John Chrysostom was one of the greatest Christian orators of his day." (Chrysostom means "golden-mouthed.")" Never had Constantinople heard "sermons so powerful, brilliant, and frank" as those preached by Chrysostom. 4° Chrysostom's preaching was so compelling that people would sometimes shove their way toward the front to hear him better.'
Naturally endowed with the orator's gift of gab, Chrysostom learned how to speak under the leading sophist of the fourth century, Libanius. 50 Chrysostom's pulpit eloquence was unsurpassed. So
Brilioth, Brief History of Preaching, 26 . 27.
Hatch, Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages, 109; Brilioth, Brief History of Preaching, 18.
J. D. Douglas, New Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids. Baker Book House, 1991), 405. On his deathbed, Libanius (Chrysostom's pagan tutor) said that he would have been his worthiest successor "if the Christians had not stolen him" (Hatch, Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages, 109).
Tony Castle, Lives of Famous Christians (Ann Arbor, Mk Servant Books, 1988), 69; Hatch, Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages, 6. John was nicknamed golden-mouth (Chrysostomos) because of his eloquent and uncompromising preaching (Krupp, "Golden Tongue and (ron Will," Chr/stian History, 7). Durant, Age of Faith, 63.
Kevin Dale Miller, "Did You Know? Little-Known Facts about John Chrysostom," Christian History 13, no. 4 (1994), 3. Of the sermons that Chrysostom preached, more than 600 survive. M Krupp, "Golden Tongue and (ron Will," 7; Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3:933-941; Durant, Age of Faith, 9. Chrysostom imbibed rhetoric from Libanius, but he was also a student of pagan philosophy and literature (Durant, Age of Faith, 63).
powerful were his orations that his sermons would often get interrupted by congregational applause. Chrysostom once gave a sermon condemning the applause as unfitting in God's house." But the congregation loved the sermon so much that after he finished preaching, they applauded anyway." This story illustrates the untamable power of Greek rhetoric.
We can credit both Chrysostom and Augustine (354-430), a former professor of rhetoric," for making pulpit oratory part and parcel of the Christian faith." In Chrysostom, the Greek sermon reached its zenith. The Greek sermon style indulged in rhetorical brilliance, the quoting of poems, and focused on impressing the audience. Chrysostom emphasized that "the preacher must toil long on his sermons in order to gain the power of eloquence.""
In Augustine, the Latin sermon reached its heights." The Latin sermon style was more down to earth than the Greek style. It focused on the "common man" and was directed to a simpler moral point. Zwingli took John Chrysostom as his model in preaching, while Luther took Augustine as his model." Both Latin and Greek styles included a verse-by-verse commentary form as well as a paraphrasing form."
Even so, Chrysostom and Augustine stood in the lineage of the Greek sophists. They gave us polished Christian rhetoric. They gave us the "Christian" sermon: biblical in content, but Greek in style."
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