Date of Submission
Bae, J. (2018). John Chrysostom On Almsgiving and the Therapy of the Soul (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.26199/5b84d5eabcf7f
In recent years, a significant scholarly focus has been on John Chrysostom’s appropriation of ancient psychagogy, demonstrating that he was a skilled Christian physician of the soul who sought to promote the somatic and psychological health of his congregation by proposing preaching and various ascetic disciplines as medical treatments. In theses studies, however, relatively little attention has been devoted to his use of philosophical therapy in relation to almsgiving. To address this, my project aims to take a closer look at Chrysostom’s view of almsgiving and soul therapy within the context of ancient philosophical therapy. Ancient philosophers identified passions (πάθη), desires, and distorted thought as the diseases of the soul and developed various kinds of cognitive and behavioural remedies. This thesis attempts to seek interdisciplinary research between Greco-Roman philosophy and social ethics in early Christianity, particularly in the tradition of the Greek fathers, and to pursue a givers-centered analysis which has largely been ignored in the previous receivers-oriented approach.
Following an introductory chapter, the thesis is divided into three chapters. Chapter 1 looks at how almsgiving heals the diseases of the soul, demonstrating that it cures the sick soul and keeps its health. Chapter 2 analyses the psychagogical role of eschatology within Chrysostom’s discourse of psychic-therapeutic almsgiving. As gentle and harsh therapy speeches reward and punishment arouse both hope and fear, which results in regaining the peace of the mind in harmonious combination with almsgiving. The last chapter explores Chrysostom’s idea of Christinized psychic-therapeutic almsgiving. The integrated horizon of Christian therapy gives a broader vision of salvation from the accomplishment of happiness to participation to a divine life.
On the basis of findings from the close analysis of Chrysostom’s homiletic series on Matthew and John, this thesis argues that for Chrysostom almsgiving is one of the most powerful remedies for healing the sick souls, and the concept of Christianized soul therapy is a new key framework for understanding his approach to almsgiving and his homilies on it holistically and systematically. These findings suggest that the Christianized therapy of the soul will be a vital interpretive methodology which has the potential to offer a new reading of discourse on almsgiving in late antiquity. Chrysostom still gives the same message to modern audiences as he did in the past: ‘give alms and your soul will be healed.’
Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Theology and Philosophy