So says the Rev. James Martin, SJ over at HuffPo: “Saint John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, writing in the fourth century, used Judas as an example of the wickedness of Jews in general.”
In an article gearing up for the Easter season, the Jesuit author reflects on how Judas has been portrayed through the years, noting that a pillar of the church no less than Chrysostom used Judas as an occasion to unfairly portray Jewish people.
Chrysostom (the name means “golden mouth,” a tribute to his skills as a preacher) was one of several saints whose writings were tinged with — and contributed to — the virulent anti-Semitism common at the time. Judas was evil not only because he had betrayed Jesus, but because he was Jewish.
Chrysostom sees the suicide of Judas as foreshadowing the suffering of the Jews, and comments on this approvingly. In his Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, he writes: “This desolation [his fate] was a prelude to that of the Jews, as will appear on looking closely into the facts.” That one of the most influential figures in the patristic era could write so cruelly shows not only the rapid assimilation of anti-Semitism into Christianity, but the hardening of the Christian imagination against Judas.
Martin goes on to deal with other examples – in the Renaissance and later periods – of Judas being used as cannon fodder.
Is this really an accurate way to handle the data, or is there another angle for reading Chrysostom? Continue reading