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John Chrysostom

Born 347
Died 407

John Chrysostom, theologian and bishop, was born to a wealthy family in Antioch. He trained in rhetoric, but gave up practicing law in 368 when he was baptized, and joined the followers of Diodore (a future bishop of Tarsus). He then retreated to the desert, where he lived for four years under a Syrian monk, and then alone in a cave for two years where he committed much of Scripture to memory. Bad health forced him to return to the city, where he spent twelve years as presbyter of the Church of Antioch. He was consecrated Bishop of Constantinople in 398, but his exhortations against the abuse of power and wealth earned him powerful enemies, and the end of his career as bishop was tragically marred by a conflict with the Empress Eudoxia and Theophilus, the patriarch of Alexandria that resulted in his exile and death.

John was a member of the Antiochene school of interpretation and stood against the subjective allegorizing of scripture popular in his day. His works tend to fall into three categories: sermon, diatribe, and apologetic treatise. Most of his sermons begin with an exposition of Scripture, and then continue into exhortation against a vice or towards a virtue. He preached to the wealthy, but also made a point of venturing out among outlying villages, as well as slums within the city.

Though his eloquence as a preacher was well known even after his death, it appears that it was not until the sixth century that he was described as Chrysostom, which means ‘Golden Mouth’.

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