers,” 90–2; Hubbell, “Chrysostom and Rhetoric,” 267.  On the Jewish origins of the sermon, see F. Siegert, “Homily and Panegyrical Sermon” in Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period, 330 BC–AD 400, S. E. Porter, ed. (Leiden, 1997), 421–43. On the overemphasis in scholarship on the influence of Cynic diatribe on Christian preaching, see C. Schäublin, “Zum paganen Umfeld der christlichen
his fear by saying that it was not important. ‘For what is laughing? What could happen because of this?’ From this come dirty jokes, from that foul language, and then filthy deeds.” This anecdote about ordinary men discussing the moral value of spontaneous laughter illustrates Chrysostom’s wishes for a broad diffusion of the Christian ethos into everyday life, as well as its ambiguity when countered with the prevailing common sense. The preacher’s judgment against laughter came down against
pointing out that repetitive motions did not prevent them from quietly worshiping in the meantime. After attending church, the laity was advised not to hurry off to the agora, but to go home and contemplate the sermon they had just heard with their families, like children with their homework. After work, they should write down their sins of the day. If they wrote down their sins, acknowledging them and asking for forgiveness, then God would erase them. Otherwise, God would inscribe the