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Chapter 12

431

1. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.”

3. But he said unto them, “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;

4. How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the Priests?

5. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the Priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

6. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

7. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

8. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”


Gloss. ord.: Having related the preaching together with the miracles of one year before John’s enquiry, He passes to those of another year, namely after the death of John, when Jesus is already in all things spoken against; and hence it432 is said, “At that time Jesus passed through the corn fields on the sabbath day.”

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 34: This which here follows is related both by Mark and Luke, without any question of discrepancy; indeed they do not say, “At that time,” so that Matthew has here perhaps preserved the order of time, they that of their recollection; unless we take the words in a wider sense, “At that time,” that is, the time in which these many and divers things were done, whence we may conceive that all these things happened after the death of John. For he is believed to have been beheaded a little after he sent his disciples to Christ. So that when he says “at that time,” he may mean only an indefinite time.

Chrys., Hom., xxxix: Why then did He lead them through the corn fields on the sabbath, seeing He knew all things, unless He desired to break the sabbath? This he desired indeed, but not absolutely; therefore He broke it not without cause, but furnished a sufficient reason; so that He both caused the Law to cease, and yet offended not against it.

Thus in order to soften the Jews, He here introduces a natural necessity; this is what is said, “And his disciples being an hungred, began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.” Although in things which are manifestly sinful, there can be no excuse; he who kills another cannot plead rage, nor he who commits adultery, lust, or any other cause; yet here saying that the disciples were hungry, He delivers them from all accusation.

Jerome: As we read in another Evangelist, they had no opportunity of taking food because of the thronging of the multitude, and therefore they hungred as men. That they rub the ears of corn in their hands, and with them satisfy themselves, is a proof of an austere life, and of men who needed not prepared meats, but sought only simple food.

Chrys.: Here admire the disciples, who are so limited in their desires, that they have no care of the things of the body, but despise the support of the flesh; they are assailed by hunger, and yet they go not away from Christ; for had not they been hard pressed by hunger, they would not have done thus.

What the Pharisees said to this is added, “The Pharisees seeing it said unto Him, Behold, thy disciples do what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.”

Aug., De Op. Monach., 23: The Jews rather charged the Lord’s disciples with the breach of the sabbath than with theft; because it was433 commanded the people of Israel in the Law, [margin note: Deut 23:25] that they should not lay hold of any as a thief in their fields, unless he sought to carry ought away with him; but if any touched only what he needed to eat, him they suffered to depart with impunity free.

Jerome: Observe, that the first Apostles of the Saviour broke the letter of the sabbath, contrary to the opinion of the Ebionites [ed. note: The Ebionites received only the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew mutilated. They rejected St. Paul of an apostate, vid. Iren. Haer. 1. 96. n. 2. Orig. in Cels. v. 65. Euseb. iii. 27] who receive the other Apostles, but reject Paul as a transgressor of the Law.

Then it proceeds to their excuse; “But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred?” To refute the false accusation of the Pharisees, He calls to mind the ancient history, that David flying from Saul came to Nobba, and being entertained by Achimelech the Priest, [margin note: 1 Sam 21] asked for food; he having no common bread, gave him the consecrated loaves, which it was not lawful for any to eat, but the Priests only and Levites; esteeming it a better action to deliver men from the danger of famine than to offer sacrifice to God; for the preservation of man is a sacrifice acceptable to God.

Thus then the Lord meets their objection, saying, If David be a holy man, and if you blame not the high-priest Achimelech, but consider their excuse for their transgression of the Law to be valid, and that was hunger; how do ye not approve in the Apostles the same plea which you approve in others! Though even here there is much difference. These rub ears of corn in their hands on the sabbath; those ate the Levitical bread, and over and above the solemn sabbath it was the season of new moon, during which when sought for at the banquet he fled from the royal palace.

Chrys.: To clear His disciples, He brings forward the instance of David, whose glory as a Prophet was great among the Jews. Yet they could not here answer that this was lawful for him, because he was a Prophet; for it was not Prophets, but Priests only who might eat. And the greater was he who did this, the greater is the defence of the disciples; yet though David was a Prophet, they that were with him were not.

Jerome: Observe that neither David nor his servants received the434 loaves of shew-bread, before they had made answer that they were pure from women.

Chrys.: But some one will say, How is this instance applicable to the question in hand? For David did not transgress the sabbath. Herein is shewn the wisdom of Christ, that He brings forward an instance stronger than the sabbath. For it is by no means the same thing to violate the sabbath, and to touch that sacred table, which is lawful for none. And again, He adds yet another answer, saying, “Or have ye not read in the Law, that on the sabbath days the Priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?”

Jerome: As though He had said, Ye bring complaints against my disciples, that on the sabbath they rub ears of corn in their hands, under stress of hunger, and ye yourselves profane the sabbath, slaying victims in the temple, killing bulls, burning holocausts on piles of wood; also, on the testimony of another Gospel, [margin note: John 7:23] ye circumcise infants on the sabbath; so that in keeping one law, ye break that concerning the sabbath.

But the laws of God are never contrary one to another; wisely therefore, wherein His disciples might be accused of having transgressed them, He shews that therein they followed the examples of Achimelech and David; and this their pretended charge of breaking the sabbath He retorts truly, and not having the plea of necessity, upon those who had brought the accusation.

Chrys.: But that you should not say to me, that to find an instance of another’s sin is not to excuse our own — indeed where the thing done and not the doer of it is accused, we excuse the thing done. But this is not enough, He said what is yet more, that they are blameless. But see how great things He brings in; first, the place, in the Temple; secondly, the time, on the sabbath; the setting aside the Law, in the word “profane,” not merely break; and that they are not only free from punishment but from blame; “and are blameless.”

And this second instance is not like the first which He gave respecting David; for that was done but once, by David who was not a Priest, and was a case of necessity; but this second is done every sabbath, and by the Priests, and according to the Law. So that not only by indulgence, as the first case would establish, but by the strict law the disciples are to be held blameless.

But are435 the disciples Priests? yea, they are yet greater than Priests, forasmuch as He was there who is the Lord of the Temple, who is the reality and not the type; and therefore it is added, “But I say unto you, one greater than the Temple is here.”

Jerome: The word “Hic” is not a pronoun, but an adverb of place here, for that place is greater than the Temple which contains the Lord of the Temple.

Aug., Quaest in Matt., q. 10: It should be observed, that one example is taken from royal persons, as David, the other from priestly, as those who profane the sabbath for the service of the Temple, so that much less can the charge concerning the rubbing the ears of corn attach to Him who is indeed King and Priest.

Chrys.: And because what He had said seemed hard to those that heard it, He again exhorts to mercy, introducing His discourse with emphasis, saying, “But had ye known what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would never have condemned the innocent.”

Jerome: What “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,” signifies, we have explained above. The words, “Ye would never have condemned the innocent,” are to be referred to the Apostles, and the meaning is, If ye allow the mercy of Achimelech, in that he refreshed David when in danger of famishing, why do ye condemn My disciples?

Chrys.: Observe again how in leading the discourse towards an apology for them, He shews His disciples to be above the need of any apology, and to be indeed blameless, as He had said above of the Priests. And He adds yet another plea which clears them of blame, “For the Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath.”

Remig.: He calls Himself the Son of Man, and the meaning is, He whom ye suppose a mere man is God, the Lord of all creatures, and also of the sabbath, and He has therefore power to change the law after His pleasure, because He made it.

Aug., cont. Faust., xvi, 28: He did not forbid His disciples to pluck the ears of corn on the sabbath, that so He might convict both the Jews who then were, and the Manichaeans who were to come, who will not pluck up a herb lest they should be committing a murder.

Hilary: Figuratively; First consider that this discourse was held “at that time,” namely, when He had given thanks to the Father for giving salvation to the Gentiles. The field is the436 world, the sabbath is rest, the corn the ripening of them that believe for the harvest; thus His passing through the corn field on the sabbath, is the coming of the Lord into the world in the rest of the Law; the hunger of the disciples is their desire for the salvation of men.

Raban.: They pluck the ears of corn when they withdraw men from devotion to the world; they rub them in their hands when they tear away their hearts from the lusts of the flesh; they eat the grain when they transfer such as are amended into the body of the Church.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 2: But no man passes into the body of Christ, until he has been stripped of his fleshly raiment; according to that of the Apostle, “Put ye off the old man.” [Eph 4:22]

Raban.: This they do on the sabbath, that is in the hope of eternal rest, to which they invite others. Also they walk through the corn fields with the Lord, who have delight in meditating on the Scriptures; they are hungry while they desire to find the bread of life, that is the love of God, in them; they pluck the ears of corn and rub them in their hands, while they examine the testimonies to discover what lies hid under the letter, and this on the sabbath, that is, while they are free from disquieting thoughts.

Hilary: The Pharisees, who thought that the key of the kingdom of heaven was in their hands, accused the disciples of doing what was not lawful to do; whereon the Lord reminded them of deeds in which, under the guise of facts, a prophecy was concealed; and that He might shew the power of all things, He further added, that it contained the form of that work which was to be, “Had ye known what that meaneth, I will have mercy;” for the work of our salvation is not in the sacrifice of the Law, but in mercy; and the Law having ceased, we are saved by the mercy of God.

Which gift if they had understood they would not have condemned the innocent, that is His Apostles, whom in their jealousy they were to accuse of having transgressed the Law, where the old sacrifices having ceased, the new dispensation of mercy came through them to the aid of all.


9. And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:

10. And, behold, there was a man which had his437 hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.

11. And he said unto them, “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

12. How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

13. Then saith he to the man, “Stretch forth thine hand.” And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.


Jerome: Because by fair instances He had vindicated His disciples from the charge of breaking the sabbath, the Pharisees seek to bring false accusation against Himself; whence it is said, “And passing thence, he came into their synagogue.”

Hilary: For the things that had gone before were said and done in the open air, and after this He entered the synagogue.

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 35: It might have been supposed that the matter of the ears of corn, and this cure following had been done on the same day, for it is mentioned to have been the sabbath day in both cases, had not Luke shewn us that they were on different days. So that what Matthew says, “And when he had passed thence, he came into their synagogue,” is to be taken as that He did not enter into the synagogue till He had passed thence; but whether several days intervened or He went thither straight is not expressed in this Gospel, so that place is given to the relation of Luke, who tells of the healing of this kind of palsy on another sabbath.

Hilary: When He was entered into the synagogue, they bring a man of a withered hand, asking Him whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath day, seeking an occasion of convicting Him out of His answer; as it follows, “And they brought him a man having a withered hand, and asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?

Chrys., Hom., xl: They do not ask that they may learn, but that they may438 accuse Him; as it follows, “that they might accuse him.” Though the action itself would have been enough, yet they sought occasion against Him in His words also, thus providing for themselves greater matter of complaint.

Jerome: And they ask Him whether it is lawful to heal on the sabbath day, that if He should refuse, they might charge Him with cruelty, or want of power; if He should heal him, they might charge Him with transgressing the Law.

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii. 35: But it may raise enquiry how Matthew can say that they asked the Lord, “Whether it were lawful to heal on the sabbath,” seeing Mark and Luke relate that it was the Lord who asked them, “ Whether it is lawful on the sabbath day to do good or to or evil? [Luke 6:9] It is to be understood then that they first asked the Lord, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? Then understanding their thoughts that they sought an occasion to accuse Him, He placed in the midst him whom He was about to heal, and put to them the question which Mark and Luke say that He did ask; and when they remained silent, He made the comparison respecting the sheep, and concluded that they might do good on the sabbath day; as it follows, “But he said unto them, What man, shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?”

Jerome: Thus He answers their question in such a way as to convict the questioners of covetousness. If ye on the sabbath, saith He, would hasten to lift out a sheep or any other animal that might have fallen into a pit, not for the sake of the animal, but to preserve your own property, how much more ought I to deliver a man who is so much better than a sheep?

Gloss. ord.: Thus He answers their question with a suitable example, so as to shew that they profane the sabbath by works of covetousness who were charging Him with profaning it by works of charity; evil interpreters of the Law, who say that on the sabbath we ought to rest from good deeds, when it is only evil deeds from which we ought to rest. As it is said, “Ye shall do no servile work therein,” [Lev 23:3] that is, no sin. Thus in the everlasting rest, we shall rest only from evil, and not from good.

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 35: After this comparison concerning the sheep, He concludes that439 it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day, saying, “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”

Chrys.: Observe how He shews many reasons for this breaking of the sabbath. But forasmuch as the man was incurably sick, He proceeds straightway to the work, as it follows, “Then saith he to the man, Reach forth thy hand: and he reached it forth, and it was restored whole as the other.”

Jerome: In the Gospel which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use [margin note: see note, p. 433], and which we have lately translated into Greek out of the Hebrew, and which many regard as the genuine Matthew, this man who has the withered hand is described as a builder, and he makes his prayer in these words, ‘I was a builder, and gained my living by the labour of my hands; I pray thee, Jesus, to restore me to health, that I may not disgracefully beg my bread.’

Raban.: Jesus teaches and works chiefly on the sabbath, not only on account of the spiritual sabbath, but on account of the gathering together of the people, seeking that all should be saved.

Hilary: Figuratively; After their departure from the corn field, from which the Apostles had received the fruits of their sowing, He came to the Synagogue, there also to make ready the work of His harvest; for there were afterwards many with the Apostles who were healed.

Jerome: Until the coming of the Lord the Saviour, there was the withered hand in the Synagogue of the Jews, and the works of the Lord were not done in it; but when He came upon earth, the right hand was restored in the Apostles who believed, and given back to its former occupation.

Hilary: All healing is done by the word; and the hand is restored as the other; that is, made like to the ministry of the Apostles in the business of bestowing salvation; and it teaches the Pharisees that they should not be displeased that the work of human salvation is done by the Apostles, seeing that if they would believe, their own hand would be made able to the ministry of the same duty.

Raban.: Otherwise; The man who had the withered hand denotes the human race in its barrenness of good works dried up by the hand which was stretched out to the fruit; [margin note: Gen 3:6] this was healed by the stretching out of the innocent hand on the Cross.

And well is this withered hand said to have been in the Synagogue, for where the gift440 of knowledge is greater, there is the greater danger of an irrecoverable infliction. The withered hand when it is to be healed is first bid to be stretched out, because the weakness of a barren mind is healed by no means better than by liberality of almsgiving. A man’s right hand is affected when he is remiss in giving alms, his left whole when he is attentive to his own interests. But when the Lord comes, the right hand is restored whole as the left, because what he had got together greedily, that he distributes freely.


14. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

15. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;

16. And charged them that they should not make him known:

17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

18. Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

19. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

21, And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.


Hilary: The Pharisees are moved with jealousy at what had been done; because beholding the outward body of a man, they did not recognize the God in His works; “The Pharisees sent out and sought counsel against him, how they ought destroy him.”

Raban.: He says, “went out” because their mind was alien from the Lord. They 441 took counsel how they might destroy life, not how themselves might find life.

Hilary: And He knowing their plots withdrew, that He might be far from the counsels of the evil hearted, as it follows, “Jesus knowing it departed thence.”

Jerome: Knowing, that is, their designs against Him withdrew Himself, that He might remove from the Pharisees all opportunity of sin.

Remig.: Or; He withdrew from thence as avoiding the designs of His own when they persecuted Him; or because that was not the time or place for Him to suffer, for “It cannot be that a Prophet should perish out of Jerusalem,” [Luke 13:33] as He Himself spake.

The Lord also shunned those who persecuted Him through hatred, and went thither where He found many who were attached to Him from affection, whence it follows, “And there followed him many.” Him whom the Pharisees with one consent plotted against to destroy, the untaught multitude with one consent love and follow; whence they soon received the fulfilment of their desires, for it follows, “And he healed them all.”

Hilary: On those whom He healed He enjoined silence, whence it follows, “And he charged them that they should not make him known.” For his restored health was a witness to each man. And by commanding them to hold their peace, He avoids all ostentation of Himself, and at the same time notwithstanding affords a knowledge of Himself in that very admonition to hold their peace; for the observance of silence proceeds from that very thing which is to be kept silent.

Raban.: In this also He instructs us, that when we have done any thing great we are not to seek praise abroad.

Remig.: And He also gives them command that they should not make Him known, that they might not by persecuting Him be put into a worse state.

Chrys.: And that you may not be troubled at those things which are done, and at the incredible madness of the Pharisees, He introduces the Prophet’s words. For such was the carefulness of the Prophets, that they had not omitted even this, but had noted all His ways and movements, and the meaning with which He did this; that you might learn that He spoke all things by the Holy Spirit; for if it be impossible to know the thoughts of men, much more to know the meaning of Christ, unless the Holy Spirit revealed it. Therefore it follows,442 “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the Prophet, saying, Behold my servant whom I have chosen.”

Remig.: The Lord Jesus Christ is called the servant of the Almighty God [ed. note: ~ Our Lord is said to be properly a servant as regards His human nature, by S. Athan. Orat. in Arian. i. 43. S. Hilar. de Trin. xi. 13. S. Greg. Nyss. Orat. xxxvi. p. 578. S. Greg. Nyss. de Fide ad Simpl. p. 471. S. Ambros. de Fid. vs. Pseudo-August, Alterc.cum Paec. 15. S.Cyrill. Alex. ad Theodor. in Anathem. 10. p. 223. But it came to be denied in the course of the Adoptionist controversy, the same heretics who denied that our Lord was the true Son of God in His human nature, asserting that He was a servant. Theodoret attributes the opinion to Apollinarii, “which none of us ever dared to utter.” Eranist. ii. fin.], not in respect of His divinity, but in respect of the dispensation of the flesh which He took upon Him because by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit He took flesh of the Virgin without stain of sin. Some books have, “Elect, whom I have chosen,” for He was chosen by God the Father, that is, predestinated that He should be the Son of God, proper, not adopted.

Raban.: “Whom I have chosen,” says, for a work which none else has done, that He should redeem the human race, and make peace between God and the world. It follows, “My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased,” for He alone is the Lamb without spot of sin, of whom the Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” [Matt 17:5]

Remig.: That he says, “My soul,” is not to be understood as though God the Father had a soul, but by way of adaptation, shewing how God is disposed towards Him. And it is no wonder that a soul is ascribed to God in this manner, seeing that all other members of the body are likewise.

Chrys.: This the Prophet puts in the beginning, that you might learn that that which is here said was according to the counsel of the Father. For he that is beloved does according to his will who loveth him. And again, he that is chosen, does not as an enemy break the lair, nor as one being an adversary of the legislator, but as one in agreement with Him. Because therefore He is beloved, “I will put my Spirit upon him.”

Remig.: Then also God the Father put His Spirit upon Him, when by the working of the Holy Spirit He took flesh of the Virgin; and as soon as He became man, He took the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

Jerome: But the Holy Spirit is put, not on the Word of God, but on the Only-Begotten, who came forth from the bosom of the443 Father; on Him, that is, of whom it is said, “Behold my servant.” And what He will do by Him He adds, “And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles.”

Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 30: Seeing He preached the judgment to come which was hidden from the Gentiles.

Chrys.: Further, to shew His lowliness, He says, “He shall not strive;” and so He was offered up as the Father had willed, and gave Himself willingly into the hands of His persecutors. “Neither shall he cry;” so He was dumb as a lamb before his shearer. “Nor shall any hear his voice in the streets.”

Jerome: For the way is broad and wide which leads to destruction, and many walk in it; and being many, they will not hear the voice of the Saviour, because they are not in the narrow but in the broad way.

Remig.: The Greek πλατεῖα, is in Latin called ‘latitudo.’ No one therefore has heard His voice in the streets, because He has not promised pleasant things in this world to those that love Him, but hardships.

Chrys.: The Lord sought to heal the Jews by this mildness. But though they rejected Him, yet He did not resist them by destroying them; whence the Prophet, displaying His power and their weakness, says, “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoking flax he shall not quench.”

Jerome: He that holds not out his hand to a sinner, nor bears his brother’s burden, he breaks a bruised reed; and he who despises a weak spark of faith in a little one, he benches a smoking flax.

Aug.: So He neither bruised nor quenched the Jewish persecutors, who are here likened to a bruised reed which has lost its wholeness, and to a smoking flax which has lost its flame; but He spared them because He was not come to judge them, but to be judged by them.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 3: In the smoking flax it is observed, that when the flame is out it causes a stink.

Chrys.: Or this, “He shall not break a bruised reed,” shews that it was as easy for Him to break them all, as to break a reed, and that a bruised reed. And, “He shall not quench a smoking flax,” shews that their rage was fired, and that the power of Christ was strong to quench such rage with all readiness; hence in this is shewn the great mercy of Christ.

Hilary: Or, he means this bruised reed that is not broken, to shew that the perishing and bruised bodies of the Gentiles, are not to be broken, but are rather reserved for444 salvation. “He shall not quench a smoking flax, shews the feebleness of that spark which though not quenched, only moulders in the flax, and that among the remnants of that ancient grace, the Spirit is yet not quite taken away from Israel, but power still remains to them of resuming the whole flame thereof in a day of penitence.

Jerome, Ep. 121, 2: Or the reverse; He calls the Jews a bruised reed, whom tossed by the wind and shaken from one another, the Lord did not immediately condemn, but patiently endured; and the smoking flax He calls the people gathered out of the Gentiles, who, having extinguished the light of the natural law, were involved in the wandering mazes of thick darkness of smoke, bitter and hurtful to the eyes; this He not only did not extinguish, by reducing them to ashes, but on the contrary from a small spark and one almost dead He raised a mighty flame.

Chrys.: But one might say, What then shall these things be always thus? Will He endure for ever those who thus lay snares, and are mad against Him? Far from it; when His own work shall be all complete, then shall He work these things also. And this He signifies, saying, “Until he shall send forth judgment to victory;” as much as to say, When He shall have accomplished all things which are of Himself, then shall He bring in perfect vengeance; then shall they receive punishment when He has made his victory illustrious, that there be not left to them any irreverent opportunity of contradiction.

Hilary: Or, “Until he shalt send forth judgment to victory,” that is, Until He shall take away the power of death, and bring in judgment and the return of His splendour.

Raban.: Or, Until that judgment which was being done in Him should come forth to victory. For after that by His resurrection He had overcome death, and driven forth the prince of this world, He returned as conqueror to His kingdom to sit on the right, hand of the Father, until He shall put all His enemies under His feet.

Chrys.: But the things of this dispensation will not rest in this only, that they who have not believed should be punished, but He will also draw the world to Him; whence it follows, “And in his name shall the Gentiles hope.”

Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 30: This last we now see fulfilled; and thus this which cannot be denied establishes the truth of that which some445 have denied through ignorance, the last judgment namely, which He will hold upon earth, when He Himself shall come from heaven. For who could have expected that the Gentiles would have hope in Christ’s name, when He was in the hands of His enemies, when He was bound, scourged, set at nought, and crucified; when even His disciples had lost that hope which they had begun to have in Him! That which one thief hardly hoped on the cross, the nations scattered far and wide now hope. And that they may not die for ever, they are marked with that very cross on which He died. Let none then doubt that the last judgment will be by Christ Himself.

Remig.: And it should be known, that the meaning not only of this passage, but of many others also, is supported by this testimony from the Prophet. The words, “Behold my servant,” may be referred to the place in which the Father had said above, “This is my Son.” [Matt 3:17] The words, “I will put my Spirit upon him,” is referred to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Lord at His baptism; “He shall declare judgment to the Gentiles,” to that which He says below, “When the Son of Man shall sit in the seat of his Majesty.” [Mat.25:31]

What He adds, “He shall not strive nor cry,” refers to the Lord how He answered but little to the Chief Priests, and to Pilate, but to Herod nothing at all. “He shall not break the bruised reed,” refers to His shunning His persecutors that they might not be made worse; and that “In his name shall the Gentiles hope,” refers to what Himself says below, “Go ye and teach all nations.” [Matt. 28:19]


22. Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.

23. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David?

24. But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”


Gloss., non occ.: The Lord had refuted the Pharisees above, when they brought false charges against the miracles of Christ, as446 if He had broken the sabbath in doing them. But inasmuch as with a yet greater wickedness they perversely attributed the miracles of Christ done by divine power to an unclean spirit, therefore the Evangelist places first the miracle from which they had taken occasion to blaspheme, saying, “Then was brought to him one that had a daemon, blind and dumb.”

Remig.: The word “Then” refers to that above, where having healed the man who had the withered hand, He went out of the synagogue. Or it may be taken of a more extended time; Then, namely, when these things were being done or said.

Chrys.: We may wonder at the wickedness of the daemon; he had obstructed both inlets by which he could believe, namely, hearing and sight. But Christ opened both, whence it follows, “And he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.”

Jerome: Three miracles were wrought in one and the same person at the same time; the blind sees, the dumb speaks, the possessed is delivered from the daemon. This was at that time done in the flesh, but is now daily being fulfilled in the conversion of them that believe; the daemon is cast out when they first behold the light of the faith, and then their mouths which had before been stopped are opened to utter the praises of God.

Hilary: Not without reason, after having mentioned that all the multitude was healed together, does he bring in the cure of this man separately who was demoniac, blind and dumb. For after the man of the withered hand had been brought before Him, and been healed in the Synagogue, it behoved that the salvation of the Gentiles should be represented in the person of some other afflicted man; he who had been the habitation of a daemon, and blind and dumb, should be made meet to receive God, should contain God in Christ, and by confession of God should give praise to the works of Christ.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 4: For he that believes not, is truly demoniac, b1ind, and dumb; and he that has not understanding of the faith, nor confesses, nor gives praise to God, is subject to the devil.

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 37: This narrative is given by Luke, not in this place, but after many other things intervening, and speaks of him as dumb only, and not blind. But he is not to be thought to be speaking of another man, because he is silent respecting this one447 particular; for in what follows he agrees exactly with Matthew.

Hilary: All the multitude were astonished at this which was done, but the jealousy of the Pharisees grew thereupon, “And all the multitude were astonished and said, Is not this the Son of David?”

Gloss., ap. Raban.: Because of His mercy and His goodness to them they proclaim Him the Son of David.

Raban. e Beda in Luc.: The multitude who seemed less learned, always wondered at the works of the Lord; they, on the other hand, either denied these things, or what they could not deny laboured to pervert by an ill interpretation, as though they were wrought not by a Deity, but by an unclean spirit, namely, Beelzebub, who was the God of Acharon: “The Pharisees when they heard it said, This man does not cast out daemons but by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons.”

Remig.: Beelzebub is the same as Beel or Baal, or Beelphegor. Beel was father of Ninus king of Assyria; Baal was so called because he was worshipped on high; he was called Beelphegor from the mountain Phegor; Zebub was the servant of Abimelech the son of Gedeon, who, having slain his seventy brothers, built a temple to Baal, and set him up as Priest therein, to drive away the flies which were collected there by the abundant blood of the victims; for Zebub means, a fly. Beelzebub therefore is interpreted, The man of flies; wherefore from this most unclean worship they called him the Prince of the daemons. Having therefore nothing more mean to cast upon the Lord, they said that He cast out daemons by Beelzebub. And it should be known that this word is not to be read with d or t at the end, as some corrupt copies have, but with, b.


25. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand;

26. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?”


Jerome: The Pharisees ascribed the works of God to the Prince of the daemons; and the Lord makes answer not to448 what they said, but to what they thought, that even thus they might be compelled to believe His power, Who saw the secrets of the heart; “Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said unto them.”

Chrys., Hom. xli: Above they had accused Christ of having cast out daemons by Beelzebub; but then He did not reprove them, suffering them, if they would, to acknowledge Him from further miracles, and to learn His greatness from His doctrine. But because they continued to maintain the same things, He now rebukes them, although their accusation had been very unreasonable.

But jealousy reeks not what it says, so that only it say somewhat. Yet does not Christ contemn them, but answers with a gracious mildness, teaching us to be gentle to our enemies, and not to be troubled, even though they should speak such things against us, as we neither acknowledge in us, nor have any reasonableness in themselves.

Therein also He proves that the things which they had said against Him were false, for it is not of one having a daemon to shew such mercy, and to know the thoughts. Moreover, because this their accusation was very unreasonable, and they feared the multitude, they did not dare to proclaim it openly, but kept it in their thoughts; wherefore he says, “Knowing their thoughts.”

He does not repeat their thoughts in His answer, not to divulge their wickedness; but He brings forward an answer; it was His object to do good to the sinners, not to proclaim their sin. He does not answer them out of the Scriptures, because they would not hearken to Him as they explained them differently, but He refutes them from common opinions. For assaults from without are not so destructive as quarrels within; and this is so in bodies and in all other things. But in the mean while He draws instances from matters more known, saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation;” for there is nothing on earth more powerful than a kingdom, and yet that is destroyed by contention.

What then must we say concerning a city or a family; that whether it be great or small, it is destroyed when it is at discord within itself.

Hilary: For a city or family is analogous to a kingdom; as it follows, “And every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

Jerome: For as small things grow by concord,449 so the greatest fall to pieces through dissensions.

Hilary: But the word of God is rich, and whether taken simply, or examined inwardly, it is needful for our advancement.

Leaving therefore what belongs to the plain understanding thereof, let us dwell on some of the more secret reasons. The Lord is about to make answer to that which they had said concerning Beelzebub, and He casts upon those to whom He made answer a condition of their answering. Thus; The Law was from God and the promise of the kingdom to Israel was by the Law; but if the kingdom of the Law be divided in itself, it must needs be destroyed; and thus Israel lost the Law, when the nation whose was the Law, rejected the fulfilment of the Law in Christ.

The city here spoken of is Jerusalem, which when it raged with the madness of its people against the Lord, and drove out His Apostles with the multitude of them that believed, after this division shall not stand; and thus (which soon happened in consequence of this division) the destruction of that city is declared.

Again He puts another case, “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall hie kingdom stand?

Jerome: As much as to say, If Satan fight against himself, and, daemon be an enemy to daemon, then must the end of the world be at hand, that these hostile powers should have no place there, whose mutual war is peace for men.

Gloss. ord.: He holds them therefore in this dilemma. For Christ casts out daemons either by the power of God, or by the Prince of the daemons. If by the power of God, their accusations are malicious; if by the Prince of the daemons, his kingdom is divided, and will not stand, and therefore let them depart out of his kingdom. And this alternative He intimates that they had chosen for themselves, when they refused to believe in Him.

Chrys.: Or thus; If he is divided, he is made weak, and perishes; but if he perishes, how can he cast out another?

Hilary: Otherwise; If the daemon was driven to this division to the end that he should thus afflict the daemons, even thus must we attribute higher power to Him who made the division than to those who are thus divided; thus the kingdom of the Devil, after this division made, is destroyed by Christ.

Jerome: But if ye think, ye Scribes and Pharisees, that the450 daemons depart out of the possessed in obedience to their Prince, that men may be imposed upon by a concerted fraud, what can ye say to the healing of diseases which the Lord also wrought? It is something more if ye assign to the daemons even bodily infirmities, and the signs of spiritual virtues.


27. “And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.

28. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.”


Chrys.: After the first answer, He comes to a second more plain than the first, saying, “And if I by Beelzebub cast out daemons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges.”

Jerome: He alludes, as is His manner, under the name children of the Jews, either to the exorcists of that race, or to the Apostles who are by race of that nation. If He means the exorcists who by the invocation of God cast out daemons, He thus constrains the Pharisees by a wise enquiry to confess that their work was of the Holy Spirit. If, He would say, the casting out of the daemons by your children is imputed to God, and not to daemons, why should the same work wrought by Me not have the same cause? “Therefore shall they be your judges,” not by authority but by comparison; they ascribe the casting out of the daemons to God, you to the Prince of the daemons. But if it is of the Apostles also that this is said, (and so we should rather take it,) then they shall be their judges, for they shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Hilary: And they are worthily appointed judges over them, to whom Christ is found to have given that power over the daemons, which it was denied that He had.

Raban.: Or, because the Apostles well knew within their own conscience that they had learnt no evil art from Him.

Chrys.: Yet He said not, My disciples, or Apostles, but “your children;” that if they chose to return again to their own privileges, they might take occasion hence; but if they should451 be ungrateful, they might not have even an impudent excuse, And the Apostles cast out daemons by virtue of power which they had from Him, and yet the Pharisees made no such charge against them; for it was not the actions themselves, but the person of Christ to which they were opposed.

Desiring then to shew that the things which were said against Him were only jealous suspicions, He brings forward the Apostles. And also He leads them to a knowledge of Himself, shewing how they stood in the way of their own good, and resisted their own salvation; whereas they ought to be joyful because He had come to bestow great goods upon them; “If I by the Spirit of God cast out daemons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.” This also shews that it is a matter of great power to cast out daemons, and not an ordinary grace.

And thus it is He reasons, “Therefore is the kingdom of God come upon you,” as much as to say, If this indeed be so, then is the Son of God come upon you. But this He hints darkly, that it may not seem hard to them.

Also to draw their attention, He said not merely, “The kingdom hath come,” but, “upon you;” that is to say, These good things are coming for you; why do you oppose your own salvation; for this is the very sign given by the Prophets of the presence of the Son of God, that such works as these should be wrought by Divine power.

Jerome: For the kingdom of God denotes Himself, of whom it is written in another place, “The kingdom of God is among you; [Luke 17:21] and, “There standeth one in the midst of you whom ye know not.” [John 1:26]. Or surely that kingdom which both John and the Lord Himself had preached above, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matt 3:2, 4:17]

There is also a third kingdom of the Holy Scripture which shall be taken from the Jews, and be given to a nation that brings forth the fruit thereof.

Hilary: If then the disciples work by Christ, and Christ by the Spirit of God, already is the kingdom of God transferred to the Apostles through the office of the Mediator.

Gloss., ap. Anselm: For the weakening of the kingdom of the Devil is the increase of the kingdom of God.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i. 5: Whence the sense might be this, “If I by Beelzebub cast out daemons,” then, according to your own opinion, “the kingdom of God is come upon you,” for the kingdom of the Devil, being452 thus divided against itself, cannot stand. Thus calling that the kingdom of God, in which the wicked are condemned, and are separated from the faithful, who are now doing penitence for their sins.


29. “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.”


Chrys.: Having concluded the second answer, He brings forward yet a third, saying, “Or how can any enter into a strong man’s house? For that Satan cannot cast out Satan is clear from what has been said; and that no other can cast him out, till he have first overcome him, is plain to all.

Thus the same as before is established yet more abundantly; for He says, So far am I from having the Devil for my ally, that I rather am at war with him, and bind him; and in that I cast out after this sort, I therein spoil his goods. Thus He proves the very contrary of that they strove to establish. They would shew that He did not cast out demons of His own power; He proves that not only daemons, yea but the prince, also of the daemons He hath bound, as is shewn by that which He hath wrought. For if their Prince were not overcome, how were the daemons who are His subjects thus spoiled.

This speech seems also to me to be a prophecy; inasmuch as He not only casts out daemons, but will take away all error out of the world, and dissolve the craft of the Devil; and He says not rob, but spoil, shewing that He will do it with power.

Jerome: His “house” is this world, which is set in evil, not by the majesty of the Creator, but by the greatness of the sinner. The strong man is bound and chained in tartarus, bruised by the Lord’s foot. Yet ought we not therefore to be careless; for here the conqueror Himself pronounces our adversary to be strong.

Chrys.: He calls him “strong,” shewing therein his old reign, which arose out of our sloth.

Aug.: For he held us, that we should not by our own strength be able to free ourselves from him, but by the grace of God. By his goods, he means all the unbelievers. He has bound the strong man, in that He has453 taken away from him all power of hindering the faithful from following Christ, and gaining the kingdom of heaven.

Raban.: Therefore He has spoiled his house, in that them, whom He foresaw should be His own, He set free from the snares of the Devil, and has joined to the Church. Or in that He has divided the whole world among His Apostles and their successors to be converted. By this plain parable therefore He shews that He does not join in a deceitful working with the daemons as they falsely accused Him, but by the might of His divinity He frees men from the daemons.


30. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”


Chrys.: After that third reply, here follows a fourth, “He that is not with me is against me.”

Hilary: Wherein He shews how far He is from having borrowed any power from the Devil; teaching us how great the danger to think amiss of Him, not to be with Whom, is the same as to be against Him.

Jerome: But let none think that this is said of heretics and schismatics; though we may apply it besides to such; but it is shewn by the context to refer to the Devil; in that the works of the Saviour cannot be compared with the works of Beelzebub. He seeks to hold men’s souls in captivity, the Lord to set them free; he preaches idols, the Lord the knowledge of the true God; he draws men to sin, the Lord calls them back to virtues. How then can these have agreement together, whose works are so opposite?

Chrys.: Therefore whoso gathereth not with me, nor is with me, may not be compared together with me, that with me he should cast out daemons, but rather seeks to scatter what is mine. But tell me; If you were to have fought together with some one, and he should not be willing to come to your aid, is he not therefore against you?

The Lord also Himself said in another place, “He that is not against you is for you.” [Luke 9:50] To which that which is here said is not contrary. For here He is speaking of the Devil who is our adversary — there of some man who was on their side, of whom it is, said, “We saw one casting out daemons in thy name.”

Here He seems to allude to the Jews, classing them with the454 Devil; for they were against Him, and scattered what He would gather. But it is fair to allow that He spoke this of Himself; for He was against the Devil, and scattered abroad the things of the Devil.


31. “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men,

32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”


Chrys.: The Lord had refuted the Pharisees by explaining His own actions, and He now proceeds to terrify them. For this is no small part of correction, to threaten punishment, as well as to set right false accusation.

Hilary: He condemns by a most rigorous sentence this opinion of the Pharisees, and of such as thought with them, promising pardon for all sins, but releasing it to blasphemy against the Spirit; “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.”

Remig.: But it should be known that they are not forgiven to all men universally, but to such only as have performed due penitence for their guiltinesses. So by these words is overthrown the error of Novatian, who said that the faithful could not rise by penitence after a fall, nor merit pardon of their sins, especially they who in persecution denied.

[ed. note: Novatian, a presbyter of Rome, separated from the Church in the middle of the third century, and formed a sect, on the ground of the Church’s restoring the lapsed in persecution upon their repentance. In consequence they considered the Church in a state of corruption, and they were led to maintain that none were in God’s favour who had sinned grievously after Baptism]

Aug., Serm., 71, 13: For what difference does it make to the purpose, whether it be said, “The spirit of blasphemy shall not be forgiven,” or, “Whoso shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven him,” as Luke speaks [Luke 12:10]; except that the same sense455 is expressed more clearly in the one place than in the other, the one Evangelist not overthrowing but explaining the other? “The spirit of blasphemy” it is said shortly, not expressing what spirit; to make which clear it is added, “And whoso shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.” After having said the same of all manner of blasphemy, He would in a more particular way speak of that blasphemy which is against the Son of Man, and which in the Gospel according to John He shews to be very heavy, where He says concerning the Holy Ghost, “He shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not on me.” That then which here follows, “He who shall speak a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come,” is not said because the Holy Spirit is in the Trinity greater than the Son, which no heretic ever affirmed.

Hilary: And what is so beyond all pardon as to deny that in Christ which is of God, and to take away the substance of the Father’s Spirit which is in Him, seeing that He performs every work in the Spirit of God, and in Him God is reconciling the world unto Himself.

Jerome: Or the passage may be thus understood; Whoso speaks a word against the Son of Man, as stumbling at My flesh, and thinking of Me as no more than man, such opinion and blasphemy though it is not free from the sin of heresy, yet finds pardon because of the little worth of the body. But whoso plainly perceiving the works of God, and being unable to deny the power of God, speaks falsely against them prompted by jealousy, and calls Christ who is the Word of God, and the works of the Holy Ghost, Beelzebub, to him it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.

Aug.: But if this were said in such manner, then every other kind of blasphemy is omitted, and that only which is spoken against the Son of Man, as when He is pronounced to be mere man, is to be forgiven. That then that is said, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men,” without doubt blasphemy spoken against the Father is included in its largeness; though here again that alone is declared irremissible which is spoken against the Holy Ghost. What456 then, hath the Father also taken upon Him the form of a servant, that the Holy Ghost is thus as it were spoken of as greater?

For who could not be convicted of having spoken a word against the Holy Spirit, before He become a Christian or a Catholic? First, the Pagans themselves when they say that Christ wrought miracles by magic arts, are they not like those who said that He cast out daemons by the Prince of the demons? Likewise the Jews and all such heretics as confess the Holy Spirit, but deny that He is in the body of Christ, which is the Church Catholic, are like the Pharisees, who denied that the Holy Spirit was in Christ.

Some heretics even contend that the Holy Spirit Himself is either a creature, as the Arians, Eunomians, and Macedonians, or deny Him at least in such sort that they may deny the Trinity in the Godhead; others assert that the Father alone is God, and the same is sometimes spoken of as the Son, sometimes as the Holy Spirit, as the Sabellians. The Photinians also say, that the Father only is God, and that the Son is nothing more than a man, and deny altogether that there is any third Person, the Holy Spirit.

It is clear then that the Holy Spirit is blasphemed, both by Pagans, Jews, and heretics. Are all such then to be left out, and looked upon as having no hope? For if the word they have spoken against the Holy Spirit is not forgiven them, then in vain is the promise made to them, that in Baptism or in the Church they should receive the forgiveness of their sins.

For it is not said, ‘It shall not be forgiven him in Baptism;’ but, “Neither in this world, nor in the world to come;” and so they alone are to be supposed clear of the guilt of this most heavy sin who have been Catholics from their infancy.

Some again think that they only sin against the Holy Ghost, who having been washed in the laver of regeneration in the Church, do afterwards, as though ungrateful for such a gift of the Saviour, plunge themselves into some deadly sin, such as adultery, murder, or quitting the Christian name, or the Church Catholic.

But whence this meaning can be proved, I know not; since place for penitence of sins however great was never denied in the Church, and even heretics are exhorted to embrace it by the Apostle.

“If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” [2 Tim 2:25]457

Lastly, the Lord says not, ‘If any Catholic believer,’ but, “Whoso shall speak a word,” that is, whosoever, “it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come.”

Aug., Serm. in Mount, 1, 22: Otherwise; The Apostle John says, “There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it.” [1 John 5:16] This sin of the brother unto death I judge to be, when any one having come to the knowledge of God, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, opposes Himself against the brotherhood, or is roused by the fury of jealousy against that grace by which he was reconciled to God.

The stain of this sin is so great, that it may not submit to the humility of prayer, even when the sinful conscience is driven to acknowledge and proclaim its own sin. Which state of mind because of the greatness of their sin we must suppose some may be brought to; and this perhaps may be to sin against the Holy Ghost, that is through malice and jealousy to assail brotherly charity after having received the grace of the Holy Spirit; and this sin the Lord declares shall be forgiven neither in this world, nor in that to come.

Whence it may be enquired whether the Jews sinned this sin against the Holy Ghost when they said that the Lord cast out daemons by Beelzebub the Prince of the daemons. Are we to suppose this spoken of our Lord Himself, because He said in another place, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more they of his household?” [Matt. 10:24]

Seeing they thus spoke out of jealousy, ungrateful for so great present benefits, are they, though not Christians, to be supposed by the very greatness of that jealousy to have sinned the sin against the Holy Spirit? This cannot be gathered from the Lord’s words. Yet He may seem to have warned them that they should come to grace, and that after that grace received they should not sin as they now sinned.

For now their evil word had been spoken against the Son of Man, but it might be forgiven them, if they should be converted, and believe on Him. But if after they had received the Holy Spirit, they should be jealous against the brotherhood, and should fight against that grace which they had received, it should not be forgiven them neither in this world, nor in the world to come.

For if He had there condemned them in such sort that no hope remained for them, He would not have added an admonition,458 “Either make the tree good, &c.”

Aug., Retract., i, 19: But I do not say this for certain, by saying that I think thus; yet thus much might have been added; If he should close this life in this impious hardness of heart, yet since we may not utterly despair of any however evil, so long as he is in this life, so neither is it unreasonable to pray for him of whom we do not despair.

Aug., Serm., 71, 8: Yet is this enquiry very mysterious. Let us then seek the light of exposition from the Lord. I say unto you, beloved, that in all Holy Scripture there is not perhaps so great or so difficult a question as this.

First then I request you to note that the Lord said not, Every blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven, nor, Whoso shall speak any word against — but, “Whoso shall speak the word.”

Wherefore it is not necessary to think that every blasphemy and every word spoken against the Holy Spirit shall be without pardon; it is only necessary that there be some word which if spoken against the Holy Spirit shall be without pardon. For such is the manner of Scripture, that when any thing is so declared in it as that it is not declared whether it is said of the whole, or a part, it is not necessary that because it can apply to the whole, it therefore is not to be understood of the part. As when the Lord said to the Jews, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin,” [John 15:22] this does not mean that the Jews would have been altogether without sin, but that there was a sin they would not have had, if Christ had not come.

What then is this manner of speaking against the Holy Ghost, comes now to be explained. Now in the Father is represented to us the Author of all things, in the Son birth, in the Holy Spirit community of the Father and the Son. What then is common to the Father and the Son, through that they would have us have communion among ourselves and with them; “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which he hath given us,” [Rom 5:5] and because by our sins we were alienated from the possession of true goods, “Charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” [1 Pet 4:8] And for that Christ forgives sins through the Holy Spirit, hence may be understood how, when He said to his disciples, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” [Jon 20:22] He subjoined straight, “Whosoever sins ye forgive, they shall be forgiven them.”

The first benefit therefore of them that believe459 is forgiveness of sins in the Holy Spirit. Against this gift of free grace the impenitent heart speaks; impenitence itself therefore is the blasphemy against the Spirit which shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in that to come.

For indeed he speaks the evil word against the Holy Spirit either in his thought, or with his tongue, who by his hard and impenitent heart treasures up for himself wrath against the day of wrath. Such impenitence truly has no forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come, for penitence obtains forgiveness in this world which shall hold in the world to come.

But that impenitence as long as any lives in the flesh may not be judged, for we must despair of none so long as the patience of God leads to repentance. For what if those whom you discover in any manner of sin, and condemn as most desperate, should before they close this life betake themselves to penitence, and find true life in the world to come?

But this kind of blasphemy though it be long, and comprised in many words, yet the Scripture is wont to speak of many words as one word. It was more than a single word which the Lord spoke with the prophet, and yet we read, The word which came unto this or that prophet.

Here perhaps some may enquire whether the Holy Spirit only forgives sins, or the Father and the Son likewise. We answer the Father and the Son likewise; for the Son Himself saith of the Father, “Your Father shall forgive you your sins,” [Matt 6:14] and He saith of Himself, “The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” [Matt 9:6]

Why then is that impenitence which is never forgiven, spoken of as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit only? Forasmuch as he who falls under this sin of impenitence seems to resist the gift of the Holy Spirit, because in that gift is conveyed remission of sin. But sins, because they are not remitted out of the Church, must be remitted in that Spirit by which the Church is gathered into one. Thus this remission of sins which is given by the whole Trinity is said to be the proper office of the Holy Spirit alone, for it is He, “The Spirit of adoption, in which we cry, Abba Father,” [Rom 8:15] so that to Him we may pray, “Forgive us our sins; And hereby we know:” speaks John, “that Christ abideth in us, by the Holy Spirit which He hath given unto us.” [1 John 4:13]

For to460 Him belongs that bond by which we are made one body of the only-begotten Son of God; for the Holy Spirit Himself is in a manner the bond of the Father and the Son. Whosoever then shall be found guilty of impenitence against the Holy Spirit, in whom the Church is gathered together in unity and one bond of communion, it is never remitted to him.

Chrys.: Otherwise according to the first exposition. The Jews were indeed ignorant of Christ, but of the Holy Ghost they had had a sufficient communication, for the Prophets spake by Him. What He here saith then is this; Be it that ye have stumbled at Me because of the flesh which is around Me; but can ye in the same manner say of the Holy Spirit, We know Him not? Wherefore this blasphemy cannot be forgiven you, and ye shall be punished both here and hereafter, for since to cast out daemons and to heal diseases are of the Holy Spirit, you do not speak evil against Me only, but also against Him; and so your condemnation is inevitable both here and hereafter.

For there are who are punished in this life only; as they who among the Corinthians were unworthy partakers of the mysteries; others who are punished only in the life to come, as the rich man in hell; but those here spoken of are to be punished both in this world, and in the world to come, as were the Jews, who suffered horrible things in the taking of Jerusalem, and shall there undergo most heavy punishment.

Gloss., ap. Anselm, vid. infra in cap. 25: This passage destroys that heresy of Origen, who asserted that after many ages all sinners should obtain pardon; for it is here said, this shall not be forgiven either in this world, or in the world to come.

Greg., Dial., iv, 39: Hence we may gather that there are some sins that are remitted in this world, and some in the world to come; for what is denied of one sin, must be supposed to be admitted of others. And this may be believed in the case of trifling faults; such as much idle discourse, immoderate laughter, or the sin of carefulness in our worldly affairs, which indeed can hardly be managed without sin even by one who knows how he ought to avoid sin; or sins through ignorance (if they be lesser sins) which burden us even after death, if they have not been remitted to us while yet in this life. But it should be known that none will there obtain any purgation even of the least461 sin, but he who by good actions has merited the same in this life.


33. “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.

34. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

35. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”


Chrys., Hom. xlii: After his former answers He here again refutes them in another manner. This He does not in order to do away their charges against Himself, but desiring to amend them, saying, “Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt.”

As much as to say, None of you has said that it is an evil thing for a man to be delivered from daemons. But because they did not speak evil of the works, but said that it was the Devil that wrought them, He shews that this charge is contrary to the common sense of things, and human conceptions. And to invent such charges can only proceed from unbounded impudence.

Jerome: Thus He holds them in a syllogism which the Greeks call ‘Aphycton,’ the unavoidable; which shuts in the person questioned on both sides, and presses him with either horn. If, He saith, the Devil be evil, he cannot do good works; so that if the works you see be good, it follows that the Devil was not the agent thereof. For it cannot be that good should come of evil, or evil of good.

Chrys.: For the discerning of a tree is done by its fruits, not the fruits by the tree. “A tree is known by its fruits.” For though the tree is the cause of the fruit, yet the fruit is the evidence of the tree. But ye do the very contrary, having no fault to allege against the works, ye pass a sentence of evil against the tree, saying that I have a daemon.

Hilary: Thus did He at that present refute the462 Jews, who seeing Christ’s works to be of power more than human, would notwithstanding not allow the hand of God. And at the same time He convicts all future errors of the faith, such as that of those who taking away from the Lord His divinity, and communion of the Father’s substance, have fallen into divers heresies; having their habitation neither uncover the plea of ignorance as the Gentiles, nor yet within the knowledge of the truth. He figures Himself as a tree set in the body, seeing that through the inward fruitfulness of His power sprung forth abundant richness of fruit.

Therefore either must be made a good tree with good fruits, or an evil tree with evil fruits; not that a good tree is to be made a bad tree, or the reverse; but that in this metaphor we may understand that Christ is either to be left in fruitlessness, or to be retained in the fruitfulness of good works.

But to hold one’s self neuter, to attribute some things to Christ, but to deny Him those things that are highest, to worship Him as God, and yet to deny Him a common substance with the Father, is blasphemy against the Spirit. In admiration of His so great works you dare not take away the name of God, yet through malevolence of soul you debase His high nature by denying His participation of the Father’s substance.

Aug., Serm., 72, 1: Or this is an admonition to ourselves that we should be good trees that we may be able to bring forth good fruit; “Make the tree good, and its fruit good,” is a precept of health to which obedience is necessary. But what He says, “Make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt,” is not a command to do, but a warning to take heed, spoken against those who being evil thought that they could speak good things, or have good works; this the Lord declares is impossible. The man must be changed first, that his works may be changed; for if the man remains in that wherein he is evil, he cannot have good works; if he remains in that wherein he is good, he cannot have evil works. Christ found us all corrupt trees, but gave power to become sons of God to them that believe on His name.

Chrys.: But as speaking not for Himself but for the Holy Spirit, He accordingly rebukes them, saying, “Generation of vipers, how can ye being evil, speak good things?” This is both a rebuke of them, and a proof in their own characters of those things which had been said. As though463 He had said, So ye being corrupt trees cannot bring forth good fruit. I do not wonder then that you thus speak, for you are ill nourished of ill parentage, and have an evil mind.

And observe He said not, How can ye speak good things, seeing ye are a generation of vipers? for these two are not connected together; but He said, “How can ye being evil speak good things? He calls them “generation of vipers,” because they made boast of their forefathers; in order therefore to cut off this their pride, He shuts them out of the race of Abraham, assigning them a parentage corresponding to their characters.

Raban.: Or the words, “Generation of vipers,” may be taken as signifying children, or imitators of the Devil, because they had wilfully spoken against good works, which is of the Devil, and thence follows, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” That man speaks out of the abundance of the heart who is not ignorant with what intention his words are uttered; and to declare his meaning more openly He adds, “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things.” The treasure of the heart is the intention of the thoughts, by which the Judge judges that work which is produced, so that sometimes though the outward work that is shewn seem great, yet because of the carelessness of a cold heart, they receive a little reward from the Lord.

Chrys.: Herein also He shews His Godhead as knowing the hidden things of the heart; for not for words only, yea but for evil thoughts also they shall receive punishment. For it is the order of nature that the store of the wickedness which abounds within should be poured forth in words through the mouth. Thus when you shall hear any speaking evil, you must infer that his wickedness is more than what his words express; for what is uttered without is but the overflowing of that within; which was a sharp rebuke to them.

For if that which was spoken by them were so evil, consider how evil must be the root from whence it sprung. And this happens naturally; for oftentimes the hesitating tongue does not suddenly pour forth all its evil, while the heart, to which none other is privy, begets whatsoever evil it will, without fear; for it has little fear of God. But when the multitude of the evils which are within464 is increased, the things which had been hidden then burst forth through the mouth. This is that He says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

Jerome: What He says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart, &c.” is either pointed against the Jews, that seeing they blasphemed God, what treasure in their heart must that be out of which such blasphemy proceeded; or it is connected with what had gone before, that like as a good man cannot bring forth evil things, nor an evil man good things, so Christ cannot do evil works, nor the Devil good works.


36. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

37. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”


Chrys.: The Lord follows up what He had said before by moving their fears, shewing that they that have thus sinned shall receive the most extreme punishment, “I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Jerome: And the meaning is; If every idle word which does not edify the hearers is not without danger to him that speaks it, and if each man shall render an account of his words in the day of judgment, how much more shall you, who have spoken falsely against the works of the Holy Spirit, saying that I cast out demons through Beelzebub, render an account of your false charge?

Chrys.: He said not ‘which ye have spoken,’ but makes His teaching of universal application to the whole race of mankind, and at the same time His words less grievous to them that heard them. By an “idle word” is meant one that is false, that accuses any falsely. Some indeed say that it includes all light talk, all such as stirs immoderate laughter, or shameful and immodest words.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., vi: Or such as lacks either rightness in itself, or reasons of just necessity;

Jerome: being spoken without the profit of either the speaker or hearer; as if laying aside weighty matters we should speak of frivolous trifles, or relate old 465 fables. For he that deals in buffoon jests to create laughter, or brings forth any thing shameful, he will be held guilty not of an idle, but of a sinful word.

Remig.: The words which here follow depend on those that went before; “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” There is no doubt but that every man shall he condemned for his evil words which he speaks; but none shall be justified for his good words, unless they proceed from his inmost heart, and from a entire purpose.

Chrys.: See that this sentence is not a burdensome one. The Judge will pass sentence not according to what any other has said concerning you, but according to what you have yourself spoken. They that are accused then have no need to fear, but they that accuse; for those are not charged of those evil things that have been spoken of them, but these of those evil things that they have spoken.


38. Then certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, “Master, we would see a sign from thee.”

39. But he answered and said unto them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

40. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly: so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”


Chrys., Hom., xliii: Because the Lord had so oft repressed the shameless tongue of the Pharisees by His sayings, they now turn to His works, whereat the Evangelist wondering, says, “Then certain of the Scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign of thee;” and that at a time when they should have been moved, when they should have wondered, and been dumb with astonishment; yet even at such time they desist not from their malice. For they say, “We would see a sign of thee,” that they may take Him as in a snare.

Jerome: They require a sign of Him, as though466 what they had seen were not signs; and in another Evangelist what they required is more fully expressed, “We would see of thee a sign from heaven.”

Either they would have fire from heaven as Elias did; or after the example of Samuel they would that in summer-time, contrary to the nature of the climate, thunder should be heard, lightnings gleam, and rain descend; as though they could not have spoken falsely even against such miracles, and said that they befel by reason of divers hidden motions in the air.

For if thou cavillest against what thou not only beholdest with thine eyes, but feelest with thine hand, and reapest the benefit of, what wilt thou do in those things which come down from heaven? You might make answer, that in Egypt the magi also had given many signs from heaven.

Chrys.: But their words are full of hypocrisy and irony. But now they were railing against Him, saying that He had a deamon; now they fawn upon Him, calling Him, Master. Wherefore the Lord rebukes them severely; “He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”

When they railed on Him, He had answered them mildly; now they approached Him with smooth and deceitful words, He rebukes them sharply; shewing that He was above either affection, and was neither moved to anger by evil speaking, nor was to be gained by flattery. What He says is this; What wonder that ye do thus to Me who am unknown to you, when you have done the same to the Father, of whom ye have had such large knowledge, in that, despising Him ye went after daemons? He calls them an evil generation, because they have ever been ungrateful to their benefactors, and were made worse when they received benefits, which is the extreme of wickedness.

Jerome: Excellently is that said, “and adulterous,” seeing she has put away her husband, and, according to Ezekiel, has joined herself to many lovers.

Chrys.: Which also proves Him to be equal to the Father, if not to believe in Him makes them adulterous.

Raban.: Then He begins to answer them, giving them a sign not from heaven, which they were unworthy to see, but giving it them from the deep beneath. But to His own disciples He gave a sign from heaven, to whom He shewed the glory of His blessed eternity both in a467 figure on the mount, and after in verity when He was taken up into heaven.

Wherefore it follows, “And there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonas.”

Chrys.: For the signs He wrought were not in order to move them, for He knew that they were hard as stone, but for the profit of others. Or because they had not received it when He had given them a sign such as they now desired. And a sign was given them, when by their own punishment they learned His power. This He alludes to when He says, “No sign shall be given it.” As much as to say; I have shewn yon many mercies; yet none of these has brought you to honour My power, which you will then know when you shall behold your city thrown down upon the ground in punishment.

In the mean time He brings in a saying concerning the Resurrection which they should after understand by those things that they should suffer; saying, “Except the sign of the Prophet Jonas.” For verily His Cross would not have been believed, unless it had had signs to testify to it. But if that were not believed, truly the Resurrection would not have been believed. For this reason also He calls this a sign, and brings forward a figure thereof, that the verity itself may be believed.

It follows, “As Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale.”

Raban.: He shews that the Jews were as criminal as the Ninevites, and that unless they repented they would be destroyed. But like as punishment was denounced against the Ninevites, and at the same time a remedy was set before them, so neither should the Jews despair of pardon, if at least after Christ’s resurrection they should do penitence. For Jonah, that is The Dove, or The mourner, is a sign of Him on whom the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a Dove, and “who bare our sorrows.” [Isa 53:4]

The fish which swallowed Jonas in the sea, shews forth the death which Christ suffered in the world. Three days and nights was the one in the whale’s belly, the other in the tomb; the one was cast up on dry land, the other arose in glory.

Aug., De Cons., Ev., iii, 24: Some, not knowing the Scripture manner of speaking, would interpret as one night those thee hours of darkness when the sun was darkened from the sixth to the ninth hour; and as a day in like manner these other three hours in which it was468 again restored to the world, from the ninth hour till sunset. Then follows the night preceding the sabbath, which if we reckon with its own day we shall have thus two days and two nights. Then after the sabbath follows the night of the sabbath prime, that is of the dawning of the Lord’s day on which the Lord arose. Thus we shall only get two nights and two days, with this one night to be added if we might understand the whole of it, and it could not be shewn that that dawn was indeed the latter part of the night.

So that not even by taking in those six hours, three of darkness, and three of restored light, can we establish the computation of three days and three nights. It remains therefore that we find the explanation in that usual manner of Scripture of putting a part for the whole.

Jerome: Not that He remained three whole days and three nights in hell, but that this be understood to imply a part of the preparation day, and of the Lord’s day, and the whole sabbath day.

Aug., De Trin., iv. 6: For that the three days were not three full and entire days, Scripture witnesses; the first day is reckoned because the latter end of it comes in; and the third day is likewise reckoned, because the first part of it is included; while the day between, that is the second day, appears in all its twenty-four hours, twelve of the night and twelve of the day. For the succeeding night up to the dawn when the Lord’s resurrection was made known, belongs to the third day. For as the first days of creation were, because of man’s coming fall, computed from morning to night; so these days are because of man’s restoration computed from night to morning.

Chrys.: He said not openly that He should rise again, because they would have derided him, but hints it distantly that even they might believe that He foreknew it. He said not in the earth, but in the heart of the earth, therein declaring His tomb, and that none might suspect that there was only the semblance of death. Therefore also He spake of three days, that it should be believed that He was dead.

But the sign itself proves the truth of it; for Jonas was in the whale’s belly not in figure but in deed; and surely the sign did not happen in very deed, if the thing signified happened only in figure. Wherefore it is manifest that they are children of the Devil who follow469 Marcion asserting that the passion of Christ was only a phantasy. And that He should suffer for them also, though they would not profit by it, is shewn by that which He speaks, that to this generation should be given the sign of Jonas the Prophet.


41. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

42. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”


Chrys.: That none should think that the same things would come to pass now among the Jews, as had of old been among the Ninevites; that as Jonas converted them and their city was delivered out of danger, so the Jews should be converted after the resurrection, the Lord now shews the contrary, that they should have no fruit of the benefit of the passion, but should suffer moreover grievous things, as He signifies below in the example of the daemon.

But now He first shews what just punishment they shall suffer, saying, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation.”

Remig.: The Lord shews in these words that there shall be one resurrection of the good and the bad against certain heretics, who said that there should be two, one of the good, another of the bad. These words likewise overthrow that fable of the Jews, who use to say that the Resurrection shall be held a thousand years before the Judgment; these words clearly proving that the Judgment shall ensue straight upon the Resurrection. “And shall condemn it.

Jerome: Not by a sentence of judgment, but by the comparison of their example; as He adds, “For they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” This word ‘hic’ is to be taken as an adverb470 of place, not as a pronoun. Jonas (according to the LXX) preached for three days, I for this so long time; he to the Assyrians an unbelieving nation, I to God’s own people the Jews; he preached with his voice only, doing no miracles, I, doing so many wonders, am falsely accused as Beelzebub.

Chrys.: Yet does not the Lord stay here, but adds another denunciation, saying, “The queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon.” This was yet more than that first. Jonas went to them; the queen of the south waited not for Solomon to come to her, but herself sought him. Both a woman and a barbarian, and dwelling so far away, she was not afraid of death in her desire to hear his wise words. This woman went to Solomon, I came hither; she rose up from the ends of the earth, I go round about your towns and villages; he spake of trees and wood, I of unspeakable mysteries.

Jerome: So the queen of the south will condemn the Jews in the same manner as the men of Nineveh will condemn unbelieving Israel. This is the queen of Saba, of whom we read in the book of Kings and Chronicles, who leaving her nation and kingdom came through so many difficulties to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and brought him many gifts.

Also in these instances of Nineveh and the queen of Saba, the faith of the Gentiles is significantly set above that of Israel.

Raban.: The Ninevites typify those who cease from sin — the queen those that know not to sin; for penitence puts away sin, wisdom shuns it.

Remig.: Beautifully is the Church gathered out of the Gentiles spoken of as a queen who honours how to rule her ways. Of her the Psalmist speaks; “The queen stood on, thy right hand.” [Ps 45:9] She is the queen of the south because she abounds in the fervour of the Holy Spirit. Solomon, interpreted ‘peaceful,’ signifies Him of whom it is said, “He is our peace.” [Eph 2:14]


43. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

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44. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.

45. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”


Chrys.: The Lord had said to the Jews, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it;” that they should not therefore be careless, He tells them that not only in the world to come but here also they should suffer grievous things; setting forth in a sort of riddle the punishment that should fall upon them whence He says, “When, the unclean spirit has gone out of a man.”

Jerome: Some suppose that this place is spoken of heretics, because the unclean spirit who dwelt in them before when they were Gentiles, is cast out before the confession of the true faith; when after they went over to heresy, and garnished their house with feigned virtues, then it is that the Devil, having taken to him other seven evil spirits, returns and dwells in them; and their last state becomes worse than their first. And indeed heretics are in a much worse condition than the Gentiles; for in the heretics was a hope of faith, in the Gentiles a war of discord.

Yet though this exposition has a plausibility and a shew of learning, I am doubtful of its truth. For by the concluding words of this, whether it be parable or example, “Thus shall it be to this evil generation,” we are compelled to refer it, not to heretics, or to men in general, but to the Jewish people. So the context of the passage may not shift about loosely and vaguely, and be like unmeaning speeches, but may be consistent with itself from first to last. The unclean spirit then went out from the Jews when they received the Law; and being cast out of the Jews, he walked through the wilderness of the Gentiles; as it follows, “He walketh through dry places seeking rest.”

Remig.: He calls the hearts of the Gentiles, “dry places,” as lacking all the moisture of wholesome waters, that is of the472 holy Scriptures, and of spiritual gifts, and strangers to the pouring in of the Holy Spirit.

Raban.: Or, the “dry places” are the hearts of the faithful, which after they have been purged from the weakness of loose thoughts, the crafty lier-in-wait tries if by any means he may fix his footsteps there; but lying from the chaste spirit, the Devil finds no resting place to his mind but in the heart of the wicked; as it follows, “and findeth none.”

Remig.: The Devil supposed he should have rest for ever among the Gentiles, but it is added, “and findeth none,” because when the Son of God appeared in the mystery of His Incarnation, the Gentiles believed.

Jerome: And when they believed on the Lord, the Devil, finding no place among the nations, said, “I will return into my house whence I came out;” I have the Jews from whom I formerly departed. “And when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.” [John 14:31] For the temple of the Jews was empty, and had not Christ to dwell therein, He having said, “Arise, let us go hence.”

Seeing then they had not the protection of Angels, and were burdened with the useless observances of the Law, and the traditions of the Pharisees, the Devil returns to his former dwelling, and, taking to him seven other daemons, inhabits it as before. And the last state of that nation is worse than the first, for they are now possessed by a larger number of daemons in blaspheming Jesus Christ in their synagogues, than they were possessed with in Egypt before they had knowledge of the Law; for it is one thing to have no belief that He should come, another not to receive Him when He is come.

A number seven-fold is joined with the Devil, either because of the sabbath, or from the number of the Holy Spirit; that as in Isaiah [margin note: Isa 11:2] upon the bud which comes from the root of Jesse, seven spirits of virtues are related to have descended; so on the other hand an equal number of vices should he poured forth upon the Devil.

Beautifully then are seven spirits said to be taken to him, either because of the breaking of the sabbath, or because of the heinous sins which are contrary to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Chrys.: Or, herein He may be shewing forth their punishment. As when daemoniacs have been loosed from their infirmity, if they after become remiss, they draw upon themselves more grievous illusions, so shall it be among you — before ye were473 possessed by a daemon, when you worshipped idols, and slew your sons to daemons; yet I forsook you not, but cast out that daemon by the Prophets, and afterwards came Myself seeking to purify you altogether. Since then ye would not hearken to me, but have fallen into more heinous crime, (as it is greater wickedness to slay Christ than to slay the Prophets,) therefore ye shall suffer more heavy calamities. For what befel them under Vespasian and Titus, were much more grievous than they had suffered in Egypt, in Babylon, and under Antiochus.

And this indeed is not all He shews concerning them, but also that since they were destitute of every virtue, they were more fit for the habitation of daemons than before. It is reasonable to suppose that these things were said not to them only, but also to us. If after being enlightened and delivered from our former evils, we are again possessed by the same wickedness, the punishment of these latter sins will be greater than of the first; as Christ spake to the paralytic, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin not, lest a worse thing come upon thee.” [John 5:14]

Raban,: For when any one is converted to the faith, the Devil is cast out of him in Baptism, who driven thence wanders up and down through the dry places, that is, the hearts of the faithful.

Greg., Mor., xxxiii, 3: The dry places where no water is are the hearts of the righteous, which by the power of discipline are dried from all humours of carnal lust. The wet places are the minds of worldly men, which the humour of carnal lust fills, and makes watery; in such the Devil imprints his footsteps the more deeply, inasmuch as in his wanderings he comes down upon such hearts as upon low and marshy ground.

Raban.: And returning to his house whence he had gone out, “he findeth it empty,” of good works through slothfulness, “swept,” that is, of its old vices by Baptism, and “garnished” with feigned virtues through hypocrisy.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 8: So that in these words the Lord signifies that some shall so believe as not to have strength for the work of continence, and shall return to the world. “He taketh unto him other seven,” is to be understood that when any has fallen from righteousness, he shall also have hypocrisy. For the lust of the flesh being cast out of its wonted works by penitence, when it finds not any delights in which it may rest, returns the more greedily, and again takes possession of474 the goal, if carelessness has ensued, and there has not been introduced as the dweller in the cleansed abode the word of God in sound doctrine.

And as he will not only have the seven vices which are the contraries of the spiritual virtues, but will hypocritically feign that he has the virtues, therefore his old lust, taking to itself seven other worse, that is, this seven-fold hypocrisy, returns to him so as to make the last state of that man worse than the former.

Greg., Mor., vii, 17: For it often happens that the soul in the commencement of its progress is lifted up, and prides itself on its virtues, that it opens an entrance to the adversary who is raging against it, and who shews himself the more violent in breaking into it, by how much he was grieved at being cast out, though but for a short space.


46. While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

47. Then one said unto him, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.”

48. But he answered and said unto him that told him, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?”

49. And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, “Behold my mother and my brethren!

50. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”


Hilary: Because He had spoken all the aforesaid things in the power of His Father’s majesty, therefore the Evangelist proceeds to tell what answer He made to one that told Him that His mother and His brethren waited for Him without; “While he yet spake unto the people, his mother and brethren stood without desiring to see him.”

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 40: We are to understand without doubt that this happened close upon the foregoing; for he begins to tell it with the words,475 “And while he yet spake.” What can that “yet” mean but that it was at the very time He spake the foregoing things?

Mark also follows up that which He had said concerning blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, by saying, “And there came his mother and his brethren.” [Mark 3:31] Luke has not observed the order of action here, but has placed this earlier as he happened to recollect it.

Jerome: From this is taken one of Helvidius’ propositions [margin note: Hieron. cont. Helvid. 14, et seq.], on the ground that mention is made in the Gospel of the brethren of the Lord. How says he, are they called brethren of the Lord, if they were not his brethren? But now it should be known that in divine Scripture men are said to be brethren in four different ways, by nature, by nation, by kindred, and by affection.

By nature, as Esau and Jacob. By nation, as all Jews are called brethren, as in Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt not set over thee a foreigner who is not thy brother.” [Deut 17:15] They are called brethren by kindred who are of one family, as in Genesis, “Abraham said unto Lot, Let there not be strife between thee and we, for we are brethren.” [Gen 13:8] Also men are called brethren by affection; which is of two kinds, special and general. Special, as all Christians are called brethren, as the Saviour says, “Go tell my brethren.” [John 20:17] General, inasmuch as all men are born of one father, we are bound together by a tie of consanguinity, as in that, “Say unto them that hate you, Ye are our brethren.” [Isa 66:5]

I ask then, after which manner these are called the Lord’s brethren in the Gospel? According to nature? But Scripture saith not, neither calling them sons of Mary nor of Joseph. By nation? But it is absurd that some few out of all the Jews should be called brethren, seeing that all the Jews who were there might have thus been called brethren. By affection, either of a human sort, or of the Spirit? If that be true, yet how were they more His brethren than the Apostles, whom He instructed in the inmost mysteries. Or if because they were men, and all men are brethren, it was foolish to say of them in particular, Behold, thy brethren seek thee. It only remains then that they should be His brethren by kindred, not by affection, not by privilege of nation, not by nature.

Jerome, Hieron. in loc.: But some suspect the brethren of the Lord to be sons of Joseph by another wife, following the idle fancies of apocryphal476 writers, who have coined a certain woman called Esca. But we understand by the brethren of the Lord, not the sons of Joseph, but cousins of the Saviour, sons of a sister of Mary, [margin note: Mark 6:3] an aunt of Our Lord, who is said to be the mother of James the Less, and Joseph, and Jude, whom in another place of the Gospel we find called the brethren of the Lord. And that cousins are called brethren, appears from every part of Scripture.

Chrys., Hom., xliv: But mark the loftiness of His brethren [ed. note: The text of S. Chrys. has ἄρα γοῦν καὶ αὐτῆς καὶ ἐκείνων τὴν ἀπόνοιαν] when they should have come in and hearkened with the crowd, or if they would not this, to have waited the end of His speech, and then to have approached Him — they on the contrary call Him out to them, and do this before the multitude, therein shewing their superabundant love of honour, and also, that with all authority they lay their commands upon Christ.

This the Evangelist covertly hints when he says, “While he yet spake;” as much as to say, Was there no other time? But what did they seek to say? Was it aught of the dogmas of truth? then should they have brought it forth before all, that all might profit thereby. But if of other things that concerned themselves alone, they should not have called Him in such haste, whence it is plain that they did this out of vain glory.

Aug., De Nat. et Grat., 36: But whatever may be decided concerning these brethren, yet concerning the holy Virgin Mary, (for the honour of Christ,) when sin in her is in question, I would not have it brought into doubt. For from this only we might know that more abundant grace was conferred upon her that she should overcome sin on all sides, because she merited to conceive and bring forth Him Who it is clear had no sin.

It follows; “Then said one unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without seeking thee.”

Jerome: He that delivers this message, seems to me not to do it casually and without meaning, but as setting a snare for Him, whether He would prefer flesh and blood to the spiritual work; and thus the Lord refused to go out, not because He disowned His mother and His brethren, but that He might confound him that had laid this snare for Him.

Chrys.: For He said not, Go and say unto her, She is not My mother, but continues His discourse to him that had brought Him word; as it follows; “But he answered and said unto him477 that told him, Who in my mother? and who are my brethren?”

Hilary: And He cannot be held to have thought meanly of His mother, seeing that in His passion He evinced the most extreme carefulness for her.

Chrys.: But had He desired to disown His mother, He would have done it at the time when the Jews cast His birth in His teeth.

Jerome: He did not then, as Marcion and Manichaeus say, disown His mother, so as to be thought to be born of a phantasm, but He preferred His Apostles to His kindred, that we also in a comparison of our affections should set the spirit before the flesh.

Ambrose, Ambros. in Luc. 8, 21: Nor does He overthrow the duty of filial submission, which is conveyed in the command, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” [Ex 20:12] but shews that He owes more to the mysteries and relationship of His Father, than of His mother; as it follows, “And stretching out his hand to his disciples, he said, Behold my mother and my brethren.”

Greg., Hom. in Ev., iii, 2: The Lord deigned to call faithful disciples His brethren, saying, “Go, tell my brethren.” Since then a man may be made a brother of the Lord by coming to the faith, it should be enquired how one may become also His mother. Be it known by us then, that he that by believing is made brother or sister of Christ, becomes His mother by preaching; for in pouring Him into the heart of the hearer, he may be said to beget the Lord; and he is made the Lord’s mother, when by his word love of the Lord is begotten in the mind of his neighbour.

Chrys.: And besides what has been said, He taught also somewhat more, namely, that we should not neglect virtue relying on any kindred. For if it profited His mother nothing that she was such, if she had not had virtue, who is there that shall be saved by his kindred? For there is one only nobility, to do the will of God, and therefore it follows, “Whoso shall do the will of my Father which it in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Many women have blessed that holy Virgin and her womb, and have desired to be made such mothers. What is it then that hinders? Behold, He hath set before you a broad way, and not women only, but men likewise, may become the mother of God.

Jerome: Let us also expound in another way. The Saviour is speaking to the multitude — that is, He teaches the Gentiles the inward mysteries; His mother and His brethren, that is the synagogue478 and the Jewish people, stand without.

Hilary: Although they had like the rest power to come in, yet they abstain from all approach to Him, “for he came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

Gregory: Thus also His mother is declared to stand without, as though she was not acknowledged, because the synagogue is therefore not acknowledged by its Author, because it held to the observance of the Law, and having lost the spiritual discernment thereof, kept itself without to guard the letter.

Jerome: And when they shall have asked and enquired, and sent a messenger, they shall receive for answer, that their will is free, and that they can enter in, if they will believe.

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