Chrysostom quote: “How is it that you come to be rich?”

Today I saw an interesting quotation attributed to John Chrysostom, which reads as follows:

John Chrysostom, a fourth-century preacher and bishop of Constantinople, wrote, “Tell me then, how is it that you are rich? From whom did you receive it, and from whom did he transmit it to you? From his father and his grandfather. But can you, ascending through many generations, show the acquisition just? It cannot be. The root and origin of it must have been injustice. Why? Because God in the beginning did not make one person rich and another poor, He left the earth free to all alike. Why then if it is common, have you so many acres of land, while your neighbor has not a portion of it?”

Searching on the first words, “Tell me then, how is it you are rich?”, the source appears to be Shane Claiborne &c, Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals, for May 14 – annoyingly the pages are unnumbered.[1]  But the authors give no source for this supposed quotation.  The quote has now started to appear in Twitter, and will doubtless circulate.

A Google Books search reveals earlier use of those words; e.g. in 1978 by Mary Evelyn Jegen & ‎Bruno V. Manno, The Earth is the Lord’s: Essays in Stewardship, p.40.  Unfortunately all the results listed are in snippet form only.

It sometimes helps to use later words in a quote, so I did a search on “The root and origin of it must have been injustice”, and … bingo!  It appears in the 1843 translation of the homilies of Chrysostom on Timothy, Titus and Philemon, published in the Oxford Movement Library of the Fathers series, on p.100: in homily 12, on 1 Timothy.  This reads, in the NPNF series of homily 12:

Tell me, then, whence art thou rich? From whom didst thou receive it, and from whom he who transmitted it to thee? From his father and his grandfather. But canst thou, ascending through many generations, show the acquisition just? It cannot be. The root and origin of it must have been injustice. Why? Because God in the beginning made not one man rich, and another poor. Nor did He afterwards take and show to one treasures of gold, and deny to the other the right of searching for it: but He left the earth free to all alike. Why then, if it is common, have you so many acres of land, while your neighbor has not a portion of it?

At some point somebody modernised these words – not too arduous a task, since the original translator seems to have abandoned his thee’s and thou’s after the first couple of sentences, and reverted to the English of his own day in which he no doubt actually first wrote his translation – and that modernised version has been quoted and requoted.

So there we have it.  It is from Homily 12 of Chrysostom’s Homilies on 1 Timothy.

  1. [1] Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals, Zondervan, 2010.

New translation of Chrysostom’s 3 sermons on the devil now available

Bryson Sewell has finished making a new translation of the three sermons De diabolo temptatore (CPG 4332) by John Chrysostom.  These are now available here:

And I hope they will become available also at in due course, but their uploader seems to be having an off-day.

The sermons are really quite interesting and relevant, and there are useful pointers to the Christian in them.

These were commissioned by mistake.  There is already an existing translation in the NPNF series, a mere 150 years ago.   This is the peril of commissioning material late in the evening after a long, tiring day, when you are not as alert as you might be!  But an updated translation is well worth having anyway, and Bryson has also translated the Latin introduction by Bernard de Montfaucon for us.  The text used was, inevitably, the Patrologia Graeca.

From my diary

I’ve spent today driving up to Cambridge to visit the university library.  My object was to obtain some articles by R. Delmaire on the subject of Chrysostom’s letters.  For the most part I was able to obtain these; although I was disappointed to discover that the latest available volume of one serial was not shelved or accessible.  I’m reading into them at the moment.  R. Delmaire’s 1991 study examined the letters, and reordered them by date.  The order in the Benedictine edition (and the PG) isn’t even that of the manuscripts!

The Letters of Chrysostom project is not mine, so I won’t say a lot about this.  But I have also discovered a list of the opening words of all of the letters at the Sources Chretiennes site here (PDF).

Equally useful, I have discovered a list of the works of Chrysostom at the same site, with the Clavis Patrum Graecorum number for them all, here (PDF).

I’ve also received from the Lebanese typist the next 10 pages of the transcription of al-Makin’s world history.  This is taken from the 1625 Erpenius edition, which has the merit of being printed.  Once we get to the end of this – for Erpenius died before he could complete editing the text – I shall have to try the typist on a PDF of a microfilm manuscript.

An email has arrived today from the Bibliothèque Nationale Français, containing an estimate for reproductions of two manuscripts of al-Makin.  They require 50 euros each, plus 10 euros for “shipping” (why?) plus M. Hollande’s tax on top of that, totalling around 130 euros, or nearly $190!  Quite a bit for 2 PDF’s!  Worse still, they propose to supply me with scans from microfilms — at least, I hope these are scans, for the estimate says only “microfilm”.  And these will be black and white, and quite possibly unreadable.  I have a lot of time for the BNF, but this is shameful.  For that price they could at least photograph the things with a consumer digital camera and supply me with some decent images!  I shall have to pay the blackmail – it is, at least, less than the Bodleian is demanding – but it is a salutary reminder, in these days of digitisation, how bad things were and still are in some places.


Chrysostom, De terrae motu (on the earthquake) now online in English

Bryson Sewell has kindly translated for us all the short homily by John Chrysostom, De terrae motu (on the earthquake; CPG 4366, PG 50 713-6).

It’s here in HTML form.  I have placed the PDF and Word forms at here.

The translation is public domain: use it freely for personal, educational or commercial use.

If you’d like to support me in commissioning translations of previously untranslated patristic material, you can buy a CD here, or make a donation using the button on the right.

(Ps.)Chrysostom, Homily on the Nativity, now online in English

Bryson Sewell has kindly translated for us a homily transmitted under the name of Chrysostom on Christmas.  This is not the better known Christmas homily, but a second one whose authenticity was defended by C. Martin.

The translation of the homily may be found here:

As usual, the translation is public domain; do whatever you like with it, personal, educational or commercial.

Chrysostom’s Christmas sermons – now online in English

Maria Dahlin has done us all a favour, and made available her translation of five sermons by John Chrysostom!  Here’s what she says:

Now available at are the translations of 5 of Chrysostom’s sermons on Christmas:

  • In Christi Natalem Diem,
  • In Christi Natalem,
  • In Natalem Christi Diem,
  • In Natale Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, and
  • In Natale Domini et in Sanctam Mariam Genitricem

and a 20 page essay on the important status that Chrysostom gives to Christmas.

The file is a Word .doc file.  A PDF is here:

I have always wanted to see English versions of these made available.  Thank you so much, Maria!

Chrysostom, Against the games and the theatres, now online in English

Mark Vermes has completed for us an English translation of Contra ludos et theatra (PG 56, columns 261-270), which I have put in the public domain.  I’ll make an HTML version later, but you can get a PDF and a DOCX from here:

As always, you are free to use or distribute this for any purpose, personal, educational or commercial.  I hope it’s useful!


Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon — an online mystery

At the Trevin Wax blog today I read the following, Hell was in turmoil:

Let no one lament persistent failings, for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free.

The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.

Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.
Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.
Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.
Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.
Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.

Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered Heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.

This was attributed to Chrysostom, “An Easter sermon”, as translated by Andre Lavergne at  The full version is here, and references a translation by  Frank Dobbs.

I think most of us are somewhat wary of unreferenced material of this nature, splendid and true though the statements are.  A PG reference would be so much nicer!

I find in Quasten (III, p.455) a reference to two Easter sermons, PG 50, cols.433-442, Contra ebriosos et de resurrectione, and PG 52, 765-772, described as “of doubtful origin”.

But surely Chrysostom must have preached more than 2 sermons at Easter?  In the CPG, vol. 2, p.573, I find a number of entries:

  • 4605, Sermo catecheticus in pascha, PG 59, 721-724.
  • 4606, In sanctum pascha sermo 1, PG 59, 723-726; followed by 6 more sermons of the same kind, all published by P. Nautin in Sources Chretiennes 36, SC27 and SC48.

Hmm.  Let’s look these up.  And we find … yes, the first item is the source.

It’s very short fragment of only a couple of pages, plainly mutilated.  Both the Lavergne and Dobbs translations translate the whole of Migne’s text.  It is placed by Migne, the PG editor, among the spuria, and the other sermons likewise.

A PDF of the Greek text, probably from the TLG, can be found here.  A manuscript of the text is online, BL Add. 14066, on f.4.

Let’s see what Nautin has to say about these items.

In SC 36, he discusses sermones 1-3 (CPG 4606-8).  All this material is transmitted under the name of Chrysostom.  But both Henry Savile and Bernard Montfaucon rejected this authorship.[1]  And Nautin states that the 7 homilies are not by the same author.  Homily 6 is attributed to a pseudo-Hippolytus; but there are several authors in the collection.  He does feel that the works must date from the late 4th – early 5th century.  Unfortunately he does not discuss our text.

  1. [1] SC36, p.26.

From my diary

Home, with piles of electronic gear.  But when will I get time to set it up?  That said, being unable to use my main machine is becoming increasingly irksome. 

I’ve been looking for possible Greek texts to get translated.  There’s a little pile of sermon material by Chrysostom.

Most interesting of these are three items which appear in Migne in very truncated form.  De Regressu Sancti Joannis (PG52, col. 421), De Recipiendo Severiano (col. 423), and Severian’s reply De Pace (col. 425).  All three are given in Latin, and seem far too short to be full versions.  Now I know that the Greek exists of Severian, and indeed a full version of it.  But I am unclear about the others.

It turns out that I did enquire of a scholar who had published about these, and got the response that I should look in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum vol. 2, from 4438 onwards, and also in the supplement.  I believe that there are oriental translations of this stuff also.

And that, dear reader, is why I am annoyed that I can’t access my main machine, on which resides my copy of CPG2!

There are also some short tracts by Epiphanius of Salamis, in which he expresses strong antipathy to icons.  These would be of general interest: but it turns out that a translation exists already, by Stephen Bigham, in Epiphanius of Salamis: Doctor of Iconoclasm? (2008).  Of course this is offline (drat).

Never mind.  There are still lots of Chrysostom sermons!

Chrysostom’s “Quod Christus Sit Deus”

Yesterday’s post on Chrysostom and the Jews led to some interesting questions about his other work, Against the Jews and Pagans that Christ is God.  These I have pursued in the comments thread.

A look at Quasten’s Patrology says that the work is untranslated; but Quasten was getting tired by the time he did volume 3, and it is nearly 50 years old in any event.  Isn’t it time that someone revised the work and brought it up to date?  It’s not as easy as it might be to see who owns the book; but since it has remained in print ever since, it ought to be in everyone’s interest to update it.

The work seems to have been translated into French as long ago as the 1860’s, in Bareille’s translation of all of Chrysostom’s works.[1]  A lot of these are on, repackaged as just the translations, and volume 1 contains the work under the title La divinité du Christ [2].

Much more important is the unpublished dissertation of Fr. Norman G. McKendrick, S.J., in 1966.[3].  This not merely included an English translation, but also what P.W.Harkins described as an excellent critical Greek text.  This was based on a fresh examination of the manuscripts.  McKendrick drew up a stemma, dividing the manuscripts into 2 families.  The thesis is accessible from UMI, if you have $37 to spare, and is evidently an important work.  McKendrick himself died in 2002.

The final event in the history of the text was a published translation by P.W.Harkins, in 1985 as the second item in a volume in the Fathers of the Church series.[4]  Harkins had already produced the first published translation of the Eight homilies against the Jews in FOC 68.  He decided to rename the work to omit mention of Jews, however, which is perhaps less than ideal, and has certainly hampered at least one correspondent of mine!

So the work is out there, and there is even a study of the manuscripts.

Isn’t it a pity, tho, that US dissertations remain locked inside a commercial company’s database?  Once Proquest were providing a valuable service, in that they produced print-offs of what would otherwise be entirely inaccessible.  You could order these from anywhere.

But in the age of the internet, there is no need for the paper versions, and PDF’s of the theses could usefully (and at almost no cost) appear on the web.

  1. [1] J. Bareille, Oeuvres completes de S. Jean Chrysostome, 19 vols, Paris, 1865-73.
  2. [2], p.478.
  3. [3] Norman G. McKendrick, “The ‘Quod Christus Sit Deus’ of John Chrysostom”, PhD dissertation, Fordham University, 1966
  4. [4] John Chrysostom Apologist, Fathers of the Church 73, CUA Press, 1985, p. 153 f.  A google books preview is accessible here.