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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

Lapide's Great Biblical CommentaryLapide's Commentary

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Verses 1-48



At that time Jesus went through the corn fields (Through the crops of corn becoming white, or ripe), &c. Luke adds that this Sabbath was the first from the second ( Vulg .); which I will explain in the proper place. Again there is here a Hysterologia; for these things appear to have happened after the Mission of the Apostles, and therefore before the Sermon on the Mount, as may be gathered from Mark ii. 22, and Luke vi. 1. That they rubbed the ears of corn in their hands, and satisfied their hunger is, says S. Jerome, a mark of their austere life.

But when the Pharisees saw it , &c. Luke 7:2 , has, they said unto them, i.e ., to the disciples of Christ, because they brought forward the objection first against the disciples, afterwards against Christ.

Observe, they do not find fault with the disciples for plucking ears of corn, or grapes; for this was permitted by the law, Deut. xxiii 25, but because they did it on the Sabbath. For to pluck ears seems a servile work, and therefore, a violation of the rest and sanctity of the Sabbath.

Allegorically. SS. Hilary, Ambrose, and Bede think that it is signified by this that the Apostles in the second Sabbath from the first, i.e ., in the time of the gospel would gather grains from the seed and crops of preaching, i.e ., the elect faithful, from among all nations, by whose faith and piety they should be fed, until they should lay them up with themselves in the heavenly barn. But the Pharisees seeing the Gentiles preferred to themselves in the Gospel envied them, and vainly murmured against the Apostles.

Tropologically : Bede says, "Those walk with the Lord, through the corn fields, who delight to meditate on the sacred oracles. They hunger, when they desire to find therein the bread of life; and that on the Sabbath, when they are glad to rest with a mind free from disturbing thoughts. They rub the ears, and purify them from the husks that they may reach the grain, when they take up the testimonies of Scripture, and dwell upon them until they find in them, as it were the marrow of love. But this refreshment of the mind is displeasing to fools, and is approved by the Lord."

But He said unto them, Have ye not read And they that were with Him ? This last seems to be at variance with 1 Samuel 21:0 , where it is said, David was alone. I answer, David flying from Saul, went alone to Ahimelech, whom Mark calls Abiathar, the high priest; and asked, and received the loaves from him, which he brought to the companions of his flight, whom he had left, elsewhere, waiting for him, as is plain both from this passage, as well as from 1 Samuel 21:2 , where David says to the priest, "I have appointed to the young men for such and such a place. So S. Jerome."

How he entered , &c. The shew-bread. The shew-bread were loaves always set forth in the Holy Place, before the Holy of Holies, which was, as it were, the throne of God, sitting upon the Mercy-seat; they were loaves, therefore, set forth before the face of God. Whence the LXX. has άρτους ε̉νωπίους , i.e ., panes faciales , Syriac, the bread of the Lord's table. In Heb. they are called, לתסי פנים lachme panim, that is, loaves of faces. They were twelve, six on one side of the table and six on the other side, as there are two cheeks on a face. By these twelve loaves, the twelve tribes of Israel confessed that they were continually fed and nourished by God. Wherefore frankincense was put upon them (see Lev. xxiv.); for frankincense was the symbol that they were the Lord's, and were offered to Him. In return, God, from His satisfaction at the offering of these loaves made manifest that He always remembered the twelve tribes, and had them before His face continually. See what has been said on Exodus 25:30 . God had commanded these sacred loaves to be renewed every Sabbath. New loaves were placed upon the table, and the old were taken away. They were eaten by the priests only, and that only in the Tabernacle, as is plain from Leviticus 24:8-9 . The force of the argument is this: David, a man after God's own heart, made use of the holy shew-bread, in the necessity of his hunger loaves which it was not lawful for laymen to eat because he wisely judged, that this positive law concerning laymen not eating them ought to yield to the law of nature, which dictates that in grave necessity of famine life ought to be preserved by eating any bread whatsoever, even loaves consecrated to God. Thus, SS. Paulinus and Laurence, and others, sold chalices and vessels consecrated to God, that by the money which they fetched they might afford help to the poor in their hunger and necessity. Therefore, saith Christ in effect, "Much rather is it lawful for Me and My disciples to pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath, that by the grains extracted from them we may relieve our hunger. For the sanctity of the Sabbath, forbidding servile work, such as plucking ears of corn, is a divine positive law, and ought to yield to the law of nature, which dictates that in hunger it is our duty to sustain life by any kind of food."

Or have ye not read , &c. Profane, viz., by slaying and skinning and cutting up the victims, by laying the wood in order, and by kindling a fire, by which the victims might be burnt in God's honour. These works, considered merely in themselves, are servile, and would profane the Sabbath unless piety excused them, and, instead of servile and profane, made them sacred and divine. The meaning is, As necessity excused David and piety the priests, so do both excuse My disciples from a breach of the Sabbath, for this plucking of the ears. For they follow Me as the Messiah, and are so intent upon My sacred doctrine that they have forgotten to prepare food. Observe the expression, have ye not read ? The following words are nowhere found literally in Scripture, but they occur in sense in Numb. xxviii. and elsewhere, where the rites of sacrificing on the Sabbath are sanctioned. Hence it is an axiom of the Jews, "there is no Sabbath in the temple;" that is, no cessation from work, because of the slaying and burning the sacrifices.

But I say unto you , &c. For Christ, Who here speaks, allows His disciples to pluck the ears. Christ speaks of Himself in the third person out of modesty. The meaning is, If the sanctity of the temple frees from blame the sacrificing priests who break the Sabbath, a like cause excuses My disciples, for I am greater and holier than the temple. Yea, I am the Lord of the temple, to whom, in truth, all the victims in the temple were offered and sacrificed.

But if ye had known what that meaneth , &c. Syriac, ye would not have condemned them (my disciples), since they are guiltless . He cites Hosea vi. 6, which see. The force of the argument is, mercy is more powerful, and better than sacrifice or Sabbath, therefore for its sake it is lawful to violate the rest of the Sabbath. Wrongly, therefore, 0 ye Scribes, do ye condemn My disciples in this matter, for they are innocent, and free from all blame therein, because of the mercy which is here exercised. The mercy is that I have permitted My hungry servants to pluck these ears on the Sabbath. Moreover, I enjoin upon them by My word, as well as by My example, that they should have compassion upon so many wretched perishing souls, and should procure their salvation, by teaching, admonishing, and praying for them, with zeal and care. To this applies that golden sentence of Simeon the just (this is he who, as the Hebrews think, took Christ in His arms, and sang his last song, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace ) in Pirke Aboth, i.e ., Tne sentences of the Fathers, "The world rests upon, and is supported by three things, 1. by the law, 2. by Divine worship, 3. by mercy."

For the Son of man , &c. I, who by nature am the Son of God, and have deigned to become the Son of Man, i.e ., man, am by this very circumstance, the Lord, that is the author and lawgiver of the whole Mosaic Law, and consequently also of the Sabbath. Therefore I am able to give to My disciples a dispensation with respect to it.

And when he had passed over from thence , &c. Luke adds, that this was done on another Sabbath. For Christ designedly chose the Sabbath day for a fresh miracle, that he might, again and again, refute the error of the Scribes, that it was unlawful to heal sick persons on the Sabbath.

And behold a man having his hand withered , &c. S. Jerome adds, "in the Gospel, which the Nazareni and Ebionites use, which we have lately translated from Hebrew into Greek, and which is called by very many Persons the original ( authenticum ) of Matthew, this man, who had the withered hand, is called a mason. And he prayed for help in these words, I was a mason, gaining my livelihood by my hands: I beseech Thee, 0 Jesus, that Thou wouldst restore me to soundness, that I may not shamefully beg my bread." By the word hand understand arm : for χεὶρ , i.e ., hand , is made by Hippocrates to extend from the shoulder to the fingers. This man's arm was affected by a double disease. 1. A convulsion of the nerves. 2. Atrophy, for it was dried up for want of aliment, and was therefore naturally incurable.

And they asked him, i.e ., the Scribes and Pharisees asked Christ, whether it were lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? Then, as Mark relates (iii. 4), Christ in turn asked the Scribes another question, which was the solution of their own, i.e ., whether it were lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and heal the withered hand; or to do evil, i.e ., not to heal, and do harm? He intimates, not to do good to one who is in misery, when it is in your power, is to do him an injury; and not to save life, or a soul, when you can, is to destroy it. Since, therefore, this is a command of the law of nature, it is not forbidden by the positive law of the Sabbath; for that would be unreasonable.

That they might accuse Him , to the common people, as being either powerless, or unmerciful, if He did not heal the sick man; but to the chief priests, as a violator of the Sabbath, if He did heal him.

But he said unto them , &c. He means to say, ye Scribes teach the Sabbath is not broken, if any one pull out a sheep fallen into a ditch on the Sabbath day that the sheep may not remain in the ditch and suffer hunger, on the Sabbath. Much more therefore is it lawful to release on the Sabbath a man afflicted with sickness. Thus thought the Scribes in the time of Christ, but now some Jews observe the rest of the Sabbath so superstitiously that they are not willing on that day to pull a man out of a ditch or sewer, nor to suffer themselves, if they have fallen in, to be drawn out. Volater ( lib . 3, Geograph .) relates an amusing thing, which happened in the reign of Henry III. of England. A certain Jew fell into a drain at Tewkesbury on the Sabbath, and on account of his religion would not be drawn out. The Christian earl of the place, seeing it, would not allow him to be pulled out on the next day, through reverence for Sunday. Thus the man was choked, and died before he was drawn out. The Jew said "With putrid mud I'd rather choke,

Than Jewish Sabbath should be broke."

To whom the earl replied, "The Christian Sabbath keep thou too,

Friend Solomon, thou faithless Jew."

How much rather is a man better (more worthy, noble, excellent), &c. If it is lawful to release a sheep from calamity on the Sabbath, why not a man? Especially since in lifting out the sheep there would be need of considerable labour; but Christ was about to effect the healing of the sick man by a single word. How could this be a servile work? Wherefore Mark adds, looking round about upon them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts.

Then He saith to the man, &c. Christ first by reason, now by a deed, viz., a miracle, confutes the ignorance of the Scribes, and makes manifest His own wisdom and goodness. Hear S. Athanas. ( Hom. de Semente, sub fin. tom .), "Then Jesus saith to him, Stretch forth thine hand, for I do not touch thee, lest the Jews should have wherewith to accuse Me, lest with them, to touch, should be the same as to work. I act by word alone, for it has not been forbidden by God to speak on the Sabbath. If, then, a word performs the work, let him who says this word be held in admiration by you. Observe, too, the different way in which miracles are wrought. When Peter healed the paralytic at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up. The Lord, on the other hand, only commands, saying, Stretch forth thine hand, I give thee power to be healed. Thus He spake, thus He did, and the hand was restored."

Allegorically . 1. Beda says, Adam plucking the forbidden fruit, dried up the hand of the human race, i.e ., he deprived man of the power to be fruitful in good works. Christ restored that power by stretching forth His own hands upon the cross.

2. S. Jerome: "Until the coming of the Saviour, the hand of the Jews was withered in the synagogue, and the works of God were not done in it. Afterwards He came on earth, and the right hand of believers was restored by the Apostles, and rendered fit to do the first works."

Tropologically. Hear S. Anselm: "The hand that is withered, and is to be healed, is ordered to be stretched out, because the weakness of an unfruitful soul can be cured no better manner than by the liberality of alms-giving. Wherefore John the Baptist advised the multitudes who asked him what they should do that they should not like dried trees be cast into the fire, do this one thing, 'He who hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he who hath food, let him do likewise.' And in Eccluis. iv. 36, 'In vain does a man stretch forth his hands to God, to beg remission of his sins who does not extend the same hands to confer a benefit upon the poor man who asks him. '"

Going out , &c. The Pharisees went out of the synagogue and left the multitude, in whose presence they did not dare to murmur against Christ.

And He commanded them, that they should not make Him known. Commanded, Gr. ε̉πετίμησε , i.e ., He rebuked, threatened, commanded with threats, that they should not make known the miracles which He did, as well that He might not offend the Scribes, and excite them to greater envy and wrath, as that He might show how far removed He was from seeking glory of men.

Behold My servant (Vulg. puer meus ) ( Messias , Chald.), &c. I will put my spirit &c. I will endow Him with the gifts of the Holy Ghost in His conception. The Heb. is, אכדי Abdi , i.e., My servant, from whence it is plain Isaiah here speaks of Christ, not as He is God, but as He is man, for as such He is God's servant.

It proves that Christ, by teaching and healing the sick, fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Himself, and His modesty, mercy, and equity; and therefore showed that He was the very Messiah foretold by Isaiah, and renowned for these gifts as by certain marks. Instead of, whom I have chosen, the Hebrew is, I will receive Him; LXX., I will take Him up ; Chaldee, I will move Him.

And he shall show judgment , &c. i.e ., what is just and equal: for this is the judgment of righteous judges. For Christ, as a law giver, shall preach the Evangelical law, not only to the Jews, like Moses, but, by the Apostles, to all nations whatsoever.

He shall not strirve, &c. the meekness of Christ, and His gentle method of teaching, are here noted.

A bruised reed, &c. Syriac and Arabic, and He shall not extinguish a lamp verging on extinction. This is a genuine proverb, meaning that Christ will not contentiously rebuke and oppress those who are weak in faith, hope, and love, but will strengthen and kindle them by His own meekness, gentleness, and patience. Listen to the Fathers. S. Jerome says, "He who does not stretch out his hand to a sinner, nor carry a brother's burden, breaks the bruised reed; he who despises a spark of faith in the little ones, quenches the smoking flax." S. Hilary: "He shows that He might easily break the persecutors as a broken reed, and quench their fury;" but, says S. Augustine, "He spares them because He came not to judgment." Rabanus says, "The bruised nations were not broken, but were reserved for salvation: neither were the Jews, who were agitated by the wind, condemned immediately, but were patiently borne with."

Until he bring forth , &c., i.e ., until He lead judgment, i.e ., justice, or faith, and gospel sanctity, to victory, so that it may indeed have dominion over the whole world. Wherefore, the Vulgate in Isaiah translates He will place (as though a lord and conqueror) judgment in the earth (as it were a queen and lady governing all). The Hebrew is, He shall bring forth judgment unto truth , i.e ., He shall bring true judgment.

And in His name, &c. Instead of Gentiles, the Hebrew has islands, meaning most remote nations, dwelling in islands, who shall place all their hope in Christ the Saviour. I have expounded all this more at length on Isaiah xlii. 1, which see.

Then there was brought unto Him a man having a devil. Luke ( Luk 11:14 ) says only that he was dumb: whence S. Augustine ( L. 2 de Consens. Evang. sec. 37) is of opinion that Luke is speaking of another demoniac; but Luke does not say that he was not blind. Now the man was not blind and dumb from birth, or by disease, as Abul. and Barradi think, but was deprived of the use of his eyes and ears through the demoniacal possession. The demon, therefore, had not made him blind, nor taken away the faculty of speech, but only hindered the exercise of both. Whence, when the demon was cast out, without any other miraculous operation, the man began both to speak and to see. Thus S. Chrysostom, Enthym., Lyra, Jansen, Maldonatus. Hear S. Chrysostom: "0 pestiferous craft of the devil! he seized upon, and obstructed both the ways, sight and hearing by which the man might believe." Hence S. Luke says that demon was dumb , &c., in its effects, because it made the man dumb whom it possessed. There was, then, in this miracle a threefold effect. For, as S. Jerome says, "In this one man three signs were wrought at one and the same time; the blind sees, the dumb speaks, the possessed of the devils is delivered."

Tropologically : S. Jerome says, "What was then done literally is daily fulfilled in the conversion of believers, that, when the devil has been driven out they may first behold the light of faith, and then open their mouths to speak the praises of God." Then S. Augustine says, "He, having a devil, is blind and dumb, who does not believe: and he is a slave of the devil, who does not understand, and does not confess the true faith, or who does not give praise to God." ( Lib . 1. quæst. Evangel. q. 3.) The devil then makes men dumb lest they should confess their sins and expel their poison; lest they should praise God; lest they should instruct their neighbours: but Christ by His grace, looses their mouths to confess, to praise, to teach. Wisely saith S. Bernard ( in Senteentiis ) "Why art thou ashamed to speak of thy sin, when thou wast not ashamed to do it? or why dost thou blush to confess to God, from whose eyes thou canst not be hid? And if thou art so grievously ashamed to expose thy sin to one man, a sinner himself, what wilt thou do in the day of judgment, when thy consciousness of guilt will be exposed to all?"

And all the multitudes were amazed, &c. ε̉ξίσταντο , i.e ., were astonished and admired so that they, as it were, were rapt out of themselves in an ecstasy, at seeing so many and so great miracles of Christ; wherefore they said, No Prophet hath done so many miracles as Jesus hath. Therefore He is greater than them all. Consequently, He is the Son of David, the Messiah promised to David, whom we are all eagerly expecting.

When the Pharisees heard it, &c. The Pharisees were so blinded by their envy and hatred of Christ, that when they could not deny His miracles so clearly attested, they slanderously said, that they were magical, and not wrought by power of God, but by Beelzebub. They made Christ to be a magician who had a familiar demon, by whose power He wrought miracles.

But if Satan cast out Satan , &c. It means the kingdom of Satan upon earth could not stand, if Satan, i.e ., one devil were constantly to rise up against another devil, and fight with him, so that the inferior should be continually striving to cast out his superior from men. Thus you, 0 ye Scribes, behold Me, continually and assiduously, with hostility punish the devils, and expel them from the souls and bodies of men. Therefore, not by the help of Beelzebub, but by the power of God, I cast them out. Neither indeed is Beelzebub so foolish as to send the devils who are subject to him, to drive out one the other. For by so doing he would destroy his and their kingdom. So also mutinous soldiers, when they rebel against their prince are closely and intimately united among themselves, for they know, if they should disagree, they would easily be overthrown by their prince. I have spoken of Christ's hostility to the devils; because Apollonius of Tyana, as Philostratus testifies in his life, and magicians cast out devils, but by collusion with them, that they may entice men to sorcerers, and to sorcery, i.e ., fellowship with the devil. But Christ proves by what follows, that He had no fellowship with the devil. I spoke also of habitual warfare; for frequently strife and battle will arise among the devils for the possession of a man. An aged priest, worthy of credit, who had discharged the office of exorcist for many years and expelled devils at Rome, once told me he had seen with his eyes, and heard with his ears, two men possessed with devils, contending and fighting with one another, in the Church of S. Matthew. The devil who possessed one of the men was of a higher order and superior to the other; and he wished to cast out the other devil, as an inferior, from the man whom he possessed. But the inferior devil resisted, and greatly abused his superior; and among other things, he said to him, "Thou art an infernal devil, and by the just judgment of God being banished to hell, art far more heavily punished than I am, who am not an infernal devil, but am permitted to live here in the air, because I did not rebel against God as thou didst, but only clave and consented to Lucifer, as a subject to my superior." But such things as this are very uncommon and are succeeded by peace, even as these two devils after a short time laid aside their contention, and rested, and held their peace. For although those who are damned, and the devils, burn with pride, wrath, and hatred one against another, and quarrel, and tear one another in hell like dogs; nevertheless, on earth they must agree among themselves, in order that they may establish their kingdom and dominion over men.

But if I beg Beelzebub , &c. This is Christ's second proof, by which He shows, that he cast out devils by the help of God not of Satan, By your sons, in the first place, SS. Hilar., Chrys., Theoph., Enthym. understand, your Apostles, for they were sons of the Jews. These writers think that this happened after Christ sent forth the Apostles, when the Apostles, by the help of Christ, cast out devils, and wrought many miracles. But it is more probable that this happened before the mission of the Apostles. Hence it is better to understand by your sons, Jewish exorcists, who, by the method handed down by Solomon, expelled demons. ( See Joseph. Lib . 8, cap. 2.) Such exorcists were the seven sons of Sceva, a chief of the priests ( Act 19:14 ). So Jansen, Tolet, and others.

Therefore they shall be your judges. In the day of judgment, they shall, by their deeds, condemn you, because ye have passed so perverted a judgment upon Me, namely that they have cast out devils by the help of God, but I by the assistance of Satan; although ye behold far greater proofs of the presence and operation of God in Me, than in your own exorcists. For who of them has healed so many sick, and raised so many dead persons as I have done? Who of them has preached such sublime and Divine doctrine as I preach? Therefore shall the Queen of Sheba and the Ninevites, by their faith and repentance in the day of judgment condemn the unbelieving Jews.

But if I by the Spirit of God , &c. If I by the power of God and the Holy Ghost not of Beelzebub, cast out devils, then that is true (and the Holy Ghost himself manifestly attests it by his concurrence) which I and John Baptist have put forward as the head and sum of our preaching the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Ye see the kingdom of the devil by Me everywhere destroyed by My words, and by what I effect in the bodies and souls of men: and thus God's kingdom is begun by grace. This is what John says (1 Epist . iii. 8), In this the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. For as S. Leo says, "Those nails which pierced the Lord's hands and feet inflicted eternal wounds upon the devil; and the Punishment of His holy limbs was the death of the hostile powers."

Or how can one enter into the strong man's house , &c. Instead of, or, the Gr. has ὴ ,which Pagninus translates otherwise ; the Arab. and ; others, for. A new reason is here given, the third, whereby Christ proves that He casts out devils by the help of God, not of Beelzebub. The argument is drawn from a comparison, thus: As he who attacks the castle of any strong or valiant man, like Samson or Hercules, to spoil it, is not able to accomplish it unless he first vanquish and bind the strong man; so in like manner, I Christ, who spoil the kingdom of Satan by leading sinners, his subjects, to repentance and salvation, must needs overcome and bind Satan himself; for, otherwise, he would not allow this spoliation. Satan therefore is My enemy, and has been overthrown by Me. He is not My friend or ally in casting out demons, as ye calumniously assert. The strong man then, in this passage, is the devil; the house is the world; the vessels are his arms; his goods, his instruments. The arms of the devil are fraud and deceit by which he entices men to sin; his arms are wealth, honours, riches. They are also inferior demons and wicked men, says S. Chrysostom. These the devil makes use of against us, to tempt and vex us. His goods are the souls of sinners, and the bodies of the possessed; yea the souls of the fathers detained in Limbus before Christ. All these Christ took away from the devil, and bound him in hell.

Moreover, the devil is here called a strong one, because he goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, as S. Peter saith. Job (40 and 41) depicts his strength and might under the figures of Behemoth and Leviathan. By the strong man understand Lucifer, the prince of the devils, the antagonist of Christ and S. Michael. For Lucifer, being conquered by Christ on the Cross, was thrust down to hell, that there he should remain, personally bound, until the day of judgment. Then he will be loosed for a little space, as John says ( Apoc. xx.). Nevertheless, Lucifer is so bound in hell, that he is not only able to go forth himself, but even by means of his demons, whom he sends forth into the world. Yet he is not able to hurt men as much as he was before. For Christ has greatly restrained and diminished the power and might of the demons. S. Anthony was taught this by long experience, as S. Athanas. testifies in his Life : "The devil" he says, "was hooked by the Lord, like a dragon, by the hook of the Cross; and was taken in a drag-net, and was bound like a fugitive slave, and his lips were perforated by a ring and a bracelet, and he is not permitted to devour any of the faithful. Now, like a wretched sparrow, he is made sport of by Christ; now he groans at his companions, being trodden like serpents and scorpions under the heels of Christians. He who boasted that he drank up every sea, he who pretended that he held the world in the hollow of his hand, lo! he is conquered by you; lo! he is not able to prevent my entering the lists against him." And he confirms this by the devil's own confession ( cap . 20). "I saw," he said, "a man of enormous height, whose head reached unto Heaven. When I asked him who he was, he said, I am Satan. And I, What seekest thou here? He answered, Why do all Christian people curse me? I answered, Hast thou not read, 'Because the swords of the enemy have failed at the end, and thou hast destroyed their cities?' ( Vulg .) He said, Lo, now have I no place, I possess no city, I have no arms: the name of Christ sounds throughout all nations and all provinces, and the wilderness is peopled with choirs of monks. Let them, I beseech you, look at themselves, and not wound me without cause."

He who is not with Me is against Me. First, SS. Hilary, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact expound of the strong man, i.e ., the devil. The devil is not with Me, in such manner that he is against Me: and the things which I gather, he strives to disperse. This, therefore, is a fourth argument of Christ against the Scribes. Its force is as follows: They whose works are contrary, are themselves contrary. But My works and the devil's are contrary; therefore, I and he are contrary to each other. For, as S. Jerome says, "He, the devil, desires to hold captive the souls of men, but the Lord to deliver them. He preaches idolatry, Christ, the knowledge of the one God; the one draws to vice, the other recalls to virtue. How, then, can they have agreement between themselves, whose works are contrary?"

2. You may take the passage more simply with S. Chrysostom, with an application to the Pharisees, thus: As when a sedition arises in a kingdom or city, and one part rises against another part, so that evil-disposed men endeavour to seize upon the commonwealth, and spoil it, as Catiline with his fellow-conspirators did at Rome; then it is necessary for good citizens to defend the state, and he who does not, but desires to be neutral, is looked upon as an enemy and a companion of the seditious: because, under those circumstances, all citizens are bound to help the city or republic with all their might. Thus, in like manner, I, who have proclaimed universal war with Satan, that I may expel him from his dominion over the world, look upon all men as it were citizens of the world, as subjects of Me, their true Prince. If, therefore, they are not with Me in this war, and if they do not fight under My banner, they are contrary to Me, and My enemies, and, as such, I shall treat them, and punish them. Such, therefore, are you, 0 ye Pharisees, who ought above all, as my subjects, and better instructed than other men, to receive Me as the Messiah, the Christ prophesied of in your law and the prophets, and to commend Me as such to the people; notwithstanding, ye are secretly My adversaries, and openly ye dissimulate as though ye were judges appointed to make inquisition concerning My life and doctrine.

Thus this saying of Christ is not opposed to what He says in Luke ix. 50 He who is not against you, is on your part : for there He is speaking of one who is really in doctrinal agreement with the Apostles, and therefore is with them and for them, although for some just reason he does not profess as much openly.

Therefore I say unto you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven a man : but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. The word Spirit is in the genitive case, as is plain from the Greek πνεύματος. The blasphemy therefore of the Spirit is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Whence the Arabic translates, Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ; Syriac, Blasphemy against the Spirit of Holiness.

You will ask, what is this blasphemy? 1. Philastrius ( On the Heresy of Rotorius ) thinks it is heresy, especially that of Eunomius, who said that the Holy Ghost was not God. Thus also S. Ambrose ( Lib . 1, de Spir. Sanc. sec . 3).

2. S. Hilary thinks that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is when a man denies that Christ is God. "The sin against the Holy Ghost," he says, "is to deny to God the power of virtue, and to take away from Christ His eternal substance, by which, because God came into man, man shall in turn come to God; since God grants pardon to all other things, whilst this only is without forgiveness."

3. S. Ambrose ( L . 2, de pœniten. see. 4) thinks it is schism; also Simony, the sin whereby, for example, Simon Magus wished to buy the Holy Spirit of S. Peter.

4. Origen says it is every mortal sin after Baptism; committed, that is, after the grace of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism. Moreover, Pope Gelasius ( de Anath. vinc .) understands by it sins which are not forgiven, either in this world, or in the world to come. But he thinks it refers to sinners who do not wish to repent. For he says, that man makes the sentence against himself irrevocable who wills to continue in such a state as that he cannot truly be forgiven.

5. S. Cyprian ( L . 3, ad Quirinal, N. 28) says, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is every sin committed against God: but blasphemy against the Son of Man is every sin committed against man.

6. The same Saint ( L 3, Epist. 14) thinks blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is denial of the faith in persecution.

7. Richard of S. Victor says, it is to hate and revile God.

I have summarily embraced eighteen expositions of the Fathers (viz., eleven of the Latin Fathers and seven of the Greek) in the foregoing paragraphs.

Lastly, theologians and from them, catechists out of various expositions of S. Augustine, collect six sins against the Holy Ghost; namely, presumption, despair, striving against known truth, envy of fraternal charity, impenitence, and obstinacy. They say that these are called sins against the Holy Ghost, because they are committed through undoubted wickedness against the goodness of God, which is an attribute of the Holy Ghost. Thus, likewise, sins which are committed through infirmity are said to be done against God the Father, because power is one of His especial attributes. And sins which are done through ignorance, are said to be done against the Son, because of His attribute of wisdom.

Note, therefore, that Christ is here speaking not of every sin against the Holy Ghost, but only of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which may take place by words; and the same reasoning will apply to thoughts and actions, as when anyone reviles works manifestly divine and miraculous, which God works for the salvation of men, by which He confirms faith and truth. Such a work is the casting out of devils; and because such works proceed from the goodness and holiness of God, they are attributed to the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Father and the Son by procession and inspiration, as Love, Goodness, and Holiness. When, therefore, anyone calumniates such things, and knowingly out of malice ascribes them to an unclean spirit (as these Pharisees did), such an one is said to commit blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; for such an one directly fights against God and takes from Him His holiness and purity. The whole argument is expressed in the following syllogism:

The author of the miracles which Christ performs is, according to you, 0 ye Scribes, Beelzebub:

But God the Holy Ghost is, in truth, the Author of these miracles :

Therefore, according to you, God and the Holy Ghost are Beelzebub.

What more horrible can possibly be said? What greater blasphemy can be imagined? S. Basil adds that there are such persons even now, who ascribe the fruits and actions of the Holy Ghost to the opposing unclean spirit. We many of us do this, when we call earnestness ambition, and impute the calumny of anger to one who is only moved by zeal and righteous indignation. Moreover, Christ opposes this blasphemy against God and the Holy Ghost to that blasphemy against the Son of Man by which some who were offended at Christ's human conversation, calumniated what He did as man, as when they called Him a wine bibber , and a friend of Publicans and sinners. This was something more excusable, and less unworthy of forgiveness, because it had respect to Christ as Man rather than as God.

Shall not be forgiven : Arab. Shall not be relaxed, i.e., shall with difficulty, and seldom be forgiven. For this blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is most horrible, inexcusable, and altogether unworthy of pardon, and, considered simply in itself, takes away and excludes all medicine, and means of obtaining forgiveness. For such a blasphemer places himself in diametrical opposition to the Holy Ghost, and drives Him from him, yea blasphemes Him: the Holy Ghost, I say, by whom alone he could be absolved, healed, and sanctified. Similarly, we call an incurable disease one which does not admit of medicine, and rejects every kind of food. Nevertheless a blasphemer does not shut up the hand of God, so that God cannot have mercy upon him, although unworthy; and convert him, as He converted S. Paul, who confesses that he had been a blasphemer against God ( 1Ti 1:13 ).

And whosoever shall speak a word , &c. Christ declares the same truth in still clearer words. A word, anything injurious, reviling, blasphemous, it shall be forgiven him, it is remissible, and is readily forgiven to the penitent. From hence, it is plain against the Novatians, that all persons who have lapsed into heinous sins, should he admitted to penance.

But whosoever shall speak against the Holy Ghost, &c. Syriac, whosoever shall revile the Holy Ghost.

Here, first, Origen is condemned, who extended repentance, pardon, and salvation, to all sinners, after this life. For he said, after the great year of Plato, all things would be restored afresh, and that Judas would be saved; and Lucifer, together with the devils and the damned, would be brought back to heaven.

2. S. Aug. (21 Civit. 24), S. Greg. (4 dialog. 39), Isidore, Bede, S. Bern., and others, quoted by Bellarmine ( Lib . 2. de Purgat. sec. 4), prove from this passage, that there is a Purgatory after this life. For it would be unmeaning to say, shall not be forgiven nor in the world to come, if there were no remission of sins in the world to come. Thus a person would speak vainly who said, I will never marry a wife, neither in this world, nor in the world to come, since no wife can be married in the world to come. Mark adds, and gives greater force to the saying: but shall be guilty of eternal damnation. Moreover mortal sins are expiated in Purgatory, so far only as pertains to their punishment, but venial sins as regards both fault and punishment.

Either make the tree good , &c. This is Christ's fifth argument, and as S. Jerome says, forms a dilemma, from which it is impossible to escape. 1. And plainly, this tree is Christ. Make , i.e., appoint, assert. Either approve and praise Me, together with My works, which seem to you to be laudable; or condemn Me, with My works as a bad tree. He means, you, 0 ye Pharisees, praise My works, and yet condemn Me the author of them. But if ye praise the works, ye ought likewise to praise their author. Or if ye condemn the author, ye ought also to condemn the works. Otherwise ye flatly contradict your own selves. 2. S. Jerome by tree understands the devil, to whom the Scribes attributed the works and miracles of Christ. As thus, "If ye praise My works, then ye ought also to praise the devil to whom ye ascribe them; which is most absurd."

3. S. Aug. ( Serm. 12. de Verb. Dom .), by tree understands the Pharisees themselves . If ye wish to be, and to be accounted good, do good works, namely, praise good men and good things. For if ye do evil, as in truth ye do, when ye condemn Me and My Divine works, ye must needs confess yourselves to be bad and wicked calumniators, for a calumniator is known by his calumnies, as a tree is known by its fruit. From hence S. Aug. gathers the moral argument. "First," he says, "a man must be changed, that his works may be changed. For if a man remained in that which is bad, he cannot have good works: if he remain in that which is good, he cannot have bad works."

0 generation of vipers , &c. Christ here calls the Pharisees vipers, for this special reason, that they, like vipers, uttered viperous words and calumnies, by which they endeavoured to defame Christ and cut Him off. For they had a viper's heart, that is a heart full of the poison of envy, pride, hatred and malice against Christ, from which they belched forth those viperous and deadly calumnies.

Out of the abundance of the heart , &c., i.e ., from that which abounds in the heart, which the heart often thinks about and loves, that, the mouth speaketh. If the heart, i.e ., the mind and the will, abound in goodness and charity, a man speaks good and loving things; if in the gall of malice and envy, he speaks words of gall and envy and bitterness; as ye do against Me, 0 ye Pharisees. Whence S. Chrysostom says, "if the words spoken by them are so evil, how great malice, think ye, do they have in their hearts, where God is the only witness? Wherefore, when thou hearest a man speaking evil, much greater may you consider is the wickedness which his words demonstrate. For what is spoken outwardly is but the super-effluence of that which is within, with which he has vehemently attacked you. For if what is spoken by them is so evil, how great is the root of thought which imagines the words? Do you wish then to know what any one has in his heart, consider what he says; what he has most frequently on his lips, for in that his heart abounds."

A good man, &c. He explains the abundance of the heart by a treasure, that is, a heap and accumulation. A good man, therefore, from the good heap of good thoughts and affections which he accumulates in his mind, brings forth good words and works. But an evil man, from the evil treasure and heap of evil affections, brings forth evil words and works. Hear S. Chrysostom, "He shows, either that the Jews themselves, blaspheming God, make manifest from what treasure house they draw their blasphemy; or else, the sentence is connected with what went before, that as a good man cannot bring forth evil things, nor an evil man good things; so neither can Christ do bad works, nor the devil good works."

But I say unto you, for every idle word . . . give an account (Arab. an answer ). Give an account , i.e ., to Christ the judge. Christ shall require of them an account of idle words; and if they are not able to render it, He will punish them. There is here a catachresis, as appears from the following verse. So SS. Hilary, Chrysostom, Jerome, and others. It is a Hebrew construction. For the Hebrews put the relative, with its antecedent, in the nominative case. The meaning then is, as S. Jerome says, "If he who speaks an idle word, which by no means edifies the hearers, is not without peril to him who speaks it, and if in the day of judgment every one shall give an account of his words; how much more shall ye, who blaspheme the works of the Holy Ghost, and say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub, give an account of your calumny? Again, like idle words, so too every idle thought, wish, and action, is at least a venial sin."

You will ask, what is meant by an idle word ? The Gr. is α̉ργόν , as if α̉εργόν , that is inert, without art and work, lacking fruit and utility. First, Theophylact and Euthymius translate idle, calumnious. With them S. Chrysostom agrees, who says, "It is an idle word because it is false." He adds, "Some say, because it is vain, such as gives rise to inordinate laughter: or shameful or immodest."

2. And genuinely, an idle word is one that is vain, frivolous, ludicrous, which brings good neither to the speaker, nor to the hearer, even though it be injurious to no one, nor, in itself, reprehensible. Thus S. Jerome, "an idle word is what is spoken without profit either to the speaker, or the hearer, if omitting to speak of serious things we speak of what are frivolous and old wives' fables. But a man who utters what is scurrilous, or anything immodest, will be accounted guilty, not of idle, but of wicked words." S. Greg. ( Hom . 6. in Evang. sub finem ), says: "An idle word is one which is devoid of right usefulness, or the reason of just necessity. Turn ye therefore your idle words into endeavours after edification. Consider how swiftly the time of this life passes away; how swiftly the strict judge shall come." S. Bern. says, in his sermon of the threefold keeping of the hand, the tongue and the heart: "An idle word is one of which we can give no reasonable account, one which is without reason. Let none of us, brethren, think lightly of the time we spend in idle words. For now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. The word flies, and cannot be recalled. Time flies, and cannot be recovered; nor does foolish man consider what he loses. Let us chat, they say, to pass away the time. 0 meanwhile the hour, the time is passing away, which the mercy of thy Maker is giving thee to repent, to obtain pardon, to acquire grace, to gain eternal glory; the time is passing, in which you ought to propitiate the Divine mercy, to hasten to the society of the angels, to sigh for thy lost inheritance, to breathe after the promised felicity, to stir up thy weak will, to weep for the sins thou hast committed." An idle word then, according to S. Bern., is one spoken without reasonable cause. Such therefore is not one which is spoken pleasantly, to console the afflicted, or to exhilarate those who are sick and sad. Neither is it one which teaches human wisdom, as when the words and deeds of others are related, with this end, that, from them, we may learn to act and speak prudently. S. Basil goes further, and says that for a word not to be idle, a pious intention is required. But he is speaking to Religious, whose profession calls them to deal with and speak of holy things. He says: "An idle word is one which is not for edification in the Lord; for such grieves the Holy Ghost." For like as it is the part of a human being to act and speak according to the rule of right reason, and of a Christian according to the law of Christ, so it is the part of a Religious to speak according to the dictates of religion and piety. Whence S. Bern. says: "Thou hast consecrated thy mouth to the Gospel; it is no longer lawful for thee to open it for jests."

1. Then a pious intention is not required absolutely, that a word should not be idle. It is sufficient that it should, in some manner, be conducive to use, and human prudence. For thus the sailor speaks of the winds, the ploughman tells of oxen. Were it otherwise, nearly every word of artificers, of merchants, and men of the world would be idle.

2. Gabriel Vasquez (1. 2. disp . 52. in fine .) teaches that an idle word is not one uttered with this end only in view, that a man should give counsel with respect to any infirmity or want of nature: As for example, if one should say, when he is cold, I am frozen; I desire the fire, that I may drive away the cold.

This idleness of thoughts, words, and works is, as it were, a wastefulness of time and human actions, which, other things being equal, is worse than waste of riches and fortune. For a small portion of time has been given us by God, in which to provide for a blessed eternity: and every moment of it we may, by thinking, speaking, and acting well, be acquiring for ourselves the greatest degrees and treasures of glory and blessedness, all which treasures are wasted by this idleness of words and works, as S. Bern. has rightly remarked. Everyone is bound to do and say all things in such manner as that they may be fitly referred to God, that is to say, that they should be adapted to please and obey Him, according to those words of the Apostle, "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 .) Otherwise they are idle, i.e ., useless for the final end of man. But for this it is required that they should be directed by right reason, and should be honest. For everything that is honest, and nothing but what is honest is pleasing to God.

God has given us a mouth, that we should pray to Him and praise Him; and that we should speak what is useful and salutary to ourselves, or to our neighbours. But he who speaks what is idle and unprofitable, abuses his mouth, contrary to the mind and appointmerit of God. "For neither," as S. Ambrose says (in Psalms 119:0 Serm. 22) "is it of small peril to speak of worldly and idle things, when we have such wonderful works of God to speak about. Let the righteous man be resolved to say with holy David, My tongue shall speak of Thy word, for all Thy commandments are equity (Vulg,); and thus let him shut out all idle words."

From what has been said, it is plain that many idle things are done and said by most men, of which they will have to render an account to God. Wherefore, that they may provide a remedy against this evil, let them accustom themselves to do and say nothing without premeditation. In the second place, let them learn to speak sparingly, and only about good and useful things. 3. Let them for some days collect their mind and thoughts, and consider seriously the actions, reasons, objects, and intentions of their life; that if they be depraved or idle, they may correct them, and aim at some definite end for their whole life and all their actions, that in all they may seek God's glory and their own salvation and perfection. Moreover, let them each morning daily conceive this intention, and offer it to God, and frequently renew it through the day; that thus they may gain a habit of referring all their words and actions to this end. By this means they will at length always have this end (virtually) in sight, even though they may not actually think about it. For a good intention changes our words and actions, so that from being indifferent or idle they become honest, holy, and are rewarded with heavenly glory. Cassian tells of the Abbot Machetes, who, when idle things were being related, fell asleep; but, when spiritual things were spoken of, was always wakeful. He used to say that the devil was the author of idle words, and that he had found it out by the following proof: When he was discoursing about spiritual things, almost every one fell asleep; by-and-bye if he related some idle tale, he saw them all wake up. This caused him to groan, saying, Who is the author of this, unless it be he to whom idle things are pleasing, spiritual things displeasing-that is, the devil?

For by thy words , &c. Not only of works, but also of words, must we have a great care, since of both account must be given to God. They are both the fruit of the same tree that is, of the will whether it be good or bad. Wherefore thy words, no less than thy works, shall justify thee, if they be righteous and holy; or shall condemn thee, if they be depraved and perverse. They shall justify, I say that is, shall not only declare thee just, but shall also make thee just, or more just, if they proceed from the love of God and true repentance. But they shall condemn, and render thee liable to punishment if they be idle, wanton, quarrelsome, and so on. For those who are condemned by Christ in the Day of Judgment shall be punished, not only on account of mortal, but also of venial sins; yet, according to the gravity and desert of each, more or less severely.

Then certain of the Scribes a sign , &c. S. Luke ( Luk 11:16 ) adds, from Heaven. These were some of those men who brought the false accusation against Christ, that He cast out devils by the help of Beelzebub. This is plain from S. Luke xi. 16. When they had been refuted by Christ, because they did not wish to seem overcome and convicted of falsehood, they pressed Him to confirm what He said by a sign, that is, by some celestial miracle. As thus: Thou sayest that Thou workest miracles by the help of God; if it be so, cause that God may attest that this is true by some sign from Heaven, by which He may signify that Thou art sent by Him, and dost cast out devils by His power. But the many diseases which were healed, the many dead who were raised up by Christ, with this object that He might show them that He was the Messiah, sent by God the Father ought to have been sufficient for them. But for the unbelieving and false accusers nothing is sufficient; and if one thing be granted, they ask, as a subterfuge, another and another. The meaning is this: Thy miracles, 0 Christ, are in the earth and of the earth, but we wish to see celestial miracles in Heaven. For God, Whom Thou assertest to be the Author of these miracles, dwells in Heaven. Cause, therefore, that fire may come down from Heaven, as Elias did; or that the sky may flash with new and marvellous thunders and lightnings, as Samuel did (1 Sam. vii. 10); or that the sun should stand still, as Joshua did. Thus S. Jerome: Tacitly, therefore, they scoff at Christ's miracles done on earth, as though they were tokens of Satanic influence; and they tempt Christ, that they may falsely accuse Him. But although He had shown such a sign in Heaven, they would immediately have sought a subterfuge, and would have required some other sign. For this is the disposition of all curious and cavilling persons, especially infidels and heretics.

He answered and said an evil generation and, that is, but , &.c. generation (Gr. γενεα̉ , i.e, nation, race ) adulterous , i.e., faithless and unbelieving , because leaving God their husband to whom they had been betrothed by circumcision, they clave to the devil. Hence infidelity and idolatry are often called adultery by Ezekiel (Ezek cap. 16) and others. So Theoph. says, "He calls them an adulterous generation, because they forsook God, and clave to the devil." 2 Adulterous, i.e ., degenerate from the faith and character of Abraham, Isaac and the rest of the Patriarchs. For they believed in Messiah, but these would not acknowledge Him when He was present, and proving Himself by so many miracles to be Messiah. For Messiah was the husband of the synagogue of the Jews, and is now the Spouse of the Christian Church, as is plain from Ephesians 5:32 . For thus the Hebrews called spurious, i.e ., degenerate children, bene nechar , i.e., strange children, or rather, children of a strange, that is to say, an adulterous father.

But no sign , &c. This perverse nation of the Jews asks of me a sign from Heaven, but I will not give it a sign, except a sign from the earth, that is, from the deep. I will not grant to the Jews any other sign than what I formerly promised, when I said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up;" but He spake of the temple of His body (S. Joh 2:19-21 ). (He meant the sign of the Resurrection, which is the sign of the prophet Jonah, because it was prefigured by Jonah.) For this Jonah clearly showed, who I am, why I died, why I am crucified, in respect of which they are offended; in truth that I am Messiah, the Tamer of Death and Sin, the Saviour of the World, and the Lord of Heaven and Earth. For the keepers of the sepulchre told the Jews that Christ was risen from the tomb; the Jews themselves saw the empty sepulchre, and the Apostles proved Christ's resurrection by many miracles. Wherefore many Jews at the time, and afterwards all nations, believed in Christ raised from death. For the Jews did not expect a humble and poor Messiah, but one who was rich and glorious. Such they beheld Christ in His Resurrection, Ascension, and Mission of the Holy Ghost. Whence they at that time acknowledged Him, and accepted Him as Messiah, according to what He said in John 8:28 . When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, on the Cross, then ye shall know that I am He : for I shall rise gloriously from the cross and death.

But the unbelieving Jews were likewise compelled to acknowledge that Christ was Messiah, for after His Resurrection He sent Titus and Vespasian, who destroyed Jerusalem and Judea, because of His unjust death at the hands of the Jews. Thus S. Chrysostom, for at that time there was a complete destruction of the nation, although it still endures, and shall endure until the end of the world. A righteous and avenging God brought this upon them on account of their crowning wickedness in killing Christ. This destruction is the most evident token that the Jesus whom the Jews put to death was the Messiah. Wherefore Christ brings forward this sign of Jonah, as it were a sign of the condemnation of the Jews by the Ninevites, for the Ninevites believed Jonah and repented, but the Jews would not believe Christ, and were therefore cut off. Maldonatus thinks that Christ gave the Jews who sought a sign from Heaven, a sign from earth, that they might be condemned; for it behoved that they who sought a sign deceitfully should be confounded.

For as Jonah was , &c., in the heart , i.e., in the lowest part of the earth, within the earth, as the heart is within the human body. When Christ died upon the cross, as His body was placed in the tomb, so did His soul descend into the Limbus Patrum, which is near the centre of the earth.

You will ask, how Christ was three days and nights in the sepulchre and Limbus: for He was there only on Friday and Saturday nights, and rose at day-break on Sunday? 1. Alcuin ( L. de. Divinis 0ff. sec. de. Cœna. Dom .) gathers from this place that Christ lay in the tomb three whole days and nights, or 72 hours, and consequently rose again at the end of Easter Monday. But this is certainly a mistake. The constant tradition of the church is that Christ rose on the Lord's day.

2. Greg. Nyssen ( Orat . 1 &. 2 de Resurrec .) computes these three days to begin on Thursday. He is of opinion, that when on the evening of that day Christ instituted the Eucharist, He offered Himself to God under the species of bread and wine by means of the unbloody sacrifice. The soul of Christ was separated from the body, but that this was done in a secret and invisible manner, and that then the soul of Christ went down to Hades, and that thus He pre-accomplished His death, which the Jews were visibly to bring about on the following day upon the cross. But this, too, is an error. For there is really in the Eucharist the soul of the Living Christ, that is to say, in His body and blood contained under the species of bread and wine. It is there, I say, not indeed by virtue of the words of consecration, but by natural concomitance. For in the Eucharist there is Living Christ, with His Soul, even as He is outside the Eucharist. Thus the Council of Trent defines ( Sess. 13, sec. 2). It would have been otherwise if any of the Apostles had consecrated the Eucharist during the triduum of the Passion. For then the Body and Blood of Christ would have been in it separated from His Soul, for in this manner they were in Christ Himself now buried. For Christ was then dead, not alive.

I say then, that the expression three days and three nights is here only a periphrasis and description of a natural day. The two integral parts of such a day are day and night, or light and darkness. Christ makes use of this periphrasis because Jonah, His antetype, did the same. (John 1:17 .) We must not understand that these days are three artificial days as opposed to nights, as if during three days, in which the sun is above the horizon, Christ lay in the tomb; for this was not the case. You must consider these three natural days to be not whole days but parts of days, namely, the latter part of Friday; when Christ being taken down from the Cross, was laid in the sepulchre, the whole of Saturday, and part of the Lord's day. For although the Hebrews reckoned their civil days from one sun-rise to another, like the Chaldeans and the Persians ( Beda de ration. temp .), yet they computed their sacred days, such as the Passover, from evening to evening. Thus S. Jerome, Theophyl., Euthym., and S. Aug. and commentators, passim , explain the meaning of these three days. Hence Christ is constantly spoken of as rising on the third day, or after three days, without any mention of nights.

But in this place, according to this computation, there were but two nights in which Christ lay in the tomb, viz. Friday and Saturday nights, and yet three nights are expressly mentioned. Others therefore answer more fully and plainly; that these three days and nights are reckoned according to the Roman computation. For the Romans were at that time, masters of Judea, and had introduced their own methods of computing time in civil affairs. The Romans reckoned from midnight to midnight, as Christians do in their fasts and festivals. ( See Macrob. L. 1. Saturni c. Gell. L. 3. c. 2. Pliny. L. 2. c. 77. and others

Verses 40-50

For as Jonah was , &c., in the heart , i.e., in the lowest part of the earth, within the earth, as the heart is within the human body. When Christ died upon the cross, as His body was placed in the tomb, so did His soul descend into the Limbus Patrum, which is near the centre of the earth.

You will ask, how Christ was three days and nights in the sepulchre and Limbus: for He was there only on Friday and Saturday nights, and rose at day-break on Sunday? 1. Alcuin ( L. de. Divinis 0ff. sec. de. Cœna. Dom .) gathers from this place that Christ lay in the tomb three whole days and nights, or 72 hours, and consequently rose again at the end of Easter Monday. But this is certainly a mistake. The constant tradition of the church is that Christ rose on the Lord's day.

2. Greg. Nyssen ( Orat . 1 &. 2 de Resurrec .) computes these three days to begin on Thursday. He is of opinion, that when on the evening of that day Christ instituted the Eucharist, He offered Himself to God under the species of bread and wine by means of the unbloody sacrifice. The soul of Christ was separated from the body, but that this was done in a secret and invisible manner, and that then the soul of Christ went down to Hades, and that thus He pre-accomplished His death, which the Jews were visibly to bring about on the following day upon the cross. But this, too, is an error. For there is really in the Eucharist the soul of the Living Christ, that is to say, in His body and blood contained under the species of bread and wine. It is there, I say, not indeed by virtue of the words of consecration, but by natural concomitance. For in the Eucharist there is Living Christ, with His Soul, even as He is outside the Eucharist. Thus the Council of Trent defines ( Sess. 13, sec. 2). It would have been otherwise if any of the Apostles had consecrated the Eucharist during the triduum of the Passion. For then the Body and Blood of Christ would have been in it separated from His Soul, for in this manner they were in Christ Himself now buried. For Christ was then dead, not alive.

I say then, that the expression three days and three nights is here only a periphrasis and description of a natural day. The two integral parts of such a day are day and night, or light and darkness. Christ makes use of this periphrasis because Jonah, His antetype, did the same. (John 1:17 .) We must not understand that these days are three artificial days as opposed to nights, as if during three days, in which the sun is above the horizon, Christ lay in the tomb; for this was not the case. You must consider these three natural days to be not whole days but parts of days, namely, the latter part of Friday; when Christ being taken down from the Cross, was laid in the sepulchre, the whole of Saturday, and part of the Lord's day. For although the Hebrews reckoned their civil days from one sun-rise to another, like the Chaldeans and the Persians ( Beda de ration. temp .), yet they computed their sacred days, such as the Passover, from evening to evening. Thus S. Jerome, Theophyl., Euthym., and S. Aug. and commentators, passim , explain the meaning of these three days. Hence Christ is constantly spoken of as rising on the third day, or after three days, without any mention of nights.

But in this place, according to this computation, there were but two nights in which Christ lay in the tomb, viz. Friday and Saturday nights, and yet three nights are expressly mentioned. Others therefore answer more fully and plainly; that these three days and nights are reckoned according to the Roman computation. For the Romans were at that time, masters of Judea, and had introduced their own methods of computing time in civil affairs. The Romans reckoned from midnight to midnight, as Christians do in their fasts and festivals. ( See Macrob. L. 1. Saturni c. Gell. L. 3. c. 2. Pliny. L. 2. c. 77. and others ). According to this reckoning it is clear Christ remained in the tomb during a part of three days and three nights. He was buried on Friday before sunset; and was in the tomb until the midnight of that day. After that He was in the tomb during the entire day and night of the Sabbath; and from the midnight of Sunday for about six hours until that dawning of the Lord's Day on which He arose. For the Passover was at that time about the equinox, when the days and nights are equal, each being about twelve hours long. But the Soul of Christ, immediately when He expired upon the Cross at the ninth hour, i.e ., at three o'clock in the afternoon, descended into Limbus, and there remained with the Fathers until the dawn of Easter Day. Now that the Jews made use of the Roman method of computing time may be learnt as well from other things, as because they borrowed the four watches of the night from the practice in use among the Roman armies. ( See Matthew 15:25; Matthew 15:25 and elsewhere .) Different nations had different methods of reckoning the beginning of the day. The Persians and Babylonians reckoned from sunrise to sunrise. The Athenians and Italians, from sunset to sunset. Astronomers from midday to midday. But the Egyptians and Roman priests reckoned from midnight to midnight: and this method has continued in the Roman Church. The Hebrews then in the time of Christ followed the method of the Romans, to whom they were subject. Franc. Lucas teaches that the Jews did not compute their Festivals from midnight as Christians do. The explanation given above is that of S. Anselm, in Loco . Isidore of Pelusium ( L . 1 . Epist 114 and 212), D. Thom., (3. p. q. 46. art . 9), Suarez (3. p. q. 53. disp . 46. sect. 3. in fine .), and Baronius. ( A. C. 34.).

The men of Nineveh shall rise up , &c. That is to say the Ninevites, who, with their king Sardanapalus, had thrown themselves into wickedness, and given themselves up entirely to the lusts of the flesh, when they heard Jonah thundering against them, and threatening them with destruction, believed him, and did penance. They therefore, in the day of judgment, shall accuse and condemn the Scribes and the Jews who would not believe Christ, their God and Lord, working so many miracles. They shall condemn them, I say, not so much in word as by their deeds, namely, by the example of their faith and repentance. It does not follow from hence that the Ninevites were saved; for shortly afterwards they returned to their sins like a dog to his vomit. (See what I have said in the Prefaces to Jonah and Nahum.)

And behold a greater than Jonah is here. For Jonah was a prophet and a servant: Christ is Messiah and the Lord. Jonah, remaining alive in the fish, alive came forth: Christ rose again from death and the grave, and restored to life, came forth. Jonah preached unwillingly. Christ of His own accord. Jonah was a foreigner among the Ninevites: Christ was of the same race as the Jews. Jonah threatened the destruction of Nineveh. Christ promised the kingdom of Heaven. Jonah did no miracle: Christ did very many. All the prophets prophesied of Christ: none of Jonah. Jonah cried aloud, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Christ cried by His Apostles, "Yet forty years and Jerusalem shall be destroyed by Titus." Euseb. of Emissa ( Hom . 2. de Pasch .), and S. Aug. ( Epist. 49. 6), have collected further analogies between Jonah and Christ.

The Queen of the South shall rise , &c. Aegypt. The Southern Queen . Persian, Queen of Thema (Theman with the Hebrews and Orientals signifies the south). Ethiopic, Queen Aseb. The naine, therefore, of this queen appears to have been Aseb, and to have been taken from the name of her kingdom, Saba, Sabæa. This is the opinion of some. But I maintain that Aseb is Ethiopic for the south, as Ethiopians at Rome have assured me. This is the Queen of Sheba, which is south of Judea ( 1Ki 10:1-13 ). Sheba, or Saba, is a country, and has two meanings. One Sheba was in the neighbouring Arabia; the other in remote Ethiopia, the capital of which was afterwards called by Cambyses Meroë, after the name of his sister. This queen is thought by many to have come from the Ethiopian, rather than the Arabian Sheba: because the Ethiopian Sheba was furthest off, and because Josephus calls her Queen of Ethiopia and Egypt. Wherefore afterwards the knowledge of scripture, and of the true God of the Hebrews, remained among the Ethiopians. From among them there came to Jerusalem, to worship God, a eunuch of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. ( Acts viii.) Pliny ( Lib . 6, c. 29) says, that queens reigned over the Ethiopians, and bore the general name of Candace. Indeed, the Emperor of the Ethiopians, or Abyssinians calls himself the Son of Solomon. For the Ethiopian tradition is that their queen was married to Solomon, by whom she had a son, from whom the Abyssinian kings, who are now called Prete-Tannes , are descended. Pineda, however, refutes this tradition. The Abyssinians add that this queen Aseb reigned in Tigris, which is the largest province of Abyssinia, and that her son was called Menile , or like, because he was very like his father Solomon. Thus Euthymius, Jansen, Maldonatus, Toletus, Barrad, and others, think this queen came from Ethiopia; but others, with more probability think she came from Saba, which is in Arabia Felix, where are the Homeritæ, in whose country spices and gold as well as camels are abundant. Again, she is said to have come from the uttermost parts of the earth ; for Arabia Sabaea is distant from Jerusalem 606 leagues. It is, moreover, the furthest land in the direction of the Mare Indicum , or Arabian Gulf, for there the land ends, and the sea begins. Hence it is often called in scripture, a land very far off, as Jer. vi. Isaiah xliii. and elsewhere. Whence Nicephorus ( l . 8, c . 35) says, Arabia Felix is Sabaea, and its boundaries extend to the ocean. Thus SS. Jerome, Cyril, Theodorus, Salmeron and others, whom Pineda quotes and follows.

To hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold a greater than Solomon is here. Christ speaks of Himself in the third person out of modesty. This comparison between the Jews and the Queen of Sheba has much emphasis, which is well brought out by Franc. Lucas. "The woman," he says, "was a Gentile, not brought up in God's discipline, but immersed in the business of a great empire; yet she was attracted by the fame of Solomon's wisdom, and undertook a most difficult journey from the remotest parts of the earth to Jerusalem, that she might make trial of his wisdom. This wisdom she wondered at above measure, and received Solomon's counsel, although he only discoursed concerning earthly things. But the Jews, the scholars of the Divine Law, would not receive Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, the only teacher of the mysteries of eternal salvation, which had been hid from ages and generations, when He offered Himself to them, and asked and invited them to come to Him. Yea, they altogether rejected Him, although He gave them the most wonderful sign of the Resurrection. How much, therefore, did the Queen of Sheba excel the Jews! and with what justice and with what power, will she, in the Day of Judgment, rebuke them to their face for their obstinate ingratitude, unbelief, and disobedience to Christ!" The same reasoning will apply to the Ninevites. Therefore let priests, religious and others, who are abundantly supplied with God's grace, take heed that they use it rightly and diligently; for otherwise, the more they have received, the more severely will they be punished. Yea, in the Day of Judgment, laymen will triumph over them, even as Heathens and Turks will upbraid bad Christians, because if they had had their graces, they would have lived far more holily and religiously.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man , &c. Observe, Christ still continues to treat of the subject of demoniacal possession: for the possessed, whom He healed, were corporeally possessed by a demon, but the Scribes and the Jews, who reviled Christ's miracles, were spiritually possessed. Christ here speaks parabolically, after the manner of the Syrians. The meaning is: As a man who is an exile wanders through arid and desert places, so the devil when driven by the law of God from man, that is to say, from you, 0 ye Jews, who were the people of God, amongst whom God dwelt, and manifested Himself by prophecies and miracles, wanders through desert places, and seeks rest. But when he cannot find it save in man, and when he sees that ye despise God's grace, which I offer you, then he eagerly returns to you as to a house that is empty and swept, as to a place prepared and adorned for him. Then he takes seven, i.e ., many other companions, more wicked than himself, and they joyfully inhabit that house, i.e ., your souls; and that they may not be again expelled, and that they may make you more wicked, with that object in view they cause you to blaspheme Me, My doctrine, and My miracles, and to say that I cast out devils by Beelzebub, and that ye may at length crucify Me, which is of all wickedness the chief and the greatest. Wherefore God will punish you with utter destruction by Titus, and will cause you to be without God, without Messiah, without law, or temple, or sacrifice, and without faith yea, that ye shall think your own perfidy and blindness to be the true faith and the true light.

Moreover, the house, that is the soul, is empty, because it is without God, and devoid of His grace. It is swept with besoms ( Vulg .) because all virtue, piety and goodness have been driven out of it, and the poison of impurity has been scattered in it, and the tapestry of pride hung about it. For such adornment as this is the adornment of uncleanness, and is pleasing to the devil who delights in nothing but what is impure and filthy.

Again, the devils are driven by God and His Saints into desert places, that they may not injure men. Thus Raphael bound Asmodeus in the deserts of Upper Egypt. ( Tobit 8.) So also Isaiah says, (Isaiah xiii. and xxxiv.) that Babylon should be wasted and rendered a desert; and that hairy creatures, Satyrs and Onocentauri , i.e. demons in the shape of goats and monsters should dwell there. But the devil does not find rest in such places, for, as Abul. says, "The devil cannot rest, because he shall be tormented eternally, but he seeks the rest of his own evil will: for he is envious, and loves to injure men: and when he is able to injure them he rests after a fashion." He acts thus, partly from envy, because he grudges man the happiness of heaven, from which he himself has fallen; partly from hatred of God: and because he cannot injure God himself, he would injure man who is God's creature and image, that he may thus, as far as he can, do an injury to God.

Mystically, dry places are the souls of the Gentiles, in which, by the grace of Christ, the moisture of concupiscence is dried up. Hear S. Jerome, "The unclean spirit went forth from the Jews, when they received the law, and being driven from them, walked in the wilderness of the Gentiles. But when the Gentiles had believed in the Lord-finding no place among them, the devil said, I will go back to the Jews."

And the last state of that man, &c. This is the end and scope of the parable. Christ shows that relapsing into sin is worse than falling into it at first; even as a relapse into a disease of the body is worse than the original disease. S. Augustine says ( Epist . 137), "I confess unfeignedly, before the Lord our God, who is the witness of my soul, from the time when I began to serve God, that I have not found any who have made greater progress in religion than those in monasteries. So too, in like manner, I have never found worse men than those who have fallen, being monks. And this is why I believe it has been written in the Apocalypse ( ch . xxii.) 'He that is just, let him become more just; and he that is filthy, let him become more filthy. '" Thus Lucifer, who was the most fair of all the angels, became the worst of the devils. So too Judas, from an Apostle, became an Apostate, and the betrayer of Christ. So also Nestorius, Eutyches, Pelagius, Arius, and in our time Luther, Calvin, and the rest, their companions, from monks and priests, became apostates and heresiarchs. As it is commonly said, "the best wine makes the sourest vinegar."

While He was yet speaking to the multitude, behold His mother , &c. You will ask, who were those who, in the Gospels, are called the brethren of Christ? The impure heresiarch, Helvidius, answered that they were children of the blessed Virgin who were born after Christ. For he denied Her perpetual virginity. But S. Jerome sharply and learnedly refutes him, in the work which he wrote against him.

2. The Greeks generally, with Euseb. ( H.E. ii. 1), and of the Latins, SS. Hilary and Ambrose, think that they were children of Joseph, by a former marriage. But Joseph never had any other wife except the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peter Damian ( Epist. 11, c . iv. ad Nicol. Rom. Pont .) says that this is the faith of the Church.

3. Hugh of S. Victor thinks they were descendants of S. Ann, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that S. Ann, besides Joakim the father of the Virgin, had two other husbands, of whom, those who are called the Lord's brethren, were begotten. But S. Hippolytus ( Ap. Niceph. 2, 3) teaches that S. Annn had only one husband, Joakim. I say, therefore, that these persons were not properly the brethren of Christ, nor the offspring of the Blessed Virgin Mary, nor Joseph, nor S. Ann, but are called brethren, i.e ., cousins or relations of Christ, by a mode of expression common in Hebrew. In sooth, they were cousins, or really brothers of S. Joakim, or S. Ann, or rather brother's children, or sistes's children of SS. Joakim and Ann, probably children of Cleophas, who was a brother of Joseph, the husband of the blessed Virgin Mary, according to the testimony of Hegesippus ( Eus. H.E. iii. 11). For Joseph and Cleophas were sons of Jacob, the brother of S. Ann. Hear S. Jerome on the passage, "We, as it is in the book which we have written against Helvidius, say, that the Lord's brethren were not children of Joseph, but cousins of the Saviour, and children of Mary, the maternal aunt of the Lord, who is called the mother of James and Joseph and Jude."

Stood without. They sent a messenger into the house, to Christ, to call Him out.

Seeking to speak with Him. Not out of ambition and pride, that they might appear to be relations of so great a Teacher and Prophet, as S. Chrysostom and Theophylact think; but that they might take Him with them, and bring Him to Nazareth. For they said that He was beside Himself (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:21 ). "For neither did His brethren believe in Him" (John 7:5; John 7:5 ). Whether they said this because they really thought He was mad; or feignedly, in order that they might deliver Him out of the hands of the Pharisees. That for some such cause the Blessed Virgin called Christ forth, no pious person would doubt. But if they wished to take Him as a madman, they must have concealed their opinion from the Blessed Virgin Mary, and taken her with them that they might the more easily draw Christ away. For it is certain she knew perfectly that Christ was of sound mind. Wherefore she accompanied these brethren or relations of Christ from the desire of beholding Him.

But one said to Him, Behold Thy mother , &c. This person was the messenger whom the brethren of Christ sent to call Him out.

But he said : Who is My mother , &c. Observe, Christ speaks thus, not as denying that He really had a mother, as if Christ were not a true man, but a phantasm born of a phantasm, as Marcion and the Manichees taught; nor yet as though He were ashamed of His mother and poor brethren, but either because this messenger was interrupting Him with too great boldness and importunity, by calling Him away from the preaching which He had begun; or rather, as S. Ambrose says, that He might show that He must be more intent upon the ministry given Him by His Father, than upon His affection for His mother; and that He must prefer spiritual to carnal relationships, where there is neither sex nor rank, but all are most nearly related to Christ, and by every tie, as though they were father, sister, and brother. For this is what Matthew adds concerning Christ, And stretching forth His hand , &c. The Arab. trans., He pointed with His hand towards His disciples.

For whosoever shall do, &c. Spiritually, as I have already said, not carnally. He speaks of brother and sister, because of either sex. The faithful soul is also the mother of Christ, because by teaching, exhorting, and counselling, she brings forth Christ in herself and others. Hear S. Gregory ( Hom. 8 in Evang .), "We must know that he who is the brother and sister of Christ through believing, is made his mother by preaching. For he, as it were, brings forth the Lord, whom he infuses into the heart of his hearer." He subjoins the example of S. Felicitas, who by the spirit bore to God the seven sons, to whom she had given birth in the flesh, because she strengthened them in persecution, and animated them for martyrdom. These words of Christ were also exemplified in S. Victoria, a virgin martyr under Diocietian. She said to the pro-consol, who asked her, "Wilt thou go with Fortunatianus, thy brother?" who was a heathen; "No, for I am a Christian; and those are my brethren, who keep the commandments of God." Wherefore she was shut up in prison, and perishing by hunger, obtained the martyr's crown.

Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Matthew 12". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/clc/matthew-12.html. 1890.
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