“Amongst all savage beasts none is found so harmful as a woman” – a quote from John Chrysostom?

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:

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!


The Pseudo-Chrysostomica database is now online

Back in 2017 a project began (see a copy of the announcement here) to create a database of all the texts which in the manuscripts are wrongly attributed to John Chrysostom.  This is a very large number of texts – more than a thousand -, mainly Greek but also in Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Georgian and many other languages.  In the medieval period ancient works that had no known author quite often ended up attributed to the main Greek Father, John Chrysostom.

So this deposit of material contains many things, often of great interest, and there are many texts by many authors.  Nearly all the works of Chrysostom’s enemy, Severian of Gabala, ended up as pseudo-Chrystostomica, for instance.

The  project is led by Sever J. Voicu, the expert on all things pseudo-Chrysostomian, who is based in the Vatican.

Today I received an email from him:

Dear colleagues and friends:

The Pseudo-Chrysostomica database is now online at: https://www.trismegistos.org/pseudo-chrysostomica/

The site is under construction. Suggestions welcome. Please write to: [email address]


I won’t put the email here, in these days of spam-spam-spam, but there is a contact link on the website.

This is very welcome news indeed.  At the moment the data contained in it is limited, but it is still good.  The more information that can be loaded into this, the better.  I don’t know what the plans for enhancement are.

Anyway, I thought that I would try it out!  This is not any kind of comprehensive test – just me doing a quick push of a few buttons!

I set Author=Severian, and searched.  The website gave:

The following authors matched your search query:

Severian of Gabala

And below that, some more material which I will talk about in a moment.

The “Severian of Gabala” link itself was of the form https://www.trismegistos.org/pseudo-chrysostomica/detail.php?author=7.   It would be better if the author key was a unique meaningful string like author=SeverianOfGabala rather than a “magic number” like “7” – possibly an automated row ID in the database, and therefore subject to change if the database is unloaded and reloaded?

Clicking on it gives a very satisfactory list of works and links:

The authorities are linked to, and you can get a very good idea of what is available.  I deeply approve.

But I nearly didn’t find any of this.  If you don’t click on that link – perhaps because, like me, you don’t realise that it is a link – and just scroll down, then you get an interesting but unusual search using pie charts:

A table of works by Severian appears.  I initially assumed that this was the result of my query, not the link above.  But it seems to be a very abbreviated list, if you look at it in Chrome on a PC, as I did.  It did not contain De Pace, for instance.  This I found very misleading before I discovered that I could click on “Severian of Gabala”.  I have only discovered, as I type, that in fact this is a scrollable box!  I think the scroll bar needs to be wider.

Moving on, I clicked on the first link in the table, which led to a page with the various language versions of “Quomodo animam…”.  Clicking on the Greek gave me some brief but useful information.  The publication of the Greek was given as “Savile”, but this name is not hyperlinked to anything.  I suppose most people getting this far will know about the Savile edition of Chrysostom’s works. The bibliography is at the moment in a PDF, which is fine for now.

The Slavic version of the same work had:

  • Publication: \\Makarij, Nov.

which looks like a formatting error of some sort, and no doubt will be fixed quickly.  (I bet the developers hate me already!  But any fresh pair of eyes will find something – that’s just how life is)

I looked at the material for De pace (here).  This gives Greek and Georgian language versions, and referenced to the sources for the text; although I seem to remember that the Patrologia Graeca also contains an abbreviated Latin translation?  I was actually rather excited to learn about the Georgian version!  Someone with Georgian skills needs to add stuff to that page – it cries out for additions!

And that, in truth, is part of the merit of such a database.  We can see what we cannot see.  In fact it makes your fingertips itch, to add stuff.  Which is what it is all about.

Recommended.  I must add it to my links!


Ps.Chrysostom, De Susanna Sermo – Coptic version translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock continues to turn Coptic texts into English.  His latest contribution to us all is a translation of the Coptic version of pseudo-Chrysostom, De Susanna Sermo, a homily on the apocryphal book of Susanna:

For comparison, a draft translation of the original Greek text (PG 56: 589-594, CPG 4567) by “K.P.” is online at Academic here.

Both are useful.  Thank you!


Fun with footnotes – the Laudatio Apostolorum of ps.Chrysostom

I do enjoy looking into footnotes.  I’ve been looking into another couple on a passage in Dirk Rohmann’s book, which we encountered a few days ago.  (I’m ignoring footnotes that I’m not looking at; but giving the context).

In John [Chrysostom]’s metaphorical words, the apostles have “gagged the tongues of the philosophers and stitched shut the mouths of the rhetoricians.” This passage echoes a similar statement in an unpublished manuscript (attributed to John) which asserts that “the senate decrees have been overthrown, the philosophers and orators have been put to shame, and the Areopagus has been wiped out.”[12] This statement could be right because it is attested that in the last quarter of the fourth century large private mansions were constructed on the Areopagus hill, traditionally a place that housed archives.

[12] Voicu (1997), 515: “Senatsbeschlüsse sind von den Aposteln umgestürzt, Philosophen u. Redner  beschämt u. der Areopag vernichtet worden”, referring to the unpublished manuscript Cod. Vat.  Gr. 455 fol. 119v. (Voicu, Sever J. 1997. “Johannes Chrysostomus II (Pseudo-Chrysostomica).” RAC 18:503–15)

Mmmm… unpublished manuscripts!!!

…the senate decrees have been overthrown, the philosophers and orators have been put to shame, and the Areopagus has been wiped out…

That does sound rather interesting.  I wondered what the context is?  What is this “unpublished manuscript”?  So… I thought I’d see what I could find!

The RAC seems to be the Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum which no normal person has access to.  It’s not accessible online.  That’s annoying.  Presumably nobody ever looks at it.

My next thought was that perhaps the manuscript itself was online?  Maybe I could take a look at it?  Maybe get a text transcribed, or translated?  After all, 15,000 Vatican manuscripts are now online.  But unfortunately this is not one of them.  Okay…

But surely the Pinakes database, maintained by the IRHT, will list the manuscript and it’s contents?  Well indeed they do!  The entry is here.  The manuscript appears to be a Byzantine homiliary, of the 10th century, and the passage comes from a very short work (folios 118v-120v), entitled Laudatio SS Apostolorum (= Praise of the holy apostles), CPG 4970 (BHG 0160i), incipit Οἱ πρὸ τῆς κλήσεως ἁλιεῖς καὶ μετὰ τὴν κλῆσιν πάλιν ἁλιεῖς, and ending ὅτι ἔδει ἐξ ὕψους μεγάλαις ταῖς πτέρυξιν ἐφιπτάμενον τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα φίλους θεοῦ καὶ προφήτας κατασκευάζειν… ἀμήν.  Three manuscripts are listed – Thank heavens for the thoroughness of the IRHT cataloguers!  The CPG entry tells us no more; a couple of items of inaccessible bibliography are listed by the BHG.  A google search reveals another article by Sever J. Voicu, likewise inaccessible.[1]  I infer that the work does indeed have some interesting features!

We can do nothing with this work at the moment.  It’s quite unusual, these days, that I can’t find some kind of access online to some of this stuff.  But of course this was once normal.  It’s a reminder of what is still offline.

But once the manuscript comes online at the Vatican site, I must have a look.  If the manuscript is legible – and Greek manuscripts tend to be heavily abbreviated – then I might try to get a transcription made; and then a translation.  It might be fun!

There is nothing we can do at the moment, however.  Nice footnote, to nice stuff.

  1. [1]S.J.Voicu, “Echi costantinopolitani di sant’Ireneo. Note su una pseudocrisostomica «Laudatio apostolorum» (CPG 4970)”, in Ultra Terminum Vagari. Scritti in onore di Carl Nylander, a cura di B. Magnusson, S. Renzetti, P. Vian & S.J. Voicu, Roma: Edizioni Quasar. Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica, 1997, 357-366.

A bunch of Chrysostom and ps.Chrysostom now online in English

Sometime correspondent “Inepti Graeculi” has been working away on some of the untranslated works of Chrysostom, and also some of the mass of literature attributed to him in transmission.

This sort of work is excellent.  Voicu has estimated that there are around 1,500 texts which are spuriously attributed to Chrysostom.  They are, of course, works which lost their original author, but were considered sufficiently interesting to be preserved; which means that they deserve attention now.  These translations should do much to make that happen!

There’s a list of material recently translated by IG at the bottom; but coming soon also is…

Ps.Chrysostom’s In Parabolam Ficu (CPG 4588) – a popular work that argues against the notion that God rejected the Jews (versions found in Syriac, Ethiopic, translated five times into Arabic (!), also in a very important manuscript in Slavonic etc etc.  Wrongly ascribed to Severian of Gabala in the Armenian tradition. Voicu assigns this to an anonymous Cappadocian. The amazing Sever Voicu’s short outline of Chrystostom in the Oriental tradition is quite eye-opening.

I have also nearly finished Chrysostom’s Non Esse Desperandum (CPG 4390) which I very much enjoyed

Here are the recent releases!


Title CPG Comment Version
In Jordanem Fluvuium 4548 Attributed to Severian of Gabala by Marx (1939) but this was rejected by Altendorf (1957). Calvin should have read this. 0.1 Link
De Cognitione Dei 4703 A short homily in which  the speaker relates that Christ’s advent brought the knowledge of god (θεογνωσία). He then briefly addresses neophytes and invites the audience to pilgrimage to the Jordan. Possibly delivered at Bethlehem on the night before the celebration of Christ’s baptism 0.1 Link


Precatio in Obsessos 4710 One of several prayers published by Montfaucon (and reprinted by Migne) as a supplement to the Liturgy ascribed to John Chrysostom. Montfaucon sourced this text from Goar, Rituale Graecorum, Paris, 1647, p. 783. It was not included in Savile’s or Fronto’s Chrysostom edition. This little prayer is still found in the liturgical books of Eastern Orthodox churches. 0.2 Link
In Ingressum sanctorum jejuniorum 4665 On fasting and drunkenness. Ascribed to Proclus (Marx, Le Roy, De Aldama) or an anonymous sophistic rhetor (Musurillo) 0.1 Link
In sanctum Stephanum 2 4691 One of several homilies on the Protomartyr Stephen among the Ps.-Chrysostomica 0.1 Link
Encomium in sanctos martyres 4759 Text: Aubineau (1975) 0.1 Link