John Chrysostom (Bitesize Biographies)
Earl M Blackburn
128 pages, £5.99
Star rating: 4 stars.
This is a little book that packs a mighty punch. It is part of the EP Books’ bitesize biography series and is written with a general readership in mind. Informative, inspiring, interesting and inductive this little biography on the life, times and works of John Chrysostom (349 – 407AD) certainly whet this reviewer’s appetite to read the works of Chrysostom for himself.
The author, Peter Blackburn, is a Reformed Baptist minister, conference speaker and writer of several other books. While he writes from a specific theological perspective he also writes with pastoral discernment and insight which makes this little book particularly incisive and instructive for preachers. His summary in fourteen brief points on what makes a good preacher from Chrysostom’s work ‘on the priesthood’ and his final chapter on ‘lessons to learn’ will prove particularly helpful for pastors and preachers. Blackburn notes that the name Chrysostom quite literally means ‘golden-mouthed’ and that his subject most certainly deserved this epithet. He was first and foremost a preacher ‘whose soul was filled with Scripture that burned with holy and loving fervour to the triune God.’ Not only do we learn much about the events and developments that shaped Chrysostom’s life and works but we learn something about his early life and service in the church as a monk as well as his faithful and fruitful ministry as Bishop of Antioch before his eventual and eventful elevation to the primatial see of Constantinople.
Chrysostom was and is not only revered within the Greek and Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions but he inspired and influenced the likes of the great Reformed theologian, pastor and teacher, John Calvin. His life and works have much to teach us still. Blackburn pertinently notes: ‘Three elements woven throughout are apparent in his writings: his love and devotion to Christ; his fervent communion with the triune God; and a strong desire for true gospel holiness and piety.’ This is made all too evident in this biographical sketch. This little inexpensive book ought to be widely read.
Isle of Skye