Chrysostom on corrupt priests – part 2

Two days ago I posted on a strong expression attributed to John Chrysostom:

The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.

Commenters united to say that the ‘quote’ is bogus, and has long been known as such.  T.J. Buckton in Notes & Queries ser.1.V.117 (1852) p.92 (online here) writes as follows:

Hell paved with the Skulls of Priests (Vol. iv., p. 484.). — The French priest referred to in this Query had most probably quoted, at second or third hand, and with rhetorical embellishment — certainly not from the original direct — an expression of St. Chrysostom, m his third homily on the Acts of the Apostles :

“οὐκ οῖμαι εῖναι πόλλους ἐν τοῖς ἰερευσι τοὺς σωζομένους, ἀλλὰ πολλῳ πλείους τοὺς ἀπολλυμένους”

I know not if there be many in the priesthood, who are saved, but I know that many more perish.”

Gibbon has also quoted this passage at second hand (v. 399. note z.), for he says :

“Chrysostom declares his free opinion (tom. ix. hom. iii. in Act. Apostol. p. 29.) that the number of bishops who might be saved, bore a very small proportion to those who would be damned.”

It may be safely asserted that the above expression of Chrysostom is the strongest against the priesthood to be found in any of the Christian Fathers of authority in the Church.

T. J. Buckton.


Well!  A fairly definite opinion, that.  Can anyone find “vol. 4, p.484” in Google books?  I’d like to see the context, as this must be a reply.

On to Chrysostom’s Sermon III on Acts.  In the NPNF translation we find this:

I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish;

Which is undoubtedly the same sentence.  I would tend to call that a mistranslation, except that Chrysostom is definitely talking about bishops, in context, and trying to deter men from corruptly obtaining high ecclesiastical office.


8 thoughts on “Chrysostom on corrupt priests – part 2

  1. I found Notes and Queries and then clicked “More editions.” That generated a new search window with a bunch of weird text. I tacked on the phrase “skulls of bishops” to the end of it and presto, it came up!

  2. I can’t reproduce what you did. Would you spell it out in more detail so I can step through it? How did you find “notes and queries”? Where is the “More editions”? What was the “bunch of weird text” and where?

  3. 1. Open Google Book search at
    2. Type notes and queries and click search.
    3. When you see Notes and Queries in the results, click “Full view only” in the “Showing” drop-down box.
    4. click “More editions” underneath the book. This should generate a new page with text already in the search box. Something like “editions:0Q9299xCkhUyifUq9A”.
    5. Type “skulls of priests” with a space before it after the text:
    editions:0Q9299xCkhUyifUq9A skulls of priests
    6. Click Search Books.
    7. This *should* give you the result at the top of your list.

  4. Thank you very much for this!

    In step 3, when I choose “full view only”, all the “notes and queries” disappear and I end up with a page full of “Macbeth – p160” and the like.

    This must be the effect of the Google block on non-US readers. If I repeat via a US proxy, a more normal result appears, and the rest of the steps work.

    Interesting: even the searches don’t work properly for non-US readers!

  5. I’m glad I could be of help – sorry about the UK / US difference. Keep up the good work – Ad Fontes as the Reformers said!

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