Matthew 17:10 The disciples indeed who went up with Jesus remembered the traditions of the scribes concerning Elijah, that before the advent of Christ, Elijah would come and prepare for Him the souls of those who were going to receive Him. But the vision in the mountain, at which Elijah appeared, did not seem to be in harmony with the things which were said, since to them it seemed that Elijah had not come before Jesus but after Him; wherefore, they say these things, thinking that the scribes lied. But to this the Saviour answers, not setting aside the traditions concerning Elijah, but saying that there was another advent of Elijah before that of Christ of which the scribes were ignorant; and, in regard to this, being ignorant of him, they
had done unto him whatsoever they listed, Matthew 17:12 as if they had been accomplices in his having been cast into prison by Herod and slain by him; then He says that according as they had done towards Elijah so would He suffer at their hands. Matthew 17:12 And these things indeed as about Elijah the disciples asked and the Saviour answered, but when they heard they understood that the words,
Elijah has already come, and that following which was spoken by the Saviour, had reference to John the Baptist. Matthew 17:13 And let these things be said by way of illustration of the passage before us. But now according to our ability let us make investigation also into the things that are stored up in it. In this place it does not appear to me that by Elijah the soul is spoken of, lest I should fall into the dogma of transmigration, which is foreign to the church of God, and not handed down by the Apostles, nor anywhere set forth in the Scriptures; for it is also in opposition to the saying that
things seen are temporal, 2 Corinthians 4:18 and that
this age shall have a consummation, and also to the fulfilment of the saying,
Heaven and earth shall pass away, Matthew 24:35 and
the fashion of this world passes away, 1 Corinthians 7:31 and
the heavens shall perish, and what follows. For if, by hypothesis, in the constitution of things which has existed from the beginning unto the end of the world, the same soul can be twice in the body, for what cause should it be in it? For if because of sin it should be twice in the body, why should it not be thrice, and repeatedly in it, since punishments, in respect of this life, and of the sins committed in it, shall be rendered to it only by the method of transmigration? But if this be granted as a consequence, perhaps there will never be a time when a soul shall not undergo transmigration: for always because of its former sins will it dwell in the body; and so there will be no place for the corruption of the world, at which
the heaven and the earth shall pass away. Matthew 24:35 And if it be granted, on this hypothesis, that one who is absolutely sinless shall not come into the body by birth, after what length of time do you suppose that a soul shall be found absolutely pure and needing no transmigration? But nevertheless, also, if any one soul is always thus being removed from the definite number of souls and returns no longer to the body, sometime after infinite ages, as it were, birth shall cease; the world being reduced to some one or two or a few more, after the perfecting of whom the world shall perish, the supply of souls coming into the body having failed. But this is not agreeable to the Scripture; for it knows of a multitude of sinners at the time of the destruction of the world. This is manifest from consideration of the saying,
How-beit when the Son of man comes shall He find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8 So we find it thus said in Matthew,
As were the days of Noah so shall also be the coming of the Son of man; for as they were in the days of the flood, etc. Matthew 24:37-39 But to those who are then in existence there shall be the exaction of a penalty for their sins, but not by way of transmigration; for, if they are caught while still sinning, either they will be punished after this by a different form of punishment—and according to this either there will be two general forms of punishment, the one by way of transmigration, and the other outside of a body of this kind, and let them declare the causes and differences of these—or they will not be punished, as if those who were left at the consummation of things had immediately cast away their sins; or, which is better, there is one form of punishment for those who have sinned in the body, namely, that they should suffer, outside of it, that is, outside the constitution of this life, what is according to the desert of their sins. But to one who has insight into the nature of things it is clear that each of these things is fitted to overturn the doctrine of transmigration. But if, of necessity, the Greeks who introduce the doctrine of transmigration, laying down things in harmony with it, do not acknowledge that the world is coming to corruption, it is fitting that when they have looked the Scriptures straight in the face which plainly declare that the world will perish, they should either disbelieve them, or invent a series of arguments in regard to the interpretation of the things concerning the consummation; which even if they wish they will not be able to do. And this besides we will say to those who may have had the hardihood to aver that the world will not perish, that, if the world does not perish but is to exist for infinite periods of time, there will be no God knowing all things before they come into being. But if, perhaps, He knows in part, either He will know each thing before it comes into being, or certain things, and after these again other things; for things infinite in nature cannot possibly be grasped by that knowledge whose nature it is to limit things known. From this it follows that there cannot be prophecies about all things whatsoever, since all things are infinite.
The Spirit and Power of Elijah— Not the Soul— Were in the Baptist.
I have thought it necessary to dwell some time on the examination of the doctrine of transmigration, because of the suspicion of some who suppose that the soul under consideration was the same in Elijah and in John, being called in the former case Elijah, and in the second case John; and that, not apart from God, had he been called John, as is plain from the saying of the angel who appeared to Zacharias,
Fear not, Zacharias, for your supplication is heard, and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John; Luke 1:13 and from the fact that Zacharias regained his speech after he had written in the tablet, that he who had been born should be called John. Luke 1:63 But if it were the soul of Elijah, then, when he was begotten a second time, he should have been called Elijah; or for the change of name some reason should have been assigned, as in the case of Abram and Abraham, Sarah and Sarrah, Jacob and Israel, Simon and Peter. And yet not even thus would their argument in the case be tenable; for, in the case of the aforesaid, the changes of name took place in one and the same life. But some one might ask, if the soul of Elijah was not first in the Tishbite and secondly in John, what might that be in both which the Saviour called Elijah? And I say that Gabriel in his words to Zacharias suggested what the substance was in Elijah and John that was the same; for he says,
Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God; and he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah. Luke 1:16-17 For, observe, he did not say in the
in the spirit and power of Elijah. For the Scripture well knows the distinction between spirit and soul, as,
May God sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and the passage,
Bless the Lord, you spirits and souls of the righteous as it stands in the book of Daniel, according to the Septuagint, represents the difference between spirit and soul. Elijah, therefore, was not called John because of the soul, but because of the spirit and the power, which in no way conflicts with the teaching of the church, though they were formerly in Elijah, and afterwards in John; and 1 Corinthians 14:32 but the souls of the prophets are not subject to the prophets, and
the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha. 2 Kings 2:15 But we ought to inquire whether the spirit of Elijah is the same as the spirit of God in Elijah, or whether they are different from each other, and whether the spirit of Elijah which was in him was something supernatural, different from the spirit of each man which is in him; for the Apostle clearly indicates that the Spirit of God, though it be in us, is different from the spirit of each man which is in Him, when he says somewhere, Romans 8:16 and elsewhere,
No one of men knows the things of a man save the spirit of the man which is in him; even so the things of God none knows save the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11 But do not marvel in regard to what is said about Elijah, if, just as something strange happened to him different from all the saints who are recorded, in respect of his having been caught up by a whirlwind into heaven, 2 Kings 2:11 so his spirit had something of choice excellence, so that not only did it rest on Elisha, but also descended along with John at his birth; and that John, separately,
was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb, and separately,
came before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah. For it is possible for several spirits not only worse, but also better, to be in the same man. David accordingly asks to be established by a free spirit, and that a right spirit be renewed in his inward parts. But if, in order that the Saviour may impart to us of
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, Isaiah 11:2 he was filled also with the spirit of the fear of the Lord; it is possible also that these several good spirits may be conceived as being in the same person. And this also we have brought forward, because of John having come before Christ
in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17 in order that the saying,
Elijah has already come, Matthew 17:12 may be referred to the spirit of Elijah that was in John; as also the three disciples who had gone up with Him understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:13 Upon Elisha, then, only the spirit of Elijah rested, but John came before, not only in the spirit, but also in the power of Elijah. Wherefore, also, Elisha could not have been called Elijah, but John was Elijah himself. But if it be necessary to adduce the Scripture from which the scribes said that Elijah must first come, listen to Malachi who says,
And behold I will send to you Elijah the Tishbite, etc., down to the words,
Lest I come and smite the earth utterly. Malachi 4:5-6 And it seems to be indicated by these words, that Elijah was to prepare for the glorious coming of Christ by certain holy words and dispositions in their souls, those who had been made fittest for this, which those upon earth could not have endured, because of the excellency of the glory, unless they had been prepared before hand by Elijah. And likewise, by Elijah, in this place, I do not understand the soul of that prophet but his spirit and his power; for these it is by which all things shall be restored, Matthew 17:11 so that when they have been restored, and, as a result of that restoration, become capable of receiving the glory of Christ, the Son of God who shall appear in glory may sojourn with them. But if also Elijah be in some sort a word inferior to
the Word who was in the beginning with God, God the Word, John 1:1 this word also might come as a preparatory discipline to the people prepared by it, that they might be trained for the reception of the perfect Word. But some one may raise the question whether the spirit and power of Elijah, suffered what was suffered in John, according to the words,
They did in him whatsoever they listed. Matthew 17:12 And to this it will be said on the one hand, in simpler fashion that there is nothing strange in the thought, that the things which assist do, because of love, suffer along with those that are assisted; and Jesus indeed says.
Because of the weak I was weak, and I hungered because of the hungry, and I thirsted because of the thirsty, and, on the other hand, in a deeper sense that the words are not,
But they did unto him whatsoever they listed in him, for the things which suffered leaned upon the spirit and the power of Elijah, the soul of John being in no wise Elijah; and probably also the body (leaned upon them). For in one fashion is the soul in the body, and the spirit, and the power; and in another fashion is the body of the righteous man in these better parts, as leaning upon them, and clinging to them; but
they who are in the flesh cannot please God; but you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if the Spirit of God dwell in you; Romans 8:8-9 for the soul of the sinner is in the flesh, but of the righteous man in spirit. And likewise, further, this might be inquired into, to whom refer the words,
But they did in him whatsoever they listed. Matthew 17:12 Was it to the scribes in regard to whom the disciples inquired and said,
Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must first come? Matthew 17:10 But it is not at all evident that John suffered anything at the hands of the scribes, except, indeed, that they did not believe him; or, as we said also before, that they were accomplices in the wrongs which Herod dared to inflict on him. But another might say that the words,
But they did in him whatsoever they listed, refer not to the scribes but to Herodias and her daughter, and Herod, who did in him whatsoever they listed. And that which follows,
So shall the Son of man suffer from them, Matthew 17:12 might be referred to the scribes, if the former were referred to them; but, if the former refers to Herod and Herodias and her daughter, the second passage will also refer to them; for Herod also seems to have joined in the vote that Jesus should die, perhaps his wife also taking part with him in the plot against Him.
And when they had come to the multitude, there came to Him a man kneeling to Him and saying, Lord, have mercy upon my son. Matthew 17:14-15 Those who are suffering, or the kinsfolk of the sufferers, are along with the multitudes; wherefore, when He has dispensed the things that were beyond the multitudes, He descends to them, so that those, who were not able to ascend because of the sicknesses that repressed their soul, might be benefited when the Word descended to them from the loftier regions. But we ought to make inquiry, in respect of what diseases the sufferers believe and pray for their own healing, and in respect of what diseases others do this for them, as, for example, the centurion for his servant, and the nobleman for his son, and the ruler of the synagogue for a daughter, and the Canaanitish woman for her female child who was vexed with a demon, and now the man who kneels to Him on behalf of his epileptic son. And along with these you will investigate when the Saviour heals of Himself and unasked by any one, as for example, the paralytic; for these cures, when compared with one another for this very purpose, and examined together, will exhibit to him who is able to hear
the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery, 1 Corinthians 2:7 many dogmas concerning the different diseases of souls, as well as the method of their healing.
But since our present object is not to make inquiry about every case, but about the passage before us, let us, adopting a figurative interpretation, consider who we may say the lunatic was, and who was his father who prayed for him, and what is meant by the sufferer falling not constantly but oft-times, sometimes into the fire, and sometimes into the water, and what is meant by the fact that he could not be healed by the disciples but by Jesus Himself. For if every sickness and every infirmity, which our Saviour then healed among the people, refers to different disorders in souls, it is also in accordance with reason that by the paralytics are symbolised the palsied in soul, who keep it lying paralysed in the body; but by those who are blind are symbolised those who are blind in respect of things seen by the soul alone, and these are really blind; and by the deaf are symbolised those who are deaf in regard to the reception of the word of salvation. On the same principle it will be necessary that the matters regarding the epileptic should be investigated. Now this affection attacks the sufferers at considerable intervals, during which he who suffers from it seems in no way to differ from the man in good health, at the season when the epilepsy is not working on him. Similar disorders you may find in certain souls, which are often supposed to be healthy in point of temperance and the other virtues; then, sometimes, as if they were seized with a kind of epilepsy arising from their passions, they fall down from the position in which they seemed to stand, and are drawn away by the deceit of this world and other lusts. Perhaps, therefore, you would not err if you said, that such persons, so to speak, are epileptic spiritually, having been cast down by
the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, Ephesians 6:12 and are often ill, at the time when the passions attack their soul; at one time falling into the fire of burnings, when, according to what is said in Hosea, they become adulterers, like a pan heated for the cooking from the burning flame; Hosea 7:4 and, at another time, into the water, when the king of all the dragons in the waters casts them down from the sphere where they appeared to breath freely, so that they come into the depths of the waves of the sea of human life. This interpretation of ours in regard to the lunatic will be supported by him who says in the Book of Wisdom with reference to the even temperament of the just man,
The discourse of a pious man is always wisdom, but, in regard to what we have said,
The fool changes as the moon. Sirach 27:11 And sometimes even in the case of such you may see impulses which might carry away in praise of them those who do not attend to their want of ballast, so that they would say that it was as full moon in their case, or almost full moon. And you might see again the light that seemed to be in them diminishing—as it was not the light of day but the light of night—fading to so great an extent, that the light which appeared to be seen in them no longer existed. But whether or not those who first gave their names to things, on account of this gave the name of lunacy to the disease epilepsy, you will judge for yourself.
Now the father of the epileptic— perhaps the angel to whom he had been allotted, if we are to say that every human soul is put in subjection to some angel— prays the Physician of souls for his son that He may heal him who could not be healed from his disorder by the inferior word which was in the disciples. But the dumb and deaf spirit, who was cast out by the Word, must be figuratively understood as the irrational impulses, even towards that which seems to be good, so that, what things any man once did by irrational impulse which seemed to onlookers to be good, he may do no longer irrationally but according to the reason of the teaching of Jesus. Under the inspiration of this Paul also said,
If I have all faith so as to remove mountains; 1 Corinthians 13:2 for he, who has all faith, which is as a grain of mustard seed, Matthew 17:20 removes not one mountain only, but also several analogous to it; for although faith is despised by men and appears to be something very little and contemptible; yet when it meets with good ground, that is the soul, which is able fittingly to receive such seed, it becomes a great tree, so that no one of those things which have no wings, but the birds of heaven which are winged spiritually, are able to lodge in the branches of faith so great.
Let us now, then, give heed to the very letter of the passage, and first let us inquire, how he who has been cast into darkness and repressed by an impure and deaf and dumb spirit is said to be a
lunatic, and for what reason the expression to be a
lunatic derives its name from the great light in heaven which is next to the sun, which God appointed
to rule over the night. Genesis 1:16 Let physicians then, discuss the physiology of the matter, inasmuch as they think that there is no impure spirit in the case, but a bodily disorder, and inquiring into the nature of things let them say, that the moist humours which are in the head are moved by a certain sympathy which they have with the light of the moon, which has a moist nature; but as for us, who also believe the Gospel that this sickness is viewed as having been effected by an impure dumb and deaf spirit in those who suffer from it, and who see that those, who are accustomed like the magicians of the Egyptians to promise a cure in regard to such, seem sometimes to be successful in their case, we will say that, perhaps, with the view of slandering the creation of God, in order that
unrighteousness may be spoken loftily, and that they may set their mouth against the heaven, this impure spirit watches certain configurations of the moon, and so makes it appear from observation of men suffering at such and such a phase of the moon, that the cause of so great an evil is not the dumb and deaf demon, but the great light in heaven which was appointed
to rule by night, and which has no power to originate such a disorder among men. But they all
speak unrighteousness loftily, as many as say, that the cause of all the disorders which exist on the earth, whether of such generally or of each in detail, arises from the disposition of the stars; and such have truly
set their mouth against the heaven, when they say that some of the stars have a malevolent, and others a benevolent influence; since no star was formed by the God of the universe to work evil, according to Jeremiah as it is written in the Lamentations,
Out of the mouth of the Lord shall come things noble and that which is good. And it is probable that as this impure spirit, producing what is called lunacy, observes the phases of the moon, that it may work on him who for certain causes has been committed to it, and who has not made himself worthy of the guardianship of angels, so also there are other spirits and demons who work at certain phases of the rest of the stars; so that not the moon only, but the rest of the stars also may be calumniated by those
who speak unrighteousness loftily. It is worth while, then, to listen to the casters of nativities, who refer the origin of every form of madness and every demoniacal possession to the phases of the moon. That those, then, who suffer from what is called lunacy sometimes fall into the water is evident, and that they also fall into the fire, less frequently indeed, yet it does happen; and it is evident that this disorder is very difficult to cure, so that those who have the power to cure demoniacs sometimes fail in respect of this, and sometimes with fastings and supplications and more toils, succeed. But you will inquire whether there are such disorders in spirits as well as in men; so that some of them speak, but some of them are speechless, and some of them hear, but some are deaf; for as in them will be found the cause of their being impure, so also, because of their freedom of will, are they condemned to be speechless and deaf; for some men will suffer such condemnation if the prayer of the prophet, as spoken by the Holy Spirit, shall be given heed to, in which it is said of certain sinners,
Let the lying lips be put to silence. And so, perhaps, those who make a bad use of their hearing, and admit the hearing of vanities, will be rendered deaf by Him who said,
Who has made the stone-deaf and the deaf, Exodus 4:11 so that they may no longer lend an ear to vain things.
But when the Saviour said,
O faithfulness and perverse generation, Matthew 17:17 He signifies that wickedness, which is contrary to nature, stealthily enters in from perversity, and makes us perverted. But of the whole race of men on earth, I think, being oppressed by reason of their wickedness and His tarrying with them, the Saviour said,
How long shall I be with you? We have already, then, spoken in part of the words,
If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Matthew 17:20 etc.; but nevertheless also we shall speak in this place the things that appear to us fitted to increase perspicuity. The mountains here spoken of, in my opinion, are the hostile powers that have their being in a flood of great wickedness, such as are settled down, so to speak, in some souls of men. Whenever, then, any one has all faith so that he no longer disbelieves in any things which are contained in the Holy Scriptures, and has faith such as was that of Abraham, who believed in God to such a degree that his faith was counted for righteousness. he has all faith as a grain of mustard seed; then will such an one say to this mountain— I mean, the dumb and deaf spirit in him who is called lunatic,—
Remove hence, clearly, from the man who is suffering, perhaps to the abyss, and it shall remove. And the Apostle, taking, I think. his starting-point from this place, says with authority,
If I have all faith so as to remove mountains, 1 Corinthians 13:2 for not one mountain merely, but also several analogous to it, he removes who has all faith which is as a grain of mustard-seed; and nothing shall be impossible to him who has so great faith. Matthew 17:20 But let us also attend to this, Matthew 17:21 in order that if at any time it is necessary that we should be engaged in the healing of one suffering from such a disorder, we may not adjure, nor put questions, nor speak to the impure spirit as if it heard, but devoting ourselves to prayer and fasting, may be successful as we pray for the sufferer, and by our own fasting may thrust out the unclean spirit from him.
DeliveryInto the Hands of Men.
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. Matthew 17:22 And these things will appear to be of the same effect as those,
that Jesus began to show unto His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes. Matthew 16:21 But it is not so; for it is not the same thing
to show unto the disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and, after suffering,
be killed, and, after being killed,
be raised up on the third day, as that which was said to them, when they were in Galilee—which we did not learn before—that the Son of man
would be delivered up; for the being delivered up was not mentioned above, but now also it is said that
He is to be delivered up into the hands of men. Matthew 17:22 As for these matters let us inquire by what person or persons He will be delivered up into the hands of men; for there we are taught of whom He will suffer, and in what place He will suffer; but here, in addition, we learn that while His suffering many things takes place at the hands of the aforesaid, they are not the prime causes of His suffering many things, but the one or ones who delivered Him up into the hands of men. For some one will say that the Apostle, interpreting this, says with reference to God,
He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; Romans 8:32 but the Son also gave Himself to death for us, so that He was delivered up, not only by the Father but also by Himself. But another will say not merely that, but also collecting the passages together, will say that the Son is first delivered up by God—then about to be tempted, then to be in conflict, then to suffer for men, or even for the whole world that He might take away its sin, John 1:29 — to the prince of this age, and to the rest of its princes, and then by them delivered into the hands of men who would slay Him. The case of Job will be taken as an illustration.
Lo, all that is his I give into your hands, but do not touch him; Job 1:12 thereafter, he was, as it were, delivered up by the devil to his princes, namely, to those who took prisoners of war, to the horsemen, to the fire that came down from heaven, to the great wind that came from the desert and broke up his house. Job 1:15-19 But you will consider if, as he delivered up the property of Job to those who took them captive, and to the horsemen, so also he delivered them up to a certain power, subordinate to
the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2 in order that the fire which descended thence on the sheep of Job might seem to fall from heaven, to the man who announced to Job that
fire fell from heaven, and burned up his sheep, and consumed the shepherds likewise. Job 1:16 And in the same way you will inquire whether also the sudden mighty wind, that came down from the desert and assailed the four corners of the dwelling, was one of those which are under the devils to whom the devil delivered up the banquet of the sons and daughters of Job, that the house might fall on the children of the just man, and they might die. Let it be granted, then, that, as in the case of Job, the Father first delivered up the Son to the opposing powers, and that then they delivered Him up into the hands of men, among which men Judas also was, into whom after the sop John 13:27 Satan entered, who delivered Him up in a more authoritative manner than Judas. But take care lest on comparing together the delivering up of the Son by the Father to the opposing powers, with the delivering up of the Saviour by them into the hands of men, you should think that what is called the delivering up is the same in the case of both. For understand that the Father in His love of men delivered Him up for us all; but the opposing powers, when they delivered up the Saviour into the hands of men, did not intend to deliver Him up for the salvation of some, but, as far as in them lay, since none of them knew
the wisdom of God which was hidden in a mystery, 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 they gave Him up to be put to death, that His enemy death might receive Him under its subjection, like those who die in Adam; 1 Corinthians 15:22 and also the men who slew Him did so, as they were moulded after the will of those who wished indeed that Jesus should become subject to death. I have deemed it necessary also to examine into these things, because that when Jesus was delivered up into the hands of men, He was not delivered up by men into the hands of men, but by powers to whom the Father delivered up His Son for us all, and in the very act of His being delivered up, and coming under the power of those to whom He was delivered up, destroying him that has the power of death; for
through death He brought to nought him that has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:14-15
Now we must think that the devil has the power of death—not of that which is common and indifferent, in accordance with which those who are compacted of soul and body die, when their soul is separated from the body—but of that death which is contrary to and the enemy of Him who said,
I am the Life, John 14:6 in accordance with which Ezekiel 18:4 But that it was not God who gave Him up into the hands of men, the Saviour manifestly declares when He says,
If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews. John 18:36 For, when He was delivered up to the Jews, He was delivered into the hands of men, not by His own servants, but by the prince of this age who says, concerning the powers which are in the sphere of the invisible, the kingdoms which are set up against men,
All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship Me. Matthew 4:9 Wherefore also we should think that in regard to them it was said,
The kings of the earth stood side by side, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ. And those kings, indeed, and those rulers stood side by side and were gathered against the Lord and against His Christ; but we, because we have been benefited by His being delivered by them into the hands of men and slain, say,
Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their yoke from us. For, when we become conformed to the death of Christ, we are no longer under the bonds of the kings of the earth, as we have said, nor under the yoke of the princes of this age, who were gathered together against the Lord. And, on this account,
the Father spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, Romans 8:32 that those, who took Him and delivered Him up into the hands of men, might be laughed at by Him who dwells in the heavens, and might be derided by the Lord, inasmuch as, contrary to their expectation, it was to the destruction of their own kingdom and power, that they received from the Father the Son, who was raised on the third day, by having abolished His enemy death, and made us conformed, not only to the image of His death but also of His resurrection; through whom we walk in newness of life, Romans 6:4 no longer sitting
in the region and shadow of death, Matthew 4:16 through the light of God which has sprung up upon us. But when the Saviour said,
The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again, they were
exceeding sorry, Matthew 17:22-23 giving heed to the fact that He was about to be delivered up into the hands of men, and that He would be killed, as matters gloomy and calling for sorrow, but not attending to the fact that He would rise on the third day, as He needed no longer time
to bring to nought through death him that had the power of death. Hebrews 2:14
And when they had come to Capernaum, they that received the half-shekel came to Peter. Matthew 17:24 There are certain kings of the earth, and the sons of these do not pay toll or tribute; and there are others, different from their sons, who are strangers to the kings of the earth, from whom the kings of the earth receive toll or tribute. And among the kings of the earth, their sons are free as among fathers; but those who are strangers to them, while they are free in relation to things beyond the earth, are as slaves in respect of those who lord it over them and keep them in bondage; as the Egyptians lorded it over the children of Israel, and greatly afflicted their life and violently held them in bondage. Exodus 1:13-14 It was for the sake of those who were in a bondage, corresponding to the bondage of the Hebrews, that the Son of God took upon Him only the form of a slave, Philippians 2:7 doing no work that was foul or servile. As then, having the form of that slave, He pays toll and tribute not different from that which was paid by His disciple; for the same stater sufficed, even the one coin which was paid for Jesus and His disciple. But this coin was not in the house of Jesus, but it was in the sea, and in the mouth of a fish of the sea which, in my judgment, was benefited when it came up and was caught in the net of Peter, who became a fisher of men, in which net was that which is figuratively called a fish, in order also that the coin with the image of Cæsar might be taken from it, and that it might take its place among those which were caught by them who have learned to become fishers of men. Let him, then, who has the things of Cæsar render them to Cæsar, that afterwards he may be able to render to God the things of God. But since Jesus, who was
the image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15 had not the image of Cæsar, for
the prince of this age had nothing in Him, John 14:31 on this account He takes from its own place, the sea, the image of Cæsar, that He may give it to the kings of the earth for Himself and His disciple, so that those who receive the half-shekel might not imagine that Jesus was the debtor of them and of the kings of the earth; for He paid the debt, not having taken it up, nor having possessed it, nor having acquired it, nor at any time having made it His own possession, so that the image of Cæsar might never be along with the image of the invisible God.
And this may be put in another way. There are some who are kings' sons on the earth, and yet they are not sons of those kings, but sons, and sons absolutely; but others, because of their being strangers to the sons of the kings of the earth, and sons of no one of those upon the earth, but on this very account are sons, whether of God or of His Son, or of some one of those who are God's. If, then, the Saviour inquires of Peter, saying,
The kings of the earth from whom do they receive toll or tribute— from their own sons or from strangers? Matthew 17:25 and Peter replies not from their own sons, but
from strangers, then Jesus says about such as are strangers to the kings of the earth, and on account of being free are sons,
Therefore the sons are free; Matthew 17:26 for the sons of the kings of the earth are not free, since John 8:34 but they are free who abide in the truth of the word of God, and on this account, know the truth, that they also may become free from sin. If, any one then, is a son simply, and not in this matter wholly a son of the kings of the earth, he is free. And nevertheless, though he is free, he takes care not to offend even the kings of the earth, and their sons, and those who receive the half-shekel; wherefore He says,
Let us not cause them to stumble, but go and cast your net, and take up the fish that first comes up, Matthew 17:27 etc. But I would inquire of those who are pleased to make myths about different natures, of what sort of nature they were, whether the kings of the earth, or their sons, or those who receive the half-shekel, whom the Saviour does not wish to offend; it appears of a verity, ex hypothesi, that they are not of a nature worthy of praise, and yet He took heed not to cause them to stumble, and He prevents any stumbling-block being put in their way, that they may not sin more grievously, and that with a view to their being saved— if they will— even by receiving Him who has spared them from being caused to stumble. And as in a place verily of consolation—for such is, by interpretation, Capernaum,— comforting the disciple as being both free and a son, He gives to him the power of catching the fish first, that when it came up Peter might be comforted by its coming up and being caught, and by the stater being taken from its mouth, in order to be paid to those whose the stater was, and who demanded as their own such a piece of money.
But you might sometimes gracefully apply the passage to the lover of money, who has nothing in his mouth but things about silver, when you behold him healed by some Peter, who takes the stater, which is the symbol of all his avarice, not only from his mouth and words, but from his whole character. For you will say that such an one was in the sea, and in the bitter affairs of life, and in the waves of the cares and anxieties of avarice, having the stater in his mouth when he was unbelieving and avaricious, but that he came up from the sea and was caught in the rational net, and being benefited by some Peter who has taught him the truth, no longer has the stater in his mouth, but in place of it those things which contain His image, the oracles of God.
Moreover to the saying,
They that received the half-shekel came to Peter, Matthew 17:24 you will adduce from Numbers that, for the saints according to the law of God, is paid not a half-shekel simply, but a sacred half-shekel. For it is written,
And you shall take five shekels per head, according to the sacred half-shekel. Numbers 3:47 But also on behalf of all the sons of Israel is given a sacred half-shekel per head. Since then it was not possible for the saint of God to possess along with the sacred half-shekels the profane shekels, so to speak, on this account, to them who do not receive the sacred half-shekels, and who asked Peter and said,
Does not your master pay the half-shekel? the Saviour commands the stater to be paid, in which was the half-shekel which was found in the mouth of the first fish that came up, in order that it might be given for the Teacher and the disciple.
In that day came the disciples unto Jesus saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Matthew 18:1 In order that we might be taught what it was that the disciples came to Jesus and asked to learn of Him, and how He answered to their inquiry, Matthew, though he might have given an account of this very thing only, has added, according to some manuscripts,
In that hour the disciples came unto Jesus, but, according to others,
In that day; and it is necessary that we should not leave the meaning of the evangelist without examination. Wherefore giving attention to the words preceding
in that day, or
hour, let us see if it is possible from them to find a way to understand, as being necessary, the addition,
in that day, or
hour. Jesus then had come to Capernaum along with His disciples, where
they that received the half-shekel came to Peter, and asked and said,
Does not your Master pay the half-shekel? Then, when Peter answered and said to them, Yea, Jesus giving further a defence with reference to the giving of the half-shekel, sends Peter to drag up the fish into the net, in the mouth of which He said that a stater would be found which was to be given for Himself and Peter. It seems to me, then, that thinking that this was a very great honour which had been bestowed on Peter by Jesus, who judged that he was greater than the rest of His friends, they wished to learn accurately the truth of their suspicion, by making inquiry of Jesus and hearing from Him, whether, as they supposed, He had judged that Peter was greater than they; and at the same time also they hoped to learn the ground on which Peter had been preferred to the rest of the disciples. Matthew then, I think, wishing to make this plain, has subjoined to the words
that take— the stater, to-wit—
and give unto them for you and me, the words,
In that day came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And, perhaps, they were also in doubt because of the preference which had been given to the three at the transfiguration, and they were in doubt about this— which of the three was judged by the Lord to be greatest. For John reclined on His breast through love, and we may conclude that before the Supper they had seen many tokens of special honour given by Jesus to John; but Peter on his confession was called blessed in their hearing, because of his saying, Matthew 16:16-17 but again because of the saying,
Get behind Me, Satan; you are a stumbling-block unto Me, for you mind not the things of God but the things of men, Matthew 16:23 they were distracted in mind as to whether it was not he but one of the sons of Zebedee, that was the greatest. So much for the words
in that day or
hour, on which took place the matters relating to the stater.
But next we must seek to understand this: the disciples came to Him, as disciples to a teacher proposing difficult questions, and making inquiry, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Matthew 18:1 And, in this respect, we must imitate the disciples of Jesus; for if, at any time, any subject of investigation among us should not be found out let us go with all unanimity in regard to the question in dispute to Jesus, who is present where two or three are gathered together in His name, Matthew 18:20 and is ready by His presence with power to illumine the hearts of those who truly desire to become His disciples, with a view to their apprehension of the matters under inquiry. And likewise it would be nothing strange for us to go to any of those who have been appointed by God as teachers in the church, and propose any question of a like order to this,
Who, then, is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? What, then, was already known to the disciples of the matters relating to this question? And what was the point under inquiry? That there is not equality in regard to those who are deemed worthy of the kingdom of heaven they had apprehended, and that, as there was not equality, some one was greatest, and so in succession down to the least: but of what nature was the greatest, and what was the way of life of him who was the least, and who occupied the middle position, they further desired to know; unless, indeed, it is more accurate to say that they knew who was least from the words,
Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but who was the greatest of all they did not know, even if they had grasped the meaning of the words,
Whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven; Matthew 5:19 for as there were many great, it was not clear to them who was the greatest of the great, to use a human standard. And that many are great, but the great not equally great, will be manifest from the ascription of the epithet
great to Isaac,
who grew great, and became exceedingly great, Genesis 26:13 and from what is said in the case of Moses, and John the Baptist, and the Saviour. And every one will acknowledge that even though all these were great according to the Scripture, yet the Saviour was greater than they. But whether John also (than whom there was no greater among those born of women), Matthew 11:11 was greater than Isaac and Moses, or whether he was not greater, but equal to both, or to one of them, it would be hazardous to declare. And from the saying,
But Isaac, waxing great, became greater, Genesis 26:13 until he became not simply great, but with the twice repeated addition,
exceedingly, we may learn that there is a difference among the great, as one is great, and another exceedingly great, and another exceedingly exceedingly great. The disciples, therefore, came to Jesus and sought to learn, who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and perhaps they wished to learn, hearing from Him sometimes like this,
A certain one is greatest in the kingdom of heaven; but He gives a universal turn to the discourse, showing what was the quality of him who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Let us seek to understand, from what is written, to the best of our ability, who this is.
For Jesus called a little child, Matthew 18:2 etc.
But first we may expound it in simple fashion. One, expounding the word of the Saviour here after the simple method, might say that, if any one who is a man mortifies the lusts of manhood, putting to death by the spirit the deeds of the body, and
always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, 2 Corinthians 4:10 to such a degree that he has the condition of the little child who has not tasted sensual pleasures, and has had no conception of the impulses of manhood, then such an one is converted, and has become as the little children. And the greater the advance he has made towards the condition of the little children in regard to such emotions, by so much the more as compared with those who are in training and have not advanced to so great a height of self-control, is he the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But that which has been said about little children in respect of lustful pleasures, the same might also be said in regard to the rest of the affections and infirmities and sicknesses of the soul, into which it is not the nature of little children to fall, who have not yet fully attained to the possession of reason; as, for example, that, if any one be converted, and, though a man, such an one becomes as a child in respect of anger; and, as is the child in relation to grief, so that sometimes he laughs and plays at the very time that his father or mother or brother is dead, he who is converted would become such an one as little children; and, having received from the Word a disposition incapable of grief, so that he becomes like the little child in regard to grief. And the like you will say about what is called pleasure, in regard to which the wicked are irrationally lifted up, from which little children do not suffer, nor such as have been converted and become as little children. As, then, it has been accurately demonstrated also by others, that no passion is incident to the little children who have not yet attained to full possession of reason; and if no passion, clearly fear also; but, if there be anything corresponding to the passions, these are faint, and very quickly suppressed, and healed in the case of little children, so that he is worthy of love, who, being converted as the little children, has reached such a point as to have, as it were, his passions in subjection like the little children. And with regard to fear, therefore, similar things to those spoken might be conceived, that the little children do not experience the fear of the wicked, but a different thing, to which those who have an accurate knowledge of questions in regard to the passions and their names give the name of fear; as, for example, in the case of children there is a forgetfulness of their evils at the very time of their tears, for they change in a moment, and laugh and play along with those who were thought to grieve and terrify them, but in truth had wrought in them no such emotion. So too, moreover, one will humble himself like the little child which Jesus called; for neither haughtiness, nor conceit in respect of noble birth, or wealth, or any of those things which are thought to be good, but are not, comes to a little child. Wherefore you may see those who are not altogether infants, up to three or four years of age, like to those who are of mean birth, though they may seem to be of noble birth, and not appearing at all to love rich children rather than the poor. If, therefore, in the same way as according to their age children are affected towards those passions which exalt the senseless, the disciple of Jesus under the influence of reason has humbled himself like the little child which Jesus showed, not being exalted because of vainglory, nor puffed up on the ground of wealth, or raiment, nor elated because of noble birth, in particular are they to be received and imitated in the name of Jesus, who have been converted as the Word showed, like the little child which Jesus took to Him; since especially in such the Christ is, and therefore He says,
Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me. Matthew 18:5
But it is a hard task to expound what follows in logical harmony with what has already been said; for one might say, how is it that he who is converted and has become as the little children, is a little one among such as believe in Jesus, and is capable of being caused to stumble? And likewise let us attempt to explain this coherently. Every one that gives his adherence to Jesus as the Son of God according to the true history concerning Him, and by deeds done according to the Gospel, is on the way to living the life which is according to virtue, is converted and is on the way towards becoming as the little children; and it is impossible for him not to enter into the kingdom of heaven. There are, indeed, many such; but not all, who are converted with a view to becoming like the little children, have reached the point of being made like little children; but each wants so much of the likeness to the little children, as he falls short of the disposition of little children towards the passions, of which we have spoken. In the whole multitude, then, of believers, are also those who, having been, as it were, just converted in regard to their becoming as the little children, at the very point of their conversion that they may become as the little children, are called little; and those of them, who are converted that they may become as the little children, but fall far short of having truly become as the little children, are capable of being caused to stumble; each of whom falls so far short of the likeness to them, as he falls short of the disposition of children towards the passions, of which we have spoken, to whom we ought not to give occasions of stumbling-block; but, if it be otherwise, he who has caused him to stumble will require, as contributing towards his cure, to have
an ass's millstone hanged about his neck, and be sunk into the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6 For, in this way, when he has paid the due penalty in the sea, where is
the dragon which God formed to play in it, and, so far as is expedient for the end in view, has been punished and undergone suffering, he shall then have his part in those troubles which belong to the depths of the sea, which he endured when he was dragged down by the ass's millstone. For there are also differences of millstones, so that one of them may be, so to call it, the millstone of a man, and another that of an ass; and that is human, about which it is written,
Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left; Matthew 24:41 but the millstone of the ass is that which shall be put round him who has given occasion of stumbling-block. But some one might say— I know not whether he would speak soundly or erroneously— that the ass's millstone is the heavy body of the wicked man, which is sunken downwards, and which he will receive at the resurrection that he may be sunk in the abyss which is called the depth of the sea, where
is the dragon which God formed to play therein. But another will refer the creating of a stumbling-block to one of the little ones to the powers that are unseen by men; for from these arise many stumbling-blocks to the little ones pointed out by Jesus. But when they cause to stumble one of the little ones pointed out by Jesus, who are believers in Him, he shall assume an ass's millstone, the corruptible body which presses heavily on the soul, which is itself hung from the neck, which is dragged down to the affairs in this life, that by means of these their conceit may be taken away, and having paid the penalty, they shall come, through means of the ass's millstone, to the condition expedient for them.
Now another interpretation different from what is called the simpler may be uttered; whether as dogma, or for the sake of exercise, so to speak, let us also inquire what was the little child who was called by Jesus and set in the midst of the disciples. Now consider if you can say that the little child, whom Jesus called, was the Holy Spirit who humbled Himself, when He was called by the Saviour, and set in the midst of the reason of the disciples of Jesus; if, indeed, He wishes us, being turned away from everything else, to be turned towards the examples suggested by the Holy Spirit, so that we may so become as the little children, who are themselves also turned and likened to the Holy Spirit; which little children God gave to the Saviour, according to what is said in Isaiah,
Behold, I and the little children which God has given to me. And it is not possible for any one to enter into the kingdom of heaven, who has not been turned away from the affairs of this world, and made like the little children who possess the Holy Spirit; which Holy Spirit was called by Jesus, and, descending from His own perfection to men as a little child, was set by Jesus in the midst of the disciples. It is necessary, then, for him who has turned away from the desires of this world to humble himself not simply as the little child, but, according to what is written,
as this little child. Matthew 18:4 But to humble oneself as that little child is to imitate the Holy Spirit, who humbled Himself for the salvation of men. Now, that the Saviour and the Holy Spirit were sent by the Father for the salvation of men has been declared in Isaiah, in the person of the Saviour, saying,
And now the Lord has sent me and His Spirit. Isaiah 48:16 You must know, however, that this expression is ambiguous; for either God sent, but also the Holy Spirit sent, the Saviour; or, as we have taken it, the Father sent both— the Saviour and the Holy Spirit. He, therefore, who has humbled himself more than all those who have humbled themselves in imitation of that little child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. For there are many who are willing to humble themselves as that little child; but the man, who in every respect has become like to the little child who humbled himself, in the name of Jesus— especially in Jesus Himself—in reality, would be found to be he who is named greater than all in the kingdom of heaven. But as he receives Jesus, whosoever receives one such of the little children in His name, so he rejects Jesus and casts Him out, who does not wish to receive one such little child in the name of Jesus. But if, also, there is a difference in those who are deemed worthy of the Holy Spirit, as believers receive more or less of the Holy Spirit, there would be some little ones among those who believe in God who can be made to stumble: to avenge whose being made to stumble the Word says, with reference to those who had caused them to stumble,
It is profitable for him that an ass's millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6 Let these things be said in regard to the passage of Matthew before us.
But let us consider also the like account in the other Evangelists. Mark, Mark 9:33-34 then, says, that the Twelve reasoned in the way as to which of them was the greatest. Wherefore He sat down, and called them, and teaches who is the greatest, saying, that he who became last of all by means of his moderation and gentleness, would as the greatest obtain the first place, so that he did not receive the place of one who was being ministered unto, but the place of one who ministered, and that not to some but not to others, but to all absolutely; for attend to the words,
If any man would be first he shall be last of all, and minister of all. Mark 9:35 And next to that He says, that
He,— Jesus to-wit—
took a little child, and set him in the midst of His own disciples, and taking him in His arms, He said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of the little children in My name receives Me. Mark 9:36-37 But what was the little child which Jesus took and placed in His arms, according to the deeper meaning in the passage? Was it the Holy Spirit? And to this little child, indeed, some were likened, of whom He said,
Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in My name receives Me. According to Luke, however, the reasoning did not arise spontaneously in the disciples, but was suggested to them by the question,
which of them should be greatest. Luke 9:46 And Jesus, seeing the reasoning of their heart, as He had eyes that see the reasonings of hearts—seeing the reasoning of their heart—without being questioned, according to Luke,
took the little child and set him, not in the midst alone, as Matthew and Mark have said, but now, also,
by His side, and said to the disciples, not only,
Whosoever shall receive one such little child, or,
Whosoever shall receive one of such little ones in My name receives Me, but, now going even a step higher,
Whosoever shall receive this little child in My name receives Me. Luke 9:47-48 It is necessary, therefore, according to Luke, to receive in the name of Jesus that very little child which Jesus took and placed by His side. And I know not if there be any one who can interpret figuratively the word,
Whosoever shall receive this little child in My name. For it is necessary that each of us should receive in the name of Jesus that little child which Jesus then took and set by His side; for he lives as immortal, and we must receive him from Jesus Himself in the name of Jesus; and without being separated from him, Jesus is with him who receives the little child, so that according to this it is said,
Whosoever shall receive this little child in My name receives Me. Then, since the Father is inseparable from the Son, He is with him who receives the Son. Wherefore it is said,
And whosoever shall receive Me receives Him that sent Me. Luke 9:48 But he who has received the little child, and the Saviour, and Him that sent Him, is least of all the disciples of Jesus, making himself little. But, so far as he belittles himself, to that extent does he become great; as that very thing, which caused him the more to make himself little, contributes to his advance in greatness; for attend to what is said,
He that is least among you all the same is great; but in other manuscripts we read,
The same shall be great. Now, according to Luke,
If any one shall not receive the kingdom of God as the little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. Luke 18:17 And this expression is ambiguous; for either it means that he who receives the kingdom of God may become as a little child, or, that he may receive the kingdom of God, which has become to him as a little child. And perhaps here those who receive the kingdom of God receive it, when it is as a little child, but in the world to come no longer as a little child; and they receive the greatness of the perfection in the spiritual manhood, so to speak, which perfection is manifested to all who in the present time receive it, when it is here as a little child.
Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling. Matthew 18:7 The expression
cosmos, is used in itself and absolutely in the passage,
He was in the cosmos and the cosmos knew Him not, John 1:10 but it is used relatively and in respect of its connection with that of which it is the cosmos, in the words,
Lest you look up to the heaven, and seeing the sun, and the moon, and all the cosmos of the heavens, you should stray and bow down to them and worship them. Deuteronomy 4:19 And the like you will find in the Book of Esther, spoken about her, when it is written, stripping off all her
cosmos. For the word
cosmos, simply, is not the same as the
cosmos of heaven, or the
cosmos of Esther; and this which we are now investigating is another. I think, then, that the world is not this compacted whole of heaven and earth according to the Divine Scriptures, but only the place which is round about the earth, and this is not to be conceived in respect of the whole earth, but only in respect of ours which is inhabited; for the true light
was in the world, that is, in the place which is around, conceived in relation to our part of the earth;
and the world knew Him not, John 1:10 that is, the men in the region round about, and perhaps also the powers that have an affinity to this place. For it is monstrous to understand by the world here the compacted whole formed of heaven and earth, and those in it; so that it could be said, that the sun and moon and the choir of the stars and the angels in all this world, did not know the true light, and, though ignorant of it, preserved the order which God had appointed for them. But when it is said by the Saviour in the prayer to the Father,
And, now, glorify me, O Father, with Your own self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was, John 17:5 you must understand by the
world, that which is inhabited by us on the earth; for it was from this world that the Father gave men to the Son, in regard to whom alone the Saviour beseeches His Father, and not for the whole world of men. Moreover, also, when the Saviour says,
And I come to you and am no longer in the world, John 17:11 He speaks of the terrestrial world; for it is not to be supposed that He spoke things contradictory when He said,
And I come to you, and I am no longer in the world, and
I am in the world. But also in this,
And these things I speak in the world, John 17:13 we must think of the place round about the earth. And this is clearly indicated also by the words,
And the world hated them, because they are not of the world. John 17:14 For it hated us from the time when we no longer
look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, 2 Corinthians 4:18 because of the teaching of Jesus; not the world of heaven and earth and them that are therein, all compacted together but the men on the earth along with us. And the saying,
They are not of the world, John 17:21 is equivalent to, They are not of the place round about the earth. And so also the disciples of Jesus are not of this world, as He was not of the world. And further also the saying,
That the world may believe that You have sent Me, twice spoken in the Gospel according to John, does not refer to the things that are superior to men, but to men who need to believe that the Father sent the Son into the world here. Yea, and also in the Apostle,
Your faith is proclaimed in the whole world. Romans 1:8
WoeDoes Not Apply to the Disciples of Jesus.
But if there is woe unto men everywhere on the earth, because of occasions of stumbling to those who are laid hold of by them; but the disciples are not of the world, as they do not look at things seen, like as the Master is not of this world; to no one of the disciples of Jesus does the
woe because of occasions of stumbling apply, since disciple, but yet is of the world, because of his loving the world, and the things therein—I mean, the life in the place round about the earth, and the property in it, or the possessions, or any form of wealth whatsoever—so that the saying,
they are not of the world, John 17:16 does not fit him; to him, as being really of the world, shall come that which happens to the world, the
woe, because of occasions of stumbling. But let him who wishes to avoid this woe not be a lover of life, but let him say with Paul,
The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians 6:14 For the saints while
in the tabernacle, do groan being burdened 2 Corinthians 5:4 with
the body of humiliation, and do all things that they may become worthy to be found in the mystery of the resurrection, when God shall fashion anew the body of humiliation not of all, but of those who have been truly made disciples to Christ, so that it may be conformed to the body of the glory of Christ. Philippians 3:21 For as none of the
woes happen to any of the disciples of Christ, so does not this
woe, because of occasions of stumbling; for, supposing that thousands of occasions should arise, they shall not touch those who are no longer of the world. But if any one, because of his faith wanting ballast, and the instability of his submission in regard to the Word of God, is capable of being caused to stumble, let him know that he is not called by Jesus His disciple. Now we must suppose that so many stumbling-blocks come, that, as a result, the woes extend not to some parts of the earth, but to the whole
world which is in it.
Occasions of StumblingAre.
And it must needs be that occasions of stumbling come, Matthew 18:7 which I take to be different from the men by whom they come. The occasions then which come are an army of the devil, his angels, and a wicked band of impure spirits, which, seeking out instruments through whom they will work, often find men altogether strangers to piety, and sometimes even some of those who are thought to believe the Word of God, for whom exists a worse woe than that which comes to him who is caused to stumble, just as also it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, Matthew 11:22 than for the places where Jesus did signs and wonders, and yet was not believed. But as one might undertake to make a collection from the Scriptures of those who are pronounced blessed, and of the things in respect of which they are so called, so also he might undertake to do with the woes which are written, and those in whose case the woes are spoken. But that the woe is worse in the case of him who causes to stumble, than in him who is made to stumble, you may prove by the passage,
Whoso shall cause to stumble one of these little ones which believe in Me, it is profitable for him, Matthew 18:6 etc.; for, while the little one who is made to stumble receives retribution from him who caused him to stumble, it is expedient that the severe and intolerable punishment which is written should befall the man who has caused the stumbling. But if we were to give more careful consideration to these things, we should be on our guard against sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, lest we sin against Christ; 1 Corinthians 8:11-12 as often our brethren about us,
for whom Christ died, perish, not only through our knowledge, but also through some other causes connected with us; in the case of whom, we, sinning against Christ, shall pay the penalty, the soul of them who perish through us being required of us.
Next we must test accurately the meaning of the word
necessity in the passage,
For there is a necessity that the occasions come, Matthew 18:7 and to the like effect in Luke,
It is 'inadmissible' but that occasions of stumbling should come, Luke 18:1 instead of
impossible. And as it is necessary that that which is mortal should die, and it is impossible but that it should die, and as it must needs be that he who is in the body should be fed, for it is impossible for one who is not fed to live, so it is necessary and impossible but that occasions of stumbling should arise, since there is a necessity also that wickedness should exist before virtue in men, from which wickedness stumbling-blocks arise; for it is impossible that a man should be found altogether sinless, and who, without sin, has attained to virtue. For the wickedness in the evil powers, which is the primal source of the wickedness among men, is altogether eager to work through certain instruments against the men in the world. And perhaps also the wicked powers are more exasperated when they are cast out by the word of Jesus, and their worship is lessened, their customary sacrifices not being offered unto them; and there is a necessity that these offenses come; but there is no necessity that they should come through any particular one; wherefore the
woe falls on the man through whom the stumbling-block comes, as he has given a place to the wicked power whose purpose it is to create a stumbling-block. But do not suppose that by nature, and from constitution, there are certain stumbling-blocks which seek out men through whom they come; for as God did not make death, so neither did He create stumbling-blocks; but free-will begot the stumbling-blocks in some who did not wish to endure toils for virtue.
And it is well, then, if the eye and the hand are deserving of praise, that the eye cannot with reason say to the hand,
I have no need of you. 1 Corinthians 12:21 But if any one in the whole body of the congregations of the church, who because of his practical gifts has the name of hand, should change and become a hand causing to stumble, let the eye say to such a hand,
I have no need of you, and, saying it, let him cut it off and cast it from him. Matthew 18:8 And so it is well, if any head be blessed, and the feet worthy of the blessed head, so that the head observing the things which are becoming to itself, may not be able to say to the feet,
I have no need of you. If, however, any foot be found to become a stumbling-block to the whole body, let the head say to such a foot,
I have no need of you, and having cast it off, let him cast it from himself; for even it is much better that the rest of the body should enter into life, wanting the foot or the hand which caused the stumbling-block, rather than, when the stumbling-block has spread over the whole body, it should be cast into the hell of fire with the two feet or the two hands. And so it is well, that he who can become the eye of the whole body should be worthy of Christ and of the whole body; but if such an eye should ever change, and become a stumbling-block to the whole body, it is well to take it out and cast it outside the whole body, and that the rest of the body without that eye should be saved, rather than that along with it, when the whole body has been corrupted, the whole body should be cast into the hell of fire. For the practical faculty of the soul, if prone to sin, and the walking faculty of the soul, so to speak, if prone to sin, and the faculty of clear vision, if prone to sin, may be the hand that causes to stumble, and the foot that causes to stumble, and the eye that causes to stumble, which things it is better to cast away, and having put them aside to enter into life without them, like as one halt, or maimed, or one-eyed, rather than along with them to lose the whole soul. And likewise in the case of the soul it is a good and blessed thing to use its power for the noblest ends; but if we are going to lose one for any cause, it is better to lose the use of it, that along with the other powers we may be saved.
And it is possible to apply these words also to our nearest kinsfolk, who are our members, as it were; being considered to be our members, because of the close relationship; whether by birth, or from any habitual friendship, so to speak; whom we must not spare if they are injuring our soul. For let us cut off from ourselves as a hand or a foot or an eye, a father or mother who wishes us to do that which is contrary to piety, and a son or daughter who, as far as in them lies, would have us revolt from the church of Christ and the love of Him. But even if the wife of our bosom, or a friend who is kindred in soul, become stumbling-blocks to us, let us not spare them, but let us cut them out from ourselves, and cast them outside of our soul, as not being truly our kindred but enemies of our salvation; for
whosoever hates not his father, and mother, Luke 14:26 and the others subjoined, when it is the fitting season to hate them as enemies and assailants, that he may be able to win Christ, this man is not worthy of the Son of God. And in respect of these we may say, that from a critical position any lame one, so to speak, is saved, when he has lost a foot— say a brother— and alone obtains the inheritance of the kingdom of God; and a maimed one is saved, when his father is not saved, but they perish, while he is separated from them, that he alone may obtain the benedictions. And so also any one is saved with one eye, who has cut out the eye of his own house, his wife, if she commit fornication, lest having two eyes he may go away into the hell of fire.
See that you despise not one of these little ones. Matthew 18:10 It seems to me that as among the bodies of men there are differences in point of size—so that some are little, and others great, and others of middle height, and, again, there are differences among the little, as they are more or less little, and the same holds of the great, and of those of middle height—so also among the souls of men, there are some things which give them the stamp of littleness, and other things the stamp of greatness, so to speak, and generally, after the analogy of things bodily, other things the stamp of mediocrity. But in the case of bodies, it is not due to the action of men but to the spermatic principles, that one is short and little, another great, and another of middle height; but in the case of souls, it is our free-will, and actions of such a kind, and habits of such a kind, that furnish the reason why one is great, or little, or of middle height; and it is of our free-will either by advancing in stature to increase our size, or not advancing to be short. And so indeed I understand the words about Jesus having assumed a human soul,
Jesus advanced; Luke 2:52 for as from the free-will there was an advance of His soul in wisdom and grace, so also in stature. And the Apostle says,
Until we all attain unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; Ephesians 4:13 for we must think that he attains unto a man, and that full-grown, according to the inner man, who has gone through the things of the child, and has reached the stage of the man, and has put away the things of the child, and generally, has perfected the things of the man. And so we must suppose that there is a certain measure of spiritual stature unto which the most perfect soul can attain by magnifying the Lord, and become great. Thus, then, these became great, of whom this is written, Isaac, and Moses, and John, and the Saviour Himself above all; for also about Him Gabriel said,
He shall be great; Luke 1:32 but the little ones are
the newborn babes which long for the reasonable milk which is without guile, 1 Peter 2:2 such as stand in need of nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, spoken of in Isaiah when he says, about the calling from the Gentiles,
And they shall bring the sons in the bosom, and take their daughters on the shoulders, and kings shall be your nursing-fathers and their princesses your nursing-mothers. Isaiah 49:22-23 For these reasons you will, then, attend to the word,
Do not despise one of these little ones, Matthew 18:10 and consider whether it is their angels who bring them in their bosom, since they have become sons, and also take on their shoulders what are called daughters, and whether from them are the nursing-fathers who are called kings, and the nursing-mothers who are called princesses. And since the little ones, pointed out by our Saviour, are under the stewardship as of nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, on this account I think that Moses, who believed that he had been already assigned a place among the ranks of the great, said, with regard to the promise,
My angel shall go before you, Exodus 32:34
If you yourself do not go along with me, carry me not up hence. Exodus 33:15 For though the little one even be an heir, yet as being a child he differs nothing from a servant when he is a child, Galatians 4:1 and to the extent to which he is little
has the spirit of bondage to fear; Romans 8:15 but he who is not at all any longer such has no longer the spirit of bondage, but already the spirit of adoption, when 1 John 4:18 it will be plain to you, how that according to these things
the angel of the Lord is said
to encamp round about them that fear Him, and to save them. But you will consider, according to these things also, whether these are indeed angels of the little ones
who are led by the spirit of bondage to fear, angels, who might say about each of them,
I am with him in affliction; and, so long as we are imperfect, and need one to assist us that we may be delivered from evils, we stand in need of an angel of whom Jacob said, Genesis 48:16 but, when we have become perfected, and have passed through the stage of being subject to nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers and guardians and stewards, Galatians 4:4 we are meet to be governed by the Lord Himself.
Then again one might inquire at what time those who are called their angels assume guardianship of the little ones pointed out by Christ; whether they received this commission to discharge concerning them, from what time
by the laver of regeneration, Titus 3:5 through which they were born
as new-born babes, they long for the reasonable milk which is without guile, 1 Peter 2:2 and no longer are in subjection to any wicked power; or, whether from birth they had been appointed, according to the foreknowledge and predestination of God, over those whom God also foreknew, and foreordained to be conformed to the glory of the Christ. Romans 8:29 And with reference to the view that they have angels from birth, one might quote,
He who separated me from my mother's womb, Galatians 1:15 and,
From the womb of my mother you have been my protector, and,
He has assisted me from my mother's womb, and,
Upon you I was cast from my mother, and in the Epistle of Jude,
To them that are beloved in God the Father and are kept for Jesus Christ, being called, Jude 1 — kept completely by the angels who keep them.
With reference to the words,
When through the laver I became a child in Christ, it may be said, that there is no holy angel present with those who are still in wickedness, but that during the period of unbelief they are under the angels of Satan; but, after the regeneration, He who has redeemed us with His own blood consigns us to a holy angel, who also, because of his purity, beholds the face of God. And a third exposition of this passage might be something like the following, which would say, that as it is possible for a man to change from unbelief to faith, and from intemperance to temperance, and generally from wickedness to virtue, so also it is possible that the angel, to whom any soul has been entrusted at birth, may be wicked at the first, but afterwards may at some time believe in proportion as the man believes, and may make such advance that he may become one of the angels who always behold the face of the Father in heaven, Matthew 18:10 beginning from the time that he is yoked along with the man who was foreknown and foreordained to believe at that time, the judgments of God, which are unspeakable and unsearchable and like to the depths, fitly bringing together all this harmonious relationship— angels with men. And it may be that as when a man and his wife are both unbelievers, sometimes it is the man who first believes and in time saves his wife, and sometimes the wife who begins and afterwards in time persuades her husband, so it happens with angels and with men. If, however, anything of this kind takes place in the case of other angels or not, you may seek out for yourself. But consider whether it may not be appropriate to say something of this kind in regard to each angel who is so honoured according to the word of the Saviour, that he is said to behold always the face of the Father who is in heaven. But since in what we said above, that the little ones have angels, but that the great have passed beyond such a position, some one will quote in opposition to us from the Acts of the Apostles, where it is written, that a certain maid Rhoda, when Peter knocked at the door, came to answer, and recognizing the voice of Peter, ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate; but when they who were gathered together in the house wondered, and thought that it was quite impossible that Peter verily stood before the gate, they said, It is his angel. Acts 12:13-15 For the objector will say that, as they had learned once for all that each of the believers had some definite angel, they knew that Peter also had one. But he, who adheres to what we have previously said, will say that the word of Rhoda was not necessarily a dogma, and perhaps also the word of those who did not accurately know, when one as being little and God-fearing is governed by angels, and when now by the Lord Himself. After this, in order to establish our conception of the little one which we have brought forward, it will be said that we need no command about
not despising in the case of the great, but we do need it in the case of the little; wherefore it is not merely said,
Do not despise one of these, pointing to all the disciples, but
one of these little ones, Matthew 18:10 pointed out by Him, who sees the littleness and the greatness of the soul.
But another might say that the perfect man is here called little, applying the word,
For he that is least among you all, the same is great, Luke 9:48 and will affirm that he who humbles himself and becomes a child in the midst of all that believe, though he be an apostle or a bishop, and becomes such
as when a nurse cherishes her own children, 1 Thessalonians 2:7 is the little one pointed out by Jesus, and that the angel of such an one is worthy to behold the face of God. For to say that the little are here called perfect, according to the passage,
He that is least among you all, the same is great, Luke 9:48 and as Paul said, Ephesians 3:8 will seem to be in harmony with the saying,
Whoso shall cause one of these little ones to stumble, Matthew 18:6 and
So it is not the will of My Father in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14 For he, as has been stated, who is now little, could not be made to stumble nor perish, for disciples of Christ, and on this account becomes great; and, since he could not perish, he could say,
Who shall separate us from the love, Romans 8:35 etc. But he who wishes to maintain this last exposition will say that the soul even of the just man is changeable, as Ezekiel also testifies, saying, that the righteous man may abandon the commandments of God, so that his former righteousness is not reckoned unto him; Ezekiel 33:12 wherefore it is said, Whoso shall cause to stumble one of these little ones, Matthew 18:6 and,
It is not the will of My Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14
[As for the exposition of the matters relating to
the hundred sheep, you may consult the homilies on Luke. Matthew 18:12-14]
If your brother sin against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. Matthew 18:15 He, then, who attends closely to the expression, in proof of the surpassing philanthropy of Jesus, will say, that as the words do not suggest a difference of sins, they will act in a singular manner and contrary to the goodness of Jesus, who supply the thought, that these words are to be understood as being limited in their application to lesser sins. But another, also attending closely to the expression, and not wishing to introduce these extraneous thoughts, nor admitting that it is spoken about every sin, will say, that he who commits those great sins is not a brother, even if he be called a brother, as the Apostle says,
If any one that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, etc., with such an one not to eat; 1 Corinthians 5:11 for no one who is an idolater, or a fornicator, or covetous, is a brother; for if he, who seems to bear the name of Christ, though he is named a brother, has something of the features of these, he would not rightly be called a brother. As then he, who says that such words are spoken about every sin, whether the sin be murder, or poisoning, or pederasty, or anything of that sort, would give occasion of injury to the exceeding goodness of Christ, so, on the contrary, he who distinguishes between the brother and him who is called the brother, might teach that, in the case of the least of the sins of men, he who has not repented after the telling of the fault is to be reckoned as a Gentile and a publican, for sins which are
not unto death, 1 John 5:16 or, as the law has described them in the Book of Numbers, not
death-bringing. Numbers 18:22 This would seem to be very harsh; for I do not think that any one will readily be found who has not been censured thrice for the same form of sin, say, reviling, with which revilers abuse their neighbours, or those who are carried away by passion, or for over-drinking, or lying and idle words, or any of those things which exist in the masses. You will inquire, therefore, whether any observation of the passage has escaped the notice of those, who are influenced by their conception of the goodness of the Word, and grant pardon to those who have committed the greatest sins, as well as of those who teach that, in the case of the very least sins, he is to be reckoned as a Gentile and a publican, making him a stranger to the church, after he has committed three very trivial transgressions. But the following seems to me to have been overlooked by both of them, namely, the words,
You have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15 It is assigned by the Word to him only who heard, and He no longer applies it in the case of him who has stumbled twice or thrice and been censured; but that which was to be said about him who was censured twice or thrice, corresponding to the saying,
You have gained your brother, He has left in the air, so to speak. He is not, therefore, altogether gained, nor will he altogether perish, or he will receive stripes. And attend carefully to the first passage,
If he hear you, you have gained your brother, and to the second passage, which is literally,
If he hear you not, take with yourself one or two more, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. Matthew 18:15-16 What, then, will happen to him who has been censured for the second time, after every word has been established by two or three witnesses, He has left us to conceive. And, again,
If he refuse to hear them— manifestly, the witnesses who have been taken—
tell it, he says,
to the church; Matthew 18:17 and He does not say what he will suffer if he does not hear the church, but He taught that if he refused to hear the church, then he who had thrice admonished, and had not been heard, was to regard him for the future as the Gentile and the publican. Matthew 18:17 Therefore he is not altogether gained, nor will he altogether perish. But what at all he will suffer, who at first did not hear, but required witnesses, or even refused to hear these, but was brought to the church, God knows; for we do not declare it, according to the precept,
Judge not that you be not judged, Matthew 7:1
until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts. 1 Corinthians 4:5 But, with reference to the seeming harshness in the case of those who have committed less sins, one might say that it is not possible for him who has not heard twice in succession to hear the third time, so as, on this account, no longer to be as a Gentile or a publican, or no longer to stand in need of the censure in presence of all the church. For we must bear in mind this,
So it is not the will of My Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14 For if
we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Corinthians 5:10 let each one with all his power do what he can so that he may not receive punishment for more evil things done in the body, even if he is going to receive back for all the wrongs which he has done; but it should be our ambition to procure the reward for a greater number of good deeds, since
with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us, Matthew 7:2 and,
according to the works of our own hands shall it happen unto us, Isaiah 3:11 and not in infinite wise, but either double or sevenfold shall sinners receive for their sins from the hand of the Lord; since He does not render unto any one according to the works of his hands, but more than that which he has done, for
Jerusalem, as Isaiah taught,
received from the hand of the Lord double for her sins; Isaiah 40:2 but the neighbours of Israel, whoever they may be, will receive sevenfold, according to the following expression in the Psalms,
Render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom the reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord. And other forms of payment in return could be found, which, if we apprehend, we shall know that to repent after any sin, whatever its greatness, is advantageous, in order that, in addition to our not being punished for more offenses, there may be some hope left to us concerning good deeds done afterwards at some time, even though, before them, thousands of errors have been committed by anyone of us. For it would be strange that evil deeds should be reckoned to any one, but the better which are done after the bad should profit nothing; which may also be learned from Ezekiel, Ezekiel xxxiii by those who pay careful consideration to the things said about such cases.
But to me it seems that, to the case of him who after being thrice admonished was adjudged to be as the Gentile and the publican, it is fitly subjoined,
Verily, I say unto you,— namely, to those who have judged any one to be as the Gentile and the publican—
and what things soever you shall bind on the earth, Matthew 18:18 etc.; for with justice has he, who has thrice admonished and not been heard, bound him who is judged to be as a Gentile and a publican; wherefore, when such an one is bound and condemned by one of this character, he remains bound, as no one of those in heaven overturns the judgment of the man who bound him. And, in like manner, he who was admonished once for all, and did things worthy of being gained, having been set free by the admonition of the man who gained him, and no longer bound by the cords of his own sins, Proverbs 5:22 for which he was admonished, shall be adjudged to have been set free by those in heaven. Only, it seems to be indicated that the things, which above were granted to Peter alone, are here given to all who give the three admonitions to all that have sinned; so that, if they be not heard, they will bind on earth him who is judged to be as a Gentile and a publican, as such an one has been bound in heaven. But since it was necessary, even if something in common had been said in the case of Peter and those who had thrice admonished the brethren, that Peter should have some element superior to those who thrice admonished, in the case of Peter, this saying
I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, Matthew 16:19 has been specially set before the words,
And what things soever you shall bind on earth, etc. And, indeed, if we were to attend carefully to the evangelical writings, we would also find here, and in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter and those who have thrice admonished the brethren, a great difference and a pre-eminence in the things said to Peter, compared with the second class. For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on the earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage, with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens. Matthew 16:19 The better, therefore, is the binder, so much more blessed is he who has been loosed, so that in every part of the heavens his loosing has been accomplished.
Source. Translated by John Patrick. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/101613.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.