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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: Birth and Education of John Bishop of Constantinople.

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Chapter III.—Birth and Education of John Bishop of Constantinople.

John was a native of Antioch in Syria-Cœle, son of Secundus and Anthusa, and scion of a noble family in that country. He studied rhetoric under Libanius the sophist, and philosophy under Andragathius the philosopher. 831 Being on the point of entering the practice of civil law, and reflecting on the restless and unjust course of those who devote themselves to the practice of the forensic courts, he was turned to the more tranquil mode of life, which he adopted, following the example of Evagrius. 832 Evagrius p. 139 himself had been educated under the same masters, and had some time before retired to a private mode of life. Accordingly he laid aside his legal habit, and applied his mind to the reading of the sacred scriptures, frequenting the church with great assiduity. He moreover induced Theodore and Maximus, who had been his fellow-students under Libanius the sophist, to forsake a profession whose primary object was gain, and embrace a life of greater simplicity. Of these two persons, Theodore afterwards became bishop of Mopsuestia 833 in Cilicia, and Maximus of Seleucia in Isauria. At that time being ardent aspirants after perfection, they entered upon the ascetic life, under the guidance of Diodorus 834 and Carterius, who then presided over a monastic institution. The former of these was subsequently elevated to the bishopric of Tarsus, and wrote many treatises, in which he limited his attention to the literal sense of scripture, avoiding that which was mystical. 835 But enough respecting these persons. Now John was then living on the most intimate terms with Basil, 836 at that time constituted a deacon by Meletius, but afterwards ordained bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia. Accordingly Zeno 837 the bishop on his return from Jerusalem, appointed him a reader in the church at Antioch. While he continued in the capacity of a reader he composed the book Against the Jews. Meletius having not long after conferred on him the rank of deacon, he produced his work On the Priesthood, 838 and those Against Stagirius; and moreover those also On the Incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature, and On the Women 839 who lived with the Ecclesiastics. Afterwards, upon the death of Meletius at Constantinople,—for there he had gone on account of Gregory Nazianzen’s ordination,—John separated himself from the Meletians, without entering into communion with Paulinus, and spent three whole years in retirement. Later, when Paulinus was dead, he was ordained a presbyter by Evagrius the successor of Paulinus. Such is a brief outline of John’s career previous to his call to the episcopal office. It is said that on account of his zeal for temperance he was stern and severe; and one of his early friends has said ‘that in his youth he manifested a proneness to irritability, rather than to modesty.’ Because of the rectitude of his life, he was free from anxiety about the future, and his simplicity of character rendered him open and ingenuous; nevertheless the liberty of speech he allowed himself was offensive to very many. In public teaching he was powerful in reforming the morals of his auditors; but in private conversation he was frequently thought haughty and assuming by those who did not know him.



Sozomen (VIII. 2) also says that Chrysostom went from the school of Libanius to a private life instead of the legal profession as was expected of him, but from some utterances of Libanius, as well as from Chrysostom’s own representation, de Sacerdot. I. 1. 4, it appears that he had spent some time in the practice of the law.


It is not certain who this Evagrius was. Valesius thinks he was the presbyter of that name mentioned by Jerome, de Scriptor. Eccl.


It has been supposed by some that this was the Theodore addressed in II. 1, VI. Int. and VII. 47; but not with good reason. Cf. note 4, p. xii. of Int. On Theodore of Mopsuestia, the great ‘Exegete’ and theologian, see Smith & Wace; also Sieffert, Theodor. Mopsuestenus Vet. Test. Sobrie Interpret. Vindex and H. B. Swete, Theodori Episc. Mopsuestiæ in Epp. B. Pauli. Commentarii.


Sozomen also attests the simplicity of Diodorus’ interpretations of the Old Testament. The principle which he adopted, of seeking for a literal and historical meaning in preference to the allegorical and mystical interpretations attached to the Old Testament by Origen and the Alexandrians, became the corner-stone of the Antiochian system of interpretation as elaborated by his pupils Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret.


θεωρίας lit. ‘speculations’ by which are evidently meant the allegorical and subjective or contemplative explanations of the Alexandrians.


‘Socrates and Kurtz (in the tenth edition of his Kirchengeschichte, I. 223) confound this Basil with Basil the Great of Cappadocia, who was eighteen years older than Chrysostom, and died in 379. Chrysostom’s friend was probably (as Baronius and Montfaucon conjecture) identical with Basil, bishop of Raphanea in Syria, near Antioch, who attended the Council of Constantinople in 381.’ Comp. Venables in Smith and Wace; Schaff in Prolegomena to Vol. IX. of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, p. 6, note 2. The conjecture of Baronius is assented to also by Valesius.


According to Baronius, this Zeno was bishop of Tyre, but Valesius makes an ingenious objection to this view, and asserts that some other city must have been the real see of Zeno.


This treatise, commonly termed de Sacerdotio, and the Homilies are the most famous of Chrysostom’s works; for a full account, as well as translation, of these works, see Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IX.


These were women who lived in the houses of the clergy as sisters, and exercised themselves in works of piety and charity. At a very early period, however, scandal seems to have arisen from this practice, and strong measures were repeatedly adopted by the Church for their suppression. Paul of Samosata was, according to Eusebius (H. E. VII. 30), deposed partly for keeping these sisters in his house. They were called Syneisactæ (Συνείσακτοι ). Cf. Bingham, Christ. Antiq. XVII. 5. 20, and Council of Nicæa, Can. 3. Hefele, Hist. of Ch. Councils, Vol. I. p. 379.

Next: Of Serapion the Deacon on whose Account John becomes Odious to his Clergy.

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