We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Sanity, Insanity, and Man’s Being as Understood by St. John Chrysostom

SALEM, CLAIRE,ELAYNE (2010) Sanity, Insanity, and Man’s Being as Understood by St. John Chrysostom. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version


This study examines St. John Chrysostom's teaching on two strands of thought. The first relates to a modern Orthodox commonplace holding eastern Christian thought as fundamentally therapeutic, in contrast to a juridical western Christianity. It was hypothesized that 1) neither provides a strong fundamental paradigm because each can be variously interpreted based on one's answer to the question, “What is man?” and 2) the πολιτεία of heaven (the theme, according to Chrysostom, of all the evangelists), might provide a sufficient paradigm. The πολιτεία of heaven does provide a better major paradigm – seamlessly incorporating therapeutic and juridical language and the common Christian understanding of man as a communal being in relation firstly with God and then with creation. However, this paradigm requires fleshing out with various images to avoid being misconstrued. The second strand furthered earlier work on the Orthodox understanding of sanity, insanity, and demonic possession. Chrysostom allowed for non-demonic mental illness, but was far more concerned with the insanity of sin than with mental illness or possession. This view is common, but Chrysostom is remarkable for his enormous compassion for both groups and his vehement insistence that sin is far worse insanity. Both strands show man on a continuum – the lower limit case being the ἄλογος man who lives for himself and temporal things; the upper case, exemplified by the monk – the true member of the πολιτεία of heaven – who loves God and neighbor and seeks heavenly things. The thesis concludes by examining the consequences of these findings for modern Chrysostom scholarship. These include the necessity of 1) taking seriously Chrysostom’s accusations of insanity and demonic possession, 2) examining the effect of materialistic and democratic presuppositions on one’s understanding of Chrysostom’s work, and 3) addressing the question, “How does one study somebody who would consider one insane?”

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Chrysostom patristics sanity insanity human
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Nov 2011 11:14

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter