Interactions with Others in John Chrysostom

Anna-Liisa Tolonen, ‘Interactions with Others in John Chrysostom as a Means to Manage a Diversity of Visions’, De Gruyter’s Open Theology. Vol. 2. Issue 1, pp. 494-510

This article is based on a paper presented at the AAR Annual Meeting 2015 in Atlanta, USA.

The article is available at

Two opposing opinions about “the Maccabees” feature in the homily On Eleazar and the Seven Boys. According to the homilist, “the Maccabees” can be recognized as martyrs; yet, many others fail to see it. The construction of this conflict relies heavily on another confrontation identifiable in the same text: a dialogue between the homilist and “the Jew”, who thinks differently and, in the opinion of the homilist, incorrectly. These tensions in the source may be taken to reflect “identity-political” issues of the time and evaluated accordingly. My analysis challenges this view by emphasizing how difficult it is to reconstruct historical encounters between persons/groups based on such a source. I suggest, instead, that the conflict and dialogue should be considered parallel examples of how, in the context of late antiquity, a Christian intellectual mind conceptualizes “difference” (of opinions or between identities) and how it deals with it. The analysis shows that the homilist’s argumentation is built on seemingly commonsensical or authoritative fair-to-all “facts”. Yet, interactions with others provide the homilist with ways to govern and re-produce those very facts. They are not social struggles but, rather, they represent the level of otherness contained in the discourse.