John Chrysostom an anti-semite?

I was researching about John Chrysostom who’s writings I really admired. I came across some really anti semite states made by him, I was aware with some before, and I pretty much saw it as that he encouraged Jewish christians to learn that many of the observances they continue to hold no longer mattered since they are now christians. But suddenly, as I began to continue reading, he said some pretty harshe statements.

I have not come to the conclusion that John Chrysostom is an anti-semite, I have to continue to research, but I was curious to know what you think about this matter

Perhaps this site can be of some help:

Whether John was an anti-semitic or not, Christians must not hate or look down on our Jewish friends, but show them our love and respect.

Violet, chew the meat and spit out the bones.

Take what’s useful and applicable to your stituation in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, and forget the rest.

No one said that this or that individual among the Holy Fathers was perfect in everythting he said or did.

During his time Jews were persecuting Christians by the thousands.

I like that expression, and advice.

I find it ironic that this advice applies to John Chrysostom but not to Luther.

Why wouldn’t it apply to Luther?

If his words about Jews had appeared in the works of Luther (such as Luther’s pamphlet against the Jews of which so much is made in some quarters), we would never hear the end of it.

If a cardinal or Pope had said those things, the Orthodox would not let Catholics forget them in a hurry.

What he said is vile, & very like the fouler tirades against the Jews in the Völkischer Beobachter; AFAICS people defend him only because he is a name as a Doctor, Saint & Father: IOW, the ethical judgements applicable to lesser mortals don’t apply. It’s true he was a man of his time, but that’s an excuse only if one sees him as to an extent conditioned by his time - & a lot of people would probably not want to think in that way, as it is often dismissed as “relativism” or “liberalism”. Some people are just not historically-minded. :shrug:

If a mere Luther or a mere Pope, both of whom are the offspring of satan (from certain POVS), & are thus not Sacred Persons Who Can Say & Do Nothing Wrong, had said what SPWCSDNW are allowed to say - well, they are the spawn of Antichrist, therefore, of course they would say anti-semitic things: it shows how evil those two Christianities are (from the POV of those in a different one). What Christians in one’s own group do or say or omit, is always judged far more leniently than the similar doings of “outsiders”: one man’s innocent lamb-like martyr is another man’s BBQ - everything is a matter of perspective.

That’s the only sense I can make of attempts to excuse what would be severely condemned if a lesser being in the (wrong ?) Church says them or had said them. Otherwise, it makes no sense to condemn Luther’s anti-semitism while defending this other man’s. What matters, apparently, is not the morality or wisdom of what is said, but who says it: which is a crazy attitude, because it is bad morally & logically; it’s asking for trouble.

If I were Catholic and one of my saints had said racist or antisemetic comments, I would have a great deal of trouble understanding how that person could be a saint. It is one thing to appreciate aspects of their teachings despite such comments. It is another thing to argue that they deserved saint hood despite such comments. Especially if such comments were made throughout their lives (as opposed to before they “found God”) or made in the name of their faith.

Most scholars who study ancient (or premodern generally) attitudes to Jews think that anti-Semitism is not a useful word to describe hostility to Jews. It creates confusion with modern, racial anti-semitism, as evidenced by Valke’s use of the word “racist.” Chrysostom’s hostility to Jews was based on the fact that Christians were going to Jewish services and thus, in his mind, betraying their loyalty to Christianity. It was a religious hostility and was not based on some idea of Jewish racial inferiority. In fact, Robert Wilken has concluded that Chrysostom’s remarks about the Jews were primarily rhetorical devices targeted at fellow Christians.

In my narrow use of the word “anti-Semite,” I have the Jewish scholar Paula Fredriksen on my side. I heard her defend this position just last weekend at AAR.


I used “racist” or “anti-semitic” in order to differentiate between the two. Having said that, I don’t know much about St. John, but I have read some apologetics of his work that goes along the same lines as your post.

Your explanation makes sense. It doesn’t mean it is true (I really have no idea), but it makes sense.

Amen. A couple of weeks ago I bought from Amazon the 2004 paperback edition of John Chrysostom: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late Fourth Century by scholar Robert Louis Wilken. Wilken shows that St. John Chrysostom (“Golden-Mouth”) was not an anti-Semite and explains why the saint used harsh, uncompromising language in the eight homilies he delivered to Judaizing Antiochene Christians toward the close of the fourth century A.D. Please give it a try.

Having studied this issue intensively for about nine months I recommend the following literature so you don’t have to spend as much time as I did fretting over the controversial issue of Jewish-Christian relations:
a. History of the Jews (1911 Catholic Encyclopedia)
b. Judaism and Christianity (Dr. Warren H. Carroll)
c. The Church and the Jews in the Middle Ages (Thomas F. Madden)
d. The Jews as the Christians Saw Them (Robert Louis Wilken,5/1997)
e. Constantine’s Sword: A Review Article (Robert P. Lockwood, 1/2001) @

THat’s a lot of studying and time to prove someone didn’t hate jews.

Context is needed when reading Chrysostoms works or homilies, i don’t want to go into details right now, but essentially, he was speaking against “Judaizers” not Jews.

While some of you intend on insulting him without knowing what the context is, and array amongst yourselves to prove how “pro-semitic” you might be than the next guy, he has already recieved his Crown from God himself. The Church having declared such. Abundantly then is this confirmed in our time by miracles.

Why not let him speak for himself?

“How dare Christians have the slightest doings with Jews, those most miserable of all men! They are lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious bandits, pests of the universe. Indeed, an entire day would not suffice to tell of all their rapine, their avarice, their deception of the poor, their thievery, and their huckstering. Are they not inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil? Jews are impure and impious, and their synagogue is a house of prostitution, a lair of beasts, a place of shame and ridicule, the domicile of the devil, as is also the soul of the Jew. As a matter of fact, Jews worship the devil: their rites are criminal and unchaste; their religion a disease; their synagogue an assembly of crooks, a den of thieves, a cavern of devils, an abyss of perdition! Why are the Jews degenerate? Because of their hateful assassination of Christ. This supreme crime lies at the root of their degradation and woes. The rejection and the dispersion of the Jews was the work of God and because of His absolute abandonment of the Jews. Thus, the Jew will live under the yoke of slavery without end. God hates the Jews, and on Judgement Day He will say to those who sympathise with them: “Depart from me, for you have had doings with My murderers!” Flee, then, from their assemblies, fly from their houses, and, far from venerating the synagogue, hold it in hatred and aversion.”
[St John Chrysostom: “Six Homilies Against the Jews”]

“Israel, since the deicide, has been given over to commerce with demons; the Jews have all the vices of beasts and are good for nothing but slaughter; gluttons, drunkards, sensualists living for their belly … they behave no better than pigs and goats in their lewd vulgarities. Their crime leaves them no hope of mending their ways of being pardoned. The synagogue is a brothel, a den of thieves, a lair of wild beasts.”
[St John Chrysostom]
"When animals are unfit for work, they are marked for slaughter, and this is the very thing which the Jews have experienced. By making themselves unfit for work, they have become ready for slaughter. This is why Christ said, ‘as for my enemies, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.’ " [St John Chrysostom]

Well, that certainly changes my opinion. When was this guy made a saint? I don’t understand how the Church can do something like that.

I don’t think any good can come out of an apologetics debate about these speeches.

Valke2, St. John Chrysostomos was not speaking of normal everyday Jews, but of a heretical sect of Christianity, the Judaizers.

Well, I’m reading his homilies now and so far I’d have to disagree. There’s nothing there that I see to suggest that. In fact, he makes a distinction between Christians who are associating with Jews and the Jews. There’s not a whole lot of golden rule being expressed for the Jews here. However the christians who have strayed are to be treated with kindness.

I understand that he was concerned about Jewish rituals being practiced by Christians. But he spews forth hatred against all jews who he apparently holds responsible.

“What is this disease? The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now.”

Ok, so he wasn’t the most ecumenically minded father…:smiley:


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