Golden Chain MT-MK 3116
3116 (Mt 1,16)
Gloss: In the last place, after all the patriarchs, he sets down Joseph the husband of Mary, for whose sake all the rest are introduced, saying, "But Jacob begot Joseph."
Jerome: This passage is objected to us by the Emperor Julian in his Discrepancy of the Evangelists. Matthew calls Joseph the son of Jacob, Luke makes him the son of Heli. He did not know the Scripture manner, one was his father by nature, the other by law. For we know that God commanded by Moses, that if a brother or near kinsman died without children, another should take his wife, to raise up seed to his brother or kinsman. (Dt 25)
But of this matter Africanus the chronologist (ed. note: In his Epist. ad Aristidem, vid. Reuth Reliqu. vol. ii, p. 114. Africanus), and Eusebius of Caesarea, have disputed more fully.
Euseb., Hist. Eccles. i, 7: For Matthan and Melchi at different periods had each a son by one and the same wife Jesca. Matthan, who traced through Solomon, first had her, and died leaving one son, Jacob by name. As the Law forbade not a widow, either dismissed from her husband, or after the death of her husband, to be married to another, so Melchi, who traced through Matthan, being of the same tribe but of another race, took this widow to his wife, and begat Heli his son.
Thus shall we find Jacob and Heli, though of a different race, yet by the same mother, to have been brethren. One of whom, namely Jacob, after Heli his brother was deceased without issue, married his wife, and begat on her the third, Joseph, by nature indeed and reason his own son. Whereupon also it is written, "And Jacob begat Joseph." But by the Law, he was the son of Heli; for Jacob, being his brother, raised up seed to him.
Thus the genealogy, both as recited by Matthew, and by Luke, stands right and true; Matthew saying, "And Jacob begot Joseph;" Luke saying, "Which was the son, as it was supposed, (for he adds this withal,) of Joseph, (p. 34) which was the son of Heli, which was the son of Melchi."
Nor could he have more significantly or properly expressed that way of generation according to the Law, which was made by a certain adoption that had respect to the dead, carefully leaving out the word "begetting" throughout even to the end.
Augustine, de Cons. Evan., ii, 2: He is more properly called his son, by whom he was adopted, than had he been said to have been begotten of him of whose flesh he was not born. Wherefore Matthew, in saying, "Abraham begot Isaac," and continuing the same phrase throughout down to "Jacob begot Joseph," sufficiently declares that he gives the father according to the order of nature, so as that we must hold Joseph to have been begotten, not adopted, by Jacob. Though even if Luke had used the word, "begotten," we need not have thought it any serious objection; for it is not absurd to say of an adopted son that he is begotten, not after the flesh, but by affection.
Euseb.: Neither does this lack good authority; nor has it been suddenly devised by us for this purpose. For the kinsmen of our Saviour according to the flesh, either out of desire to shew forth this their so great nobility of stock, or simply for the truth's sake, have delivered it unto us.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 4: And suitably does Luke, who relates Christ's ancestry not in the opening of his Gospel, but at his baptism, follow the line of adoption, as thus more clearly pointing Him out as the Priest that should make atonement for sin. For by adoption we are made the sons of God, by believing in the Son of God. But by the descent according to the flesh which Matthew follows, we rather see that the Son of God was for us made man.
Luke sufficiently shews that he called Joseph the son of Heli, because he was adopted by Heli, by his calling Adam the son of God, which he was by grace, as he was set in Paradise, though he lost it afterwards by sinning.
Chrys., Hom. 4: Having gone through all the ancestry, and ended in Joseph, he adds, "The husband of Mary," thereby declaring that is was for her sake that he was included in the genealogy.
Jerome: When you hear this word, "husband," do not straight bethink you of wedlock, but remember the Scripture manner, which calls persons only betrothed husband and wife.
Gennadius, de Eccles. Dog., 2: The Son of God was born of human flesh, that is of Mary, and not by man after the way of nature, as Ebion says; and accordingly it is significantly (p. 35) added, "Of her Jesus was born."
Aug., De Haeres, ii: This is said against Valentinus, who taught that Christ took nothing of the Virgin Mary, but passed through her as through a channel or pipe.
Wherefore it pleased Him to take flesh of the womb of a woman, is known in His own secret counsels; whether that He might confer honour on both sexes alike, by taking the form of a man, and being born of a woman, or from some other reason which I would not hastily pronounce on.
Hilary, Quaest. Nov. et Vet. Test. q. 49: What God conveyed by the anointing of oil to those who were anointed to be kings, this the Holy Spirit conveyed upon the man Christ, adding thereto the expiation; wherefore when born He was called Christ; and thus it proceeds, "who is called Christ."
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 1: It was not lawful that he should think to separate himself from Mary for this, that she brought forth Christ as yet a Virgin. And herein may the faithful gather, that if they be married, and preserve strict continence on both sides, yet may their wedlock hold with union of love only, without carnal; for here they see that it is possible that a son be born without carnal embrace.
Aug., de Nupt. et Concup., i, 11: In Christ's parents was accomplished every good benefit of marriage, fidelity, progeny, and a sacrament. The progeny we see in the Lord Himself; fidelity, for there was no adultery; sacrament, for there was no divorce.
Jerome: The attentive reader may ask, Seeing Joseph was not the father of the Lord and Saviour, how does his genealogy traced down to him in order pertain to the Lord? We will answer, first, that it is not the practice of Scripture to follow the female line in its genealogies; secondly, that Joseph and Mary were of the same tribe, and that he was thence compelled to take her to wife as a kinsman, and they were enrolled together at Bethlehem, as being come of one stock.
Augustine: Also, the line of descent ought to be brought down to Joseph, that in wedlock no wrong might be done to the male sex, as the more worthy, providing only nothing was taken away from the truth; because Mary was of the seed of David.
Hence then we believe that Mary was in the line of David; namely, because we believe the Scripture which affirms two things, both that Christ was of the seed of David according to the flesh, and that He should be conceived of Mary not by knowledge of man, but as yet a virgin.
The Council of Ephesus: Herein we (p. 36) must beware of the error of Nestorius, who thus speaks; "When Divine Scripture is to speak either of the birth of Christ which is of the Virgin Mary, or His death, it is never seen to put God, but either, Christ, or Son, or Lord; since these three are significative of the two natures, sometimes of this, sometimes of that, and sometimes of both this and that together. And here is a testimony to this, 'Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.' For God the Word needed not a second birth of a woman."
Pseudo-Aug., Vigil. Cont. Fel. 12. ap. Aug. t. 8. p. 45: But not one was the Son of God, and another the son of a man; but the same Christ was the son of both God and man. And as in one man, the soul is one and the body is another, so in the mediator between God and man, the Son of God was one, and the son of man another; yet of both together was one Christ the Lord. Two in distinction of substance, one in unity of Person.
But the heretic objects; "how can you teach Him to have been born in time whom you say was before coeternal with His Father? For birth is as it were a motion of a thing not in being, before it be born, bringing about this, that by benefit of birth it come into being. Whence it is concluded, that He who was in being cannot be born; if He could be born He was not in being."
(To this it is replied by Augustine:) Let us imagine, as many will have it, that the universe has a general soul, which by some unspeakable motion gives life to all seeds, so as that itself is not mixed up with the things it produces. When this then passes forth into the womb to form passible matter to its own uses, it makes one with itself the person of that thing which it is clear has not the same substance.
And thus, the soul being active and the matter passive, of two substances is made one man, the soul and the flesh being distinct; thus it is that our confession is, that that soul is born of the womb which in coming to the womb we say conferred life on the thing conceived. He, I say, is said to be born of His mother, who shaped to Himself a body out of her, in which He might be born; not as though before He was born, His mother might, as far as pertained to Him, not have been in being. In like manner, yea in a manner yet more incomprehensible and sublime, the Son of God was born, by taking on Him perfect manhood of his Mother. He (p. 37) who by his singular almighty power is the cause of their being born to all things that are born.
3117 (Mt 1,17)
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having enumerated the generations from Abraham to Christ, he divides them into three divisions of fourteen generations, because three times at the end of fourteen generations the state of the people of the Jews was changed. From Abraham to David they were under Judges; from David to the carrying away into Babylon under Kings; from the carrying away to Christ under the High Priests.
What he would shew then is this: like as ever at the end of fourteen generations the state of men has changed, so there being fourteen generations completed from the carrying away to Christ, it must needs be that the state of men be changed by Christ. And so since Christ all the Gentiles have been made under one Christ Judge, King, and Priest. And for that Judges, Kings, and Priests prefigured Christ's dignity, their beginnings were always in a type of Christ; the first of the Judges was Joshua the son of Nave; the first of the Kings, David; the first of the Priests, Jesus son of Josedech. That this was typical of Christ none doubts.
Chrys.: Or he divided the whole genealogy into three parts to shew that not even by the change of their government were they made better, but under Judges, Kings, High Priests, and Priests, held the same evil course. For which cause also he mentions the captivity in Babylon, shewing that neither by this were they corrected. But the going down into Egypt is not mentioned, because they were not still in terror of the Egyptians as they were of the Assyrians or Parthians; and because that was a remote, but this a recent event; and because they had not been carried thither for sin as they had to Babylon.
Ambrose, in Luc., c. 3: Let us not think this is to be overlooked, that though there were seventeen Kings of Judaea between David and Jeconiah, Matthew only recounts fourteen. We must observe that there (p. 38) might be many more successions to the throne than generations of men; for some may live longer and beget children later; or might be altogether without seed; thence the number of Kings and of generations would not coincide.
Gloss: Or we may say that there are three Kings overlooked, as was said above.
Ambrose: Again, from Jeconiah to Joseph are computed twelve generations; yet he afterwards calls these also fourteen. But if you look attentively, you will be able to discover the method by which fourteen are reckoned here. Twelve are reckoned including Joseph, and Christ is the thirteenth; and history declares that there were two Joakims, that is two Jeconiahs, father and son. The Evangelist has not passed over either of these, but has named them both. Thus, adding the younger Jeconiah, fourteen generations are computed.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, the same Jeconiah is counted twice in the Gospel, once before the carrying away, and again after the carrying away. For this Jeconiah being one person had two different conditions; before the carrying away he was King, as being made King by the people of God; but he became a private man at the carrying away; hence he is reckoned once among the Kings before the carrying away; and after the carrying away once among private men.
Aug., de Cons. Evan, ii, 4: Or, one of Christ's forefathers is counted twice, because in him, Jeconiah to wit, there was made a passing off to strange nations since he was carried to Babylon. Wherever a series turns out of the right line to go in any other direction there is an angle made, and that part that is in the angle is reckoned twice. Thus here is a figure of Christ, who passes from the circumcision to the uncircumcision, and is made a cornerstone.
Remig.: He made fourteen generations, because the ten denotes the Decalogue, and the four the four books of the Gospel; whence this shews the agreement of the Law and the Gospel. And he put the fourteen three times over, that he might shew that the perfection of law, prophecy, and grace, consists in the faith of the Holy Trinity.
Gloss: Or in this number is signified the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit. The number is made up of seven, doubled, to shew that the grace of the Holy Spirit is needed both for soul and body to salvation.
Also the genealogy is divided into three portions of fourteen thus. The first from Abraham (p. 39) to David, so as that David is included in it; the second from David to the carrying away, in which David is not included, but the carrying away is included; the third is from the carrying away to Christ, in which if we say that Jeconiah is included, then the carrying away is included. In the first are denoted the men before the Law, in which you will find some of the men of the Law of nature, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all as far as Solomon.
In the second are denoted the men under the Law; for all who are included in it were under the Law.
In the third are found the men of grace; for it is finished in Christ, who was the giver of grace; and because in it was the deliverance from Babylon, signifying the deliverance from captivity that was made by Christ.
Aug.: After having divided the whole into three periods of fourteen generations, he does not sum them all up and say, The sum of the whole is forty and two; because one of those fathers, that is Jeconiah, is reckoned twice; so that they do not amount to forty-two, as three times fourteen does, but because one is reckoned twice over, there are only forty-one generations.
Matthew therefore, whose purpose was to draw out Christ's kingly character, counts forty successions in the genealogy exclusive of Christ. This number denotes the time for which we must be governed by Christ in this world, according to that painful discipline which is signified by the iron rod of which it is written in the Psalms, "Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron."
That this number should denote this our temporal life, a reason offers at hand, in this, that the seasons of the year are four, and that the world itself is bounded by four sides, the east, the west, the north, and the south. But forty contains ten four times. Moreover, ten itself is made up by a number proceeding from one to four.
Gloss: Or, the ten refers to the decalogue, the four to this life present, which passes through four seasons; or by the ten is meant the Old Testament, by the four the New.
Remig.: But if any, maintaining that it is not the same Jeconiah, but two different persons, make the number forty and two, we then shall say that the Holy Church is signified; for this number is the product of seven, and six; (for six times seven make forty-two;) the six denotes labour, and the seven rest.
3118 (Mt 1,18)
(p. 40) Pseudo-Chrys.: Having said above, "And Jacob begat Joseph," to whom Mary being espoused bare Jesus; that none who heard should suppose that His birth was as that of any of the forementioned fathers, he cuts off the thread of his narrative, saying, "But Christ's generation was thus." As though he were to say, The generation of all these fathers was as I have related it; but Christ's was not so, but as follows, "His mother Mary being espoused."
Chrys.: He announces that he is to relate the manner of the generation, shewing therein that he is about to speak some new thing; that you may not suppose when you hear mention of Mary's husband, that Christ was born by the law of nature.
Remig.: Yet it might be referred to the foregoing in this way, The generation of Christ was, as I have related, thus, "Abraham begat Isaac."
Jerome: But why is He conceived not of a Virgin merely, but of a Virgin espoused? First, that by the descent of Joseph, Mary's family might be made known; secondly, that she might not be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress; thirdly, that in her flight into Egypt she might have the comfort of a husband.
The Martyr Ignatius (margin note: vid. Ign. ad Ep 19) adds yet a fourth reason, namely, that His birth might be hid from the Devil, looking for Him to be born of a wife and not of a virgin.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore both espoused and yet remaining at home; for as in her who should conceive in the house of her husband, is understood natural conception; so in her who conceives before she be taken to her husband, there is suspicion of infidelity.
Jerome, Hieron. cont. Helvid. in princ.: It is to be known, that Helvidius, a certain turbulent man, having got matter of disputation, takes in hand to blaspheme against the Mother of God. His first proposition was, Matthew begins thus, "When she was espoused." Behold, he says, you have her espoused, but as ye say, not yet committed; but surely not espoused for any other reason than as being to be married.
Origen: She was indeed espoused to Joseph, but not united in wedlock; that is to say, His mother immaculate, His mother incorrupt, (p. 41) His mother pure. His mother! Whose mother? The mother of God, of the Only-begotten, of the Lord, of the King, of the Maker of all things, and the Redeemer of all.
Cyril, Epist. ad Monach. Egypt. (Ep. p. 7): What will any one see in the Blessed Virgin more than in other mothers, if she be not the mother of God, but of Christ, or the Lord, as Nestorius says? For it would not be absurd should any one please to name the mother of any anointed person, the mother of Christ. Yet she alone and more than they is called the Holy Virgin, and the mother of Christ. For she bare not a simple man as ye say, but rather the Word incarnate, and made man of God the Father.
But perhaps you say, Tell me, do you think the Virgin was made the mother of His divinity? To this also we say, that the Word was born of the very substance of God Himself, and without beginning of time always coexisted with the Father.
But in these last times when He was made flesh, that is united to flesh, having a rational soul, He is said to be born of a woman after the flesh. Yet is this sacrament in a manner brought out like to birth among us; for the mothers of earthly children impart to their nature that flesh that is to be perfected by degrees in the human form; but God sends the life into the animal. But though these are mothers only of the earthly bodies, yet when they bear children, they are said to bear the whole animal, and not a part of it only.
Such do we see to have been done in the birth of Emmanuel; the Word of God was born of the substance of His Father; but because He took on Him flesh, making it His own, it is necessary to confess that He was born of a woman according to the flesh. Where seeing He is truly God, how shall any one doubt to call the Holy Virgin the Mother of God?
Chrysologus, Serm. 148: If you are not confounded when you hear of the birth of God, let not His conception disturb you, seeing the pure virginity of the mother removes all that might shock human reverence. And what offence against our awe and reverence is there, when the Deity entered into union with purity that was always dear to Him, where an Angel is mediator, faith is bridesmaid, where chastity is the giving away, virtue the gift, conscience the judge, God the cause; where the conception is inviolateness, the birth virginity, and the mother a virgin. (ed. note: The allusions here made may be illustrated by a passage in the Ad Uxor. ii. 1, of Tertullian, who, with reference to the civil usages, speaks of "the (cont. p. 42) happiness of that Marriage, which the Church "brings about, (conciliat,)" the "Oblation" confirms, the Blessing "seals," the Angles "witness," and the Father "ratifies," In Chrysologus the Angel brings about, (interpres ost,) virtue is the oblation or bride's gift, and a pure conscience is the witness.)
Cyril, Epist. ad Joan. Antioch. (Ep. p. 107): But if (p. 42) we were to say that the holy Body of Christ came down from heaven, and was not made of His mother, as Valentinus does, in what sense could Mary be the Mother of God?
Gloss: The name of His Mother is added, "Mary."
Bede, in Luc., c. 3: Mary in interpreted, 'Star of the Sea,' after the Hebrew; 'Mistress,' after the Syriac; as she bare into the world the Light of salvation, and the Lord. (ed. note, r: their rebellion. S. Ambrose interprets it "God from my race," and "the bitterness of the sea." de Instit. Virg. 33. It is not necessary to give the origin of these various interpretations.)
Gloss: And to whom she was betrothed is shewn, Joseph.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Mary was therefore betrothed to a carpenter, because Christ the Spouse of the Church was to work the salvation of all men through the wood of the Cross.
Chrys.: What follows, "Before they came together," does not mean before she was brought to the bridegroom's house, for she was already within. For it was a frequent custom among the ancients to have their betrothed wives home to their house before marriage; as we see done now also, and as the sons-in-law of Lot were with him in the house.
Gloss: But the words denote carnal knowledge.
Pseudo-Chrys.: That He should not be born of passion, of flesh and blood, who was therefore born that He might take away all passion of flesh and blood.
Aug., de Nupt. et Concup., i, 12: There was no carnal knowledge in this wedlock, because in sinful flesh this could not be without carnal desire which came of sin, and which He would be without, who was to be without sin; and that hence He might teach us that all flesh which is born of sexual union is sinful flesh, seeing that Flesh alone was without sin, which was not so born.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. 122 et. al.: Christ was also born of a pure virgin, because it was not holy that virtue should be born of pleasure, chastity of self-indulgence, incorruption of corruption. Nor could He come from heaven but after some new manner, who came to destroy the ancient empire of death. Therefore she received the crown of virginity who bare the King of chastity. Farther, our Lord sought out for Himself a virgin abode, wherein to be received, that He might shew us that God ought to be borne in a chaste body.
Therefore He that wrote on tables of stone without an iron pen, the same wrought in Mary by the Holy (p. 43) Spirit; "She was found with child of the Holy Ghost."
Jerome: And found by none other than by Joseph, who knew all, as being her espoused husband.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For, as a not incredible account relates, Joseph was absent when the things were done which Luke writes. For it is not easy to suppose that the Angel came to Mary and said those words, and Mary made her answer when Joseph was present. And even if we suppose thus much to have been possible, yet it could not be that she should have gone into the hill country, and abode there three months when Joseph was present, because he must needs have enquired the causes of her departure and long stay. And so when after so many months he returned from abroad, he found her manifestly with child.
Chrys.: He says exactly "was found," for so we use to say of things not thought of. And that you should not molest the Evangelist by asking in what way was this birth of a virgin, he clears himself shortly, saying, "Of the Holy Ghost." As much as to say, it was the Holy Ghost that wrought this miracle. For neither Gabriel nor Matthew could say any futher.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Therefore the words, "Is of the Holy Ghost," were set down by the Evangelist, to the end, that when it was said that she was with child, all wrong suspicion should be removed from the minds of the hearers.
Pseudo-Aug. , Serm. 236 in App.: But not, as some impiously think, are we to suppose, that the Holy Spirit was as seed, but we say that He wrought with the power and might of a Creator. (ed. note: And thus S. Hilary speaks of the sementiva ineuntis Spiritus "efficacia." de Trin. ii, 26)
Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct., ii, 5: That which is of any thing is either of the substance or the power of that thing; of the substance, as the Son who is of the Father; of the power, as all things are of God, even as Mary was with Child of the Holy Spirit.
Aug., Enchir. c. 40: Furthermore, this manner in which Christ was born of the Holy Spirit suggests to us the grace of God, by which man without any previous merits, in the very beginning of his nature, was united with the Word of God into so great unity of person, that he was also made son of God. (margin note: Aug., Enchir. c. 38)
But inasmuch as the whole Trinity wrought to make this creature which was conceived of the Virgin, though pertaining only to the person of the Son, (for the works of the Trinity are indivisible,) why is (p. 44) the Holy Spirit only named in this work? Must we always, when one of the Three is named in any work, understand that the whole Trinity worked in that?
Jerome, Hieron. Cont. Helvid. in princip.: But says Helvidius; Neither would the Evangelist have said, "Before they came together," if they were not to come together afterwards; as none would say, Before dinner, where there was to be no dinner. As if one should say, Before I dined in harbour, I set sail for Africa, would this have no meaning in it, unless he were at some times or other to dine in the harbour?
Surely we must either understand it thus, - that "before," though it often implies something to follow, yet often is said of things that follow only in thought; and it is not necessary that the things so thought of should take place, for that something else has happened to prevent them from taking place.
Jerome: Therefore it by no means follows that they did come together afterwards; Scripture however shews not what did happen.
Remig.: Or the word "come together" may not mean carnal knowledge, but may refer to the time of the nuptials, when she who was betrothed begins to be wife. Thus, "before they came together," may mean before they solemnly celebrated the nuptial rites.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 5: How this was done Matthew omits to write, but Luke relates after the conception of John, "In the sixth month the Angel was sent;" and again, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee." This is what Matthew relates in these words, "She was found with child of the Holy Ghost." And it is no contradiction that Luke has described what Matthew omits; or again that Matthew relates what Luke has omitted; that namely which follows, from "Now Joseph her husband being a just man," to that place where it is said of the Magi, that "They returned into their own country another way."
If one desired to digest into one narrative the two accounts of Christ's birth, he would arrange thus; beginning with Matthew's words, "Now the birth of Christ was on this wise;" then taking up with Luke, from "There was in the days of Herod," (Lc 1,5) to, "Mary abode with her three months," and "returned to her house;" then taking up again Matthew, add, "She was found with child of the Holy Ghost." (Mt 1,10)
3119 (Mt 1,19)
(p. 45) Chrys.: The Evangelist having said that she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, and without knowledge of man, that you should not herein suspect Christ's disciple of inventing wonders in honour of his Master, brings forward Joseph confirming the history by his own share in it; "Now Joseph her husband, being a just man."
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. s. 195: Joseph, understanding that Mary was with child, is perplexed that it should be thus with her whom he had received from the temple of the Lord, and had not yet known, and resolved within himself, saying, What shall I do? Shall I proclaim it, or shall I overlook it? If I proclaim it, I am indeed not consenting to the adultery; but I am running into the guilt of cruelty, for by Moses' law she must be stoned. If I overlook it, I am consenting to the crime, and take my portion with the adulterers. Since then it is an evil to overlook the things, and worse to proclaim the adultery, I will put her away from being my wife.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: St. Matthew has beautifully taught how a righteous man ought to act, who has detected his wife's disgrace; so as at once to keep himself guiltless of her blood, and yet pure from her defilements; therefore it is he says, "Being a just man." Thus is preserved throughout in Joseph the gracious character of a righteous man, that his testimony may be the more approved; for, the tongue of the just speaketh the judgment of truth.
Jerome: But how is Joseph thus called, "just," when he is ready to hide his wife's sin? For the Law enacts, that not only the doers of evil, but they who are privy to any evil done, shall be held to be guilty.
Chrys.: But it should be known, that "just" here is used to denote one who is in all things virtuous. For there is a particular justice, namely, the being free from covetousness; and another universal virtue, in which sense Scripture generally uses the word justice. Therefore being "just," that is, kind, merciful, he "was minded to put away privily" her who according to the Law was liable not only to dismissal, but to death. But Joseph remitted both, as though living above the Law. For as the sun lightens up the world, (p. 46) before he shews his rays, so Christ before He was born caused many wonders to be seen.
Aug.: Otherwise; if you alone have knowledge of a sin that any has committed against you, and desire to accuse him thereof before men, you do not herein correct, but rather betray him. But Joseph, "being a just man," with great mercy spared his wife, in this great crime of which he suspected her. The seeming certainty of her unchastity tormented him, and yet because he alone knew of it, he was willing not to publish it, but to send her away privily; seeking rather the benefit than the punishment of the sinner.
Jerome: Or this may be considered a testimony to Mary, that Joseph, confident in her purity, and wondering at what had happened, covered in silence that mystery which he could not explain.
Rabanus: He beheld her to be with child, whom he knew to be chaste; and because he had read, "There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse," of which he knew that Mary was come (ed. note: Jerome in loc. Ambros. de Spir. S. ii. 5. and Pseudo-Augustine (t. vi. p. 570.) so apply these words, considering Christ the 'Branch' or flower (flos) which is spoken of in the clause following. Cyril Alex. et Theod. in loc. explain it of Christ.), and had also read, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive," he did not doubt that this prophecy should be fulfilled in her.
Origen: But if he had no suspicion of her, how could he be a just man, and yet seek to put her away, being immaculate? He sought to put her away, because he saw in her a great sacrament, to approach which he thought himself unworthy.
Gloss, ap Anselm: Or, in seeking to put her away, he was just; in that he sought it privily, is shewn his mercy, defending her from disgrace; "Being a just man, he was minded to put her away;" and being unwilling to expose her in public, and so to disgrace her, he sought to do it privily.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 1: But as no one puts away what he has not received; in that he was minded to put her away, he admits to have received her.
Gloss, part ap. Anselm, part in Ordinaria: Or, being unwilling to bring her home to his house to live with him for ever, "he was minded to put her away privily;" that is, to change the time of their marriage. For that is true virtue, when neither mercy is observed without justice, nor justice without mercy; both which vanish when severed one from the other.
Or he was just because of his faith, in that (p. 47) he believed that Christ should be born of a virgin; wherefore he wished to humble himself before so great a favour.
Golden Chain MT-MK 3116