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Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom_Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop Reprint Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801485732
ISBN-10: 0801485738
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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

From the Back Cover

John Chrysostom, or "Golden Mouth", was a famous ascetic and preacher of the fourth/fifth century, a controversial bishop of Constantinople, and a brilliant orator - hence the epithet. This is the first comprehensive study of him in the English language in over a century. In the early chapters John Kelly highlights Chrysostom's youthful experiments with asceticism at Antioch in Syria, his six years as a monk and then a recluse in the nearby mountains, and his influential role as Antioch's leading preacher. The central section of the book shows him as a fearlessly outspoken populist bishop of the capital. Kelly focuses on his authoritarian style, his interventions in political crises, and his clashes with the Empress Eudoxia, as well as his efforts to promote the primacy of the see of Constantinople in the east. The final chapters reconstruct the plots that led to Chrysostom's downfall, the drama of his trial, and his exile and death. Golden Mouth also provides fresh analyses of Chrysostom's principal treatises and public addresses, and discussions of his views on monasticism, sexuality and marriage, education, and suffering.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; Reprint edition (November 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801485738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801485732
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #603,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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This book is very disappointing. If you are interested in politics, ego driven church division, and a bare skeleton of a man many considered great...this book may help. But you will learn virtually nothing about what made this man so beloved by his congregations. You will learn nothing of what John believed in, what were the great doctrines that under girded his faith, of his devotional love for his God. You will be told he was a great preacher but will be given no examples of his sermons and no analysis of what made those sermons so great that he received the name "Golden Mouth". Nothing of his piety, good works, temperament, godliness that made crowds so fiercely loyal to him. And when the author is faced with historical facts which call for an interpretation he puts the worst, most cynical twist to the evidence. John becomes another of the plotting, conniving, power mongers, or worse, a fool. Why would a man stand up to an empress and risk so much? What if he wasn't a fool but instead a man of conviction who felt he had to be faithful to God and His word and preach the truth even if he had to pay a high price? This thought never seems to occur to the author. The author also seems clueless as to the pressures and tough choices a leader of people and especially a religious leader must make. In the end you will close this book with a sense you know more about the author than about the subject, by the way he handled his subject. Hope there are substantial biographies out there of this extraordinary man which will lead the readers to discover why he was so loved and followed. This is not one of them.
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Format: Paperback
How does an academic Englishman write a biography on a church father and make it read like a soap opera at times? I don't know, but JND Kelly does it. Kelly tells the story of Chrysostom's upbringing in Antioch, his development as a monk, then a preacher and finally as an exiled bishop. The most important moment in Chrysostom's life was the arrival of the Tall Brothers, which began a series of events that resulted in his dying in exile.

Kelly addresses several controversial aspects. Was Chrysostom really an anti-semite? No. His remarks on the Jews, while unfortunate today, would have applied to any counter-religious group, Christian or otherwise. He saw his sheep defecting to Judaism and so preached a series of sermons rebutting Judaism. His language is extreme at times, but no different than any other preacher.

The truly tragic aspect of his ministry was his relationship with Emperor Arkadia and Empress Eudoxia. But more on that later.

The Origenist Controversy:

When Patriarch Theophilus exiled some Origenist monks for attacking more illiterate monks who held to Anthropomorphitism (e.g., God has a body), the monks, known as the Tall Brothers, came to Constantinople. This was a problem. Origenism taught heretical views but not on this point. Theophilius, patriarch of the most important city in the world, moved in for the kill. One thing led to another, which also tied in with John's making enemies, and John found himself in exile. He later returned and was later exiled again.

Some notes from John's career:

John’s Younger Life

Two main influences:
1. Julian the Apostate’s removal of the martyr Babylas’s relics (Kelly 9)
2. Julian’s granting the Jews privileges to negate Christians.
Read more ›
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I gave it four stars not because I terribly enjoyed the book, but because it was very well done.
This is a good historically biography, amazingly well researched, and actually quite interesting. It was also fairly dry so for enjoyment alone I probably would have given this three stars, but as I appreciate quality as well and the book was very educational I think four is appropriate.
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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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