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  1. Matt Quintana
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Modern Insight from an Ancient Preacher
    August 18, 2020
    Matt Quintana
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    Meets Expectations: 5
    In a day where sermons and books from gifted and influential preachers are so accessible, why would someone want to spend time reading about a preacher from over 1,500 years ago? While I may not have expressed my doubt in such a naive manner, I admit that I was initially skeptical about how much insight a church father could offer for preaching in the 21st century. However, my assumptions were proven to be extremely inaccurate. As it turns out, John Chrysostom can offer preachers today quite a bit of insight!

    In this short book, Gerald Bray does a splendid job of introducing readers to the often neglected works of John of Antioch, who later became known as "chrysostomos," or "golden mouth." Though not one of the most well-known patristic authors, Chrysostom left behind an impressive number of sermons and writings. In fact, over 600 of his sermons remain, including a complete series on Genesis, Isaiah, Matthew, and John, along with a large number of sermons on Acts and all of Paul's epistles and Hebrews.

    Bray uses engaging storytelling and historical reflection to present John's life and works to readers. The book consists of four major chapters of about 30 pages each, and is wrapped up with a concluding reflection on Chrysostom. In the first chapter, Bray sketches a short biography and provides an overview of his extant works. He then offers some advice for reading Chrysostom today, laying out his plan for the following chapters: "What I propose to do is to work my way through each of these four texts [Genesis 1-3, Matthew & John, Romans], outlining how John read them himself, how he expounded them to his hearers, and how he applied them to the Christian life" (p. 10). The first chapter concludes with an overview of John Chrysostom's intellectual background and mindset, as well as his hermeneutical approach.

    The next three chapters do exactly what Bray said above: They walk through Genesis 1-3 (chapter 2), the Gospels of Matthew and John (chapter 3), and Paul's letter to the Romans (chapter 4). This is where the book became really fun to read. It fascinating to learn the interpretations of an early pastor-theologian, which were (perhaps surprisingly) very sensitive to the "literal sense," rather than overtly allegorical. At the same time, John was unabashedly theological in his exegesis, and he believed that in the Scriptures, God was speaking to those who read in his own day. What I enjoyed more than Chrysostom's interpretation of specific texts, though, was seeing how he preached and applied them to his congregation. This is where the book became very relevant and helpful for anyone involved in preaching and teaching within the church today. Personally, I found great excitement in the pastoral wisdom and homiletical insight this ancient preacher had to offer.

    In the last chapter, Bray extends some final thoughts on Chrysostom's legacy. The book also includes a few suggestions for further reading, the endnotes, and two indexes.

    Overall, Bray does a masterful job of introducing Chysostom in an accessible and inviting way. This book was an easy read, and the author was a faithful guide for those just beginning to dip their toes in the daunting wealth of patristic writings. When it comes to John of Antioch, the "golden mouthed" preacher from the fourth century, modern Christian preachers can glean a great deal of wisdom. While one may not agree with every single interpretative move he makes, John Chrysostom certainly has a lot offer those involved in church ministry in the 21st century. So before you decide to read that book on preaching from a contemporary author, consider sitting at the feet of one of early church's greatest preachers.

    *Note: I received this book for free, courtesy of Lexham Press, but was not required to give a positive review.*
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