An Orthodox Journal of Cross-Cultural Theology, Dialogue and Mission

Εύη Βουλγαράκη-Πισίνα, Η Προσέγγιση των Εθνικών κατά τον Άγιο Ιωάννη το Χρυσόστομο [Evi Voulgaraki-Pissina, Approaching the Pagans According to St. John Chrysostom]

Review by Dr Eirini Afentoulidou
DOI: 10.57577/1-22A27
Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture: 1 (2022): 349-352
Keywords: Late Antiquity, Antioch, John Chrysostom, Paganism, Christianity, Patristics, Missiology, Interfaith Relations, Early Church, Byzantine History, Inclusion, Segmentation, Religious Conflict

It has become common for Churches in now post-Christian societies to look back nostalgically to eras in which Christianity was the predominant faith. In Greek-speaking Orthodoxy, this ‘Golden Age‘ is identified with (post-Justinian) Byzantium, or, in its less triumphalist version, with the Ottoman period. In the latter, Christians are imaged as a close, homogeneous community of martyrs persevering in a hostile environment and ready to cast out the few apostates. Although modern research has produced more nuanced images of both periods, such nostalgia is common in Christian (in this case Greek Orthodox) popular culture. In this context, Evi Voulgaraki’s book is particularly welcome, as it deals with interfaith encounters between Pagans and Christians in the cosmopolitan setting of 4th-century Antioch, viewed by the Church Father John Chrysostom. The main point of the book is that mission was essential in John Chrysostom’s teaching, and that he encouraged social interaction between Christians and Pagans on many levels as a means to attract the latter to salvation. The book includes a detailed English summary (pp. 373–385), so I will highlight only a few points here.