Original Research - Special Collection: Studies on the Bible - spirituality and mysticism

The practice of everyday death: Thanatology and self-fashioning in John Chrysostom’s thirteenth homily on Romans

Chris L. de Wet
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2957 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2957 | © 2015 Chris L. de Wet | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 March 2015 | Published: 25 November 2015

About the author(s)

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


The purpose of this article is to investigate the relationship between the discourse of death, or thanatology, and self-fashioning, in John Chrysostom’s thirteenth homily In epistulam ad Romanos. The study argues that thanatology became a very important feature in the care of the self in Chrysostom’s thought. The central aim here is to demonstrate the multi-directional flow of death, as a corporeal discourse, between the realms of theology, ethics, and physiology. Firstly, the article investigates the link between the theological concepts of sin and death. Secondly, the study argues that death also becomes a highly paradoxical discourse when it enters the realm of Chrysostomic virtue-ethics, where the mortification of excessive passion leads to life, while ‘living’ in passion only results in death on every level of existence – death as a discourse therefore becomes interiorised, a process functioning as a subset of a more extensive biologisation of the spiritual life-cycle. Finally, Chrysostom also utilises death in a very physiological way, especially in his comments on the relationship between sin and the passions, and one’s physical health and appearance (which is also related to the soul).


John Chrysostom; Thanatology; Death in the Ancient World; Self-Fashioning; Care of the Self; Patristics; Early Christianity


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