Original Research

Human birth and spiritual rebirth in the theological thought of John Chrysostom

Chris L. de Wet
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2149 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2149 | © 2017 Chris L. de Wet | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 May 2016 | Published: 31 January 2017

About the author(s)

Chris L. de Wet, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

The purpose of this article is to investigate the dynamics between human birth and spiritual rebirth in the thought of John Chrysostom (349–407 CE) and to position these dynamics in the broader scope that is salvation history.

Utilising the aspects of the methodology of Van der Watt on the dynamics of metaphor in the New Testament, the article contextualised Chrysostom’s understanding of spiritual rebirth within the progressive and climactic unfolding of human reproduction between prelapsarian and postlapsarian states.

In the first instance, the reproductive shift from divine creation to human reproduction after the Fall of Adam and Eve was discussed. Thereafter followed a discussion of how the miraculous births of men by barren women in the Old Testament such as Sarah and Isaac,functioned as a typological device pointing towards spiritual rebirth. After this an analysis of Chrysostom’s understanding of the virgin birth of Jesus by Mary was given, showing againthat this birth event was yet another typological device that directed the faith of the believer towards spiritual rebirth. Finally, Chrysostom’s teaching on the nature of spiritual rebirth is discussed in light of this broader typological development.

The result was that the notion of spiritual rebirth in Chrysostom’s thought could not be understood separately from his views on human birth and the progression back to aprelapsarian state of generation.

The relevance of the article is that it presents a focused study both on Chrysostom’s theology and his soteriology, in particular as well as his social thought with regards to sexual morality and issues related to reproduction and birth.


Keywords

Birth; Gospel of John; John Chrysostom; patristics; salvation; sexual reproduction; spiritual rebirth; virginity

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