Augustin on John 120
121 (Jn 20,10-29.
1). Mary Magdalene had brought the news to His disciples, Peter and John, that the Lord was taken away from the sepulchre; and they, when they came thither, found only the linen clothes wherewith the body had been shrouded; and what else could they believe but what she had told them, and what she had herself also believed? “Then the disciples went away again unto their own” (home); that is to say, where they were dwelling, and from which they had run to the sepulchre. “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping.” For while the men returned, the weaker sex was fastened to the place by a stronger affection. And the eyes, which had sought the Lord and had not found Him, had now nothing else to do but weep, deeper in their sorrow that He had been taken away from the sepulchre than that He had been slam on the tree; seeing that in the case even of such a Master, when His living presence was withdrawn from their eyes, His remembrance also had ceased to remain. Such grief, therefore, now kept the woman at the sepulchre. “And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre.” Why she did so I know not. For she was not ignorant that He whom she sought was no longer there, since she had herself also carried word to the disciples that He had been taken from thence; while they, too, had come to the sepulchre, and had sought the Lord’s body, not merely by looking, but also by entering, and had not found it. What then does it mean, that, as she wept, she stooped down, and looked again into the sepulchre? Was it that her grief was So excessive that she hardly thought she could believe either their eyes or her own? Or was it rather by some divine impulse that her mind led her to look within? For look she did, “and saw two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” Why is it that one was sitting at the head, and the other at the feet? Was it, since those who in Greek are called angel" are in Latin nuntii [in English, news-bearers], that in this way they signified that the gospel of Christ was to be preached from head to foot, from the beginning even to the end? “They say to her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” The angels forbade her tears: for by such a position what else did they announce, but that which in some way or other was a future joy? For they put the question, “Why weepest thou?” as if they had said, Weep not. But she, supposing they had put the question from ignorance, unfolded the cause of her tears. “Because,” she said, “they have taken away my Lord:” calling her Lord’s inanimate body her Lord, meaning a part for the whole; just as all of us acknowledge that Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, our Lord, who of course is at once both the Word and soul and flesh, was nevertheless crucified and buried, while it was only His flesh that was laid in the sepulchre. “And I know not,” she added, “where they have laid Him.” This was the greater cause of sorrow, because she knew not where to go to mitigate her grief. But the hour had now come when the joy, in some measure announced by the angels, who forbade her tears, was to succeed the weeping.
2. Lastly, “when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, If thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.” Let no one speak ill of the woman because she called the gardener, Sir (domine), and Jesus, Master. For there she was asking, here she was recognizing; there she was showing respect to a person of whom she was asking a favor, here she was recalling the Teacher of whom she was learning to discern things human and divine. She called one lord (sir), whose handmaid she was not, in order by him to get at the Lord to whom she belonged. In one sense, therefore, she used the word Lord when she said, “They have taken away my Lord; and in another, when she said, Sir (lord), if thou hast borne Him hence.” For the prophet also called those lords who were mere men, but in a different sense from Him of whom it is written, “The Lord is His name.”1 But how was it that this woman, who had already turned herself back to see Jesus, when she supposed Him to be the gardener, and was actually talking with Him, is said to have again turned herself, in order to say unto Him “Rabboni,” but just because, when she then turned herself in body, she supposed Him to be what He was not, while now, when turned in heart, site recognized Him to be what He was.
3. “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.” There are points in these words which we must examine with brevity indeed, but with somewhat more than ordinary attention. For Jesus was giving a lesson in faith to the woman, who had recognized Him as her Master, and called Him so in her reply; and this gardener was sowing in her heart, as in His own garden, the grain of mustard seed. What then is meant by “Touch me not”? And just as if the reason of such a prohibition would be sought, He added, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” What does this mean? If, while standing on earth, He is not to be touched, how could He be touched by men when sitting in heaven? For certainly, before He ascended, He presented Himself to the touch of the disciples, when He said, as testified by the evangelist Luke, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have;”2 or when He said to Thomas the disciple, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and put forth thy hand, and thrust it into my side.” And who could be so absurd as to affirm that He was willing indeed to be touched by the disciples before He ascended to the Father, but refused it in the case of women till after His ascension? But no one, even had any the will, was to be allowed to run into such folly. For we read that women also, after His resurrection and before His ascension to the Father, touched Jesus, among whom was Mary Magdalene herself; for it is related by Matthew that Jesus met them, and said, “All hail. And they approached, and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him.”3 This was passed over by John, but declared as the truth by Matthew. It remains, therefore, that some sacred mystery must lie concealed in these words; and whether we discover it or utterly fail to do so, yet we ought to be in no doubt as to its actual existence. Accordingly, either the words, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father,” had this meaning, that by this woman the Church of the Gentiles was symbolized, which did not believe on Christ till He had actually ascended to the Father, or that in this way Christ wished Himself to be believed on; in other words, to be touched spiritually, that He and the Father are one. For He has in a manner ascended to the Father, to the inward perception of him who has made such progress in the knowledge of Christ that he acknowledges Him as equal with the Father: in any other way He is not rightly touched, that is to say, in any other way He is not rightly believed on. But Mary might have still so believed as to account Him unequal with the Father, and this certainly is forbidden her by the words, “Touch me not;” that is, Believe not thus on me according to thy present notions; let not your thoughts stretch outwards to what I have been made in thy behalf, without passing beyond to that whereby thou hast thyself been made. For how could it be otherwise than carnally that she still believed on Him whom she was weeping over as a man? “For I am not yet ascended,” He says, “to my Father:” there shalt thou touch me, when thou believest me to be God, in no wise unequal with the Father. “But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father.” He saith not, Our Father: in one sense, therefore, is He mine, in another sense, yours; by nature mine, by grace yours. “And my God, and your God.” Nor did He say here, Our God: here, therefore, also is He in one sense mine, in another sense yours: my God; under whom I also am as man; your God, between whom and you I am mediator.
4. “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples, I have seen the Lord, and He hath spoken these things unto me. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side.” For nails had pierced His hands, a spear had laid open His side: and there the marks of the wounds are preserved for healing the hearts of the doubting. But the shutting of doors presented no obstacle to the matter of His body, wherein Godhead resided. He indeed could enter without their being opened, by whose birth the virginity of His mother remained inviolate, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said He unto them again, Peace be unto you.” Reiteration is confirmation; for He Himself gives by the prophet a promised peace upon peace.4 “As the Father hath sent me,” He adds, “even so send I you.” We know the Son to be equal to the Father; but here we recognize the words of the Mediator. For He exhibits Himself as occupying a middle position when He says, He me, and I you. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” By breathing on them He signified that the Holy Spirit was the Spirit, not of the Father alone, but likewise His own. “Whose so-ever sins,” He continues, “ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever ye retain, they are retained.” The Church’s love, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, discharges the sins of all who are partakers with itself, but retains the sins of those who have no participation therein. Therefore it is, that after saying “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” He straightway added this regarding the remission and retention of sins.
5. “But Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. And after eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.” He saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed the other. “Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.” He saith not, Thou hast touched me, but, “Thou hast seen me,” because sight is a kind of general sense. For sight is also habitually named in connection with the other four senses: as when we say, Listen, and see how well it sounds; smell it, and see how well it smells; taste it, and see how well it savors; touch it, and see how hot it is. Everywhere has the word, See, made itself heard, although sight, properly speaking, is allowed to belong only to the eyes. Hence here also the Lord Himself says, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands:” and what else does He mean but, Touch and see? And yet he had no eyes in his finger. Whether therefore it was by looking, or also by touching, “Because thou hast seen me,” He says, “thou hast believed.” Although it may be affirmed that the disciple dared not so to touch, when He offered Himself for the purpose; for it is not written, And Thomas touched Him. But whether it was by gazing only, or also by touching that he saw and believed, what follows rather proclaims and commends the faith of the Gentiles: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” He made use of words in the past tense, as One who, in His predestinating purpose, knew what was future, as if it had already taken place. But the present discourse must be kept from the charge of prolixity: the Lord will give us the opportunity to discourse at another time on the topics that remain.
1 (Ps 68,4,
2 (Lc 24,39,
3 (Mt 28,9).
4 (Is 26,3, margin.
122 (Jn 20,30-21,11.
1. After telling us of the incident in connection with which the disciple Thomas had offered to his touch the places of the wounds in Christ’s body, and saw what he would not believe, and believed, the evangelist Jn interposes these words, and says: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life through His name.” This paragraph indicates, as it were, the end of the book; but there is afterwards related how the Lord manifested Himself at the sea of Tiberias,and in the draught of fishes made special reference to the mystery of the Church, as regards its future character, in the final resurrection of the dead. I think, therefore, it is fitted to give special prominence thereto, that there has been thus interposed, as it were, an end of the book, and that there should be also a kind of preface to the narrative that was to follow, in order in some measure to give it a position of greater eminence. The narrative itself begins in this way: “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed He (Himself). There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.They say unto him, We also go with thee.”
2. The inquiry is usually made in connection with this fishing of the disciples, why Peter and the sons of Zebedee returned to whatthey were before being called by the Lord; for they were fishers when He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”1 And they put such reality into their following of Him then, that they left all in order to cleave to Him as their Master: so much so, that when the rich man went away from Him in sorrow, because of His saying to him, “Go sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven, and come follow me,” Peter said unto Him, “Lo, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee.”2 Why is it then that now, by the abandonment as it were of their apostleship, they become what they were, and seek again what they had forsaken, as if forgetful of the words they had once listened to, “No man, putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven”?3 Had they done so when Jesus was lying in the grave, before He rose from the dead,-which of course they could not have done, as the day whereon He was crucified kept them all in closest attention till His burial, which took place before evening; while the next day was the Sabbath, when it was unlawful for those who observed the ancestral custom to work at all; and on the third day the Lord rose again, and recalled them to the hope which they had not yet begun to entertain regarding Him;-yet had they then done so, we might suppose it had been done under the influence of that despair which had taken possession of their minds. But now, after His restoration to them alive from the tomb, after the most evident truth of His revivified flesh offered to their eyes and hands, not only to be seen, but also to be touched and handled; after inspecting the very marks of the wounds, even to the confession of the Apostle Thomas, who had previously declared that he would not otherwise believe; after the reception by His breathing on them of the Holy Spirit, and after the words poured from His lips into their ears, “’As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever ye retain, they are retained:” they suddenly become again what they had been, fishers, not of men, but of fishes.
3. We have therefore to give those who are disturbed by this the answer, that they were not prohibited from seeking necessary sustenance by their manual craft, when lawful in itself, and warranted so long as they preserved their apostleship intact, if at any time they had no other means of gaining a livelihood. Unless any one have the boldness to imagine or to affirm, that the Apostle Paul attained not to the perfection of those who left all and followed Christ, seeing that, in order not to become a burden to any of those to whom he preached the gospel, be worked with his own hands for his support:4 wherein we find rather the fulfillment of his own words, “I labored more abundantly than they all;” and to which he added, “yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me:”5 to make it manifest that this also was to be imputed to the grace of God, that both with mind and body he was able to labor so much more abundantly than they all, that he neither ceased from preaching the gospel, nor drew, like them, his present support out of the gospel; while he was sowing it much more widely and fruitfully through multitudes of nations where the name of Christ had never previously been proclaimed. Whereby he showed that living, that is, deriving their subsistence, by the gospel, was not imposed on the apostles as a necessity, but conferred on them as a power. And of this power the same apostle makes mention when he says: “If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal things? If others are partakers of this power among you, are not we rather? But,” he adds, “we have not used this power.” And a little afterwards he says: “They who serve the altar are partakers with the altar: even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel; but I have used none of these things.” It is clear enough, therefore, that it was not enjoined on the apostles, but put in their power, not to find their living otherwise than by the gospel, and of those to whom by preaching the gospel they sowed spiritual things, to reap their carnal things; that is, to take their bodily support, and, as the soldiers of Christ, to receive the wages due to them, as from the inhabitants of provinces subject to Christ.6 Hence that same illustrious soldier had said a little before, in reference to this matter, “Who goetha warfare any time at his own charges?”7 Which he nevertheless did himself; for he labored more abundantly than they all. If, then, the blessed Paul-that he might not use with them the power which he certainly possessed along with the other preachers of the gospel, but went a warfare at his own charges, that the Gentiles, who were utterly averse to the name of Christ, might not take offense at his teaching, as something offered them for a money equivalent,-in a way very different from that in which he had been educated, learned an altogether new art, that while the teacher supports himself with his own hands, none of his hearers might be burdened; how much rather did the blessed Peter, who had beforetimes been a fisherman, do what he was already acquainted with, if at that present time he found no other means of gaining a livelihood?
4. But some one will reply, And why did he not find them, when the Lord had promised, saying, “Seek first the kingdom andrighteousness of God, and all these things shall be added unto you”?8 Precisely also in this very way did the Lord fulfill His promise. For who else placed there the fishes that were to be caught, but He, who, we are bound to believe, threw them into the penury that compelled them to go a fishing, for no other reason than that He wished to show them the miracle He had prepared, that so He might both feed the preachers of His gospel, and at the same time enhance that gospel itself, by the great mystery which He was about to impress on their minds by the number of the fishes? And on this subject we also ought now to be telling you what He Himself has set before us.
5. “Simon Peter,” therefore, “saith, I go a fishing.” Those who were with him “say unto him, We also go with thee. And they went forth, and entered into a ship; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No. He saith unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his coat unto him, for he was naked, and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship (for they were not far from the land, but as it were two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals laid, and a fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.”
6. This is a great mystery in the great Gospel of John; and to commend it the more forcibly to our attention, the last chapter has been made its place of record. Accordingly, inasmuch as there were seven disciples taking part in that fishing, Peter, and Thomas, and Nathaneal, and the two sons of Zebedee, and two others whose names are withheld, they point, by their septenary number, to the end of time. For there is a revolution of all time in seven days. To this also pertains the statement, that when the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore; for the shore likewise is the limit of the sea, and signifies therefore the end of the world. The same end of the world is shown also by the act of Peter, in drawing the net to land, that is, to the shore. Which the Lord has Himself elucidated, when in a certain other place He drew His similitude from a fishing net let down into the sea: “And they drew it,” He said, “to the shore.” And in explanation of what that shore was, He added, “So will it be in the end of the world.”9
7. That, however, is a parable in word, not one embodied in outward action; and just as in the passage before us the Lord indicated by an outward action the kind of character the Church would have in the end of the world, so in the same way, by that other fishing, He indicated its present character. In doing the one at the commencement of His preaching and this latter after His resurrection, He showed thereby in the former case that the capture of fishes signified the good and bad presently existing in the Church; but in the latter, the good only, whom it will contain everlastingly, when the resurrection of the dead shall have been completed in the end of this world. Furthermore, on that previous occasion Jesus stood not, as here, on the shore, when He gave orders for the taking of the fish, but “entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land; and He sat down therein, and taught the crowds. And when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” There also they put the fishes that were caught into the ship, and did not, as here, draw the net to the shore. By these signs, and any others that may be found, on the former occasion the Church was prefigured as it exists in this world, and on the other, as it shall be in the end of the world: the one accordingly took place before, and the other subsequently to the resurrection of the Lord; because there we were signified by Christ as called, and here as raised from the dead. On that occasion the nets are not let down on the right side, that the good alone might not be signified, nor on the left, test the application should be limited to the bad; but without any reference to either side, He says, “Let down your nets for a draught,” that we may understand the good and bad as mingled together: while on this He says, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship,” to signify those who stood on the right hand, the good alone. There the net was broken on account of the schisms that were meant to be signified; but here, as then there will be no more schisms in that supreme peace of the saints, the evangelist was entitled to say, “And for all they were so great,” that is, so large, “yet was not the net broken;” as if with reference to the previous time when it was broken, and a commendation of the good that was here in comparison with the evil that preceded. There the multitude of fishes caught was so great, that the two vessels were filled and began to sink,10 that is, were weighed down to the point of sinking; for they did not actually sink, but were in extreme jeopardy. For whence exist in the Church the great evils under which we groan, save from the impossibility of withstanding the enormous multitude that, almost to the entire subversion of discipline, gain an entrance, with their morals so utterly at variance with the pathway of the saints? Here, however, they cast the net on the right side, “and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” What is meant by the words, “Now they were not able to draw it,” but this, that those who belong to the resurrection of life, that is to say, to the right hand, and depart this life within the nets of the Christian name, will be made manifest only on the shore, in other words, when they shall rise from the dead at the end of the world? Accordingly, they were not able to draw the nets so as to discharge into the vessel the fishes they had caught, as was done with all of those wherewith the net was broken, and the boats laden to sinking. But the Church possesses those right-hand ones after the close of this life in the sleep of peace, lying hid as it were in the deep, till the net reach the shore whither it is being drawn, as it were two hundred cubits. And as on that first occasion it was done by two vessels, with reference to the circumcision and the uncircumcision; so in this place, by the two hundred cubits, I am of opinion that there is symbolized, with reference to the elect of both classes, the circumcision and the uncircumcision, as it were two separate hundreds; because the number that passes to the right hand is represented summarily by hundreds. And last of all, in that former fishing the number of fishes is not expressed, as if the words were there acted on that were uttered by the prophet, “I have declared and spoken; they are multiplied beyond number:”11 while here there are none beyond calculation, but the definite number of a hundred and fifty and three; and of the reason of this number we must now, with the Lord’s help, give some account.
8. For if we determine on the number that should indicate the law, what else can it be but ten? For we have absolute certainty that the Decalogue of the law, that is, those ten well-known precepts, were first written by the finger of God on two tables of stone.12 But the law, when it is not aided by grace, maketh transgressors, and is only in the letter, on account of which the apostle specially declared, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”13 Let the spirit then be added to the letter, lest the letter kill him whom the spirit makethnot alive, and let us work out the precepts of the law, not in our own strength, but by the grace of the Saviour. But when grace is added to the law, that is, the spirit to the letter, there is, in a kind of way, added to ten the number of seven. For this number, namely seven, is testified by the documents of holy writ given us for perusal, to signify the Holy Spirit. For example, sanctity or sanctification properly pertains to the Holy Spirit, whence, as the Father is a spirit, and the Son a spirit, because God is a spirit,14 so the Father is holy and the Son holy, yet the Spirit of both is called peculiarly by the name of the Holy Spirit. Where, then, was there the first distinct mention of sanctification inthe law but on the seventh day? For God sanctified not the first day, when He made the light; nor the second, when He made the firmament; nor the third, when He separated the sea from the land, and the land brought forth grass and timber; nor the fourth, wherein the stars were created; nor the fifth, wherein were created the animals that live in the waters or fly in the air; nor the sixth, when the terrestrial living soul and man himself were created; but He sanctified the seventh day, wherein He rested from all His works.15 The Holy Spirit, therefore, is aptly represented by the septenary number. The prophet Isaiah likewise says, “The Spirit of God shall rest on Him;” and thereafter calls our attention to that Spirit in His septenary work or grace, by saying, “The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and piety; and He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of God.”16 And what of the Revelation? Are they not there called the seven Spirits of God,17 while there is only one and the same Spirit dividing to every one severally as He will?18 But the septenary operation of the one Spirit was so called by the Spirit Himself, whose own presence in the writer led to their being spoken of as the seven Spirits. Accordingly, when to the number of ten, representing the law, we add the Holy Spirit as represented by seven, we have seventeen; and when this number is used for the adding together of every several number it contains, from 1 up to itself, the sum amounts to one hundred and fifty-three. For if you add 2 to 1, you have 3 of course; if to these you add 3 and 4, the whole makes 10; and then if you add all the numbers that follow up to 17, the whole amounts to the foresaid number; that is, if to 10, which you had reached by adding all together from 1 to 4, you add 5, you have 15; to these add 6, and the result is 21; then add 7, and you have 28; to this add 8, and 9, and 10, and you get 55; to this add 11 and 12, and 13, and you have 91; and to this again add 14, 15, and 16, and it comes to 136; and then add to this the remaining number of which we have been speaking, namely, 17, and it will make up the number of fishes. But it is not on that account merely a hundred and fifty-three saints that are meant as hereafter to rise from the dead unto life eternal, but thousands of saints who have shared in the grace of the Spirit, by which grace harmony is established with the law of God, as with an adversary; so that through the life-giving Spirit the letter no longer kills, but what is commanded by the letter is fulfilled by the help of the Spirit, and if there is any deficiency it is pardoned. All therefore who are sharers in such grace are symbolized by this number, that is, are symbolically represented. This number has, besides, three times over, the number of fifty, and three in addition, with reference to the mystery of the Trinity; while, again, the number of fifty is made up by multiplying 7 by 7, with the addition of 1, for 7 times 7 make 49. And the 1 is added to show that there is one who is expressed by seven on account of His sevenfold operation; and we know that it was on the fiftieth day after our Lord’s ascension that the Holy Spirit was sent, for whom the disciples were commanded to wait according to the promise.19
9. It was not, then, without a purpose that these fishes were described as so many in number, and so large in size, that is, as both an hundred and fifty-three, and large. For so it is written, “And He drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty andthree.” For when the Lord said, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill “because about to give the Spirit, through whom the law might be fulfilled, and to add thereby, as it were, seven to ten; after interposing a few other words He proceeded, “Whosoevertherefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shallbe called the least in the kingdom of heaven: ] but whosoever shall do and teach them. thesame shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. The latter, therefore, may possibly belong to the number of great fishes. But he that is the least, who undoes in deed what he teaches in word, may be in such a church as is signified by that first capture of fishes, which contains both good and bad, for it also is called the kingdom of heaven, as He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of ever kind;”20 where He wishes the good as well as the bad to be understood, and of whom He declares that they are yet to be separated on the shore, to wit, at the end of the world. And lastly, to show that those least ones are reprobates who teach by word of mouth the good which they undo by their evil lives, and that they will not be even the least, as it were, in the life that is eternal, but will have no place there at all; after saying, “He shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven,” He immediately added, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”21 Such, doubtless-these scribes and Pharisees-are those who sit in Moses’ seat, and of whom He says, “Do ye what they gay, but do not what they do; for they say, and do not.”22 They teach in sermons what they undo by their morals. It therefore follows that he who is least in the kingdom of heaven, as the Church now exists, shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven, as the Church shall be hereafter; for by teaching what he himself is in the habit of breaking, he can have no place in the company of those who do what they teach, and therefore will not be in the number of great fishes, seeing it is he “who shall do and teach that shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” And because he will be great here, therefore shall he be there, where he that is least shall not be. Yea, so great will they certainly be there, that he who is less there is greater than the greatest here.23 And yet those who are great here, that is, who do the good that they teach in that kingdom of heaven into which the net gathereth good and bad, shall be greater still in that eternal state of the heavenly kingdom,-those, I mean, who are indicated by the fishes here as belonging to the right hand and to the resurrection of life. We have still to discourse, as God shall grant us ability, on the meal that the Lord took with those seven disciples, and on the words He spake after the meal, as well as on the close of the Gospel itself; but these are topics that cannot be included in the present lecture).
1 (Mt 4,19,
2 (Mt 19,21-22 Mt 19,27.
3 (Lc 9,62).
4 (2Th 3,8,
5 (1Co 15,10,
6 Sicut a provincialibus Christi.
7 (1Co 9,11-15 1Co 9,7.
8 (Mt 6,33).
9 (Mt 13,48-49,
10 (Lc 5,3-7).
11 (Ps 40,5,
12 (Dt 9,10,
13 (2Co 3,6,
14 Chap. 4,24.
15 (Gn 1,2-3,
16 Is 11,2-3.
17 (Ap 3,1,
18 (1Co 12,11).
19 (Ac 1,4 Ac 2,2-4.
20 (Mt 13,47,
21 (Mt 5,17-20.
22 (Mt 23,2-3,
23 (Mt 11,11,
Augustin on John 120