A regular visitor to this blog also runs her own blog at suburbanbanshee.wordpress.com. She has been looking into a supposed quotation from John Chrysostom.
“Among all savage beasts none is found so harmful as a woman.” – John Chrysostom
The quotation circulates on the web, but predates the internet. It forms part of a dossier of anti-Christian quotes, made in the feminist interest.
With all such quotes, it is advisable to locate a reference, and this she has done in admirable fashion. It turns out – as too often – to be a bad-faith misquote from one of the pseudo-Chrysostom texts.
A quick explanation for those unfamiliar with the pseudo-Chrysostomica. John Chrysostom is the greatest of the Greek fathers, and manuscripts of his genuine works are incredibly numerous. Works whose author had been lost in transmission often were attributed to him in these same manuscripts, and are known as “pseudo-Chrysostom”.
The text is “In decollationem s. Iohannis”, “On the decapitation of St John”. The reference number CPG 4570. The incipit is: “Πάλιν Ἡρωδιὰς μαίνεται”. The Greek text (online here) is printed in the Patrologia Graeca vol. 59, columns 485-490; and also in Henry Savile’s generally superior edition of the works of Chrysostom (at Archive.org), volume 7, p.545-549. There is also an ancient Latin translation, CPL 931, printed in PL 95, 1508-1514. Dom Andre Wilmart’s “La collection de 38 homelies latines de Saint Jean Chrysostome”, JTS 19 (1918), 305-327, lists it as number 15 in the collection of “Chrysostom” sermons translated into Latin in antiquity.
But “suburbanbanshee” has gone a step further. She has made a translation into English of the whole work, from the Greek text, in two parts. Here is the introduction, and the translation:
- Introduction – https://suburbanbanshee.wordpress.com/2022/09/02/not-a-chrysostom-quote-not-quoted-correctly/
- Part 1 – https://suburbanbanshee.wordpress.com/2022/09/16/pseudo-chrysostom-on-the-beheading-of-the-forerunner-and-baptizer-john-and-on-herodias/
- Part 2 – https://suburbanbanshee.wordpress.com/2022/09/20/pseudo-chrysostom-sermon-part-2/
She has also found a useful article by Maia Barnaveli, in the journal Phasis, 2014, “Motivations for the Beheading of John the Baptist in Byzantine and Old Georgian Writings”. From this we learn of a Georgian translation of the text, found in the “Sinai Polycephalon” – sounds like a manuscript, but a printed version exists. There are probably translations into other ancient languages also.
The Greek for the supposed quote (l.12 of the link) is
Ἐμοὶ μὲν δοκεῖ μηδὲν εἶναι ἐν κόσμῳ θηρίον ἐφάμιλλον γυναικὸς πονηρᾶς.
Indeed, it seems to me that no evil wild animal in the world is comparable to evil women.
So we immediately can tell that the quotation with which we started – “Amongst all savage beasts none is found so harmful as a woman” – is not accurate in any way. This is not about “woman”, about all women in general, at all.
In fact, when we look at the text as a whole – about Herodias – then we quickly see that it isn’t even a fair quotation of the sense. For the next words are:
Surely the sermon by me now is in regards to evil women, not about virtuous and sensible [ἀγαθῆς καὶ σώφρονος] women. And indeed, I know many women to be honestly behaved and virtuous [εὐσχήμονας καὶ ἀγαθὰς], whose lives I have recounted, along with the reward of their works — for edification, and for stirring up a love of good things.
The author is taking pains NOT to express the opinion that the quote attributes to him.
There’s a longish list of supposed quotes from the Fathers that shows up repeatedly in supposedly feminist works. The quotes are almost always in identical wording of an English translation, and they never provide citations from the Fathers. Rather, they cite other feminist authors, who also turn out to have cited other feminist authors as authorities. It shows up in the Congressional Record, in Irish letters to the editor, and in the Antioch Review from 1954… but with never a citation.
And rightly concludes:
Not a Chrysostom quote. Not quoted correctly.
It is marvellous to have a translation of another pseudo-Chrysostom sermon as a by-product of the investigation! Thank you!