Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the
[1.] As Corinth is now the first city of Greece, so of old it prided itself on many temporal advantages, and more than all the rest, on excess of wealth. And on this account one of the heathen writers entitled the place “the rich1 Homer, Il. ii. 570; Thucyd. i. 13; Strabo, viii. 20..” For it lies on the isthmus of the Peloponnesus, and had great facilities for traffic. The city was also full of numerous orators, and philosophers, and one,2 Periander; but vid. Plutarch. in Solon. tom. i. p. 185. ed. Bryan. I think, of the seven called wise men, was of this city. Now these things we have mentioned, not for ostentation’s sake, nor to make, a display of great learning: (for indeed what is there in knowing these things?) but they are of use to us in the argument of the Epistle.
Paul also himself suffered many things in this city; and Christ, too, in this city appears to him and says, (Acts xviii. 10), “Be not silent, but speak; for I have much people in this city:” and he remained there two years. In this city [Acts xix. 16. Corinth put here, by lapse of memory, for Ephesus.] also the devil went out, whom the Jews endeavoring to exorcise, suffered so grievously. In this city did those of the magicians, who repented, collect together their books and burn them, and there appeared to be fifty thousand. (Acts xix. 18. ἀργυρίου omitted.) In this city also, in the time of Gallio the Proconsul, Paul was beaten before the judgment seat.3 This is said of Sosthenes, Acts xviii. 17. But the context makes it probable that St. Paul was beaten also. [Hardly.]
[2.] The devil, therefore, seeing that a great and populous city had laid hold of the truth, a city admired for wealth and wisdom, and the head of Greece; (for Athens and Lacedæmon were then and since in a miserable state, the dominion having long ago fallen away from them;) and seeing that with great readiness they had received the word of God; what doth he? He divides the men. For he knew that even the strongest kingdom of all, divided against itself, shall not stand. He had a vantage ground too, for this device in the wealth, the wisdom of the inhabitants. Hence certain men, having made parties of their own, and having become self-elected made themselves leaders of the people, and some sided with these, and some with those; with one sort, as being rich; with another, as wise and able to teach something out of the common. Who on their part, receiving them, set themselves up forsooth to teach more than the Apostle did:4 St. Irenæus, Adv. Hær. iii. v. 1, points out this as a main topic of heretical teaching. “These most futile of Sophisters affirm that the Apostles taught feignedly, after the capacity of the hearers, and gave answer after the prejudices of those who enquired of them, discoursing with the blind blindly according to their blindness, with the feeble according to their feebleness, and with the erring according to their error.” at which he was hinting, when he said, “I was not able to speak unto you as unto spiritual” (ch. iii. 1.); evidently not his inability, but their infirmity, was the cause of their not having been abundantly instructed. And this, (ch. iv. 8.) “Ye are become rich without us,” is the remark of one pointing that way. And this was no small matter, but of all things most pernicious; that the Church should be torn asunder.
And another sin, too, besides these, was openly committed there: namely, a person who had had intercourse with his step-mother not only escaped rebuke, but was even a leader of the multitude, and gave occasion to his followers to be conceited. Wherefore he saith, (ch. 5. 2.) “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned.” And after this again, certain of those who as they pretended were of the more perfect sort, and who for gluttony’s sake used to eat of things offered unto idols, and sit at meat in the temples, were bringing all to ruin. Others again, having contentions and strifes about money, committed unto the heathen courts (τοῖς ἔξωθεν σικαδτηρίοις) all matters of that kind. Many persons also wearing long hair used to go about among them; whom he ordereth to be shorn. There was another fault besides, no trifling one; their eating in the churches apart by themselves, and giving no share to the needy.
And again, they were erring in another point, being puffed up with the gifts; and hence jealous of one another; which was also the chief cause of the distraction of the Church. The doctrine of the Resurrection, too, was lame (ἐχώλευε) among them: for some of them had no strong belief that there is any resurrection of bodies, having still on them the disease of Grecian foolishness. For indeed all these things were the progeny of the madness which belongs to Heathen Philosophy, and she was the mother of all mischief. Hence, likewise, they had become divided; in this respect also having learned of the philosophers. For these latter were no less at mutual variance, always, through love of rule and vain glory contradicting one another’s opinions, and bent upon making some new discovery in addition to all that was before. And the cause of this was, their having begun to trust themselves to reasonings.
[3.] They had written accordingly to him by the hand of Fortunatus and Stephanas and Achaicus, by whom also he himself writes; and this he has indicated in the end of the Epistle: not however upon all these subjects, but about marriage and virginity; wherefore also he said, (ch. vii. 1.) “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote” &c. And he proceeds to give injunctions, both on the points about which they had written, and those about which they had not written; having learnt with accuracy all their failings. Timothy, too, he sends with the letters, knowing that letters indeed have great force, yet that not a little would be added to them by the presence of the disciple also.
Now whereas those who had divided the Church among themselves, from a feeling of shame lest they should seem to have done so for ambition’s sake, contrived cloaks for what had happened, their teaching (forsooth) more perfect doctrines, and being wiser than all others; Paul sets himself first against the disease itself, plucking up the root of the evils, and its offshoot, the spirit of separation. And he uses great boldness of speech: for these were his own disciples, more than all others. Wherefore he saith (ch. ix. 2.) “If to others I be not an Apostle, yet at least I am unto you; for the seal of my apostleship are ye.” Moreover they were in a weaker condition (to say the least of it) than the others. Wherefore he saith, (ch. iii. 1, 2. οὐδὲ for οὔτε). “For I have not spoken unto you as unto spiritual; for hitherto ye were not able, neither yet even now are ye able.” (This he saith, that they might not suppose that he speaks thus in regard of the time past alone.)
However, it was utterly improbable that all should have been corrupted; rather there were some among them who were very holy. And this he signified5 It appears by the subsequent commentary on these verses, that S. Chrysostom understood the Apostle to be alluding in them to persons among the Corinthians, who had suffered from unjust censure and party spirit. See Hom. ii. §. 1; xi. near the end; and the opening of Hom. xii. in the middle of the Epistle, where he says, (ch. iv. 3, 6.) “To me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you:” and adds, “these things I have in a figure transferred unto myself and Apollos.”
Since then from arrogance all these evils were springing, and from men’s thinking that they knew something out of the common, this he purgeth away first of all, and in beginning saith,
ΤΟΥ ΕΝ ΑΓΙΟΙΣ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, ΑΡΧΙΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΥ ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥΠΟΛΕΩΣ, ΤΟΥ ΧΡΥΣΟΣΤΟΜΟΥ, ΥΠΟΘΕΣΙΣ ΤΗΣ ΠΡΟΣ ΚΟΡΙΝΘΙΟΥΣ ΠΡΩΤΗΣ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗΣ. Ἡ Κόρινθός ἐστι μὲν νῦν πόλις τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἡ πρώτη, πολλοῖς δὲ τὸ παλαιὸν πλεονεκτήμασι βιωτικοῖς ἐκόμα, καὶ πρὸ τῶν ἄλλων πάντων τῇ τῶν χρημάτων περιουσίᾳ: διὸ καί τις τῶν ἔξωθεν συγγραφέων ἀφνειὸν ἐκάλει τὸ χωρίον. Ἐν γὰρ τῷ Ἰσθμῷ κεῖται τῆς Πελοποννήσου, καὶ πολλὴν εἶχεν ἐμπορίας ὑπόθεσιν. Ἦν δὲ καὶ ῥητόρων πολλῶν ἔμπλεως ἡ πόλις καὶ φιλοσόφων: καί τις τῶν ἑπτὰ καλουμένων σοφῶν ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ταύτης ἦν. Ταῦτα δὲ ἡμῖν οὐ φιλοτιμίας ἕνεκεν εἴρηται, οὐδὲ πρὸς ἐπίδειξιν πολυμαθείας: (τί γὰρ δὴ καὶ ἔστι τὸ ταῦτα εἰδέναι;) ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὴν ὑπόθεσιν ἡμῖν συντελεῖ τῆς Ἐπιστολῆς. Πολλὰ δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς ἔπαθεν ὁ Παῦλος ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ πόλει, καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς δὲ ἐν ταύτῃ αὐτῷ φανείς φησι: Μὴ σιγήσῃς, ἀλλὰ λάλει: διότι λαός μοι πολύς ἐστιν ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ. Καὶ ἔμεινεν ἐκεῖ δύο ἔτη. Ἐν ταύτῃ καὶ ὁ δαίμων ἐξῆλθεν, ὃν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἐφορκίζοντες, τὰ ἀνήκεστα ἔπαθον παρ' αὐτοῦ: ἐν ταύτῃ τὰς βίβλους συναγαγόντες τῶν γοήτων οἱ μετανοήσαντες κατέκαυσαν, καὶ ὤφθησαν μυριάδες πέντε: ἐν ταύτῃ καὶ ἐπὶ Γαλλίωνος τοῦ ἀνθυπάτου ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος ὁ Παῦλος ἐτύπτετο. Ὁρῶν τοίνυν ὁ διάβολος πόλιν μεγάλην καὶ πολυάνθρωπον τῆς ἀληθείας ἐπειλημμένην, καὶ πλούτου καὶ σοφίας ἕνεκεν θαυμαστὴν οὖσαν, καὶ τῆς Ἑλλάδος τὸ κεφάλαιον (τὰ γὰρ Ἀθηναίων καὶ Λακεδαιμονίων ἀθλίως διέκειτο λοιπὸν, τῆς ἀρχῆς πάλαι μεταπεσούσης), καὶ θεασάμενος, ὅτι μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς προθυμίας ἐδέξαντο τὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγον, τί ποιεῖ; Διαιρεῖ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους: ᾔδει γὰρ, ὅτι καὶ βασιλεία ἡ πασῶν ἰσχυροτέρα ἐφ' ἑαυτὴν μερισθεῖσα, οὐ σταθήσεται. Εἶχε δὲ ἀφορμὴν πρὸς τὴν ἐπιβουλὴν ταύτην τὸν πλοῦτον καὶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν οἰκούντων. Ἐντεῦθεν συμμορίας ποιησάμενοι καθ' ἑαυτοὺς καὶ αὐτοχειροτόνητοι γενόμενοί τινες, προειστήκεσαν τοῦ πλήθους, καὶ οἱ μὲν τούτοις, οἱ δὲ ἐκείνοις ἑαυτοὺς προσένεμον, τοῖς μὲν ὡς πλουσίοις, τοῖς δὲ ὡς σοφοῖς καὶ πλέον τι δυναμένοις διδάσκειν: οἳ δὴ καὶ παραλαβόντες αὐτοὺς, ἐφιλοτιμοῦντο πλέον τι τοῦ Ἀποστόλου δῆθεν λέγειν: ὅπερ οὖν καὶ αἰνιττόμενος ἔλεγεν: Οὐκ ἠδυνήθην ὑμῖν λαλῆσαι ὡς πνευματικοῖς. Δηλονότι οὐ παρὰ τὴν οἰκείαν ἀπορίαν, ἀλλὰ παρὰ τὴν ἐκείνων ἀσθένειαν τὸ μὴ πολλὰ ἀκοῦσαι γέγονε: καὶ τὸ, Χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐπλουτήσατε, τοῦτό ἐστιν ἐνδεικνυμένου. Καὶ ἦν τοῦτο οὐ μικρὸν, ἀλλὰ πάντων ὀλεθριώτερον, τὸ διεσπάσθαι τὴν Ἐκκλησίαν. Καὶ ἕτερον δὲ μετὰ τούτων ἁμάρτημα ἐτολμᾶτο αὐτόθι, τὸ μητρυιᾷ τινα συγγενόμενον μὴ μόνον μὴ ἐπιπλήττεσθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὀχλαγωγεῖν, καὶ τοῖς μετ' αὐτοῦ παρέχειν μέγα φρονεῖν: διό φησι: Καὶ ὑμεῖς πεφυσιωμένοι ἐστὲ, καὶ οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἐπενθήσατε. Καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο πάλιν τινὲς τῶν δῆθεν τελειοτέρων, καὶ ὑπὸ γαστριμαργίας τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων ἀπογευόμενοι, καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς κατακλινόμενοι, τὰ πάντα ἐλυμαίνοντο. Ἄλλοι πάλιν μάχας ἔχοντες καὶ φιλονεικίας ὑπὲρ χρημάτων, τοῖς ἔξωθεν δικαστηρίοις τὰ καθ' ἑαυτοὺς ἐπέτρεπον ἅπαντα. Καὶ κομῆται δὲ πολλοὶ παρ' αὐτοῖς περιῄεσαν, οὓς καὶ ἀποκείρασθαι κελεύει. Ἦν τι καὶ ἕτερον πλημμέλημα οὐ μικρὸν, τὸ καθ' ἑαυτοὺς ἐσθίειν ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις, καὶ μὴ μεταδιδόναι τοῖς δεομένοις. Μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο καὶ ἕτερον ἐπλημμέλουν, ἐπὶ τοῖς χαρίσμασι μέγα φρονοῦντες, καὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἐντεῦθεν ζηλοτύπως ἔχοντες, ὅπερ καὶ αὐτὸ μάλιστα διέσπα τὴν Ἐκκλησίαν. Καὶ ὁ περὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως δὲ λόγος ἐχώλευε παρ' αὐτοῖς: ἔνιοι γὰρ αὐτῶν οὐ σφόδρα ἐπίστευον ἀνάστασιν εἶναι σωμάτων, τὰ τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς μωρίας ἔτι νοσοῦντες. Καὶ γὰρ ἅπαντα ταῦτα ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ τὴν φιλοσοφίαν τὴν ἔξωθεν ἀνοίας ἐτίκτετο, καὶ αὕτη ἦν τῶν κακῶν ἡ μήτηρ: ἐντεῦθεν καὶ διῄρηντο, καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἀπὸ τῶν φιλοσόφων μαθόντες. Καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι κατ' ἀλλήλων ἔστησαν, ἀεὶ ὑπὲρ φιλαρχίας καὶ κενοδοξίας ἕκαστος τοῖς ἀλλήλων ἐναντιούμενοι δόγμασι, καὶ σπουδάζοντες ἐφευρεῖν τι τοῖς προτέροις. Ταῦτα δὲ ἔπασχον, ἐπειδὴ λογισμοῖς ἐπέτρεπον τὰ καθ' ἑαυτούς. Ἔγραψαν μὲν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, δι' ὧν καὶ αὐτὸς γράφει. Καὶ τοῦτο ἐδήλωσεν ἐν τῷ τέλει τῆς Ἐπιστολῆς, οὐ μὴν περὶ πάντων, ἀλλὰ περὶ γάμου καὶ παρθενίας: διὸ καὶ ἔλεγε: Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατέ μοι. Αὐτὸς μέντοι, καὶ ὑπὲρ ὧν ἔγραψαν, καὶ ὑπὲρ ὧν οὐκ ἔγραψαν, ἐπιστέλλει, πάντα μετὰ ἀκριβείας μαθὼν αὐτῶν τὰ ἐλαττώματα. Καὶ τὸν Τιμόθεον δὲ ἀποστέλλει μετὰ τῶν γραμμάτων, εἰδὼς ὅτι πολλὴν μὲν ἰσχὺν ἔχει καὶ τὰ γράμματα, οὐ μικρὰν δὲ αὐτοῖς οἴσει προσθήκην καὶ ἡ παρουσία τοῦ μαθητοῦ. Ἐπειδὴ δὲ αἰσχυνόμενοι οἱ διανειμάμενοι τὴν Ἐκκλησίαν, μὴ δόξωσι φιλοτιμίας ἕνεκεν τοῦτο πεποιηκέναι, προκαλύμματα τοῦ πάθους ἐπενόησαν, τὸ τὰ τελειότερα δῆθεν διδάσκειν, καὶ σοφώτεροι τῶν ἄλλων εἶναι: κατ' αὐτοῦ πρῶτον ὁ Παῦλος ἵσταται τοῦ νοσήματος, τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν κακῶν ἀναστέλλων, καὶ τὴν ἐντεῦθεν φυεῖσαν διχόνοιαν: καὶ πολλῇ κέχρηται τῇ παῤῥησίᾳ. Ἦσαν γὰρ αὐτῷ καὶ μαθηταὶ οὗτοι μάλιστα πάντων: διό φησιν: Εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι: ἡ γὰρ σφραγὶς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε. Καὶ ἀσθενέστερόν γε τῶν ἄλλων διέκειντο: διό φησιν, Οὐ γὰρ ὡς πνευματικοῖς ἐλάλησα: οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε, ἀλλ' οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε. Τοῦτο δὲ λέγει, ἵνα μὴ νομίσωσιν, ὅτι ὑπὲρ τοῦ παρελθόντος τοῦτο λέγει χρόνου. Διὸ ἐπήγαγε: Ἀλλ' οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε. Πλὴν ἀλλ' οὐδὲ πάντας εἰκὸς ἦν διεφθάρθαι, ἀλλ' εἶναί τινας ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σφόδρα ἁγίους. Καὶ τοῦτο ἐν μέσῳ τῆς Ἐπιστολῆς ἐδήλωσεν εἰπών: Ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ' ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ, καὶ ἐπαγαγὼν, Ταῦτα δὲ μετεσχημάτισα εἰς ἐμαυτὸν καὶ Ἀπολλώ. Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἐξ ἀπονοίας πάντα ἐτίκτετο τὰ κακὰ καὶ τοῦ νομίζειν εἰδέναι τι πλέον, ταύτην πρὸ τῶν ἄλλων καθαιρεῖ, καὶ ἀρχόμενός φησι: