Discourses against Judaizing Christians

By Saint John Chrysostom; Paul W. Harkins | Go to book overview

DISCOURSE I

TODAY I HAD INTENDED [843] to complete my discussion of the topic on which I spoke to you a few days ago; I wished to present you with even clearer proof that God's nature is more than our minds can grasp. 1 Last Sunday 2 I spoke on this at great length and I brought forward as my witnesses Isaiah, David, and Paul. For it was Isaiah who exclaimed: "Who shall declare his generation?" 3 David knew

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1
This is a clear reference to the first sermon De incomprehensibili Dei natura contra Anomoeos, delivered in 386 (cf. PG 48.699-710; SC 28bis 72-110). Quasten 3.451 describes the Anomoeans as the most radical of the Arian sects, which pretended to know God as God knows Himself; they maintained not merely the inequality but the dissimilarity of the Son's nature to that of the Father. The bracketed 843 and the bracketed numbers that follow in sequence refer to (approximate) column-openings in PG 48.
2
Since last Sunday was only "a few days ago," Chrysostom must also have preached at weekday liturgies. See above, Introd. I 8.
3
Cf. Is 53.8 (LXX). The Hebrew text of this verse has been variously emended and translated. NAB reads: "... and who would have thought any more of his destiny?" JB gives: "...would anyone plead his cause?" and adds a note that the words "who will explain his generation (or descent)?" of the Greek and Latin has been taken by Christian tradition to refer to the mysterious origin of Christ. E. Power (CCHS 568) points out that the Hebrew noun dȯr (the reading probably basic to LXX) usually means "generation" in the sense of lifetime or contemporaries, but it cannot indicate the act of generating, the eternal or temporal generation of Christ. Chrysostom, following the School of Antioch, takes the Greek word genea in its literal meaning of descent or generation. When he mentions the text in De incomp. 1.5 (PG 48.705-6; SC 28bis 94) he seems more interested in the future tense of the verb, because he says: "He did not say, 'Who declares (or explains)' but, 'Who shall declare (or explain)' his generation?" Thus he excluded any future declaration or explanation. Hence, the Anomoean can never define the substance of God (ibid. 1.4, PG 48.705; SC 28 bis 92).

-1-

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