Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

33. The School of Antioch:
John Chrysostom — I

John Chrysostom was a presbyter in Antioch from 386 to 398, when he became bishop of Constantinople. His twelve Catechetical Instructions, or Baptismal Instructions (by which name I will cite them), which have come down to us in different manuscripts, are in three overlapping series that belong to the period in Antioch, probably from two different years, 388 and perhaps 390.1

Baptismal Instructions 1 and 9 were preached in different years ten days after Lent began, thirty days before Easter (cf. Bapt. Instr. 9.29). Numbers 10 and 12 were delivered twenty days after Lent began, again in different years. The eleventh instruction came on holy Thursday (11.19) and concluded the prebaptismal catechesis; the

1. Studies include Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Slough: St. Paul, 1971); Hugh M. Riley, Christian Initiation, Studies in Christian Antiquity 17 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1974); Raymond Burnish, The Meaning of Baptism: A Comparison of the Teaching and Practice of the Fourth Century with the Present Day (London: Alcuin Club/SPCK, 1985); Raymond Burnish, “Baptismal Preparation under John Chrysostom,” in Stanley E. Porter and Anthony R. Cross, eds., Baptism, the New Testament, and the Church: Historical and Contemporary Studies in Honour of R. E. O. White (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), pp. 379–401; Baby Varghese, Les onctions baptismales dans la tradition syrienne, Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium 512 (Louvain: Peeters, 1989), pp. 81–91; J. Knupp, Das Mystagogieverständnis des Johannes Chrysostomus (Munich, 1995); and especially Thomas M. Finn, The Liturgy of Baptism in the Baptismal Instructions of St. John Chrysostom, Studies in Christian Antiquity 15 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1967); Philippe de Roten, Baptême et mystagogie: Enquête sur l’initiation chrétienne selon s. Jean Chrysostome, Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen 91 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2005); and Paul W. Harkins, St. John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instructions, Ancient Christian Writers 31 (Westminster: Newman, 1963) with translation and copious notes. My quotations are from Harkins, and citations follow his numbering. Their sequence in the order of the baptismal liturgy was different, and he recommends reading them in the order 1, 9, 2, 10–12, and 3-8 (p. 202, n. 23). The Greek texts are available in A. Wenger, Jean Chrysostome: Huit catéchèses baptismales inédites, Sources chrétiennes 50 and 50b (Paris: Cerf, 1957, 1970); A. Piédagnel, Jean Chrysostome: Trois catéchèses baptismales, Sources chrétiennes 366 (Paris: Cerf, 1990); and Reiner Kacynski, Johannes Chrysostomus: Catecheses Baptismales (Taufkatechese) I-II: Griechisch-Deutsch, Fontes Christiani 6.1-2 (Freiburg: Herder, 1992).

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