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70. As to the events next related, it is true that their exact order is not made apparent by Matthew's narrative. For after the notices of the two incidents in connection with the blind men and the dumb demoniac, he continues in the following manner:
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the kingdom of the gospel, and healing every sickness and every disease. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they were troubled and prostrate, as sheep having no shepherd. Then says He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest. And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits; and so forth, down to the words,
Verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. This whole passage which we have now mentioned shows how He gave many counsels to His disciples. But whether Matthew has subjoined this section in its historical order, or has made its order dependent only on the succession in which it came up to his own mind, as has already been said, is not made apparent. Mark appears to have handled this paragraph in a succinct method, and to have entered upon its recital in the following terms:
And He went round about the villages, teaching in their circuit: and He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them by two and two, and gave them power over unclean spirits; and so on, down to where we read,
Shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them. But before narrating this incident, Mark has inserted, immediately after the story of the raising of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, an account of what took place on that occasion on which, in His own country, the people were astonished at the Lord, and asked from whence He had such wisdom and such capabilities, when they perceived His judgment: which account is given by Matthew after these counsels to the disciples, and after a number of other matters. It is uncertain, therefore, whether what thus happened in His own country has been recorded by Matthew in the succession in which it came to mind, after having been omitted at first, or whether it has been introduced by Mark in the way of an anticipation; and which of them, in short, has kept the order of actual occurrence, and which of them the order of his own recollection. Luke, again, in immediate succession to the mention of the raising of the daughter of Jairus to life, subjoins this paragraph, bearing on the power and the counsels given to the disciples, and that indeed with as great brevity as Mark. This evangelist, however, does not, any more than the others, introduce the subject in such a way as to produce the impression that it comes in also in the strictly historical order. Moreover, with regard to the names of the disciples, Luke, who gives their names in another place, — that is to say, in the earlier passage, where they are [represented as being] chosen on the mountain — is not at variance in any respect with Matthew, with the exception of the single instance of the name of Judas the brother of James, whom Matthew designates Thaddæus, although some codices also read Lebbæus. But who would ever think of denying that one man may be known under two or three names?
71. Another question which it is also usual to put is this: How comes it that Matthew and Luke have stated that the Lord said to His disciples that they were not to take a staff with them, whereas Mark puts the matter in this way:
And He commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; and proceeds further in this strain,
no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: thereby making it quite evident that his narrative belongs to the same place and circumstances with which the narratives of those others deal who have mentioned that the staff was not to be taken? Now this question admits of being solved on the principle of understanding that the staff which, according to Mark, was to be taken, bears one sense, and that the staff which, according to Matthew and Luke, was not to be taken with them, is to be interpreted in a different sense; just in the same way as we find the term
God tempts no man, and in a different meaning where it is said, temptation of seduction is intended; but in the latter the temptation of probation. Another parallel occurs in the case of the term
judgment, which must be taken in one way, where it is said,
They that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment; and in another way, where it is said,
72. And there are many other words which do not retain one uniform signification, but are introduced so as to suit a variety of connections, and thus are understood in a variety of ways, and sometimes, indeed, are adopted along with an explanation. We have an example in the saying,
Be not children in understanding; howbeit in malice be ye little children, that in understanding ye may be perfect. For here is a sentence which, in a brief and pregnant form, might have been expressed thus:
Be not children; howbeit be ye children. The same is the case with the words,
If any man among you thinks himself to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. For what else is the statement there but this:
Let him not be wise, that he may be wise? Moreover, the sentences are sometimes so put as to exercise the judgment of the inquirer. An instance of this kind occurs in what is said in the Epistle to the Galatians:
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But it is meet that every man should prove his own work; and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Now, unless the word
burden can be taken in different senses, without doubt one would suppose that the same writer contradicts himself in what he says here, and that, too, when the words are placed in such close neighbourhood in one paragraph. For when he has just said,
One shall bear another's burdens, after the lapse of a very brief interval he says,
Every man shall bear his own burden. But the one refers to the burdens which are to be borne in sharing in one's infirmity, the other to the burdens borne in the rendering of an account of our own actions to God: the former are burdens to be borne in our [duties of] fellowship with brethren; the latter are those peculiar to ourselves, and borne by every man for himself. And in the same way, once more, the
rod of which the apostle spoke in the words,
Shall I come unto you with a rod? is meant in a spiritual sense; while the same term bears the literal meaning when it occurs of the rod applied to a horse, or used for some other purpose of the kind, not to mention, in the meantime, also other metaphorical significations of this phrase.
73. Both these counsels, therefore, must be accepted as having been spoken by the Lord to the apostles; namely, at once that they should not take a staff, and that they should take nothing save a staff only. For when He said to them, according to Matthew,
Provide neither gold nor silver, nor money in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet a staff, He added immediately,
for the workman is worthy of his meat. And by this He makes it sufficiently obvious why it is that He would have them provide and carry none of these things. He shows that His reason was, not that these things are not necessary for the sustenance of this life, but because He was sending them in such a manner as to declare plainly that these things were due to them by those very persons who were to hear believingly the gospel preached by them; just as wages are the soldier's due, and as the fruit of the vine is the right of the planters, and the milk of the flock the right of the shepherds. For which reason Paul also speaks in this wise:
Who goes a warfare any time at his own charges? Who plants a vineyard, and eats not of the fruit thereof? Who feeds a flock, and eats not of the milk of the flock? For under these figures he was speaking of those things which are necessary to the preachers of the gospel. And so, a little further on, he says:
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others are partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power. This makes it apparent that by these instructions the Lord did not mean that the evangelists should not seek their support in any other way than by depending on what was offered them by those to whom they preached the gospel (otherwise this very apostle acted contrary to this precept when he acquired a livelihood for himself by the labours of his own hands, because he would not be chargeable to any of them ), but that He gave them a power in the exercise of which they should know such things to be their due. Now, when any commandment is given by the Lord, there is the guilt of non-obedience if it is not observed; but when any power is given, any one is at liberty to abstain from its use, and, as it were, to recede from his right. Accordingly, when the Lord spoke these things to the disciples, He did what that apostle expounds more clearly a little further on, when he says,
Do you not know that they who minister in the temple live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so has the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things. When he says, therefore, that the Lord ordained it thus, but that he did not use the ordinance, he certainly indicates that it was a power to use that was given him, and not a necessity of service that was imposed upon him.
74. Accordingly, as our Lord ordained what the apostle declares Him to have ordained — namely, that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, — He gave these counsels to the apostles in order that they might be without the care of providing or of carrying with them things necessary for this life, whether great or the very smallest; consequently He introduced this term,
neither a staff, with the view of showing that, on the part of those who were faithful to Him, all things were due to His ministers, who themselves, too, required nothing superfluous. And thus, when He added the words,
For the workman is worthy of his meat, He indicated quite clearly, and made it thoroughly plain, how and for what reason it was that He spoke all these things. It is this kind of power, therefore, that the Lord denoted under the term
staff, when He said that they should
take nothing for their journey, save a staff only. For the sentence might also have been briefly expressed in this way:
Take with you none of the necessaries of life, neither a staff, save a staff only. So that the phrase
neither a staff may be taken to be equivalent to
not even the smallest things; while the addition,
save a staff only, may be understood to mean that, in virtue of that power which they received from the Lord, and which was signified by the name
rod], even those things which were not carried with them would not be wanting to them. Our Lord therefore used both phrases. But inasmuch as one and the same evangelist has not recorded them both, the writer who has told us that the rod, as introduced in the one sense, was to be taken, is supposed to be in antagonism to him who has told us that the rod, as occurring again in the other sense, was not to be taken. After this explanation of the matter, however, no such supposition ought to be entertained.
75. In like manner, also, when Matthew tells us that the shoes were not to be carried with them on the journey, what is intended is the checking of that care which thinks that such things must be carried with them, because otherwise they might be unprovided. Thus, too, the import of what is said regarding the two coats is, that none of them should think of taking with him another coat in addition to the one in which he was clad, as if he was afraid that he might come to be in want, while all the time the power (which was received from the Lord) made him sure of getting what was needful. To the same effect, when Mark says that they were to be shod with sandals or soles, he gives us to understand that this matter of the shoe has some sort of mystical significance, the point being that the foot is to be neither covered, nor yet left bare to the ground; by which the idea may be conveyed that the gospel was neither to be concealed, nor yet made to depend on the good things of earth. And as to the fact that what is forbidden is neither the carrying nor the possessing of two coats, but more distinctly the putting of them on — the words being,
and not put on two coats,— what counsel is conveyed to them therein but this, that they ought to walk not in duplicity, but in simplicity?
76. Thus it is not by any means to be made a matter of doubt that the Lord Himself spoke all these words, some of them with a literal import, and others of them with a figurative, although the evangelists may have introduced them only in part into their writings — one inserting one section, and another giving a different portion. Certain passages, at the same time, have been recorded in identical terms either by some two of them, or by some three, or even by all the four together. And yet not even when this is the case can we take it for granted that everything has been committed to writing which was either uttered or done by Him. Moreover, if any one fancies that the Lord could not in the course of the same discourse have used some expressions with a figurative application and others with a literal, let him but examine His other addresses, and he will see how rash and inconsiderate such a notion is. For, then (to mention but a single instance which occurs meantime to my mind), when Christ gives the counsel not to let the left hand know what the right hand does, he may suppose himself under the necessity of accepting in the same figurative sense at once the almsgivings themselves referred to, and the other instructions offered on that occasion.
77. In good truth, I must repeat here once more an admonition which it behooves the reader to keep in mind, so as not to be requiring that kind of advice so very frequently, namely, that in various passages of His discourses, the Lord has reiterated much which He had uttered already on other occasions. It is needful, indeed, to call this fact to mind, lest, when it happens that the order of such passages does not appear to fit in with the narrative of another of the evangelists, the reader should fancy that this establishes some contradiction between them; whereas he ought really to understand it to be due to the fact that something is repeated a second time in that connection which had been already expressed elsewhere. And this is a remark that should be held applicable not only to His words, but also to His deeds. For there is nothing to hinder us from believing that the same thing may have taken place more than once. But for a man to impeach the gospel simply because he does not believe in the repeated occurrence of some incident, which no one [at least] can prove to be an impossible event, betrays mere sacrilegious vanity.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602230.htm>.
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