Tradition Thursday- #51

Various discussions as of late have me thinking about masculinity in a Christian context. Towards that end, I have started parsing through scripture for verses and passages which concern masculinity. St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy features a fair amount of advice and teaching that doesn’t directly address masculinity, but it does address how a Christian man should act in certain situations. Until I have other ideas on where to take this series, I will quote some of St. John Chrysostom’s homilies on 1st Timothy as they relate to 1 Tim 4 and 5. This post will have some selected quoting, as different verses move in and out of relevance in this part of Scripture:

Ver. 7. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself rather unto godliness.

Putting them in remembrance, he says; here you observe no authority; but all is condescension: he does not say commanding or enjoining, but reminding them: that is, suggest these things as matter of advice, and so enter into discourses with them concerning the faith, being nourished up, he says, meaning to imply constancy in application to these things.

For as we set before us day by day this bodily nourishment, so he means, let us be continually receiving discourses concerning the faith, and ever be nourished with them. What is this, being nourished up? Ruminating upon them; attending ever to the same things, and practicing ever the same, for it is no common nourishment that they supply.

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. By these are meant Jewish traditions, and he calls them fables, either because of their falsehood or their unseasonableness. For what is seasonable is useful, but what is unseasonable is not only useless but injurious. Suppose a man of adult age to be suckled by a nurse, would he not be ridiculous, because it is unseasonable? Profane and old wives’ fables, he calls them, partly because of their obsoleteness, and partly because they are impediments to faith. For to bring souls under fear, that are raised above these things, is an impious commandment. Exercise yourself unto godliness. That is, unto a pure faith and a moral life; for this is godliness. So then we need exercise.

Ver. 8. For bodily exercise profits little. This has by some been referred to fasting; but away with such a notion! For that is not a bodily but a spiritual exercise. If it were bodily it would nourish the body, whereas it wastes and makes it lean, so that it is not bodily. Hence he is not speaking of the discipline of the body. What we need, therefore, is the exercise of the soul. For the exercise of the body has no profit, but may benefit the body a little, but the exercise of godliness yields fruit and advantage both here and hereafter.

These things command and teach. Let no man despise your youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

In some cases it is necessary to command, in others to teach; if therefore you command in those cases where teaching is required, you will become ridiculous. Again, if you teach where you ought to command, you are exposed to the same reproach. For instance, it is not proper to teach a man not to be wicked, but to command; to forbid it with all authority. Not to profess Judaism, should be a command, but teaching is required, when you would lead men to part with their possessions, to profess virginity, or when you would discourse of faith. Therefore Paul mentions both: Command and teach. When a man uses amulets, or does anything of that kind, knowing it to be wrong, he requires only a command; but he who does it ignorantly, is to be taught his error. Let no one despise your youth.

Observe that it becomes a priest to command and to speak authoritatively, and not always to teach. But because, from a common prejudice, youth is apt to be despised, therefore he says, Let no man despise your youth. For a teacher ought not to be exposed to contempt. But if he is not to be despised, what room is there for meekness and moderation? Indeed the contempt that he fails into personally he ought to bear; for teaching is commended by longsuffering. But not so, where others are concerned; for this is not meekness, but coldness. If a man revenge insults, and ill language, and injuries offered to himself, you justly blame him. But where the salvation of others is concerned, command, and interpose with authority. This is not a case for moderation, but for authority, lest the public good suffer. He enjoins one or the other as the case may require. Let no one despise you on account of your youth. For as long as your life is a counterpoise, you will not be despised for your youth, but even the more admired: therefore he proceeds to say,

But be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity. In all things showing yourself an example of good works: that is, be yourself a pattern of a Christian life, as a model set before others, as a living law, as a rule and standard of good living, for such ought a teacher to be. In word, that he may speak with facility, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in true purity, in temperance.

Till I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Even Timothy is commanded to apply to reading. Let us then be instructed not to neglect the study of the sacred writings. Again, observe, he says, Till I come. Mark how he consoles him, for being as it were an orphan, when separated from him, it was natural that he should require such comfort. Till I come, he says, give attendance to reading the divine writings, to exhortation of one another, to teaching of all.

Chap. v. ver. 1. Rebuke not an elder.

Is he now speaking of the order? I think not, but of any elderly man. What then if he should need correction? Do not rebuke him, but address him as you would a father offending.

Ver. 1. The elder women as mothers, the younger men as brethren; the younger women as sisters, with all purity.

Rebuke is in its own nature offensive, particularly when it is addressed to an old man, and when it proceeds from a young man too, there is a threefold show of forwardness. By the manner and the mildness of it, therefore, he would soften it. For it is possible to reprove without offense, if one will only make a point of this: it requires great discretion, but it may be done.

The younger men as brethren. Why does he recommend this too here? With a view to the high spirit natural to young men, whence it is proper to soften reproof to them also with moderation.

The younger women as sisters; he adds, with all purity. Tell me not, he means, of merely avoiding sinful intercourse with them. There should not be even a suspicion. For since intimacy with young women is always suspicious, and yet a Bishop cannot always avoid it, he shows by adding these words, that all purity is required in such intimacy. But does Paul give this advice to Timothy? Yes, he says, for I am speaking to the world through him. But if Timothy was thus advised, let others consider what sort of conduct is required of them, that they should give no ground for suspicion, no shadow of pretext, to those who wish to calumniate.

(Sources: Homily 12 and Homily 13)

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1 Comment

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One response to “Tradition Thursday- #51

  1. Michael Kozaki

    but what is unseasonable is not only useless but injurious.

    Enjoyed this. Cool to cross-compare Scripture to early sermons as well. I get what he’s saying here, and agree on the danger.

    Taking the bible in a literal fashion is often flat-out wrong. But it’s sure to happen where there is no final authority (loss of Church) to decide what is orthodox and what is not. Without a bishop (and then pope to organize the bishops) one eventually becomes a bible-not-God worshiper (or tradition worshiper if you lack a pope).

    For an example, the Council of Jerusalem in Acts the Jerusalem church incorporates/keeps three of the Jewish laws as obligatory for Christian Jews but but not for non-Jewish Christians. They sort through Scripture with authority, and even chose new Scriptures as desired (as Acts later becomes).

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