What is it about?

John Chrysostom, circa 349–407 ce, wrote “On Vainglory, or The Right Way to Raise Children,” which purports to be about raising all Christian children. In fact, out of ninety chapters, only one deals with girls. Even more significant are the numerous overlooked children in the text, who are present but whose Christian education is never discussed because they are enslaved. This paper utilizes childist criticism to draw these enslaved children from hiddenness into plain sight. The paper is situated in the context of Jesus’ teaching about children because Chrysostom believes that the best way to raise children is by teaching them stories from the Bible, Hebrew Bible first, then New Testament, but instead of an openness to all children he discusses only freeborn, elite boys. Chrysostom’s treatise exposes the context of how few children in late antiquity could be shaped by biblical interpretation intended for all children.

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Why is it important?

This paper utilizes childist criticism to locate and understand how enslaved children are present and hidden in the texts of antiquity.


It is important for me in general to find and understand ancient children often hidden in ancient texts. It is as important to find all children in these texts, including children marginalized by enslavement and other types of trauma.

John Martens
University of Saint Thomas

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Are Enslaved Children Called to Come to Jesus? Freeborn and Enslaved Children in John Chrysostom’s On Vainglory, Biblical Interpretation, November 2020, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15685152-2805a004.
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