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Not Problematic…Paradigmatic: Later Patristic Readings

Not Problematic…Paradigmatic: Later Patristic Readings

“Broadly speaking, in the patristic period, both in the East and West, the Sermon was not perceived as problematic. Quite the contrary, the Sermon was seen as paradigmatic and foundational to understanding Christianity itself.”—Jonathan Pennington[1]

Daniel Harrington and James Keenan render a service to us all by helping bridge the gap between moral theology and New Testament studies. In their book Jesus and Virtue Ethics, the authors claim that later Patristic writers sought to bring body and soul, heart and life, inward reflection and outward expression under one umbrella of integrated spirituality. For example, most readers notice that theological writing around the time of the first few ecumenical councils focuses on integrating the divinity and humanity of Christ. But “[t]his achievement took practical significance in the ascetical imitation of Christ that called Christians to seek a unified self like Christ’s,” writes Harrington and Keenan. “As Christ brought divinity and humanity into one, Christians were called to bring body and soul together. Integration became a key task for all early Christians.”[2] The believer’s interior life was a central concern, but not exclusively:

[O]utward expression of that interiority was equally emphasized: the love of Christ was concretely expressed in the contemporary world through the works of mercy. Similarly, just as much as one’s identity was intimately tied to discipleship, so too was that discipleship lived out in the community of the emerging church, where the horizon of expectations was constantly being shaped by the believers’ understanding of the kingdom.[3]

This leads Harrington and Keenan to speak of the patristic period as the time “when the integrated moral life was understood as a central component for living out of one’s call to discipleship. The moral life was a response to the Word of God; it was an application of the rhetoric of preaching to the ordinary life.”[4]

GREGORY OF NYSSA

In the first three centuries, as I noted in my previous post, the emphasis was on obeying commands—fulfilling our duties. Clement of Alexandria, for example, spends much more time on the first half of each beatitude—which he interprets as attitudes to adopt or duties to be performed—while downplaying the second half, which are promised rewards. In concert with this mindset, Clement emphasizes denial of our passions, or at least purification of them. Morality, one might say, concerned obeying the right external rules, and denying one’s inward inclinations.

We begin to see a subtle shift in the beautiful writings of Gregory of Nyssa. In dealing with the Beatitudes, Gregory finds no need to even address the negative aspect of Luke’s 4 “woes,” or spend any time explaining the historical setting of the sermon.[5] Instead, Gregory envisions the Beatitudes as steps of spiritual ascent in which the soul embodies the likeness of God, and revels in the bliss of virtuous transformation.[6] “Gregory begins and ends with spiritual morality,” writes Stuart George Hall, “that ascent of the soul to God, the upward calling to aspire after the Transcendent. It governs his whole approach.”[7]

Instead of focusing on moral do’s and don’ts, Gregory begins his first homily on the Beatitudes with an invitation “to go up…to the spiritual mountain of sublime contemplation” (Hom. 1.1). He is not the first to speak this way (in the tradition of Plato, Clement also speaks of an ‘ascent of spirit’ and achieving ‘perfection of salvation’), but Gregory raises this chorus line to a fever pitch. He finds an ascending sequence everywhere—in Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs—and offers a rising series of visions in his book, Life of Moses.[8] In a similar way, he conceives of the Beatitudes ascending like Jacob’s ladder in such a way that “to participate in the Beatitudes is nothing less than sharing in deity, towards which the Lord leads us up by his words” (Hom. 5.1).

In the Hellenic worldview, kinship with God was shared by all human beings; it was “the primal and indestructible condition of human life.”[9] For Gregory, however, this closeness to God was not automatic at birth, or even conferred at baptism. Fellowship or kinship with God, according to Gregory, means sharing an ethical or moral likeness to him, which is “gained through virtue,” and “which issues from a life of moral earnestness.”[10] According to Anthony Meredith, “for the gospel it is an ideal to be aimed at and at the same time a gift of God conceived of as a reward.”[11]

For this reason, Gregory balances Clement by bringing emphasis to the second half of each beatitude—the glorious future reward that awaits (and comes with) those growing in likeness of God. He emphasizes moderation, not denial, of our God-given passions, embracing a united vision of total transformation. Judith Kovacs finds a real—and helpful—difference between Gregory and the tradition before him: “Gregory, despite his great philosophical learning, does not find anything to apologize for in the startling promises of great rewards in the Gospels. In this he is surely closer than Clement to the spirit of the New Testament.”[12]

Indeed, C. S. Lewis would agree with this assessment:

[N]early every description of what we shall ultimately find if we [follow Christ] contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.[13]

In summary, Gregory offers soaring rhetoric in service to an even greater theme: virtuous living—with focus on spiritual reward—for the sake of moral transformation into the likeness of God. It is rhetoric, notes Hall, but so much more is involved:

The rhetoric and the life of the spirit are assimilated, they rise together towards a conclusion. There is a difference, however. We may reach the end of the Beatitudes. But when we have reached the end, that is itself only one more step up the mountain, one more rung on the ladder, towards the vision of God and restoration in his perfect likeness, which is our proper goal as human beings.[14]

AMBROSE

In one of his most familiar quotes, Ambrose reveals his abiding interest in connecting cardinal virtues with the person and teachings of Jesus:

When we speak of wisdom, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking about Christ. When we are speaking about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking about Christ. (The Explanation of the Psalms)

He continues this “virtue” strain in his Treatise on the Gospel of St. Luke. He aligns Luke’s four beatitudes with the four cardinal virtues, and subdivides Matthew’s eight beatitudes into four units to accomplish the same goal (Treatise 62.1-68.3). In the later Patristic period, Augustine will follow Ambrose’ lead, as will Aquinas and Hugh of St. Victor in the Middle Ages.

He also follows Gregory in believing the order of the Beatitudes is important. “Come Lord Jesus,” writes Ambrose, “teach us the order of your beatitudes, for it is not without order that you have taught [them] (Treatise 52.1-2). Like Gregory (and most of the seminal Patristic commentaries), he conceives of the Beatitudes as a successive list (Treatise 60.1-12), and the first Beatitude as foundational to them all. Equating “poor in spirit” with the kind of humility that opposes pride, Ambrose points out this beatitude begins the whole list, suggesting this virtue is fundamental.

With Ambrose, we see a continuation and deepening of the “virtue” tradition that will characterize later Patristic readings of the Sermon on the Mount.

CHRYSOSTOM

Born in the mid-fourth century, John Chrysostom was a golden-tongued orator and gifted Biblical exegete. Pope Pius X called him the “patron” of Christian preachers. As an exegete, he epitomized what would later be called the “Antiochene” school, opting for more literal readings than Origen’s (otherwise) allegorical readings. His approach, says Jaroslav Pelikan, were “more sober than imaginative… It was against [Origen’s] form of exegetical alchemy, which sought to turn the lead of historical narrative into the gold of spiritual truth, that Antiochene hermeneutics protested.”[15]

For example, Chrysostom argues that the “earth” one is to inherit in Mt. 5:5 is the literal earth, not a figurative one. The adversary mentioned in Mt 5:25 is not the Devil (as taught by a Gnostic teacher of his day), but the actual judges before whom persecuted Christians stood, the actual prisons where persecuted Christians dwelt, and the way of life chosen by those who would persecute Christians in the first place. Origen claimed the “daily bread” of Mt 6:11 simply could not refer to physical bread; Chrysostom said it meant precisely that.

Chrysostom not only preferred literal readings (“when possible”, as we discussed earlier), but also careful ones—noting that every word of the sermon, as well as precise details, were chosen carefully.[16]

Chrysostom’s method can partly be explained as showing continuity with the tradition that preceded him; but it may also partly be explained by his setting. He faced two issues that were, if not unique to his time and location, rather different than those before him.

First, the post-Constantian church has achieved prominence and social normativity, leading to an influx of the wealthy, as well as the indifferent. In Hom. 24.3, Chrysostom contrasts true security offered by a life of faith with the false claims of wealth and power.[17] “For there is not, nay there is not another life we may find free from all evils, but this alone,” proclaims Chrysostom. “And ye are witnesses, who know the plots in king’s courts, and the turmoils and the troubles in the houses of the rich. But there was not among the apostles any such thing” (Hom. 24.3).

New membership did not always equal greater discipleship, and Chrysostom noted the lack of discipline among the congregants (Hom. 17.6). This included a lack of decorum in the assembly and pretense during periods of fasting (Hom. 19.12). These two issues—wealth and indifference—could easily move any exegete to offer a more “sober” rather than “imaginative” tone.

When we speak about virtue, we are speaking about Christ. --Ambrose of Milan tell the world

But a second factor was his own powerful preaching, which attracted the crowds in the first place. Many came to hear his rhetorical prowess, and to find entertainment in the drama of the liturgy (Hom. 17.6). Chrysostom had many virtues, but patience does not seem to have been one of them. In the words of Pelikan, Chrysostom “did not suffer fools gladly.” He recognized the inward dilemma of wanting to perform his role well and see the fruits of such success in attracting crowds, but also detesting a “desire for praise” on the part of any preacher (On the Priesthood 5.2). On one occasion, being interrupted by applause, Chrysostom made an aside rebuke for such inappropriate behavior and banned all further clapping—which, according to Pelikan, “brought the house down with applause!”[18]

There are a number of reasons, then, why Chrysostom would focus his attention on urging his congregants to read the Sermon in a literal manner, and do what it says. The Sermon may have been formally addressed to the disciples, but what he said “to” them was intended for all “through them” (Hom. 10.1). Chrysostom saw his own audience, like the indifferent multitudes of Jesus’ day, as intended recipients of the teaching (Hom. 24.3).

But Chrysostom also shows strong continuity with this united, whole-life, virtue-based transformation approach that seems to characterize the later patristics. Against the Gnostics, Chrysostom taught the essential goodness of creation (Hom. 19.10), and God as the source of our bodies (Hom. 15.1; 17.3; 16.8). It was not denial, but integration of body and soul that Chrystom was after (Hom. 15). He also sought integration of rich and poor within the community of faith. All Christians—regardless of their financial situation—were to say the Lord’s prayer, in which they ask God to give “us” (not “me”) what is needed. Pelikan summarizes the point well:

Chrysostom evidently looked at the Sermon on the Mount in such a perspective, and therefore he found in it more reason to emphasize the intrinsic unity among all men than to differentiate between those who could obey all its commands and those who were able to conform only to a certain irreducible minimum of Christian behavior.[19]

Like others in this tradition, Chrysostom finds the order in the Beatitudes to be successive. This succession is rooted in a call to virtue:

And observe too, after how many commandments He hath put this: for surely he did it not without reason, but to show that it is not possible for one unprovided, and unarmed with all those other virtues, to go forth unto these conflicts. Therefore, you see, in each instance, by the former precept making way for the following one, He has woven a sort of golden chain for us. Thus, first, he that is ‘humble,’ will surely also ‘mourn’ for his own sins: he that so ‘mourns,’ will be both ‘meek,’ and ‘righteous,’ and ‘merciful’; he that is ‘merciful,’ and ‘righteous,’ and ‘contrite’ will of course be also ‘pure in heart’: and such a one will be ‘a peacemaker’ too: and he that hath attained unto all these, will be moreover arrayed against dangers, and will not be troubled when evil is spoken of him, and he is enduring grievous trials innumerable (Hom. 15.9).

In some ways, Chryostom also provides an opening for the later “counsels” approach to the sermon. As a “realistic churchman” (to borrow a phrase from Pelikan), Chrysostom recognizes differing levels of spiritual understanding and abilities among his congregants. Echoing the Didache, he taught that all of the sermon was intended for all of the people; but each should do what they could, according to their understanding and ability (Hom. 21.5-6). But he is quick to point out these commands are not impossible or burdensome (Hom. 18; 21; 22). As one grows in grace, spurred on by a great cloud of witnesses who have moved beyond and achieved more, one should undertake to pursue the high calling of Christ as given in the sermon (Hom. 20.1).

Pelikan offers a helpful summation of Chrysostom’s place in the tradition:

Seen in the context of the exegetical tradition, therefore, Chrysostom’s exposition of the Sermon on the Mount seems to occupy a middle ground between the thorough-going monastic exegesis, which interpreted the imperatives of the Sermon as counsels of perfection, and Luther’s radical exegesis, which demanded that the imperatives be applied to every Christian, albeit under the sign of justification by grace through faith. Chysostom was a realistic churchman who knew his audience and a careful exegete who knew his text.[20]

AUGUSTINE

Robert Louis Wilken provides a moving introduction to how Augustine conceived of the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon must be read through the prism of 300 years of Christian reflection, as it was spoken by the Christ confessed in the creeds:[21]

This then is the agenda for interpreting the Sermon on the Mount. It is a sermon on higher things. Its words are unique among the words of Jesus for they are addressed to the mature Christian, not to beginners. They are not simply the words of an extraordinary rabbi or the oracles of a renowned prophet or the sayings of a venerable sage; they are the words of the second person of the Holy Trinity addressed to his faithful people.[22]

The noted Catholic moral theologian Servais Pinckaers lists “five major intuitions” of Augustine; these five markers will serve as a helpful outline for this section on Augustine.[23]

First, writes Pinckaers, “the Sermon on the Mount is the perfect model of Christian life, a summary of the Lord’s teachings on fitting conduct for his disciples.” Augustine actually uses the word “perfect” twice in his introduction to the sermon, and once in his conclusion. But the goal of perfection doesn’t mean the sermon is unrealistic. “As a teacher of the church,” writes Wilken, “he wishes to present the Sermon not as a body of general moral principles but a workable guide to life.”[24] It’s worth emphasizing the “work” in “workable.” In a sermon on the beatitudes, Augustine emphasizes the importance of being not just a hearer, but a doer of the word:

Everyone who hears the word of God ought to bear in mind that his life ought to be conformed to what he hears. Therefore, let him not disregard that word in his conduct while he seeks to praise it with his lips. If the word of God is sweet to hear, how much sweeter must it be to do?..[W]hile we are expounding the truths which so great a Master pronounced, what could be more helpful for us than to do what he has told us?[25]

The reason one should “labor” in obeying the Lord’s “precepts” in the sermon is because of the promise: God reveals how obeying the “conditions” may lead one to be “blessed:”

[T]here are many causes of that blessed life which no one wishes to be without. Surely, we can find no one who does not wish to be blessed. Would that men were as willing to fulfill the condition as they are eager to obtain the reward! Is there anyone who would not run with alacrity when it is said to him: ‘You shall be blessed’? Then, let everyone lend a willing ear when the condition is announced ‘If you do this.’ If one loves the reward, let him not decline the labor. Rather, let the thought of the reward enkindle the mind to alacrity in the labor. What we wish for, what we desire, what we are seeking—all that is in the future. What we are bidden to do for the sake of what is in the future—all that is here and now. So, begin to reflect upon the divine sayings—both the precepts and the rewards of the Gospel.[26]

The goal of following the sermon, however, involves the kind of virtuous total transformation characterizing this period. In Augustine’s own words, we seek for our hearts to rest in God “whose spiritual embrace… makes [us] fertile with virtue” (City of God, 10.3).

Second, claims Pinckaers, as can be deduced from the quotes already given, Augustine sees the beatitudes as “not simply an introduction to the sermon, but a sort of keystone which dominates and divides it.”

Third, Pinckaers writes, Augustine interpreted the Beatitudes “as representing seven degrees or stages leading the Christian from humility or poverty in spirit to wisdom and the vision of God.”

In his incredibly important work Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Augustine dons Gregorian garb as he describes “those several degrees of perfection” (1.4.12) recorded in the beatitudes—seven stages given to attain wisdom itself, “the contemplation of truth: “[I]f we ascend step by step, as it were, while we enumerate, the first grade is the love of God; the second is piety; the third is knowledge; the fourth is fortitude; the fifth is counsel; the sixth is understanding; the seventh is wisdom” (1.4.11).

Augustine clarifies each step.

  • “Poor in spirit” corresponds to “fear of God.” “That is to say: Blessed are those who are not puffed up, not proud” (1.4.11).
  • “Meek” corresponds to “piety,” “for, if a man piously searches the Sacred Scripture and does not reprehend what as yet he does not understand, he honors the Sacred Scripture and, consequently, he does not resist it. This is meekness” (1.4.11).
  • “Mourning” corresponds to “knowledge,” referring to “those who, having learned from the Scriptures, already know by what evils they are being withheld, namely, those evils which they had mistakenly sought as good and useful things” (1.4.11).
  • “Hunger & thirst” correspond to “fortitude,” “for they labor while they are desiring to rejoice in things that are truly good, and they are longing to turn their love away from earthly and corporeal things” (1.4.11).
  • “Merciful” corresponds to “counsel,” “for the only remedy for escaping such great evils is to forgive as we wish to be forgiven and to aid others when we can, just as wish to be aided by others when our own powers are insufficient” (1.4.11).
  • “Pure of heart” corresponds to “understanding,” “it coincides with those of that cleansed eye, so to speak, by which that can be discerned which the corporeal eye has not seen, which the ear has not heard, and which has not entered into the heart of man” (1.4.11).
  • “Peacemaking” corresponds to “wisdom,” “for with peacemakers all things are in proper order, and no passion is in rebellion against reason, but everything is in submission to man’s spirit because that spirit is obedient to God” (1.4.11).[27]

Fourth, Pinckaers notes, while Tertullian had already noted the strong Isaianic background to the sermon, Augustine originates the connection between the Beatitudes in Matthew and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11 (LXX).

The particulars corresponding to each beatitude above were not chosen at random; each one comes from the Septuagint version of Isaiah 11:2-3:

It seems to me, therefore, that the sevenfold operation of the Holy Spirit, of which Isaias speaks [Isa. 11:2], coincides with these stages and maxims. However, the order is different. In Isaias, the enumeration begins from the higher, while here it begins from the lower; in the former, it starts from wisdom and ends at the fear of God. But ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (1.4.11).

How are these seven gifts of the Spirit made to correspond to eight beatitudes? Because the eighth, says Augustine, is simply a recapitulation of the first (1.4.12).

Finally, Pinckaers claims Augustine’s fifth intuition was to “establish the connections among the seven Beatitudes, the gifts, and the petitions of the Our Father.”

Much more could be said, but his should suffice to show Augustine’s incredible insights, drawn from a keen intellect, put on display that same desire for unity, integration, participation, and total transformation (by way of virtuous habit) seen throughout this period.

A way of life learned through spiritual exercises with the goal of transforming the whole person is an apt description of the teaching of Jesus. Click To Tweet

COMING FULL CIRCLE: AUGUSTINE & GREGORY IN CONVERSATION

When we compare Gregory and Augustine as bookends, we begin to see a larger and deeper pattern emerge. In a penetrating article in Nova et Vetera, Michael Dauphinais claims Gregory and Augustine are steeped in the Roman and Hellenistic approach to philosophy as a way of life—reading the Sermon on the Mount as a Christian appropriation of the same.[28] Dauphinais relies on Pierre Hadot, who notes that a “way of life” goes beyond ethical norms or doctrinal teachings: “Rather…philosophy was a mode of existing-in-the-world, which had to be practiced at each instant, and the goal of which was to transform the whole of the individual’s life.”[29]

It was common for the ancients and neo-Platonists to view philosophy as an “ascent by stages.”[30] Spiritual progress is a central factor in such philosophical works:

Above all, the work, even if it is apparently theoretical and systematic, is written not so much to inform the reader of a doctrinal content but to form him, to make him traverse a certain itinerary in the course of which he will make spiritual progress…One must always approach a philosophical work of antiquity with this idea of spiritual progress in mind.[31]

The various schools thought the way of life proper to philosophy was engaging in spiritual exercises; these exercises were aimed at the total transformation of the person.

In concert with this approach, claims Dauphinais, Augustine and Gregory offer the beatitudes as ordered stages, and offer up their own commentaries “not as merely analytical endeavors, but as spiritual exercises designed to” change the reader.[32]  “The beatitudes pronounced by Christ provided a modified means of ascent and a modified end,” writes Dauphinais. “The elements shared, however, allowed Augustine and Gregory to see in the beatitudes a plan for the total transformation of disciples into children of God.”[33]

Dauphinais continues:

The moral life here depicted is not the life of the autonomous individual, but instead the moral life of a creature of God. The moral life leads the person to see that nothing in this life will truly satisfy the God-given desire for happiness. Man therefore seeks union with God beyond what is capable through the veil of this present creation. Christ’s announcement of the beatitudes declares that this kingdom is an everlasting kingdom in which the most unlikely suspects—indeed all human beings—have blessing, or beatitude, pronounced upon them as the community of His kingdom. Happiness is not compulsory, but the Divine Teacher sets forth an invitation to happiness as the true form of the moral life, one that ends with the enjoyment of God as his children.[34]

Familiar with the neo-Platonic stages of spiritual progress, Augustine and Gregory could not but interpret the beatitudes as stages of spiritual progress…the ascent in philosophy in antiquity…was not simply intellectual in terms of reaching higher theorems or greater speculative powers, but it was above all the transformation of the soul in order to be able to see greater things. If moral transformation forms the basis of the neo-Platonic ascent, then it appears much more natural to interpret the beatitudes as steps in an ascent. Contemporary concerns about a merely intellectual ascent can be set aside since it would have been unimaginable in antiquity that the philosophical ascent could be merely intellectual. But recovering Gregory’s and Augustine’s exegesis of the beatitudes, we can offer contemporary theology a vision for integrating moral and political transformation and spiritual ascent.[35]

This is why Christianity, for some early church fathers, is described as a philosophy. A way of life learned through spiritual exercises with the goal of transforming the whole person is also an apt description of the teaching of Jesus. Gregory and Augustine, representing a Late Patristic model, saw this point and emphasized it clearly.

“As long as we recognize that the contemplative does not exclude the moral and vice versa,” writes Dauphinais, “then Augustine’s and Gregory’s reading of the beatitudes as an ascent restores the full power of the beatitudes.”[36] And we can learn much from this tradition. As Dauphinais concludes, “Augustine and Gregory offer a view of the beatitudes and contemplation—‘in which the moral life is subsumed with the contemplation of truth’—that needs retrieval in contemporary theology.”[37]

 

[1] Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), p. 4.

[2] Daniel J. Harrington and James F. Keenan, Jesus and Virtue Ethics: Building Bridges Between New Testament Studies and Moral Theology (Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2002), p. 2.

[3] Harrington and Keenan, p. 2.

[4] Harrington and Keenan, pp. 2-3.

[5] Stuart George Hall, “Gregory of Nyssa, On The Beatitudes: An Introduction to the Text and Translation,” in Gregory of Nyssa: Homilies on the Beatitudes, ed. Hubertus R. Drobner & Albert Viciano (Leiden: Brill, 2000), pp. 17-18.

[6] “I think the arrangement of the Beatitudes is like a series of [ladder] rungs,” writes Gregory, “and it makes it possible for the mind to ascend by climbing from one to another” (Hom. 2.1).

[7] Hall, p. 18.

[8] Hall, p. 19.

[9] Anthony Meredith, “Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, Oratorio I: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5,3),” in Gregory of Nyssa: Homilies on the Beatitudes, p. 99.

[10] Meredith, p. 107.

[11] Meredith, p. 99.

[12] Judith L. Kovacs, “Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa on the Beatitudes,” in Gregory of Nyssa: Homilies on the Beatitudes, p. 329.

[13] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1966), p. 1. I am grateful to Judith Kovacs (p. 329) for the reference.

[14] Hall, p. 19.

[15] Jaroslav Pelikan, “Introduction,” in The Preaching of Chrysostom: Homilies on the Sermon on the Mount, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1967), p. 14.

[16] Margaret M. Mitchell, “John Chrysostom,” in The Sermon on the Mount Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II, ed. Jeffrey P. Greenman, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007), pp. 26-28.

[17] See Pelikan, p. 7.

[18] Pelikan, p. 24. See Chrysostom, Hom. 17.6.

[19] Pelikan, p. 32.

[20] Pelikan, p. 34.

[21] Robert Louis Wilken, “Augustine,” in The Sermon on the Mount Through the Centuries, p. 45.

[22] Wilken, 44-45.

[23] Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, Tr. Mary Thomas Noble (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995, pp. 141-158.

[24] Wilken, 49.

[25] Augustine, “Sermon 11—Morin: On the Beatitudes,” p. 357.

[26] Augustine, “Sermon 53: On the Beatitudes,” p. 211. “[S]ee how fittingly the corresponding rewards and labors are conjoined. Indeed, where is there a mention of any reward which is not in agreement and harmony with the labor?…How appropriate throughout are the rewards attached to the several labors. In the reward, nothing is added which is not in keeping with the precept.” (pp. 217-218).

[27] But see Augustine, Retractions 1.19.1: “I have good reason to feel dissatisfied with this expression. For, in this life, it cannot happen to anyone that a law warring against the law of the mind be entirely absent from his members, because that law would still be waging war even if man’s spirit were offering it such resistance as not to fall into any assent with it. However, since the peacemakers—by subduing the lusts of the flesh—are doing their utmost to reach that full and perfect peace, the statement that no passion is in rebellion against reason can be taken in a correct sense.”

[28] Michael Dauphinais, “Languages of Ascent: Gregory of Nyssa’s and Augustine of Hippo’s Exegeses of the Beatitudes,” Nova et Vetera 1/1 (Spring 2003), pp. 141-164.

[29] Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, ed. Arnold I. Davidson, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1995), p. 265.

[30] Dauphinais, pp. 145 & 155-156.

[31] Hadot, p. 64.

[32] Dauphinais, p. 145.

[33] Dauphinais, p. 162.

[34] Dauphinais, p. 163.

[35] Dauphinais, p. 163.

[36] Dauphinais, p. 163.

[37] Dauphinais, p. 142.

 

EARLIER POSTS IN THIS SERIES
The Complete Art of Happiness: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 1
Life with a Capital ‘L’: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 2
New Things To Love: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 3
A Change of Desire: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 4
The Cost of Apprenticeship: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 5
Calling All Neurotics: Sermon On The Mount Intro–Part 6
Conversation Partners For Reading The Sermon
The Devil’s Masterpiece: Sermon On The Mount Background–Part 1
Literal When Possible: The Sermon’s Earliest Reception: Background–Part 2

THE NEXT POST IN THIS SERIES
The Middle Ages: Virtue, Vice, Mendicants & Moral Manuals: Background–Part 4

 

photo credit: Ghirlandaio, Jesus Commissioning the Twelve Apostles (1481)

Nathan Guy

Nathan Guy believes the passionate pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty culminates in Jesus Christ. He received formal training in philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and cultural & political ethics from Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE. Nathan lives in Searcy, Arkansas, where he teaches in the College of Bible & Ministry at Harding University.

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