Stoic or Biblical Moral Teaching in John Chrysostom’s Quod nemo laeditur nisi a se ipso?

John Chrysostom has often been described as a moralist, and a Stoic one at that. But can this Christian preacher’s moral teaching be described as Stoic, when biblical exegesis forms the greater part of his work? Chrysostom’s 'Quod nemo laeditur nisi a se ipso' is a fitting test case for this question, since the treatise is a sustained reflection upon the pseudo-Stoic dictum “no one can be harmed unless he harms himself,” and at the same time is taken up primarily with exegesis and re-narration of Old Testament narratives. It has been claimed that this treatise is mostly Stoic and contains hardly any genuinely Christian teaching; the biblical narratives employed are instead molded to the whims of this apparently Stoic preacher. However, this paper will argue that the influence instead runs in the opposite direction: this Stoic moral teaching becomes so thoroughly incorporated into the Christian commentary tradition that it ceases to be Stoic in any meaningful sense. Instead, like other moral gnomai found throughout Chrysostom’s works, the phrase “no one is harmed unless he harms himself” functions as a distillation of scriptural narratives, thus transforming the dictum into a single, now distinctly Christian, moral teaching. Further, Chrysostom puts forward the phrase to be used as a sort of spiritual exercise: one that is both metonymic—standing in for these extended biblical narratives—and mnemonic—serving as a pithy reminder of the narratives which might otherwise prove difficult to recall. Thus, as one is confronted with a disturbing circumstance, by recalling the phrase “no one can be harmed unless he harms himself,” one is reminded of the expanse of biblical narratives which all witness to this same truth. In this way, the gnomic expression is packed full of scriptural—and not Stoic—meaning. In addition to this more constructive argument, it is noted that the Stoic “backgrounds” which are so often the hallmark of contemporary patristic scholarship are less helpful in this case because (1) Chrysostom’s thought does not engage with Stoic teaching in any significant way, and (2) many Stoic teachings, such as this one, had long since ceased to be Stoic, and had been thoroughly assimilated into the thought of various other philosophical schools. Thus, rather than arguing that Chrysostom Stoicizes, and so does violence to, the biblical narratives which he interprets, this paper will show how this moral teaching becomes Christianized, as Chrysostom baptizes it in the waters of the Christian scriptural commentary tradition.