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John Chrysostom, Saint (C. 347-407) - Coptic Wiki


Patriarch of Constantinople and doctor of the church (feast day: 13 November in the East, 13 September in the West). John was born in Antioch, where he studied law and theology. For some years he devoted himself to monastic life, part of the time as a hermit. He was a deacon under the bishop Flavian, who ordained him a priest in 386 and appointed him to preach. His name Chrysostom means “golden-mouthed.” He was made patriarch of Constantinople in 398 against his will.

Chrysostom’s stern moral stance and tactless efforts to reform the corrupt court and city led to conflict with the empress Eudoxia and with Saint THEOPHILUS, patriarch of Alexandria, who was jealous of him. Theophilus took the occasion of Chrysostom’s having received the Tall Brothers, Origenist monks from Egypt, to have him condemned for Origenist views at the Synod of the Oak in Chalcedon in 403. The synod, through the intervention of the empress, had him deposed and exiled to the Caucasus, where he died in 407.

This article will concentrate on Chrysostom’s important position in Coptic literature. It is surprising that despite his conflict with Theophilus, he was enthusiastically taken up by Coptic tradition, both as an author of and as a saint. This process was achieved without compromising the position of Theophilus. In fact, the earliest Coptic sources and those that are most authoritative concerning omit his relations with Theophilus, attributing the cause of all his tribulations to Eudoxia. Thus a Coptic history of the church defines him as a “wise man of God, full of faith, wisdom and charity,” and after a long account of his literary works it attributes his misfortunes solely to his dispute with the wicked Eudoxia. The text of the so-called Memoirs of Dioskoros (Johnson, 1980, pp. 88-90) speaks in similar terms.

In the Coptic translation of the Vita Epiphanii episcopi Salaminae, however, the relations between Theophilus and John are brought out. The homily, De hora mortis, attributed to Saint CYRIL THE GREAT, albeit spurious and late, is also aware of this episode, although it speaks of a post mortem reconciliation of the two bishops. The feeble echo of the vicissitudes of the life of John and his death in exile gave rise at a later date in the seventh century in the period of the CYCLES to a series of fictional texts attributed to him or concerning him, which will be examined separately below.

A list of the authentic works by that have survived in Coptic translation follows.

From his monastic period there are Epistle 2 ad Theodorum, and the Epistle ad Stelechium (fragment, Vienna, Papyrussammlung, ed. Orlandi 1974).

Of his homilies, those in Sahidic are especially important. These are Excerpta from the on the Epistle to the Hebrews (fragments from DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH); In Ioseph, In Susannam (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4566-67; Museo Egizio, Turin, Cat. 63000, cod. 8, 15-25, ed. Rossi, 1887-1892, Vol. 2, pp. 20-37; Library, Or. 5001, ed. Budge, 1910, pp. 46-57); De Davide et Saul 3 (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4412.3; Museo Egizio, Turin, Cat. 63000, cod. 8, 26-39, ed. Rossi, Vol. 2, pp. 38-47); In Petrum et Heliam (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4513; fragment from Dayr Anba Shinudah, ed. Devos, 1975-1976); De Chananaea (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4529; Library, Or. 5001, ed. Budge); De Nativitate (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4657; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, C6, ed. Crum, 1915); In Matt. 12:4 (exeuntes Pharisaei) (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4640; Museo Egizio, Turin, Cat. 63000, cod. 6, 74-91, ed. Rossi, Vol. 1, pp. 54-70); De Pentecoste (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4536, unpublished fragment from Dayr Anba Shinudah).

Many others are found in Bohairic (especially in the Vatican Library, Coptic 57; but also in other of Saint Macarius; cf. Hebbelynck and Van Lantschoot, 1937, 1947), but these are probably a translation deriving from the Sahidic, and even if some are translated directly from the Greek, it would not seem possible that they could go back to the fifth and sixth centuries, as is the case for the Sahidic.

Other homilies, however, are not only certainly spurious but were also most probably composed directly in Coptic no earlier than the mid-sixth century. Leaving aside for now the Cycle of Chrysostom (see below), seven works are listed.

De Resurrectione (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M595; unpublished) speaks of the normal episodes referring to the Resurrection, dwelling principally on two points of interest: the calculation of the chronology of Jesus’ stay in the tomb and the moment of the Resurrection, and an “autobiographical” episode concerning a certain Eutychus, who died when had been a bishop for two years.

After the first part of In Iohannem Baptistam ( Library, Or. 7024, ed. Budge, 1913, pp. 128-45; fragment from Dayr Anba Shinudah), which has the normal character of an Encomium, a report is given of what the author is said to have found in a book from the Apostles’ library in Jerusalem concerning the honors accorded to John the Baptist in heaven.

After a normal prologue for In Raphaelem Archangelum (British Library, Or. 7022, 6806A, ed. Budge, 1915, pp. 526-33; fragment from Dayr Anba Shinudah), an “autobiographical” episode is introduced in which Arcadius has the oratory of Raphael built. This is followed by the account of the miracles that occurred in the oratory.

In Quattuor Animalia (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York M612; Berlin, Papyrussammlung Pll965; fragment from Qasr Ibrim) is one of the texts concerning the enthronement of angelic creatures (cf. similar texts concerning MICHAEL, RAPHAEL, etc.). Pseudo- John is said to have found this text in a book of the library of the Anastasis of Jerusalem (dialogue between Jesus and the disciples prior to the Resurrection).

In Luke 7:37 “De Peccatrice” (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M; ed. Yassa, 1958-1960) is a simple exegesis of the passage relating the sinful woman’s anointing the feet of Jesus.

In Michaelem et Latronem ( manuscript in the Vatican Library, Coptic 58, ed. Simon, 1934, pp. 217-42 and 1935, pp. 222-34) is a list of the feasts dedicated to Michael in the course of the liturgical year, and related miracles and apparitions.

In Heliam Prophetam ( manuscript in the British Library, ed. Budge, 1893, pp. 355-404) is a simple compilation of biblical passages referring to Elijah.

Finally, the Cycle dedicated to John Chrysostom, which belongs to a special type of production of Coptic texts (cf. CYCLES), to be dated about the seventh century, is a series of texts derived from Chrysostom’s life and divisible into two parts: (1) his activity in Antioch and Constantinople in the period in which he was elected bishop; and (2) his tribulations related to the conflict with Eudoxia (Theophilus is not mentioned) and his exile.

Concerning the first part the of a fictitious figure is of particular interest. This is DEMETRIUS OF ANTIOCH, who is said to have ordained John a priest. It is impossible today to see what purpose was served by substituting the historically true Flavian by this Demetrius. In any case, some were even attributed to him, and at least one was attributed to Chrysostom himself: In Victorem (manuscript of Dayr Anba Shinudah, ed. Bouriant, 1893), in which he himself recounts his ordination and translation to Constantinople.

Concerning the second part, we find principally a kind of biography of Chrysostom (fragment from Dayr Anba Shinudah), in which, after undergoing various sufferings in Thrace, he converts the local population to Christianity. In this work, mention is already made of a certain Anthimos, who, according to the homily In Michaelem attributed to EUSTATHIUS OF THRACE, became bishop of Thrace; Eustathius was his successor in that see. The same area is dealt with in a homily attributed to PROCLUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, In XXIV Seniores.


  • Bouriant, U. “L’éloge de l’apa fils de Romanos.” Mémoires publiés les membres de la mission archéologique française au Caire 8 (1893):145-268.
  • Budge, E. A. W. “On the Fragments of a Coptic Version of an Encomium on Elijah the Tishbite, Attributed to Saint John Chrysostom.” Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 9 (1893):355-404.
  • . Coptic . London, 1910.
  • . Coptic Apocrypha. London, 1913.
  • . Miscellaneous Coptic Texts. London, 1915.
  • Campagnano, A.; A. Maresca; and T. Orlandi. Quattro omelie copte: Vita di Giovanni Crisostomo, Encomi dei 24 Vegliardi, Encomio di Michele Arcangelo di Eustazio di Tracia. Testi e documenti per lo studio dell’antichita, serie copta 60. Milan, 1977.
  • Crum, W. E., ed. and tr. Der Papyruscodex Saec. VI-VII der Phillippsbibliothek in Cheltenham. Koptische Theologische Schriften. Schriften der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Strassburg 18. Strasbourg, 1915.
  • Devos, P. “Deux feuillets coptes sur Pierre et Elie.” Oriental Library Publications 6, 7 (1975-1976):185-204.
  • Hebbelynck, A., and A. van Lantschoot. coptici vaticani barberiniani borgiani rossiani. Rome, 1937, 1947.
  • Orlandi, T. Papiri copti di contenuto teologico. aus der Papyrussammlung der Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek 9. Vienna, 1974.
  • Rossi, F. I papiri copti del Museo Egizio di Torino, 2 vols. Turin, 1887-1892.
  • Simon, J. “Homélie copte inédite sur S. Michel et le Bon Larron, attribuée à S. Chrysostome.” Orientalia 3 (1934):217-242; 4 (1935):222-234.
  • Yassa, ‘Abd al-Masih. “A Discourse by St. John on the Sinful Woman in the Sa’idic Dialect.” Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie Copte 15 (1958-1960):11-39.