St. John Chrysostom: Feminist

I didn’t find much online about the Fathers’ opinion of 1 Corinthians 11, so I went looking and found some interesting stuff.

In defending St. Paul’s statement about “the head of Christ is God” not being Arian or Adoptionist or anything derogatory to the divinity of Christ, St. John Chrysostom actually shows his feminist side! Woot!

From “Homily 26 on First Corinthians”, Section 3.

“Here the heretics rush upon us with a certain declaration of inferiority, which out of these words [“the head of Christ is God”] they contrive against the Son.

But they stumble against themselves. For if “the man be the head of the woman,” and the head be of the same substance with the body, and “the head of Christ is God,” the Son is of the same substance with the Father.

“Nay,” say they, “it is not His being of another substance which we intend to show from hence, but that He is under subjection.”

What then are we to say to this?

In the first place, when anything lowly is said of Him, conjoined as He is with the Flesh, there is no disparagement of the Godhead in what is said, the Economy admitting the expression.

However, tell me how you intend to prove this from the passage?

“Why, as the man governs the wife,” says he, “so also the Father, Christ.”

Therefore, as Christ governs the man, so likewise the Father governs the Son. “For the head of every man,” we read, “is Christ.”

And who could ever admit this? For if the superiority of the Son compared with us, be the measure of the Father’s compared with the Son, consider to what meanness you will bring Him. So we must not try all things by like measure in respect of ourselves and of God, though the language used concerning them be similar; but we must assign to God a certain appropriate excellency, and so great as belongs to God.

For should they not grant this, many absurdities will follow. Such as this: “the head of Christ is God:” and, “Christ is the head of the man, and he of the woman.” Therefore if we choose to take the term, “head,” in the like sense in all the clauses, the Son will be as far removed from the Father as we are from Him. Nay, and the woman will be as far removed from us as we are from the Word of God. And what the Son is to the Father, this both we are to the Son and the woman again to the man. And who will endure this?

But do you understand the term “head” differently in the case of the man and the woman, from what thou dost in the case of Christ?

Therefore, in the case of the Father and the Son, we must understand it differently also.

“How understand it differently?” says the objector.

According to the occasion. For had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection, as you say, he would not have brought forward the instance of a wife, but rather of a slave and a master.

For what if the wife be under subjection to her husband? It is as a wife — as free, as equal in honor.

And the Son also, though He did become obedient to the Father, it was as the Son of God, it was as God.

For as the obedience of the Son to the Father is greater than we find in men towards the authors of their being, so also His liberty is greater. Since it will not of course be said that the circumstances of the Son’s relation to the Father are greater and more intimate than among men, and of the Father’s to the Son, less.

For if we admire the Son — that He was obedient so as to come even unto death, and the death of the cross, and reckon this the great wonder concerning Him — we ought to admire the Father also, that He begot such a son — not as a slave under command, but as free, yielding obedience and giving counsel. For the counsellor is no slave. But again, when you hear of a counsellor, do not understand it as though the Father were in need, but that the Son has the same honor with Him that begot Him. Do not therefore strain the example of the man and the woman to all particulars.”

Heh. Anyway, the rest of his comments are a bit less feminist… but still, a lot more feminist than some people online!

1 Comment

Filed under Patristics

One response to “St. John Chrysostom: Feminist

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds

    Roger Pearce’s attention the other day got me interested in Frederick Adam Wright, and what did I encounter in the Internet Archive? – his Feminism in Greek Literature from Homer to Aristotle (1923) (!) I’ve only read the Introduction so far, but that was quite interesting.

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