Fourth Century Conceptions of Suffering: A Look at John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Psalms
Amanda Berg, PhD student in Theology and Healthcare Ethics, Saint Louis University
What did the word “suffering” mean to Christians in antiquity? Roughly five centuries after Hippocrates, and two centuries after Galen, Christian writers began to use the metaphor of “Christus Medicus” or Christ, the Doctor. Many of these depictions of Christ include him excising unrighteousness from the hearts and minds of his followers. This, as it sounds, is a process that is painful and can involve great suffering. Read from the western, 21st-century perspective, this metaphor suggests that Christ introduces suffering, but read from a fourth-century perspective, it suggests that Christ removes suffering. Using John Chrysostom’s corpus, especially his homilies on the Psalms, I will examine what it meant for Christians in antiquity to suffer, while also recovering his ideas for use today. If suffering has some value, then how, according to Chrysostom, should attitudes change toward suffering in Christianity today?