Fathers of the Church
Commentary on Matthew: Books X
by Origen in Circa 250 A.D. | translated by John Patrick, D.d
1. THE PARABLE OF THE TARES: THE HOUSE OF JESUS.
"Then He left the multitudes and went into His house, and His disciples came unto Him saying, Declare to us the parable of the tares of the field" When Jesus then is with the multitudes, He is not in His house, for the multitudes are outside of the house, and it is an act which springs from His love of men to leave the house and to go away to those who are not able to come to Him. Now, having discoursed sufficiently to the multitudes in parables, He sends them away and goes to His own house, where His disciples, who did not abide with those whom He had sent away, come to Him. And as many as are more genuine hearers of Jesus first follow Him, then having inquired about His abode, are permitted to see it, and, having come, see and abide with Him, all for that day, and perhaps some of them even longer. And, in my opinion, such things are indicated in the Gospel according to John in these words, "On the morrow again John was standing and two of his disciples. And in order to explain the fact that of those who were permitted to go with Jesus and see His abode, the one who was more eminent becomes also an Apostle, these words are added: "One of the two that heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." And if then, unlike the multitudes whom He sends away, we wish to hear Jesus and go to the house and receive something better than the multitudes, let us become friends of Jesus, so that as His disciples we may come to Him when He goes into the house, and having come may inquire about the explanation of the parable, whether of the tares of the field, or of any other. And in order that it may be more accurately understood what is represented by the house of Jesus, let some one collect from the Gospels whatsoever things are spoken about the house of Jesus, and what things were spoken or done by Him in it; for all the passages collected together will convince any one who applies himself to this reading that the letters of the Gospel are not absolutely simple as some suppose, but have become simple to the simple by a divine concession; but for those who have the will and the power to hear them more acutely there are concealed things wise and worthy of the Word of God.
2. EXPOSITION OF THE PARABLE.
"After these things He answered and said to them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man." Though we have already, in previous sections, according to our ability discussed these matters, none the less shall we now say what is in harmony with them, even if there is reasonable ground for another explanation. And consider now, if in addition to what we have already recounted, you can otherwise take the good seed to be the children of the kingdom, because whatsoever good things are sown in the human soul, these are the offspring of the kingdom of God and have been sown by God the Word who was in the beginning with God, so that wholesome words about anything are children of the kingdom. But while men are asleep who do not act according to the command of Jesus, "Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation," the devil on the watch sows what are called tares—that is, evil opinions—over and among what are called by some natural conceptions, even the good seeds which are from the Word. And according to this the whole world might be called a field, and not the Church of God only, for in the whole world the Son of man sowed the good seed, but the wicked one tares,—that is, evil words,—which, springing from wickedness, are children of the evil one. And at the end of things, which is called "the consummation of the age," there will of necessity be a harvest, in order that the angels of God who have been appointed for this work may gather up the bad opinions that have grown upon the soul, and overturning them may give them over to fire which is said to burn, that they may be consumed. And so the angels and servants of the Word will gather from all the kingdom of Christ all things that cause a stumbling-block to souls and reasonings that create iniquity, which they will scatter and cast into the burning furnace of fire. Then those who become conscious that they have received the seeds of the evil one in themselves, because of their having been asleep, shall wail and, as it were, be angry against themselves; for this is the "gnashing of teeth." Wherefore, also, in the Psalms it is said, "They gnashed upon me with their teeth." Then above all "shall the righteous shine," no longer differently as at the first, but all "as one sun in the kingdom of their Father." Then, as if to indicate that there was indeed a hidden meaning, perhaps, in all that is concerned with the explanation of the parable, perhaps most of all in the saying, "Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," the Saviour adds, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," thereby teaching those who think that in the exposition, the parable has been set forth with such perfect clearness that it can be understood by the vulgar, that even the things connected with the interpretation of the parable stand in need of explanation.
3. THE SHINING OF THE RIGHTEOUS. ITS INTERPRETATION.
But as we said above in reference to the words, "Then shall the righteous shine as the sun," that the righteous will shine not differently as formerly, but as one sun, we will, of necessity, set forth what appears to us on the point. Daniel, knowing that the intelligent are the light of the world, and that the multitudes of the righteous differ in glory, seems to have said this, "And the intelligent shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and from among the multitudes of the righteous as the stars for ever and ever." And in the passage, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory: so also is the resurrection of the dead," the Apostle says the same thing as Daniel, taking this thought from his prophecy. Some one may inquire how some speak about the difference of light among the righteous, while the Saviour on the contrary says, "They shall shine as one sun." I think, then, that at the beginning of the blessedness enjoyed by those who are being saved (because those who are not such are not yet purified), the difference connected with the light of the saved takes place: but when, as we have indicated, he gathers from the whole kingdom of Christ all things that make men stumble, and the reasonings that work iniquity are cast into the furnace of fire, and the worse elements utterly consumed, and, when this takes place, those who received the words which are the children of the evil one come to self- consciousness, then shall the righteous having become one light of the sun shine in the kingdom of their Father. For whom will they shine? For those below them who will enjoy their light, after the analogy of the sun which now shines for those upon the earth? For, of course, they will not shine for themselves. But perhaps the saying," Let your light shine before men," can be written "upon the table of the heart," according to what is said by Solomon, in a threefold way; so that even now the light of the disciples of Jesus shines before the rest of men, and after death before the resurrection, and after the resurrection "until all shall attain unto a full-grown man," and all become one sun. Then shall they shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
4. CONCERNING THE PARABLE OF THE TREASURE HIDDEN IN THE FIELD. THE PARABLE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE SIMILITUDE.
"Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid." The former parables He spoke to the multitudes; but this and the two which follow it, which are not parables but similitudes in relation to the kingdom of heaven, He seems to have spoken to the disciples when in the house. In regard to this and the next two, let him who "gives heed to reading" inquire whether they are parables at all. In the case of the latter the Scripture does not hesitate to attach in each case the name of parable; but in the present case it has not done so; and that naturally. For if He spoke to the multitudes in parables, and "spake all these things in parables, and without a parable spake nothing to them," but on going to the house He discourses not to the multitudes but to the disciples who came to Him there, manifestly the things spoken in the house were not parables: for, to them that are without. even to those to whom "it is not given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," He speaks in parables. Some one will then say, If they are not really parables, what are they? Shall we then say in keeping with the diction of the Scripture that they are similitudes (comparisons)? Now a similitude differs from a parable; for it is written in Mark, "To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or in what parable shall we set it forth?" From this it is plain that there is a difference between a similitude and a parable. The similitude seems to be generic, and the parable specific. And perhaps also as the similitude, which is the highest genus of the parable, contains the parable as one of its species, so it contains that particular form of similitude which has the same name as the genus. This is the case with other words as those skilled in the giving of many names have observed; who say that "impulse" is the highest genus of many species, as, for example, of "disinclination" and "inclination." and say that, in the case of the species which has the same name as the genus, "inclination" is taken in opposition to and in distinction from "disinclination."
5. THE FIELD AND THE TREASURE INTERPRETED.
And here we must inquire separately as to the field, and separately as to the treasure hidden in it, and in what way the man who has found this hidden treasure goes away with joy and sells all that he has ill order to buy that field; and we must also inquire—what are the things which he sells. The field, indeed, seems to me according to these things to be the Scripture, which was planted with what is manifest in the words of the history, and the law, and the prophets, and the rest of the thoughts; for great and varied is the planting of the words in the whole Scripture; but the treasure hidden in the field is the thoughts concealed and lying under that which is manifest, "of wisdom hidden in a mystery," "even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden." But another might say that the field is that which is verily full, which the Lord blessed, the Christ of God; but the treasure hidden in it is the things said to have been "hidden in Christ" by Paul, who says about Christ, "in whom are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden." The heavenly things, therefore, even the kingdom of heaven, as in a figure it is written in the Scriptures—which are the kingdom of heaven, or Christ—Himself the king of the ages, are the kingdom of heaven which is likened to a treasure hidden in the field.
6. THE EXPOSITION CONTINUED.
And at this point you will inquire, whether the kingdom of heaven is likened only to the treasure hidden in the field, so that we are to think of the field as different from the kingdom, or is likened to the whole of this treasure hidden in the field, so that the kingdom of heaven contains according to the similitude both the field and the treasure hidden in the field. Now a man who comes to the field, whether to the Scriptures or to the Christ who is constituted both from things manifest and from things hidden, finds the hidden treasure of wisdom whether in Christ or in the Scriptures. For, going round to visit the field and searching the Scriptures and seeking to understand the Christ, he finds the treasure in it; and, having found it, he hides it, thinking that it is not without danger to reveal to everybody the secret meanings of the Scriptures, or the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. And, having hidden it, he goes away, work-tug and devising how he shall buy the field, or the Scriptures, that he may make them his own possession, receiving from the people of God the oracles of God with which the Jews were first entrusted. And when the man taught by Christ has bought the field, the kingdom of God which, according to another parable, is a vineyard, "is taken from them and is given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof,"—to him who in faith has bought the field, as the fruit of his having sold all that he had, and no longer keeping by him anything that was formerly his; for they were a source of evil to him. And you will give the same application, if the field containing the hidden treasure be Christ, for those who give up all things and follow Him, have, as it were in another way, sold their possessions, in order that, by having sold and surrendered them, and having received in their place from God—their helper—a noble resolution, they may purchase, at great cost worthy of the field, the field containing the treasure hidden in itself.
7. THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE. THE FORMATION AND DIFFERENCE OF PEARLS.
"Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls." There are many merchants engaged ill many forms of merchandise, but not to any one of these is the kingdom of heaven like, but only to him who is seeking goodly pearls, and has found one equal in value to many, a very costly pearl which he has bought in place of many. I consider it reasonable, then, to make some inquiry into the nature of the pearl. Be careful however to note, that Christ did not say, "He sold all the pearls that he had," for he sold not only those which one seeking goodly pearls had bought, but also everything which he had, in order to buy that goodly pearl. We find then in those who write on the subject of stones, with regard to the nature of the pearl, that some pearls are found by land, and some in the sea. The land pearls are produced among the Indians only, being fitted for signet-rings and collets and necklaces; and the sea pearls, which are superior, are found among the same Indians, the best being produced in the Red Sea. The next best pearls are those taken from the sea at Britain; and those of the third quality, which are inferior not only to the first but to the second, are those found at Bosporus off Scythia. Concerning the Indian pearl these things further are said. They are found in mussels, like in nature to very large spiral snail-shells; and these are described as in troops making the sea their pasture-ground, as if under the guidance of some leader, conspicuous in colour and size, and different from those under him, so that he has an analogous position to what is called the queen of the bees. And likewise, in regard to the fishing for the best—that is, those in India—the following is told. The natives surround with nets a large circle of the shore, and dive down, exerting themselves to seize that one of them all which is the leader; for they say that, when this one is captured, the catching of the troop subject to it costs no trouble, as not one of those in the troop remains stationary, but as if bound by a thong follows the leader of the troop. It is said also that the formation of the pearls in India requires periods of time, the creature undergoing many changes and alterations until it is perfected. And it is further reported that the shell—I mean, the shell of the animal which bears the pearl-opens and gapes, as it were, and being opened receives into itself the dew of heaven; when it is filled with dew pure and untroubled, it becomes illumined and brings forth a large and well-formed pearl; but if at any time it receives dew darkened, or uneven, or in winter, it conceives a pearl cloudy and disfigured with spots. And this we also find that if it be intercepted by lightning when it is on the way towards the completion of the stone with which it is pregnant, it closes, and, as it were in terror, scatters and pours forth its offspring, so as to form what are called "physemata." And sometimes, as if premature, they are born small, and are somewhat cloudy though well-formed. As compared with the others the Indian pearl has these features. It is white in colour, like to silver in transparency, and shines through as with a radiance somewhat greenish yellow, and as a rule is round in form; it is also of tender skin, and more delicate than it is the nature of a stone to be; so it is delightful to behold, worthy to be celebrated among the more notable, as he who wrote on the subject of stones used to say. And this is also a mark of the best pearl, to be rounded off on the outer surface, very white in colour, very translucent, and very large in size. So much about the Indian pearl. But that found in Britain, they say, is of a golden tinge, but somewhat cloudy, and duller in sparkle. And that which is formal in the strait of Bosporus is darker than that of Britain, and livid, and perfectly dim, soft and small. And that which is produced in the strait of Bosporus is not found in the "pinna" which is the pearl-bearing species of shells. but in what are called mussels; and their habitat—I mean those at Bosporus—is in the marshes. There is also said to be a fourth class of pearls in Acarnania in the "pinnae" of oysters. These are not greatly sought after, but are irregular in form, and perfectly dark and foul in colour; and there are others also different from these in the same Acarnania which are cast away on every ground.
8. THE PARABLE INTERPRETED IS THE LIGHT OF THESE VIEWS.
Now, having collected these things out of dissertations about stones, I say that the Saviour with a knowledge of the difference of pearls, of which some are in kind goodly and others worthless, said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls;" for, if some of the pearls had not been worthless, it would not have been said, "to a man seeking goodly pearls." Now among the words of all kinds which profess to announce truth, and among those who report them, he seeks pearls. And let the prophets be, so to speak, the mussels which conceive the dew of heaven, and become pregnant with the word of truth from heaven, the goodly pearls which, according to the phrase here set forth, the merchantman seeks. And the leader of the pearls, on the finding of which the rest are found with it, is the very costly pearl, the Christ of God, the Word which is superior to the precious letters and thoughts in the law and the prophets, on the finding of which also all the rest are easily taken. And the Saviour holds converse with all the disciples, as merchant- men who are not only seeking the goodly pearls but who have found them and possess them, when He says, "Cast not your pearls before swine." Now it is manifest that these things were said to the disciples from that which is prefixed to His words, "And seeing the multitudes He went up into the mountain, and when He had sat down His disciples came unto Him;" for, in the course of those words, He said, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine." Perhaps, then, he is not a disciple of Christ, who does not possess pearls or the very costly pearl, the pearls, I mean, which are goodly; not the cloudy, nor the darkened, such as the words of the heterodox, which are brought forth not at the sunrise, but at the sunset or in the north, if it is necessary to take also into the comparison those things on account of which we found a difference in the pearls which are produced in different places. And perhaps the muddy words and the heresies which are bound up with works of the flesh, are the darkened pearls, and those which are produced in the marshes, not goodly pearls.
9. CHRIST THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE.
Now you will connect with the man seeking goodly pearls the saying, "Seek and ye shall find," and this—"Every one that seeketh findeth." For what seek ye? Or what does every one that seeketh find? I venture to answer, pearls and the pearl which he possesses, who has given up all things, and counted them as loss; "for which," says Paul, "I have counted all things but loss that I may win Christ;" by "all things" meaning the goodly pearls, "that I may win Christ," the one very precious pearl. Precious, then, is a lamp to men in darkness, and there is need of a lamp until the sun rise; and precious also is the glory in the face of Moses, and of the prophets also, I think, and a beautiful sight, by which we are introduced so as to be able to see the glory of Christ, to which the Father bears witness, saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well- pleased." But "that which hath been made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect by reason of the glory that surpasseth;" and there is need to us first of the glory which admits of being done. away, for the sake of the glory which surpasseth; as there is need of the knowledge which is in part, which will be done away when that which is perfect comes. Every soul, therefore, which comes to childhood, and is on the way to full growth, until the fulness of time is at hand, needs a tutor and stewards and guardians, in order that, after all these things, he who formerly differed nothing from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all, may receive, when freed from a tutor and stewards and guardians, the patrimony corresponding to the very costly pearl, and to that which is perfect, which on its coming does away with that which is in part, when one is able to receive "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," having been previously exercised, so to speak, in those forms of knowledge which are surpassed by the knowledge of Christ. But the multitude, not perceiving the beauty of the many pearls of the law, and all the knowledge, "in part," though it be, of the prophets, suppose that they can, without a clear exposition and apprehension of these, find in whole the one precious pearl, and behold "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," in comparison with which all things that came before such and so great knowledge, although they were not refuse in their own nature, appear to be refuse. This refuse is perhaps the "dung" thrown down beside the fig tree by the keeper of the vineyard, which is the cause of its bearing fruit.
10. THE PEARL OF THE GOSPEL IN RELATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT.
"To everything then is its season, and a time for everything under heaven," a time to gather the goodly pearls, and a time after their gathering to find the one precious pearl, when it is fitting for a mall to go away and sell all that he has in order that he may buy that pearl. For as every man who is going to be wise in the words of truth must first be taught the rudiments, and further pass through the elementary instruction, and appreciate it highly but not abide in it, as one who, having honoured it at the beginning but passed over towards perfection, is grateful for the introduction because it was useful at the first; so the perfect apprehension of the law and the prophets is an elementary discipline for the perfect apprehension of the Gospel, and all the meaning in the words and deeds of Christ.
11. THE PARABLE OF THE DRAG-NET.
"Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea." As in the case of images and statues, the likenesses are not likenesses in every respect of those things in relation to which they are made; but, for example, the image painted with wax on the plane surface of wood has the likeness of the surface along with the colour, but does not further preserve the hollows and prominences, but only their outward appearance; and in the moulding of statues an endeavour is made to preserve the likeness in respect of the hollows and the prominences, but not in respect of the colour; and, if the cast be formed of wax, it endeavours to preserve both, I mean both the colour and also the hollows and the prominences, but is not indeed an image of the things in the respect of depth; so conceive with me also that, in the case of the similitudes in the Gospel, when the kingdom of heaven is likened unto anything, the comparison does not extend to all the features of that to which the kingdom is compared, but only to those features which are required by the argument in hand. And here, accordingly, the kingdom of heaven is "like unto a net that was cast into the sea," not (as supposed by some, who represent that by this word the different natures of those who have come into the net, to- wit, the evil and the righteous, are treated of), as if it is to be thought that, because of the phrase "which gathered of every kind," there are many different natures of the righteous and likewise also of the evil; for to such an interpretation all the Scriptures are opposed, which emphasise the freedom of the will, and censure those who sin and approve those who do right; or otherwise blame could not rightly attach to those of the kinds that were such by nature, nor praise to those of a better kind. For the reason why fishes are good or bad lies not in the souls of the fishes, but is based on that which the Word said with knowledge, "Let the waters bring forth creeping things with living souls," when, also. "God made great sea-monsters and every soul of creeping creatures which the waters brought forth according to their kinds." There, accordingly, "The waters brought forth every soul of creeping animals according to their kinds," the cause not being in it; but here we are responsible for our being good kinds and worthy of what are called "vessels," or bad and worthy of being cast outside. For it is not the nature in us which is the cause of the evil, but it is the voluntary choice which worketh evil; and so our nature is not the cause of righteousness, as if it were incapable of admitting unrighteousness, but it is the principle which we have admitted that makes men righteous; for also you never see the kinds of things in the water changing from the bad kinds of fishes into the good, or from the better kind to the worse; but you can always behold the righteous or evil among men either coming from wickedness to virtue, or returning from progress towards virtue to the flood of wickedness. Wherefore also in Ezekiel, concerning the man who turns away from unrighteousness to the keeping of the divine commandments, it is thus written: "But if the wicked man turn away from all his wickednesses which he hath done," etc., down to the words, "that he turn from his wicked way and live;" but concerning the man who returns from the advance towards virtue unto the flood of wickedness it is said, "But in the case of the righteous man turning away from his righteousness and committing iniquity," etc., down to the words, "in his sins which he hath sinned in them shall he die." Let those who, from the parable of the drag-net, introduce the doctrine of different natures, tell us in regard to the wicked man who afterwards turned aside from all the wickednesses which he committed and keeps all the commandments of God, and does that which is righteous and merciful, of what nature was he when he was wicked? Clearly not of a nature to be praised. If verily of a nature to be censured, of what kind of nature can he reasonably be described, when he turns away from all his sins which he did? For if he were of the bad class of natures, because of his former deeds, how did he change to that which was better? Or if because of his subsequent deeds you would say that he was of the good class, how being good by nature did he become wicked? And you will also meet with a like dilemma in regard to the righteous man turning away from his righteousness and committing unrighteousness in all manner of sins. For before he turned away from righteousness, being occupied with righteous deeds he was not of a bad nature, for a bad nature could not be in righteousness, since a bad tree—that is wickedness—cannot produce good fruits,—the fruits that spring from virtue. Again, on the other hand, if he had been of a good and unchangeable nature he would not have turned away from the good after being called righteous, so as to commit unrighteousness in all his sins which he committed.
12. THE DIVINE SCRIPTURES COMPARED TO A NET.
Now, these things being said, we must hold that "the kingdom of heaven is likened to a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind," in order to set forth the varied character of the principles of action among men, which are as different as possible from each other, so that the expression "gathered from every kind" embraces both those worthy of praise and those worthy of blame in respect of their proclivities towards the forms of virtues or of vices. And the kingdom of heaven is likened unto the variegated texture of a net, with reference to the Old and the New Scripture which is woven of thoughts of all kinds and greatly varied. As in the case of the fishes that fall into the net, some are found in one part of the net and some in another part, and each at the part at which it was caught, so in the case of those who have come into the net of the Scriptures you would find some caught in the prophetic net; for example, of Isaiah, according to this expression, or of Jeremiah or of Daniel; and others in the net of the law, and others in the Gospel net, and some in the apostolic net; for when one is first captured by the Word or seems to be captured, he is taken from some part of the whole net. And it is nothing strange if some of the fishes caught are encompassed by the whole texture of the net in the Scriptures, and are pressed in on every side and caught, so that they are unable to escape but are, as it were, absolutely enslaved, and not permitted to escape from the net. And this net has been cast into the sea—the wave—tossed life of men in every part of the world, and which swims in the bitter affairs of life. And before our Saviour Jesus Christ this net was not wholly filled; for the net of the law and the prophets had to be completed by Him who says, "Think not that I came to destroy the law and the prophets, I came not to destroy but to fulfil." And the texture of the net has been completed in the Gospels, and in the words of Christ through the Apostles. On this account, therefore, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind." And, apart from what has been said, the expression, "gathered from every kind," may show forth the calling of the Gentiles from every race. And those who attended to the net which was cast into the sea are Jesus Christ, the master of the net, and "the angels who came and ministered unto Him," who do not draw up the net from the sea, nor carry it to the shore beyond the sea,—namely, to things beyond this life, unless the net be filled full, that is, unless the "fulness of the Gentiles" has come into it. But when it has come, then they draw it up from things here below, and carry it to what is figuratively called the shore, where it will be the work of those who have drawn it up, both to sit by the shore, and there to settle themselves, in order that they may place each of the good in the net into its own order, according to what are here called "vessels," but cast without and away those that are of an opposite character and are called bad. By "without" is meant the furnace of fire as the Saviour interpreted, saying, "So shall it be at the consummation of the age. The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous and shall cast them into the furnace of fire." Only it must be observed, that we are already taught by the parable of the tares and the similitude set forth, that the angels are to be entrusted with the power to distinguish and separate the evil from the righteous; for it is said above, "The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth." But here it is said, "The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous and shall cast them into the furnace of fire."
13. RELATION OF MEN TO ANGELS.
From this it does not follow, as some suppose, that the men who are saved in Christ are superior even to the holy angels; for how can those who are cast by the holy angels into vessels be compared with those who cast them into vessels, seeing that they have been put under the authority of the angels? While we say this, we are not ignorant that the men who will be saved in Christ surpass some angels—namely, those who have not been entrusted with this office—but not all of them. For we read, "Which things angels desire to look into," where it is not said "all" angels. And we know also this—"We shall judge angels" where it is not said "all" angels. Now since these things are written about the net and about those in the net, we say that he who desires that, before the consummation of the age, and before the coming of the angels to sever the wicked from among the righteous, there should be no evil persons "of every kind" in the net, seems not to have understood the Scripture, and to desire the impossible. Wherefore let us not be surprised if, before the severing of the wicked from among the righteous by the angels who are sent forth for this purpose, we see our gatherings also filled with wicked persons. And would that those who will be cast into the furnace of fire may not be greater in number than the righteous! But since we said in the beginning, that the parables and similitudes are not to be accepted in respect of all the things to which they are likened or compared, but only in respect of some things, we must further establish from the things to be said, that in the case of the fishes, so far as their life is concerned, an evil thing happens to them when they are found in the net. For they are deprived of the life which is theirs by nature, and whether they are cast into vessels or cast away, they suffer nothing more than the loss of the life as it is in fishes; but, in the case of those to whom the parable refers, the evil thing is to be in the sea and not to come into the net, in order to be cast along with the good into vessels. And in like manner the bad fishes are cast without and thrown away; hut the bad in the similitude before us are cast into "the furnace of fire," that what is said in Ezekiel about the furnace of fire may also overtake them—"And the Word of the Lord came unto me saying, Son of man behold the house of Israel is become to me all mixed with brass and iron," etc., down to the words, "And ye shall know that I the Lord have poured My fury upon you.
14. THE DISCIPLES AS SCRIBES.
"Have ye understood all these things? They say, Yea." Christ Jesus, who knows the things in the hearts of men, as John also taught concerning Him in the Gospel, puts the question not as one ignorant, but having once for all taken upon Him the nature of man, He uses also all the characteristics of a man of which "asking" is one. And there is nothing to be wondered at in the Saviour doing this, since indeed the God of the universe, bearing with the manners of men as a man beareth with the manners of his son, makes inquiry, as—"Adam, where art thou?" and, "Where is Abel thy brother?" But some one with a forced interpretation will say here that the words "have understood" are not to be taken interrogatively but affirmatively; and he will say that the disciples bearing testimony to His affirmation, say, "Yea." Only, whether he is putting a question or making an affirmation, it is necessarily said not "these things" only,— which is demonstrative,—not "all things" only, but "all these things." And here He seems to represent the disciples as having been scribes before the kingdom of heaven; but to this is opposed what is said in the Acts of the Apostles thus, "Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." Some one may inquire in regard to these things—if they were scribes, how are they spoken of in the Acts as unlearned and ignorant men? Or if they were unlearned and ignorant men, how are they very plainly called scribes by the Saviour? And it might be answered to these inquiries that, as a matter of fact, not all the disciples but only Peter and John are described in the Acts as unlearned and ignorant, but that there were more disciples in regard to whom, because they understood all things, it is said, "Every scribe," etc. Or it might be said that every one who has been instructed in the teaching according to the letter of the law is called a scribe, so that those who were unlearned and ignorant and led captive by the letter of the law are spoken of as scribes in a particular sense. And it is very specially the characteristic of ignorant men, who are unskilled in figurative interpretation and do not understand what is concerned with the mystical exposition of the Scriptures, but believe the bare letter, and, vindicate it, that they call themselves scribes. And so one will interpret the words, "Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," as having been said to every one that knows nothing but the letter. Here you will inquire if the scribe of the Gospel be as the scribe of the law, and if the former deals with the Gospel, as the latter with the law, reading and hearing and telling "those things which contain an allegory," so as, while preserving the historic truth of the events, to understand the unerring principle of mystic interpretation applied to things spiritual, so that the things learned may not be "spiritual things whose characteristic is wickedness," but may be entirely opposite to such, namely, spiritual things whose characteristic is goodness. And one is a scribe "made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven" in the simpler sense, when he comes from Judaism and receives the teaching of Jesus Christ as defined by the Church; but he is a scribe in a deeper sense, when having received elementary knowledge through the letter of the Scriptures he ascends to things spiritual, which are called the kingdom of the heavens. And according as each thought is attained, and grasped abstractly and proved by example and absolute demonstration, can one understand the kingom of heaven, so that he who abounds in knowledge free from error is in the kingdom of the multitude of what are here represented as "heavens." So, too, you will allegorise the word, "Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand," as meaning that the scribes—that is, those who rest satisfied in the bare letter—may repent of this method of interpretation and be instructed in the spiritual teaching which is called the kingdom of the heavens through Jesus Christ the living Word. Wherefore, also, so far as Jesus Christ, "who was in the beginning with God, God the word," has not His home in a soul, the kingdom of heaven is not in it, but when any one becomes nigh to admission of the Word, to him the kingdom of heaven is nigh. But if the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are the same thing in reality, if not in idea, manifestly to those to whom it is said, "The kingdom of God is within you," to them also it might be said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you;" and most of all because of the repentance from the letter unto the spirit; since "When one turn to the Lord, the veil over the letter is taken away. But the Lord is the Spirit." And he who is truly a householder is both free and rich; rich because from the office of the scribe he has been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven, in every word of the Old Testament, and in all knowledge concerning the new teaching of Christ Jesus, and has this riches laid up in his own treasure-house—in heaven, in which he stores his treasure as one who has been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven,—where neither moth doth consume, nor thieves break through. And in regard to him, who, as we have said, lays up treasure in heaven, we may truly lay down that not one moth of the passions can touch his spiritual and heavenly possessions. "A moth of the passions," I said, taking the suggestion from the "Proverbs" in which it is written, "a worm in wood, so pain woundeth the heart of man." For pain is a worm and a moth, which wounds the heart which has not its treasures in heaven and spiritual things, for if a man has his treasure in these—"for where the treasure is, there will the heart be also,"—he has his heart in heaven, and on account of it he says, "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear." And so neither can thieves in regard to whom the Saviour said, "All that came before Me are thieves and robbers," break through those things which are treasured up in heaven, and through the heart which is in heaven and therefore says, "He raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ," and, "Our citizenship is in heaven."
15. THE HOUSEHOLDER AND HIS TREASURY.
Now since "every scribe who has been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder who bringeth forth out of his treasury things new and old," it clearly follows, by "conversion of the proposition," as it is called, that every one who does not bring forth out of his treasury things new and old, is not a scribe who has been made a disciple unto the kingdom of heaven. We must endeavour, therefore, in every way to gather in our heart, "by giving heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching," and by "meditating in the law of the Lord day and night," not only the new oracles of the Gospels and of the Apostles and their Revelation, but also the old things in the law "which has the shadow of the good things to come," and in the prophets who prophesied in accordance with them. And these things will be gathered together, when we also read and know, and remembering them, compare at a fitting time things spiritual with spiritual, not comparing things that cannot be compared with one another, but things which admit of comparison, and which have a certain likeness of diction signifying the same thing, and of thoughts and of opinions, so that by the mouth of two or three or more witnesses from the Scripture, we may establish and confirm every word of God. By means of them also we must refute those who, as far as in them lies, cleave in twain the God head and cut off the New from the Old, so that they are far removed from likeness to the householder who brings forth out of his treasury things new and old. And since he who is likened to any one is different from the one to whom he is likened, the scribe "who is made a disciple unto the kingdom of heaven" will be the one who is likened, but different from him is the householder "who brings out of his treasury things new and old." But he who is likened to him, as in imitation of him, wishes to do that which is like. Perhaps, then, the man who is a householder is Jesus Himself, who brings forth out of His treasury, according to the time of the teaching, things new, things spiritual, which also are always being renewed by Him in the "inner man" of the righteous, who are themselves always being renewed day by day, and old things, things "written and engraven on stones," and in the stony hearts of the old man, so that by comparison of the letter and by exhibition of the spirit He may enrich the scribe who is made a disciple unto the kingdom of heaven, and make him like unto Himself; until the disciple shall be as the Master, imitating first the imitator of Christ, and after him Christ Himself, according to that which is said by Paul, "Be ye imitators of me even as I also of Christ." And likewise, Jesus the householder may in the simpler sense bring forth out of His treasury things new,—that is, the evangelic teaching—and things old,—that is, the comparison of the sayings which are taken from the law and the prophets, of which we may find examples in the Gospels. And with regard to these things new and old, we must attend also to the spiritual law which says in Leviticus, "And ye shall eat old things, and the old things of the old, and ye shall bring forth the old from before the new; and I will set my tabernacle among you." For we eat with blessing the old things,—the prophetic words,— and the old things of the old things,—the words of the law; and, when the new and evangelical words came, living according to the Gospel we bring forth the old things of the letter from before the new, and He sets His tabernacle in us, fulfilling the promise which He spoke, "I will dwell among them and walk in them."
16. PARABLES IN RELATION TO SIMILITUDES, JESUS IN HIS OWN COUNTRY.
"And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence. And coming into His own country." Since we inquired above whether the things spoken to the multitude were parables, and those spoken to the disciples were similitudes, and set forth observations bearing on this in my judgment not contemptible, you must know that the sentence which is subjoined, "And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence," will appear to be in opposition to all these arguments, as applying not only to the parables, but also to the similitudes as we have expounded. We inquire therefore whether all these things are to be rejected, or whether we must speak of two kinds of parables, those spoken to the multitudes, and those announced to the disciples; or whether we are to think of the name of parable as equi-vocal; or whether the saying, "And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables," is to be referred only to the parables above, which come before the similitudes. For, because of the saying, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the rest in parables," it was not possible to say to the disciples, inasmuch as they were not of those without, that the Saviour spoke to them in parables. And it follows from this, that the saying, "And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence," is to be referred to the parables spoken above, or that the name parable is equivocal, or that there are two kinds of parables, or that these which we have named similitudes were not parables at all. And observe that it was outside of His own country He speaks the parables "which, when He had finished, He departed thence; and coming into His own country He taught them in their synagogue." And Mark says, "And He came into His own country and His disciples follow Him." We must therefore inquire whether, by the expression, "His own country," is meant Nazareth or Bethlehem,—Nazareth, because of the saying, "He shall be called a Nazarene," or Bethlehem, since in it He was born. And further I reflect whether the Evangelists could have said, "coming to Bethlehem," or, "coming to Nazareth." They have not done so, but have named it "His country," because of something being declared in a mystic sense in the passage about His country,—namely, the whole of Judaea,—in which He was dishonoured according to the saying, "A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country." And if anyone thinks of Jesus Christ, "a stumbling- block to the Jews," among whom He is persecuted even until now, but proclaimed among the Gentiles and believed in,—for His word has run over the whole world,—he will see that in His own country Jesus had no honour, hut that among those who were "strangers from the covenants," the Gentiles, He is held in honour. But what things He taught and spake in their synagogue the Evangelists have not recorded, but only that they were so great and of such a nature that all were astonished. And probably the things spoken were too high to be written down. Only be it noted, He taught in their synagogue, not separating from it, nor disregarding it.
17. THE BRETHREN OF JESUS.
And the saying, "Whence hath this man this wisdom," indicates clearly that there was a great and surpassing wisdom in the words of Jesus worthy of the saying, lo, a greater than Solomon is here." And He was wont to do greater miracles than those wrought through Elijah and Elisha, and at a still earlier date through Moses and Joshua the son of Nun. And they spoke, wondering, (not knowing that He was the son of a virgin, or not believing it even if it was told to them, but supposing that He was the son of Joseph the carpenter,) "is not this the carpenter's son?" And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, "Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?" They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or "The Book of James," that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee," might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity. And James is he whom Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians that he saw, "But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the "Antiquities of the Jews" in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James. And Jude, who wrote a letter of few lines, it is true, but filled with the healthful words of heavenly grace, said in the preface, "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James." With regard to Joseph and Simon we have nothing to tell; but the saying, "And His sisters are they not all with us." seems to me to signify something of this nature—they mind our things, not those of Jesus, and have no unusual portion of surpassing wisdom as Jesus has. And perhaps by these things is indicated a new doubt concerning Him, that Jesus was not a man but something diviner, inasmuch as He was, as they supposed, the son of Joseph and Mary, and the brother of four, and of the others—the women—as well, and yet had nothing like to any one of His kindred, and had not from education and teaching come to such a height of wisdom and power. For they also say elsewhere, "How knoweth this man letters having never learned?" which is similar to what is here said. Only, though they say these things and are so perplexed and astonished, they did not believe, but were offended in Him; as if they had been mastered in the eyes of their mind by the powers which, in the time of the passion, He was about to lead in triumph on the cross.
18. PROPHETS IN THEIR COUNTRY.
"But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country." We must inquire whether the expression has the same force when applied universally to every prophet (as if each one of the prophets was dishonoured in his own country only, but not as if every one who was dishonoured was dishonoured in his country); or, because of the expression being singular, these things were said about one. If, then, these words are spoken about one, these things which have been said suffice, if we refer that which is written to the Saviour. But if it is general, it is not historically true; for Elijah did not suffer dishonour in Tishbeth of Gilead, nor Elisha in Abetmeholah, nor Samuel in Ramathaim, nor Jeremiah in Anathoth. But, figuratively interpreted, it is absolutely true; for we must think of Judaea as their country, and that famous Israel as their kindred, and perhaps of the body as the house. For all suffered dishonour in Judaea from the Israel which is according to the flesh, while they were yet in the body, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, as having been spoken in censure to the people, "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute, who showed before of the coming of the Righteous one?" And by Paul in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians like things are said: "For ye brethren became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus, for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen even as they did of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drave out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men." A prophet, then, is not without honour among the Gentiles; for either they do not know him at all, or, having learned and received him as a prophet, they honour him. And such are those who are of the Church. Prophets suffer dishonour, first, when they are persecuted, according to historical fact, by the people, and, secondly, when their prophecy is not believed by the people. For if they had believed Moses and the prophets they would have believed Christ, who showed that when men believed Moses and the prophets, belief in Christ logically followed, and that when men did not believe Christ they did not believe Moses. Moreover, as by the transgression of the law he who sins is said to dishonour God, so by not believing in that which is prophesied the prophet is dishonoured by the man who disbelieves the prophecies. And so far as the literal truth is concerned, it is useful to recount what things Jeremiah suffered among the people in relation to which he said, "And I said, I will not speak, nor will I call upon the name of the Lord." And again, elsewhere, "I was continually being mocked." And how great sufferings he endured from the then king of Israel are written in his prophecy. And it is also written that some of the people often came to stone Moses to death; for his fatherland was not the stones of any place, but the people who followed him, among whom also he was dishonoured. And Isaiah is reported to have been sawn asunder by the people; and if any one does not accept the statement because of its being found in the Apocryphal Isaiah, let him believe what is written thus in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted;" for the expression, "They were sawn asunder," refers to Isaiah, just as the words, "They were slain with the sword," refer to Zacharias, who was slain "between the sanctuary and the altar," as the Saviour taught, bearing testimony, as I think, to a Scripture, though not extant in the common and widely circulated books, but perhaps in apocryphal books. And they, too, were dishonoured in their own country among the Jews who went about "in sheep- skins, in goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted," and so on; "For all that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." And probably because Paul knew this, "That a prophet has no honour in his own country," though he preached the Word in many places he did not preach it in Tarsus. And the Apostles on this account left Israel and did that which had been enjoined on them by the Saviour, "Make disciples of all the nations," and, "Ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and ill all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." For they did that which had been commanded them in Judaea and Jerusalem; but, since a prophet has no honour in his own country, when the Jews did not receive the Word, they went away to the Gentiles. Consider, too, if, because of the fact that the saying, "I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh, and they shall prophesy," has been fulfilled in the churches from the Gentiles, you can say that those formerly of the world and who by believing became no longer of the world, having received the Holy Spirit in their own country—that is, the world—and prophesying, have not honour, but are dishonoured. Wherefore blessed are they who suffer the same things as the prophets, according to what was said by the Saviour, "For in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets." Now if any one who attends carefully to these things be hated and attacked, because of his living with rigorous austerity, and his reproof of sinners, as a man who is persecuted and reproached for the sake of righteousness, he will not only not be grieved, but will rejoice and be exceeding glad, being assured that, because of these things, he has great reward in heaven from Him who likened him to the prophets on the ground of his having suffered the same things. Therefore, he who zealously imitates the prophetic life, and attains to the spirit which was in them, must be dishonoured in the world, and in the eyes of sinners, to whom the life of the righteous man is a burden.
19. RELATION OF FAITH AND UNBELIEF TO THE SUPERNATURAL POWERS OF JESUS.
Following this you may see, "He did not there many mighty works because of their unbelief." We are taught by these things that powers were found in those who believed, since "to every one that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance," but among unbelievers not only did the powers not work, but as Mark wrote, "They could not work." For attend to the words, "He could not there do any mighty works," for it is not said, "He would not," but "He could not;" as if there came to the power when working co- operation from the faith of him on whom the power was working, but this co- operation was hindered in its exercise by unbelief. See, then, that to those who said, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said, "Because of your little faith." And to Peter, when he began to sink, it was said, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" But, moreover, she who had the issue of blood, who did not ask for the cure, but only reasoned that if she were to touch the hem of His garment she would be healed, was healed on the spot. And the Saviour, acknowledging the method of healing, says, "Who touched Me? For I perceived that power went forth from Me." And perhaps, as in the case of material things there exists in some things a natural attraction towards some other thing, as in the magnet for iron, and in what is called naphtha for fire, so there is an attraction in such faith towards the divine power, according to what is said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove." And Matthew and Mark, wishing to set forth the excellency of the divine power, that it has power even in unbelief, but not so great power as it has in the faith of those who are being benefited, seem to me to have said with accuracy, not that He did not "any" mighty works because of their unbelief, but that He did not "many" there. And Mark also does not say, that He could not do any mighty work there, and stop at that point, but added, "Save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk and healed them," the power in Him thus overcoming the unbelief. Now it seems to me that, as in the case of material things, tillage is not sufficient in itself for the gathering in of the fruits, unless the air cooperates to this end, nay, rather, He who forms the air with whatever quality He wills and makes it whatever He wills; nor the air apart from tillage, but rather He who by His providence has enacted that the things which spring up from the earth could not spring up apart from tillage; for this He has done once for all in the law, "Let the earth put forth grass sowing seed after its kind and after its likeness;" so also neither do the operations of the powers, apart from the faith of those who are being healed, exhibit the absolute work of healing, nor faith, however great it may be, apart from the divine power. And that which is written about wisdom, you may apply also to faith, and to the virtues specifically, so as to make a precept of this kind, "If any one be perfect in wisdom among the sons of men, and the power that comes from Thee be wanting, he will be reckoned as nothing;" or, "If any one be perfect in self-control, so far as is possible for the sons of men, and the control that is from Thee be wanting, he will be reckoned as nothing;" or, "If any one be perfect in righteousness, and in the rest of virtues, and the righteousness and the rest of the virtues that are from Thee be wanting to him, he will be reckoned as nothing." Wherefore, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength," for that which is fit matter for glorying is not ours, but is the gift of God; the wisdom is from Him, and the strength is from Him; and so with the rest.
20. DIFFERENT CONCEPTIONS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
"At that season Herod the tetrarch heard the report concerning Jesus and said unto his own servants, This is John the Baptist." In Mark it is the same, and also in Luke. The Jews had different opinions, some false, such as the Sadducees held about the resurrection of the dead, that they do not rise, and in regard to angels that they do not exist, but that those things which were written about them were only to be interpreted figuratively, but had no reality in point of fact; and some true opinions, such as were taught by the Pharisees about the resurrection of the dead that they rise. We must therefore here inquire, whether the opinion regarding the soul, mistakenly held by Herod and some from among the people, was somewhat like this—that John, who a little before had been slain by him, had risen from the dead after he had been beheaded, and was the same person under a different name, and being now called Jesus was possessed of the same powers which formerly wrought in John. For what credibility is there in the idea that One, who was so widely known to the whole people, and whose name was noised abroad in the whole of Judaea, whom they declared to be the son of the carpenter and Mary, and to have such and such for brothers and sisters, was thought to be not different from John whose father was Zacharias, and whose mother was Elisabeth, who were themselves not undistinguished among the people? But it is probable that the fact of his being the Son of Zacharias was not unknown to the people, who thought with regard to John that he was truly a prophet, and were so numerous that the Pharisees, in order to avoid the appearance of saying that which was displeasing to the people, were afraid to answer the question, "Was his baptism from heaven or from men?" And perhaps, also, to some of them had come the knowledge of the incident of the vision which was seen in the temple, when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias. What credibility, forsooth, has the erroneous opinion, whether of Herod or of some of the people, that John and Jesus were not two persons, but that it was one and the same person John who rose from the dead after that he had been beheaded and was called Jesus? some one might say, however, that Herod and some of those of the people held the false dogma of the transmigration of souls into bodies, in consequence of which they thought that the former John had appeared again by a fresh birth, and had come from the dead into life as Jesus. But the time between the birth of John and the birth of Jesus, which was not more than six months, does not permit this false opinion to be considered credible. And perhaps rather some such idea as this was in the mind of Herod, that the powers which wrought in John had passed over to Jesus, in consequence of which He was thought by the people to be John the Baptist. And one might use the following line of argument. Just as because of the spirit and the power of Elijah, and not because of his soul, it is said about John, "This is Elijah which is to come," the spirit in Elijah and the power in him having gone over to John—so Herod thought that the powers in John wrought in his case works of baptism and teaching,—for John did not one miracle, but in Jesus miraculous portents. It may be said that something of this kind was the thought of those who said that Elijah had appeared in Jesus, or that one of the old prophets had risen. But the opinion of those who said that Jesus was "a prophet even as one of the prophets," has no bearing on the question. False, then, is the saying concerning Jesus, whether that recorded to have been the view of Herod, or that spoken by others. Only, the saying, "That John went before in the spirit and power of Elijah," which corresponds to the thoughts which they were now cherishing concerning John and Jesus, seems to me more credible. But since we learned, in the first place, that when the Saviour after the temptation heard that John was given up, He retreated into Galilee, and in the second place, that when John was in prison and heard the things about Jesus he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, "Art thou He that cometh, or look we for another?" and in the third place, generally that Herod said about Jesus, "It is John the Baptist, he is risen from the dead," but we have not previously learned from any quarter the manner in which the Baptist was killed, therefore Matthew has now recorded it, and Mark almost like unto him; but Luke passed over in silence the greater part of the narrative as it is found in them."
21. HEROD AND THE BAPTIST.
The narrative of Matthew is as follows,—"for Herod had laid hold on John and bound him in the prison." In reference to these things, it seems to me, that as the law and the prophets were until John, after whom the grace of prophecy ceased from among the Jews; so the authority of those who had rule among the people, which included the power to kill those whom they thought worthy of death, existed until John; and when the last of the prophets was unlawfully killed by Herod, the king of the Jews was deprived of the power of putting to death; for, if Herod had not been deprived of it, Pilate would not have condemned Jesus to death; but for this Herod would have sufficed along with the council of the chief priests and elders of the people, met for the purpose. And then I think was fulfilled that which was spoken as follows by Jacob to Judah: "A ruler shall not depart from Judah, nor a leader from Israel, until that come which is laid up in store, and he is the expectation of the Gentiles." And perhaps also the Jews were deprived of this power, the Providence of God arranging for the spread of the teaching of Christ among the people, so that even if this were hindered by the Jews, the opposition might not go so far as the slaying of believers, which seemed to be according to law. "But Herod laid hold on John and bound him in prison and put him away," by this act signifying that, so far as it depended on his power and on the wickedness of the people, he bound and imprisoned the prophetic word, and prevented him from continuing to abide a herald the truth in freedom as formerly. But this Herod did for the sake of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John said unto him, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." Now this Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and of Trachonitis. Some, then, suppose that, when Philip died leaving a daughter, Herodias, Herod married his brother's wife, though the law permitted marriage only when there were no children. But, as we find nowhere clear evidence that Philip was dead, we conclude that a yet greater transgression was done by Herod, namely, that he had induced his brother's wife to revolt from her husband while he was still living.
22. THE DANCING OF HERODIAS. THE KEEPING OF OATHS.
Wherefore John, endued with prophetic boldness and not terrified at the royal dignity of Herod, nor through fear of death keeping silence in regard to so flagrant a sin, filled with a divine spirit said to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have her; for it is not lawful for thee to have the wife of thy brother." For Herod having laid hold on John bound him and put him in prison, not daring to slay him outright and to take away the prophetic word from tile people; but the wife of the king of Trachonitis—which is a kind of evil opinion and wicked teaching—gave birth to a daughter of the same name, whose movements, seemingly harmonious, pleasing Herod, who was fond of matters connected with birthdays, came the cause of there being no longer a prophetic head among the people. And up to this point I think that the movements of the people of the Jews, which seem to be according to the law, were nothing else than the movements of the daughter of Herodias but the dancing of Herodias was opposed to that holy dancing with which those who have not danced will be reproached when they hear the words. "We piped unto you, and ye did not dance." And on birthdays. when the lawless word reigns over them, they dance so that their movements please that word. Some one of those before us has observed what is written in Genesis about the birthday of Pharaoh, and has told that the worthless man who loves things connected with birth keeps birthday festivals; and we, taking this suggestion from him, find in no Scripture that a birthday was kept by a righteous man. For Herod was more unjust than that famous Pharaoh; for by the latter on his birthday feast a chief baker is killed; but by the former, John, "than whom no one greater hath risen among those born of women," in regard to whom the Saviour says, "But for what purpose did ye go out? To see a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet." But thanks be unto God, that, even if the grace of prophecy was taken from the people, a grace greater than all that was poured forth among the Gentiles by our Saviour Jesus Christ, who became "free among the dead;" for "though He were crucified through weakness, yet He liveth through the power of God." Consider also the word in which pure and impure meats are inquired into; but prophecy is despised when it is brought forward in a charger instead of meat. But the Jews have not the head of prophecy, inasmuch as they disown the crown of all prophecy, Christ Jesus; and the prophet is beheaded, because of an oath in a case where the duty was rather to break the oath than to keep the oath; for the charge of rashness in taking an oath and of breaking it because of the rashness is not the same in guilt as the death of a prophet. And not on this account alone is he beheaded, but because "of those who sat at meat with him," who preferred that the prophet should be killed rather than live. And they recline at the same table and also feast along with the evil word which reigns over the Jews, who make merry over his birth. At times you may make a graceful application of the passage to those who swear rashly and wish to hold fast oaths which are taken with a view to unlawful deeds, by saying that not every keeping of oaths is seemly, just as the keeping of the oath of Herod was not. And mark, further, that not openly but secretly and in prison does Herod put John to death. For even the present word of the Jews does not openly deny the prophecies, but virtually and in secret denies them, and is convicted of disbelieving them. For as "if they believed Moses they would have believed Jesus," so if they had believed the prophets they would have received Him who had been the subject of prophecy. But disbelieving Him they also disbelieve them, and cut off and confine in prison the prophetic word, and hold it dead and divided, and in no way wholesome, since they do not understand it. But we have the whole Jesus, the prophecy concerning Him being fulfilled which said, "A bone shall not be broken."
23. THE WITHDRAWAL OF JESUS.
And the disciples of John having come bury his remains, and "they went and told Jesus." And He withdrew to a desert place,—that is, the Gentiles—and after the killing of the prophet multitudes followed Him from the cities everywhere; seeing which to be great He had compassion on them, and healed their sick; and afterwards with the loaves which were blessed and multiplied from a few loaves He feeds those who followed Him. "Now when Jesus heard it He withdrew thence in a boat to a desert place apart." The letter teaches us to withdraw as far as it is in our power from those who persecute us, and from expected conspiracies through words; for this would be to act according to prudence; and, when one can keep outside of critical positions, to go to meet them is rash and headstrong. For who would still hesitate about avoiding such things, when not only did Jesus retreat in view of what happened to John, but also taught and said, "If they persecute you in this city, flee ye into the other"? When a temptation comes which is not in our power to avoid, we must endure it with exceeding nobleness and courage; but, when it is in our power to avoid it, not to do so is rash. But since after the letter we must also investigate the place according to the mystical meaning, we must say that, when prophecy was plotted against among the Jews and destroyed, because of their giving honour to matters of birthdays, and in respect of their reception of vain movements which, though conceived by the ruler of the wicked and those who feast along with him to be regular and pleasing to them, were irregular and out of tune, if truth be umpire, then Jesus withdraws from the place in which prophecy was attacked and condemned; and He withdraws to the place which had been barren of God among the Gentiles, in order that the Word of God, when the kingdom was taken from the Jews and "given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof," might be among the Gentiles; and, on account of it, "the children of the desolate one," who had not been instructed either in the law or the prophets, "might be more than of her who has the husband," that is, the law. When, then, the word was of old among the Jews, it was not so among them as it is among the Gentiles; wherefore it is said that, "in a boat,"—that is, in the body—He went to the desert place apart, when He heard about the killing of the prophet. And, having come into the desert place apart, He was in it, because that the Word dwelt apart, and His teaching was contrary to the customs and usages which obtained among the Gentiles. And the crowds among the Gentiles, when they heard that Jesus had come to stay in their desert, and that He was apart, as we have already reported, followed Him from their own cities, because each had left the superstitious customs of his fathers and come to the law of Christ. And by land they followed Him, and not in a boat, inasmuch as not with the body but with the soul only, and with the resolution to which they had been persuaded by the Word, they followed the Image of God. And to them Jesus comes out, as they were not able to go to Him, in order that, having gone to those who were without, He might lead within those who were without. And great is the crowd without to whom the Word of God goes out, and, having poured out upon it the light of His "visitation," beholds it; and, seeing that they were rather deserving of being pitied, because they were in such circumstances, as a lover of men He who was impassible suffered the emotion of pity, and not only had pity but healed their sick, who had sicknesses diverse and of every kind arising from their wickedness.
24. THE DIVERSE FORMS OF SPIRITUAL SICKNESS.
And, if you wish to see of what nature are the sicknesses of the soul, contemplate with me the lovers of money, and the lovers of ambition, and the lovers of boys, and if any be fond of women; for these also beholding among the crowds and taking compassion upon them, He healed. For not every sin is to be considered a sickness, but that which has settled down in the whole soul. For so you may see the lovers of money wholly intent on money and upon preserving and gathering it, the lovers of ambition wholly intent on a little glory, for they gape for praise from the masses and the vulgar; and analogously you will understand in the case of the rest which we have named, and if there be any other like to them. Since, then, when expounding the words, "He healed their sick," we said that not every sin is a sickness, it is fitting tO discuss from the Scripture the difference of these. The Apostle indeed says, writing to the Corinthians who had diverse sicknesses, "For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep." Hear Him in these words, knitting a band and making it plaited of different sins, according as some are weak, and others sickly more than weak, and others, in comparison with both, are asleep. For some, because of impotence of soul, having a tendency to slip into any sin whatever, although they may not be wholly in the grasp of any form of sin, as the sickly are, are only weak; but others who, instead of loving God "with all their soul and all their heart and all their mind," love money, or a little glory, or wife, or children, are suffering from something worse than weakness, and are sickly. And those who sleep are those who, when they ought to be taking heed and watching with the soul, are not doing this, but by reason of great want of attention are nodding in resolution and are drowsy in their reflections, such as "in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at naught that which is highest in authority, and rail at dignities." And these, because they are asleep, live in an atmosphere of vain and dream-like fancies concerning realities, not admitting the things which are actually true, but deceived by what appears in their vain imaginations, in regard to whom it is said in Isaiah, "Like as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking, but when he has risen up is still thirsty, and his soul has cherished a vain hope, so shall be the wealth of all the nations as many as have warred in Jerusalem." If, then, we have seemed to make a digression in recounting the difference between the weak and the sickly and those that sleep, because of that which the Apostle said in the letter to the Corinthians which we have expounded, we have made the digression in our desire to represent what is meant to be understood by the saying, "And He healed their sick."
25. HEALING PRECEDES PARTICIPATION IN THE LOAVES OF JESUS.
After this the word says, "And when even was come, His disciples came to Him, saying, The place is desert and the time is already past; send, therefore, the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food." And first observe that when about to give to the disciples the loaves of blessing, that they might set them before the multitudes, He healed the sick, in order that, having been restored to health, they might participate in the loaves of blessing; for while they are yet sickly, they are not able to receive the loaves of the blessing of Jesus. But if any one, when he ought to listen to the precept, "But let each prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread," etc., does not obey these words, but in haphazard fashion participates in the bread of the Lord and His cup, he becomes weak or sickly, or even—if I may use the expression—on account of being stupefied by the power of the bread, asleep.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (ANF 9, Menzies). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.