19 August, 2010

Chrysostom on the Clarity of Scripture

"What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because ye are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? and yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in the Scriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words."
From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (ed. Schaff), Series 1, Vol XIII, Sermons of St Chrysostom on Galatians, Ephesians etc., Sermon III on 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, para 388.

The language is rather archaic but the meaning is clear enough; in a rhetorical dialogue with his hearers, whom he suspects of coming to hear him preach merely 'for pleasure', the 'Golden Mouthed' preacher of the ancient church chastises them for their slothfulness in applying themselves to the study of holy scripture, whence arises the need for discourses or homilies in the first place. These should not be necessary, Chrysostom suggests, since "all things are clear and open that are in the divine scriptures; the necessary things are all plain".
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