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Ver. 1. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.
Jerome, Ez, i. 5. Hier. Prolog. in Com. in Matt.: ‘The face of a man’ (in Ezekiel’s vision) signifies Matthew, who accordingly opens his Gospel with the human genealogy of Christ.
Rabanus: By this exordium he shews that it is the birth of Christ according to the flesh that he has undertaken to narrate.
Pseudo-Chrys., Hom. in Matt., Hom. i: Matthew wrote for the Jews, and in Hebrew [ed. note: It seems to be the general witness of antiquity that there was a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel, whether written before or after the Greek. This Hebrew copy was interpolated by the Ebionites.]; to them it was unnecessary to explain the divinity which they recognized; but necessary to unfold the mystery of the Incarnation. John wrote in Greek for the Gentiles who knew nothing of a Son of God. They required therefore to be told first, that the Son of God was God, then that this Deity was incarnate.
Rabanus: Though the genealogy occupies only a small part of the volume, he yet begins thus, “The book of the generation.” For it is the manner of the Hebrews to name their books from that with which they open; as Genesis.
Gloss. Ordinaria: The full expression would be “This is the book of the generation;” but this is a usual ellipse; e.g. “The vision of Isaiah,” for, ‘This is the vision.’
“Generation,” he says in the singular number, though there be many here given in succession, as it is for the sake of the one generation of Christ that the rest are here introduced.
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., Hom. ii: Or he therefore entitles it, “The book of the generation,” because this is the sum of the whole dispensation, the root of all its blessings; viz.10 that God become man; for this once effected, all other things followed of course.
Rabanus: He says, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” because he knew it was written, ‘The book of the generation of Adam.’ He begins thus then, that he may oppose book to book, the new Adam to the old Adam, for by the one were all things restored which had been corrupted by the other.
Jerome, Hier. Comm. in Matt., ch. 1: We read in Isaiah, “Who shall declare His generation?” [Isa 53:8] But it does not follow that the Evangelist contradicts the Prophet, or undertakes what he declares impossible; for Isaiah is speaking of the generation of the Divine nature; St. Matthew of the incarnation of the human.
Chrys.: And do not consider this genealogy a small thing to hear: for truly it is a marvellous thing that God should descend to be born of a woman, and to have as His ancestors David and Abraham.
Remigius: Though any affirm that the prophet (Isaiah) does speak of His human generation, we need not answer to his enquiry, “Who shall declare it?” - “No man;” but, “Very few;” because Matthew and Luke have.
Rabanus: By saying, “of Jesus Christ,” he expresses both the kingly and priestly office to be in Him, for Jesus, who first bore this name, was after Moses, the first who was leader of the children of Israel; and Aaron, anointed by the mystical ointment, was the first priest under the Law.
Hilary, Quaest. Nov. et Vet. Test. q. 40: What God conferred on those, who, by the anointing of oil were consecrated as kings or priests, this the Holy Spirit conferred on the Man Christ; adding moreover a purification. The Holy Spirit cleansed that which taken of the Virgin Mary was exalted into the Body of the Saviour, and this is that anointing of the Body of the Saviour’s flesh whence He was called Christ.
[ed. note: This passage is from a work commonly ascribed to Hilary the Deacon. The Fathers bear out its doctrine; e.g. “Since the flesh is not holy in itself, therefore it was sanctified even in Christ, the Word which dwelt in it, through the Holy Ghost, sanctifying His own Temple, and changing it into the energy of His own Nature. For therefore is Christ’s Body understood to be both holy and hallowing, as being made a Temple of the Word united to it bodily, as Paul says.” Cyril Alex. lib. v. in Joann. p. 992.
In like manner, Gregory of Nazianzus speaks of “The Father of the True and really Anointed (Christ), whom He has anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows, anointing the manhood with the Godhead, so as to make both one.” Orat. 5. fin]
Because the impious craft of the Jews denied that Jesus was born of the seed of David, he adds, “The son of David, the son of Abraham.”11
Chrys.: But why would it not have been enough to name one of them, David alone, or Abraham alone? Because the promise had been made to both of Christ to be born of their seed. To Abraham, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” [Gen 22:18] To David, “Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy seat.” [Ps 132:11]
He therefore calls Christ the Son of both, to shew that in Him was fulfilled the promise to both. Also because Christ was to have three dignities; King, Prophet, Priest; but Abraham was prophet and priest; priest, as God says to him in Genesis, “Take an heifer;” [Gen 15:9] Prophet, as the Lord said to Abimelech concerning him, “He is a prophet, and shall pray for thee.” [Gen 20:7] David was king and prophet, but not priest.
Thus He is expressly called the son of both, that the threefold dignity of His forefathers might be recognized by hereditary right in Christ.
Ambrose, in Luc. iii: He therefore names specially two authors of His birth - one who received the promise concerning the kindreds of the people, the other who obtained the oracle concerning the generation of Christ; and though he is later in order of succession is yet first named, inasmuch as it is greater to have received the promise concerning Christ than concerning the Church, which is through Christ; for greater is He who saves than that which is saved.
Jerome: The order of the names is inverted, but of necessity; for had he written Abraham first, and David afterwards, he would have to repeat Abraham again to preserve the series of the genealogy.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Another reason is that royal dignity is above natural, though Abraham was first in time, yet David is honour.
Gloss.: But since from this title it appears that the whole book is concerning Jesus Christ, it is necessary first to know what we must think concerning Him; for so shall be better explained what this book relates of Him.
Aug., de Haer, et 10: Cerinthus then and Ebion made Jesus Christ only man; Paul of Samosata, following them, asserted Christ not to have had an existence from eternity, but to have begun to be from His birth of the Virgin Mary; he also thought Him nothing more than man. This heresy was afterwards confirmed by Photinus.
Pseudo-Athan., Vigil. Tapsens. (Athan. Ed. Ben., vol ii, p. 646): The Apostle John, seeing long before by the Holy Spirit this man’s madness, rouses him from his deep sleep of error by the preaching of his voice, saying, “In the beginning was the12 Word.” [John 1:1]
He therefore, who in the beginning was with God, could not in this last time take the beginning of His being from man. He says further, (let Photinus hear his words,) “Father, glorify Me with that glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” [John 17:5]
Aug., de Haeres. 19: The error of Nestorius was, that he taught that a man only was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom the Word of God received not into Unity of person and inseparable fellowship; a doctrine which Catholic ears could not endure.
Cyril of Alexandria, Ep. i. ad Monachos Egypti.: Saith the Apostle of the Only-begotten, “Who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God.” [Phil 2:6]
Who then is this who is in the form of God? or how emptied He Himself, and humbled Himself to the likeness of man? If the abovementioned heretics dividing Christ into two parts, i.e. the Man and the Word, affirm that it was the Man that was emptied of glory, they must first shew what form and equality with the Father are understood to be, and did exist, which might suffer any manner of emptying.
But there is no creature, in its own proper nature, equal with the Father; how then can any creature be said to be emptied? or from what eminence to descend to become man? Or how can he be understood to have taken upon Him, as though He had not at first, the form of a servant?
But, they say, the Word being equal with the Father dwelt in Man born of a woman, and this is the emptying. I hear the Son truly saying to the Holy Apostles, “If any man love Me, he will keep My saying, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” [John 14:23]
Hear how He saith that He and the Father will dwell in them that love Him. Do you then suppose that we shall grant that He is there emptied of His glory, and has taken upon Him the form of a servant, when He makes His abode in the hearts of them that love Him? Or the Holy Spirit, does He fulfil an assumption of human flesh when He dwells in our hearts?
Isidore, Epist. lib. iv. 166: But not to mention all arguments, let us bring forward that one to which all arguments point, that, for one who was God to assume a lowly guise both has an obvious use, and is an adaptation and in nothing contradicts the course of nature. But for one who is man to speak things divine and supernatural is the highest presumption; for though a king may13 humble himself a common soldier may not take on him the state of an emperor. So, if He were God made man, all lowly things have place; but if mere man, high things have none.
Aug., de Haeres. 41: Sabellius they say was a disciple of Noctus, who taught that the same Christ was one and the same Father and Holy Spirit.
Pseudo-Athan., Vigil. Tapsens. (ibid. p. 644): The audaciousness of this most insane error I will curb by the authority of the heavenly testimonies, and demonstrate the distinct personality of the proper substance of the Son. I shall not produce things which are liable to be explained away as agreeable to the assumption of human nature; but shall offer such passages as all will allow to be decisive in proof of His divine nature.
In Genesis we find God saying, “Let Us make man in Our own Image.” By this plural number shewing, that there was some other person to whom He spoke. Had He been one, He would have been said to have made Him in His own Image, but there is another; and He is said to have made man in the Image of that other.
Gloss.: Other denied the reality of Christ’s human nature. Valentinus said that Christ sent from the Father, carried about a spiritual or celestial body, and took nothing of the Virgin, but passed through her as through a channel, taking nothing of her flesh. But we do not therefore believe Him to have been born of the Virgin, because by no other means He could have truly lived in the flesh, and appeared among men; but because it is so written in the Scripture, which if we believe not we cannot either be Christians, or be saved.
But even a body taken of spiritual, or ethereal, or clayey substance, had He willed to change into the true and very quality of human flesh, who will deny His power to do this? The Manichaeans said that the Lord Jesus Christ was a phantasm, and could not be born of the womb of a woman. But if the body of Christ was a phantasm, He was a deceiver, and if a deceiver, then He was not the truth. But Christ is the Truth; therefore His Body was not a phantasm.
Gloss.: And as the opening both of this Gospel, and of that according to Luke, manifestly proves Christ’s birth of a woman, and hence His real humanity, they reject the beginning of both these Gospels.
Aug., cont. Faust, ii, 1: Faustus affirms, that “the Gospel both begins, and begins to be so called, from the preaching of14 Christ, in which He no where affirms Himself to have been born of men. [ed. note: The Ebionites, as well as the Manichees, rejected the beginning of St. Matthew, vid. Epiphan. II arr. xxx. 23. And the Marcionites the beginning of St. Luke. Epiph. Haer. xlii, 11. But what exact portion they rejected is doubtful.]
Nay, so far is this genealogy from being part of the Gospel, that the writer does not venture so to entitle it; beginning, ‘The book of the generation,’ not ‘The book of the Gospel.’ Mark again, who cared not to write of the generation, but only of the preaching of the Son of God, which is properly The Gospel, begins thus accordingly, 'The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.' Thus then, all that we read in Matthew before the words, 'Jesus began to preach the Gospel of the kingdom,' [Matt 4:17] is a part of the genealogy, not of the Gospel. I therefore betook myself to Mark and John, with whose prefaces I had good reason to be satisfied, as they introduce neither David, nor Mary, nor Joseph.”
To which Augustine replies, What will he say then to the Apostle’s words, “Remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ of the seed of David according to my Gospel.” [2 Tim 2:8] But the Gospel of the Apostle Paul was likewise that of the other Apostles, and of all the faithful, as he says, “Whether I, or they, thus have we preached the Gospel.”
Aug., de Haer., 49: The Arians will not have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be of one and the same substance, nature, and existence; but that the Son is a creature of the Father, and Holy Spirit a creature of a creature, i.e. created by the Son; further, they think that Christ took the flesh without a soul.
But John declares the Son to be not only God, but even of the same substance as the Father; [margin note: ref Id. de Trin. i. 6] for when he had said, “The Word was God,” he added, “all things were made by Him;” whence it is clear that He was not made by Whom all things were made; and if not made, then not created; and therefore of one substance with the Father, for all that is not of one substance with the Father is creature.
I know not what benefit the person of the Mediator has conferred upon us, if He redeemed not our better part, but took upon Him our flesh only, which without the soul cannot have consciousness of the benefit. But if Christ came to save that which had perished,15 the whole man had perished, and therefore needs a Saviour; Christ then in coming saves the whole man, taking on Him both soul and body.
How too do they answer innumerable objections from the Gospel Scriptures, in which the Lord speaks so many things manifestly contrary to them? as is that, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death,” [Matt 26:38] and, “I have power to lay down My life;” [John 10:18] and many more things of the like kind.
Should they say that He spoke thus in parables, we have at hand proofs from the Evangelists themselves, who in relating His actions, bear witness as to the reality of His body, so of His soul, by mention of passions which cannot be without a soul; as when they say, “Jesus wondered, was angry,” and others of like kind.
The Apollinarians also as the Arians affirmed that Christ had taken the human flesh without the soul [margin note: Id. de Haeres. 55]. But overthrown on this point by the weight of Scripture proof, they then said that part which is the rational soul of man was wanting to the soul of Christ, and that its place was filled by the Word itself.
But if it be so, then we must believe that the Word of God took on Him the nature of some brute with a human shape and appearance. But even concerning the nature of Christ’s body, there are some who have so far swerved from the right faith, as to say, that the flesh and the Word were of one and the same substance, most perversely insisting on that expression, The Word was made flesh; which they interpret that some portion of the Word was changed into flesh, not that He took to Him flesh of the flesh of the Virgin.
[ed. note: Some of the Apollinarians thus hold. vid. Nyssen. vol. ii, p. 694. A.Theodor. Eranist. p. 174. ed. Schulz. The same doctrine was afterwards ascribed to the Eutychians, vid. Vigil. Taps. in Eutych. iv. Theod. Haer. iv. 13]
Cyril, Ep. ad Joan. Antioch. tom. 6, Ep. 107: We account those persons mad who have suspected that so much as the shadow of change could take place in the nature of the Divine Word; it abides what it ever was, neither is nor can be changed.
Leo, Epist. 59, ad Const.: We do not speak of Christ as man in such a sort as to allow that any thing was wanting to Him, which it is certain pertains to human nature, whether soul, or rational mind, or flesh, and flesh such as was taken of the Woman, not gained by a change or conversion of the Word into flesh.
These three several errors, that thrice false heresy of the Apollinarists has brought forward. Eutyches also chose out this third dogma of Apollinaris, which denying16 the verity of the human body and soul, maintained that our Lord Jesus Christ was wholly and entirely of one nature, as though the Divine Word had changed itself into flesh and soul, and as though the conception, birth, growth, and such like, had been undergone by that Divine Essence, which was incapable of any such changes with the very and true flesh; for such as is the nature of the Only-begotten, such is the nature of the Father, and such is the nature of the Holy Ghost, both impassible and eternal.
But if to avoid being driven to the conclusion that the Godhead could feel suffering and death, he departs from the corruption of Apollinaris, and should still dare to affirm the nature of the incarnate Word, that is of the Word and the flesh, to be the same, he clearly falls into the insane notions of Manichaeus and Marcion, and believes that the Lord Jesus Christ did all His actions with a false appearance, that His body was not a human body, but a phantasm, which imposed on the eyes of the beholders.
But what Eutyches ventured [margin note: Id. Ep. 35 ad Julian] to pronounce as an episcopal decision, that in Christ before His incarnation were two natures, but after His incarnation only one, it behoved that he should have been urgently pressed to give the reason of this his belief.
I suppose that in using such language he supposed the soul which the Saviour took, to have had its abode in heaven before it was born of the Virgin Mary [ed. note, e: This opinion, which involves Nestorianism, the opposite error to Eutychianism or Monophysitism, is imputed to Eutyches by Flavian, ap. Leon. Ep. xxii. 3. Ephraem, Antioch, ap Phot. p. 805. Leont. de Sectis 7 init].
This Catholic hearts and ears endure not, for that the Lord when He came down from heaven shewed nothing of the condition of human nature, nor did He take on Him any soul that had existed before, nor any flesh that was not taken of the flesh of His mother. Thus what was justly condemned in Origen [ed. note, f: Vid. Origen in Joan. t. i. n. 37. t. xx. n. 17. Patriarch. ii. 6. n. 4. ix. Cels. i. 32, 33], must needs be rebuked in Eutyches, to wit, that our souls before they were placed in our bodies had actions not only wonderful but various.
Remig: These heresies therefore the Apostles overthrow in the opening of their Gospels, as Matthew in relating how He derived His descent from the kings of the Jews proves Him to have been truly man and to have had true flesh.
Likewise Luke, when he17 describes the priestly stock and person; Mark when he says, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God;” and John when he says, “In the beginning was the Word;” both shew Him to have been before all ages God, with God the Father.
2. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren.
Aug., de Con. Evan., ii, 1: Matthew, by beginning with Christ’s genealogy, shews that he has undertaken to relate Christ’s birth according to the flesh. But Luke, as rather describing Him as a Priest for the atonement of sin, gives Christ’s genealogy not in the beginning of his Gospel, but at His baptism, when John bare that testimony, “Lo, He that taketh away the sins of the world.” [John 1:29]
In the genealogy of Matthew is figured to us the taking on Him of our sins by the Lord Christ: in the genealogy of Luke, the taking away of our sins by the same; hence Matthew gives them in a descending, Luke in an ascending, series. But Matthew, describing Christ’s human generation in descending order, begins his enumeration with Abraham.
Ambrose, in Luc. cap. 3. lib. iii. n. 7,8: For Abraham was the first who deserved the witness of faith; “He believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” It behoved therefore that he should be set forth as the first in the line of descent, who was the first to deserve the promise of the restoration of the Church, “In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” And it is again brought to a period in David, for that Jesus should be called his Son; hence to him is preserved the privilege, that from him should come the beginning of the Lord’s genealogy.
Chrys., Hom. iii, and Aug. City of God, 15, 15: Matthew then, desiring to preserve in memory the lineage of the Lord’s humanity through the succession of His parents, begins with Abraham, saying, “Abraham begat Isaac.” Why does he not mention Ismael, his first-born? And again, “Isaac began Jacob;” why does he not speak of Esau his first-born? Because through them he could not have come down to David.
Gloss.: Yet he names all the brethren of Judah with him in the lineage. Ismael and Esau had not remained in the worship of the true God; but the brethren of Judah were reckoned in God’s people.18
Chrys., Hom. iii: Or, he names all the twelve Patriarchs that he may lower that pride which is drawn from a line of noble ancestry. For many of these were born of maidservants, and yet were Patriarchs and heads of tribes.
Gloss: But Judah is the only one mentioned by name, and that because the Lord was descended from him only. But in each of the Patriarchs we must note not their history only, but the allegorical and moral meaning to be drawn from them; allegory, in seeing whom each of the Fathers foreshewed; moral instruction in that through each one of the Fathers some virtue may be edified in us either through the signification of his name, or through his example.
[ed. note: Origen considered that there were three senses of Scripture, the literal or historical, the moral, and the mystical or spiritual, corresponding to the three parts of man, body, and soul, and spirit. Hom. in Lev. ii, 5, de Princio iv, p. 168. By the moral sense is meant, as the name implies, a practical application of the text; by mystical one which interprets it of the invisible and the spiritual world.]
Abraham is in many respects a figure of Christ, and chiefly in his name, which is interpreted the Father of many nations, and Christ is Father of many believers. Abraham moreover went out from his own kindred, and abode in a strange land; in like manner Christ, leaving the Jewish nation, went by His preachers throughout the Gentiles.
Pseudo-Chyrs.: Isaac is interpreted, ‘laughter,’ but the laughter of the saints is not the foolish convulsion of the lips, but the rational joy of the heart, which was the mystery of Christ. For as he was granted to his parents in their extreme age to their great joy, that it might be known that he was not the child of nature, but of grace, thus Christ also in this last time came of a Jewish mother to be the joy of the whole earth; the one of a virgin, the other of a woman past the age, both contrary to the expectation of nature.
Remig.: Jacob is interpreted, ‘supplanter,’ and it is said of Christ, “Thou hast cast down beneath Me them that rose up against Me.” [Ps 18:43]
Pseudo-Chrys.: Our Jacob in like manner begot the twelve Apostles in the Spirit, not in the flesh; in word, not in blood. Judah is interpreted, ‘confessor,’ for he was a type of Christ who was to be the confessor of His Father, as He spake, “I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”
Gloss: Morally; Abraham signifies to us the virtue of faith in Christ, as an example himself, as it19 is said of him, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto Him for righteousness.” Isaac may represent hope; for Isaac is interpreted, ‘laughter,’ as he was the joy of his parents; and hope is our joy, making us to hope for eternal blessings and to joy in them. “Abraham begat Isaac,” and faith begets hope. Jacob signifies, ‘love,’ for love embraces two lives; active in the love of our neighbour, contemplative in the love of God; the active is signified by Leah, the contemplative by Rachel. For Leah is interpreted ‘labouring,’ [ed. note, h: Leah full of labour, Jerom. de nomin. Hebr. from לאה, to weary one’s self.] for she is active in labour; Rachel ‘having seen the beginning,’ [ed. note, i: Rachel, in ewe, (as Gen. xxxi. 38, &c.) Jerom. ibid. who also gives the interpretation in the text, from ראה and חלל (חְחִלָּה beginning.] because by the contemplative, the beginning, that is God, is seen. Jacob is born of two parents, as love is born of faith and hope; for what we believe, we both hope for and love.
3-6. And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; and Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; and Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king.
Gloss: Passing over the other sons of Jacob, the Evangelist follows the family of Judah, saying, “But Judah begat Phares and Zara of Thamar.”
Augustine, City of God, 15, 15: Neither was Judah himself first-born, nor of these two sons was either his first-born; he had already had three before them. So that he keeps in that line of descent, by which he shall arrive at David, and from him whither he purposed.
Jerome: It should be noted, that none of the holy women are taken into the Saviour’s genealogy, but rather such as Scripture has condemned, that He who came for sinners being born of sinners might so put away the sins of all; thus Ruth the Moabitess follows among the rest.
Ambrose, in Luc. 3: But Luke has avoided the mention of these, that he might set forth the series of the priestly race immaculate. But the plan of St. Matthew did not exclude the20 righteousness of natural reason; for when he wrote in his Gospel, that He who should take on Him the sins of all, was born in the flesh, was subject to wrongs and pain, he did not think it any detraction from His holiness that He did not refuse the further humiliation of a sinful parentage.
Nor, again, would it shame the Church to be gathered from among sinners, when the Lord Himself was born of sinners; and, lastly, that the benefits of redemption might have their beginning with His own forefathers: and that none might imagine that a stain in their blood was any hindrance to virtue, nor again any pride themselves insolently on nobility of birth.
Chrys.: Besides this, it shews that all are equally liable to sin; for here is Thamar accusing Judah of incest, and David begat Solomon with a woman with whom he had committed adultery. But if the Law was not fulfilled by these great ones, neither could it be by their less great posterity, and so all have sinned, and the presence of Christ is become necessary.
Ambrose: Observe that Matthew does not name both without a meaning; for though the object of his writing only required the mention of Phares, yet in the twins a mystery is signified; namely, the double life of the nations, one by the Law, the other by Faith.
Pseudo-Chyrs.: By Zarah is denoted the people of the Jews, which first appeared in the light of faith, coming out of the dark womb of the world, and was therefore marked with the scarlet thread of the circumciser, for all supposed that they were to be God’s people; but the Law was set before their face as it had been a wall or hedge. Thus the Jews were hindered by the Law, but in the times of Christ’s coming the hedge of the Law was broken down that was between Jews and Gentiles, as the Apostle speaks, “Breaking down the middle wall of partition;” [Eph 2:14] and thus it fell out that the Gentiles, who were signified by Phares, as soon as the Law was broken through by Christ’s commandments, first entered into the faith, and after followed the Jews.
Gloss: Judah begat Phares and Zarah before he went into Egypt, whither they both accompanied their father. In Egypt, “Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; Aram begat Aminadab; Aminadab begat Naasson;” and then Moses led them out of Egypt. Naasson was head of the tribe of Judah under Moses in the desert, where he begat Salmon; and this Salmon it was who, as prince of the tribe21 of Judah, entered the land of promise with Joshua.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But as we believe that the names of these Fathers were given for some special reason under the providence of God, it follows, but “Naasson begat Salmon.” This Salmon after his father’s death entered the promised land with Joshua as prince of the tribe of Judah. He took a wife of the name of Rahab. This Rahab is said to have been that Rahab the harlot of Jericho who entertained the spies of the children of Israel, and hid them safely. For Salmon being noble among the children of Israel, inasmuch as he was of the tribe of Judah, and son of the prince thereof, beheld Rahab so ennobled through her great faith, that she was worthy whom he should take to wife. Salmon is interpreted ‘receive a vessel,’ [ed. note: שלמון. Probably as if from מאן Ch. a vessel; perhaps גשא ל מאן] perhaps as if invited in God’s providence by his very name to receive Rahab a vessel of election.
Gloss: This Salmon in the promised land begat Booz of this Rahab. Booz begat Obeth of Ruth.
Pseudo-Chrys.: How Booz took to wife a Moabitess whose name was Ruth, I thought it needless to tell, seeing the Scripture concerning them is open to all. We need but say thus much, that Ruth married Booz for the reward of her faith, for that she had cast off the gods of her forefathers, and had chosen the living God. And Booz received her to wife for reward of his faith, that from such sanctified wedlock might be descended a kingly race.
Ambrose: But how did Ruth who was an alien marry a man that was a Jew? and wherefore in Christ’s genealogy did His Evangelist so much as mention a union, which in the eye of the law was bastard? Thus the Saviour’s birth of a parentage not admitted by the law appears to us monstrous, until we attend to that declaration of the Apostle, “The Law was not given for the righteous, but for the unrighteous.” [1 Tim 1:9]
For this woman who was an alien, a Moabitess, a nation with whom the Mosaic Law forbad all intermarriage, and shut them totally out of the Church, how did she enter into the Church, unless that she were holy and unstained in her life above the Law? Therefore she was exempt from this restriction of the Law, and deserved to be numbered in the Lord’s lineage, chosen from the kindred of her mind, not of her body.
To us she is a great example, for22 that in her was prefigured the entrance into the Lord’s Church of all of us who are gathered out of the Gentiles.
Jerome: Ruth the Moabitess fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah, “Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb that shall rule over the earth, out of the rock of the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion.” [Isa 16:1]
Gloss: Jesse, the father of David, has two names, being more frequently called Isai. But the Prophet says, “There shall come a rod from the stem of Jesse;” [Isa 11:1] therefore to shew that this prophecy was fulfilled in Mary and Christ, the Evangelist puts Jesse.
Remig.: It is asked, why this epithet King is thus given by the holy Evangelist to David alone? Because he was the first king in the tribe of Judah. Christ Himself is Phares ‘the divider,’ as it is written, “Thou shalt divide the sheep from the goats;” [Matt 25:33] He is Zaram [ed. note, l: זרח; in Zech. 6:12, it is זרח], ‘the east,’ “Lo the man, the east is His name;” [Zech 6:12]; He is Esrom [ed. note, m: חצרון, as if from חץ, and so Jerome.], ‘an arrow,’ “He hath set me as a polished shaft.” [Isa 49:2]
Raban.: Or following another interpretation, according to the abundance of grace, and the width of love. He is Aram the chosen [ed. note, n: רם to be lofty, vid. infr. p.23], according to that, “Behold my Servant whom I have chosen.” [Isa 42:1] He is Aminadab, that is ‘willing,’ [ed. note, o: עמי נדב My people is willing, - Jerome; comp. עַמְּךָ נְדָבֹת, Ps 110:3], in that He says, “I will freely sacrifice to Thee.” [Isa 54:6] Also He is Naasson [ed. note, p: נחשן, from נחש to augur from serpents, and so Jerome], i.e. ‘augury,’ as He knows the past, the present, and the future; or, ‘like a serpent,’ according to that, “Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.” [John 3:14] He is Salmon [ed. note, q: And so Jerome], i.e. ‘the feeleth,’ as He said, “I feel that power is gone forth out of me.” [Luke 8:46]
Gloss: Christ Himself espouses Rahab, i.e. the Gentile Church; for Rahab [ed. note, r: רחב, to be wide or broad. (רהב might רעב hunger)] is interpreted either ‘hunger’ or ‘breadth’ or ‘might;’ for the Church of the Gentiles hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and converts philosophers and kings by the might of her doctrine. Ruth is interpreted either ‘seeing’ or ‘hastening’ [ed. note, s: And so Jerome, from ראה, and perhaps רוץ for the second.], and denotes the Church which in purity of heart sees God, and hastens to the prize of the heavenly call.
Remig. Christ is also Booz [ed. note, t: And so Jerome; perhaps בעז = activity; here, as if בָעזֹ “with might.”], because He is strength, for,23 “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me.” [John 12:32] He is Obeth, ‘a servant’ [ed. note, u: עובד Obed, and so Jerome], for “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” [Matt 20:28] He is Jesse, or ‘burnt’ [ed. note, x: As if from אשׁ], for, “I am come to send fire on earth.” [Luke 12:49] He is David [ed. note, y: And so Jerome], ‘mighty in arm,’ for, “the Lord is great and powerful;” [Ps 24:8] ‘desirable,’ for, “He shall come, the Desire of all nations;” [Hag 2:7] ‘beautiful to behold,’ according to that, “Beautiful in form before the sons of men.” [Ps. 45:3]
Gloss: Let us now see what virtues they be which these fathers edify in us; for faith, hope, and charity are the foundation of all virtues; those that follow are like additions over and above them. Judah is interpreted ‘confession,’ of which there are two kinds, confession of faith, and of sin. If then, after we be endowed with the three forementioned virtues, we sin, confession not of faith only but of sin is needful for us.
Phares is interpreted, ‘division,’ Zamar ‘the east,’ and Thamar, ‘bitterness.’ [ed note, z: תַּמְרוּרִים bitterness, from מרר Jer. 31:15, Hos 12:15] Thus confession begets separation from vice, the rise of virtue, and the bitterness of repentance.
After Phares follows Esron, ‘an arrow,’ for when one is separated from vice and secular pursuits, he should become a dart wherewith to slay by preaching the vices of others.
Aram is interpreted ‘elect’ or ‘lofty’ [ed. note, a: Lofty from רוּם, for as soon as one is detached from this world, and profiteth for another, he must needs be held to be elect of God, famous amongst men, high in virtue.
Naasson is ‘augury,’ but this augury is of heaven, not of earth. It is that of which Joseph boasted when he said, “Ye have taken away the cup of my Lord, wherewith He is wont to divine.” [Gen 44:5] The cup is the divine Scripture wherein is the draught of wisdom; by this the wise man divines, since in it he sees things future, that is, heavenly things.
Next is Salomon [ed. note, b: שָלּם peace, and so Jerome], ‘that perceiveth,’ for he who studies divine Scripture becomes perceiving, that is, he discerns by the taste of reason, good from bad, sweet from bitter.
Next is Booz, that is, ‘brave,’ for who is well taught in Scripture becomes brave to endure all adversity.
Pseudo-Chrys.: This brave one is the son of Rahab, that is, of the Church; for Rahab signifies ‘breadth’ or ‘spread out,’ for because the24 Church of the Gentiles was called from all quarters of the earth, it is called, ‘breadth.’
Gloss: Then follows Obeth, i.e. ‘servitude,’ for which none is fit but he who is strong; and this servitude is begotten of Ruth, that is ‘haste,’ for it behoves a slave to be quick, not slow.
Pseudo-Chrys.: They who look to wealth and not temper, to beauty and not faith, and require in a wife such endowments as are required in harlots, will not beget sons obedient to their parents or to God, but rebellious to both; that their children may be punishment of their ungodly wedlock. Obeth begat Jesse, that is, ‘refreshment,’ for whoever is subject to God and his parents, begets such children as prove his ‘refreshment.’
Gloss: Or Jesse may be interpreted, ‘incense.’ [ed. note: See p. 29, note i] For if we serve God in love and fear, there will be a devotion in the heart, which in the heat and desire of the heart offers the sweetest incense to God. But when one is become a fit servant, and a sacrifice of incense to God, it follows that he becomes David (ie. ‘of a strong hand’), who fought mightily against his enemies, and made the Idumeans tributary.
In like manner ought he to subdue carnal men to God by teaching and example.
6-8. David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; and Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; and Asa begat Josaphat.
The Evangelist has now finished the first fourteen generations, and is come to the second, which consists of royal personages, and therefore beginning with David, who was the first king in the tribe of Judah, he calls him “David the king.”
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 4: Since in Matthew’s genealogy is shewed forth the taking on Him by Christ of our sins, therefore he descends from David to Solomon, in whose mother David had sinned. Luke ascends to David through Nathan, for through Nathan the prophet of God punished David’s sin; because Luke’s genealogy is to shew the putting away of our sins.
Aug., Lib. Retract., ii, 16: That25 is it, must be said, through a prophet of the same name, for it was not Nathan the son of David who reproved him, but a prophet of the same name.
Remig.: Let us enquire why Matthew does not mention Bathsheba by name as he does the other women. Because the others, though deserving of much blame, were yet commendable for many virtues. But Bathsheba was not only consenting in the adultery, but in the murder of her husband, hence her name is not introduced in the Lord’s genealogy.
Gloss: Besides, he does not name Bathsheba, that, by naming Urias, he may recall to memory that great wickedness which she was guilty of towards him.
Ambrose: But the holy David is the more excellent in this, that he confessed himself to be but man, and neglected not to wash out with the tears of repentance the sin of which he had been guilty, in so taking away Urias’ wife. Herein shewing us that none ought to trust in his own strength, for we have a mighty adversary whom we cannot overcome without God’s aid. And you will commonly observe very heavy sins befalling to the share of illustrious men, that they may not from their other excellent virtues be thought more than men, but that you may see that as men they yield to temptation.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Solomon is interpreted, ‘peace-maker,’ because having subdued all the nations round about, and made them tributary, he had a peaceful reign. Roboam in interpreted, ‘by a multitude of people,’ for multitude is the mother of sedition; for where many are joined in a crime, that is commonly unpunishable. But a limit in numbers is the mistress of good order.
8-11. And Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; and Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; and Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; and Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
Jerome: In the fourth book of Kings we read, that Ochozias was the son of Joram. On his death, Josabeth, sister of26 Ochozias and daughter of Joram, took Joash, her brother’s son, and preserved him from the slaughter of the royal seed by Athalias. To Joash succeeded his son Amasias; after him his son Azarias, who is called Ozias; after him his son Joatham. Thus you see according to historical truth there were three intervening kings, who are omitted by the Evangelist. Joram, moveover, begot not Ozias, but Ochozias, and the rest as we have related.
But because it was the purpose of the Evangelist to make each of the three periods consist of fourteen generations, and because Joram had connected himself with Jezebel’s most impious race, therefore his posterity to the third generation is omitted in tracing the lineage of the holy birth.
Hilary: Thus the stain of the Gentile alliance being purged, the royal race is again taken up in the fourth following generation.
Pseudo-Chrys.: What the Holy Spirit testified through the Prophet, saying, that He would cut off every male from the house of Ahab, and Jezebel, that Jehu the son of Nausi fulfilled, and received the promise that his children to the fourth generation should sit on the throne of Israel. As great a blessing then as was given upon the house of Ahab, so great a curse was given on the house of Joram, because of the wicked daughter of Ahab and Jazebel, that his sons to the fourth generation should be cut out of the number of the Kings.
Thus his sin descended on his posterity as it had been written, “I will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” [Ex 20:5] Thus see how dangerous it is to marry with the seed of the ungodly.
Aug., Hilsr. Amast. V. et N. Test. q. 85: Or, Ochozias, Joash, and Amasias, were excluded from the number, because their wickedness was continuous and without interval. For Solomon was suffered to hold the kingdom for his father’s deserts, Roboam for his son’s.
But these three doing evil successively were excluded. This then is an example how a race is cut off when wickedness is shewn therein in perpetual succession.
“And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias.”
Gloss: This Ezekias was he to whom, when he had no children, it was said, “Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die.” [Isa 38:1] He wept, not from desire of longer life, for he knew that Solomon had thereby pleased God, that he had not27 asked length of days; but he wept, for he feared that God’s promise should not be fulfilled, when himself, being in the line of David of whom Christ should come, was without children.
“And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: But the order in the Book of Kings is different [2 Ki 23], thus namely; Josias begot Eliakim, afterwards called Joakim; Joakim begot Jechonias. But Joakim is not reckoned among the Kings in the genealogy, because God’s people had not set him on the throne, but Pharoah by his might. For if it were just that only for their intermixture with the race of Ahab, three kings should be shut out of the number in the genealogy, was it not just that Joakim should be likewise shut out, whom Pharaoh had set up as king by hostile force? And thus Jechonias, who is the son of Joakim, and the grandson of Josiah, is reckoned among the kings as the son of Josiah, in place of his father who is omitted.
Jerome: Otherwise, we may consider the first Jeconias to be the same as Joakim, and the second to be the son not the father, the one being spelt with k and m, the second by ch and n. This distinction has been confounded both by Greeks and Latins, by the fault of writers and the lapse of time.
Ambrose, in Luc., cap. 2: That there were two kings of the name of Joakim, is clear from the Book of Kings. “And Joakim slept with his fathers, and Joachim his son reigned in his stead.” [2 Ki 24:6] This son is the same whom Jeremiah calls Jeconias. And rightly did St. Matthew purpose to differ from the Prophet, because he sought to shew therein the great abundance of the Lord’s mercies. For the Lord did not seek among men nobility of race, but suitably chose to be born of captives and of sinners, as He came to preach remission of sin to the captives. The Evangelist therefore did not conceal either of these; but rather shewed them both, inasmuch as both were called Jeconias.
Remig.: But it may be asked, why the Evangelist says they were born in the carrying away, when they were born before the carrying away. He says this because they were born for this purpose, that they should be led captive, from the dominion of the whole nation, for their own and others’ sins. And because God foreknew that they were28 to be carried away captive, therefore he says, they were born in the carrying away to Babylon.
But of those whom the holy Evangelist places together in the Lord’s genealogy, it should be known, that they were alike in good or ill fame. Judas and his brethren were notable for good, in like manner Phares and Zara, Jechonias and his brethren, were notable for evil.
Gloss: Mystically, David is Christ, who overcame Golias, that is, the Devil. Urias, i.e. God is my light, is the Devil who says, “I will be like the Highest.” [Isa 14:14] To Him the Church was married, when Christ on the Throne of the majesty of His Father loved her, and having made her beautiful, united her to Himself in wedlock.
Or Urias is the Jewish nation who through the Law boasted of their light. From them Christ took away the Law, having taught it to speak of Himself.
Bersabee is ‘the well of satiety,’ that is, the abundance of spiritual grace.
Remig.: Bersabee is interpreted, ‘the seventh well,’ or, ‘the well of the oath’ [ed. note, c: בְאֵר שָׁבַע the well of the oath, the origin of the name is given, Gen 21:28-31. “satiety” as if from שׂבע, by which is signified the grant of baptism, in which is given the gift of the sevenfold Spirit, and the oath against the Devil is made.
Christ is also Solomon, i.e. the peaceful, according to that of the Apostle, “He is our peace.” [Eph 2:14]
Roboam [ed. note, d: So Jerome, from רחב; or the foolishness of the people, Ecclus. 47. 23] is, ‘the breadth of the people,’ according to that, “Many shall come from the East and from the West.”
Raban.: Or; ‘the might of the people,’ because he quickly converts the people to the faith.
He is also Asa [ed. note, e: So Jerome; as if from נשׂא = נסא; but אסא means a physician], that is, ‘lifting up,’ according to that, “Who taketh away the sins of the world.” [John 1:29]
He is also Josaphat, that is, ‘judging,’ for, “The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” [John 5:22]
He is also Joram, that is, ‘lofty,’ according to that, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven.” [John 3:13]
He is also Ozias, that is, ‘the Lord’s strength,’ for “The Lord is my strength and my praise.” [Ps 118:14]
He is also Jotham [ed. note, f: And so Jerome, from תמם], that is, ‘completed,’ or ‘perfected,’ for “Christ is the end of29 the Law.” [Rom 10:4]
He is also Ahaz [ed. note, g: אחז to seize or hold, and so Jerome.], that is, ‘turning,’ according to that, “Be ye turned to Me.” [Zech 1:3]
Raban.: Or, ‘embracing,’ because, “None knoweth the Father but the Son.” [Matt 11:27]
Remig.: His is also Ezekias, that is, ‘the strong Lord,’ or, ‘the Lord shall comfort;’ according to that, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]
He is also Manasses, that is, ‘forgetful,’ or, ‘forgotten,’ according to that, “I will not remember your sins any more.” [Ezek 28]
He is also Aaron [ed note, h: A strong mountain; Jerome. It has no Hebrew root.], that is, ‘faithful,’ according to that, “The Lord is faithful in all His words.” [Ps 145:17]
He is also Josias, that is, ‘the incense of the Lord,’ [ed. note, i: A sacrifice to the Lord, - Jerome; from אִשֶׁה fire in the ritual service, or incense, Lev 24:7], as, “And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly.” [Luke 22:44]
Raban.: And that incense signifies prayer, the Psalmist witnesses, saying, “Let my prayer come up as incense before Thee.” [Ps 141:2] Or, ‘The salvation of the Lord,’ according to that, “My salvation is for ever.” [Isa 55]
Remig.: He is Jechonias [ed. note, k: יכניהו “the Lord establisheth,” also “prepareth.”], that is, ‘preparing,’ or ‘the Lord’s preparation,’ according to that, “If I shall depart, I will also prepare a place for you.” [John 14:3]
Gloss: Morally; After David follows Solomon, which is interpreted, ‘peaceful.’ For one then becomes peaceful, when unlawful motions being composed, and being as it were already set in the everlasting rest, he serves God, and turns others to Him.
Then follows Roboam, that is, ‘the breadth of the people.’ For when there is no longer any thing to overcome within himself, it behoves a man to look abroad to others, and to draw with him the people of God to heavenly things.
Next is Abias, that is, ‘the Lord Father,’ for these things premised, He may proclaim Himself the Son of God, and then He will be Asa, that is, ‘raising up,’ and will ascend to His Father from virtue to virtue: and He will become Josaphat, that is, ‘judging,’ for He will judge others, and will be judged of none.
Thus he becomes Joram, that is, ‘lofty,’ as it were dwelling on high; and is made Oziah, that is, ‘the strong One of the Lord,’ as attributing all his strength to God, and persevering in his path.
Then follows Jotham, that is, ‘perfect,’ for he groweth daily for greater perfection. And thus he becomes Ahaz, that is, ‘embracing,’ for by obedience knowledge is increased according30 to that, “They have proclaimed the worship of the Lord, and have understood His doings.”
Then follows Ezekias, that is, ‘the Lord is strong,’ because he understands that God is strong, and so turning to His love, he becomes Manassas, ‘forgetful,’ because he gives up as forgotten all worldly things; and is made thereby Amon, that is, ‘faithful,’ for whoso despises all temporal things, defrauds no man of his goods. Thus he is made Josias, that is, ‘in certain hope of the Lord’s salvation;’ for Josias in intepreted ‘the salvation of the Lord.’
12-15. And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; and Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; and Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; and Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob.
Pseudo-Chrys.: After the carrying away, he sets Jeconiah again, as now become a private person.
Ambrose: Of whom Jeremiah speaks. “Write this man dethroned; for there shall not spring of his seed one sitting on the throne of David.” [Jer 22:30]
How is this said of the Prophet, that none of the seed of Jeconias should reign? For if Christ reigned, and Christ was of the seed of Jeconiah, then has the Prophet spoken falsely. But it is not there declared that there shall be none of the seed of Jeconiah, and so Christ is of his seed; and that Christ did reign, is not in contradiction to the prophecy; for He did not reign with worldly honours, as He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” [John 18:36]
Pseudo-Chrys.: Concerning Salathiel [ed. note, l: This Gloss. from Pseudo-Chrys. is not found in Nicolai’s edition.], we have read nothing either good or bad, but we suppose him to have been a holy man, and in the captivity to have constantly besought God in behalf of afflicted Israel, and that hence he was named, Salathiel, ‘the petition of God.’ [ed. note, m: שְׂאַלְתִיאל “I have asked of God.”]
“Salathiel begot Zorobabel,” which is interpreted, ‘flowing postponed,’ or, ‘of the confusion,’ or here, ‘the doctor of Babylon.’ [ed. note, n (p.31): The teacher of Babylon; Jerome; perhaps from זר “crown;” זרב Ch. flowed, poured away,” Syr. “contracted, bound;” hence another of the meanings in the text.]
I have read, but know not31 whether it be true, that both the priestly line and the royal line were united in Zorobabel; and that it was through him that the children of Israel returned into their own country. For that in a disputation held between three, of whom Zorobabel was one, each defending his own opinion, Zorobabel’s sentence, that Truth was the strongest thing, prevailed; and that for this Darius granted him that the children of Israel should return to their country; and therefore after this providence of God, he was rightly called Zorobabel, ‘the doctor of Babylon.’ For what doctrine greater than to shew that Truth is the mistress of all things?
Gloss: But this seems to contradict the genealogy which is read in Chronicles. For there it is said, that Jeconias begot Salathiel and Phadaias, and Phadaias begot Zorobabel, and Zorobabel Mosollah, Ananias, and Solomith their sister. [1 Chron 3:17] But we know that many parts of the Chronicles have been corrupted by time, and error of transcribers. Hence come many and controverted questions of genealogies which the Apostle bids us avoid. [1 Tim 1:4]
Or it may be said, that Salathiel and Phadaias are the same man under two different names. Or that Salathiel and Phadaias were brothers, and both had sons of the same name, and that the writer of the history followed the genealogy of Zorobabel, the son of Salathiel. From Abiud down to Joseph, no history is found in the Chronicles; but we read that the Hebrews had many other annals, which were called the Words of the Days, of which much was burned by Herod, who was a foreigner, in order to confound the descent of the royal line.
And perhaps Joseph had read in them the names of his ancestors, or knew them from some other source. And thus the Evangelist could learn the succession of this genealogy. It should be noted, that the first Jeconiah is called the resurrection of the Lord, the second, the preparation of the Lord. Both are very applicable to the Lord Christ, who declares, “I am the resurrection, and the life;” [John 11:25] and, “I go to prepare a place for you.” [John 14:2]
Salathiel, i.e. ‘the Lord is my petition,’ is suitable to Him who said, “Holy Father, keep them whom Thou hast given Me.” [John 17:11]
Remig.: He is also Zorobabel,32 that is, ‘the master of confusion,’ according to that, “Your Master eateth with publicans and sinners.” [Matt 9:11]
He is Abiud, that is, ‘He is my Father,’ according to that, “I and the Father are One.” [John 10:30]
He is also Eliacim [ed. note: So Jerome, אל יקים “God will raise up”], that is, ‘God the Reviver,’ according to that, “I will revive him again in the last day.” [John 6:54]
He is also Azor, that is, ‘aided,’ according of that, “He who sent Me is with Me.” [John 8:29]
He is also Sadoch, that is, ‘the just,’, or, ‘the justified,’ according to that, “He was delivered, the just for the unjust.” [1 Pet 3:18]
He is also Achim, that is, ‘my brother is He,’ according to that, “Whoso doeth the will of My Father, he is My brother.” [Matt 12:50]
He is also Eliud, that is, ‘He is my God,’ according to that, “My Lord, and my God.” [John 20:28]
Gloss: He is also Eleazar, i.e. ‘God is my helper,’ as in the seventeenth Psalm, “My God, my helper.”
Remig.: He is also Jacob, ‘that supplanteth,’ for not only hath He supplanted the Devil, but hath given His power to His faithful people; as, “Behold I have given you power to tread upon serpents.” [Luke 10:19]
He is also Joseph, that is, ‘adding,’ according to that, “I came that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.”
Raban.: But let us see what moral signification these names contain. After Jeconias, which means ‘the preparation of the Lord,’ follows Salathiel, i.e. ‘God is my petition,’ for he who is rightly prepared, prays not but of God.
Again, he becomes Zorobabel, ‘the master of Babylon,’ that is, of the men of the earth, whom he makes to know concerning God, that He is their Father, which is signified in Abiud.
Then that people rise again from their vices, whence follows Eliacim, ‘the resurrection;’ and thence rise to good works, which is Azor, and becomes Sadoch, i.e. ‘righteous;’ and then they are taught the love of their neighbour. He is my brother, which is signified in Achim; and through love to God he says of Him, ‘My God,’ which Eliud signifies.
Then follows Eleazar, i.e. ‘God is my helper;’ he recognizes God as his helper. But whereto he tends is shewn in Matthan, which is interpreted ‘gift,’ or ‘giving;’ for he looks to God as his benefactor; and as he wrestled with and overcame his vices33 in the beginning, so he does in the end of life, which belongs to Jacob, and thus he reaches Joseph, that is, ‘The increase of virtues.’
16. And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Gloss: In the last place, after all the patriarchs, he sets down Joseph the husband of Mary, for whose sake all the rest are introduced, saying, “But Jacob begot Joseph.”
Jerome: This passage is objected to us by the Emperor Julian in his Discrepancy of the Evangelists. Matthew calls Joseph the son of Jacob, Luke makes him the son of Heli. He did not know the Scripture manner, one was his father by nature, the other by law. For we know that God commanded by Moses, that if a brother or near kinsman died without children, another should take his wife, to raise up seed to his brother or kinsman. [Deut 25]
But of this matter Africanus the chronologist [ed. note: In his Epist. ad Aristidem, vid. Reuth Reliqu. vol. ii, p. 114. Africanus], and Eusebius of Caesarea, have disputed more fully.
Euseb., Hist. Eccles. i, 7: For Matthan and Melchi at different periods had each a son by one and the same wife Jesca. Matthan, who traced through Solomon, first had her, and died leaving one son, Jacob by name. As the Law forbade not a widow, either dismissed from her husband, or after the death of her husband, to be married to another, so Melchi, who traced through Matthan, being of the same tribe but of another race, took this widow to his wife, and begat Heli his son.
Thus shall we find Jacob and Heli, though of a different race, yet by the same mother, to have been brethren. One of whom, namely Jacob, after Heli his brother was deceased without issue, married his wife, and begat on her the third, Joseph, by nature indeed and reason his own son. Whereupon also it is written, “And Jacob begat Joseph.” But by the Law, he was the son of Heli; for Jacob, being his brother, raised up seed to him.
Thus the genealogy, both as recited by Matthew, and by Luke, stands right and true; Matthew saying, “And Jacob begot Joseph;” Luke saying, “Which was the son, as it was supposed, (for he adds this withal,) of Joseph,34 which was the son of Heli, which was the son of Melchi.”
Nor could he have more significantly or properly expressed that way of generation according to the Law, which was made by a certain adoption that had respect to the dead, carefully leaving out the word “begetting” throughout even to the end.
Augustine, de Cons. Evan., ii, 2: He is more properly called his son, by whom he was adopted, than had he been said to have been begotten of him of whose flesh he was not born. Wherefore Matthew, in saying, “Abraham begot Isaac,” and continuing the same phrase throughout down to “Jacob begot Joseph,” sufficiently declares that he gives the father according to the order of nature, so as that we must hold Joseph to have been begotten, not adopted, by Jacob. Though even if Luke had used the word, “begotten,” we need not have thought it any serious objection; for it is not absurd to say of an adopted son that he is begotten, not after the flesh, but by affection.
Euseb.: Neither does this lack good authority; nor has it been suddenly devised by us for this purpose. For the kinsmen of our Saviour according to the flesh, either out of desire to shew forth this their so great nobility of stock, or simply for the truth’s sake, have delivered it unto us.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 4: And suitably does Luke, who relates Christ’s ancestry not in the opening of his Gospel, but at his baptism, follow the line of adoption, as thus more clearly pointing Him out as the Priest that should make atonement for sin. For by adoption we are made the sons of God, by believing in the Son of God. But by the descent according to the flesh which Matthew follows, we rather see that the Son of God was for us made man.
Luke sufficiently shews that he called Joseph the son of Heli, because he was adopted by Heli, by his calling Adam the son of God, which he was by grace, as he was set in Paradise, though he lost it afterwards by sinning.
Chyrs., Hom. 4: Having gone through all the ancestry, and ended in Joseph, he adds, “The husband of Mary,” thereby declaring that is was for her sake that he was included in the genealogy.
Jerome: When you hear this word, “husband,” do not straight bethink you of wedlock, but remember the Scripture manner, which calls persons only betrothed husband and wife.
Gennadius, de Eccles. Dog., 2: The Son of God was born of human flesh, that is of Mary, and not by man after the way of nature, as Ebion says; and accordingly it is significantly35 added, “Of her Jesus was born.”
Aug., De Haeres, ii: This is said against Valentinus, who taught that Christ took nothing of the Virgin Mary, but passed through her as through a channel or pipe.
Wherefore it pleased Him to take flesh of the womb of a woman, is known in His own secret counsels; whether that He might confer honour on both sexes alike, by taking the form of a man, and being born of a woman, or from some other reason which I would not hastily pronounce on.
Hilary, Quaest. Nov. et Vet. Test. q. 49: What God conveyed by the anointing of oil to those who were anointed to be kings, this the Holy Spirit conveyed upon the man Christ, adding thereto the expiation; wherefore when born He was called Christ; and thus it proceeds, “who is called Christ.”
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 1: It was not lawful that he should think to separate himself from Mary for this, that she brought forth Christ as yet a Virgin. And herein may the faithful gather, that if they be married, and preserve strict continence on both sides, yet may their wedlock hold with union of love only, without carnal; for here they see that it is possible that a son be born without carnal embrace.
Aug., de Nupt. et Concup., i, 11: In Christ’s parents was accomplished every good benefit of marriage, fidelity, progeny, and a sacrament. The progeny we see in the Lord Himself; fidelity, for there was no adultery; sacrament, for there was no divorce.
Jerome: The attentive reader may ask, Seeing Joseph was not the father of the Lord and Saviour, how does his genealogy traced down to him in order pertain to the Lord? We will answer, first, that it is not the practice of Scripture to follow the female line in its genealogies; secondly, that Joseph and Mary were of the same tribe, and that he was thence compelled to take her to wife as a kinsman, and they were enrolled together at Bethlehem, as being come of one stock.
Augustine: Also, the line of descent ought to be brought down to Joseph, that in wedlock no wrong might be done to the male sex, as the more worthy, providing only nothing was taken away from the truth; because Mary was of the seed of David.
Hence then we believe that Mary was in the line of David; namely, because we believe the Scripture which affirms two things, both that Christ was of the seed of David according to the flesh, and that He should be conceived of Mary not by knowledge of man, but as yet a virgin.
The Council of Ephesus: Herein we36 must beware of the error of Nestorius, who thus speaks; “When Divine Scripture is to speak either of the birth of Christ which is of the Virgin Mary, or His death, it is never seen to put God, but either, Christ, or Son, or Lord; since these three are significative of the two natures, sometimes of this, sometimes of that, and sometimes of both this and that together. And here is a testimony to this, ‘Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.’ For God the Word needed not a second birth of a woman.”
Pseudo-Aug., Vigil. Cont. Fel. 12. ap. Aug. t. 8. p. 45: But not one was the Son of God, and another the son of a man; but the same Christ was the son of both God and man. And as in one man, the soul is one and the body is another, so in the mediator between God and man, the Son of God was one, and the son of man another; yet of both together was one Christ the Lord. Two in distinction of substance, one in unity of Person.
But the heretic objects; “how can you teach Him to have been born in time whom you say was before coeternal with His Father? For birth is as it were a motion of a thing not in being, before it be born, bringing about this, that by benefit of birth it come into being. Whence it is concluded, that He who was in being cannot be born; if He could be born He was not in being.”
(To this it is replied by Augustine:) Let us imagine, as many will have it, that the universe has a general soul, which by some unspeakable motion gives life to all seeds, so as that itself is not mixed up with the things it produces. When this then passes forth into the womb to form passible matter to its own uses, it makes one with itself the person of that thing which it is clear has not the same substance.
And thus, the soul being active and the matter passive, of two substances is made one man, the soul and the flesh being distinct; thus it is that our confession is, that that soul is born of the womb which in coming to the womb we say conferred life on the thing conceived. He, I say, is said to be born of His mother, who shaped to Himself a body out of her, in which He might be born; not as though before He was born, His mother might, as far as pertained to Him, not have been in being. In like manner, yea in a manner yet more incomprehensible and sublime, the Son of God was born, by taking on Him perfect manhood of his Mother. He37 who by his singular almighty power is the cause of their being born to all things that are born.
17. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having enumerated the generations from Abraham to Christ, he divides them into three divisions of fourteen generations, because three times at the end of fourteen generations the state of the people of the Jews was changed. From Abraham to David they were under Judges; from David to the carrying away into Babylon under Kings; from the carrying away to Christ under the High Priests.
What he would shew then is this: like as ever at the end of fourteen generations the state of men has changed, so there being fourteen generations completed from the carrying away to Christ, it must needs be that the state of men be changed by Christ. And so since Christ all the Gentiles have been made under one Christ Judge, King, and Priest. And for that Judges, Kings, and Priests prefigured Christ’s dignity, their beginnings were always in a type of Christ; the first of the Judges was Joshua the son of Nave; the first of the Kings, David; the first of the Priests, Jesus son of Josedech. That this was typical of Christ none doubts.
Chrys.: Or he divided the whole genealogy into three parts to shew that not even by the change of their government were they made better, but under Judges, Kings, High Priests, and Priests, held the same evil course. For which cause also he mentions the captivity in Babylon, shewing that neither by this were they corrected. But the going down into Egypt is not mentioned, because they were not still in terror of the Egyptians as they were of the Assyrians or Parthians; and because that was a remote, but this a recent event; and because they had not been carried thither for sin as they had to Babylon.
Ambrose, in Luc., c. 3: Let us not think this is to be overlooked, that though there were seventeen Kings of Judaea between David and Jeconiah, Matthew only recounts fourteen. We must observe that there38 might be many more successions to the throne than generations of men; for some may live longer and beget children later; or might be altogether without seed; thence the number of Kings and of generations would not coincide.
Gloss: Or we may say that there are three Kings overlooked, as was said above.
Ambrose: Again, from Jeconiah to Joseph are computed twelve generations; yet he afterwards calls these also fourteen. But if you look attentively, you will be able to discover the method by which fourteen are reckoned here. Twelve are reckoned including Joseph, and Christ is the thirteenth; and history declares that there were two Joakims, that is two Jeconiahs, father and son. The Evangelist has not passed over either of these, but has named them both. Thus, adding the younger Jeconiah, fourteen generations are computed.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, the same Jeconiah is counted twice in the Gospel, once before the carrying away, and again after the carrying away. For this Jeconiah being one person had two different conditions; before the carrying away he was King, as being made King by the people of God; but he became a private man at the carrying away; hence he is reckoned once among the Kings before the carrying away; and after the carrying away once among private men.
Aug., de Cons. Evan, ii, 4: Or, one of Christ’s forefathers is counted twice, because in him, Jeconiah to wit, there was made a passing off to strange nations since he was carried to Babylon. Wherever a series turns out of the right line to go in any other direction there is an angle made, and that part that is in the angle is reckoned twice. Thus here is a figure of Christ, who passes from the circumcision to the uncircumcision, and is made a cornerstone.
Remig.: He made fourteen generations, because the ten denotes the Decalogue, and the four the four books of the Gospel; whence this shews the agreement of the Law and the Gospel. And he put the fourteen three times over, that he might shew that the perfection of law, prophecy, and grace, consists in the faith of the Holy Trinity.
Gloss: Or in this number is signified the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit. The number is made up of seven, doubled, to shew that the grace of the Holy Spirit is needed both for soul and body to salvation.
Also the genealogy is divided into three portions of fourteen thus. The first from Abraham39 to David, so as that David is included in it; the second from David to the carrying away, in which David is not included, but the carrying away is included; the third is from the carrying away to Christ, in which if we say that Jeconiah is included, then the carrying away is included. In the first are denoted the men before the Law, in which you will find some of the men of the Law of nature, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all as far as Solomon.
In the second are denoted the men under the Law; for all who are included in it were under the Law.
In the third are found the men of grace; for it is finished in Christ, who was the giver of grace; and because in it was the deliverance from Babylon, signifying the deliverance from captivity that was made by Christ.
Aug.: After having divided the whole into three periods of fourteen generations, he does not sum them all up and say, The sum of the whole is forty and two; because one of those fathers, that is Jeconiah, is reckoned twice; so that they do not amount to forty-two, as three times fourteen does, but because one is reckoned twice over, there are only forty-one generations.
Matthew therefore, whose purpose was to draw out Christ’s kingly character, counts forty successions in the genealogy exclusive of Christ. This number denotes the time for which we must be governed by Christ in this world, according to that painful discipline which is signified by the iron rod of which it is written in the Psalms, “Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron.”
That this number should denote this our temporal life, a reason offers at hand, in this, that the seasons of the year are four, and that the world itself is bounded by four sides, the east, the west, the north, and the south. But forty contains ten four times. Moreover, ten itself is made up by a number proceeding from one to four.
Gloss: Or, the ten refers to the decalogue, the four to this life present, which passes through four seasons; or by the ten is meant the Old Testament, by the four the New.
Remig.: But if any, maintaining that it is not the same Jeconiah, but two different persons, make the number forty and two, we then shall say that the Holy Church is signified; for this number is the product of seven, and six; (for six times seven make forty-two;) the six denotes labour, and the seven rest.
18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having said above, “And Jacob begat Joseph,” to whom Mary being espoused bare Jesus; that none who heard should suppose that His birth was as that of any of the forementioned fathers, he cuts off the thread of his narrative, saying, “But Christ’s generation was thus.” As though he were to say, The generation of all these fathers was as I have related it; but Christ’s was not so, but as follows, “His mother Mary being espoused.”
Chrys.: He announces that he is to relate the manner of the generation, shewing therein that he is about to speak some new thing; that you may not suppose when you hear mention of Mary’s husband, that Christ was born by the law of nature.
Remig.: Yet it might be referred to the foregoing in this way, The generation of Christ was, as I have related, thus, “Abraham begat Isaac.”
Jerome: But why is He conceived not of a Virgin merely, but of a Virgin espoused? First, that by the descent of Joseph, Mary’s family might be made known; secondly, that she might not be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress; thirdly, that in her flight into Egypt she might have the comfort of a husband.
The Martyr Ignatius [margin note: vid. Ign. ad Eph. 19] adds yet a fourth reason, namely, that His birth might be hid from the Devil, looking for Him to be born of a wife and not of a virgin.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore both espoused and yet remaining at home; for as in her who should conceive in the house of her husband, is understood natural conception; so in her who conceives before she be taken to her husband, there is suspicion of infidelity.
Jerome, Hieron. cont. Helvid. in princ.: It is to be known, that Helvidius, a certain turbulent man, having got matter of disputation, takes in hand to blaspheme against the Mother of God. His first proposition was, Matthew begins thus, “When she was espoused.” Behold, he says, you have her espoused, but as ye say, not yet committed; but surely not espoused for any other reason than as being to be married.
Origen: She was indeed espoused to Joseph, but not united in wedlock; that is to say, His mother immaculate, His mother incorrupt,41 His mother pure. His mother! Whose mother? The mother of God, of the Only-begotten, of the Lord, of the King, of the Maker of all things, and the Redeemer of all.
Cyril, Epist. ad Monach. Egypt. (Ep. p. 7): What will any one see in the Blessed Virgin more than in other mothers, if she be not the mother of God, but of Christ, or the Lord, as Nestorius says? For it would not be absurd should any one please to name the mother of any anointed person, the mother of Christ. Yet she alone and more than they is called the Holy Virgin, and the mother of Christ. For she bare not a simple man as ye say, but rather the Word incarnate, and made man of God the Father.
But perhaps you say, Tell me, do you think the Virgin was made the mother of His divinity? To this also we say, that the Word was born of the very substance of God Himself, and without beginning of time always coexisted with the Father.
But in these last times when He was made flesh, that is united to flesh, having a rational soul, He is said to be born of a woman after the flesh. Yet is this sacrament in a manner brought out like to birth among us; for the mothers of earthly children impart to their nature that flesh that is to be perfected by degrees in the human form; but God sends the life into the animal. But though these are mothers only of the earthly bodies, yet when they bear children, they are said to bear the whole animal, and not a part of it only.
Such do we see to have been done in the birth of Emmanuel; the Word of God was born of the substance of His Father; but because He took on Him flesh, making it His own, it is necessary to confess that He was born of a woman according to the flesh. Where seeing He is truly God, how shall any one doubt to call the Holy Virgin the Mother of God?
Chrysologus, Serm. 148: If you are not confounded when you hear of the birth of God, let not His conception disturb you, seeing the pure virginity of the mother removes all that might shock human reverence. And what offence against our awe and reverence is there, when the Deity entered into union with purity that was always dear to Him, where an Angel is mediator, faith is bridesmaid, where chastity is the giving away, virtue the gift, conscience the judge, God the cause; where the conception is inviolateness, the birth virginity, and the mother a virgin. [ed. note: The allusions here made may be illustrated by a passage in the Ad Uxor. ii. 1, of Tertullian, who, with reference to the civil usages, speaks of “the [cont. p. 42] happiness of that Marriage, which the Church “brings about, (conciliat,)” the “Oblation” confirms, the Blessing “seals,” the Angles “witness,” and the Father “ratifies,” In Chrysologus the Angel brings about, (interpres ost,) virtue is the oblation or bride’s gift, and a pure conscience is the witness.]
Cyril, Epist. ad Joan. Antioch. (Ep. p. 107): But if42 we were to say that the holy Body of Christ came down from heaven, and was not made of His mother, as Valentinus does, in what sense could Mary be the Mother of God?
Gloss: The name of His Mother is added, “Mary.”
Bede, in Luc., c. 3: Mary in interpreted, ‘Star of the Sea,’ after the Hebrew; ‘Mistress,’ after the Syriac; as she bare into the world the Light of salvation, and the Lord. [ed. note, r: מִרְיָם their rebellion. S. Ambrose interprets it “God from my race,” and “the bitterness of the sea.” de Instit. Virg. 33. It is not necessary to give the origin of these various interpretations.]
Gloss: And to whom she was betrothed is shewn, Joseph.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Mary was therefore betrothed to a carpenter, because Christ the Spouse of the Church was to work the salvation of all men through the wood of the Cross.
Chrys.: What follows, “Before they came together,” does not mean before she was brought to the bridegroom’s house, for she was already within. For it was a frequent custom among the ancients to have their betrothed wives home to their house before marriage; as we see done now also, and as the sons-in-law of Lot were with him in the house.
Gloss: But the words denote carnal knowledge.
Pseudo-Chrys.: That He should not be born of passion, of flesh and blood, who was therefore born that He might take away all passion of flesh and blood.
Aug., de Nupt. et Concup., i, 12: There was no carnal knowledge in this wedlock, because in sinful flesh this could not be without carnal desire which came of sin, and which He would be without, who was to be without sin; and that hence He might teach us that all flesh which is born of sexual union is sinful flesh, seeing that Flesh alone was without sin, which was not so born.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. 122 et. al.: Christ was also born of a pure virgin, because it was not holy that virtue should be born of pleasure, chastity of self-indulgence, incorruption of corruption. Nor could He come from heaven but after some new manner, who came to destroy the ancient empire of death. Therefore she received the crown of virginity who bare the King of chastity. Farther, our Lord sought out for Himself a virgin abode, wherein to be received, that He might shew us that God ought to be borne in a chaste body.
Therefore He that wrote on tables of stone without an iron pen, the same wrought in Mary by the Holy43 Spirit; “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
Jerome: And found by none other than by Joseph, who knew all, as being her espoused husband.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For, as a not incredible account relates, Joseph was absent when the things were done which Luke writes. For it is not easy to suppose that the Angel came to Mary and said those words, and Mary made her answer when Joseph was present. And even if we suppose thus much to have been possible, yet it could not be that she should have gone into the hill country, and abode there three months when Joseph was present, because he must needs have enquired the causes of her departure and long stay. And so when after so many months he returned from abroad, he found her manifestly with child.
Chrys.: He says exactly “was found,” for so we use to say of things not thought of. And that you should not molest the Evangelist by asking in what way was this birth of a virgin, he clears himself shortly, saying, “Of the Holy Ghost.” As much as to say, it was the Holy Ghost that wrought this miracle. For neither Gabriel nor Matthew could say any futher.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Therefore the words, “Is of the Holy Ghost,” were set down by the Evangelist, to the end, that when it was said that she was with child, all wrong suspicion should be removed from the minds of the hearers.
Pseudo-Aug. , Serm. 236 in App.: But not, as some impiously think, are we to suppose, that the Holy Spirit was as seed, but we say that He wrought with the power and might of a Creator. [ed. note: And thus S. Hilary speaks of the sementiva ineuntis Spiritus “efficacia.” de Trin. ii, 26]
Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct., ii, 5: That which is of any thing is either of the substance or the power of that thing; of the substance, as the Son who is of the Father; of the power, as all things are of God, even as Mary was with Child of the Holy Spirit.
Aug., Enchir. c. 40: Furthermore, this manner in which Christ was born of the Holy Spirit suggests to us the grace of God, by which man without any previous merits, in the very beginning of his nature, was united with the Word of God into so great unity of person, that he was also made son of God. [margin note: Aug., Enchir. c. 38]
But inasmuch as the whole Trinity wrought to make this creature which was conceived of the Virgin, though pertaining only to the person of the Son, (for the works of the Trinity are indivisible,) why is44 the Holy Spirit only named in this work? Must we always, when one of the Three is named in any work, understand that the whole Trinity worked in that?
Jerome, Hieron. Cont. Helvid. in princip.: But says Helvidius; Neither would the Evangelist have said, “Before they came together,” if they were not to come together afterwards; as none would say, Before dinner, where there was to be no dinner. As if one should say, Before I dined in harbour, I set sail for Africa, would this have no meaning in it, unless he were at some times or other to dine in the harbour?
Surely we must either understand it thus, - that “before,” though it often implies something to follow, yet often is said of things that follow only in thought; and it is not necessary that the things so thought of should take place, for that something else has happened to prevent them from taking place.
Jerome: Therefore it by no means follows that they did come together afterwards; Scripture however shews not what did happen.
Remig.: Or the word “come together” may not mean carnal knowledge, but may refer to the time of the nuptials, when she who was betrothed begins to be wife. Thus, “before they came together,” may mean before they solemnly celebrated the nuptial rites.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 5: How this was done Matthew omits to write, but Luke relates after the conception of John, “In the sixth month the Angel was sent;” and again, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.” This is what Matthew relates in these words, “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” And it is no contradiction that Luke has described what Matthew omits; or again that Matthew relates what Luke has omitted; that namely which follows, from “Now Joseph her husband being a just man,” to that place where it is said of the Magi, that “They returned into their own country another way.”
If one desired to digest into one narrative the two accounts of Christ’s birth, he would arrange thus; beginning with Matthew’s words, “Now the birth of Christ was on this wise;” then taking up with Luke, from “There was in the days of Herod,” [Luke 1:5] to, “Mary abode with her three months,” and “returned to her house;” then taking up again Matthew, add, “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” [Matt 1:10]
19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
Chrys.: The Evangelist having said that she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, and without knowledge of man, that you should not herein suspect Christ’s disciple of inventing wonders in honour of his Master, brings forward Joseph confirming the history by his own share in it; “Now Joseph her husband, being a just man.”
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. s. 195: Joseph, understanding that Mary was with child, is perplexed that it should be thus with her whom he had received from the temple of the Lord, and had not yet known, and resolved within himself, saying, What shall I do? Shall I proclaim it, or shall I overlook it? If I proclaim it, I am indeed not consenting to the adultery; but I am running into the guilt of cruelty, for by Moses’ law she must be stoned. If I overlook it, I am consenting to the crime, and take my portion with the adulterers. Since then it is an evil to overlook the things, and worse to proclaim the adultery, I will put her away from being my wife.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: St. Matthew has beautifully taught how a righteous man ought to act, who has detected his wife’s disgrace; so as at once to keep himself guiltless of her blood, and yet pure from her defilements; therefore it is he says, “Being a just man.” Thus is preserved throughout in Joseph the gracious character of a righteous man, that his testimony may be the more approved; for, the tongue of the just speaketh the judgment of truth.
Jerome: But how is Joseph thus called, “just,” when he is ready to hide his wife’s sin? For the Law enacts, that not only the doers of evil, but they who are privy to any evil done, shall be held to be guilty.
Chrys.: But it should be known, that “just” here is used to denote one who is in all things virtuous. For there is a particular justice, namely, the being free from covetousness; and another universal virtue, in which sense Scripture generally uses the word justice. Therefore being “just,” that is, kind, merciful, he “was minded to put away privily” her who according to the Law was liable not only to dismissal, but to death. But Joseph remitted both, as though living above the Law. For as the sun lightens up the world,46 before he shews his rays, so Christ before He was born caused many wonders to be seen.
Aug.: Otherwise; if you alone have knowledge of a sin that any has committed against you, and desire to accuse him thereof before men, you do not herein correct, but rather betray him. But Joseph, “being a just man,” with great mercy spared his wife, in this great crime of which he suspected her. The seeming certainty of her unchastity tormented him, and yet because he alone knew of it, he was willing not to publish it, but to send her away privily; seeking rather the benefit than the punishment of the sinner.
Jerome: Or this may be considered a testimony to Mary, that Joseph, confident in her purity, and wondering at what had happened, covered in silence that mystery which he could not explain.
Rabanus: He beheld her to be with child, whom he knew to be chaste; and because he had read, “There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse,” of which he knew that Mary was come [ed. note: Jerome in loc. Ambros. de Spir. S. ii. 5. and Pseudo-Augustine (t. vi. p. 570.) so apply these words, considering Christ the ‘Branch’ or flower (flos) which is spoken of in the clause following. Cyril Alex. et Theod. in loc. explain it of Christ.], and had also read, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” he did not doubt that this prophecy should be fulfilled in her.
Origen: But if he had no suspicion of her, how could he be a just man, and yet seek to put her away, being immaculate? He sought to put her away, because he saw in her a great sacrament, to approach which he thought himself unworthy.
Gloss, ap Anselm: Or, in seeking to put her away, he was just; in that he sought it privily, is shewn his mercy, defending her from disgrace; “Being a just man, he was minded to put her away;” and being unwilling to expose her in public, and so to disgrace her, he sought to do it privily.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 1: But as no one puts away what he has not received; in that he was minded to put her away, he admits to have received her.
Gloss, part ap. Anselm, part in Ordinaria: Or, being unwilling to bring her home to his house to live with him for ever, “he was minded to put her away privily;” that is, to change the time of their marriage. For that is true virtue, when neither mercy is observed without justice, nor justice without mercy; both which vanish when severed one from the other.
Or he was just because of his faith, in that47 he believed that Christ should be born of a virgin; wherefore he wished to humble himself before so great a favour.
20. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Remig.: Because Joseph was minded, as has been said, to put Mary away privily, which if he had done, there would have been few who would not rather have thought her a harlot than a virgin, therefore this purpose of Joseph was changed by Divine revelation, whence it is said, “While he thought on these things.”
Gloss., ap Anselm: In this is to be noted the wise soul that desires to undertake nothing rashly.
Chrys.: Also observe the mercifulness of Joseph, that he imparted his suspicions to none, not even to her whom he suspected, but kept them within himself.
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. 195: Yet though Joseph think on these things, let not Mary the daughter of David be troubled; as the word of the Prophet brought pardon to David, so the Angel of the Saviour delivers Mary. Behold, again appears Gabriel the bridesman of this Virgin; as it follows, “Behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph.”
Ambrose: In this word “appeared” is conveyed the power of Him that did appear, allowing Himself to be seen where and how He pleases.
Raban.: How the Angel appeared to Joseph is declared in the words, “In his sleep;” that is, as Jacob saw the ladder offered by a kind of imagining to the eyes of his heart.
Chrys.: He did not appear so openly to Joseph as to the Shepherds, because he was faithful; the shepherds needed it, because they were ignorant. The Virgin also needed it, as she had first to be instructed in these mighty wonders. In like manner Zacharias needed the wonderful vision before the conception of his son.
Gloss., part Int., part Anselm: The Angel appearing calls him by name, and adds his descent, in order to banish fear, “Joseph, son of David;” Joseph, as though he were known to him by name and his familiar friend.
Pseudo-Chrys.: By addressing him as son of David, he sought to recall to his memory the promise of God to David, that of48 his seed should Christ be born.
Chrys.: But by saying, “Be not afraid,” he shews him to be in fear that he had offended God, by having an adulteress; for only as such would he have ever thought of putting her away.
Chrysologus: As her betrothed husband also he is admonished not to be afraid; for the mind that compassionates has most fear; as though he were to say, Here is no cause of death, but of life; she that brings forth life, does not deserve death.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Also by the words, “Fear not,” he desired to shew that he knew the heart; that by this he might have the more faith in those good things to come, which he was about to speak concerning Christ.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: Be not troubled that he calls her his wife; for she is not herein robbed of her virginity, but her wedlock is witnessed to, and the celebration of her marriage is declared.
Jerome: But we are not to think that she ceased to be betrothed, because she is here called wife, since we know that this is the Scripture manner to call the man and woman, when espoused, husband and wife; and this is confirmed by that text in Deuteronomy, “If one finds a virgin that is betrothed to a man in the field, and offer violence to her, and lie with her, he shall die, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife.” [Deut 22:25]
Chrys.: He says, “Fear not to take unto thee;” that is, to keep at home; for in thought she was already dismissed.
Raban.: Or, “to take her,” that is, in marriage union and continual converse.
Pseudo-Chrys.: There were three reasons why the Angel appeared to Joseph with this message. First, that a just man might not be led into an unjust action, with just intentions. Secondly, for the honour of the mother herself, for had she been put away, she could not have been free from evil suspicion among the unbelievers. Thirdly, that Joseph, understanding the holy conception, might keep himself from her with more care than before.
He did not appear to Joseph before the conception, that he should not think those things that Zacharias thought, nor suffer what he suffered in falling into the sin of unbelief concerning the conception of his wife in her old age. For it was yet more incredible that a virgin should conceive, than that a woman past the age should conceive.
Chrys.: Or, The Angel appeared to Joseph when he was in this perplexity, that his wisdom might be apparent to Joseph, and that this49 might be a proof to him of those things that he spoke. For when he heard out of the mouth of the Angel those very things that he thought within himself, this was an undoubted proof, that he was a messenger from God, who alone knows the secrets of the heart.
Also the account of the Evangelist is beyond suspicion, as he describes Joseph feeling all that a husband was likely to feel. The Virgin also by this was more removed from suspicion, in that her husband had felt jealousy, yet took her home, and kept her with him after her conception. She had not told Joseph the things that the Angel had said to her, because she did not suppose that she should be believed by her husband, especially as he had begun to have suspicions concerning her.
But to the Virgin the Angel announced her conception before it took place, lest if he should defer it till afterwards she should be in straits. And it behoved that Mother who was to receive the Maker of all things to be kept free from all trouble. Not only does the Angel vindicate the Virgin from all impurity, but shews that the conception was supernatural, not removing his fears only, but adding matter of joy; saying, “That which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
Gloss. ord: To be “born in her,” and “born of her,” are two different things; to be born of her is to come into the world; to be born in her, is the same as to be conceived. Or the word, “born,” is used according to the foreknowledge of the Angel which he has of God, to whom the future is as the past.
Pseudo-Aug., Hil. Quaest. N. et V. Test. q. 52: But if Christ was born by the agency of the Holy Ghost, how is that said, “Wisdom hath built herself an house?” [Prov 9:1]
That house may be taken in two meanings. First, the house of Christ is the Church, which He built with His own blood; and secondly, His body may be called His house, as it is called His temple. But the work of the Holy Spirit, is also the work of the Son of God, because of the unity of their nature and their will; for whether it be the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, that doeth it, it is the Trinity that works, and what the Three do, is of One God.
Aug., Enchir., 38: But shall we therefore say that the Holy Spirit is the Father of the man Christ, that as God the Father begot the Word, so the Holy Spirit begot the man? This is such an absurdity, that the ears of the faithful cannot bear it.50
How then do we say that Christ was born by the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit did not beget Him? Did He create Him? For so far as He is man He was created, as the Apostle speaks; “He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” [Rom 1:3] For though God made the world, yet is it not right to say that it is the Son of God, or born by Him, but that it was made, or created, or formed by Him. But seeing that we confess Christ to have been born by the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, how is He not the Son of the Holy Spirit, and is the Son of the Virgin? It does not follow, that whatever is born by any thing, is therefore to be called the son of that thing; for, not to say that of man is born in one sense a son, in another a hair, or vermin, or a worm, none of which are his son, certainly those that are born of water and the Spirit none would call sons of water; but sons of God their Father, and their Mother the Church. Thus Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, and yet is the Son of God the Father, not of the Holy Spirit.
21. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Chrys.: What the Angel thus told Joseph, was beyond human thought, and the law of nature, therefore he confirms his speech not only be revealing to him what was past, but also what was to come; “She shall bring forth a Son.”
Gloss., ap Anselm: That Joseph should not suppose that he was no longer needed in this wedlock, seeing the conception had taken place without his intervention, the Angel declares to him, that though there had been no need of him in the conception, yet there was need of his guardianship; for the Virgin should bear a Son, and then he would be necessary both to the Mother and her Son; to the Mother to screen her from disgrace, to the Son to bring Him up and to circumcise Him. The circumcision is meant when he says, “And thou shalt call His name Jesus;” for it was usual to give the name in circumcision.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not, “Shall bear thee a Son,” as to Zacharias, “Behold, Elisabeth thy wife shall bear thee a son.” For the woman who conceives of her husband, 51 bears the son to her husband, because he is more of him than of herself; but she who had not conceived of man, did not bear the Son to her husband, but to herself.
Chrys.: Or, he left it unappropriated, to shew that she bare Him to the whole world.
Raban.: “Thou shalt call His name,” he says, and not, “shalt give Him a name,” for His name had been given from all eternity.
Chrys.: This further shews that this birth should be wonderful, because it is God that sends down His name from above by His Angel; and that not any name, but one which is a treasure of infinite good. Therefore also the Angel interprets it, suggesting good hope, and by this induces him to believe what was spoken. For we lean more easily to prosperous things, and yield our belief more readily to good fortune.
Jerome: Jesus is a Hebrew word, meaning Saviour. He points to the etymology of the name, saying, “For He shall save His people from this sins.”
Remig.: He shews the same man to be the Saviour of the whole world, and the Author of our salvation. He saves indeed not the unbelieving, but His people; that is, He saves those that believe on Him, not so much from visible as from invisible enemies; that is, from their sins, not by fighting with arms, but by remitting their sins.
Chrysologus: Let them approach to hear this, who ask, Who is He that Mary bare? “He shall save His people;” not any other man’s people; from what? “from their sins.” That it is God that forgives sins, if you do not believe the Christians so affirming, believe the infidels, or the Jews who say, “None can forgive sins but God only.” [Luke 5:1]
22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23. Behold, a Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Remig.: It is the custom of the Evangelist to confirm what he says out of the Old Testament, for the sake of those Jews who believed on Christ, that they might recognize as fulfilled in the grace of the Gospel, the things that were foretold in the Old Testament; therefore he adds, “Now all this was done.”52
Here we must enquire why he should say “all this was done,” when above he has only related the conception. It should be known that he says this to shew, that in the presence of God “all this was done” before it was done among men. Or he says, “all” this was done, because he is relating past events; for when he wrote, it was all done.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Or, he says, “all this was done,” meaning, the Virgin was betrothed, she was kept chaste, she was found with child, the revelation was made by the Angel, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken. For that the Virgin should conceive and should bring forth would never have been fulfilled, had she not been espoused that she should not be stoned; and had not her secret been disclosed by the Angel, and so Joseph taken her unto him, that she was not dismissed to disgrace and to perish by stoning. So had she perished before the birth, that prophecy would have been made void which says, “She shall bring forth a Son.” [Isa 7:14]
Gloss: Or it may be said, that the word “that” does not here denote the cause; for the prophecy was not fulfilled merely because it was to be fulfilled. But it is put consecutively, as in Genesis, “He hung the other on the gallows, that the truth of the interpreter might be proved;” [Gen 40:22] since by the weighing of one, truth is established. So also in this place we must understand it as if it were, that which was foretold being done, the prophecy was accomplished.
Chrys.: Otherwise; the Angel seeing the depths of the Divine mercy, the laws of nature broken through and reconciliation made, He who was above all made lower than all; all these wonders, all this he comprises in that one saying, “Now all this hath happened;” as though he had said, Do not suppose that this is newly devised of God, it was determined of old. And he rightly cites the Prophet not to the Virgin, who as a maiden was untaught in such things, but to Joseph, as to one much versed in the Prophets.
And at first he had spoken of Mary as “thy wife,” but now in the words of the Prophet he brings in the word, “Virgin,” that he might hear this from the Prophet, as a thing long before determined. Therefore to confirm what he had said, he introduces Isaiah, or rather God; for he does not say, Which was spoken by Isaiah, but, “Which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet.”
Jerome, in Isa 7:14; Since it is introduced in the Prophet by the words,53 “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign,” it ought to be something new and wonderful. But if it be, as the Jews will have it, a young woman, or a girl shall bring forth, and not a virgin, what wonder is this, since these are words signifying age and not purity?
Indeed the Hebrew word signifying “Virgin” (Bethula) is not used in this place, but instead the word, ‘Halma,’ [ed. note, a: עַלְמָה, &c.] which except the LXX all render ‘girl.’ But the word, ‘Halma,’ has a twofold meaning; it signifies both ‘girl,’ and ‘hidden;’ therefore ‘Halma’ denotes not only ‘maiden’ or ‘virgin,’ but ‘hidden,’ ‘secret;’ that is, one never exposed to the gaze of men, but kept under close custody by her parents.
In the Punic tongue also, which is said to be derived from Hebrew sources, a virgin is properly called ‘Halma.’ In our tongue also ‘Halma’ means holy; and the Hebrews use words of nearly all languages; and as far as my memory will serve me, I do not think I ever met with Halma used of a married woman, but of her that is a virgin, and such that she be not merely a virgin, but in the age of youth; for it is possible for an old woman to be a maid. But this was a virgin in years of youth, or at least a virgin, and not a child too young for marriage.
For that which Matthew the Evangelist says, “Shall have in her womb,” the Prophet who is foretelling something future, writes, “shall receive.” The Evangelist, not foretelling the future but describing the past, changes “shall receive,” into “shall have;” but he who has, cannot after receive that he has. He says, “Lo, a Virgin shall have in her womb, and shall bear a Son.”
Leo, Serm. 23, 1: The conception was by the Holy Spirit within the womb of the Virgin; who, as she conceived in perfect chastity, in like manner brought forth her Son.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. s. 123: He, who by a touch could heal the severed limbs of others, how much more could He, in His own birth, preserve whole that which He found whole? In this parturition, soundness of the Mother’s body was rather strengthened than weakened, and her virginity rather confirmed than lost.
Theodotus, Hom. 1 and 2. in Conc. Eph. ap. Hard. t. i. pp. 1643, 1655: Inasmuch as Photinus affirms that He that was now born was mere man, not allowing the divine birth, and maintains that He who now issued from the womb was the man separate from the God; let him shew how it was possible that human nature, born of the Virgin’s womb, should have preserved the54 virginity of that womb uncorrupted; for the mother of no man ever yet remained a virgin.
But forasmuch as it was God the Word who was now born in the flesh, He shewed Himself to be the Word, in that He preserved His mother’s virginity. For as our word when it is begot does not destroy the mind, so neither does God the Word in choosing His birth destroy the virginity.
Chrys.: As it is the manner of Scripture to convey a knowledge of events under the form of a name, so here, “They shall call His name Emmanuel,” means nothing else than, They shall see God among men. Whence he says not, ‘Thou shalt call,’ but “They shall call.”
Raban.: First, Angels hymning, secondly, Apostles preaching, then Holy Martyrs, and lastly, all believers.
Jerome, in Isa 7:14; The LXX and three others translate, ‘Thou shalt call,’ instead of which we have here, “They shall call,” which is not so in the Hebrew; for the word, ‘Charathi,’ [ed. note: קָרָאת] which all render “Thou shalt call,” may mean, ‘And she shall call,’ that is, The Virgin that shall conceive and shall bear Christ, shall call His name Emmanuel, which is interpreted, ‘God with us.’
Remig.: It is a question who interpreted this name? The Prophet, or the Evangelist, or some translator? It should be known then, that the Prophet did not interpret it; and what need had the Holy Evangelist to do so, seeing he wrote in the Hebrew tongue? Perhaps that was a difficult and rare word in Hebrew, and therefore needed interpretation. It is more probable that some translator interpreted it, that the Latins might not be perplexed by an unintelligible word.
In this name are conveyed at once the two substances, the Divinity and Humanity in the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who before all time was begot in an unspeakable manner by God the Father, the same in the end of time was made “Emmanuel,” that is, “God with us,” of a Virgin Mother. This “God with us” may be understood in this way. He was made with us, passible, mortal, and in all things like unto us without sin; or because our frail substance which He took on Him, He joined in one Person to His Divine substance.
Jerome: It should be known, that the Hebrews believe this prophecy to refer to Ezekias, the son of Ahaz, because in his reign Samaria was taken; but this cannot be established. Ahaz55 son of Jotham reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem sixteen years, and was succeeded by his son Ezekias, who was twenty-three years old, and reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem twenty-nine years; how then can a prophecy prophesied in the first year of Ahaz refer to the conception and birth of Ezekias, when he was already nine years of age? Unless perhaps the sixth year of the reign of Ezekias, in which Samaria was taken, they think is here called his infancy, that is, the infancy of his reign, not of his age; which even a fool must see to be hard and forced.
A certain one of our interpreters contends, that the Prophet Isaiah had two sons, Jashub and Emmanuel; and that Emmanuel was born of his wife the Prophetess as a type of the Lord and Saviour. But this is a fabulous tale.
Petrus Alfonsus, Dial. tit. 7: For we know not that any man of that day was called Emmanuel. But the Hebrew objects, How can it be that this was said on account of Christ and Mary, when many centuries intervened between Ahaz and Mary? But though the Prophet was speaking to Ahaz, the prophecy was yet not spoken to him only or of his time only; for it is introduced, “Hear, O house of David;” [Isa 7:13] not, ‘Hear, O Ahaz.’
Again, “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign;” meaning He, and none other; from which we may understand that the Lord Himself should be the sign. And that he says “to you,” (plur.) and not ‘to thee,’ shews that this was not spoken to Ahaz, or on his account only.
Jerome: What is spoken to Ahaz then is to be thus understood. This Child, that shall be born of a Virgin of the house of David, shall now be called Emmanuel, that is, God with us, because the events (perhaps delivery from the two hostile kings) will make it appear that you have God present with you. But after He shall be called Jesus, that is, Saviour, because He shall save the whole human race. Wonder not, therefore, O house of David, at the newness of this thing, that a Virgin should bring forth a God, seeing He has so great might that though yet to be born after a long while, He delivers you now when you call upon Him.
Aug., Cont. Faust., 12, 45, and 13, 7: Who so mad as to say with Manichaeus, that it is a weak faith not to believe i Christ without a witness; whereas the Apostle says, “How shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? Or how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14]
That those things which were preached by the Apostle might56 not be contemned, nor thought to be fables, they are proved to have been foretold by the Prophets. For though attested by miracles, yet there would not have been wanting men to ascribe them all to magical power, had not such suggestions been overcome by the additional testimony of prophecy.
For none could suppose that long before He was born, He had raised up by magic prophets to prophesy of Him. For if we say to a Gentile, Believe on Christ that He is God, and he should answer, Whence is it that I should believe on Him? we might allege the authority of the Prophets. Should he refuse assent to this, we establish their credit from their having foretold things to come, and those things having truly come to pass. I suppose he could not but know how great persecutions the Christian religion has formerly suffered from the Kings of this world; let him now behold those very Kings submitting to the kingdom of Christ, and all nations serving the same; all which things the Prophets foretold. He then hearing these things out of the Scriptures of the Prophets, and beholding them accomplished throughout the whole earth, would be moved to faith.
Gloss, in Anselm: This error then is barred by the Evangelist saying, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet.”
Now one kind of prophecy is by the preordination of God, and must needs be fulfilled, and that without any free choice on our part. Such is that of which we now speak; wherefore he says, “Lo,” to shew the certainty of prophecy.
There is another kind of prophecy which is by the foreknowledge of God, and with this our free will is mixed up; wherein by grace working with us we obtain reward, or if justly deserted by it, torment.
Another is not of foreknowledge, but is a kind of threat made after the manner of men; as that, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown;” [Jonah 3] understanding, unless the Ninevites amend themselves.
24. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son: and he called his name, Jesus.
Remig.: Life returned by the same entrance through which death had entered in. By Adam’s disobedience we were ruined, by Joseph’s obedience we all begin to be recalled to our former condition; for in these words is commended to us the great virtue of obedience, when it is said, “And Joseph rising from sleep, did as the Angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
Gloss. ord. et ap. Anselm ex Beda cit.: He not only did what the Angel commanded, but as he commanded it. Let each one who is warned of God, in like manner, break off all delays, rise from sleep, and do that which is commanded him.
Pseudo-Chrys.: “Took unto him” not took home to him; for he had not sent her away; he had put her away in thought only, and now took her again in thought.
Remig.: Or, Took her so far, as that the nuptial rites being complete, she was called his wife; but not so far as to lie with her, as it follows, “And knew her not.”
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. c. 5: Helvidius is at much superfluous trouble to make this word “know” refer to carnal knowledge rather than to acquaintance, as though any had ever denied that; or as if the follies to which he replies had ever occurred to any person of common understanding. He then goes on to say, that the adverb, ‘until,’ denotes a fixed time when that should take place, which had not taken place before; so that here from the words, “He knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born Son,” it is clear, he says, that after that he did know her. And in proof of this he heaps together many instances from Scripture.
To all this we answer, that the word ‘until’ is to be understood in two senses in Scripture. And concerning the expression, “knew her not,” he has himself shewn, that it must be referred to carnal knowledge, none doubting that it is often used of acquaintance, as in that, “The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and His parents knew not of it.” [Luke 2:43]
In like manner, ‘until’ often denotes in Scripture, as he has shewn, a fixed period, but often also an infinite time, as in that, “Even to your old age I am He.” [Isa 46:4] Will God then cease to be when they are grown old? Also the Saviour in the Gospel, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this world.” [Matt 28:20] Will He then leave His disciples at the end of the world? Again, the Apostle says, “He must reign till He has put His enemies under His feet.” [1 Cor 15:25]
Be it understood then, that which if it had not been written might have been 58 doubted, is expressly declared to us; other things are left to our own understanding.
[ed. note: In other words, “till,” need not imply a termination at a certain point of time, but may be giving us information up to a point from which onwards there is already no doubt. Supposing an Evangelist thought the very notion shocking that Joseph should have considered the Blessed Virgin as his wife after he was a witness of her bearing God the Son, he would only say that the vision had its effect upon him up to that time when it was no longer necessary. Just as if, in speaking of a man like Augustine, one said, that, in consequence of some awful occurrence, he was in the habit of saying prayers till the time of his conversion, no one would suppose that he left them off on being converted.]
So here the Evangelist informs us, in that wherein there might have been room for error, that she was not known by her husband until the birth of her Son, that we might thence infer that much less was she known afterwards.
Pseudo-Chrys.: As one might say, ‘He told it not so long as he lived;’ would this imply that he told it after his death? Impossible. So it were credible that Joseph might have known her before the birth, while he was yet ignorant of the great mystery; but after that he understood how she had been made a temple of the Only-begotten of God, how could he occupy that? The followers of Eunomius think, as they have dared to assert this, that Joseph also dared to do it, just as the insane think all men equally mad with themselves.
Jerome, cont. Hevlid. 8: Lastly, I would ask, Why then did Joseph abstain at all up to the day of birth? He will surely answer, Because of the Angel’s words, “That which is born in her, &c.” He then who gave so much heed to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, would he, after he had heard the shepherds, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord?
Pseudo-Chrys.: It may be said, that “know” here signifies simply, to understand; that whereas before he had not understood how great her dignity, after the birth he then “knew” that she had been made more honourable and worthy than the whole world, who had carried in her womb Him whom the whole world could not contain.
Gloss: Otherwise; On account of the glorification of the most holy Mary, she could not be known by Joseph until the birth; for she who had the Lord of glory in her womb, how should she be known? If the face of Moses talking with God was made glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look thereon, how much59 more could not Mary be known, or even looked upon, who bare the Lord of glory in her womb? After the birth she was known of Joseph to the beholding of her face, but not to be approached carnally.
Jerome: From the words, “her first-born Son,” some most erroneously suspect that Mary had other sons, saying that first-born can only be said of one that has brethren. But this is the manner of Scripture, to call the first-born not only one who is followed by brethren, but the first-birth of the mother.
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. 10: For if he only was first-born who was followed by other brethren, then no first-birth could be due to the Priests, till such time as the second birth took place.
Gloss. ord.: Or; He is “first-born” among the elect by grace; but by nature the Only-begotten of God the Father, the only Son of Mary. “And called His name Jesus,” on the eighth day on which the circumcision took place, and the Name was given.
Remig.: It is clear that this Name was well known to the Holy Fathers and the Prophets of God, but to him above all, who spake, “My soul fainted for Thy salvation;” [Ps 119:81] and, “My soul hath rejoiced in Thy salvation.” [Ps 13:5] Also to him who spake, “I will joy in God my Saviour.” [Heb 3:18]
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