Paraphrasing Chrysostom on 1 Thess: “Suck it up, whiners!” (Gupta)

I am having a blast reading through Chrysostom’s homilies on 1 Thessalonians as I research for my commentary. He is very energetic and…well, “preachy.”

I had to laugh out loud at his homiletic reflections on 1 Thess 4:3-6 where Paul tells the Thessalonians to control their passions. Chrysostom entertains the complaint of his own time, “I couldn’t help myself. I got needs.”

I just love that his basic response is – quit your belly-aching! Ultimately, his advice is: “It all comes down to whether you really want to do what is right or not.” Here are two examples that he offers of excusing laziness (in my paraphrase)

#1: Isn’t it the easiest thing to just drive a mile away to the mall. But what do you do – complain that its too far or too cold. 

#2: What is easier than just to sleep. But because you decided to take a nap, you can’t even manage to sleep at night! How can you fail at sleeping?

Enough paraphrasing – here is how he concludes (formal English translation): “in short nothing is difficult when men are willing; as nothing is easy, when they are unwilling; for we are masters of all these things” (Homily 5)

Thank you, John. The golden-tongue speaks! This makes for great preaching!

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Narrative Criticism of the Gospels: Does Anybody Outside of North America Really Care? (Skinner)

I am presently editing a book on Markan character studies, and for that book I have just completed a lengthy survey of scholarship from Wrede (1903) up to the work of the performance critics (2013). The early portions of my survey (up to redaction criticism) included a fair amount of material in French and German as well as publications in English from scholars working in Europe. However, by the time I reached the rise of narrative critical theory in the 1980s, there was a dramatic change. At the end of my essay I note:

In the early portions of our review, references to literature produced by European scholars—both on the continent and in the United Kingdom—were ubiquitous. By contrast, our coverage of literary methods in Markan scholarship has shown the relative scarcity of such works arising from within the European academy. This observation is true not only with respect to character studies, but seemingly with the entire narrative-critical enterprise. It appears that scholars working in North America, particularly in the United States, and those working in Europe are not only asking different questions about the text but also working both from different methodologies and bibliographies.[1] Apart from the work of Susan Miller (Scotland), Ole Davidsen (Denmark), Geert van Oyen (Belgium), Camille Focant (Belgium) and Stephen D. Moore (an Irish scholar who teaches in the United States) one is hard-pressed to identify much significant research in this area undertaken by European scholars or by those teaching in a European context. Taking this observation a step further, with the exception of several fine contributions from a handful of Australian scholars,[2] most recent narratalogical works, including those related to characterization, have been generated almost exclusively by scholars working in North America or by North American students studying abroad. While the growth of narrative-critical studies has largely taken place within an American context, one can hardly doubt whether enough time has passed or enough quality material has been published to demonstrate sufficiently the value of this approach. We are therefore left wondering: Why is there such a chasm between a European academy focused largely on historical concerns and the more methodologically diverse North American scene? What is it about narrative criticism, character studies, and the panoply of methods that has captured the North American scholarly imagination while leaving the European academy virtually untouched? Most importantly, is there a way to bridge this gulf between the North American and European scenes?

I have asked around but I haven’t really gotten a good answer as to why such a gap persists. Since all of my education took place here in the United States, I am not really in a position to offer any substantive insights about this state of affairs. However, I would love to hear what you think about all of this, especially if you have studied in Europe or are currently teaching in a post outside of North America. Why does such a gap persist?


[1] On this observation I have gleaned some helpful insights from Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, both in personal correspondence and in two different essays: the first is her review of van Iersel’s reader-response commentary on Mark (Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, ‘Review of Bas M. F. Van Iersel, Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998]’ in Bib 81 [2000], pp. 285-90), and the second a review of the 2011 English translation of Camille Focant’s commentary on Mark delivered at the SBL Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois (19 November 2012). In these essays she notes how both scholars—one Dutch and the other French—demonstrate a relative lack of awareness of and/or concern for narrative-critical issues and recent publications in the US, even though these two scholars are trying to move in that direction.

[2] See Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Narrative Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), idem, Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004). Other Australian scholars have published significant narratological and/or narrative-oriented research on the Gospel of John, including Dorothy A. Lee (Symbolic Narratives of the Fourth Gospel: The Interplay of Form and Meaning [JSNTSup, 95; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994]; and Flesh and Glory: Symbol, Gender and Theology in the Gospel of John [New York: Crossroad, 2002]), Mary Coloe (God Dwells with Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2001]), and Ruth Sheridan (Retelling Scripture: The Jews and the Scriptural Citations in John 1:19-12:15 [BIS, 110; Leiden: Brill, 2012]).