Chrysostom on 1Cor 500
500 that the thing is not new, but ancient, as it was presignified and foretold from the beginning. For,“It is written,” saith he, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” Withal he shews that itwas neither inexpedient nor unaccountable for things to take this course: (for, “seeing that in the wisdom of God the world,” saith he, “knew not God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save them which believe:”) and that the Cross is a demonstration of ineffable power and wisdom, and that the foolishness of God is far mightier than the wisdom of man. And this again he proves not by means of the teachers, but by means of the disciples themselves. For, “Behold your calling,” saith he: that not only teachers of an untrained sort, but disciples also of the like class, were objects of His choice; that He chose “not many wise men” (that is his word) “according to the flesh.” And so that of which he is speaking is proved to surpass both in strength and wisdom, in that it convinces both the many and the unwise: it being extremely hard to convince an ignorant person, especially when the discourse is concerning great and necessary things. However, they did work conviction. And of this he calls the Corinthians themselves as witnesses. For, “behold your calling, brethren,” saith he: consider; examine: for that doctrines so wise, yea, wiser than all, should be received by ordinary men, testifies the greatest wisdom in the teacher. (1Co 1,26-31)
501 [2.] But what means, “according to the flesh?” According to what is in sight; according to the life that now is; according to the discipline of the Gentiles. Then, leg he should seem to be at variance with himself, (for he had convinced both the Proconsul, (Ac 13,12). and other wise men, too, we have seen coming over to the Gospel;) he said not, No wise man, but, “Not many wise men.” For he did not designedly (apoceclhrwmenw") call the ignorant and pass by the wise, but these also he received, yet the others in much larger number. And why? Because the wise man according to the he will not cast away his corrupt doctrine. And as in the case of a physician who might wish to teach certain persons the secrets of his art, those who know a few things, having a bad and perverse mode of practicing the art which they make a point of retaining, would not endure to learn quietly, but they who knew nothing would most readily embrace what was said: even so it was here. The unlearned were more open to conviction, for they were free from the extreme madness of accounting themselves wise. For indeed the excess of folly is in these more than any, these, I say, who commit unto reasoning things which cannot be ascertained except by faith. Thus, suppose the smith by means of the tongs drawing out the red-hot iron; if any one should insist on doing it with his hand, we should vote him guilty of extreme folly: so in like manner the philosophers who insisted on finding out these things for themselves disparaged the faith. And it was owing to this that they found none of thethings they sought for.
“Not many mighty, not many noble;” for these also are filled with pride. And nothing is so useless towards an accurate knowledge of God as arrogance, and being nailed down (proshlwsqai) to wealth: for these dispose a man to admire things present, and make no account of the future; and they stop up the ears through the multitude of cares: but “the foolish things of the world God chose:” which thing is the person one meets in the market more of a philosopher than themselves. Wherefore also he said himself, “That He might put to shame the wise.” And not in this instance alone hath he done this, also in the case of the other advantages of life. For, to proceed, “the weak sons only, but needy also, and contemptible and obscure He called, that He might humble those who were in high places.
502 1Co 1,28. “And the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things “that are not?” Those persons who are considered to be nothing because of their great insignificance. Thus hath He shown forth His great power, casting down the great by those who seem to be nothing. The same elsewhere he thus expresses, (2Co 12,9) such as never applied themselves to any branch of learning, how all at once to discourse wisely on the things which are above the heavens For suppose a physician, an orator, or any one else: we then most admire him, when he convinces and instructs those completely uneducated. Now, if to instil into an uneducated man the rules of art be a very wonderful thing, much more things which pertain to so high philosophy.
[3.] But not for the wonders sake only, neither to shew His own power, hath He done this, but to check also the arrogant. And therefore he both said before, “That he might confound the wise and the strong, that He might bring to nought the things which are,” and here again,
1Co 1,29. “That no flesh should glory in the presence of God.” For God doeth all things to this end, to repress vainglory and pride, to pull down boasting.” “Do you, too,” saith he, “employ yourselves in that work.” He doth all, that we may put nothing to our own account; that we may ascribe all unto God. And have ye given yourselves over unto this person or to that? And what pardon will ye obtain?”
For God Himself hath shown that it is not possible we should be saved only by ourselves: and this He did from the beginning. For neither then could men be saved by themselves; but it required their compassing the beauty of the heaven, and the extent of the earth, and the mass of creation besides; if so they might be led by the hand to the great artificer of all the works. And He did this, repressing beforehand the self-conceit which was after to arise. Just as if a master who had given his scholar charge to follow wheresoever he might lead, when he sees him forestalling, and desiring to barn all things of himself, should permit him to go quite astray; and when he hath proved him incompetent to acquire the knowledge, should thereupon at length introduce to him what himself has to teach: so God also commanded in the beginning to trace Him by the idea which the creation gives; but since they would not, He, after showing by the experiment that they are not sufficient for themselves, conducts them again unto Him by another way. He gave for a tablet, the world; but the philosophers studied not in those things, neither were willing to obey Him, nor to approach unto Him by that way which Himself commanded. He introduces another way more evident than the former; one that might bring conviction that man is not of himself alone sufficient unto himself. For then scruples of reasoning might be started, and the Gentile wisdom employed, on their part whom He through the creation was leading by the hand; but now, unless a man become a fool, that is, unless he dismiss all reasoning and all wisdom, and deliver up himself unto the faith, it is impossible to be saved. You see that besides making the way easy, he hath rooted up hereby no trifling disease, namely, in forbidding to boast, and have high thoughts: “that no flesh should glory:” for hence came the sin, that men insisted on being wiser than the laws of God; not willing so to obtain knowledge as He had enacted: and therefore they did not obtain it at all. So also was it from the beginning. He said unto Adam, “Do such a thing, and such another thou must not do.” He, as thinking to find out something more, disobeyed; and even what he had, he lost. He spake unto those that came after, “Rest not in the creature; but by means of it contemplate the Creator.” They, forsooth, as if making out something wiser than what had been commanded, set in motion windings innumerable. Hence they kept dashing against themselves and one another, and neither found God, nor concerning the creature had any distinct knowledge; nor had any meet and true opinion about it. Wherefore again, with a very high hand, (ek pollou tou perionto") lowering their conceit. He admitted the uneducated first, showing thereby that all men need the wisdom from above. And not only in the matter of knowledge, but also in all other things, both men and all other creatures He hath constituted so as to be in great need of Him; that they might have this also as a most forcible motive of submission and attachment, lest turning away they should perish. For this cause He did not suffer them to be sufficient unto themselves. For if even now many, for all their indigency, despise Him, were the case not so, whither would they not have wandered in haughtiness? So that He stayed them from boasting as they did, not from any grudge to them, but to draw them away from the destruction thence ensuing.
[4.] 1Co 1,30 “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
The expression “of Him,” I suppose he uses here, not of our introduction into being, but with reference to the faith: that is, to our having become children of God, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh.” (St. Jn 1,13) “Think not then, that having taken away our glorying, He left us so: for there is another, a greater glorying, His gift. For ye are the children of Him in whose presence it is not meet to glory, having become so through Christ.” And since he has said, “The foolish things of the world He chose, and the base,” he signifies that they are nobler than all, having God for their Father. And of this nobility of ours, not this person or that, but Christ is the cause, having made us wise, and righteous, and holy. For so mean the words, “He was made unto us wisdom.”
503 Who then is wiser than we are who have not the wisdom of Plato, but Christ Himself God having so willed.
But what means, “of God?” Whenever he speaks great things concerning the Only-Begotten, he adds mention of the Father, lest any one should think that the Son is unbegotten. Since therefore he had affirmed His power to be so great, and had referred the whole unto the Son, saying that He had “become wisdom unto us, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption;”—through the Son again referring the whole to the Father, he saith, “of God.”
But why said he not, He hath made us wise, but “was made unto us wisdom?” To show the copiousness of the gift. As if he had said, He gave unto us Himself. And observe how he goes on in order. For first He made us wise by delivering from error, and then righteous and holy, by giving us the Spirit; and He hath so delivered us from all our evils as to be “of Him.” and this is not meant to express communication of bring, (ousiwsew") but is spoken concerning the faith. Elsewhere we find him saying, “We were made righteousness in Him;” in these words, “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him;” (2Co 5,21) but now he saith, “He hath been made righteousness unto us; so that whosoever will may partake plentifully.” For it is not this man or that who hath made us wise, but Christ. “He that glorieth,” therefore, “let him glory in Him,” not in such or such an one. From Christ have proceeded all things. Wherefore, having said, “Who was made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” he added, “that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
For this cause also he had vehemently inveighed against the wisdom of the Greeks, to teach men this lesson, (touto auto Savile; toutw autp Bened). and no other: that (as indeed is no more than just) they should boast themselves in the Lord. For when of ourselves we seek the things which are above us, nothing is more foolish, nothing weaker than we are. In such case, a tongue well whetted we may have; but stability of doctrine we cannot have. Rather, reasonings, being alone, are like the webs of spider. For unto such a point of madness have some advanced as to say that there is nothing real in the whole of being: yea, they maintain positively that all things are contrary to what appears
Say not therefore that anything is from thyself, but in all things glory in God. Impute unto no man anything at any time. For if unto Paul nothing ought to be imputed much less unto any others. For, saith he, (ch. 3,6). “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” He that hath learnt to make his boast in the Lord, will never be dated, but will be moderate at all times, and thankful under all circumstances. But not such is the mind of the Greeks; they refer all to themselves; wherefore even of men they make gods. In so great shame hath desperate arrogance plunged them.(exetrakhlisen
[5.] It is time then, in what remains, to go forth to battle against these. Recollect where we left our discourse on the former day. We were saying that it was not possible according to human cause and effect that fishermen should get the better of philosophers. But nevertheless it became possible: from whence it is dear that by grace it became so. We were saying that it was not possible for them even to conceive such great exploits: and we shewed that they not only conceived, but brought them to a conclusion with great ease. Let us handle, to-day, the same head of our argument: viz. From whence did it enter their thoughts to expect to overcome the world, unless they had seen Christ after He was risen? What? Were they beside themselves, to reckon upon any such thing inconsiderately and at random? For it goes even beyond all madness, to look, without Divine grace, for success in so great an undertaking. How did they succeed in it, if they were insane and frenzied? But if they were in their sober senses, as indeed the events shewed, how, but on receiving credible pledges from the heavens and enjoying the influence which is from above, did they undertake to go forth to so great wars, and to make their venture against earth and sea, and to strip and stand their ground so nobly, for a change in the customs of the whole world which had been so long time fixed, they being but twelve men?
And, what is more, what made them expect to convince their hearers, by inviting them to heaven and the mansions above? Even had they been brought up in honor, and wealth, and power, and erudition, not even so would it have been at all likely that they should be roused to so burthensome an undertaking. However, there would have been somewhat more of reason in their expectation. But as the case now stands, some of them had been occupied about lakes, some about hides, some about the customs: than which pursuits nothing is more unprofitable towards philosophy, and the persuading men to have high imaginations: and especially when one hath no example to shew. Nay, they had not only no examples to make their success likely, but they had examples against all likelihood of success, and those within their own doors.() (enaula) For many for attempting innovations had been utterly extinguished, I say not among the Greeks, for all that was nothing, but among the Jews themselves at that very time; who not with twelve men, but with great numbers had applied themselves to the work. Thus both Theudas and Judas, having great bodies of men, perished together with their disciples. And the fear arising from their examples was enough to control these, had they not been strongly persuaded that victory without divine power was out of the question.
504 Yea, even if they did expect to prevail, with what sort of hopes undertook they such great dangers, except they had an eye to the world to come? But let us suppose that they hoped for no less than victory; what did they expect to gain from the bringing all men unto Him, “who is not risen again,” as ye say? For if now, men who believe concerning the kingdom of heaven and blessings unnumbered with reluctance encounter dangers, how could they have undergone so many for nothing, yea rather, for evil? For if the things which were done did not take place, if Christ did not ascend into heaven; surely in their obstinate zeal to invent these things, and convince alI the world of them, they were offending God, and must expect ten thousand thunderbolts from on high.
[6.] Or, in another point of view; if they had felt this great zeal while Christ was living, yet on His death they would have let it go out. For He would have seemed to them, had He not risen, as a sort of deceiver and pretender. Know ye not that armies while the general and king is alive, even though they be weak, keep together; but when those in such office have departed, however strong they may be, they are broken up?
Tell me then, what were the enticing arguments whereupon they acted, when about to take hold of the Gospel,and to go forth unto all the world? Was there any kind of impediment wanting to restrain them? If they had been mad, (for I will not cease repeating it,) they could not have succeded at all; for no one follows the advice of madmen. But if they succeeded as in truth they did succeed, and the event proves, then none so wise as they. Now if none were so wise as they, it is quite plain, they would not lightly have entered upon the preaching. Had they not seen Him after He was risen, what was there sufficient to draw them out unto this war? What which would not have turned them away from it? He said unto them, “After three days I will rise again,” and He made promises concerning the kingdom of heaven. He said, they should master the whole world, after they had received the Holy Spirit; and ten thousand other things besides these, surpassing all nature. So that if none of these things had come to pass, although they believed in Him while alive, after His death they would not have believed in Him, unless they had seen Him after He was risen. For they have said, “‘After three days,’ He said, ‘I will rise again,’ and He hath not arisen. He promised that He would give the Spirit, and He hath not sent Him. How then shall His sayings about the other world find credit with us, when His sayings about this are tried and found wanting?”
And why, if He rose not again, did they preach that He was risen? “Because they loved Him,” you will say. But surely, it was likely that they would hate Him afterwards, for deceiving and betraying them; and because, having lifted them up with innumerable hopes, and divorced them from house, and parents, and all things, and set in hostility against them the entire nation of Jews, He had betrayed them after all. And if indeed the thing were of weakness, they might have pardoned it; but now it would be deemed a result of exceeding malice. For He ought to have spoken the truth, and not have promised heaven, being a mortal man, as ye say. So that the very opposite was the likely line for them to take; to proclaim the deception, and declare Him a pretender and imposter. Thus again would they have been rid of all their perils; thus have put an end to the war. Moreover, seeing that the Jews gave money unto the sails to say that they stole the body, if the disciples had come forward and said, “We stole Him, He is not risen again,” what honor would they not have enjoyed? Thus it was in their power to be honored, nay, crowned. Why then did they for insults and dangers barter away these things, if it was not some Divine power which influenced them, and proved mightier than all these?
[7.] But if we do not yet convince, take this also into consideration; that had this not been so, though they were ever so well disposed, they would not have preached this Gospel in His name, but would have treated Him with abhorrence. For ye know that not even the names of those who deceive us in this sort are we willing to hear. But for what reason preached they also His name? Expecting to gain the mastery through Him? Truly the contrary was natural for them to expect; that even if they had been on the point of prevailing they were ruining themselves by bringing forward the name of a deceiver. But if they wished to throw into the shade former events, their fine was to be silent; at any rate, to contend for them earnestly was to excite more and more both of serious hostility and of ridicule. From whence then did it enter their thoughts to invent such things? I say, “invent:” for what they had heard, they had forgotten. But if, when there was no fear, they forgot many things, and some did not even understand, (as also the Evangelist himself saith,) now that so great a danger came upon them, how could it be otherwise than that all should fleet away from them? Why speak I of words? when even their love towards their Master Himself began gradually to fade away, through fear of what was coming: wherewith also He upraided them. For since, before this, they hung upon him, and were asking continually, “Whitter goest Thou,” but afterwards on His drawing out His discourse to so great length, and declaring the terrors which at the very time of the Cross, and after the Cross should befal them, they just continued speechless and frozen through fear;—hear how He alleges to them this very point saying, “None of you asketh Me, Wither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.” (St. ) Now if the expectation that He would die and rise again was such a grief to them, had they failed to see Him after He was risen, how couldit be less than annihilation? Yea, they would have been fain to sink into the depths of the earth, what with dejection at being so deceived, and what with dread of the future. feeling themselves sorry straightened.
505 Again: from whence came their high doctrines? for the higher points, He said, they should hear afterwards. For, saith He, (St. Jn 16,12) “I have many things to speak unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” So that the things not spoken were higher. And one of the disciples was not even willing to depart with Him into Judea, when he heard of dangers, but said, “Let us also go that we may die with Him,” (St. Jn 11,16) taking it hardly because he expected that he should die. Now if that disciple, while he was with Him, expected to die and shrunk back on that account, what must he not have expected afterwards, when parted from Him and the other disciples, and when the exposure of their shameless conduct was so complete?
[8.].Besides, what had they to say when they went forth? For the passion indeed all the world knew: for He had been hanged on high, upon the frame of wood, (ikriou) and in mid-day, and in a chief city, and at a principal feast and that from which it was least permitted that any should be absent. But the resurrection no man saw of those who were without: which was no small impediment to them in working conviction. Again, that He was buried, was the common talk of all: and that His disciples stole His body, the soldiers and all the Jews declared: but that He had risen again, no one of them who were without knew by sight. Upon what ground then did they expect to convince the world? For if, while miracles were taking place, certain soldiers were persuaded to testify the contrary, upon what ground did these expect without miracles to do the work of preachers, and without having a farthing to convince land and sea concerning the resurrection? Again, if through desire of glory they attempted this, so much the rather would they have ascribed doctrines each one to himself, and not to Him that was dead and gone. Will it be said, men would not have believed them? And which of the two was the likelier, being preached, to win their belief? He that was apprehended and crucified, or those who had escaped the hands of the Jews?
[9.] Next, tell me with what view were they to take such a course? They did not immediately, leaving Judaea, go into the Gentile cities, but went up and down within its limit. But how, unless they worked miracles, did they convince? For if such they really wrought, (and work them they did,) it was the result of God’s power. If on the other hand they wrought none and prevailed, much more wonderful was the event. Knew they not the Jews—tell me—and their evil practice, and their soul full of grudgings? For they stoned even Moses, (Nb 14,10 comp. Ex 17,4) after the sea which they had crossed on foot; after the victory, and that marvellous trophy which they raised without blood, by means of his hands, over the Egyptians who had enslaved them; after the manna; after the rocks, and the fountains of rivers which break out thence; after ten thousand miracles in the land of Egypt and the Red Sea and the wilderness. Jeremiah they cast into a pit, and many of the prophets they slew. Here, for example, what saith Elias, after that fearful famine, and the marvellous rain, and the torch which he brought down from heaven, and the strange holocaust; driven, as he was, to the very extreme edge of their country: “Lord, thy prophets they have killed, thine altars they have digged down, and I am left alone, and they seek my life.” (1R 19,10) Yet were not those (who were so persecuted) disturbing any of the established rules. Tell me then, what ground had men for attending to these of whom we are speaking? For, on one hand, they were meaner persons than any of the prophets; on the other, they were introducing just such novelties as had caused the Jews to nail even their Master to the Cross
And in another way, too, it seemed less unaccountable for Christ to utter such things than for them; for He, they might suppose, acted thus to acquire glory for himself; but these they would have hated even the more, as waging war with them in behalf of another.
[10.] But did the laws of the Romans help them? Nay, by these they were more involved in difficulties. For their language was, (St. Jn 19,12) “Whosoever maketh himself a king is not Caesar’s friend.” So that this alone was a sufficient impediment to them, that of Him who was accounted an usurper they were first disciples, and afterwards desirous to strengthen His cause. What in the world then set them upon rushing into such great dangers? And by what statements about Him would they be likely to gain credit? that He was crucified? That He was born of a poor Jewish woman who had been betrothed to a Jewish carpenter? That He was of a nation hated by the world? Nay, all these things were enough not only to fail of persuading and attracting the hearers, but also to disgust every one; and especially when affirmed by the tent-maker and the fisherman. Would not the disciples then bear all these things in mind? Timid nature can imagine more than the reality, and such were their natures Upon what ground then did they hope to succeed? Nay, rather, they had no hope, there being things innumerable to draw them aside, if so be that Christ had not risen. Is it not quite plain even unto most thoughtless that unless they had enjoyed a copious and mighty grace, and had received pledges of the resurrection, they would have been unable, I say not, to do and undertake these things, but even so much as to have them in their minds? For if when there were so great hinderances, in the way of their planning, I say not of their succeeding, they yet both planned and brought to effect and accomplishing things greater than all expectation, every one, I suppose, can see that not by human power but by divine grace they wrought things.
506 Now these arguments we ought to practice, not by ourselves only, but one with another; and thus also the discovery of what remains will be easier to us.
[11.] And do not, because thou art an artisan, suppose that this sort of exercise is out of your province; for even Paul was a tent-maker.
“Yes,” saith some one, “but at that time he was also filled with abundant grace, and out of that he spake all things” Well; but before this grace, he was at the feet of Gamaliel; yea, moreover, and he received the grace, because of this, that he shewed a mind worthy of the grace; and after these things he again put his hand to his craft. Let no, one, therefore, of those who have trades be ashamed; but those, who are brought up to nothing and are idle, who employ many attendants, and are served by an immense retinue. For to be supported by continual hard work is a sort of asceticism. (filosofia") comp. Hooker, E. P. V. 72,18). The souls of such men are clearer, and their minds better strung. For the man who has nothing to do is apter to say many things at random, and do many thingsat random; and he is busy all day long about nothing, a huge lethargy taking him up entirely. But he that is employed will not lightly entertain in himself any thing useless, in deed in words, or in thoughts; for his whole soul is altogether intent upon his laborious way of livelihood. Let us not therefore despise those who support themselves by the labor of their own hands; but let us rather call them happy on this account. For tell me, what thanks are due unto thee, when after having received thy portion from thy father, thou goest on not in any calling, but lavishing away the whole of it at random? Knowest thou not that we shall no all have enjoyed greater licence here a more exact one; those who were afflicted with labor, or poverty, or any thing else of this kind, one not so severe? And this is plain from Lazarus and the rich man. For as thou, for neglecting the right use of the leisure, art justly accused; so the poor man, who having full employment hath spent his remnant of time upon right objects, great will be the crowns which he shall receive. But dost thou urge that a soldier’s duties should at least excuse thee; and dost thou charge them with thy want of leisure? The excuse cannot be founded in reason. For Cornelius was a centurion, yet in no way did the soldier’s belt impair his strict rule of life. But thou, when thou art keeping holiday with dancers and players, and making entire waste of thy life upon the stage, never thinkest of excusing thyself from such engagements by the necessity of military service or the fear of rulers: but when it is the Church to which we call you, then occur these endless impediments.
And what wilt thou say in the day, when thou seest the flame, and the rivers of fire, and the chains never to be broken; and shalt hear the gnashing of teeth? Who shall stand up for thee in that day, when thou shalt see him that hath labored with his own hand and hath lived uprightly, enjoying all glory; but thyself, who art now in soft raiment and redolent of perfumes, in incurable woe? What good will thy wealth and superfluity do thee? And the artisan—what harm will his poverty do him?
Therefore that we may not suffer then, let us fear what is said now, and let all our time be spent in employment on things which are really indispensable. For so, having propitiated God in regard of our past sins, and adding good deeds for the future, we shall be able to attain unto the kingdom of heaven: through the favor and loving-kindness, etc., etc).
600 when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1Co 2,1-5)
601 Nothing was ever more prepared for combat than the spirit of Paul; or rather, I should say, not his spirit, (for he was not himself the inventor of these things,) but, nothing was ever equal to the grace working within him, which overcometh all things For sufficient indeed is what had been said before to cast down the pride of the boasters about wisdom; nay, even a part of it had been enough. But to enhance the splendor of the victory, he contends anew for the points which he had been affirming; trampling upon the prostrate foe. Look at it in this was He had brought forward the prophecy which saith, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” He had shewn the wisdom of God, in that by means of what seemed to be foolishness, He destroyed the philosophy of the Gentiles; he had shewn that the “foolishness of God is wiser than men;” he had shewn that not only did He teach by untaught persons, but also chose untaught persons to learn of Him. Now he sheweth that both the thing itself which was preached, and the manner of preaching it, were enough to stagger people; and yet did not stagger them. As thus: “not only,” saith he, “are the disciples uneducated, but I myself also, who am the preacher.”
Therefore he saith, “And I, brethren, “(again he useth the word “brethren,” to smooth down. the harshness of the utterance,)” came not with excellency of speech, declaring unto you the testimony of God.” “What then? tell me, hadst thou chosen to come ‘with excellency,’ wouldest thou have been able?” “I, indeed, had I chosen, should not have been able; but Christ, if He had chosen, was able. But He would not, in order that He might render His trophy more brilliant.” Wherefore also in a former passage, shewing that it was His work which had been done, His will that the word should be preached in an unlearned manner, he said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; not with wisdom of words” But far greater, yea, infinitely greater, than Paul’s willing this, is the fact that Christ willed it.
“Not therefore,” saith he, “by display of eloquence, neither armed with arguments from without, do I declare the testimony of God.” He saith not “the preaching,” but “the testimony of God;” which word was itself sufficient to withhold him. For he went about preaching death: and for this reason he added, “for I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” This was the meaning he meant to convey, that he is altogether destitute of the wisdom which is without; as indeed he was saying above,” I came not with excellency of speech:” for that he might have possessed this also is plain; for he whose garments raised the dead and whose shadow expelled diseases, much more was his soul capable of receiving eloquence. For this is a thing which may be taught: but the former transcendeth all art. He then who knows things beyond the reach of art, much more must he have had strength for lesser things. But Christ permitted not; for it was not expedient. Rightly therefore he saith, “For I determined not to know any thing: “for I, too, for my part have just the same will as Christ.”
And to me it seems that he speaks to them in a lower tone even than to any others, in order to repress their pride. Thus, the expression, “I determined to know nothing,” was spoken in contradistinction to the wisdom which is with out. “For I came not weaving syllogisms nor sophisms, nor saying unto you anything else than” Christ was crucified.” They indeed have ten thousand things to say, and concerning ten thousand things they speak, winding out long courses of words, framing arguments and syllogisms, compounding sophisms without end. But I came unto you saying no other thing than “Christ was crucified,” and all of them I out-stripped: which is a sign such as no words can express of the power of Him whom I preach.”
[2.] 1Co 2,3. “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
This again is another topic: for not only are the believers unlearned persons; not only is he that speaketh unlearned; not only is the manner of the teaching of an unlearned cast throughout; not only was the thing preached of itself enough to stagger people; (for the cross and death were the message brought;) but together with these there were also other hindrances, the dangers, and the plots, and the daily fear, and the being hunted about. For the word “weakness,” with him in many places stands for the persecutions: as also elsewhere. “My weakness which I had in my flesh ye did not set at nought:” (Ga 4,13-14)and again, “If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my weakness.” (2Co 11,30) What [weakness]? “The governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes, desirous to apprehend me.” (2Co 5,32) And again, “Wherefore I take pleasure in weakness:” (2Co 12,10) then, saying in what, he added, “In injuries, in necessities, in distresses.” And here he makes the same statement; for having said, “And I was in weakness,” etc. he did not stop at this point, but explaining the word “weakness” makes mention of his dangers. He adds again, “and in fear, and in much trembling, I was with you.”
“How sayest thou? Did Paul also fear dangers?” He did fear, and dreaded them excessively; for though he was Paul, yet he was a man. But this is no charge against Paul, but infirmity of human nature; and it is to the praise of his fixed purpose of mind that when he even dreaded death and stripes, he did nothing wrong because of this fear. So that they who assert that he feared not stripes, not only do not honor him, but rather abridge greatly his praises. For if he feared not, what endurance or what self-restraint was there in bearing the dangers? I, for my part, on this account admire him; because being in fear, and not simply in “fear,” but even in “trembling” at his perils, he so ran as ever to keep his crown; and gave not in for any danger, in his task of purging out the world, and everywhere both by sea and land sowing the Gospel.
[3.] 1Co 2,4. “And my speech and my preaching was not in persuasive words of wisdom:” that is, had not the wisdom from without. Now if the doctrine preached had nothing subtle, and they that were called were unlearned, and he that preached was of the same description, and thereto was added persecution, and trembling and fear; tell me, how did they overcome without Divine power? And this is why, having said, “My speech and my preaching was not in persuasive words of wisdom,” he added, “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
602 Dost thou perceive how “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness stronger?” They for their part, bring unlearned and preaching such a Gospel, in their chains and persecution overcame their persecutors. Whereby? was it not by their furnishing that evidence which is of the Spirit? For this indeed is confessed demonstration. For who, tell me, after he had seen dead men rising to life and devils cast out, could have helped admitting it?
But seeing that there are also deceivingwonders, such as those of sorcerers, he removes this suspicion also. For he said not simply “of power,” but first, “of the Spirit,” and then, “of power:” signifying that the things done were spiritual.
It is no disparagement, therefore, that the Gospel was not declared by means of wisdom; rather it is a very great ornament. For this, it will be allowed, is the clearest token of its being divine and having its roots from above, out of the heavens. Wherefore he added also,
1Co 2,5. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Seest thou how dearly in every way he hath set forth the vast gain of this “ignorance,” and the great loss of this “wisdom?” For the latter made void the Cross, but the former proclaimed the power of God: the latter, besides their failing to discover any of those things which they most needed, set them also upon boasting of themselves; the former, besides their receiving the truth, led them also to pride themselves in God. Again, wisdom would have persuaded many to suspect that the doctrine was of man: thisclearly demonstrated it to be divine, and to have come down from heaven. Now when demonstration is made by wisdom of words, even the worse oftentimes overcome the better, having more skill in words; and falsehood outstrips the truth. But in this case it is not so: for neither doth the Spirit enter into an unclean soul, nor, having entered in, can it ever be subdued; even though alI possible cleverness of speech assail it. For the demonstration by works and signs is for more evident than that by words.
603 [4.] But some one may say perhaps, “If the Gospel is to prevail and hath no need of words, lest the Cross be made of none effect; for what reason are signs withholden now?” For what reason? Speakest thou in unbelief and not allowing that they were done even in the times of the Apostles, or dost thou truly seek to know? If in unbelief, I will first make my stand against this. I say then, If signs were not done at that time, how did they, chased, and persecuted, and trembling, and in chains, and having become the common enemies of the world, and exposed to all as a mark for ill usage, and with nothing of their own to allure, neither speech, nor show, nor wealth, nor city, nor nation, nor family, nor pursuit (etihdeuma,) nor glory, nor any such like thing; but with all things contrary, ignorance, meanness, poverty, hatred, enmity, and setting themselves against whole commonwealths, and with such a message to declare; how, I say, did they work conviction? For both the precepts brought much labor, and the doctrines many dangers. And they that heard and were to obey, had been brought up in luxury and drunkenness, and in great wickedness. Tell me then, how did they convince? Whence had they their credibility? For, as I have just said, If without signs they wrought conviction, far greater does the wonder appear. Do not then urge the fact that signs are not done now, as a proof that they were not done then. For as then they were usefully wrought; so now are they no longer so wrought.
Nor doth it necessarily follow from discourse being the only instrument of conviction, that now the “preaching” is in “wisdom.” For both they who from the beginning sowed the word were unprofessional (idiptai) and unlearned, and spake nothing of themselves; but what things they received from God, these they distributed to the world: and we ourselves at this time introduce no inventions of our own; but the things which from them we have received, we speak unto all. And not even now persuade we by argumentation; but from the Divine Scriptures and from the miracles done at that time we produce the proof of what we say. On the other hand, even they at that time persuaded not by signs alone, but also by discoursing. And the signs and the testimonies out of the Old Scriptures, not the cleverness of the things said, made their words appear more powerful.
[5.] How then, you will say, is it that signs were expedient then, and now inexpedient? Let us suppose a case, (for as yet I am contending against the Greek, and therefore I speak hypothetically of what must certainly come to pass,) let us, I say, suppose a case; and let the unbeliever consent to believe our affirmations, though it be only by way of concession: (kan kata sundromhn) for instance, That Christ will come. When then Christ shall come and all the angels with Him, and be manifested as God, and all things made subject unto Him; will not even the Greek believe? It is quite plan that he will also fall down and worship, and confess Him God, though his stubbornness exceed all reckoning. For who, at sight of the heavens opened and Him coming upon the clouds, and all the congregation of the powers above spread around Him, and rivers of fire coming on, and all standing by and trembling, will not fall down before Him, and believe Him God? Tell me, then; shall that adoration and knowledge be accounted unto the Greek for faith? No, on no account. And why not? Because this is not faith. For necessity hath done this, and the evidence of the things seen, and it is not of choice, but by the vastness of the spectacle the powers of the mind are dragged along. It follows that by how much the more evident and overpowering the course of events, by so much is the part of faith abridged. For this reason miracles are not done now.
And that this is the truth, hear what He saith unto Thomas (St. Jn 20,29) “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Therefore, in proportion to the evidence wherewith the miracle is set forth is the reward of faith lessened. So that if now also miracles were wrought, the same thing would ensue. For that then we shall no longer know Him by faith, Paul hath shewn, saying, “For now we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2Co 5,7nun not in the received text). As at that time, although thou believe, it shall not be imputed unto thee, because the thing is so palpable; so also now, supposing that such miracles were done as were formerly. For when we admit things which in no degree and in no way can be made out by reasoning, then it is faith. It is for this that hell is threatened, but is not shewn: for if it were shewn, the same would again ensue.
[6.] Besides if signs be what thou seekest after, even now thou mayest see signs, although not of the same kind; the numberless predictions and on an endless variety of subject: the conversion of the world, the self-denying (filosofian) course of the Barbarians, the change from savage customs, the greater intenseness of piety. “What predictions?” you will say. “For all the things just mentioned were written after the present state of things had begun.” When? Where? By whom? Tell me. How many years ago? Will you have fifty, or an hundred? They had not then, a hundred years ago, anything written at all. How then did the world retain the doctrines and all the rest, since memory would not be sufficient? How knew they that Peter was crucified? (aneskolopisqh) How could it have entered the minds of men who came after the events had taken place to foretell, for instance, that the Gospel should be preached in every part of the whole world? that the Jewish institutions should cease, and never return again? And they who gave up their lives for the Gospel, how would they have endured to see the Gospel adulterated? And how would the writers have won credit, miracles having ceased? And how could the writings have penetrated to the region of Barbarians, and of Indians, and unto the very bounds of the ocean, if the relators had not been worthy of credit? The writers, too, who were they? When, how, and why, did they write at all? Was it to gain glory to themselves? Why then inscribed they the books with other men’s names? “Why, from a wish to recommend the doctrine” As true, or as false? For if you say, they stock to it, as bring false; their joining it at all was out of all likelihood: but if as being truth, there was no need of inventions such as you speak of. And besides, the prophecies are of such a kind, as that even until now time has been unable to force aside the predicted course of things: (w" mh dunasqai biazesqai kronw ta eirhmena) for the destruction indeed of Jerusalem took place many years ago; but there are also other predictions which extend along from that time until His coming; which examine as you please: for instance, this, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world: (St. Mt 28,20) and, “Upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: “(St. Mt 16,18) and, “This Gospel shall be preached unto all nations:” (St. Mt 24,14) and that which the woman which was an an harlot did: and many others more than these. Whence then the truth of this prediction if indeed it were a forgery? How did “the gates of hell” not “prevail” against “the Church?” How is Christ always “with us?” For had He not been “with us,” the Church would not have been victorious. How was the Gospel spread abroad in every part of the world? They also who have spoken against us are enough to testify the antiquity of the books; I mean, such as Celsus and he of Batanea, who came after him. For they, I suppose, were not speaking against books composed after there time.
 And besides, there is the whole world which with one consent hath received the Gospel. Now there could not have been so great agreement from one end of the earth to the other, unless it had been the Grace of the Spirit; but the authors of the forgery would have been quickly found out.Neither could so great excellencies have originated from inventions and falsehoods. Dost thou not see the whole world coming in; error extinguished; the austere wisdom (filosufian) of the old monks shining brighter than the sun; the choirs of the virgins; the piety among Barbarians; all men serving under one yoke? For neither by us alone were these things foretold, but also from the beginning, by the Prophets. For you will not, I trow, cavil at their predictions also: for the books are with their enemies, and through the zeal of certain Greeks they have been transferred into the Greek tongue. Many things then do these also foretell concerning these matters, shewing that it was God who should come among us.
604  Why then do not all believe now? Because things have degenerated: and for this we are to blame. (For from hence the discourse is addressed unto us also). For surely not even then did they trust to signs alone, but by the mode of life also many of the converts were attracted. For, “Let your light so shine before men,” saith He, “that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (St. Mt 5,16) And, “They were all of one heart and one soul, neither said any man that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common; and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need.”; (Ac 4,32 and Ac 4,35) and they lived an angelic life. And if the same were done now, we should convert the whole word, even without miracles. But in the meanwhile, let those who will be saved attend to the Scriptures; for they shall find there both these noble doings, and those which are greater than these. For it may be added that the Teachers themselves surpassed the deeds of the others; living in hunger, in third, and nakedness. But we are desirous of enjoying great luxury, and rest, and ease; not so they: they cried aloud, “Even unto the present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place. (1Co 4,11). And some ran from Jerusalem unto Illyricum, (Rm 15,19) and another unto the country of the Indians, and another unto that of the Moors, and this to one part of the world, that to another. Whereas we have not the courage to depart even out of our own country; but seek for luxurious living and splendid houses and all other superfluities. For which of us ever was famished for the word of God’s sake? Which ever abode in a wilderness? Which ever set out on a distant peregrination? Which of our teachers lived by the labor of his hands to assist others? Which endured death daily? Hence it is that they also who are with us have become slothful. For suppose that one saw soldiers and generals struggling with hunger, and thirst, and death, and with all dreadful things, and bearing cold and dangers and all like lions, and so prospering; then afterwards, relaxing that strictness, and becoming enervated, and fond of wealth, and addicted to business and bargains, and then overcome by their enemiesit were extreme folly to seek for the cause of all this. Now let us reason thus in our own case and that of our ancestors; for we too have become weaker than all, and are nailed down unto this present life.
And if one be found having a vestige of the ancient wisdom, leaving the cities and the market-places, and the society of the world, and the ordering of others, he betakes himself to the mountains: and if one ask the reason of that retirement, he invents a plea which cannot meet with allowance. For, saith he, “lest I perish too, and the edge of my goodness be taken off, I start aside.” Now how much better were it for thee to become less keen, and to gain others, than abiding on high to neglect thy perishing brethren?
When, however, the one sort are careless about virtue, and those who do regard it withdraw themselves far from our ranks, how are we to subdue our enemies? For even if miracles were wrought now, who would be persuaded? Or who of those without would give heed unto us, our iniquity being thus prevalent? For so it is, that our upright living seems unto the many the more trustworthy argument of the two: miracles admitting of a bad construction on the part of obstinate bad men: whereas a pure life will have abundant power to stop the mouth of the devil himself.
[9.] These things I say, both to governors and governed; and, before all others, unto myself; to the end that the way of life shown forth in us may be truly admirable, that taking our appropriate stations, we may look down on all things present; may despise wealth, and not despise hell; overlook glory, and not overlook salvation; endure toil and labor here, lest we fall into punishment there. Thus let us wage war with the Greeks; thus let us take them captive with a captivity better than liberty.
But while we say these things without intermission, over and over, they occur very seldom. Howbeit, be they done or not, it is right to remind you of them continually. For if some are engaged in deceiving by their fair speech, so much more is it the duty of those who allure back unto the truth, not to grow weary of speaking what is profitable. Again: if the deceivers make use of so many contrivances—spending as they do money, and applying arguments, and undergoing dangers, and making a parade of their patronage—much more should we, who are winning men from deceit, endure both dangers and deaths, and all things; that we may both gain ourselves and others, and become to our enemies irresistible, and so obtain the promised blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness, etc.
Chrysostom on 1Cor 500