Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ashish Naidu: Mere Mimesis or Inner Transformation? Ancient Discourse and John Chrysotom on Christian Praxis.

Scholars have observed that the idea of mimesis was a key concept in ancient literary criticism and a vital interpretive feature in the early church. Specifically, the wording and content of the scriptures were viewed as mimetic of divine truths and doctrinal teaching. Mimetic exegesis assumes the replay of a drama—an act or plot—and so had a place in shaping life in the church. Therefore, the life of Christ is viewed as an icon, a picture, a model for Christian ethics and practice.

However, I argue that deeper theological concerns also animate patristic exegesis. I will examine John Chrysostom’s commentary on the Fourth Gospel to demonstrate that he views the imitation of Christ not as a hermeneutical device consistent with the literary theories of his day, but as a proper response to the spiritual transformation that has taken place in the neophyte. First, I will examine how Chrysostom’s soteriology informs his understanding of the Christian life. Second, I will show how his evocative depictions of Christian virtue convey a profound conviction that a Christ-like life is the result of a prior inward work of God’s grace. Finally, I will argue that Chrysostom’s view of Christian praxis is not merely a representation of Christ’s example but an outward reflection of the life in Christ. Chrysostom’s use of mimesis, therefore, is better appreciated when viewed through the lens of the life of faith in an ecclesiastical context.

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