Grace and Human Agency: John Chrysostom on Biblical Inspiration

Grace and Human Agency: John Chrysostom on Biblical Inspiration

Raphael Yü-sen PENG

By analyzing John Chrysostom's materials relating to how he describes the divine sources and human elements in the writing of Holy Writ, certain conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, he attaches great importance to the work of the Holy Spirit, who provides very subtle teachings that can be found even in the names, dates, and titles in the Bible. All such details must not be left out at all, or else it may lead to heresies. Furthermore, certain elements of Holy Writ deal with hidden revelations even unknown to angels; it is clear proof of the necessity of Holy Writ. Secondly, he addresses the human authors in various ways, from the broadest generic terms to individual personal names, and he does not spare praise for them. Thirdly, by using the metaphors of string instruments and deacons, John Chrysostom, while reaffirming the dominance of the Holy Spirit, highlights the elevation of the human authors by the Holy Spirit and points out that they are not in a state of ecstasy, thus avoiding the misunderstanding of the Montanists while using the same instrumental metaphor. Since John Chrysostom's expressions are open to interpretations when it comes to the mechanisms of biblical inspiration, conclusions drawn from them cannot be considered definitive, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to reach a holistic conclusion given the corresponding rhetorical contexts that are invariably involved behind John Chrysostom's utterance. It is this ambiguity that allows proponents of both inspiratio rerum and inspiratio verborum to see John Chrysostom as endorsing their respective theories.

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