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Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom - Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop Paperback – November 5, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0801485732 ISBN-10: 0801485738

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (November 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801485738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801485732
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"No other author has delved so deeply into the life and work of this complex, influential, and tragic figure of the fourth century and produced such a far-ranging but precise, solidly researched, and eminently readable account. . . . Chrysostom emerges as a sympathetic and tragic figure of great integrity, whose human failings contributed and perhaps led to his downfall. . . . Kelly has used a careful analysis of many of John's writings and sermons to present new insights and to confirm details of Chrysostom's life previously considered doubtful; his comments and summaries stimulate one to turn to the originals. Those who are interested in Chrysostom or in this historical period must read this book."—Catholic Historical Review

"A rewarding . . . read as well as a rich mine of historical information. . . . The book is peppered with new, revisionist insights about . . . Chrysostom's life."—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"A monumental achievement, which examines with fairness and thoroughness both the primary sources and continuing scholarship on John and his often-stormy episcopacy in Constantinople."—Christian Century

"In Golden Mouth, Kelly displays an outstanding command of the primary sources, using Chrysostom's homilies to shed light on hitherto obscured events in his life. The author, refreshingly to this reader, does not fall victim to the extreme skepticism of many modern Church historians and is willing to accept that many of Chrysostom's statements actually mean what they say. Kelly gives concise summaries of all the major works and of many of the homilies; so sprightly, in fact, are his renderings from Chrysostom and others that one occasionally wishes to see the Greek originals. . . . This book is an outstanding achievement and a most welcome addition to patristic scholarship in English. Golden Mouth often reads like a good, suspenseful novel, and combines readability with open-handed scholarship."—Tim Vivian, Cistercian Studies Quarterly

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A Choice magazine "Outstanding Academic Book" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert Huffstedtler VINE VOICE on June 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a very serviceable biography of John Chrysostom, the most famous preacher of the ancient church. It chronicles the entirety of John's life, from the monasticism of his youth, to his subsequent tenure as a priest in Antioch, his bishopric in the imperial capitol, and the quarrels with the bishop of Alexandria and the empress that eventually brought about his downfall.
Kelly does an excellent job of showing John's character. We get to see that those things which in some ways were the best of John's traits, his forthrightness and lack of fear, were the very things which due to his intemperate nature led him into conflict with those who were easily made jealous and those who did not care for their misdeeds to be honestly spoken of.
There is, however, one serious flaw in this book. Kelly seems undecided about who his audience is. He alternates between gripping narration and lengthy passages (sometimes several pages in length) wherein he dissects the arguments for and against the authenticity of a particular sermon of John's or the dating of one of his writings. In my opinion, the book would have been strengthened had Kelly simply based the main text on what he believes to be correct, and moved the disputation either to end notes or to an appendix.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Joshua V. Schneider VINE VOICE on November 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this account of St. John Chrysostom's life, J.N.D. Kelly does an excellent job of gathering a thorough and balanced biography of John's rise to fame, his role as a bishop and preacher, and his subsequent deposition and exile. He details how John began his life as a humble monk with a startlingly severe lifestyle, and gradually became a deacon in Antioch, where he was to earn renown for his remarkable preaching (and hence the nickname "Chrysostom", i.e. "Golden Mouth"). Not long after filling that role in Antioch, John was assigned the office of bishop of Constantinople, one of the primary sees in Christianity. His preaching was characterized by sharp denunciations of the rich and powerful, and advocacy of aid to the poor and downtrodden. Thus he was the champion of the common people, but he developed many bitter enemies among the rulers and clergy in the government and church.
Kelly tells the story of John's relationships, the bitter controversies he was caught in, and his eventual exile in a lively manner, but without embellishing the facts. His book is very well written from a historical perspective, but I had a few minor complaints. First of all, since Chrysostom was primarily famous for his preaching, I was disappointed to find meager quotation from his sermons. There were many terse references to various sermons in the book, but none of them gave any extensive examples that helped the reader to understand their popularity or controversial nature. Instead the reader must rely on his brief paraphrasing and summarizing of the sermons' content, and the occasional excerpt. Secondly, the evaluation of John's personality was very focused historically, but barely described John's theological viewpoints.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 1996
Format: Hardcover
J.N.D. Kelly, well known to students of the Early Church for his classics, "Early Church Doctrines," "Early Church Creeds," and for his biography of the brilliant, bitter saint, "Jerome," has written what will certainly be for the foreseeable future the standard life of Saint John Chrystom. Kelly clearly admires the great man, but is not blind to his flaws. His is a balanced portrait of a complicated man living in complicated times
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a superb, thorough, scholarly life of one of the key figures in the political-religious turmoil of late antiquity. Like Kelly's equally fine biography of Jerome, it is not a hagiography or a critical study of John's voluminous works; rather it concentrates on telling the story of his eventful life as revealed through often fragmentary sources. As a narrative it succeeds very well indeed. My only criticism is that the book gives very little sense of the tremendous secular upheavals against which the turmoil in the church was taking place; it is perhaps significant, in this respect, that the one time the Gothic sacker of Rome is mentioned, he is called "Alaric the Hun." However, that is a very rare lapse in a work that I can recommend without hesitation to anyone with an interest in this fascinating period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By rodboomboom HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kelly is easily recognized as our time's authority on early church matters. Here in similar fashion as his worthy work on Jerome he tackles Chrysostom.

He breaks it down nicely into three major components of his life: ascetic, preacher, bishop.

The politics of the church and interaction with secular authorities dominate his life, as it does most. John certainly had his prinicples and he chose not to break them. It got him into disfavor with many, thus cumulating at the end in action taken against him. That easily summarizes his end, the buildup of resentment and hatred catches up.

He certainly exhibited a passion for the underpriviledged and sick and devoted his preaching and resources to this. His ascetic beginning permeated this and fueled much of his preacher/bishop energies. This will bring enemy retaliation.
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