COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW
[Translated by John Patrick, D.D.]
1. RELATION OF THE BAPTIST TO ELIJAH. THE THEORY OF TRANSMIGRATION CONSIDERED.
"The disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?"(1) The disciples indeed who went up with Jesus remembered the traditions of the scribes concerning Elijah, that before the advent of Christ, Elijah would come and prepare for Him the souls of those who were going to receive Him. But the vision in the mountain, at which Elijah appeared, did not seem to be in harmony with the things which were said, since to them it seemed that Elijah had not come before Jesus but after Him; wherefore, they say these things, thinking that the scribes lied. But to this the Saviour answers, not setting aside the traditions concerning Elijah, but saying that there was another advent of Elijah before that of Christ of which the scribes were ignorant; and, in regard to this, being ignorant of him, they "had done unto him whatsoever they listed,"(2) as if they had been accomplices in his having been cast into prison by Herod and slain by him; then He says that according as they had done towards Elijah so would He suffer at their hands.(3) And these things indeed as about Elijah the disciples asked and the Saviour answered, but when they heard they understood that the words, "Elijah has already come," and that following which was spoken by the Saviour, had reference to John the Baptist.(4) And let these things be said by way of illustration of the passage before us. But now according to our ability let us make investigation also into the things that are stored up in it. In this place it does not appear to me that by Elijah the soul is spoken of, lest I should fall into the dogma of transmigration, which is foreign to the church of God, and not handed down by the Apostles, nor anywhere set forth in the Scriptures; for it is also in opposition to the saying that "things seed are temporal,"(5) and that "this age shall have a consummation," and also to the fulfilment of the saying, "Heaven and earth shall pass away,"(6) and "the fashion of this world passeth away,"(1) and "the heavens shall perish,"(2) and what follows. For if, by hypothesis, in the constitution of things which has existed from the beginning unto the end of the world, the same soul can be twice hi the body, for what cause should it be in it? For if because of sin it should be twice in the body, why should it not be thrice, and repeatedly in it, since punishments, in respect of this life, and of the sins committed in it, shall be rendered to it only by the method of transmigration? But if this be granted as a consequence, perhaps there will never be a time when a soul shall not undergo transmigration: for always because of its former sins will it dwell in the body; and so there will be no place for the corruption of the world, at which "the heaven and the earth shall pass away."(3) And if it be granted, on this hypothesis, that one who is absolutely sinless shall not come into the body by birth, after what length of time do you suppose that a soul shall be found absolutely pure and needing no transmigration? But nevertheless, also, if any one soul is always thus being removed from the definite number of souls and returns no longer to the body, sometime after infinite ages, as it were, birth shall cease; the world being reduced to some one or two or a few more, after the perfecting of whom the world shall perish, the supply of souls coming into the body having failed. But this is not agreeable to the Scripture; for it knows of a multitude of sinners at the time of the destruction of the world. This is manifest from consideration of the saying, "Howbeit when the Son of man cometh shall He find faith on the earth?"(4) So we find it thus said in Matthew, "As were the days of Noah so shall also be the coming of the Son of man; for as they were in the days of the flood," etc.(5) But to those who are then in existence there shall be the exaction of a penalty for their sins, but not by way of transmigration; for, if they are caught while still sinning, either they will be punished after this by a different form of punishment,- -and according to this either there will be two general forms of punishment, the one by way of transmigration, and the other outside of a body of this kind, and let them declare the causes and differences of these,--or they will not be punished, as if those who were left at the consummation of things had forthwith cast away their sins; or, which is better, there is one form of punishment for those who have sinned in the body, namely, that they should suffer, outside of it, that is, outside the constitution of this life, what is according to the desert of their sins. But to one who has insight into the nature of things it is clear that each of these things is fitted to overturn the doctrine of transmigration. But if, of necessity, the Greeks who introduce the doctrine of transmigration, laying down things in harmony with it, do not acknowledge that the world is coming to corruption, it is fitting that when they have looked the Scriptures straight in the face which plainly declare that the world will perish, they should either disbelieve them, or invent a series of arguments in regard to the interpretation of the things concerning the consummation; which even if they wish they will not be able to do. And this besides we will say to those who may have had the hardihood to aver that the world will not perish, that, if the world does not perish but is to exist for infinite periods of time, there will be no God knowing all things before they come into being. But if, perhaps, tie knows in part, either He will know each thing before it comes into being, or certain things, and after these again other things; for things infinite in nature cannot possibly be grasped by that knowledge whose nature it is to limit things known. From this it follows that there cannot be prophecies about all things whatsoever, since all things are infinite.
2. "THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH"--NOT THE SOUL--WERE IN THE BAPTIST.
I have thought it necessary to dwell some time on the examination of the doctrine of transmigration, because of the suspicion of some who suppose that the soul under consideration was the same in Elijah and in John, being called in the former case Elijah, and in the second case John; and that, not apart from God, had he been called John, as is plain from the saying of the angel who appeared to Zacharias, "Fear not, Zacharias, for thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John;"(1) and from the fact that Zacharias regained his speech after he had written in the tablet, that he who had been born should be called John.(1) But if it were the soul of Elijah, then, when he was begotten a second time, he should have been called Elijah; or for the change of name some reason should have been assigned, as in the case of Abram and Abraham, Sarah and Sarrah, Jacob and Israel, Simon and Peter. And yet not even thus would their argument in the case be tenable; for, in the case of the aforesaid, the changes of name took place in one and the same life. But some one might ask, if the soul of Elijah was not first in the Tishbite and secondly in John, what might that be in both which the Saviour called Elijah? And I say that Gabriel in his words to Zacharias suggested what the substance was in Elijah and John that was the same; for he says, "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God; and he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah."(2) For, observe, he did not say in the "soul" of Elijah, in which case the doctrine of transmigration might have some ground, but "in the spirit and power of Elijah." For the Scripture well knows the distinction between spirit and soul, as, "May God sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;"(3) anti the passage, "Bless the Lord, ye spirits and souls of the righteous"(4) as it stands in the book of Daniel, according to the Septuagint, represents the difference between spirit and soul. Elijah, therefore, was not called John because of the soul, but because of the spirit and the power, which in no way conflicts with the teaching of the church, though they were formerly in Elijah, and afterwards in John; and "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,"(5) but the souls of the prophets are not subject to the prophets, and "the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha."(6) But we ought to inquire whether the spirit of Elijah is the same as the spirit of God in Elijah, or whether they are different from each other, and whether the spirit of Elijah which was in him was something supernatural, different from the spirit of each man which is in him; for the Apostle clearly indicates that the Spirit of God, though it be in us, is different from the spirit of each man which is in Him, when he says somewhere, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God;"(7) and elsewhere, "No one of men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man which is in him; even so the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God."(1) But do not marvel in regard to what is said about Elijah, if, just as something strange happened to him different from all the saints who are recorded, in respect of his having been caught up by a whirlwind into heaven,(2) so his spirit had something of choice excellence, so that not only did it rest on Elisha, but also descended along with John at his birth; and that John, separately, "was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb," and separately, "came before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah."(3) For it is possible for several spirits not only worse, but also better, to be in the same man. David accordingly asks to be established by a free spirit,(4) and that a right spirit be renewed in his inward parts.(5) But if, in order that the Saviour may impart to us of "the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and reverence,"(6) he was filled also with the spirit of the fear of the Lord; it is possible also that these several good spirits may be conceived as being in the same person. And this also we have brought forward, because of John having come before Christ "in the spirit and power of Elijah,"(7) in order that the saying. "Elijah has already come,"(8) may be referred to the spirit of Elijah that was in John; as also the three disciples who had gone up with Him understood that He spake to them about John the Baptist.(9) Upon Elisha, then, only the spirit of Elijah rested, but John came before,(10) not only in the spirit, but also in the power of Elijah. Wherefore, also, Elisha could not have been called Elijah, but John was Elijah himself. But if it be necessary to adduce the Scripture from which the scribes said that Elijah must first come, listen to Malachi who says, "And behold I will send to you Elijah the Tishbite," etc., down to the words, "Lest I come and smite the earth utterly."(11) And it seems to be indicated by these words, that Elijah was to prepare for the glorious coming of Christ by certain holy words and dispositions in their souls, those who had been made fittest for this, which those upon earth could not have endured, because of the excellency of the glory, unless they had been prepared before hand by Elijah. And likewise, by Elijah, in this place, I do not understand the soul of that prophet but his spirit and his power; for these it is by which all things shall be restored,(1) so that when they have been restored, and, as a result of that restoration, become capable of receiving the glory of Christ, the Son of God who shall appear in glory may sojourn with them. But if also Elijah be in some sort a word inferior to "the Word who was in the beginning with God, God the Word,"(2) this word also might come as a preparatory discipline to the people prepared by it, that they might be trained tot the reception of the perfect Word. But some one may raise the question whether the spirit and power of Elijah, suffered what was suffered in John, according to the words, "They did in him whatsoever they listed."(3) And to this it will be said on the one hand, in simpler fashion that there is nothing strange in the thought, that the things which assist do, because of love, suffer along with those that are assisted; and Jesus indeed says. "Because of the weak i was weak, and I hungered because of the hungry, and I thirsted because of the thirsty,"(4) and, on the other hand, in a deeper sense that the words are not, "But they did unto him whatsoever they listed in him," for the things which suffered leaned upon the spirit and the power of Elijah, the soul of John being in no wise Elijah; and probably also the body (leaned upon them). For in one fashion is the soul in the body, and the spirit, and the power; and in another fashion is the body of the righteous man in these better parts, as leaning upon them, and clinging to them; but "they who are in the flesh cannot please God; but ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if the Spirit of God dwell in you;"(5) for the soul of the sinner is in the flesh, but of the righteous man in spirit. And likewise, further, this might be inquired into, to whom refer the words, "But they did in him whatsoever they listed."(6) Was it to the scribes in regard to whom the disciples inquired and said, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must first come?"(7) But it is not at all evident that John suffered anything at the hands of the scribes, except, indeed, that they did not believe him; or, as we said also before, that they were accomplices in the wrongs which Herod dared to inflict on him. But another might say that the words, "But they did in him whatsoever they listed," refer not to the scribes but to Herodias and her daughter, and Herod, who did in him whatsoever they listed. And that which follows, "So shall the Son of man suffer from them,"(1) might be referred to the scribes, if the former were referred to them; but, if the former refers to Herod and Herodias and her daughter, the second passage will also refer to them;(2) for Herod also seems to have joined in the vote that Jesus should die, perhaps his wife also taking part with him in the plot against Him.
3. CONCERNING THE EPILEPTIC.
"And when they were come to the multitude, there came to Him a man kneeling to Him and saying, Lord, have mercy upon my son."(3) Those who are suffering, or the kinsfolk of the sufferers, are along with the multitudes; wherefore, when He has dispensed the things that were beyond the multitudes, He descends to them, so that those, who were not able to ascend because of the sicknesses that repressed their soul, might be benefited when the Word descended to them from the loftier regions. But we ought to make inquiry, in respect of what diseases the sufferers believe and pray for their own healing, and in respect of what diseases others do this for them, as, for example, the centurion for his servant, and the nobleman for his son, and the ruler of the synagogue for a daughter, and the Canaanitish woman for her female child who was vexed with a demon, and now the man who kneels to Him on behalf of his epileptic son. And along with these you will investigate when the Saviour heals of Himself and unasked by any one, as for example, the paralytic; for these cures, when compared with one another for this very purpose, and examined together, will exhibit to him who is able to hear "the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery,"(4) many dogmas concerning the different diseases of souls, as well as the method of their healing.
4. SPIRITUAL EPILEPTICS.
But since our present object is not to make inquiry about every case, but about the passage before us, let us, adopting a figurative interpretation, consider who we may say the lunatic was, and who was his father who prayed for him, and what is meant by the sufferer falling not constantly but oft-times, sometimes into the fire, and sometimes into the water, and what is meant by the fact that he could not be healed by the disciples but by Jesus Himself. For if every sickness and every infirmity, which our Saviour then healed among the people, refers to different disorders in souls, it is also in accordance with reason that by the paralytics are symbolised the palsied in soul, who keep it lying paralysed in the body; but by those who are blind are symbolised those who are blind in respect of things seen by the soul alone, and these are really blind; and by the deaf are symbolised those who are deaf in regard to the reception of the word of salvation. On the same principle it will be necessary that the matters regarding the epileptic should be investigated. Now this affection attacks the sufferers at considerable intervals, during which he who suffers from it seems in no way to differ from the man in good health, at the season when the epilepsy is not working on him. Similar disorders you may find in certain souls, which are often supposed to be healthy in point of temperance and the other virtues; then, sometimes, as if they were seized with a kind of epilepsy arising from their passions, they fall down from the position in which they seemed to stand, and are drawn away by the deceit of this world and other lusts. Perhaps, therefore, you would not err if you said, that such persons, so to speak, are epileptic spiritually, having been cast down by "the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,"(1) and are often ill, at the time when the passions attack their soul; at one time falling into the fire of burnings, when, according to what is said in Hosea, they become adulterers, like a pan heated for the cooking from the burning flame;(2) and, at another time, into the water, when the king of all the dragons in the waters casts them down from the sphere where they appeared to breath freely, so that they come into the depths of the waves of the sea of human life. This interpretation of ours in regard to the lunatic will be supported by him who says in the Book of Wisdom with reference to the even temperament of the just man, "The discourse of a pious man is always wisdom," but, in regard to what we have said, "The fool changes as the moon."(3) And sometimes even in the case of such you may see impulses which might carry away in praise of them those who do not attend to their want of ballast, so that they would say that it was as full moon in their case, or almost full moon. And you might see again the light that seemed to be in them diminishing,--as it was not the light of day but the light of night,-- fading to so great an extent, that the light which appeared to be seen in them no longer existed. But whether or not those who first gave their names to things, on account of this gave the name of lunacy to the disease epilepsy, you will judge for yourself.
5. THE DEAF AND DUMB SPIRIT.
Now the father of the epileptic--perhaps the angel to whom he had been allotted, if we are to say that every human soul is put in subjection to some angel--prays the Physician of souls for his son that He may heal him who could not be healed from his disorder by the inferior word which was in the disciples. But the dumb and deaf spirit, who was cast out by the Word, must be figuratively understood as the irrational impulses, even towards that which seems to be good, so that, what things any man once did by irrational impulse which seemed to onlookers to be good, he may do no longer irrationally but according to the reason of the teaching of Jesus. Under the inspiration of this Paul also said, "If I have all faith so as to remove mountains;"(1) for he, who has all faith, which is as a grain of mustard seed,(2) removes not one mountain only, but also several analogous to it; for although faith is despised by men and appears to be something very little and contemptible; yet when it meets with good ground, that is the soul, which is able fittingly to receive such seed, it becomes a great tree, so that no one of those things which have no wings, but the birds of heaven which are winged spiritually, are able to lodge in the branches of faith so great.(3)
6. INFLUENCE OF THE MOON AND STARS ON MEN.
Let us now, then, give heed to the very letter of the passage, and first let us inquire, how he who has been cast into darkness and repressed by an impure and deaf and dumb spirit is said to be a "lunatic," and for what reason the expression to be a "lunatic "derives its name from the great light in heaven which is next to the sun, which God appointed "to rule over the night."(4) Let physicians then, discuss the physiology of the matter, inasmuch as they think that there is no impure spirit in the case, but a bodily disorder, and inquiring into the nature of things let them say, that the moist humours which are in the head are moved by a certain sympathy which they have with the light of the moon, which has a moist nature; but as for us, who also believe the Gospel that this sickness is viewed as having been effected by an impure dumb and deaf spirit in those who suffer from it, and who see that those, who are accustomed like the magicians of the Egyptians to promise a cure in regard to such, seem sometimes to be successful in their case, we will say that, perhaps, with the view of slandering the creation of God, in order that "unrighteousness may be spoken loftily, and that they may set their mouth against the heaven,"(1) this impure spirit watches certain configurations of the moon, and so makes it appear from observation of men suffering at such and such a phase of the moon, that the cause of so great an evil is not the dumb and deaf demon, but the great light in heaven which was appointed "to rule by night." and which has no power to originate such a disorder among men. But they all "speak unrighteousness loftily," as many as say, that the cause of all the disorders which exist on the earth, whether of such generally or of each in detail, arises from the disposition of the stars; and such have truly "set their mouth against the heaven," when they say that some of the stars have a malevolent, and others a benevolent influence; since no star was formed by the God of the universe to work evil, according to Jeremiah as it is written in the Lamentations, "Out of the mouth of the Lord shall come things noble and that which is good."(2) And it is probable that as this impure spirit, producing what is called lunacy, observes the phases of the moon, that it may work on him who for certain causes has been committed to it, and who has not made himself worthy of the guardianship of angels, so also there are other spirits and demons who work at certain phases of the rest of the stars; so that not the moon only, but the rest of the stars also may be calumniated by those "who speak unrighteousness loftily." It is worth while, then, to listen to the casters of nativities, who refer the origin of every form of madness and every demoniacal possession to the phases of the moon. That those, then, who suffer from what is called lunacy sometimes fall into the water is evident, and that they also fall into the fire, less frequently indeed, yet it does happen; and it is evident that this disorder is very difficult to cure, so that those who have the power to cure demoniacs sometimes fall in respect of this, and sometimes with fastings and supplications and more toils, succeed. But you will inquire whether there are such disorders in spirits as well as in men; so that some of them speak, but some of them are speechless, and some of them hear, but some are deaf; for as in them will be found the cause of their being impure, so also, because of their freedom of will, are they condemned to be speechless and deaf; for some men will suffer such condemnation if the prayer of the prophet, as spoken by the Holy Spirit, shall be given heed to, in which it is said of certain sinners, "Let the lying lips be put to silence."(1) And so, perhaps, those who make a bad use of their hearing, and admit the hearing of vanities, will be rendered deaf by Him who said, "Who hath made the stone-deaf and the deaf,"(2) so that they may no longer lend an ear to vain things.
7. THE POWER OF FAITH.
But when the Saviour said, "O faithfulness and perverse generation,"(3) He signifies that wickedness, which is contrary to nature, stealthily enters in from perversity, and makes us perverted. But of the whole race of men on earth, I think, being oppressed by reason of their wickedness and His tarrying with them, the Saviour said, "How long shall I be with you?" We have already, then, spoken in part of the words, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain,"(4) etc.; but nevertheless also we shall speak in this place the things that appear to us fitted to increase perspicuity. The mountains here spoken of, in my opinion, are the hostile powers that have their being in a flood of great wickedness, such as are settled down, so to speak, in some souls of men. Whenever, then, any one has all faith so that he no longer disbelieves in any things which are contained in the Holy Scriptures, and has faith such as was that of Abraham, who believed in God to such a degree that his faith was counted for righteousness. he has all faith as a grain of mustard seed; then will such an one say to this mountain--I mean, the dumb and deaf spirit in him who is called lunatic,--"Remove hence," clearly, from the man who is suffer-lug, perhaps to the abyss, and it shall remove. And the Apostle, taking, I think. his starting-point from this place, says with apostolical authority, "If I have all faith so as to remove mountains,"(1) for not one mountain merely, but also several analogous to it, he removes who has all faith which is as a grain of mustard-seed; and nothing shall be impossible to him who has so great faith.(2) But let us also attend to this, "This kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting,"(3) in order that if at any time it is necessary that we should be engaged in the healing of one suffering from such a disorder, we may not adjure, nor put questions, nor speak to the impure spirit as if it heard, but devoting ourselves to prayer and fasting, may be successful as we pray for the sufferer, and by our own fasting may thrust out the unclean spirit from him.
8.JESUS' PREDICTION OF HIS "DELIVERY" INTO THE HANDS OF MEN.
"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men."(4) And these things will appear to be of the same effect as those, "that Jesus began to show unto His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes."(5) But it is not so; for it is not the same thing "to show unto the disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes," and, after suffering, "be killed," and, after being killed, "be raised up on the third day," as that which was said to them, when they were in Galilee,-- which we did not learn before,-that the Son of man "would be delivered up;" for the being delivered up was not mentioned above, but now also it is said that "He is to be delivered up into the hands of men."(6) As for these matters let us inquire by what person or persons He will be delivered up into the hands of men; for there we are taught of whom He will suffer, and in what place He will suffer; but here, in addition, we learn that while His suffering many things takes place at the hands of the aforesaid, they are not the prime causes of His suffering many things, but the one or ones who delivered Him up into the hands of men. For some one will say that the Apostle, interpreting this, says with reference to God, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all;"(7) but the Son also gave Himself to death for us, so that He was delivered up, not only by the Father but also by Himself. Bat another will say not merely that, but also collecting the passages together, will say that the Son is first delivered up by God,--then about to be tempted, then to be in conflict, then to suffer for men, or even for the whole world that He might take away its sin,(1)--to the prince of this age, and to the rest of its princes, and then by them delivered into the hands of men who would slay Him. The case of Job will be taken as an illustration. "Lo, all that is his I give into thy hands, but do not touch him;"(2) thereafter, he was, as it were, delivered up by the devil to his princes, namely, to those who took prisoners of war, to the horsemen, to the fire that came down from heaven, to the great wind that came from the desert and broke up his house,(3) But you will consider if, as he delivered up the property of Job to those who took them captive, and to the horsemen, so also he delivered them up to a certain power, subordinate to "the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience,"(4) in order that the fire which descended thence on the sheep of Job might seem to fall from heaven, to the man who announced to Job that "fire fell from heaven, and burned up his sheep, and consumed the shepherds likewise."(5) And in the same way you will inquire whether also the sudden mighty wind, that came down from the desert and assailed the four corners of the dwelling, was one of those which are under the devils to whom the devil delivered up the banquet of the sons and daughters of Job, that the house might fall on the children of the just man, and they might die. Let it be granted, then, that, as in the case of Job, the Father first delivered up the Son to the opposing powers, and that then they delivered Him up into the hands of men, among which men Judas also was, into whom after the sop(6) Satan entered, who delivered Him up in a more authoritative manner than Judas. But take care lest on comparing together the delivering up of the Son by the Father to the opposing powers, with the delivering up of the Saviour by them into the hands of men, you should think that what is called the delivering up is the same in the case of both. For understand that the Father in His love of men delivered Him up for us all; but the opposing powers, when they delivered up the Saviour into the hands of men, did not intend to deliver Him up for the salvation of some, but, as far as in them lay, since none of them knew "the wisdom of God which was hidden in a mystery,"(1) they gave Him up to be put to death, that His enemy death might receive Him under its subjection, like those who die in Adam;(2) and also the men who slew Him did so, as they were moulded after the will of those who wished indeed that Jesus should become subject to death. I have deemed it necessary also to examine into these things, because that when Jesus was delivered up into the hands of men, He was not delivered up by men into the hands of men, but by powers to whom the Farther delivered up His Son for us all, and in the very act of His being delivered up, and coming under the power of those to whom He was delivered up, destroying him that has the power of death; for "through death He brought to nought him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."(3)
9. SATAN AND THE "DELIVERY" OF JESUS.
Now we must think that the devil has the power of death,--not of that which is common and indifferent, in accordance with which those who are compacted of soul and body die, when their soul is separated from the body,--but of that death which is contrary to and the enemy of Him who said, "I am the Life,"(4) in accordance with which "the soul that sinneth, it shall die."(5) But that it was not God who gave Him up into the hands of men, the Saviour manifestly declares when He says, "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews."(6) For, when He was delivered up to the Jews. He was delivered into the hands of men, not by His own servants, but by the prince of this age who says, concerning the powers which are in the sphere of the invisible, the kingdoms which are set up against men. "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship Me."(7) Wherefore also we should think that in regard to them it was said, "The kings of the earth stood side by side, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ."(8) And those kings, indeed, and those rulers stood side by side and were gathered against the Lord and against His Christ; but we, because we have been benefited by His being delivered by them into the hands of men and slain, say, "Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their yoke from us."(1) For, when we become conformed to the death of Christ, we are no longer under the bonds of the kings of the earth, as we have said, nor under the yoke of the princes of this age, who were gathered together against the Lord. And, on this account, "the Father spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,"(2) that those, who took Him and delivered Him up into the hands of men, might be laughed at by Him who dwells in the heavens, and might be derided by the Lord, inasmuch as, contrary to their expectation, it was to the destruction of their own kingdom and power, that they received from the Father the Son, who was raised on the third day, by having abolished His enemy death, and made us conformed, not only to the image of His death but also of His resurrection; through whom we walk in newness of life,(3) no longer sitting "in the region and shadow of death,"(4) through the light of God which has sprung up upon us. But when the Saviour said, "The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again," they were "exceeding sorry,"(5) giving heed to the fact that He was about to be delivered up into the hands of men, and that He would be killed, as matters gloomy and calling for sorrow, but not attending to the fact that He would rise on the third day, as He needed no longer time "to bring to nought through death him that had the power of death."(6)
10. CONCERNING THOSE WHO DEMANDED THE HALF-SHEKEL.
"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the half- shekel came to Peter."(7) There are certain kings of the earth, and the sons of these do not pay toll or tribute; and there are others, different from their sons, who are strangers to the kings of the earth, from whom the kings of the earth receive toll or tribute. And among the kings of the earth, their sons are free as among fathers; but those who are strangers to them, while they are free in relation to things beyond the earth, are as slaves in respect of those who lord it over them and keep them in bondage; as the Egyptians lorded it over the children of Israel, and greatly afflicted their life and violently held them in bondage.(8) It was for the sake of those who were in a bondage, corresponding to the bondage of the Hebrews, that the Son of God took upon Him only the form of a slave,(1) doing no work that was foul or servile. As then, having the form of that slave, He pays toll and tribute not different from that which was paid by His disciple; for the same stater sufficed, even the one coin which was paid for Jesus and His disciple. But this coin was not in the house of Jesus, but it was in the sea, and in the mouth of a fish of the sea which, in my judgment, was benefited when it came up and was caught in the net of Peter, who became a fisher of men, in which net was that which is figuratively called a fish, in order also that the coin with the image of Caesar might be taken from it, and that it might take its place among those which were caught by them who have learned to become fishers of men. Let him, then, who has the things of Caesar render them to Caesar,(2) that afterwards he may be able to render to God the things of God. But since Jesus, who was "the image of the invisible God,"(3) had not the image of Caesar, for "the prince of this age had nothing in Him,"(4) on this account He takes from its own place, the sea, the image of Caesar, that He may give it to the kings of the earth for Himself and His disciple, so that those who receive the half-shekel might not imagine that Jesus was the debtor of them and of the kings of the earth; for He paid the debt, not having taken it up, nor having possessed it, nor having acquired it, nor at any time having made it His own possession, so that the image of Caesar might never be along with the image of the invisible God.
II. THE FREEDOM OF SONS.
And this may be put in another way. There are some who are kings' sons on the earth, and yet they are not sons of those kings, but sons, and sons absolutely; but others, because of their being strangers to the sons of the kings of the earth, and sons of no one of those upon the earth, but on this very account are sons, whether of God or of His Son, or of some one of those who are God's. If, then, the Saviour inquires of Peter, saying, "The kings of the earth from whom do they receive toll or tribute--from their own sons or from strangers?"(5) and Peter replies not from their own sons, but "from strangers," then Jesus says about such as are strangers to the kings of the earth, and on account of being free are sons, "Therefore the sons are free;"(1) for the sons of the kings of the earth are not free, since "every one that committeth sin is the bond-servant of sin,"(2) but they are free who abide in the truth of the word of God, and on this account, know the truth, that they also may become free from sin. If, any one then, is a son simply, and not in this matter wholly a son of the kings of the earth, he is free. And nevertheless, though he is free, he takes care not to offend even the kings of the earth, and their sons, and those who receive the half-shekel; wherefore He says, "Let us not cause them to stumble, but go thou and cast thy net, and take up the fish that first cometh up,"(3) etc. But I would inquire of those who are pleased to make myths about different natures, of what sort of nature they were, whether the kings of the earth, or their sons, or those who receive the half- shekel, whom the Saviour does not wish to offend; it appears of a verity, ex hypothesi, that they are not of a nature worthy of praise, and yet He took heed not to cause them to stumble, and He prevents any stumbling-block being put in their way, that they may not sin more grievously, and that with a view to their being saved--if they will--even by receiving Him who has spared them from being caused to stumble. And as in a place verily of consolation,--for such is, by interpretation, Capernaum,--comforting the disciple as being both free and a son, He gives to him the power of catching the fish first, that when it came up Peter might be comforted by its coming up and being caught, and by the staler being taken from its mouth, in order to be paid to those whose the staler was, add who demanded as their own such a piece of money.
12. THE STATER ALLEGORIZED.
But you might sometimes gracefully apply the passage to the lover of money, who has nothing in his mouth but things about silver, when you behold him healed by some Peter, who takes the stater, which is the symbol of all his avarice, not only from his mouth and words, but from his whole character. For you will say that such an ode was in the sea, and in the bitter affairs of life, and in the waves of the cares and anxieties of avarice, having the staler in his mouth when he was un believing and avaricious, but that he came up from the sea and was caught in the rational net, and being benefited by some Peter who has taught him the truth, no longer has the stater in his mouth, but in place of it those things which contain His image, the oracles of God.
13. THE SACRED HALF-SHEKEL.
Moreover to the saying, "They that received the half-shekel came to Peter,"(1) you will adduce from Numbers that, for the saints according to the law of God, is paid not a half-shekel simply, but a sacred half-shekel. For it is written, "And thou shale take five shekels per head, according to the sacred half-shekel."(2) But also on behalf of all the sons of Israel is given a sacred half-shekel per head. Since then it was not possible for the saint of God to possess along with the sacred half-shekels the profane shekels, so to speak, on this account, to them who do not receive the sacred half-shekels, and who asked Peter and said, "Doth not your master pay the half-shekel?" the Saviour commands the stater to be paid, in which was the half-shekel which was found in the mouth of the first fish that came up, in order that it might be given for the Teacher and the disciple.
14.CONCERNING THOSE WHO SAID, WHO IS THE GREATEST? AND CONCERNING THE CHILD THAT WAS CALLED BY JESUS.
"In that day came the disciples unto Jesus saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"(3) In order that we might be taught what it was that the disciples came to Jesus and asked to learn of Him, and how He answered to their inquiry, Matthew, though he might have given an account of this very thing only, has added, according to some manuscripts, "In that hour the disciples came unto Jesus," but, according to others, "In that day;" and it is necessary that we should not leave the meaning of the evangelist without examination. Wherefore giving attention to the words preceding "in that day," or "hour," let us see if it is possible from them to find a way to understand, as being necessary, the addition, "in that day," or "hour." Jesus then had come to Capernaum along with His disciples, where "they that received the half-shekel came to Peter," and asked and said, "Doth not your Master pay the half-shekel?" Then, when Peter answered and said to them, Yea, Jesus giving further a defence with reference to the giving of the half-shekel, sends Peter to drag up the fish into the net, in the mouth of which He said that a stater would be found which was to be given for Himself and Peter. It seems to me, then, that thinking that this was a very great honour which had been bestowed on Peter by Jesus, who judged that he was greater than the rest of His friends, they wished to learn accurately the truth of their suspicion, by making inquiry of Jesus and hearing from Him, whether, as they supposed, He had judged that Peter was greater than they; and at the same time also they hoped to learn the ground on which Peter had been preferred to the rest of the disciples. Matthew then, I think, wishing to make this plain, has subjoined to the words "that take"--the stater, to-wit--"and give auto them for thee and me," the words, "In that day came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"(1) And, perhaps, they were also in doubt because of the preference which had been given to the three at the transfiguration, and they were in doubt about this--which of the three was judged by the Lord to be greatest. For John reclined on His breast through love, and we may conclude that before the Supper they had seen many tokens of special honour given by Jesus to John; but Peter on his confession was called blessed in their hearing, because of his saying, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;"(2) but again because of the saying, "Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art a stumbling-block unto Me, for thou mindest not the things of God hut the things of men,"(3) they were distracted in mind as to whether it was not he but one of the sons of Zebedee, that was the greatest. So much for the words "in that day" or "hour," on which took place the matters relating to the stater.
15. GREATNESS VARIES IN DEGREE.
But next we must seek to understand this: the disciples came to Him, as disciples to a teacher proposing difficult questions, and making inquiry, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?(4) And, in this respect, we must imitate the disciples of Jesus; for if, at any time, any subject of investigation among us should not be found out let us go with all unanimity in regard to the question in dispute to Jesus, who is present where two or three are gathered together in His name,(5) and is ready by His presence with power to illumine the hearts of those who truly desire to become His disciples, with a view to their apprehension of the matters under inquiry. And likewise it would be nothing strange for us to go to any of those who have been appointed by God as teachers in the church, and propose any question of a like order to this, "Who, then, is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" What, then, was already known to the disciples of the matters relating to this question? And what was the point under inquiry? That there is not equality in regard to those who are deemed worthy of the kingdom of heaven they had apprehended, and that, as there was not equality, some one was greatest, and so in succession down to the least: but of what nature was the greatest, and what was the way of life of him who was the least, and who occupied the middle position, they further desired to know; unless, indeed, it is more accurate to say that they knew who was least from the words, "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;" but who was the greatest of all they did not know, even if they had grasped the meaning of the words, "Whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven;"(1) for as there were many great, it was not clear to them who was the greatest of the great, to use a human standard. And that many are great, but the great not equally great, will be manifest from the ascription of the epithet "great" to Isaac, "who waxed great, and became exceedingly great,"(2) and from what is said in the case of Moses, and John the Baptist, and the Saviour. And every one will acknowledge that even though all these were great according to the Scripture, yet the Saviour was greater than they. But whether John also (than whom there was no greater among those born of women),(3) was greater than Isaac and Moses, or whether he was not greater, but equal to both, or to one of them, it would be hazardous to declare. And from the saying, "But Isaac, waxing great, became greater,"(2) until he became not simply great, but with the twice repeated addition, "exceedingly," we may learn that there is a difference among the great, as one is great, and another exceedingly great, and another exceedingly exceedingly great. The disciples, therefore, came to Jesus and sought to learn, who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and perhaps they wished to learn, hearing from Him sometimes like this, "A certain one is greatest in the kingdom of heaven;" but He gives a universal turn to the discourse, showing what was the quality of him who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Let us seek to understand, from what is written, to the best of our ability, who this is. "For Jesus called a little child,"(1) etc.
16. WHY THE GREAT ARE COMPARED TO LITTLE CHILDREN.
But first we may expound it in simple fashion. One, expounding the word of the Saviour here after the simple method, might say that, if any one who is a man mortifies the lusts of manhood, putting to death by the spirit the deeds of the body, and" always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus,"(2) to such a degree that he has the condition of the little child who has not tasted sensual pleasures, and has had no conception of the impulses of manhood, then such an one is converted, and has become as the little children. And the greater the advance he has made towards the condition of the little children in regard to such emotions, by so much the more as compared with those who are in training and have not advanced to so great a height of self-control, is he the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But that which has been said about little children in respect of lustful pleasures, the same might also be said in regard to the rest of the affections and infirmities and sicknesses of the soul, into which it is not the nature of little children to fall, who have not yet fully attained to the possession of reason; as, for example, that, if any one be converted, and, though a man, such an one becomes as a child in respect of anger; and, as is the child in relation to grief, so that sometimes he laughs and plays at the very time that his father or mother or brother is dead, he who is converted would become such an one as little children; and, having received from the Word a disposition incapable of grief, so that he becomes like the little child in regard to grief. And the like you will say about what is called pleasure, in regard to which the wicked are irrationally lifted up, from which little children do not suffer, nor such as have been converted and become as little children. As, then, it has been accurately demonstrated also by others, that no passion is incident to the little children who have not yet attained to full possession of reason; and if no passion, clearly fear also; but, it there be anything corresponding to the passions, these are faint, and very quickly suppressed, and healed in the case of little children, so that he is worthy of love, who, being converted as the little children, has reached such a point as to have, as it were, his passions in subjection like the little children. And with regard to fear, therefore, similar things to those spoken might be conceived, that the little children do not experience the fear of the wicked, but a different thing, to which those who have an accurate knowledge of questions in regard to the passions and their names give the name of fear; as, for example, in the case of children there is a forgetfulness of their evils at the very time of their tears, for they change in a moment, and laugh and play along with those who were thought to grieve and terrify them, but in truth had wrought in them no such emotion. So too, moreover, one will humble himself like the little child which Jesus called; for neither haughtiness, nor conceit in respect of noble birth, or wealth, or any of those things which are thought to be good, but are not, comes to a little child. Wherefore you may see those who are not altogether infants, up to three or four years of age, like to those who are of mean birth, though they may seem to be of noble birth, and not appearing at all to love rich children rather than the poor. If, therefore, in the same way as according to their age children are affected towards those passions which exalt the senseless, the disciple of Jesus under the influence of reason(1) has humbled himself like the little child which Jesus showed, not being exalted because of vainglory, nor puffed up on the ground of wealth, or raiment, nor elated because of noble birth, in particular are they to be received and imitated in the name of Jesus, who have been converted as the Word showed, like the little child which Jesus took to Him; since especially in such the Christ is, and therefore He says, "Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. "(2)
17. THE LITTLE ONES AND THEIR STUMBLING-BLOCKS.
But it is a hard task to expound what follows in logical harmony with what has already been said; for one might say, how is it that he who is converted and has become as the little children, is a little one among such as believe in Jesus, and is capable of being caused to stumble? And likewise let us attempt to explain this coherently. Every one that gives his adherence to Jesus as the Son of God according to the true history concerning Him, and by deeds done according to the Gospel, is on the way to living the life which is according to virtue, is converted and is on the way towards becoming as the little children; and it is impossible for him not to enter into the kingdom of heaven. There are, indeed, many such; but not all, who are converted with a view to becoming like the little children, have reached the point of being made like unto little children; but each wants so much of the likeness to the little children, as he falls short of the disposition of little children towards the passions, of which we have spoken. In the whole multitude, then, of believers, are also those who, having been, as it were, just converted in regard to their becoming as the little children, at the very point of their conversion that they may become as the little children, are called little; and those of them, who are converted that they may become as the little children, but fall far short of having truly become as the little children, are capable of being caused to stumble; each of whom falls so far short of the likeness to them, as he falls short of the disposition of children towards the passions, of which we have spoken, to whom we ought not to give occasions of stumbling- block; but, if it be otherwise, he who has caused him to stumble will require, as contributing towards his cure, to have "an ass's millstone hanged about his neck, and be sunk into the depths of the sea."(1) For, in this way, when he has paid the due penalty in the sea, where is "the dragon which God formed to play in it,"(2) and, so far as is expedient for the end in view, has been punished and undergone suffering, he shall then(3) have his part in those troubles which belong to the depths of the sea, which he endured when he was dragged down by the ass's millstone. For there are also differences of millstones, so that one of them may be, so to call it, the millstone of a man, and another that of an ass; and that is human, about which it is written, "Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left;"(4) but the millstone of the ass is that which shall be put round him who has given occasion of stumbling-block. But some one might say--I know not whether he would speak soundly or erroneously--that the ass's millstone is the heavy body of the wicked man, which is sunken downwards, and which he will receive at the resurrection that he may be sunk in the abyss which is called the depth of the sea, where "is the dragon which God formed to play therein."(1) But another will refer the creating of a stumbling-block to one of the little ones to the powers that are unseen by men; for from these arise many stumbling-blocks to the little ones pointed out by Jesus. But when they cause to stumble one of the little ones pointed out by Jesus, who are believers in Him, he shall assume an ass's millstone, the corruptible body which presses heavily on the soul, which is itself hung from the neck, which is dragged down to the affairs in this life, that by means of these their conceit may be taken away, and having paid the penalty, they shall come, through means of the ass's millstone, to the condition expedient for them.
18. WHO WAS THE LITTLE CHILD CALLED BY JESUS.
Now another interpretation different from what is called the simpler may be uttered; whether as dogma, or for the sake of exercise, so to speak, let us also inquire what was the little child who was called by Jesus and set in the midst of the disciples. Now consider if you can say that the little child, whom Jesus called, was the Holy Spirit who humbled Himself, when He was called by the Saviour, and set in the midst of the reason of the disciples of Jesus; if, indeed, He wishes us, being turned away from everything else, to be turned towards the examples suggested by the Holy Spirit, so that we may so become as the little children, who are themselves also turned and likened to the Holy Spirit; which little children God gave to the Saviour, according to what is said in Isaiah, "Behold, I and the little children which God has given to me."(2) And it is not possible for any one to enter into the kingdom of heaven, who has not been turned away from the affairs of this world, and made like unto the little children who possess the Holy Spirit; which Holy Spirit was called by Jesus, and, descending from His own perfection to men as a little child, was set by Jesus in the midst of the disciples. It is necessary, then, for him who has turned away from the desires of this world to humble himself not simply as the little child, but, according to what is written, "as this little child."(1) But to humble oneself as that little child is to imitate the Holy Spirit, who humbled Himself for the salvation of men. Now, that the Saviour and the Holy Spirit were sent by the Father for the salvation of men has been declared in Isaiah, in the person of the Saviour, saying, "And now the Lord hath sent me and His Spirit."(2) You must know, however, that this expression is ambiguous; for either God sent, but also the Holy Spirit sent, the Saviour; or, as we have taken it, the Father sent both--the Saviour and the Holy Spirit. He, therefore, who has humbled himself more than all those who have humbled themselves in imitation of that little child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. For there are many who are willing to humble themselves as that little child; but the man, who in every respect has become like to the little child who humbled himself, in the name of Jesus--especially in Jesus Himself,--in reality, would be found to be he who is named greater than all in the kingdom of heaven. But as he receives Jesus, whosoever receives one such of the little children in His name, so he rejects Jesus and casts Him out, who does not wish to receive one such little child in the name of Jesus. But if, also, there is a difference in those who are deemed worthy of the Holy Spirit, as believers receive more or less of the Holy Spirit, there would be some little ones among those who believe in God who can be made to stumble: to avenge whose being made to stumble the Word says, with reference to those who had caused them to stumble, "It is profitable for him that an ass's millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea."(3) Let these things be said in regard to the passage of Matthew before us.
19. THE PARALLEL PASSAGES IN MARK AND LUKE.
But let us consider also the like account in the other Evangelists. Mark,(4) then, says, that the Twelve reasoned in the way as to which of them was the greatest. Wherefore He sat down, and called them, and teaches who is the greatest, saying, that he who became last of all by means of his moderation and gentleness, would as the greatest obtain the first place, so that he did not receive the place of one who was being ministered unto, but the place of one who ministered, and that not to some but not to others, but to all absolutely; for attend to the words, "If any man would be first he shall be last of all, and minister of all."(1) And next to that He says, that "He,"--Jesus to-wit--"took a little child, and set him in the midst of His own disciples, and taking him in His arms, He said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of the little children in My name receiveth Me."(2) But what was the little child which Jesus took and placed in His arms, according to the deeper meaning in the passage?
it the Holy Spirit? And to this little child, indeed, some were likened, of whom He said, "Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in My name receiveth Me." According to Luke, however, the reasoning did not arise spontaneously in the disciples, but was suggested to them by the question, "which of them should be greatest."(3) And Jesus, seeing the reasoning of their heart, as He had eyes that see the reasonings of hearts,--seeing the reasoning of their heart,--without being questioned, according to Luke, "took the little child and set him," not in the midst alone, as Matthew and Mark have said, but now, also, "by His side," and said to the disciples, not only, "Whosoever shall receive one such little child," or, "Whosoever shall receive one of such little ones in My name receiveth Me," but, now going even a step higher, "Whosoever shall receive this little child in My name receiveth Me."(4) It is necessary, therefore, according to Luke, to receive in the name of Jesus that very little child which Jesus took and placed by His side. And I know not if there be any one who can interpret figuratively the word, "Whosoever shall receive this little child in My name." For it is necessary that each of us should receive in the name of Jesus that little child which Jesus then took and set by His side; for he lives as immortal, and we must receive him from Jesus Himself in the name of Jesus; and without being separated from him, Jesus is with him who receives the little child, so that according to this it is said, "Whosoever shall receive this little child in My name receiveth Me." Then, since the Father is inseparable from the Son, He is with him who receives the Son. Wherefore it is said, "And whosoever shall receive Me receives Him that sent Me."(5) But he who has received the little child, and the Saviour, and Him that sent Him, is least of all the disciples of Jesus, making himself little. But, so far as he belittles himself, to that extent does he become great; as that very thing, which caused him the more to make himself little, contributes to his advance in greatness; for attend to what is said, "He that is least among you all the same is great;" but in other manuscripts we read, "The same shall be great." Now, according to Luke, "If any one shall not receive the kingdom of God as the little child, he shall in no wise enter therein."(1) And this expression is ambiguous; for either it means that he who receives the kingdom of God may become as a little child, or, that he may receive the kingdom of God, which has become to him as a little child. And perhaps here those who receive the kingdom of God receive it, when it is as a little child, but in the world to come no longer as a little child; and they receive the greatness of the perfection in the spiritual manhood, so to speak, which perfection is manifested to all who in the present time receive it, when it is here as a little child.
20.THE WORLD AND OFFENCES. VARIOUS MEANINGS OF WORLD.
"Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling."(2) The expression "cosmos," is used in itself and absolutely in the passage, "He was in the cosmos and the cosmos knew Him not,"(3) but it is used relatively and in respect of its connection with that of which it is the cosmos, in the words, "Lest you look up to the heaven, and seeing the sun, and the moon, and all the cosmos of the heavens, you should stray and bow down to them and worship them."(4) And the like you will find in the Book of Esther, spoken about her, when it is written, stripping off all her "cosmos."(5) For the word "cosmos," simply, is not the same as the "cosmos" of heaven, or the "cosmos" of Esther; and this which we are now investigating is another. I think, then, that the world is not this compacted whole of heaven and earth according to the Divine Scriptures, but only the place which is round about the earth, and this is not to be conceived in respect of the whole earth, but only in respect of ours which is inhabited; for the true light "was in the world," that is, in the place which is around, conceived in relation to our part of the earth; "and the world knew Him not,"(6) that is, the men in the region round about, and perhaps also the powers that have an affinity to this place. For it is monstrous to understand by the world here the compacted whole formed of heaven and earth, and those in it; so that it could be said, that the sun and moon and the choir of the stars and the angels in all this world, did not know the true light, and, though ignorant of it, preserved the order which God had appointed for them. But when it is said by the Saviour in the prayer to the Father, "And, now, glorify me, O Father, with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was,"(1) you must understand by the "world," that which is inhabited by us on the earth; for it was from this world that the Father gave men to the Son, in regard to whom alone the Saviour beseeches His Father, and not for the whole world of men. Moreover, also, when the Saviour says, "And I come to thee and am no longer in the world,"(2) He speaks of the terrestrial world; for it is not to be supposed that He spoke things contradictory when He said, "And I come to thee, and I am no longer in the world," and "I am in the world." But also in this, "And these things I speak in the world,"(3) we must think of the place round about the earth. And this is clearly indicated also by the words, "And the world hated them, because they are not of the world."(4) For it hated us from the time when we no longer "look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen,"(5) because of the teaching of Jesus; not the world of heaven and earth and them that are therein, all compacted together but the men on the earth along with us. And the saying, "They are not of the world,"(6) is equivalent to, They are not of the place round about the earth. And so also the disciples of Jesus are not of this world, as He was not of the world. And further also the saying, "That the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me,"(7) twice spoken in the Gospel according to John, does not refer to the things that are superior to men, but to men who need to believe that the Father sent the Son into the world here. Yea, and also in the Apostle, "Your faith is proclaimed in the whole world."(8)
21. THE "WOE" DOES NOT APPLY TO THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS.
But if there is woe unto men everywhere on the earth, because of occasions of stumbling to those who are laid hold of by them; but the disciples are not of the world, as they do not look at things seen, like as the Master is not of this world; to no one of the disciples of Jesus does the "woe because of occasions of stumbling" apply, since "great peace have they who love the law of God, and there is to them no occasion of stumbling."(1) But if any one seems to be called a disciple, but yet is of the world, because of his loving the world, and the things therein,--I mean, the life in the place round about the earth, and the property in it, or the possessions, or any form of wealth whatsoever,--so that the saying, "they are not of the world,"(2) does not fit him; to him, as being really of the world, shall come that which happens to the world, the "woe, because of occasions of stumbling." But let him who wishes to avoid this woe not be a lover of life, but let him say with Paul," "The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."(3) For the saints while "in the tabernacle, do groan being burdened"(4) with "the body of humiliation," and do all things that they may become worthy to be found in the mystery of the resurrection, when God shall fashion anew the body of humiliation not of all, but of those who have been truly made disciples to Christ, so that it may be conformed to the body of the glory of Christ.(5) For as none of the "woes" happen to any of the disciples of Christ, so does not this "woe, because of occasions of stumbling;" for, supposing that thousands of occasions should arise, they shall not touch those who are no longer of the world. But if any one, because of his faith wanting ballast, and the instability of his submission in regard to the Word of God, is capable of being caused to stumble, let him know that he is not called by Jesus His disciple. Now we must suppose that so many stumbling-blocks come, that, as a result, the woes extend not to some parts of the earth, but to the whole "world" which is in it.
22.WHAT THE "OCCASIONS OF STUMBLING" ARE.
"And it must needs be that occasions of stumbling come,"(6) which I take to be different from the men by whom they come. The occasions then which come are an army of the devil, his angels, and a wicked band of impure spirits, which, seeking out instruments through whom they will work, often find men altogether strangers to piety, and sometimes even some of those who are thought to believe the Word of God, for whom exists a worse woe than that which comes to him who is caused to stumble, just as also it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment,(1) than for the places where Jesus did signs and wonders, and yet was not believed. But as one might undertake to make a collection from the Scriptures of those who are pronounced blessed, and of the things in respect of which they are so called, so also he might undertake to do with the woes which are written, and those in whose case the woes are spoken. But that the woe is worse in the case of him who causes to stumble, than in him who is made to stumble, you may prove by the passage, "Whoso shall cause to stumble one of these little ones which believe in Me, it is profitable for him,"(2) etc.; for, while the little one who is made to stumble receives retribution from him who caused him to stumble, it is expedient that the severe and intolerable punishment which is written should befall the man who has caused the stumbling. But if we were to give more careful consideration to these things, we should be on our guard against sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, lest we sin against Christ;(3) as often our brethren about us, "for whom Christ died," perish, not only through our knowledge, but also through some other causes connected with us; in the case of whom, we, sinning against Christ, shall pay the penalty, the soul of them who perish through us being required of us.
23. IN WHAT SENSE "NECESSARY."
Next we must test accurately the meaning of the word "necessity" in the passage, "For there is a necessity that the occasions come,"(4) and to the like effect in Luke, "It is 'inadmissible' but that occasions of stumbling should come,"(5) instead of "impossible." And as it is necessary that that which is mortal should die, and it is impossible but that it should die, and as it must needs be that he who is in the body should be fed, for it is impossible for one who is not fed to live, so it is necessary and impossible but that occasions of stumbling should arise, since there is a necessity also that wickedness should exist before virtue in men, from which wickedness stumbling-blocks arise; for it is impossible that a man should be found altogether sinless, and who, without sin, has attained to virtue. For the wickedness in the evil powers, which is the primal source of the wickedness among men, is altogether eager to work through certain instruments against the men in the world. And perhaps also the wicked powers are more exasperated when they are cast out by the word of Jesus, and their worship is lessened, their customary sacrifices not being offered unto them; and there is a necessity that these offences come; but there is no necessity that they should come through any particular one; wherefore the "woe" falls on the man through whom the stumbling-block comes, as he has given a place to the wicked power whose purpose it is to create a stumbling-block. But do not suppose that by nature, and from constitution, there are certain stumbling-blocks which seek out men through whom they come; for as God did not make death, so neither did He create stumbling- blocks; but free-will begot the stumbling-blocks in some who did not wish to endure toils for virtue.
24. THE OFFENDING HAND, OR FOOT, OR EYE.
And it is well, then, if the eye and the hand are deserving of praise, that the eye cannot with reason say to the hand, "I have no need of thee."(1) But if any one in the whole body of the congregations of the church, who because of his practical girls has the name of hand, should change and become a hand causing to stumble, let the eye say to such a hand, "I have no need of thee," and, saying it, let him cut it off and cast it from him.(2) And so it is well, if any head be blessed, and the feet worthy of the blessed head, so that the head observing the things which are becoming to itself, may not be able to say to the feet, "I have no need of you." If, however, any foot be found to become a stumbling-block to the whole body, let the head say to such a foot, "I have no need of thee," and having cat it off, let him cast it from himself; for even it is much better that the rest of the body should enter into life, wanting the foot or the hand which caused the stumbling-block, rather than, when the stumbling- block has spread over the whole body, it should be cast into the hell of fire with the two feet or the two hands. And so it is well, that he who can become the eye of the whole body should be worthy of Christ and of the whole body; but if such an eye should ever change, and become a stumbling- block to the whole body, it is well to take it out and cast it outside the whole body, and that the rest of the body without that eye should be saved, rather than that along with it, when the whole body has been corrupted, the whole body should be cast into the hell of fire.(1) For the practical faculty of the soul, if prone to sin, and the walking faculty of the soul, so to speak, if prone to sin, and the faculty of clear vision, if prone to sin, may be the hand that causes to stumble, and the foot that causes to stumble, and the eye that causes to stumble, which things it is better to cast away, and having put them aside to enter into life without them, like as one halt, or maimed, or one-eyed, rather than along with them to lose the whole soul. And likewise in the case of the soul it is a good and blessed thing to use its power for the noblest ends; but if we are going to lose one for any cause, it is better to lose the use of it, that along with the other powers we may be saved.
25. THE EYE OR HAND ALLEGORIZED.
And it is possible to apply these words also to our nearest kinsfolk, who are our members, as it were; being considered to be our members, because of the close relationship; whether by birth, or from any habitual friendship, so to speak; whom we must not spare if they are injuring our soul. For let us cut off from ourselves as a hand or a foot or an eye, a father or mother who wishes us to do that which is contrary to piety, and a son or daughter who, as far as in them lies, would have us revolt from the church of Christ and the love of Him. But even if the wife of our bosom, or a friend who is kindred in soul, become stumbling-blocks to us, let us not spare them, but let us cut them out from ourselves, and cast them outside of our soul, as not being truly our kindred but enemies of our salvation; for "whosoever hates not his father, and mother,"(2) and the others subjoined, when it is the fitting season to hate them as enemies and assailants, that he may be able to win Christ, this man is not worthy of the Son of God. And in respect of these we may say, that from a critical position any lame one, so to speak, is saved, when he has lost a foot--say a brother--and alone obtains the inheritance of the kingdom of God; and a maimed one is saved, when his father is not saved, but they perish, while he is separated from them, that he alone may obtain the benedictions. And so also any one is saved with one eye, who has cut out the eye of his own house, his wife, if she commit fornication, lest having two eyes he may go away into the hell of fire.
26. THE LITTLE ONES AND THEIR ANGELS. "See that ye despise not one of these little ones."(1) It seems to me that as among the bodies of men there are differences in point of size,--so that some are little, and others great, and others of middle height, and, again, there are differences among the little, as they are more or less little, and the same holds of the great, and of those of middle height,--so also among the souls of men, there are some things which give them the stamp of littleness, and other things the stamp of greatness, so to speak, and generally, after the analogy of things bodily, other things the stamp of mediocrity. But in the case of bodies, it is not due to the action of men but to the spermatic principles, that one is short and little, another great, and another of middle height; but in the case of souls, it is our free-will, and actions of such a kind, and habits of such a kind, that furnish the reason why one is great, or little, or of middle height; and it is of our free-will either by advancing in stature to increase our size, or not advancing to be short. And so indeed I understand the words about Jesus having assumed a human soul, "Jesus advanced;"(2) for as from the free-will there was an advance of His soul in wisdom and grace, so also in stature. And the Apostle says, "Until we all attain unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;"(3) for we must think that he attains unto a man, and that full-grown, according to the inner man, who has gone through the things of the child, and has reached the stage of the man, and has put away the things of the child, and generally, has perfected the things of the man.(4) And so we must suppose that there is a certain measure of spiritual stature unto which the most perfect soul can attain by magnifying the Lord, and become great. Thus, then, these became great, of whom this is written, Isaac, and Moses, and John, and the Saviour Himself above all; for also about Him Gabriel said, "He shall be great;"(5) but the little ones are "the newborn babes which long for the reasonable milk which is without guile,"(6) such as stand in need of nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, spoken of in Isaiah when he says, about the calling from the Gentiles, "And they shall bring the sons in the bosom, and take their daughters on the shoulders, and kings shall be thy nursing-fathers and their princesses thy nursing-mothers."(1) For these reasons you will, then, attend to the word, "Do not despise one of these little ones,"(2) and consider whether it is their angels who bring them in their bosom, since they have become sons, and also take on their shoulders what are called daughters, and whether from them are the nursing-fathers who are called kings, and the nursing- mothers who are called princesses. And since the little ones, pointed out by our Saviour, are under the stewardship as of nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, on this account I think that Moses, who believed that he had been already assigned a place among the ranks of the great, said, with regard to the promise, "My angel shall go before you,"(3) "If thou thyself do not go along with me, carry me not up hence."(4) For though the little one even be an heir, yet as being a child he differs nothing from a servant when he is a child,(5) and to the extent to which he is little "has the spirit of bondage to fear;"(6) but he who is not at all any longer such has no longer the spirit of bondage, but already the spirit of adoption, when "perfect love casteth out fear;"(7) it will be plain to thee, how that according to these things "the angel of the Lord" is said "to encamp round about them that fear Him, and to save them."(8) But you will consider, according to these things also, whether these are indeed angels of the little ones "who are led by the spirit of bondage to fear," "when the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him and delivereth them;" but of the great, whether it is the Lord who is greater than the angels, who might say about each of them, "I am with him in affliction;"(9) and, so long as we are imperfect, and need one to assist us that we may be delivered from evils, we stand in need of an angel of whom Jacob said, "The angel who delivered me from all the evils;"(10) but, when we have become perfected, and have passed through the stage of being subject to nursing- fathers and nursing-mothers and guardians and stewards,(11) we are meet to be governed by the Lord Himself.
27. WHEN THE LITTLE ONES ARE ASSIGNED TO ANGELS.
Then again one might inquire at what time those who are called their angels assume guardianship of the little ones pointed out by Christ; whether they received this commission to discharge concerning them, from what time "by the laver of regeneration,"(1) through which they were born "as new-born babes, they long for the reasonable milk which is without guile,"(2) and no longer are in subjection to any wicked power; or, whether from birth they had been appointed, according to the foreknowledge and predestination of God, over those whom God also foreknew, and foreordained to be conformed to the glory of the Christ.(3) And with reference to the view that they have angels from birth, one might quote, "He who separated me from my mother's womb,"(4) and, "From the womb of my mother thou hast been my protector,"(5) and, "He has assisted me from my mother's womb,"(6) and, "Upon thee I was cast from my mother,"(7) and in the Epistle of Jude, "To them that are beloved in God the Father and are kept for Jesus Christ, being called,"(8)--kept completely by the angels who keep them.
28. CLOSE RELATIONSHIP OF ANGELS TO THEIR "LITTLE ONES."
With reference to the words, "When through the layer I became a child in Christ,"(9) it may be said, that there is no holy angel present with those who are still in wickedness, but that during the period of unbelief they are under the angels of Satan;(10) but, after the regeneration, He who has redeemed us with His own blood consigns us to a holy angel, who also, because of his purity, beholds the face of God. And a third exposition of this passage might be something like the following, which would say, that as it is possible for a man to change from unbelief to faith, and from intemperance to temperance, and generally from wickedness to virtue, so also it is possible that the angel, to whom any soul has been entrusted at birth, may be wicked at the first, but afterwards may at some time believe in proportion as the man believes, and may make such advance that he may become one of the angels who always behold the face of the Father in heaven,(1) beginning from the time that he is yoked along with the man who was foreknown and foreordained to believe at that time, the judgments of God, which are unspeakable and unsearchable and like to the depths, fitly bringing together all this harmonious relationship--angels with men. And it may be that as when a man and his wife are both unbelievers, sometimes it is the man who first believes and in time saves his wife, and sometimes the wife who begins and afterwards in time persuades her husband, so it happens with angels and with men. If, however, anything of this kind takes place in the case of other angels or not, you may seek out for yourself. But consider whether it may not be appropriate to say something of this kind in regard to each angel who is so honoured according to the word of the Saviour, that he is said to behold always the face of the Father who is in heaven. But since in what we said above, that the little ones have angels, but that the great have passed beyond such a position, some one will quote in opposition to US from the Acts of the Apostles, where it is written, that a certain maid Rhoda, when Peter knocked at the door, came to answer, and recognizing the voice of Peter, ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate; but when they who were gathered together in the house wondered, and thought that it was quite impossible that Peter verily stood before the gate, they said, It is his angel.(2) For the objector will say that, as they had learned once for all that each of the believers had some definite angel, they knew that Peter also had one. But he, who adheres to what we have previously said, will say that the word of Rhoda was not necessarily a dogma, and perhaps also the word of those who did not accurately know, when one as being little and God-fearing is governed by angels, and when now by the Lord Himself. After this, in order to establish our conception of the little one which we have brought forward, it will be said that we need no command about "not despising" in the case of the great, but we do need it in the case of the little; wherefore it is not merely said, "Do not despise one of these," pointing to all the disciples, but "one of these little ones,"(3) pointed out by Him, who sees the littleness and the greatness of the soul.
29. THE LITTLE ONES AND THE PERFECT.
But another might say that the perfect man is here called little, applying the word, "For he that is least among you all, the same is great,"(1) and will affirm that he who humbles himself and becomes a child in the midst of all that believe, though he be an apostle or a bishop, and becomes such "as when a nurse cherisheth her own children,"(2) is the little one pointed out by Jesus, and that the angel of such an one is worthy to behold the face of God. For to say that the little are here called perfect, according to the passage, "He that is least among you all, the same is great."(3) and as Paul said, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints was this grace given,"(4) will seem to be in harmony with the saying, "Whoso shall cause one of these little ones to stumble,"(5) and "So it is not the will of My Father in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."(6) For he, as has been stated, who is now little, could not be made to stumble nor perish, for "great peace have they who love the law of God, and there is no stumbling-block to them;"(7) and he could not perish, who is least of all among all the disciples of Christ, and on this account becomes great; and, since he could not perish, he could say, "Who shall separate us from the love,"(8) etc. But he who wishes to maintain this last exposition will say that the soul even of the just man is changeable, as Ezekiel also testifies, saying, that the righteous man may abandon the commandments of God, so that his former righteousness is not reckoned unto him;(9) wherefore it is said, "Whoso shall cause to stumble one of these little ones, and, "It is not the will of My Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."(6)
[As for the exposition of the matters relating to "the hundred sheep," you may consult the homilies on Luke.(10)]
30. THE SINNING BROTHER.
"If thy brother sin against thee, go, shew him his fault between thee and him alone." He, then, who attends closely to the expression, in proof of the surpassing philanthropy of Jesus, will say, that as the words do not suggest a difference of they will act in a singular manner and contrary to the goodness of Jesus, who supply the thought, that these words are to be understood as being limited in their application to lesser sins. But another, also attending closely to the expression, and not wishing to introduce these extraneous thoughts, nor admitting that it is spoken about every sin, will say, that he who commits those great sins is not a brother, even if he be called a brother, as the Apostle says, "If any one that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, etc., with such an one not to eat;"(1) for no one who is all idolater, or a fornicator, or covetous, is a brother; for if he, who seems to bear the name of Christ, though he is named a brother, has something of the features of these, he would not rightly be called a brother. As then he, who says that such words are spoken about every sin, whether the sin be murder, or poisoning, or paederasty, or anything of that sort, would give occasion of injury to the exceeding goodness of Christ, so, on the contrary, he who distinguishes between the brother and him who is called the brother, might teach that, in the case of the least of the sins of men, he who has not repented after the telling of the fault is to be reckoned as a Gentile and a publican, for sins which are "not unto death,"(2) or, as the law has described them in the Book of Numbers, not "death-bringing."(3) This would seem to be very harsh; for I do not think that any one will readily be found who has not been censured thrice for the same form of sin, say, reviling, with which revilers abuse their neighbours, or those who are carried away by passion, or for over-drinking, or lying and idle words, or any of those things which exist in the masses. You will inquire, therefore, whether any observation of the passage has escaped the notice of those, who are influenced by their conception of the goodness of the Word, and grant pardon to those who have committed the greatest sins, as well as of those who teach that, in the case of the very least sins, he is to be reckoned as a Gentile and a publican, making him a stranger to the church, after he has committed three very trivial transgressions. But the following seems to me to have been overlooked by both of them, namely, the words, "Thou hast gained thy brother."(4) It is assigned by the Word to him only who heard, and He no longer applies it in the case of him who has stumbled twice or thrice and been censured; but that which was to be said about him who was censured twice or thrice, corresponding to the saying, "Thou hast gained thy brother," He has left in the air, so to speak. He is not, therefore, altogether gained, nor will he altogether perish, or he will receive stripes. And attend carefully to the first passage, "If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother," and to the second passage, which is literally, "If he hear thee not, take with thyself one or two more, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."(1) What, then, will happen to him who has been censured for the second time, after every word has been established by two or three witnesses, He has left us to conceive. And, again, "If he refuse to hear them"--manifestly, the witnesses who have been taken--"tell it," he says, "to the church;"(2) and He does not say what he will suffer if he does not hear the church, but He taught that if he refused to hear the church, then he who had thrice admonished, and had not been heard, was to regard him for the future as the Gentile and the publican.(3) Therefore he is not altogether gained, nor will he altogether perish. But what at all he will suffer, who at first did not hear, but required witnesses, or even refused to hear these, but was brought to the church, God knows; for we do not declare it, according to the precept, "Judge not that ye be not judged,"(4) "until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts."(5) But, with reference to the seeming harshness in the case of those who have committed less sins, one might say that it is not possible for him who has not heard twice in succession to hear the third time, so as, on this account, no longer to be as a Gentile or a publican, or no longer to stand in need of the censure in presence of all the church. For we must bear in mind this, "So it is not the will of My Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."(6) For if "we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad,"(7) let each one with all his power do what he can so that he may not receive punishment for more evil things done in the body, even if he is going to receive back for all the wrongs which he has done; but it should be our ambition to procure the reward for a greater number of good deeds, since "with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us,"(1) and, "according to the works of our own hands shall it happen unto us,"(2) and not in infinite wise, but either double or sevenfold shall sinners receive for their sins from the hand of the Lord; since He does not render unto any one according to the works of his hands, but more than that which he has done, for "Jerusalem," as Isaiah taught, "received from the hand of the Lord double for her sins;"(3) but the neighbours of Israel, whoever they may be, will receive sevenfold, according to the following expression in the Psalms, "Render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom the reproach with which they have reproached Thee, O Lord."(4) And other forms of payment in return could be found, which, if we apprehend, we shall know that to repent after any sin, whatever its greatness, is advantageous, in order that, in addition to our not being punished for more offences, there may be some hope left to us concerning good deeds done afterwards at some time, even though, before them, thousands of errors have been committed by anyone of us. For it would be strange that evil deeds should be reckoned to any one, but the better which are done after the bad should profit nothing; which may also be learned from Ezekiel,(5) by those who pay careful consideration to the things said about such cases.
31. THE POWER TO BIND ON EARTH AND IN HEAVEN.
But to me it seems that, to the case of him who after being thrice admonished was adjudged to be as the Gentile and the publican, it is fitly subjoined, "Verily, I say unto you,"--namely, to those who have judged any one to be as the Gentile and the publican,--"and what things soever ye shall bind on the earth,"(6) etc.; for with justice has he, who has thrice admonished and not been heard, bound him who is judged to be as a Gentile and a publican; wherefore, when such an one is bound and condemned by one of this character, he remains bound, as no one of those in heaven overturns the judgment of the man who bound him. And, in like manner, he who was admonished once for all, and did things worthy of being gained, having been set free by the admonition of the man who gained him, and no longer bound by the cords of his own sins,(7) for which he was admonished, shall be adjudged to have been set free by those in heaven. Only, it seems to be indicated that the things, which above were granted to Peter alone, are here given to all who give the three admonitions to all that have sinned; so that, if they be not heard, they will bind on earth him who is judged to be as a Gentile and a publican, as such an one has been bound in heaven. But since it was necessary, even if something in common had been said in the case of Peter and those who had thrice admonished the brethren, that Peter should have some element superior to those who thrice admonished, in the case of Peter, this saying "I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens,"(1) has been specially set before the words, "And what things soever ye shall bind on earth," etc. And, indeed, if we were to attend carefully to the evangelical writings, we would also find here, and in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter and those who have thrice admonished the brethren, a great difference and a pre-eminence in the things said to Peter, compared with the second class. For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on the earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage, with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens.(1) The better, therefore, is the binder, so much more blessed is he who has been loosed, so that in every part of the heavens his loosing has been accomplished.
1. THE POWER OF HARMONY IN RELATION TO PRAYER.
"Again I say unto you that if two of you shall agree(2) on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them."(3) The word symphony is strictly applied to the harmonies of sounds in music. And there are indeed among musical sounds some accordant and others discordant. But the Evangelic Scripture is familiar with the name as applied to musical matters in the passage, "He heard a symphony and dancing."(4) For it was fitting that when the son who had been lost and found came by penitence into concord with his father a symphony should be heard on the occasion of the joyous mirth of the house. But the wicked Laban was not acquainted with the word symphony in his saying to Jacob, "And if thou hadst told me I would have sent thee away with mirth and with music and with drums and a harp."(5) But akin to the symphony of this nature is that which is written in the second Book of Kings when "the brethren of Aminadab went before the ark, and David and his son played before the Lord on instruments artistically fitted with might and with songs;"(6) for the instruments thus fitted with might and with songs, had in themselves the musical symphony which is so powerful that when two only, bring along with the symphony which has relation to the music that is divine and spiritual, a request to the Father in heaven about anything whatsoever, the Father grants the request to those who ask along with the symphony on earth,--which is most miraculous,--those things which those who have made the symphony spoken of may have asked. So also I understand the apostolic saying "Defraud ye not one the other except it be by agreement for a season that ye may give yourselves unto prayer."(2) For since the word harmony is applied to those who marry according to God in the passage from Proverbs which is as follows: "Fathers will divide their house and substance to their sons, but from God the woman is married to the man,"(3) it is a logical consequence of the harmony being from God, that the name and the deed should enjoy the agreement with a view to prayer, as is indicated in the word, "unless it be by agreement."(4) Then the Word repeating that the agreeing of two on the earth is the same thing as the agreeing with Christ, adds, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name."(5) Therefore the two or three who are gathered together in the name of Christ are those who are in agreement on earth, not two only but sometimes also three. But he who has the power will consider whether this agreement and a congregation of this sort in the midst of which Christ is, can be found in more, since "narrow and straightened is the way that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it."(1) But perhaps also not even few but two or three make a symphony as Peter and James and John, to whom as making a symphony the Word of God showed His own glory. But two made a symphony, Paul and Sosthenes, when writing the first Epistle to the Corinthians;(2) and after this Paul and Timothy when sending the second Epistle to the same.(3) And even three made a symphony when Paul and Silvanus and Timothy gave instruction by letter to the Thessalonians.(4) But if it be necessary also from the ancient Scriptures to bring forward the three who made a symphony on earth, so that the Word was in the midst of them making them one, attend to the superscription of the Psalms, as for example to that of the forty-first, which is as follows: "Unto the end, unto understanding, for the sons of Korah."(5) For though there were three sons of Korah whose names we find in the Book of Exodus,(6) Aser, which is, by interpretation, "instruction," and the second Elkana, which is translated, "possession of God," and the third Abiasaph, which in the Greek tongue might be rendered, "congregation of the father," yet the prophecies were not divided but were both spoken and written by one spirit, and one voice, and one soul, which wrought with true harmony, and the three speak as one, "As the heart panteth after the springs of the water, so panteth my soul alter thee, O God."(7) But also they say in the plural in the forty-fourth Psalm, "O God, we have heard with our ears." But if you wish still further to see those who are making symphony on earth look to those who heard the exhortation, "that ye may be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment."(9) and who strove after the goal, "the soul and the heart of all the believers were one."(10) who have become such, if it be possible for such a condition to be found in more than two or three, that there is no discord between them, just as there is no discord between the strings of the ten-stringed psaltery with each other. But they were not in symphony in earth who said, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ,"(1) but there were schisms among them, upon the dissolution of which they were gathered together in company with the spirit in Paul, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ,(2) that they might no longer "bite and devour one another so that they were consumed by one another;"(3) for discord consumes, as concord brings together, and admits(4) the Son of God who comes in the midst of those who have become at concord. And strictly, indeed, concord takes place in two things generic, through the perfecting together, as the Apostle has called it, of the same mind by an intellectual grasp of the same opinions, and through the perfecting together of the same judgment, by a like way of living. But if whenever two of us agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father of Jesus who is in heaven,(5) plainly when this is not done for them of the Father in heaven as touching anything that they shall ask, there the two have not been in agreement on earth; and this is the cause why we are not heard when we pray, that we do not agree with one another on earth, neither in opinions nor in life. But further also if we are the body of Christ and God hath set the members each one of them in the body that the members may have the same care one for another, and may agree with one another, and when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, and if one be glorified, they rejoice with it,(6) we ought to practise the symphony which springs from the divine music, that when we are gathered together in the name of Christ, He may be in the midst of us, the Word of God, and the Wisdom of God, and His Power.(7)
2. THE HARMONY OF HUSBAND AND WIFE.
So much then for the more common understanding of the two or three whom the Word exhorts to be in agreement. But now let us also touch upon another interpretation which was uttered by some one of our predecessors, exhorting those who were married to sanctity and purity; for by the two, he says, whom the Word desires to agree on earth, we must understand the husband and wife, who by agreement defraud each other of bodily intercourse that they may give themselves unto prayer;(8) when if they pray for anything whatever that they shall ask, they shall receive it, the request being granted to them by the Father in heaven of Jesus Christ on the ground of such agreement. And this interpretation does not appear to me to cause dissolution of marriage, but to be an incitement to agreement, so that if the one wished to be pure, but the other did not desire it, and on this account he who willed and was able to fulfil the better part, condescended to the one who had not the power or the will, they would not both have the accomplishment from the Father in heaven of Jesus Christ, of anything whatever that they might ask.
3. THE HARMONY OF BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT.
And next to this about the married, I am familiar also with another interpretation of the agreement between the two which is as follows. In the wicked, sin reigns over the soul, being settled as on its own throne in this mortal body, so that the soul obeys the lusts thereof;(1) but in the case of those, who have stirred up the sin which formerly reigned over the body as from a throne and who are in conflict with it, "the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh;"(2) but in the case of those who have now become perfected, the spirit has gained the mastery and put to death the deeds of the body, and imparts to the body of its own life, so that already this is fulfilled, "He shall quicken also your mortal bodies because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you;"(3) and there arises a concord of the two, body and spirit, on the earth, on the successful accomplishment of which there is sent up a harmonious prayer also of him who "with the heart believes unto righteousness, but with the mouth maketh confession unto salvation."(4) so that the heart is no longer far from God, and along with this the righteous man draws nigh to God with his own lips and mouth. But still more blessed is it if the three be gathered together in the name of Jesus that this may be fulfilled, "May God sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."(5) But some one may inquire with regard to the concord of spirit and body spoken of, if it is possible for these to be at concord without the third being so,--I mean the soul-- and whether it does not follow from the concord of these on the earth after the two have been gathered together in the name of Christ, that the three also are already gathered together in His name, in the midst of whom comes the Son of God as all are dedicated to Him,--I mean the three,--and no one is opposed to Him, there being no antagonism not only on the part of the spirit, but not even of the soul, nor further of the body.
4. HARMONY OF THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS.
And likewise it is a pleasant thing to endeavour to understand and exhibit the fact of the concord of the two covenants,--of the one before the bodily advent of the Saviour and of the new covenant; for among those things in which the two covenants are at concord so that there is no discord between them would be found prayers, to the effect that about anything whatever they shall ask it shall be done to them from the Father in heaven. And if also you desire the third that unites the two, do not hesitate to say that it is the Holy Spirit, since "the words of the wise," whether they be of those before the advent, or at the time of the advent, or after it, "are as goads, and as nails firmly fixed, which were given by agreement from one shepherd."(1) And do not let this also pass unobserved, that He did not say, where two or three are gathered together in My name, there "shall I be" in the midst of them, but "there am I,"(2) not going to be, not delaying, but at the very moment of the concord being Himself found, and being in the midst of them.
5. THE LIMIT OF FORGIVENESS.
"Then came Peter and said unto Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?"(3) The conception that these things were said in a simple sense by Peter, as if he were inquiring whether he was to forgive his brother when he sinned against him seven times, but no longer if he sinned an eighth time, and by the Saviour, as if He thought that one should sit still and reckon up the sins of his neighbours against him in order that he might forgive seventy times and seven, but that from the seventy-eighth he should not forgive the man who wronged him, seems to me altogether silly and unworthy alike of the progress which Peter had made in the company of Jesus and of the divine magnanimity of Jesus. Perhaps, then, these things also border on an obscurity akin to the words, "Hear My voice, ye wives of Lamech,"(1) etc. If any one has already become a friend of Jesus so as to be taught by His spirit which illumines the reason of him who has advanced so far according to his desert, he might know the true meaning, therefore, in regard to these things, and such as Jesus Himself would have clearly expounded it; but we who fall short of the greatness of the friendship of Jesus must be content if we can babble a little about the passage. The number six, then, appears to be working and toilsome, but the number seven to contain the idea of repose. And consider if you can say that he, who loves the world and works the things of the world, and does those things which are material, sins six times, and that the number seven is the end of sin in his case, so that Peter with some such thought in his mind wished to pardon seven sins of those which his brother had committed against him. But since as units the tens and the hundreds have a certain common measure of proportion to the number which is in units, and Jesus knew that the number might be exceeded, on this account, I think, that He added to the number seven also the seventy,(2) and said that there ought to be forgiveness to brethren here, and to them who have sinned in respect to things here. But if any one going beyond the things about the world and this age were to commit sin, even if it were trifling, he could not longer reasonably have forgiveness of sins; for forgiveness extends to the things here, and in relation to the sins committed here, whether the forgiveness comes late or soon; but there is no forgiveness, not even to a brother, who has sinned beyond the seven and seventy times. But you might say that he who has sinned in such wise, whether as against Peter his brother, or as against Peter, against whom the gates of Hades do not prevail, is by sins of this kind in the smaller number of the sin, but according to sins still worse is in the number which has no forgiveness of sins.
6. CONCERNING THE KING WHO MADE A RECKONING WITH HIS OWN SERVANTS, TO WHOM WAS BROUGHT A MAN WHO OWED TEN THOUSAND TALENTS.
"Therefore I say unto you the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who wished to make a reckoning with his own servants."(3) The general conception of the parable is to teach us that we should be inclined to forgive the sins committed against us by those who have wronged us, and especially if after the wrongdoing he who has done it supplicates him who has been wronged, asking forgiveness for the sins which he has committed against him. And this the parable wishes to teach us by representing that even when forgiveness has been granted by God to us of the sins in respect of which we have received remission, exaction will be demanded even after the remission, unless we forgive the sins of those who have wronged us, so that there is no longer left in us the least remembrance of the wrong that was done. but the whole heart, assisted by the spirit of forgetfulness of wrongs, which is no common virtue, forgives him who has wronged us those things which have been wickedly done against any of us by him, even treacherously. But next to the general conception of the parable, it is right to examine the whole of it more simply according to the letter, so that he who advances with care to the right investigation of each detail of the things previously written may derive profit from the examination of what is said. Now there is, as is probable, an interpretation, transcendental and hard to trace, as it is somewhat mystical, according to which, after the analogy of the parables which are interpreted by the Evangelists, one would investigate each of the details in this; as, for example, who the king was, and who the servants were, and what was the beginning of his making a reckoning, and who was the one debtor who owed many talents, and who was his wife and who his children, and what were the "all things" spoken of besides those which the king ordered to be sold in order that the debt might be paid out of his belongings, and what was meant by the going out of the man who had been forgiven the many talents, and who was the one of the servants who was found and was a debtor not to the householder, but to the man who had been forgiven, and what is meant by the number of the hundred pence, and what by the word, "He took him by the throat saying, Pay what thou owest," and what is the prison into which he who had been forgiven all the talents went out and cast his fellow-servant, and who were the fellow-servants who were grieved and told the lord all that had been done, and who were the tormentors to whom he who had cast his fellow-servant into prison was delivered, and how he who was delivered to the tormentors paid all that was due, so that he no longer owed anything.(1) But it is probable also that some other things could be added to the number by a more competent investigator, the exposition and interpretation of which I think to be beyond the power of man, and requiring the Spirit of Christ who spoke them in order that Christ may be understood as He spoke; for as "no one among men knows the things of the man, save the spirit which is in him," and "no one knows the things of God, save the Spirit of God,"(2) so no one knows after God the things spoken by Christ in proverbs and parables save the Spirit of Christ, in which he who participates in Christ not only so far as He is Spirit, but in Christ as He is Wisdom, as He is Word, would behold the things which were revealed to him in this passage. But with regard to the interpretation of the loftiest type, we make no profession; nor on the other hand with the assistance of Christ who is the Wisdom of God do we despair of apprehending the things signified in the parable; but whether it shall be the case that such things shall be dictated to us in connection with this Scripture or not, may God in Christ suggest the doing of that which is pleasing to Him, if only there be granted to us also concerning these things, the word of wisdom which is given from God through the Spirit, and the word of knowledge which is supplied according to the Spirit.(3)
7. EXPOSITION CONTINUED: THE KING AND THE SERVANTS.
"The kingdom of heaven," He says, "is likened,"(4) etc. But if it be likened to such a king, and one who has done such things, who must we say that it is but the Son of God? For He is the King of the heavens, and as He is absolute Wisdom and absolute Righteousness and absolute Truth, is He not so also absolute Kingdom? But it is not a kingdom of any of those below, nor of a part of those above, but of all the things above, which were called heavens. But if you enquire into the meaning of the words, "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,"(5) you may say that Christ is theirs in so far as He is absolute Kingdom, reigning in every thought of the man who is no longer under the reign of sin which reigns in the mortal body of those who have subjected themselves to it.(6) And if I say, reigning in every thought, I mean something like this, reigning as Righteousness and Wisdom and Truth and the rest of the virtues in him who has become a heaven, because of bearing the image of the heavenly, and in every power, whether angelic, or the rest that are named saints, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come, and who are worthy of a kingdom of such a kind. Accordingly this kingdom of heaven (when it was made "in the likeness of sinful flesh,"(1) that for sin it might condemn sin, when God made "Him who knew no sin to be sin on behalf of us,"(2) who bear the body of our sin), is likened to a certain king who is understood in relation to Jesus being united to Him, if we may dare so to speak, having more capacity towards being united and becoming entirely one with the "First-born of all creation,"(3) than he, who, being joined to the Lord, becomes one spirit with Him.(4) Now of this kingdom of the heavens which is likened unto a certain king, according to the conception of Jesus, and is united to Him, it is said by anticipation that he wished to make a reckoning with his servants. But he is about to make a reckoning with them in order that it may be manifested how each has employed the tried money of the householder and his rational coins. And the image in the parables was indeed taken from masters who made a reckoning with their own servants; but we shall understand more accurately what is signified by this part of the parable, if we fix our thought on the things done by the slaves who had administered their master's goods, and who were asked to give a reckoning concerning them. For each of them, receiving in different measure from his master's goods, has used them either for that which was right so as to increase the goods of his master. or consumed it riotously on things which he ought not, and spent profusely without judgment and without discretion that which had been put into his hands. But there are those who have wisely administered these goods and goods so great, but have lost others, and whenever they give the reckoning when the master makes a reckoning with them, there is gathered together how much loss each has incurred, and there is reckoned up how much gain each has brought, and according to the worthiness of the way in which he has administered it, he is either honoured or punished, or in some cases the debt is forgiven, but in others the talents are taken away. Well, then, from what has been said, let us first look at the rational coins and the tried money of the householder, of which one receives more and another less, for according to the ability of each, to one are given five talents as he has the ability to administer so many, but to another two as not being able to receive the amount of the man before him, and to another one as being also inferior to the second.(1) Are these, then, the only differences, or are we to recognize these differences in the case of certain persons of whom the Gospel goes on to speak while there are also others besides these: In other parables also are found certain persons, as the two debtors, the one who owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty;(2) but whether these had been entrusted with them and had administered them badly as being inferior in ability to him who had been entrusted with a talent, or had received them, we have not learned; but that they owed so much, we seem to be taught from the parable. And there are found other ten servants who were each entrusted with a pound separately.(3) And if any one understood the varied character of the human soul and the wide differences from each other in respect of natural aptitude, or want of aptitude for more or fewer of the virtues, and for these virtues or for those, perhaps he would comprehend how each soul has come with certain coins of the householder which come to light with the full attainment of reason, and with the attention which follows the full attainment of reason, and with exercise in things that are right, or with diligence and exercise in other things, whether they be useful as pursuits, or in part useful and in part not useful, such as the opinions which are not wholly true nor wholly false.
8. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE RECKONING.
But you will here inquire whether all men can be called servants of the king, or some are servants whom he foreknew and fore-ordained, while there are others who transact business with the servants, and are called bankers.(4) And in like manner you will inquire if there are those outside the number of the slaves from whom the householder declares that he will exact his own with usury, not only men alien from piety, but also some of the believers. Now the servants alone are the stewards of the Word, but the king, making a reckoning with the servants, demands from those who have borrowed from the servants, whether a hundred measures of wheat or a hundred measures of oil,(1) or whatever in point of fact those who are outside of the household of the king have received; for he who owed the hundred measures of wheat or the hundred measures of oil is not found to be, according to the parable, a fellow-servant of the unjust steward, as is evident from the question--how much owest thou to my lord?(2) But mark with me that each deed which is good or seemly is like a gain and an increment, but a wicked deed is like a loss; and as there is a certain gain when the money is greater and another when it is less, and as there are differences of more or less, so according to the good deeds, there is as it were a valuing of gains more or less. To reckon what work is a great gain, and what a less gain, and what a least, is the prerogative of him who alone knows to investigate such things, looking at them in the light of the disposition, and the word, and the deed, and from consideration of the things which are not in our power cooperating with those that are; and so also in the case of things opposite, it is his to say what sin, when a reckoning is made with the servants, is found to be a great loss, and what is less, and what, if we may so call it, is the loss of the very last mite, (3) or the last farthing.(4) The account, therefore, of the entire and whole life is exacted by that which is called the kingdom of heaven which is likened to a king, when "we must all stand before the judgment-sent of Christ that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done, whether good or bad;"(5) and then when the reckoning is being made, shall there be brought into the reckoning that is made also every idle word that men shall speak,(6) and Guy cup of cold water only which one has given to drink in the name of a disciple.(7)
9. THE TIME OCCUPIED BY THE RECKONING.
And these things will take place whenever that happens which is written in Daniel, "The books were opened and the judgment was set;"(8) for a record, as it were, is made of all things that have been spoken and done and thought, and by divine power every hidden thing of ours shall be manifested, and everything that is covered shall be revealed,(9) in order that when any one is found who has not "given diligence to be freed from the adversary," he may go in succession through the hands of the magistrate, and the judge, and the attendant into the prison, until he pays the very last mite;(1) but when one has given diligence to be freed from him and owes nothing to any one, and already has made the pound ten pounds or five pounds, or doubled the five talents, or made the two four, he may obtain the due recompense, entering into the joy of his Lord, either being set over all His possessions,(2) or hearing the word, "Have thou authority over ten cities,"(3) or "Have thou authority over five cities."(4) But we think that these things are spoken of as if they required a long period of time, in order that an account may be made by us of the whole times of the earthly life, so that we might suppose that when the king makes a reckoning with each one of his many servants the matter would require so vast a period of time, until these things come to an end which have existed from the beginning of the world down to the consummation of the age, not of one age, but of many ages. But the truth is not so; for when God wished all at once to rekindle in the memories of all everything that had been done by each one throughout the whole time, in order that each might become conscious of his own doings whether good or bad, He would do it by His ineffable power. For it is not with God as with us; for if we wish to call some things to remembrance, we require sufficient time for the detailed account of what has been said by us, and to bring to our remembrance the things which we wish to remember; but if He wished to call to our memory the things which have been done in this life, in order that becoming conscious of what we have done we may apprehend for what we are punished or honoured, He could do so. But if any one disbelieves the swiftness of the power of God in regard to these matters, he has not yet had a true conception of the God who made the universe, who did not require times to make the vast creation of heaven and earth and the things in them; for, though He may seem to have made these things in six days, there is need of understanding to comprehend in what sense the words "in six days" are said, on account of this, "This is the book of the generation of heaven and earth,"(5) etc. Therefore it may be boldly affirmed that the season of the expected judgment does not require times, but as the resurrection is said to take place "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,"(1) so I think will the judgment also be.
10. THE MAN WHO OWED MANY TALENTS.
Next we must speak in regard to this, "And when he had begun to reckon, there was brought unto him one which owed many talents."(2) The sense of this appears to me to be as follows: The season of beginning the judgment is with the house of God, who says, as also it is written in Ezekiel, to those who are appointed to attend to punishments, "Begin ye with My saints;"(3) and it is like "the twinkling of an eye;" but, the time of making a reckoning includes the same "twinkling," ideally apprehended, for we are not forgetful of what has been previously said of those who owe more. Wherefore it is not written, when he was making reckoning, but it is said, "When he began to reckon," there was brought, at the beginning of his making a reckoning, one who owed many talents; he had lost tens of thousands of talents, having been entrusted with great things, and having had many things committed to his care, but he had brought no gain to his master, but had lost tens of thousands so that he owed many talents; and, perhaps on this account, he owed many talents, seeing that he followed often the woman, who was sitting upon the talent of lead, whose name is wickedness.(4) But observe here that every great sin is a loss of the talents of the master of the house, and such sins are committed by fornicators, adulterers, abusers of themselves with men, effeminate, idolaters, murderers. Perhaps then the one who is brought to the king owing many talents has committed no small sin but all that are great and heinous; and if you were to seek for him among men, perhaps you would find him to be "the man of sin, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against every God or object of worship;"(5) but if yon seek him outside the number of men, who can this be but the devil who has ruined so many who received him, who wrought sin in them. For "man is a great thing, and a pitiful man is precious,"(6) precious so as to be worthy of a talent, whether of gold like as the lamp which was equal to a talent of gold,(1) or of silver or of any kind of material whatsoever understood intellectually, the symbols of which are recorded in the Words of the Days,(2) when David became enriched with many talents of which the number is mentioned, so many talents of gold, and so many of silver, and of the rest of the material there named, from which the temple of God was built.
11. THE SERVANT WHO OWED A HUNDRED PENCE.
Only, though he cannot pay the talents, for he has lost them, he has a wife and children and other things, of which it is written, "All that he has."(3) And it was possible that when he had been sold along with his own, he would have prospered if some one had bought him, and, by his worth and the things that were his, have paid the whole debt in full; and it was possible that he might no longer be the servant of the king, but become that of his purchaser. And he makes a request that he be not sold along with his own, but may continue to abide in the house of the king; wherefore he fell down and worshipped him, knowing that the king was God, and said, "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all;"(4) for he was, as is probable, an active man, who knew that he could by a second course of action fill up the whole deficiency of the former loss of many talents. And this truly good king was moved with compassion for the man who owed him many talents and then released him, having bestowed upon him a favour greater than the request which had been made; for the debtor promised to the long-suffering master to pay all his debts, but the Lord moved with compassion for him did not merely forgive him with the idea of receiving his own back as a result of his patience, but even entirely released him and forgave him the whole debt. But this wicked servant, who had besought his master to have patience for his many talents, acted without mercy, for, having found one of his fellow-servants which owed him a hundred pence, he laid hold on him and took him by the throat, saying, "Pay if thou owest."(5) And did he not exhibit the very excess of wickedness who laid hold of his fellow-servant for a hundred pence, and took him by the throat and deprived him of freedom to breathe, when he himself, for the many talents, had neither been laid hold of, nor seized by the throat, but at first was ordered to be sold along with his wife and children and all that was his own; but afterwards, when he had worshipped him, the master was moved with compassion for him, and he was released and forgiven in regard to the whole of the debt. But it were indeed a hard task to tell according to the conception of Jesus who is the one fellow-servant who was found to be owing a hundred pence, not to his own lord, but to him who owed many talents, and who are the fellow-servants who saw the one taking by the throat, and the other taken, and were exceedingly sorry, and represented clearly unto their own lord all that had been done. But what the truth in these matters is, I declare that no one can interpret unless Jesus, who explained all things to His own disciples privately, takes up His abode in his reason, and opens up all the treasures in the parable which are dark, hidden, unseen, and confirms by clear demonstrations the man whom He desires to illumine with the light of the knowledge of the things that are in this parable, that he may at once represent who is brought to the king as the debtor of many talents, and who is the other one who owes to him a hundred pence, etc.; whether he can be the man of sin previously mentioned,(1) or the devil, or neither of these, but some other, whether a man, or some one of these under the sway of the devil; for it is a work of the wisdom of God to exhibit the things have have been prophesied concerning those who are in themselves of a certain nature, or have been made according to such and such qualities, whether among visible powers or also among some men, in whatever way they may have been written by the Holy Spirit. But as we have not yet received the competent mind which is able to be blended with the mind of Christ, and which is capable of attaining to things so great, and which is able with the Spirit to "search all things, even the deep things of God,"(2) we, forming an impression still indefinitely with regard to the matters in this passage, are of opinion that the wicked servant indicated by the parable who is here represented in regard to the debt of many talents, refers to some definite one.
12. THE TIME OF THE RECKONING.
But it is fitting to examine at what time the man--the king--in the parable wished to make a reckoning with his own servants, and to what period we ought to refer the things that are said. For if it be after the consummation, or at it at the time of the expected judgment, how are we to maintain the things about him who owed a hundred pence, and was taken by the throat by the man who had been forgiven the many talents? But if, before the judgment, how can we explain the reckoning that was made before this by the king, with his own servants? But we ought to think in a general way about every parable, the interpretation of which has not been recorded by the evangelists, even though Jesus explained all things to His own disciples privately;(1) and for this reason the writers of the Gospels have concealed the clear exposition of the parables, because the things signified by them were beyond the power of the nature of words to express, and every solution and exposition of such parables was of such a kind that not even the whole world itself could contain the books that should be written(2) in relation to such parables. But it may happen that a fitting heart be found, and, because of its purity, able to receive the letters of the exposition of the parable, so that they could be written in it by the Spirit of the living God. But some one will say that, perhaps, we act with impiety, who, because of the secret and mystical import of some of the Scriptures which are of heavenly origin, wish them to be symbolic, and endeavour to expound them, even though it might seem ex hypothesi that we had an accurate knowledge of their meaning. But to this we must say that, if there be those who have obtained the gift of accurate apprehension of these things, they know what they ought to do; but as for us, who acknowledge that we fall short of the ability to see into the depth of the things here signified, even though we obtain a somewhat crass perception of the things in the passage, we will say, that some of the things which we seem to find after much examination and inquiry, whether by the grace of God, or by the power of our own mind, we do not venture to commit to writing; but some things, for the sake of our own intellectual discipline, and that of those who may chance to read them, we will to some extent set forth. But let these things, then, be said by way of apology, because of the depth of the parable; but, with regard to the question at what time the man--the king--in the parable wished to make a reckoning with his own servants, we will say that it seems that this takes place about the time of the judgment which had been proclaimed. And this is confirmed by two parables, one at the close of the Gospel before us,(1) and one from the Gospel according to Luke.(2) And not to prolong the discussion by quoting the very letter, as any one who wishes can take it from the Scripture himself, we will say that the parable according to Matthew declares, "For it is as when a man going into another country called his own servants, and delivered unto them his own goods, and to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one talent;"(3) then they took action with regard to that which had been entrusted to them, and, after a long time, the lord of those servants cometh, and it is written in the very words, that he also makes a reckoning with them.(4) And compare the words, "And when he began to make a reckoning,"(5) and consider that he called the going of the householder into another country the time at which "we are at home in the body but absent from the Lord;"(6) but his advent, when, "after a long time the lord of those servants cometh,"(7) the time at the consummation in the judgment; for after a long time the lord of those servants cometh and makes a reckoning with them, and those things which follow take place. But the parable in Luke represents with more clearness, that "a certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return," and when going, "he called ten servants, and gave to them ten pounds, and said unto them, Trade ye till I come."(8) But the nobleman, being hated by his own citizens, who sent an ambassage after him, as they did not wish him to reign over them, came back again, having received the kingdom, and told the servants to whom he had given the money to be called to himself that he might know what they had gained by trading. And, seeing what they had done, to him who had made the one pound ten pounds, rendering praise in the words, "Well done, thou good servant, because thou wast found faithful in a very little,"(9) he gives to him authority over ten cities, to-wit, those which were under his kingdom. And to another, who had multiplied the pound fivefold, he did not render the praise which he assigned to the first, nor did he specify the word "authority," as in the case of the first, but said to him, "Be thou also over five cities."(1) But to him who had tied up the pound in a napkin, he said, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant;"(2) and he said to them that stood by. Take from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath the ten pounds(3) Who, then, in regard to this parable, will not say that the nobleman, who goes into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return, is Christ, going, as it were, into another country to receive the kingdoms of this world, and the things in it? And those who have received the ten talents are those who have been entrusted with the dispensation of the Word which has been committed unto them. And His citizens who did not wish Him to reign over them when He was a citizen in the world in respect of His incarnation,(4) are perhaps Israel who disbelieved Him, and perhaps also the Gentiles who disbelieved Him.
13.NO FORGIVENESS TO THE UNFORGIVING.
Only, I have said these things with the view of referring his return when he comes with his kingdom to the consummation, when he commanded the servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him that he might know what they had gained by trading, and from a desire to demonstrate from this, and from the parable of the Talents, that the passage "he who wished to make a reckoning with his own servants"(5) is to be referred to the consummation when now he is king, receiving the kingdom, on account of which, according to another parable,(6) he went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. Therefore, when he returned after receiving the kingdom, he wished to make a reckoning with his own servants. And "when he had begun to reckon, there was brought unto him one who owed many talents,"(7) and he was brought as to a king by those who had been appointed his ministers--I think, the angels, And perhaps he was one of those under the kingdom who had been entrusted with a great administration and had not dispensed it well, but had wasted what had been entrusted to him, so that he came to owe the many talents which he had lost. This very man, perhaps not having the means to pay, is ordered by the king to be sold along with his wife, by intercourse with whom he became the father of certain children. But it is no easy task to see what is intellectually meant by father and mother and children. What this means in point of truth God may know, and whether He Himself has given insight to us or not, he who can may judge. Only this is our conception of the passage; that, as "the Jerusalem which is above" is "the mother"(2) of Paul and of those like unto him, so there may be a mother of others after the analogy of Jerusalem, the mother, for example, of Syene in Egypt, or Sidon, or as many cities as are named in the Scriptures. Then, as Jerusalem is "a bride adorned for her husband,"(2) Christ, so there may be those mothers of certain powers who have been allotted to them as wives or brides. And as there are certain children of Jerusalem, as mother, and of Christ, as father, so there would be certain children of Syene, or Memphis, or Tyre, or Sidon, and the rulers set over them. Perhaps then, too, this one, the debtor of many talents who was brought to the king, has, as we have said, a wife and children, whom at first the king ordered to be sold, and also all that he had to be sold; but afterwards, being moved with compassion, he released him and forgave him all the debt; not, as if he were ignorant of the future, but, in order that we might understand what happened, it was written that he did so. Each one then of those who have, as we have said, a wife and children will render an account whenever the king comes to make a reckoning, having received the kingdom and having returned; and each of them as a ruler of any Syene or Memphis, or Tyre or Sidon, or any like unto them, has also debtors. This one, then, having been released, and having been forgiven all the debt, "went out from the king and found one of his fellow-servants,"(3) etc.; and, on this account, I suppose that he took him by the throat, when he had gone out from the king, for unless he had gone out he would not have taken his own fellow-servant by the throat. Then observe the accuracy of the Scripture, how that the one fell down and "worshipped," but the other fell down and did not worship but "besought;"(4) and the king being moved with compassion released him and forgave him all the debt, but the servant did not wish even to pity his own fellow-servant; and the king before his release ordered him to be sold and what was his, while he who had been forgiven cast him into prison. And observe that his fellow-servants did not bring any accusation or "said," but "told,"(1) and that he did not use the epithet "wicked" at the beginning in regard to the money lost, but reserved it afterwards for his action towards the fellow-servant. But mark also the moderation of the king; he does not say, You worshipped me, but You besought me; and no longer did he order him and his to be sold, but, what was worse, he delivered him to the tormentors, because of his wickedness.(2) But who may these be but those who have been appointed in the matter of punishments? But at the same time observe, because of the use made of this parable by adherents of heresies, that if they accuse the Creator(3) of being passionate, because of words that declare the wrath of God, they ought also to accuse this king, because that "being wroth," he delivered the debtor to the tormentors. But it must further be said to those whose view it is that no one is delivered by Jesus to the tormentors,--pray, explain to us, good sirs, who is the king who delivered the wicked servant to the tormentors? And let them also attend to this, "So therefore also shall My heavenly Father do unto you;"(4) and to the same persons also might rather be said the things in the parable of the Ten Pounds that the Son of the good God said, "Howbeit these mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them,"(5) etc. The conclusion of the parable, however, is adapted also to the simpler; for all of us who have obtained the forgiveness of our own sins, and have not forgiven our brethren, are taught at once that we shall suffer the lot of him who was forgiven but did not forgive his fellow- servant.
14. HOW JESUS FINISHED HIS WORDS.
"And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words."(6) He who gives a detailed and complete account of each of the questions before him so that nothing is left out, finishes his own words. But he will give a declaration on this point with more confidence who devotes himself with great diligence to the entire reading of the Old and New Testament; for if the expression, "he finished these words," may be applied to no other, neither to Moses, nor to any of the prophets, but only to Jesus, then one would date to say that Jesus alone finished His words, He who came to put an end to things, and to fulfil what was defective in the law, by saying, "It was said to them of old time,"(1) etc., and, again, "That the things spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled."(2) But if it is written somewhere also in them, then you may compare and contrast the discourses finished by them with those finished by the Saviour, that you may find the difference between them. And yet at this point, also, investigation might be made whether in the case of the things spoken by way of oracle the expression, "he finished," is applied either to the things spoken by Moses, or any of the prophets, or of both together; for careful observation would suggest very weighty thoughts to those who know how "to compare spiritual things with spiritual," and on this account "speak not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth."(3) But perhaps some other one, attending with over-curious spirit to the word "finished," which is assigned to things of a more mystical order, just as we say that some one delivered to those who were under his control mysteries and rites of "perfecting"(4) not in a praiseworthy fashion, and another delivered the mysteries of God to those who are worthy, and rites of "perfecting" proportionate to such mysteries, might say that having initiated them, he made a rite of "perfecting," by which "perfecting" the words were shown to be powerful, so that the gospel of Jesus was preached in the whole world, and by virtue of the divine "perfecting" gained the mastery of every soul which the Father draws to the Son, according to what is said by the Saviour, "No one comes to Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him."(5) Wherefore also "the word" of those who by the grace of God are ambassadors of the gospel, "and their preaching, is not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit of power,"(6) to those for whom the words of the doctrine of Jesus were finished. You will therefore observe how often it is said, "He finished." and of what things it is said, and you will take as an illustration that which is said in regard to the beatitudes, and the whole of the discourse to which is subjoined, "And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words, all the multitudes were astonished at His teaching."(1) But now the saying, "Jesus finished these words," is referred also immediately to the very mystical parable according to which the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a king, but also beyond this parable to the sections which were written before it.
15. HOW MEN FOLLOWED JESUS.
Only, when Jesus had finished these words, having spoken them in Galilee about Capernaum, then "He departed thence, and came into the borders of Judaea,"(2) which were different from Galilee. But He came to the borders of Judaea, and not to the middle of it, but, as it were, to the outermost parts, where great multitudes followed Him,(3) whom He healed at "the borders of Judaea beyond Jordan,"--where baptism had been given.(4) But you will observe the difference between the crowds who simply followed, and Peter and the others who gave up everything and followed, and Matthew, who arose and followed him;(5) he did not simply follow, but "having arisen;" for "having arisen" is an important addition. There are always those, then, who follow like the great multitudes, who have no arisen that they may follow, nor have given up all that was theirs formerly, but few are they who have arisen and followed, who also, in the regeneration, shall sit on twelve thrones.(6) Only, if one wishes to be healed, let him follow Jesus.
16.CONCERNING THE PHARISEES AND SCRIBES TEMPTING JESUS (BY ASKING) WHETHER WAS LAWFUL FOR A MAN TO PUT AWAY HIS WIFE FOR EVERY CAUSE.
After this it is written that "there came unto Him the Pharisees tempting Him and saying, Is it lawful for a man to wife for every cause?"(7) Mark, also, has written to the like effect.(8) Accordingly, of those who came to Jesus and inquired of Him, there were some who put questions to tempt Him; and if our Saviour so transcendent was tempted, which of His disciples who is ordained to teach need be vexed, when he is tempted by some who inquire, not from the love of learning, but from the wish to tempt? And you might find many passages, if you brought them together, in which the Pharisees tempted our Jesus, and others, different from them, as a certain lawyer,(1) and perhaps also a scribe,(2) that by bringing together what is said about those who tempted Him, you might find by investigation what is useful for this kind of inquiries. Only, the Saviour, in response to those who tempted Him, laid down dogmas; for they said, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his own wife for every cause?" and He answered and said, "Have ye not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?"(3) etc. And I think that the Pharisees put forward this word for this reason, that they might attack Him whatever He might say; as, for example, if He had said, "It is lawful," they would have accused Him of dissolving marriages for trifles; but, if He had said, "It is not lawful," they would have accused Him of permitting a man to dwell with a woman, even with sins; so, likewise, in the case of the tribute-money,(4) if He had told them to give, they would have accused Him of making the people subject to the Romans, and not to the law of God, but if He had told them not to give, they would have accused Him of creating war and sedition, and of stirring up those who were not able to stand against so powerful an army. But they did not perceive in what way He answered blamelessly and wisely, in the first place, rejecting the opinion that a wife was to be put away for every cause, and, in the second place, giving answer to the question about the bill of divorcement; for He saw that not every cause is a reasonable ground for the dissolution of marriage, and that the husband must dwell with the wife as the weaker vessel, giving honour,(5) and bearing her burdens in sills;(6) and by what is written in Genesis, He puts to shame the Pharisees who boasted in the Scriptures of Moses, by saying, "Have ye not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female," etc., and, subjoining to these words, because of the saying, "And the twain shall become one flesh," teaching in harmony with one flesh, namely, "So that they are no more twain, but one flesh."(7) And, as tending to convince them that they should not put away their wife for every cause, is it said," What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."(8) It is to be observed, however, in the exposition of the words quoted from Genesis in the Gospel, that they were not spoken consecutively as they are written in the Gospel; and I think that it is not even said about the same persons, namely, of those who were formed after the image of God, and of those who were formed from the dust of the ground and from one of the ribs of Adam. For where it is said, "Male and female made He them,"(1) the reference is to those formed "after the image," but where He also said, "For this cause shall a man leave his own father and mother,"(2) etc., the reference is not to those formed after the image; for some time after the Lord God formed the man, taking dust from the ground, and from his side the helpmate. And mark, at the same time, that in the case of those who are formed "after the image," the words were not "husband and wife" but "male and female." But we have also observed this in the Hebrew, for man is indicated by the word "is," but male by the word "zachar," and again woman by the word "essa," but female by the word "agkeba." For at no time is it "woman" or "man" "after the image," but the superior class, the male, and the second, the female. But also if a man leave his mother and his father, he cleaves not to the female, but to his own wife, and "they become," since man and woman are one in flesh, "one flesh." Then, describing what ought to be in the case of those who are joined together by God, so that they may be joined together in a manner worthy of God, the Saviour adds, "So that they are no more twain;"(3) and, wherever there is indeed concord, and unison, and harmony, between husband and wife, when he is as ruler and she is obedient to the word, "He shall rule over thee,"(4) then of such persons we may truly say, "They are no more twain." Then since it was necessary that for "him who was joined to the Lord," it should be reserved "that he should become one spirit with Him,"(5) in the case of those who are joined together by God, after the words, "So that they are no more twain," it is said, "but one flesh." And it is God who has joined together the two in one so that they are no more twain, from the time that(6) the woman is married to the man. And, since God has joined them together, on this account in the case of those who are joined together by God, there is a "gift"; and Paul knowing this, that marriage according to the Word of God was a "gift," like as holy celibacy was a gift, says, "But I would that all men were like myself; howbeit, each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that."(1) And those who are joined together by God both mind and keep the precept, "Husbands love your wives, as Christ also the church."(2) The Saviour then commanded, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,"(3) but man wishes to put asunder what God hath joined together, when, "falling away from the sound faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron, forbidding," not only to commit fornication, but "to marry,"(4) he dissolves even those who had been before joined together by the providence of God. Let these things then be said, keeping in view what is expressly said concerning the male and the female, and the man and the woman, as the Saviour taught in the answer to the Pharisees.
17. UNION OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH.
But since the Apostle understands the words, "And they twain shall be one flesh,"(5) of Christ and the church,(6) we must say that Christ keeping the saying, "What God hath joined together let not man put asunder,"(7) did not put away His former wife, so to speak--that is, the former synagogue-- for any other cause than that that wife committed fornication, being made an adulteress by the evil one, and along with him plotted against her husband and slew Him, saying, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, crucify Him, crucify Him."(8) It was she therefore who herself revolted, rather than her husband who put her away and dismissed her; wherefore, reproaching her for falling away from him, it says in Isaiah, "Of what kind is the bill of your mother's divorcement, with which I sent her away?"(9) And He who at the beginning created Him "who is in the form of God" after the image, made Him male, and the church female, granting to both oneness after the image. And, for the sake of the church, the Lord--the husband-- left the Father whom He saw when He was" in the form of God,"(10) left also His mother, as He was the very son of the Jerusalem which is above, and was joined to His wife who had fallen down here, and these two here became one flesh. For because of her, He Himself also became flesh, when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,"(1) and they are no more two, but now they are one flesh, since it is said to the wife, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members each in his part;"(2) for the body of Christ is not something apart different from the church, which is His body, and from the members each in his part. And God has joined together these who are not two, but have become one flesh, commanding that men should not separate the church from the Lord. And he who takes heed for himself so as not to be separated, is confident as one who will not possibly be separated and says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"(3) Here, therefore, the saying, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,"(4) was written with relation to the Pharisees, but to those who are superior to the Pharisees, it could be said, "What then God hath joined together, let nothing put asunder," neither principality nor power; for God, who has joined together is stronger than all those which any one could conceive and name.
18. THE BILL OF DIVORCEMENT.
After this we will discuss the saying of the Pharisees which they said to Jesus, "Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement and put her away?"(5) And with good reason we will bring forward for this purpose the passage from Deuteronomy concerning the bill of divorcement, which is as follows: "But if a man taketh a wife and cohabit with her, and it shall be, if she do not find favour in his sight because he hath found in her a thing unseemly," etc., down to the words, "and ye shall not pollute the land which the Lord your God giveth you for an inheritance."(6) Now I inquire whether in these things according to this law, we are to seek nothing in it beyond the letter seeing that God has not given it, or whether to the Pharisees who quoted the saying, "Moses commanded to give a bill of divorcement and put her away," it was of necessity said, "Moses, for your hardness of heart, suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it hath not been so."(7) But if any one ascends to the Gospel of Christ Jesus which teaches that the law is spiritual, he will seek also the spiritual understanding of this law. And he who wishes to interpret these things figuratively will say that, just as it was said by Paul confident in the grace which he had, "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth, but if the husband be dead she is free to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord; but she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgment, and I think that I also have the Spirit of God"(1) (for here to the words, "after my judgment," lest it should be despised as being without the Spirit of God, he well added, "and I think that I also have the Spirit of God)," so also it would be possible for Moses, by reason of the power given to him to make laws, to the effect that he suffered for the hardness of heart of the people certain things, among which was the putting away of wives, to be persuaded in regard to the laws which he promulgated according to his own judgment, that in these also the legislation took place with the Spirit of God. And he will say that, unless one law is spiritual and another is not such, this is a law, and this is spiritual, and its spiritual significance ought to be investigated.
19. THE DIVORCE OF ISRAEL.
Now, keeping in mind what we said above in regard to the passage from Isaiah about the bill of divorcement, we will say that the mother of the people separated herself from Christ, her husband, without having received the bill of divorcement, but afterwards when there was found in her an unseemly thing, and she did not find favour in his sight, the bill of divorcement was written out for her; for when the new covenant called those of the Gentiles to the house of Him who had cast away his former wife, it virtually gave the bill of divorcement to her who formerly separated from her husband--the law, and the Word. Therefore he, also, having separated from her, married, so to speak, another, having given into the hands of the former the bill of divorcement; wherefore they can no longer do the things enjoined on them by the law, because of the bill of divorcement. And a sign that she has received the bill of divorcement is this, that Jerusalem was destroyed along with what they called the sanctuary of the things in it which were believed to be holy, and with the altar of burnt offerings, and all the worship associated with it. And a further sign of the bill of divorcement is this, that they cannot keep their feasts, even though according to the letter of the law designedly commanded them, in the place which the Lord God appointed to them for keeping feasts; but there is this also, that the whole synagogue has become unable to stone those who have committed this or that sin; and thousands of things commanded are a sign of the bill of divorcement; and the fact that "there is no more a prophet," and that they say, "We no longer see signs;"(1) for the Lord says, "He hath taken away from Judaea and from Jerusalem," according to the word of Isaiah, "Him that is mighty, and her that is mighty, a powerful giant," etc., down to the words, "a prudent hearer."(2) Now, He who is the Christ may have taken the synagogue to wife and cohabited with her, but it may be that afterwards she found not favour in His sight; and the reason of her not having found favour in His sight was, that there was found in her an unseemly thing; for what was more unseemly than the Circumstance that, when it was proposed to them to release one at the feast, they asked for the release of Barabbas the robber, and the condemnation of Jesus?(3) And what was more unseemly than the fact, that they all said in His case, "Crucify Him, crucify Him," and "Away with such a fellow from the earth"?(4) And can this be freed from the charge of unseemliness, "His blood be upon us, and upon our children"?(5) Wherefore, when He was avenged, Jerusalem was compassed with armies, and its desolation was near,(6) and their house was taken away from it, and "the daughter of Zion was left as a booth in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a besieged city."(7) And, about the same time, I think, the husband wrote out a bill of divorcement to his former wife, and gave it into her hands, and sent her away from his own house, and the bond of her who came from the Gentiles has been cancelled about which the Apostle Says, "Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances, which was contrary to us, and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;"(8) for Paul also and others became proselytes of Israel for her who came from the Gentiles.(9) The first wife, accordingly, not having found favour before her husband, because in her had been found an unseemly thing, went out from the dwelling of her husband, and, going away, has become joined to another man, to whom she has subjected herself, whether we should call the husband Barabbas the robber, who is figuratively the devil, or some evil power. And in the case of some of that synagogue there has happened the former thing which was written in the law, but in the case of others, that which was second. For the last husband(1) hated his wife and will write out for her some day at the consummation of things a bill of divorcement, when God so orders it, and will give it into her hands and will send her away from his dwelling; for as the good God will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between his seed and her seed,(2) so will He order it that the last husband shall hate her.
20. CHRIST AND THE GENTILES.
Now there are those in whose case it has happened that the man dwells with them without having hated them, because they abide in the house of the last husband, who took to himself their synagogue as wife. But also in their case the latter husband dies,(1) perhaps whenever the last enemy of Christ, death, is destroyed. But whichever of these things may happen, whether the former or the latter to the wife, the former husband, it says, who sent her away, will not he able to turn back and take her to be a wife to himself after she has been defiled, since "it is abomination," it says, "before the Lord thy God."(3) But these things will not seem to be consistent with this, "If the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, all Israel shall be saved."(4) But consider if it can be said to this, that, if she shall be saved by her former husband returning and taking her to himself as wife, she will in any case be saved after she has been polluted. A priest, then, will not take to himself as a wife one who has been a harlot and an outcast,(5) but no other, as being inferior to the priest, is hindered from doing so. But if you seek for the harlot in regard to the calling of the Gentiles, you may use the passage, "Take to yourself a wife of fornication, and children of fornication,"(6) etc.; for, as "the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless,"(7) so he who, casting oat his former wife, takes in due season "a wife of fornication," having done it according to the command of Him who says, when it is necessary, and so long as it was necessary, "He shall not take a harlot to wife," and, when it was reasonable, He says, "Take to yourself a wife of fornication." For as the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath,(1) and not the slave of the sabbath as the people are, so He who gives the law has power to give it "until a time of reformation,"(2) and to change the law, and, when the time of the reformation is at hand, also to give after the former way and after the former heart another way and another heart, "in an acceptable time, and in a day of salvation."(3) And let these things be said according to our interpretation of the law in regard to the bill of divorcement.
21. UNION OF ANGELS AND THE SOULS OF MEN.
But some one may inquire whether the human soul can be figuratively called a wife, and the angel who is set over her and is her ruler, with whom as her sovereign she holds conversation, can be called her husband; so that according to this each lawfully dwells along with the soul which is worthy of the guardianship of a divine angel; but sometimes after long sojourning and intercourse a cause may arise in the soul why she does not find favour in the eyes of the angel who is her lord and ruler, because that in it there is found an unseemly thing; and bonds may be written out, as such are written, and a bill of divorcement be written and put into the hands of her who is cast out, so that she may no longer be familiar with her former guardian, when she is cast out from his dwelling. And even she who has gone away from her former dwelling may be joined to another husband, and be unfortunate with him, not only, as in the case of the former, not finding favour in his sight because an unseemly thing was found in her, but even being hated by him.(4) Yea, and even there might be written out from the second husband a bill of divorcement and it might be put into her hands from the last husband who sends her away from his dwelling. But whether there can be such a change of the life of angels with men, as to amount, so far as concerns their relation to us, to their death, one may put the question rash though it be; but be that as it may, she also who has once fallen away from the former husband will not return again to him, for the former husband who sent her away will not be able to turn back and take her as wife to himself, after she was defiled.(5) And if one should dare, using a Scripture which is in circulation in the church, but not acknowledged by all to be divine, to soften down a precept of this kind, the passage might be taken from The Shepherd, concerning some who as soon as they believe are put in subjection to Michael,(1) but falling away from him from love of pleasure, are put in subjection to the angel of luxury,(2) then to the angel of punishment,(3) and after this to the angel of repentance; for you observe that the wife or soul who has once been given to luxury no longer returns to the first ruler, but also besides suffering punishment, is put in subjection to one inferior to Michael; for the angel of penitence is inferior to him. We must therefore take heed lest there be found in us any unseemly thing, and we should not find favour in the eyes of our husband Christ, or of the angel who has been set over us. For if we do not take heed, perhaps we also shall receive the bill of divorcement, and either be bereft of our guardian, or go to another man. But I consider that it is not of good omen to receive, as it were, the marriage of an angel with our own soul.(4)
22. THE MARRIAGE OF CHURCH DIGNITARIES.
But, while dealing with the passage, I would say that we will be able perhaps now to understand and clearly set forth a question which is hard to grasp and see into, with regard to the legislation of the Apostle concerning ecclesiastical matters; for Paul wishes no one of those of the church, who has attained to any eminence beyond the many, as is attained in the administration of the sacraments, to make trial of a second marriage. For laying down the law in regard to bishops m the first Epistle to Timothy, he says, "If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop, therefore, must be without reproach, the husbands of one wife, temperate, sober-minded,"(5) etc.; and, in regard to deacons, "Let the deacons," he says, "be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well,"(6) etc. Yea, and also when appointing widows, he says, "Let there be no one as a widow under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man;"(7) and after this he says the things superadded, as being second or third in importance to this. And, in the Epistle to Titus, "For this cause," he says, "I left thee in Crete that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city as I gave thee charge. If any one is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children, that believe"(1)--of course--and so on. Now, when we saw that some who have been married twice may be much better than those who have been married once, we were perplexed why Paul does not at all permit those who have been twice married to be appointed to ecclesiastical dignities; for also it seemed to me that such a thing was worthy of examination, as it was possible that a man, who had been unfortunate in two marriages, and had lost his second wife while he was yet young, might have lived for the rest of his years up to old age in the greatest self-control and chastity. Who, then, would not naturally be perplexed why at all, when a ruler of the church is being sought for, we do not appoint such a man, though he has been twice married, because of the expressions about marriage, but lay hold of the man who has been once married as our ruler, even if he chance to have lived to old age with his wife, and sometimes may not have been disciplined in chastity and temperance? But, from what is said in the law about the bill of divorcement, I reflect whether, seeing that the bishop and the presbyter and the deacon are a symbol of things that truly exist in accordance with these names, he wished to appoint those who were figuratively once married, in order that he who is able to give attention to the matter, may find out from the spiritual law the one who was unworthy of ecclesiastical rule, whose soul did not find favour in the eyes of her husband because there had been found in her an unseemly thing, and she had become worthy of the bill of divorcement; for such a soul, having dwelt along with a second husband, and having been hated by such an one, can no longer, after the second bill of divorcement, return to her former husband.(2) It is likely, therefore, also, that other arguments will be found by those who are wiser than we, and have more ability to see into such things, whether in the law about the bill of divorcement, or in the apostolic writings which prohibit those who have been twice married from ruling over the church or being preferred to preside over it. But, until something shall be found that is better and able by the excessive brilliancy of the light of knowledge to cast into the shade what we have uttered, we have said the things which have occurred to us in regard to the passages.
23. SOME LAWS GIVEN BY CONCESSION TO HUMAN WEAKNESS.
But, even if we have seemed to touch on things too deep for our capacity in the passages, nevertheless, because of the literal expression these things must further be said, that some of the laws were written not as excellent, but as by way of accommodation to the weakness of those to whom the law was given; for something of this kind is indicated in the words, "Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives;"(1) but that which is pre-eminent and superior to the law, which was written for their hardness of heart, is indicated in this, "But from the beginning it hath not been so." But in the new covenant also there are some legal injunctions of the same order as, "Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives;" for example, because of our hardness of heart, it has been written on account of our weakness, "But because of fornications, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband;"(2) and this, "Let the husband render unto the wife her due, and likewise also the wife unto the husband."(3) To these sayings it is accordingly subjoined, "But this I say by way of permission, not of commandment."(4) But this also, "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth, but if her husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord,"(5) was said by Paul in view of our hardness of heart and weakness, to those who do not wish to desire earnestly the greater gifts(6) and become more blessed. But now contrary to what was written, some even of the rulers of the church have permitted a woman to marry, even when her husband was living, doing contrary to what was written, where it is said, "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth," and "So then if while her husband liveth, she shall be joined to another man she shall be called an adulteress,"(7) not indeed altogether without reason, for it is probable this concession was permitted in comparison with worse things, contrary to what was from the beginning ordained by law, and written.
24. JEWISH CRITICISM OF THE LAW OF CHRIST.
But perhaps some Jewish man of those who dare to oppose the teaching of our Saviour will say, that when Jesus said, "Whosoever shall put away his own wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress,"(1) He also gave permission to put away a wife like as well as Moses did, who was said by Him to have given laws for the hardness of heart of the people, and will hold that the saying, "Because he found in her an unseemly thing,"(2) is to be reckoned as the same as fornification on account of which with good cause a wife could be cast away from her husband. But to him it must be said that, if she who committed adultery was according to the law to be stoned, clearly it is not in this sense that the unseemly thing is to be understood. For it is not necessary for adultery or any such great indecency to write a bill of divorcement and give it into the hands of the wife; but indeed perhaps Moses called every sin an unseemly thing, on the discovery of which by the husband in the wife, as not finding favour in the eyes of her husband, the bill of divorcement is written, and the wife is sent away from the house of her husband; "but from the beginning it hath not been so."(3) After this our Saviour says, not at all permitting the dissolution of marriages for any other sin than fornication alone, when detected in the wife, "Whosoever shall but away his own wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress."(4) But it might be a subject for inquiry if on this account He hinders any one putting away a wife, unless she be caught in fornication, for any other reason, as for example for poisoning, or for the destruction during the absence of her husband from home of an infant born to them, or for any form of murder whatsoever. And further, if she were found despoiling and pillaging the house of her husband, though she was not guilty of fornication, one might ask if he would with reason cast away such an one, seeing that the Saviour forbids any one to put away his own wife saving for the cause of fornication. In either case there appears to be something monstrous, whether it be really monstrous, I do not know; for to endure sins of such heinousness which seem to be worse than adultery or fornication, will appear to be irrational; but again on the other hand to act contrary to the design of the teaching of the Saviour, every one would acknowledge to be impious. I wonder therefore why He did not say, Let no one put away his own wife saving for the cause of fornication, but says, "Whosoever shall put away his own wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress."(1) For confessedly he who puts away his wife when she is not a fornicator, makes her an adulteress, so far as it lies with him, for if, "when the husband is living she shall be called an adulteress if she be joined to another man;"(2) and when by putting her away, he gives to her the excuse of a second marriage, very plainly in this way he makes her an adulteress. But as to whether her being caught in the act of poisoning or committing murder, furnishes any defence of his dismissal of her, you can inquire yourselves; for the husband can also in other ways than by putting her away cause his own wife to commit adultery; as, for example, allowing her to do what she wishes beyond what is fitting, and stooping to friendship with what men she wishes, for often from the simplicity of husbands such false steps happen to wives; but whether there is a ground of defence or not for such husbands in the case of such false steps, you will inquire carefully, and deliver your opinion also in regard to the difficult questions raised by us on the passage. And even he who withholds himself from his wife makes her oftentimes to be an adulteress when he does not satisfy her desires, even though he does so under the appearance of greater gravity and self-control. And perhaps this man is more culpable who, so far as it rests with him, makes her an adulteress when he does not satisfy her desires than he who, for other reason than fornication, has sent her away,--for poisoning or murder or any of the most grievous sins. But as a woman is an adulteress, even though she seem to be married to a man, while the former husband is still living, so also the man who seems to marry her who has been put away, does not so much marry her as commit adultery with her according to the declaration of our Saviour.
25. CHASTITY AND PRAYER.
Now after these things, having considered how many possible accidents may arise in marriages, which it was necessary for the man to endure and in this way suffer very great hardships, or if he did not endure, to transgress the word of Christ, the disciples say to him, taking refuge in celibacy as easier, and more expedient than marriage, though the latter appears to be expedient, "If the case of life man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry."(1) And to this the Saviour said, teaching us that absolute chastity is a gift given by God, and not merely the fruit of training, but given by God with prayer, "All men cannot receive the saying, but they to whom it is given."(2) Then seeing that some make a sophistical attack on the saying. "To whom it is given," as if those who wished to remain pure in celibacy, but were mastered by their desires, had an excuse, we must say that, if we believe the Scriptures, why at all do we lay hold of the saying, "But they to whom it is given," but no longer attend to this, "Ask and it shall be given you,"(3) and to that which is added to it, "For every one that asketh receiveth"?(4) For if they "to whom it is given" can receive this saying about absolute purity, let him who wills ask, obeying and believing Him who said, "Ask and it shall be given you,"(3) and not doubting about the saying, "Every one that asketh receiveth."(4) But when there you will inquire who it is that asketh, for no one of those who do not receive has asked, even though he seems to have done so, since it is not lawful to say that the saying, "Every one that asketh receiveth." is a lie. Who then is he that asketh, but he who has obeyed Jesus when He says, "If ye stand praying, believe that ye receive, and ye shall receive"?(1) But he that asketh must do everything in his power that he may pray "with the spirit" and pray also "with the understanding,"(2) and pray "without ceasing,"(3) keeping in mind also the saying, "And He spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint, saying, There was in a city a judge,"(4) etc. And it is useful to know what it is to ask, and what it is to receive, and what is meant by "Every one that asketh, receiveth,"(5) and by "I say unto you though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will arise and give him as many as he needeth."(6) It is therefore added, "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you," and so on. Further, let the saying, "All men cannot receive the saying but they to whom it is given,"(7) be a stimulus to us to ask worthily of receiving; and this, "What son is there of you who shall ask his father for a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent,"(8) etc. God therefore will give the good gift, perfect purity in celibacy and chastity, to those who ask Him with the whole soul, and with faith, and in prayers without ceasing.