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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 23

Golden Chain Commentary on the GospelsGolden Chain Commentary

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Verses 1-4

Ver 1. Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,2. Saying, "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:3. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.4. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."

Pseudo-Chrys.: When the Lord had overthrown the Priests by His answer, and shewn their condition to be irremediable, forasmuch as clergy, when they do wickedly, cannot be amended, but laymen who have gone wrong are easily set right, He turns His discourse to His Apostles and the people. For that is an unprofitable word which silences one, without conveying improvement to another.

Origen: The disciples of Christ are better than the common herd; and you may find in the Church such as with more ardent affection come to the word of God; these are Christ’s disciples, the rest are only His people. And sometimes He speaks to His disciples alone, sometimes to the multitudes and His disciples together, as here.

"The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat," as professing his Law, and boasting that they can interpret it. Those that do not depart from the letter of the Law are the Scribes; those who make high professions, and separate themselves from the vulgar as better than they, are called Pharisees, which signifies ’separate’.

Those who understand and expound Moses according to his spiritual meaning, these sit indeed on Moses’ seat, but are neither Scribes nor Pharisees, but better than either, Christ’s beloved disciples. Since His coming these have sat upon the seat of the Church, which is the seat of Christ.Pseudo-Chrys.: But regard must be had to this, after what sort each man fills his seat; for not the seat makes the Priest, but the Priest the seat; the place does not consecrate the man, but the man the place. A wicked Priest derives guilt and not honour from his Priesthood.

Chrys., Hom. lxxii: But that none should say, For this cause am I slack to practise, because my instructor is evil, He removes every such plea, saying, "All therefore whatsoever they say unto you, that observe and do," for they speak not their own, but God’s, which things He taught through Moses in the Law. And look with how great honour He speaks of Moses, shewing again what harmony there is with the Old Testament.

Origen: But if the Scribes and Pharisees who sit in Moses’ seat are the teachers of the Jews, teaching the commandments of the Law according to the letter, how is this that the Lord bids us do after all things which they say; but the Apostles in the Acts [marg. note: Acts 15:19] forbid the believers to do according to the letter of the Law. These indeed taught after the letter, not understanding the Law spiritually. Whatsoever they say to us out of the Law, with understanding of its sense, that we do and keep, not doing after their works, for they do not what the law enjoins, nor perceive the veil that is upon the letter of the Law.

Or by "all" we are not to understand every thing in the Law, many things for example relating to the sacrifices, and the like, but such as concern our conduct.

But why did He command this not of the Law of grace, but of the doctrine of Moses? Because truly it was not the time to publish the commandments of the New Law before the season of His passion. I think also that He had herein something further in view. He was about to bring many things against the Scribes and Pharisees in His discourse following, wherefore that vain men might not think that He coveted their place of authority, or spoke thus out of enmity to them, he first puts away from Himself this suspicion, and then begins to reprove them, that the people might not fall into their faults; and that, because they ought to hear them, they should not think that therefore they ought to imitate them in their works, He adds, "But do ye not after their works." What can be more pitiable than such a teacher, whose life to imitate is ruin, to refuse to follow is salvation for his disciples?

Pseudo-Chrys.: But as gold is picked out of the dross, and the dross is left, so hearers may take doctrine and leave practice, for good doctrine oft comes from an evil man. But as Priests judge it better to teach the bad for the sake of the good, rather than to neglect the good for the sake of the bad; so also let those who are set under them pay respect to the bad Priests for the sake of the good, that the good may not be despised because of the bad; for it is better to give the bad what is not their due, rather than to defraud the good of what is justly theirs.

Chrys.: Look with what He begins His reproof of them, "For they say, and do not." Every one who transgresses the Law is deserving of blame, but especially he who has the post of instruction. And this for a threefold cause; first, because he is a transgressor; secondly, because when he ought to set others right, be himself halts; thirdly, because, being in the rank of a teacher, his influence is more corrupting.

Again, He brings a further charge against them, that they oppress those that are put under them; "They bind heavy burdens;" in this He shews a double evil in them; that they exacted without any allowance the utmost rigour of life from those that were put under them, while they allowed themselves large licence herein. But a good ruler should do the contrary of this, to be to himself a severe judge, to others a merciful one. Observe in what forcible words He utters His reproof; He says not they cannot, but "they will not;" and not, lift them, but "touch them with one of their fingers."

Pseudo-Chrys.: And to the Scribes and Pharisees of whom He is now speaking, heavy burdens not to be borne are the commandments of the Law; as St. Peter speaks in the Acts, "Why seek ye to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? [Acts 15:10] For commending the burdens of the Law by fabulous proofs, they bound as it were the shoulders of the heart of their hearers with bands, that thus tied as though with proof of reason to them, they might not fling [p. 770] them off; but themselves did not in the least measure fulfil them, that is, not only did not wholly, but did not so much as attempt to.

Gloss., interlin.: Or, "bind burdens," that is, gather traditions from all sides, not to aid, but to burden the conscience.Jerome: But all these things, the shoulders, the finger, the burdens, and the bands with which they bind the burdens, have a spiritual meaning. Herein also the Lord speaks generally against all masters who enjoin high things, but do not even little things.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Such also are they who lay a heavy burden upon those who come to penitence, so that while men would avoid present punishment, they overlook that which is to come. For if you lay upon a boy’s shoulders a burden more than be can bear, be must needs either cast it off, or be broken down by it; so the man on whom you lay too grievous a burden of penance must either wholly refuse it, or if be submit himself to it will find himself unable to bear it, and so be offended, and sin worse.

Also, if we should be wrong in imposing too light a penance, is it not better to have to answer for mercy than for severity ? Where the master of the household is liberal, the steward should not be oppressive. If God be kind, should His Priest be harsh? Do you seek thereby the character of sanctity? Be strict in ordering your own life, in that of others lenient; let men hear of you as enjoining little, and performing much. The Priest who gives licence to himself, and exacts the utmost from others, is like a corrupt tax-gatherer in the state, who to ease himself taxes others heavily.

Verses 5-12

Ver 5. "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,6. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,7. And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.8. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.9. And call no man your father upon the earth for one is your Father, which is in heaven.10. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.11. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.12. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Chrys.: The Lord bad charged the Scribes and Pharisees with harshness and neglect; He now brings forward their vain-glory, which made them depart from God.Pseudo-Chrys.: Every substance breeds in itself that which destroys it, as wood the worm, and garments the moth so the Devil strives to corrupt the ministry of the Priests, who are ordained for the edification of holiness, endeavouring that this good, while it is done to be seen of men, should be turned into evil. Take away this fault from the clergy, and you will have no further labour in their reform, for of this it comes that a clergyman who has sinned can hardly perform penance.

Also the Lord here points out the cause why they could not believe in Christ, because nearly all they did was in order to be seen of men; for he whose desire is for earthly glory from men, cannot believe on Christ who preaches things heavenly.

I have read one who interprets this place thus. "In Moses’ seat," that is, in the rank and degree instituted by Moses, the Scribes and Pharisees are seated unworthily, forasmuch as they preached to others the Law which foretold Christ’s coming, but themselves did not receive Him when come. For this cause He exhorts the people to hear the Law which they preached, that is, to believe in Christ who was preached by the Law, but not to follow the Scribes and Pharisees in their disbelief of Him. And He shews the reason why they preached the coming of Christ out of the Law, yet did not believe on Him; namely, because they did not preach that Christ should come through any desire of His coming, but that they might be seen by men to be doctors of the Law.

Origen: And their works likewise they do to be seen of men, using outward circumcision, taking away actual leaven out of their houses, and doing such like things. But Christ’s disciples fulfil the Law in things secret, being Jews inwardly, as the Apostle speaks. [marg. note: Romans 2:29]

Chrys.: Note the intensive force of the words of His reproofs. He says not merely that they do their works to be seen of men, but added, "all their works." And not only in great things but in some things trivial they were vainglorious, "They make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments."

Jerome: For the Lord, when He had given the commandments of the Law through Moses, added at the end, "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be ever before thine eyes;" [Deuteronomy 6:8] the meaning of which is, Let my precepts be in thine hand so as to be fulfilled in thy works; let them be before thine eyes so as that thou shalt meditate upon them day and night.

This the Pharisees misinterpreting, wrote on parchments the Decalogue of Moses, that is, the Ten Commandments, and folding them up, tied them on their forehead, so making them a crown for their head, that they should be always before their eyes. Moses had in another place given command that they should make fringes of blue in the borders of their garments, [marg. note: Numbers 15:39] to distinguish the people of Israel; that as in their bodies circumcision, so in their garments the fringe, might discriminate the Jewish nation.

But these superstitious teachers, catching at popular favour, and making gain of silly women, made broad hems, and fastened them with sharp pins, that as they walked or sat they might be pricked, and by such monitors be recalled to the duties of God’s ministry. This embroidery then of the Decalogue they called phylacteries, that is, conservatories, because those who wore them, wore them for their own protection and security. So little did the Pharisees understand that they were to be worn on the heart and not on the body; for in equal degree may cases and chests be said to have books, which assuredly have not the knowledge of God.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But after their example do many invent Hebrew names of Angels, and write them, and bind them on themselves, and they seem dreadful to such as are without understanding. Others again wear round their neck a portion of the Gospel written out. But is not the Gospel read every day in the Church, and heard by all? Those therefore who receive no profit from the Gospel sounded in their ears, how shall the having them hung about their neck save them? Further, wherein is the virtue of the Gospel? in the shape of its letters, or in the understanding its meaning? If in the characters, you do well to hang them round your neck; if in their meaning, they are of more profit when laid up in the heart, than hung round the neck.

But others explain this place thus, That they made broad their teachings concerning special observances, as phylacteries, or preservatives of salvation, preaching them continually to the people. And the broad fringes of their garments they explain of the same undue stress upon such commandments.

Jerome: Seeing they thus make broad their phylacteries, and make them broad fringes, desiring to have glory of men, they are convicted also in other things; "For they love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues."

Raban.: It should be noted, that He does not forbid those to whom this belongs by right of rank to be saluted in the forum, or to sit or recline in the highest room; but those who unduly desire these things, whether they obtain them or not, these He enjoins the believers to shun as wicked.

Pseudo-Chrys.: For He rebukes not those who recline in the highest place, but those who love such places, blaming the will not the deed. For to no purpose does he humble himself in place who exalts himself in heart. For some vain men bearing that it was a commendable thing to seat himself in the lowest place, chooses so to do; and thus not only does not put away the vanity of his heart, but adds this additional vain ostentation of his humility, as one who would be thought righteous and humble. For many proud men take the lowest place in their bodies, but in haughtiness of heart think themselves to be seated among the highest; and there are many humble men who, placed among the highest, are inwardly in their own esteem among the lowest.

Chrys.: Observe where vain glory governed them, to wit, in the synagogues, whither they entered to guide others. It had been tolerable to have felt thus at feasts, notwithstanding that a doctor ought to be had in honour in all places alike, and not in the Churches only. But if it be blameworthy to love such things, how wrong is it to seek to attain them?

Pseudo-Chrys.: They love the first salutations, first, that is, not in time only, before others; but in tone, that we should say with a loud voice, Hail, Rabbi; and in body that we should bow low our bead; and in place, that the salutation should be in public.

Raban.: And herein they are not without fault, that the same men should be concerned in the litigations of the forum, who in the synagogue in Moses’ seat, seek to be called Rabbi by men.Pseudo-Chrys.: That is, they wish to be called, not to be such; they desire the name, and neglect the duties.

Origen: And in the Church of Christ are found some who take to themselves the uppermost places, that is, become deacons; next they aspire to the chief seats of those that are called presbyters; and some intrigue to be styled among men Bishop, that is, to be called Rabbi. But Christ’s disciple loves the uppermost place indeed, but at the spiritual banquet, where he may feed on the choicer morsels of spiritual food, for, with the Apostles who sit upon twelve thrones, he loves the chief seats, and hastes by his good works to render himself worthy of such seats; and he also loves salutations made in the heavenly marketplace, that is, in the heavenly congregations of the primitive.

But the righteous man would be called Rabbi, neither by man, nor by any other, because there is One Master of all men.

Chrys.: Or otherwise; Of the foregoing things with which He had charged the Pharisees, He now passes over many as of no weight, and such as His disciples needed not to be instructed in; but that which was the cause of all evils, namely, ambition of the master’s seat, that He insists upon to instruct His disciples.

Pseudo-Chrys.: "Be not ye called Rabbi," that ye take not to yourselves what belongs to God. And call not others Rabbi, that ye pay not to men a divine honour. For One is the Master of all, who instructs all men by nature. For if man were taught by man, all men would learn that have teachers; but seeing it is not man that teaches, but God, many are taught, but few learn. Man cannot by teaching impart an understanding to man, but that understanding which is given by God man calls forth by schooling.Hilary: And that the disciples may ever remember that they are the children of one parent, and that by their new birth they have passed the limits of their earthly origin.

Jerome, Hieron. cont., Helvid. 15: All men may be called brethren in affection, which is of two kinds, general and particular. Particular, by which all Christians are brethren; general, by which all men being born of one Father are bound together by like tie of kindred.

Pseudo-Chrys.: "And call no man your Father upon earth;" because in this world though man begets man, yet there is one Father who created all men. For we have not beginning of life from our parents, but we have our life transmitted through them.

[ed. note: The Catholic doctrine is, that "the man" is born from his parents, by propagation, but that the soul is immediately created by God, the human agency being but a certain disposition of matter - such that according to God’s good pleasure, by a law which He has appointed, the gift of a soul is accorded to it. And thus, though a man’s soul cannot be called the son of his parents, yet that compound nature of which the soul forms part, is such.

That the soul is immediately from God by creation is the Catholic doctrine. St. Leo speaks of the Catholic faith consistently and truly, preaching that the souls of men, before they were breathed into their bodies, were not, nor are incorporated by any other but by God the Framer, Who is Creator of them as well as the bodies. Ep. 15, ad Turrib. 10. And so St. Hilary, "Every soul is the work of God, but the generation of the flesh is come from the flesh." De Trin. x.20. Vide also Greg. Nyss. deAnim. p.934. Ambros, de Noe. 4. Hieron. in Eccles. xii. 7.]

Origen: But who calls no man father upon earth? He who in every action done as before God, says, "Our Father, which art in Heaven."

Gloss., non. occ: Because it was clear who was the Father of all, by this which was said, "Which art in Heaven," He would teach them who was the Master of all, and therefore repeats the same command concerning a master, "Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ."

Chrys.: Not that when Christ is here said to be our Master, the Father is excluded, as neither when God is said to be our Father, is Christ excluded, Who is the Father of men.

Jerome: It is a difficulty that the Apostle against this command calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles; and that in monasteries in their common conversation, they call one another, Father. It is to be cleared thus. It is one thing to be father or master by nature, another by sufferance. Thus when we call any man our father, we do it to shew respect to his age, not as regarding him as the author of our being. We also call men ’Master,’ from resemblance to a real master; and, not to use tedious repetition, as the One God and One Son, who are by nature, do not preclude us from calling others gods and sons by adoption, so the One Father and One Master, do not preclude us from speaking of other fathers and masters by an abuse of the terms.

Chrys.: Not only does the Lord forbid us to seek supremacy, but would lead His hearer to the very opposite; "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant."

Origen: Or otherwise; And if one minister the divine word, knowing that it is Christ that makes it to be fruitful, such a one professes himself a minister and not a master; whence it follows, "He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant." As Christ Himself, who was in truth our Master, professed Himself a minister, saying, "I am in the midst of you as one that ministers." [Luke 22:27] And well does He conclude this prohibition of all vain-glory with the words, "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."

Remig.: Which means that every one who thinks highly of his own deserts, shall be humbled before God; and every one who humbles himself concerning his good deeds, shall be exalted with God.

Verse 13

Ver 13. "But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."

Origen: Christ is truly the Son of that God Who gave the Law; after the example of the blessings pronounced in the Law, did Himself pronounce the blessings of them that are saved; and also after the cursings of the Law, He now sets forth a woe against sinners; "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." They who allow that it is compatible with goodness to utter these denunciations against sinners, should understand that the purpose of God is the same in the cursings of the Law. Both the cursing there and the woe here fall upon the sinner not from Him who denounces, but from themselves who commit the sins which are denounced, and worthily bring upon themselves the inflictions of God’s discipline, appointed for the turning of men to good. So a father rebuking a son utters words of cursing, but does not desire that be should become deserving of those curses, but rather that he should turn himself from them.

He adds the cause of this woe, "Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, nor suffer them that are entering to go in." These two commandments are by nature inseparable; because not to suffer others to enter in, is of itself enough to keep the hinderer out.

Pseudo-Chrys.: By "the kingdom of heaven" is meant the Scriptures, because in them the kingdom of heaven is lodged; the understanding of these is the door.

Or "the kingdom of heaven" is the blessedness of heaven, and the door thereof Christ, by Whom men enter in. The door-keepers are the Priests, to whom is committed the word of teaching or interpreting Scripture, by which the door of truth is opened to men. The opening of this door is right interpretation. And observe that He said not, "Woe unto you," for ye open, but, "for ye shut up;" the Scriptures then are not shut up, though they are obscure.

Origen: The Pharisees and the Scribes then would neither enter in, nor hear Him who said, "By me if any man enter in he shall be saved;" [John 10:9] nor would they suffer those to enter in, who were able to have believed through the things which had been spoken before by the Law and the Prophets concerning Christ, but shut up the door with every kind of device to deter men from entering. Also they detracted from His teaching, denied all prophecy concerning Him, and blasphemed every miracle as deceitful, or wrought by the Devil. All who in their evil conversation set an example of sinning to the people, and who commit injustice, offending the weak, seem to shut up the kingdom of heaven before men. And this sin is found among the people, and chiefly among the doctors, when they teach men what the Gospel righteousness requires of them, but do not what they teach.

But those who both teach and live well open to men the kingdom of heaven, and both enter in themselves, and invite others to enter in. Many also will not suffer those who are willing to enter into the kingdom of heaven, when they without reason excommunicate out of jealousy others who are better than themselves; thus they refuse them entrance, but these of sober spirit, overcoming by their patience this tyranny, although forbidden, yet enter in and inherit the kingdom. Also they who with much rashness have set themselves to the profession of teaching before they have learned, and following Jewish fables, detract from those who search out the higher things of Scripture; these do, as far as in them lies, shut out men from the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 14

Ver 14. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."

Chrys., Hom. lxxiii: Next the Lord rebukes them for their g1uttony, and what was the worst, that not from the rich but from widows they took wherewith to fill their bellies, thus burdening the poverty of those whom they should have relieved.

Gloss., interlin.: "Devour widows’ houses," that is, your superstitions have this only aim, namely, to make a gain of the people that are put under you.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The female sex is imprudent, as not contemplating with reason all that it sees or hears; and weak, as being easily turned either from bad to good, or from good to bad. The male sex is more prudent and hardy. And therefore pretenders to holiness practise most upon women, who are unable to see their hypocrisy, and are easily inclined to love them on the ground of religion.

But widows they chiefly choose to attempt; first, because a woman who has her husband to advise her is not so readily deceived; and secondly, she has not the means of giving, being in the power of her husband.

The Lord then, whilst He confounds the Jewish Priests, instructs the Christian that they should not frequent widows rather than others, for though their purpose may not be bad, it gives occasion to suspicions.

Chrys.: The manner of this plundering is grievous, for they make long prayers. Every one who does evil deserves punishment; but be who takes occasion for his offence from religion, deserves more severe punishment; "Therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."

Pseudo-Chrys.: First, for that ye are wicked, and then because ye put on the cloak of sanctity. Your covetousness you dress up in the colour of religion, and use God’s arms in the Devil’s service, that iniquity may be loved while it is thought to be piety.

Hilary: Or, because their observance of the kingdom of heaven proceeds hence, that they may keep up their practice of going about to widows’ houses, they shall therefore receive the heavier judgment, as having their own sin and the ignorance of others to answer for.

Gloss., interlin.: Or, because "the servant that knew his Lords will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." [Luke 12:47]

Verse 15

Ver 15. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."

Chrys.: This the next charge against them is, that they are unequal to the salvation of many, seeing they need so much labour to bring one to salvation; and not only are they slack in conversion, but destroy even those whom they do convert, by corrupting them by example of evil life.

Hilary: That they compass sea and land signifies that throughout the whole world they shall be enemies of Christ’s Gospel, and shall bring men under the yoke of the Law against the justification of faith. There were proselytes made into the Synagogue from among the Gentiles, the small number of whom is here denoted by what is said "one proselyte." For after the preaching of Christ there was no faith left in their doctrine, but whoever was gained to the faith of the Jews became a child of hell.

Origen: For all who Judaize since the coming of the Saviour, are taught to follow the temper of those who cried at that time, "Crucify, crucify him."

Hilary: And be becomes the child of a twofold punishment, because he has not obtained remission of his Gentile sins, and because he has joined the society of those who persecuted Christ.

Jerome: Or otherwise; The Scribes and Pharisees compassed the whole world to make proselytes of the Gentiles, that is, to mix the uncircumcised stranger with the people of God.

Pseudo-Chrys.: And that not of compassion from desire to save him whom they taught, but either from covetousness, that the greater number of worshippers might increase the number of offerings made in sacrifice, or out of vain glory. For he who sinks himself in a slough of sins, how should he be desirous to rescue another out of them? Will a man be more merciful to another than to himself? By a man’s actions therefore it may be known whether he seeks another’s conversion for God’s sake, or out of vain glory.

Greg., Mor. xxxi, 9: But forasmuch as hypocrites though they do ever crooked things, yet cease not to speak light things, and thus by their good instructions beget sons, but are not able to bring them up by good life, but the more they give themselves up to worldly works, the more willingly do they suffer those whom they have begotten to work the same. And because their hearts are hardened, these very sons whom they have begotten they do not own by any sign of the affection due.

Wherefore it is here said of the hypocrites, "And when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."

Aug., cont. Faust., xvi, 29 (et cf cont. Adimant. 16): This He said not because proselytes were circumcised, but because they imitated the lives of those from following whom He bad prohibited His disciples, saying, "Do ye not after their works." [Matthew 23:3]

Two things are observable in this command; first, the honour shewn to Moses’ teaching, that even wicked men when sitting in his seat are compelled to teach good things; and that the proselyte is made a child of hell, not by bearing the words of the Law, but by following their doings. And twofold more than they for this reason, that he neglects to fulfil what he had undertaken of his own choice, having been not born a Jew, but of free will become a Jew.

Jerome: Or, because before while he was a Gentile he erred in ignorance, and was only a child of hell; but seeing the vices of his masters, and understanding that they destroyed in their actions what they taught in words, he returns to his vomit, and becoming a Gentile, he is worthy of greater punishment as one that has deserted his cause.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, because while he was a worshipper of idols, he observed righteousness even because of men; but when he became a Jew, prompted by the example of evil teachers, he became worse than his teachers.Chrys.: For a disciple imitates a virtuous master, but goes beyond a vicious one.

Jerome: He is called a child of hell in the same way as one is said to be a child of perdition, and a child of this world; every man is called the son of him whose works he does.

Origen: From this place we learn that there will be a difference of torment in hell, seeing one is here said to be singly a child of hell, another twofold. And we ought to consider here whether it is possible that a man should be generally a child of hell, as a Jew, suppose, or a Gentile, or whether specially so in consequence of some particular sins; that as a righteous man is increased in glory by the abundance of his righteousness, so a sinner’s punishment is increased manifold by the number of his sins.

Verses 16-22

Ver 16. "Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, ’Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!’17. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?18. And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.19. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?20. Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.21. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.22. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon."

Jerome: As by making broad phylacteries and fringes they sought after the reputation of sanctity, and made this again a means of gain, so now He charges them with being teachers of wickedness by their fraudulent pretence of tradition. For when in any dispute or quarrel, or ambiguous cause, one swore by the temple, and was afterwards convicted of falsehood, he was not held guilty. This is what is meant by that, "Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing," that is, be owes nothing, But if he had sworn by the gold, or by the money which was offered to the Priests in the temple, he was immediately compelled to pay down that by which be had sworn.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The temple pertains to God’s glory, and to man’s spiritual salvation, but the gold of the temple though it pertains to the glory of God, yet does it more so to the delight of man, and the profit of the Priests. The Jews then pronounced the gold which delighted them, and the gifts which fed them, to be more holy than the temple, that they might make men more disposed to offer gifts, than to pour out prayers in the temple. Whence the Lord suitably reproves them in these words.

Yet have some Christians at present an equally foolish notion. See, they say, in any suit if one swear by God, it seems nought; but if one swear by the Gospel, he seems to have done some great thing. To whom we shall say in like manner, "Ye fools and blind!" the Scriptures were written because of God, God is not because of the Scriptures. Greater therefore is God, than what is hallowed by Him.

Jerome: Again, if one swore by the altar, none held him guilty of perjury; but if be swore by the gift or the victims or the other things which are offered to God upon the altar, this they exacted most rigorously. And all this they did not out of fear of God, but out of covetousness. Thus the Lord charges them with both folly and fraud, inasmuch as the altar is much greater than the victims which are sanctified by the altar.

Gloss., non occ.: And lest their infatuation should go so far, that they should affirm that the gold was more holy than the temple, and the gift than the altar, He argues on another ground, that in the oath which is sworn by the temple and the altar is contained the oath by the gold or by the gift.

Origen: In like manner the custom which the Jews had of swearing by the Heaven He reprobates. For they did not, as they supposed, avoid the danger of taking an oath by God, because, "Whoso sweareth by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon."Gloss., ord.: For whoso swears by the creature that is subject, swears by the Divinity that rules over the creation.

Origen: Now an oath is in confirmation of somewhat that has been spoken. The oath here then may signify testimony of Scripture which we produce in confirmation of that word which we speak. So that Divine Scripture is the temple of God, the gold is the meaning which it contains. As the gold which is outside the Temple is not sanctified, so all thoughts which are without divine Scripture, however admirable they may seem, are not hallowed. We ought not therefore to bring any speculations of our own for the confirmation of doctrine, unless such as we can shew are hallowed by being contained in divine Scripture.

The altar is the human heart, which is the chief thing in man. The offerings and gifts that are bid upon the altar, are every thing which are done in the heart, as to pray, to sing, to do alms, to fast. Every offering of a man then is sanctified by his heart, by which the offering is made. There cannot therefore be a more honourable offering than the heart of man, out of which the offering proceeds. If then one’s conscience does not smite him, he has confidence towards God, not by reason of his gifts, but so to speak because be has rightly ordered the altar of his heart.

Thirdly, we may say that over the temple, that is over every Scripture, and over the altar, that is over every heart, there is a certain meaning which is called the Heaven, the throne of God Himself, in which we shall be able to see the things that are revealed face to face, when that which is perfect is come.

Hilary: For since Christ is come, reliance upon the Law is vain; for not Christ by the Law, but the Law by Christ, is sanctified, in whom it rests as on a seat or throne; so are they fools and blind, who, overlooking the sanctifier, pay honour to the things sanctified.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 34: The temple and altar we may also understand of Christ Himself; the gold and the gifts, of the praise and sacrifice of prayer which we offer in Him and through Him. For not He by them, but they by Him, are sanctified.

Verses 23-24

Ver 23. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.24. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."

Chrys.: The Lord had said above that they bound heavy burdens upon others, which they themselves would not touch; He now again shews how they aimed at being correct in little things, but neglected weighty matters.

Jerome: The Lord had commanded, that for the maintenance of the Priests and Levites, whose portion was the Lord, tithes of every thing should be offered in the temple. Accordingly, the Pharisees (to dismiss mystical expositions) concerned themselves about this alone, that these trifling things should be paid in, but lightly esteemed other things which were weighty.

He charges them then with covetousness in exacting carefully the tithes of worthless herbs, while they neglected justice in their transactions of business, mercy to the poor, and faith toward God, which are weighty things.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, because these covetous Priests, when any one did not bring his tithes of the smallest thing, made it a matter of grave reprehension; but when one injured his neighbour or sinned against God, they were at no pains to reprove him, careful only of their own profit, neglecting the glory of God, and the salvation of men. For to observe righteousness, to do mercy, and to have faith, these things God commanded for His own glory; but the payment of tithes He established for the support of the Priests, so that the Priests should minister to the people in spiritual things, and the people supply the Priests with carnal things.

Thus is it at this time, when all are careful of their own honour, none of God’s honour; they jealously protect their own rights, but will not bestow any pains in the service of the Church. If the people pay not their tithes duly, they murmur; but if they see the people in sin, they utter not a word against them.

But because some of the Scribes and Pharisees, to whom He is now speaking, were of the people, it is not unsuitable to make a different interpretation; and ’to tithe’ may be used as well of him who pays, as of him who receives, tithes. The Scribes then and Pharisees offered tithes of the very best things for the purpose of displaying their righteousness; but in their judgments they were unjust, without mercy for their brethren, without faith for the truth.

Origen: But because it was possible that some, hearing the Lord speak thus, might thereupon neglect paying tithes of small things, He prudently adds, "These things ought ye to have done," (i.e. justice, mercy, and faith,) "and not to leave the others undone," i.e. the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin.

Remig.: In these words the Lord shews that all the commandments of the Law, greatest and least, are to be fulfilled. They also are refuted who give alms of the fruits of the earth, supposing that thus they cannot sin, whereas their alms profit them nothing unless they are careful to keep themselves from sin.

Hilary: And because it was much less guilt to omit the tithing of herbs than a duty of benevolence, the Lord derides them, "Ye blind guides, which strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel."

Jerome: The camel I suppose to mean the weighty precepts, judgment, mercy, and faith; the gnat, the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin, and other valueless herbs. The greater of God’s commands we "swallow" and overlook, but shew our carelessness by a religious scrupulousness in little things which bring profit with them.

Origen: Or, "straining out a gnat," that is, putting from them small sins; "swallowing a camel," that is, committing great sins, which He calls camels, from the size and distorted shape of that animal. Morally, The Scribes are those who think nothing else contained in Scripture than the bare letter exhibits; the Pharisees are all those who esteem themselves righteous, and separate themselves from others, saying, ’Come not nigh me, for I am clean.’ "Mint, anise, and cummin," are the seasoning, not the substantial part of food ; as in our life and conversation there are some things necessary to justification, as judgment, mercy, and faith; and others which are like the seasoning of our actions, giving them a flavour and sweetness, as abstinence from laughter, fasting, bending the knee, and such like.

How shall they not be judged blind who see not that it is of little avail to be a careful dispenser in the least things, if things of chief moment are neglected? These His present discourse overthrows; not forbidding to observe the little things, but bidding to keep more carefully the chief things.

Greg., Mor. 1, 15: Or otherwise; The gnat stings while it hums; the camel bows its back to receive its load. The Jews then "strained off the gnat," when they prayed to have the seditious robber released to them; and they swallowed the camel, when they sought with shouts the death of Him who had voluntarily taken on Him the burden of our mortality.

Verses 25-26

Ver 25. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.26. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also."

Jerome: In different words, but to the same purport as before, He reproves the hypocrisy and dissimulation of the Pharisees, that they shewed one face to men abroad, but wore another at home. He means not here, that their scrupulousness respecting the cup and the platter was of any importance, but that they affected it to pass off their sanctity upon men; which is clear from His adding, "but inwardly ye are full of ravening and uncleanness."

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, He means that the Jews whenever they were to enter the temple or to offer sacrifice, or on any festivals, used to wash themselves, their clothes, and their vessels, but none cleansed himself from his sins; but God neither commends bodily cleanliness, nor condemns the contrary. But suppose foulness of person or of vessels were offensive to God, which must become foul by being used, how much more does He not abhor foulness of conscience, which we may, if we will, keep ever pure?

Hilary: He therefore is reproving those who, pursuing an ostentation of useless scrupulosity, neglected the discharge of useful morality. For it is the inside of the cup that is used; if that be foul, what profit is it to cleanse the outside? And therefore what is needed is purity of the inner conscience, that those things which are of the body may be clean without.

Pseudo-Chrys.: This He speaks not of the cup and platter of sense, but of that of the understanding, which may be pure before God, though it have never touched water; but if it have sinned, then though the water of the whole ocean and of all rivers have washed it, it is foul and guilty before God.

Chrys.: Note, that speaking of tithes He said, "These things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone:" for tithes are a kind of alms, and what wrong is it to give alms? Yet said He it not to enforce a legal superstition. But here, discoursing of things clean and unclean, He does not add this, but distinguishes and shews that external purity of necessity follows internal; "the outside of the cup and platter" signifying the body, the inside the soul.

Origen: This discourse instructs us that we should hasten to become righteous, not to seem so. For whoso seeks to be thought so, cleanses the outside, and has care of the things that are seen, but neglects the heart and conscience. But he who seeks to cleanse that which is within, that is, the thoughts, makes by that means the things without clean also.

All professors of false doctrine are cups cleansed on the outside, because of that show of religion which they affect, but within they are full of extortion and guile, hurrying men into error. The cup is a vessel for liquids, the platter for meat. Every discourse then of which we spiritually drink, and all speech by which we are fed, are vessels for meat and drink. They who study to set forth well wrought discourse rather than such as is full of healthful meaning, are cups cleansed without; but within full of the defilement of vanity.

Also the letter of the Law and the Prophets is a cup of spiritual drink, and a platter of necessary food. The Scribes and Pharisees seek to make plain the outward sense; Christ’s disciples labour to exhibit the spiritual sense.

Verses 27-28

Ver 27. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.28. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

Origen: As above they are said to be "full of extortion and excess," so here they are "full of hypocrisy and iniquity," and are likened to dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Justly are the bodies of the righteous said to be temples, because in the body of the righteous the soul has dominion, as God in His temple; or because God Himself dwells in righteous bodies. But the bodies of sinners are called sepulchres of the dead, because the sinner’s soul is dead in his body; for that cannot be deemed to be alive, which does no spiritual or living act.

Jerome: Sepulchres are whitened with lime without, and decorated with marble painted in gold and various colours, but within are full of dead men’s bones. Thus crooked teachers who teach one thing and do another, affect purity in their dress, and humility in their speech, but within are full of all uncleanness, covetousness, and lust.

Origen: For all feigned righteousness is dead, forasmuch as it is not done for God’s sake; yea, rather it is no righteousness at all, any more than a dead man is a man, or an actor who represents any character is the man whom he represents. There is therefore within them so much of bones and uncleanness as are the good things that they wickedly pretend to. And they seem righteous outwardly, not in the eyes of such as the Scripture calls "Gods," but of such only as "die like men." [Psalms 82:6]

Greg., Mor., xxvi, 32: But before their strict Judge they cannot have the plea of ignorance, for by assuming in the eyes of men every form of sanctity, they witness against themselves that they are not ignorant how to live well.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But say, hypocrite, if it be good to be wicked, why do you not desire to seem that which you desire to be? For what it is shameful to seem, that it is more shameful to be; and what to seem is fair, that it is fairer to be. Either therefore be what you seem, or seem what you are.

Verses 29-31

Ver 29. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,30. And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.31. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets."

Jerome: By a most subtle syllogism He proves them to be the sons of murderers, while to gain good character and reputation with the people, they build the sepulchres of the Prophets whom their fathers put to death.

Origen: Without just cause He seems to utter denunciations against those who build the sepulchres of the Prophets; for so far what they did was praiseworthy; how then do they deserve this "woe"?

Chrys., Hom. lxxiv: He does not blame them for building the sepulchres, but discovers the design with which they built them; which was not to honour the slain, but to erect to themselves a triumphal monument of the murder, as fearing that in process of time the memory of this their audacious wickedness should perish.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, they said within themselves, If we do good to the poor not many see it, and then but for a moment; were it not better to raise buildings which all may see, not only now, but in all time to come; O foolish man, what boots this posthumous memory, if, where you are, you are tortured, and where you are not there you are praised?

While He corrects the Jews, He instructs the Christians; for had these things been spoken to the former only, they would have been spoken, but not written; but now they were spoken on their account, and written on ours. When one, besides other good deeds, raises sacred buildings, it is an addition to his good works; but if without any other good works, it is a passion for worldly renown.

The martyrs joy not to be honoured with money which has caused the poor to weep. The Jews, moreover, have ever been adorers of saints of former times, and contemners, yea persecutors, of the living. Because they could not endure the reproaches of their own Prophets, they persecuted and killed them; but afterwards the succeeding generation perceived the error of their fathers, and thus in grief at the death of innocent Prophets, they built up monuments of them. But they themselves in like manner persecuted and put to death the Prophets of their own time, when they rebuked them for their sins. This is what is meant, And ye say, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the Prophets."

Jerome: Though they speak not this in words, they proclaim it by their actions, in ambitious and magnificent structures to their memory.

Pseudo-Chrys.: What they thought in their hearts, that they spoke by their deeds. Christ lays bare here the natural habit of all wicked men; each readily apprehends the other’s fault, but none his own; for in another’s case each man has an unprejudiced heart, but in his own case it is distorted. Therefore in the cause of others we can all easily be righteous judges. He only is the truly righteous and wise who is able to judge himself.

It follows, "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them which killed the Prophets."

Chrys.: What kind of accusation is this, to call one the son of a murderer, who partakes not in his father’s disposition? Clearly there is no guilt in being so; wherefore this must be said in proof of their resemblance in wickedness.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The character of the parents is a witness to the sons; if the father be good and the mother bad, or the reverse, the children may follow sometimes one, sometimes the other. But when both are the same, it very rarely happens that bad sons spring of good parents, or the reverse, though it be so sometimes. This is as a man is sometimes born out of the rule of nature, having six fingers or no eyes.

Origen: And in the prophetic writings, the historical sense is the body, the spiritual meaning is the soul; the sepulchres are the letter and books themselves of Scripture. They then who attend only to the historical meaning, honour the bodies of the Prophets, and set in the letter as in a sepulchre; and are called Pharisees, i.e. ’cut off’ as it were cutting off the soul of the Prophets from their body.

Verses 32-36

2. "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.33. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? [p. 791]34. Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and Scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:35. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.36. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation."

Chrys.: He had said against the Scribes and Pharisees, that they were the children of those who killed the Prophets; now therefore He shews that they were like them in wickedness, and that was false that they said, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the Prophets."

Wherefore He now says, "Fill ye up the measure of your fathers." This is not a command, but a prophecy of what is to be.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He foretels, that as their fathers killed the Prophets, so they also should kill Christ, and the Apostles, and other holy men. As suppose you had a quarrel with some one, you might say to your adversary, Do to me what you are about to do; but you do not therein bid him do it, but shew him that you are aware of his manoeuvres. And in fact they went beyond the measure of their fathers; for they put to death only men, these crucified God.

But because He stooped to death of His own free choice, He does not lay on them the sin of His death, but only the death of the Apostles and other holy men. Whence also He said, "Fill up," and not "Fill over;" for a just and merciful Judge overlooks his own wrongs, and only punishes those done to others.

Origen: They fill up the measure of their fathers’ sins by their not believing in Christ. And the cause of their unbelief was, that they looked only to the letter and the body, and would understand nothing spiritual in them.

Hilary: Because then they will fill up the measure of their fathers’ purposes, therefore are they "serpents, and an offspring of vipers."

Jerome: The same had been said by John the Baptist. Wherefore as of vipers are born vipers, so of your fathers who were murderers are you born murderers.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He calls them "offspring of vipers," because the nature of vipers is such that the young burst the womb of their dam, and so come forth; and in like manner the Jews condemned their fathers, finding fault with their deeds.

He says, "How shall ye escape the damnation of hell?" By building the tombs of the saints? But the first step of piety is to love holiness, the next, to love the saints; for it is not reasonable in him to honour the righteous, who despises righteousness. The saints cannot be friends to those to whom God is an enemy. Shall ye be saved by a mere name, because ye seem to be among God’s people! Forasmuch as an open enemy is better than a false friend, so is he more hateful to God, who calls himself the servant of God, and does the commands of the Devil.

Indeed, before God he who has resolved to kill a worm is a murderer before the deed is done, for it is the will that is rewarded for good, or punished for evil. Deeds are evidence of the will. God then does not require deeds on His own account that He may know how to judge, but for the sake of other men, that they may perceive that God is righteous.

And God affords the opportunity of sin to the wicked, not to make them sin, but to manifest the sinner; and also to the good He gives opportunity to shew the purpose of their will. In this way then He gave the Scribes and Pharisees opportunity of shewing their purposes, "Behold, I send unto you Prophets, and wise men, and Scribes."

Hilary: That is, the Apostles, who, as foretelling things to come, are "Prophets;" as having knowledge of Christ, are "wise men;" as understanding the Law, are "Scribes."

Jerome: Or, as the Apostle writes to the Corinthians [marg. note: 1 Cor 12] that there are various gifts among Christ’s disciples; some Prophets, who foretel things to come; some wise men, who know when they ought to speak; others Scribes taught in the Law; of whom Stephen was stoned, Paul killed, Peter crucified, and the disciples of the Apostles beaten, in the Acts; and they persecuted them from city to city, driving them out of Judaea, that they might go to the Gentiles.

Origen: Or the Scribes who are sent by Christ, are Scribes according to the Gospel, whom the spirit quickens and the letter does not kill, as did the letter of the Law, which whoso followed ran into vain superstitions.

The simple words of the Gospel are sufficient for salvation. But the Scribes of the Law do yet scourge the Scribes of the New Testament, by detracting from them in their synagogues; and the heretics also, who are spiritual Pharisees, with their tongues murder the Christians, and persecute them from city to city, sometimes in the body, sometimes also in the spirit, seeking to drive them from their own city of the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, into another Gospel.

Chrys.: Then to shew them that they should not do this without punishment, He holds out an unspeakable terror over them, "That upon you may come all the righteous blood."

Raban.: That is, all the vengeance due for the shedding of the blood of the righteous.

Jerome: Concerning the Abel here spoken of, there is no doubt that it is he whom his brother Cain murdered. He is proved to have been righteous, not only by this judgment of the Lord, but by the passage in Genesis, which says that his offerings were accepted by God. But we must enquire who is this Zacharias, son of Barachias, because we read of many Zachariases; and that we might not mistake, here it is added, "whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." Some say that it is that Zacharias who is the eleventh among the twelve Prophets, and his father’s name agrees to this, but when he was slain between the temple and the altar, Scripture does not mention; but above all, in his time there were scarce even the ruins of the temple. Others will have it to be Zacharias the father of John.

Origen: A tradition has come down to us, that there was one place in the temple in which virgins were allowed to worship God, married women being forbidden to stand there. And Mary, after the Saviour’s birth, going into the temple, stood to pray in this place of the virgins. And when they who knew that she had borne a Son were hindering her, Zacharias said, that forasmuch as she was still a virgin, she was worthy of the place of the virgins.

Whereupon, as though he manifestly were contravening the Law, he was slain there between the temple and the altar by the men of that generation; and thus this word of Christ is true which He spake to those who were standing there, "whom ye slew".

[ed. note: This tradition is mentioned also by Cyril A.? adv. Anthrop. 27. and Pseudo-Basil, Hom. de Sanct. Christ. Gen. 5. Theophylact (in loc.) and Euthymius who mention it, probably derived it from Origen. Jerome (in loc.) gives another of the same character from some apocryphal books, but sets it aside and adopts the interpretation given in the text. The murder of Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, is related in the apocryphal Protevangelium of S. James, c. 23. but ascribed to a different cause.]

Jerome: But as this has no Scripture authority, it is as readily despised as offered. Others will have it to be that Zacharias who was killed by Joas, king of Judah, between the temple and the altar, [2 Chronicles 24:21] that is, in the court of the temple. But that Zacharias was not the son of Barachias, but of Jehoiada the Priest. But Barachias in our language is interpreted ’Blessed of the Lord,’ so that the righteousness of Joiada the Priest is expressed by this Hebrew word. But in the Gospel which the Nazarenes use, we find written ’son of Joiada’ instead of "son of Barachias."

Remig.: It should be enquired too how He says, "to the blood of Zacharias," since the blood of many more saints was afterwards shed. This is thus explained. Abel a keeper of sheep was killed in the field, Zacharias a priest was slain in the court of the temple. The Lord therefore names these two, because by these all holy martyrs are denoted, both of lay and priestly order.

Chrys.: Moreover, He names Abel, to shew that it would be out of envy that they would kill Christ and His disciples. He names Zacharias, because there was a twofold resemblance in his case, the sacred place, as well as the sacred person.

Origen: Zacharias is interpreted ’The memory of God.’ Whosoever then hastes to obliterate the memory of God, seems to those to whom he gives offence to shed the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias. For it is by the blessing of God that we retain the memory of God. Also the memory of God is slain by the wicked, when the Temple of God is polluted by the lustful, and His altar defiled by the carelessness of prayers.

Abel is interpreted ’mourning.’ He then who does not receive that, "Blessed are they that mourn," sheds the blood of Abel, that is, puts away the truth of wholesome mourning.

Some also shed, as it were, the blood of the Scriptures by putting aside their truth, for all Scripture, if it is not understood according to its truth, is dead.Chrys.: And to take away all excuse from them that they might not say, Because you sent them to the Gentiles thereat were we offended, He foretels that His disciples should be sent to them, and it is of their punishment that He adds, "Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation."

Gloss., ord.: He means not only those there present, but the whole generation before and after, for all were one city and one body of the Devil.

Jerome: The rule of the Scriptures is only to know two generations, one of good the other of bad. Of the generation of the good it is said, "The generation of the righteous shall be blessed." [Psalms 112:2] And of the bad it is said in the present passage, "Generation of vipers." These then, because they did against the Apostles like things as Cain and Joas, are described as of one generation.

Chrys.: Otherwise; Because He delayed the punishment of hell which He bad threatened them with, He pronounces against them threats of present evil, saying, "All these things shall come upon this generation."

Pseudo-Chrys.: As all the good things which had been merited by all the saints in each generation since the foundation of the world were bestowed upon that last generation which received Christ; so all the evil that all the wicked in every generation from the foundation of the world had deserved to suffer, came upon that last generation of the Jews which rejected Christ.

Or thus; As all the righteous of former saints, yea, of all the saints, could not merit that so great grace as was given to men in Christ; so the sins of all the wicked could not deserve so much evil as came upon the Jews, that they should suffer such things as these suffered from the Romans, and that in after time every generation of them to the end of the world should be cast off from God, and be made a mock by all the Gentiles.

For what is there worse than to reject and in such sort to put to death the Son coming in mercy and lowliness!

Or thus; Nations and states when they sin are not thereupon immediately punished by God, but He waits for many generations; but when He sees fit to destroy that state or nation, He then seems to visit upon them the sins of all former generations, and one generation suffers the accumulation of all that former generations have deserved. Thus this generation of the Jews seems to have been punished for their fathers; but in truth they suffered not for others, but on their own account.

Chrys.: For he who having seen many sinning yet remains uncorrected, but rather does the same or worse, is obnoxious to heavier punishment.

Verses 37-39

Ver 37. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!38. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.39. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

Chrys.: The Lord next turns to address the city, desiring to instruct His bearers thereby. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem:" this repetition of the name is a mark of compassion and intense love.

Jerome: By "Jerusalem" He means not the stones and buildings, but the dwellers there, over whom He laments with the feeling of a Father.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Foreseeing the destruction of the city, and the blow it would receive from the Romans, He called to mind the blood of the saints which had been, and should yet be, shed in it. Thou killedst Esaias who was sent unto thee, and stonedst my servant Jeremias; thou dashedst out the brains of Ezechiel by dragging him over stones; how shalt thou be saved, which wilt not suffer a physician to come nigh thee?

And He said not, Didst kill and stone; but, "Killest," and "Stonest;" that is, This is a common and natural practice with thee to kill and stone the saints. She did to the Apostles the same things which she had once done to the Prophets.

Chrys.: Having thus addressed her, and spoken of her cruel murders, He said, as justifying Himself, "How often would I have gathered thy children together?" as much as to say, Notwithstanding, these thy murders have not alienated Me from thee, but I would have taken thee to Me, not once or twice, but many times. The strength 797] of His affection He shews by the comparison of a hen.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 36: This species has the greatest affection for its brood, insomuch that when they are sick the mother sickens also; and what you will hardly find in any other animal, it will fight against the kite, protecting its young with its wings. In like manner our mother, the Wisdom of God, sickened as it were in the putting on the flesh, according to that of the Apostle, "The weakness of God is stronger than men," [1 Corinthians 1:25] protects our weakness, and resists the Devil that he should not make us his prey.

Origen: He calls them children of Jerusalem, just as we call each generation of citizens the sons of the preceding generation. And He says, "How often," though it is well known that once only did He teach the Jews in the body, because Christ was ever present in Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Angels, ministering to human salvation in every generation.

Whosoever shall not have been gathered in by Him shall be judged, as though be had refused to be gathered in.

Raban., non occ.: Let heretics then cease to assign to Christ a beginning from the Virgin; let them leave off to preach one God of the Law and another of the Prophets.

Aug., Euch. 97:. Where is that omnipotence, by the which He did whatsoever pleased Him both in heaven and in earth, if He would have gathered the children of Jerusalem and did not? Was it not that she would not that her children should be gathered by Him, and yet He did, notwithstanding, gather those of her children whom He would?

Chrys.: Then He threatens the punishment of which they were ever in fear, to wit, the overthrow of the city and temple, saying, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."

Pseudo-Chrys.: As the body, when the spirit departs, first becomes cold, and then decays and decomposes; so also your temple, when God’s Spirit shall have withdrawn, shall be first filled with strife and anarchy, and after shall come to ruin.

Origen: In like manner to all such as would not be gathered under His wings Christ speaks this threat; "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate;" i.e. your soul and your body. But if any one of you will not be gathered under the wings of Christ, from the very time when he shall have refused to be so gathered, (by a mental rather than a bodily act,) he shall no more see the beauty of the word, till repenting of his evil purpose he shall say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." And the word of the Lord then comes with a blessing upon a man’s heart, when one is turned to God.

Jerome: "I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me, &c." That is to say, Unless ye shall do penitence, and shall confess that I am He of whom the Prophets have spoken, the Son of the Almighty Father, ye shall not see My face. Thus the Jews have a time allowed for their repentance. Let them confess Him blessed who cometh in the name of the Lord, and they shall then behold Christ’s face.

Chrys.: Otherwise; In this He covertly alludes to His second coming, when surely they shall worship Him. "Henceforth," means from the time of His crucifixion.

Bibliographical Information
Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 23". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gcc/matthew-23.html.
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