Skip to content
 

Chrysostom on Reading not Just Possessing Books

I recently came across this quote while reading in Chrysostom’s sermons on John’s Gospel. I thought it was just as relevant today.

Furthermore, tell me who of you, when at home, ever takes the Christian Book in his hands and goes through what is contained therein, and studies Scripture? No one would be able to say he does. However, we shall find that games and dice are in most houses; but never books, except in a few. And the latter have the same attitude as those who do not possess books, since they tie them up and store them away in chests all the time, and their whole interest in them lies in the fineness of the parchment and the beauty of the writing, not in reading them. They have not bought them with a view to obtaining help and profit, but are eager to acquire them to make a display of wealth and ambition, so excessive is their vainglory. Actually, I hear no one priding himself because he knows their contents, but because he possesses one written in gold letters.

Now, what profit is there in this, pray? The Scriptures were not given merely that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. The very possession of them was of itself, in truth, an object of Jewish ambition, since their laws were set down only in writing; yet from the very beginning the Law was not given thus to us but was set down in the bodily tablets of the heart. I am saying these things not to proscribe the possessing of books, since, on the contrary, I approve this and desire it very much, but I wish both the letter and the meaning of them to be borne about in our minds, that, upon acquiring the knowledge of these writings, our minds may in this way be purified.

Chrysostom, John Saint. Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist: Homilies 1-47. Translated by Sister Thomas Aquinas Goggin. In The Fathers of the Church, ed. By Roy Joseph Deferrari. New York: Fathers of the Church, 1957. This link seems to be of a more recent reprint.

Leave a Reply