Chrysostom on Acts
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In the preparation of this volume of Chrysostom’s Homilies on Acts and Romans, the effort has been to improve the Oxford edition by some changes and corrections, and by the addition of critical and explanatory notes. The translation remains substantially unchanged. Frequent minor changes have, however, been made in phraseology, where it has seemed to me that the sense could thereby be made plainer. Archaic and obsolescent words or expressions have often been replaced by more idiomatic modern language. In Biblical quotations where the translation was an inaccurate rendering of the original, I have substituted either the Revised Version or a translation conformed to the recent critical texts. A considerable number of errors in the English edition have been corrected. The imperfect state of the original text of the Homilies on Ac is a serious embarrassment, alike, to translator and editor, in this part of the work. Often the reports of the discourses are in hopeless confusion, and it is impossible to determine confidently the meaning of what has been reported, much less of what the preacher originally said. Happily this remark applies to only a part of the exposition.
The notes which I have added are intended to bring modern criticism into relation with the statements of Chrysostom upon points of special difficulty or importance. Sometimes they are added by way of correction to what is stated in the text. More frequently however, they are intended to present briefly the opinions of critical interpreters upon disputed or doubtful points, and thus to supplement for the modern reader the practical expositions of these books of the New Testament. At other times it has seemed desirable to explain matters which are but lightly touched upon in the text or passed over without explanation or notice. There is frequent occasion to observe how the spiritual insight of the great preacher has led him, in the case of difficult passages, to a right discernment of the same sense which critical exegesis discovers. I trust that these brief annotations, touching upon a great variety of points, may contribute somewhat to the usefulness of the edition.
These notes are distinguished from those of the English editors by having appended to them the initials, G. B. S.
The annotations of the English editors which are so copious upon the Homilies on Ac have been, with trifling exceptions, retained and the references have been, so far as possible, adapted to the American edition. It is obvious, however, that this adaptation could not be perfectly made because but few of the volumes of the American edition of the Homilies had appeared when this volume was prepared for the press. References to English editions of works not yet accessible in an American edition were, of necessity, left unchanged. Some small-portions of the work of the English editors which seemed to have no present value have been omitted. It is not improbable that still other omissions might well have been made, but the editor has been slow to follow his own judgment in this particular in dealing with the conscientious and painstaking labors of the Oxford editors.
It will be noticed that the English notes to the Homilies on Romans are few and brief. These have been retained with such adaptations as could be made, and the American editor has added a considerable number of statements of critical opinions, together with such explanations of the course of thought and connections of ideas in difficult passages of the Epistle, as seemed desirable and useful. In the Homilies on Romans the state of the text is such and the work of the translators so well performed, that one is rarely at a loss to perceive the author’s meaning; the nature and limitations of his exposition, however, seem to call for occasional supplementing and correction.
The indexes have been carefully revised. Topics which seemed unimportant and texts which are merely quoted or alluded to, without being explained, have often been omitted. By this process of revision the size of the indexes has been considerably reduced. It is hoped that they will be found sufficient to guide those who consult the volume to what is said upon the main themes which find place in it.
George B. Stevens.
Yale University, New Haven, March, 1889.
St. Jn Chrysostom
2 Archbishop of Constantinople
Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles
Translated, with Notes and Indices, by Ap J. Walker, M. A., of Brasenose College; Ap J. Sheppard, M. A., of Oriel College, Oxford and Rev. H. Browne, M. A.,of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Revised, with Notes, by George B. Stevens, Ph.D., D.D.,professor in Yale University.
Preface to Part I. Of the Oxford Edition.
The present volume of St. Chrysostom on the Ac of the Apostles has been delayed for some time by the difficulty of fixing the Text. Some farther account of the grounds on which this has been done will be given in the Preface to Part II. (vid). infra.) It may suffice for the present to say, that these Homilies appear to have been less carefully reported than usual, and published without a revision by the Author. The printed text was formed for the most part (Erasmus’s Latin Version entirely) from a manuscript, said to be of the tenth century, in which these Homilies are given in a very different form, evidently the work of a later hand, and intended to make them read more smoothly. The earlier text, shown to be such by internal evidence, and alone followed in the Catena and all other ancient extracts and compilations, is preserved in other mss. and appears to have been in general disregarded by former editors, from its difficulty. The Translation was originally made from Savile’s Text, by the Ap J). Walker, M.A. of Brasenose College, and the Ap J). Sheppard, M.A. of Oriel College, Oxford. The Editors are much indebted to the Ap H). Browne, M.A. of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, who has restored the Text and corrected the Translation accordingly, the difference being frequently so great as to require a passage to be translated anew. He has likewise undertaken to prepare the Greek Text for publication, and to supply the prefatory matter. Many passages will still be found imperfect and unsatisfactory, but it has been thought better to leave them evidently so, than to resort to uncertain conjectures. A few conjectural emendations, however, have been admitted intothe Text, and many more suggested.
Oxford, Feast of St. James. 1851.
————————————3 The manifestly imperfect condition in which these Homilies have come to us may partly be accounted for by the circumstances of the times in which they were preached. It was in the Easter weeks of the third year of his residence at Constantinople as Archbishop, that St. Chrysostom began this course of Sermons; and during all the remaining part of that year (a.d. 400), the Capital of the East was kept in constant trouble and alarm by the revolt of Gainas and the Goths. Moreover, scarcely had the preaching commenced, when the complaints from the Churches of Asia Minor were brought (May, 400) before the Metropolitan See, which business during many months painfully occupied the Archbishop’s thoughts, and eventually demanded his presence at Ephesus. Few of St. Chrysostom’s Sermons were originally prepared in writing: certainly these were not: and as certainly the text, drawn up by no skilful hand from notes taken during the preaching, can never have been revised by the Preacher himself. This was a serious disadvantage: for these Homilies, if only from the novelty of the subject, stood especially in need of revision). The Ac of the Apostles, though read in the churches in the season between Easter and Pentecost, were seldom preached upon; and we find St. Chrysostom complaining in the opening of these Homilies, as also on an earlier occasion at Antioch, that this portion of the Scriptures was not so much read as it ought to be, nay, that there were “many to whom this Book was not even known.” (p. I and note l). Hence it is not surprising, if the Preacher was not always understood; and, in fact, the attentive reader will not unfrequently see reason to suspect, that the scribe (or “reporter,”) from whose notes the text was formed, did not rightly apprehend the sense of what he heard. Nor has the transcriber (or “redactor”) remedied the defects, whatever they may have been, of the original report. On the contrary, in other ways, of which we shall have to speak presently, he has often perplexed the sense, and sometimes entirely misrepresented the Preacher’s meaning.
The earliest mention of our Homilies is by Cassiodorus (a.d. 514), who relates, that with the assistance of friends he caused “the fifty-five Homilies on the Acts, by St. John, Bishop of Constantinople,” to be translated into Latin, Opp. t. ii. p. 544. This version unfortunately is lost. In the Canons of the Fifth and Sixth General Councils, St. Chrysostom’s view of the Seven Deacons in the Acts is cited at length from Hom. 14,(p. 91). Jn of Damascus, de Fid. Orthod. iii. 15, (a.d. 730), cites as from the second of these Homilies a passage which appears in the first, being the comment on 1,9. Photius has an entry in the Bibliotheca relating to them, but by some mistake the number is given as fifty. Of the Catena on the Acts, compiled by a certain Andreas Presbyter of unknown age and country, but not later than the tenth century (for there is a manuscript of that age), a large proportion is taken from St. Chrysostom: and the Commentaries of Oecumenius (990) and Theophylact (1077) are in many places formed from the Catena: as also are the Scholia in mss. of the Acts. To these may be added the Florilegium or Eclogoe, a compilation the date of which is unknown, but certainly riot later than the first half of the eleventh century. The Author of this work seems to have resorted to our Homilies once only (Hom. 19,p 139): but there, he, as all the rest who have been mentioned, used the text which in the notes we call the old text, and from which the present l’ranslation is made.
For there is another and a widely different text, by which alone, unfortunately, these Homilies have been known in modern times, except by the few who have had access to Manuscripts. In the National Library at Paris there is (No. 729) a manuscript (in our notes marked E, in Par. Ben. 2, D), which the Parisian Editor describes thus: Quorum (of six mss. on the Acts) antiquissimus, olim Colb. nunc Reg. 729, soec. X., nitide et accurate scriptus, desinit in hom. quinquagesima. (This is a mistake; it reaches to the end of the 55th). Of the other mss. he assigns A). b.c. (No. 725, 6, 7), to the twelfth, fourteenth and thirteenth centuries respectively. These, and a copy in the Library of New College (N), contain the old text. Two others D, F, (728, and 73 suppl). exhibit a text compiled from old and new, and with alterations peculiar to itself. of the six Parisian mss. a full collation was made for “the Library of the Fathers:” of N we have at present but a partial collation.
The Ms. E. came into the hands of Erasmus, and from it he made his Latin version, down to the end of Hom. 53,and there for some reason which is not explained he goes off to the other text, of which he has nowhere taken notice in the preceding Homilies. Of this work he says in an Epistle to Tonstal, Bishop of Durham: (Ex Chrysostomo in Acta verteram homilias tres; cujus operaae me poehituit, cum nihil hic viderem Chrysostomi. Tuo tamen hortatu recepi codicem in manum; sed nihil unquam legi indoctius. Ebrius ac stertens scriberera meliora. Habet frigidos sensiculos nec cos satis commode potest explicare. In his Preface, however, he considerably abates the severity of this censure, and contents himself with hinting a doubt whether the work be St. Chrysostom’s: quod stylus concisum quiddam et abruptum habeat, id quad a phrasi Chrysostomi videtur alienum: si docti tamen censebunt opus Chrysostomo dignum, libenter hoc ego quicquid est suspicionis ponam.
Of the Greek text, the editio princeps, that of Commelin, professes to be formed from manuscripts Biblioth. Palatinae, Bavarae, Augustanae, Pistorianae, of which at present we are unable to give any account. Perhaps Commelin’s leading Ms. was of a composite order: such however is his text; for it occasionally deserts E, to which, as a general rule, it closely adheres. This was inconsistent, for the circumstances of the two texts are such, that one or other ought to be followed throughout. There can be no valid reason for alternating between the two: for they are not different reports of the same matter, such that between them one might hope to approximate to the truth: the one is a refashionment of the other, and where it differs, it does so, not because its framer had a more correct report of the Sermons, but because he wished to improve upon the materials which lay before him in the other text.
Commelin’s text, in substance, is retained in all the subsequent editions. Savile, from the New College Ms. has corrected words and phrases here and there, but in the main his text is still that of the editio princeps. (He describes it as composed from the New College Ms., another belonging to J. A. de Thou (Thuanus), et tertio non ita pridem excuso in Germania.) The edition of Morel (which commonly goes under the name of Fronto Ducaeus) repeats Commelin, but without Savile’s emendations: and the Benedictines (here not Mont-faucon), though they profess to have collated the Parisian mss., have reprinted with but slight improvements, and with not a few disimprovements, the text of Morel. In the Parisian reprint of the Benedictine Chrysostom (Par. Ben. 2), the Editor has occasionally, but not constantly, recurred to the manuscripts, rarely gives the preference to the text of A). b.c., and constantly assumes the inferiority of those copies, in contents and authenticity as well as in antiquity, to the manuscript (E), which furnished the Latin version of Erasmus, and in substance, as we have explained, the printed text of the original.
Had the Editors collated the manuscript copies of these Homilies—a labor from which they, or those whom they employed, seem to have shrunk—they would probably have reversed their estimate of the relative value of the two recensions. The general superiority of the other text in point of sense and coherence, notwithstanding its frequent abruptness and uncouthness, is too evident to be called in question. Had they also collated the Catena, Oecumenius, Theophylact, and the Scholia, they would have found the external testimony to be coincident with the internal evidence to the higher antiquity as well as greater authenticity of the text which (for the most part unknown) they rejected. It would have been seen that this, besides being, with all its faults, incomparably better, was the older of the two; and that the other could claim no higher antiquity than that of the manuscript (said to be of the tenth century) in which it appears: that it is the work of some scribe, who, offended by the manifest abruptness and ruggedness of the earlier text, set himself to smooth out the difficulties, and to make it read more easily. For this is clearly the true state of the case. With this view, the scribe sometimes alters words and phrases, sometimes transposes: often omits, where he found something that he did not understand, oftener still amplifies, or rather dilutes: and interpolates matter which sometimes is demonstrably borrowed with little disguise from the Catena (see (p. 113, note 1; 279, note 3; 280, note 2); or which, when it is his own, is little worth. In short, he has thought more of sound than of sense, and if he could make a passage run smoothly to the ear, has given himself little concern whether St. Chrysostom was likely to have so thought, or so expressed himself. The notes appended to our Translation will abundantly substantiate this censure. To have noted all the variations, either of the printed text, or of E alone, would have been a task as unprofitable as it was wearisome: perhaps as it is, we have given more than enough to vindicate the claims of the older text. If any one desires larger materials for comparison, Erasmus’ Latin version, which, except in the two last Homilies, keeps close to E, will show that the text which we represent in our Translation is, with all its imperfections, incomparably the better of the two. Even if it were otherwise and were the alterations not, as they mostly are, disfigurements, but, considered in themselves, decided improve. ments, still our duty was plain: the text which came to us accredited by all the testimony known to be extant, we were not at liberty to reject in favor of an alien recension, unknown to the Ancients, and, as far as our evidence goes, unheard of before the tenth century. Therefore, in forming the text for this Translation we have entirely dismissed E, except where it has preserved readings which came strictly under the description of “various readings.”
But while confining ourselves to that older text, we were not to leave unnoticed its more patent defects and errors. We could not but perceive, that we had before us an unrevised report of St. Chrysostom’s Sermons, which, especially in the Expositions, was frequently imperfect—sometimes, indeed, little more than a set of rough notes thrown together, with, apparently, little or no attempt at arrangement. So far as this imperfection was caused by the reporter’s negligence or incapacity, there was no remedy: and leaving the matter as we found it, or, at most, inserting in the text the marks of a lacuna, we have only ventured, in the notes, to surmise what may have been the general purport of St. Chrysostom’s remarks. In other places, where the defects of our sources seemed to be rather chargeable upon the redactor, we have sought to apply a remedy, sometimes, but rarely, by conjectural emendation; very often by inserting portions of sacred text or other connecting matter in , and also by transposing parts which had fallen out of their true order. For it seems that the original transcript from the reporter’s notes was defective in these two regards. (1) The reporter would frequently omit to note in his tablets the keimenon or some other text of Scripture, or would indicate it in the shortest possible way by a word or two at the beginning and ending of the passage, intending to insert it afterwards at his leisure. It appears, however, that in many places this was either not done at all, or done in the wrong place. Hence where the text seemed incurably defective or perplexed, we have often been able to restore coherency by the simple expedient of inserting texts which were omitted, or else, by removing the texts altogether, and redistributing them among the comments. Almost any page of the Translation, especially in the Recapitulations, will illustrate this remark.
(2) It often happens, that the order of the comments both in the first and in the second exposition (or recapitulation), does not follow the order of the texts. Of course the Preacher might be supposed to have sometimes returned upon his own steps, but it was scarcely conceivable that St. Chrysostom should have delivered an Exposition perplexed, as we often found it, by disjointed remarks thrown together without the slightest method. It was necessary therefore to consider whether it might not be possible to educe something like connected exposition, by assuming that the reporter’s notes had been transcribed from his tablets in a wrong order. Where it could be seen that one sentence or portion was given as comment on such a verse, another on some other verse, and so on, some clue to the true order was given us in the sequence of the texts themselves. Even so, the difficulties which beset this part of our task were greater than can be readily estimated by any one who has not tried it. Sometimes the complication resisted all attempts at disentanglement. We are far from supposing that we have done all that might have been done in this way: but it is hoped that the labor which has been bestowed has not been altogether wasted, and that the restoration will carry with it its own evidence. And as in these attempts we have indicated by letters the order in which the trajected parts lie in the manuscripts, the reader in every case has the means of forming his own judgment. In the first seventeen Homilies, we have only now and then resorted to this method: not because it was less needed there, but because we had not then so clearly perceived what was the state of the case, and what was practicable in this way. The eighteenth furnishes a remarkable instance, pp. 116–120. Let any one read it in the order denoted by the letters, i.e. the six parts marked (a) consecutively, then the seven parts marked (b), inserting in the third of the latter (see (p. 116, note 3), the comment on 5,25, from page 117, (“And they when they had testified,” etc., to “when the Samaritans believed,”) and he will have the entire “recapitulation” or second exposition of the history of the Samaritans and Simon Magus as it appears in the mss.—which he will plainly perceive could not have proceeded in that form from St. Chrysostom. The same matter, read as we have arranged it, will be found to form a continuous exposition, not indeed perfect, for the dislocated state into which it had fallen seems to have led to further corruptions on the part of the scribes: but at any rate coherent, and with the parts fitting into each other. Moreover, if the fourteen parts, as here arranged, be numbered 1. 2. 3. etc., it will be seen that the order in which they lie in the mss. is 1. 3. 5: 8. 10. 12: 2. 4. 6: 14: 7. 9. 11. 13., whence it seems that the derangement proceeded by some kind of method. The like was often found to be the case in subsequent instances. In p. 229, the trajection is 1. 3. 5. 7. 9. 11. 13:2. 4. 6. 8. 10. 12: i.e., the transcriber missed the alternate portions, and brought them all together at the end. In p. 229 (before the series just noticed), and 260, it is 3. 2. 1., and in 170, 4. 3. 2. 1., 1,e. three, and four, parts read in reverse order. In a great number of instances the transposition is only of two parts, 2. 1: sometimes repeated as in 235, 2. 1., 1: 2. 1: 234, 2. 1: 1: 2. 1: 2. 1: 196, 2. 1: 1: 2. 1: 1: 2. 1: 1: 2). 1. A form of frequent occurrence is 2. 4., 1. 3., as in 188, 220, 225, 247; and combined with others as in 213, 2. 4. 1. 3. 2. 1: in 275, 2. 1: 1: 2. 4. 1. 3. and 183, 2. 1: 1: 2. 4. 1. 3: 2. 1. There is the like regularity in the scheme 2. 1. 4. 3., p. 125; and 3. 1. 4. 2. p. 216, 301. In the last Homily, which is extremely confused, the trajection seems to yield this very regular scheme, 2. 4. 6. 1. 3. 5: 1: 5. 3. 1. 6. 4). 2. In other instances where the trajection is less regular, or does not seem to follow a rule, as in 151, 4. 1. 3. 2: 152, 3. 2. 4. 1: 242, 4. 6. 1. 3. 5. 7. 2. 8: 250, 2. 1. 4. 8. 5. 3. 6. 9. 7. and in 298, 316, 321 (on which three see the notes), the transcriber may have gone wrong on other grounds, and not, as in the generality of instances, from mistaking the order in which the reporter had set the matter on his tablets. The trajections we have attempted to remedy occur mostly in the expository parts. In the Ethica it often appeared to us, that the coherency might be greatly improved by transposition, but the evidence of the true order was more precarious here, than where the sequence of the texts furnished a clue; in these parts, therefore, we have rarely ventured upon applying this remedy.
In these ways it is hoped that something has been done towards presenting these Homilies in a form nearer to that in which they were delivered, than the form in which they are exhibited in the unadulterated manuscripts, much more in the printed editions. The task was arduous, and we are far from supposing that our labors have always been successful; but at least we have not spared pains and diligence. The Translation was a work only less difficult than the reconstruction of the text. Here again much indulgence is needed on the score of the difficulty of producing a version, which, while it represented the original with its roughnesses and defects, should not be altogether unreadable. We have attempted, however, to give faithfully, though not always literally, the sense, or what seemed to be the sense, of our materials.
As a commentary on the Ac of the Apostles, this Work stands alone among the writings of the first ten centuries. The Expositions of St. Clement of Alexandria (in the Hypotyposes), of Origen, of Diodorus of Tarsus, and St. Chrysostom’s teacher, Theodore of Mopsuestia, as well as of Ammonius and others whose materials are used in the Catena, have perished. Those who are acquainted with the characteristic qualities of St. Chrysostom’s exegesis, will perceive here also the same excellencies which mark his other expository works—especially the clear and full exposition of the historical sense, and the exact appreciation of the rhetorical momenta in the discourses of St. Peter, St. Stephen, St. James and St. Paul, as recorded in the Acts. Of the Ethica it is perhaps not too much to affirm, that not the most finished work of St. Chrysostom will be found to furnish more of instruction and interesting matter (apart from the expression) than will be found in these Homilies, on the religious and moral subjects of which they treat: for example, On the delay of Baptism, On spiritual indolence and excuses derived from the cessation of Miraculous Grace, On the nature and uses of Miracles, On Prayer, On the Study of the Scriptures, On Alms, On Anger and Gentleness, Against Oaths and Swearing, and many others. Nor does any work exhibit a livelier portraiture of the character and life of the great Preacher and Bishop, and of the manners of the times in which his lot was cast).
(Ac I. 1, 2.—“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, concerning all things which Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day on which, having given charge to the Apostles, whom He had chosen, by the Holy Spirit, He was taken up.”
To many persons this Book is so little known, both it and its author, that they are not even aware that there is such a book in existence.1 For this reason especially I have taken this narrative for my subject, that I may draw to it such as do not know it, and not let such a treasure as this remain hidden out of sight. For indeed it may profit us no less than even the Gospels; so replete is it with Christian wisdom and sound doctrine, especially in what is said concerning the Holy Ghost. Then let us not hastily pass by it, but examine it closely. Thus, the predictions which in the Gospels Christ utters, here we may see these actually come to pass; and note in the very facts the bright evidence of Truth which shines in them, and the mighty change which is taking place in the disciples now that the Spirit has come upon them. For example, they heard Christ say, “Whoso believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall hero” (Jn 14,12): and again, when He foretold to the disciples, that they should be brought before rulers and kings, and in their synagogues they should scourge them, and that they should suffer grievous things, and overcome all (Mt 10,18): and that the Gospel should be preached in all the world (Mt 24,14): now all this, how it came to pass exactly as it was said, may be seen in this Book, and more besides, which He told them while yet with them. Here again you will see the Apostles themselves, speeding their way as on wings over land and sea; and those same men, once so timorous and void of understanding, on the sudden become quite other than they were; men despising wealth, and raised above glory and passion and concupiscence, and in short all such affections: moreover, what unanimity there is among them now; nowhere any envying as there was before, nor any of the old hankering after the preeminence, but all virtue brought in them to its last finish, and shining through all, with surpassing lustre, that charity, concerning which the Lord had given so many charges saying, “In this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another.” (Jn 13,35). And then, besides, there are doctrines to be found here, which we could not have known so surely as we now do, if this Book had not existed, but the very crowning point of our salvation would be hidden, alike for practice of life and for doctrine.
The greater part, however, of this work is occupied with the acts of Paul, who “laboured more abundantly than they all.” (1Co 15,10). And the reason is, that the author of this Book, that is, the blessed Luke, was his companion: a man, whose high qualities, sufficiently visible in many other instances, are especially shown in his firm adherence to his Teacher, whom he constantly followed.2 Thus at a time when all had forsaken him, one gone into Galatia, another into Dalmatia, hear what he says of this disciple: “Only Lc is with me.” (2Tm 4,10). And giving the Corinthians a charge concerning him, he Says, “Whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the Churches.” (2Co 8,18). Again, when he says, “He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve,” and, “according to the Gospel which ye received” (1Co 15,5 1Co 15,1), he means the Gospel of this Luke.3 So that there can be no mistake in attributing this work to him: and when I say, to him, I mean, to Christ.4 And why then did he not relate every thing, seeing he was with Paul to the end? We may answer, that what is here written, was sufficient for those who would attend, and that the sacred writers ever addressed themselves to the matter of immediate importance, whatever it might be at the time it was no object with them to be writers of books: in fact, there are many things which they have delivered by unwritten tradition. Now while all that is contained in this Book is worthy of admiration, so is especially the way the Apostles have of coming down to the wants of their hearers: a condescension suggested by the Spirit who has so ordered it, that the subject on which they chiefly dwell is that which pertains to Christ as man. For so it is, that while they discourse so much about Christ, they have spoken but little concerning His Godhead; it was mostly of the Manhood that they discoursed, and of the Passion, and the Resurrection, and the Ascension. For the thing required in the first instance was this, that it should be believed that He was risen, and ascended into heaven. As then the point on which Christ himself most. insisted was, to have it known that He was come from the Father, so is it this writer’s principal object to declare, that Christ was risen from the dead, and was received up into Heaven, and that He went to God, and came from God. For, if the fact of His coming from God were not first believed, much more, with the Resurrection and Ascension added thereto, would the Jews have found the entire doctrine incredible. Wherefore gently and by degrees he leads them on to higher truths. Nay, at Athens Paul even calls Him man simply, without saying more (Ac 17,31). For if, when Christ Himself spoke of His equality with the Father, they often attempted to stone Him, and called Him a blasphemer for this reason, it was little to be expected that they would receive this doctrine from the fishermen, and that too, with the Cross coming before it.
But why speak of the Jews, seeing that even the disciples often upon hearing the more sublime doctrines were troubled and offended? Therefore also He told them, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (Jn 16,12). If those conld not, who had been so long time with Him, and had been admitted to so many secrets, and had seen so many wonders, how was it to be expected that men, but newly dragged away from altars, and idols, and sacrifices, and cats, and crocodiles (for such did the Gentiles worship), and from the rest of their evil ways, should all at once receive the more sublime matters of doctrine? And how in particular should Jews, hearing as they did every day of their lives, and having it ever sounded in their ears, “The Lord thy God is one Lord, and beside Him is none other” (Dt 6,4): who also had seen Him hanging nailed on the Cross, nay, had themselves crucified and buried Him, and not seen Him even risen: when they were told that this same person was God and equal with the Father, how should they, of all men, be otherwise than shocked and revolted? Therefore it is that gently and little by little they carry them on, with much consideration and forbearance letting themselves down to their low attainments, themselves the while enjoying in more plentiful measure the grace of the Spirit, and doing greater works in Christ’s name than Christ Himself did, that they may at once raise them up from their grovelling apprehensions, and confirm the saying, that Christ was raised from the dead. For this, in fact, is just what this Book is: a Demonstration of the Resurrection:5 6 this being once believed the rest would come in due course. The subject then and entire scope of this Book, in the main, is just what I have said. And now let us hear the Preface itself.
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” (v. 1) Why does he put him in mind of the Gospel? To intimate how strictly he may be depended upon. For at the outset of the former work he says, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order.” (Lc 1,3). Neither is he content with his own testimony-but refers the whole matter to the Apostles. saying, “Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” (Lc 1,2). Having then accredited his account in the former instance, he has no need to put forth his credentials afresh for this treatise, seeing his disciple has been once for all satisfied, and by the mention of that former work he has reminded him of the strict reliance to be placed in him for the truth. For if a person has shown himself competent and trustworthy to write of things which he has heard, and moreover has obtained our confidence, much more will he have a right to our confidence when he has composed an account, not of things which he has received from others, but of things which he has seen and heard. For thou didst receive what relates to Christ; much more wilt thou receive what concerns the Apostles.
What then, (it may be asked), is it a question only of history, with which the Holy Spirit has nothing to do? Not so. For, if “those delivered it unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word;” then, what he says, is theirs. And why did he not say, ‘As they who were counted worthy of the Holy Spirit delivered them unto us;’ but “Those who were eyewitnesses?” Because, in matter of belief, the very thing that gives one a right to be believed, is the having learned from eyewitnesses: whereas the other appears to foolish persons mere parade and pretension. And therefore John also speaks thus: “I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (Jn 1,34). And Christ expresses Himself in the same way to Nicodemus, while he was dull of apprehension, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and no one receiveth our witness.” (Jn 3,11). Accordingly, He gave them leave to rest their testimony in many particulars on the fact of their having seen them, when He said, “And do ye bear witness concerning Me, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.” (Jn 15,27). The Apostles themselves also often speak in a similar manner; “We are witnesses, and the Holy Spirit which God hath given to those that obey Him.” (Ac 2,32); and on a subsequent occasion, Peter, still giving assurance of the Resurrection, said, “Seeing we did eat and drink with Him.” (Ac 10,41). For they more readily received the testimony of persons who had been His companions, because the notion of the Spirit was as yet very much beyond them. Therefore Jn also at that time, in his Gospel, speaking of the blood and water, said, he himself saw it, making the fact of his having seen it equivalent, for them, to the highest testimony, although the witness of the Spirit is more certain than the evidence of sight, but not so with unbelievers. Now that Lc was a partaker of the Spirit, is abundantly clear, both from the miracles which even now take place; and from the fact that in those times even ordinary persons were gifted with the Holy Ghost; and again from the testimony of Paul, in these words, “Whose praise is in the Gospel” (2Co 8,18); and from the appointment to which he was chosen: for having said this, the Apostle adds, “But also appointed of the Churches to travel with us with this grace which is administered by us.”7
Now mark how unassuming he is. He does not say, The former Gospel which I preached, but, “The former treatise have I made;” accounting the title of Gospel to be too great for him; although it is on the score of this that the Apostle dignifies him: “Whose praise,” he says, “is in the Gospel.” But he himself modestly says, “The former treatise have I made—O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach:” not simply “of all,” but from the beginning to the end; “until the day,” he says, “in which He was taken up.” And yet Jn says, that it was not possible to write all: for “were they written, I suppose,” says he, “that even the world itself could not contain the books written.” (Jn 21,25). How then does the Evangelist here say, “Of all?” He does not say “all,” but “of all,” as much as to say, “in a summary way, and in the gross;” and “of all that is mainly and pressingly important.” Then he tells us in what sense he says all, when he adds, “Which Jesus began both to do and to teach;” meaning His miracles and teaching; and not only so, but implying that His doing was also a teaching.
But now consider the benevolent and Apostolic feelings of the writer: that for the sake of a single individual he took such pains as to write for him an entire Gospel. “That thou mightest have,” he says, “the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” (Lc 1,4). In truth, he had heard Christ say, “It is not the will of My Father that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mt 18,14). And why did he not make one book of it, to send to one man Theophilus, but has divided it into two subjects? For clearness, and to give the brother a pause for rest. Besides, the two treatises are distinct in their subject-matter.
But consider how Christ accredited his words by His deeds. Thus He saith, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Mt 11,29). He taught men to be poor,8 9 and exhibited this by His actions: “For the Son of Man,” He says, “hath not where to lay His head.” (Mt 8,20). Again, He charged men to love their enemies; and He taught the same lesson on the Cross, when He prayed for those who were crucifying Him. He said, “If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also” (Mt 5,40): now He not only gave His garments, but even His blood. In this way He bade others teach. Wherefore Paul also said, “So as ye have us for an example.” (Ph 3,17). For nothing is more frigid than a teacher who shows his philosophy only in words: this is to act the part not of a teacher, but of a hypocrite. Therefore the Apostles first taught by their conduct, and then by their words; nay rather they had no need of words, when their deeds spoke so loud. Nor is it wrong to speak of Christ’s Passion as action, for in suffering all He performed that great and wonderful act, by which He destroyed death, and effected all else that He did for us.
“Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments unto the Apostles whom He had chosen. After He had given commandments through the Spirit” (v. 2); i.e. they were spiritual words that He spake unto them, nothing human; either this is the meaning, or, that it was by the Spirit that He gave them commandments.10 Do you observe in what low terms he still speaks of Christ, as in fact Christ had spoken of Himself? “But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils” (Mt 12,28); for indeed the Holy Ghost wrought in that Temple. Well, what did He command? “Go ye therefore,” He says, “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Mt 28,19-20). A high encomium this for the Apostles; to have such a charge entrusted to them, I mean, the salvation of the world! words full of the Spirit! And this the writer hints at in the expression, “through the Holy Ghost” (and, “the words which I spake unto you,” saith the Lord, “are Spirit”) (Jn 6,63); thus leading the hearer on to a desire of learning what the commands were, and establishing the authority of the Apostles, seeing it is the words of the Spirit they are about to speak, and the commandments of Christ. “After He had given commandments,” he says, “He was taken up.” He does not say, ‘ascended;’ he still speaks as concerning a man. It appears then that He also taught the Disciples after His resurrection, but of this space of time no one has related to us the whole in detail. St. John indeed, as also does the present writer, dwells at greater length on this subject than the others; but none has clearly related every thing (for they hastened to something else); however, we have learnt these things through the Apostles, for what they heard, that did they tell. “To whom also He shewed Himself alive.” Having first spoken of the Ascension, he adverts to the Resurrection; for since thou hast been told that “He was taken up,” therefore, lest thou shouldest suppose Him to have been taken up by others11 , he adds, “To whom He shewed Himself alive.” For if He shewed Himself in the greater, surely He did in the minor circumstance. Seest thou, how casually and un-perceived he drops by the way the seeds of these great doctrines?12
“Being seen of them during forty days.” He was not always with them now, as He was before the Resurrection. For the writer does not say “forty days,” but, “during forty days.” He came, and again disappeared; by this leading them on to higher conceptions, and no longer permitting them to stand affected towards Him in the same way as before, but taking effectual measures to secure both these objects, that the fact of His Resurrection should be believed, and that He Himself should be ever after apprehended to be greater than man. At the same time, these were two opposite things; for in order to the belief in His Resurrection, much was to be. done of a human character, and for the other: object, just the reverse. Nevertheless, both results have been effected, each when the fitting time arrived.
But why did He appear not to all, but to the Apostles only?13 Because to the many it would have seemed a mere apparition, inasmuch as they understood not the secret of the mystery For if the disciples themselves were at first incredulous and were troubled, and needed the evidence of actual touch with the hand, and of His eating with them, how would it have fared in all likelihood with the multitude? For this reason therefore by the miracles [wrought by the Apostles] He renders the evidence of His Resurrection unequivocal, so that not only the men of those times—this is what would come of the ocular proof—but also all men thereafter, should be certain of the fact, that He was risen. Upon this ground also we argue with unbelievers. For if He did not rise again, but remains dead, how did the Apostles perform miracles in His name? But they did not, say you, perform miracles? How then was our religion eqno" instituted? For this certainly they will not controvert nor impugn what we see with our eyes: so that when they say that no miracles took place, they inflict a worse stab14 upon themselves. For this would be the greatest of miracles, that without any miracles, the whole world should have eagerly come to be taken in the nets of twelve poor and illiterate men. For not by wealth of money, not by wisdom of words, not by any thing else of this kind, did the fishermen prevail; so that objectors must even against their will acknowledge that there was in these men a Divine power, for no human strength could ever possibly effect such great results. For this He then remained forty days on earth, furnishing in this length of time the sure evidence of their seeing Him in His own proper Person, that they might not suppose that what they saw was a phantom. And not content with this, He added also the evidence of eating with them at their board: as to signify this, the writer adds, “And being at table15 with them, He commanded.”16 (v. 4). And this circumstance the Apostles themselves always put forth as an fallible token of the Resurrection; as where they say,” Who did eat and drink with Him.” (Ac 10,41).
And what did He, when appearing unto them those forty days? Why, He conversed with them, says the writer, “concerning the kingdom of God.” (v. 3). For, since the disciples both had been distressed and troubled at the things which already had taken place, and were about to go forth to encounter great difficulties, He recovered them by His discourses concerning the future. “He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father.” (v. 4). First, He led them out to Galilee, afraid and trembling, in order that they might listen to His words in security. Afterwards, when they had heard, and had passed forty days with Him, “He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem.” Wherefore? Just as when soldiers are to charge a multitude, no one thinks of letting them issue forth until they have armed themselves, or as horses are not suffered to start from the barriers until they have got their charioteer; so Christ did not suffer these to appear in the field before the descent of the Spirit, that they might not be in a condition to be easily defeated and taken captive by the many. Nor was this the only reason, but also there were many in Jerusalem who should believe. And then again that it might not be said, that leaving their own acquaintance, they had gone to make a parade among strangers, therefore among those very men who had put Christ to death do they exhibit the proofs of His Resurrection, among those who had crucified and buried Him, in the very town in which the iniquitous deed had been perpetrated; thereby stopping the mouths of all foreign objectors. For when those even who had crucified Him appear as believers, clearly this proved both the fact of the crucifixion and the iniquity of the deed, and afforded a mighty evidence of the Resurrection. Furthermore, lest the Apostles should say, How shall it be possible for us to live among wicked and bloody men, they so many in number, we so few and contemptible, observe how He does away their fear and distress, by these words, “But wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of Me.” (v. 4). You will say, When had they heard this? When He said, “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” (Jn 16,7). And again, “I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you.” (Jn 14,16).
But why did the Holy Ghost come to them, not while Christ was present, nor even immediately after his departure, but, whereas Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit descended “when the day of Pentecost,” that is, the fiftieth, “was fully come?” (Ac 2,1). And how was it, if the Spirit had not yet come, that He said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost?” (Jn 20,22). In order to render them capable and meet for the reception of Him. For if Daniel fainted at the sight of an Angel (Da 8,17), much more would these when about to receive so great a grace. Either this then is to be said, or else that Christ spoke of what was to come, as if come already; as when He said, “Tread ye upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the devil.” (Lc 10,19). But why had the Holy Ghost not yet come? It was fit that they should first be brought to have a longing desire for that event, and so receive the grace. For this reason Christ Himself departed, and then the Spirit descended. For had He Himself been there, they would not have expected the Spirit so earnestly as they did. On this account neither did He come immediately after Christ’s Ascension, but after eight or nine days. It is the same with us also; for our desires towards God are then most raised, when we stand in need: Accordingly, Jn chose that time to send his disciples to Christ when they were likely.to feel their need of Jesus, during his own imprisonment. Besides, it was fit that our nature should be seen in heaven, and that the reconciliation should be perfected, and then the Spirit should come, and the joy should be unalloyed. For, if the Spirit being already come, Christ had then departed, and the Spirit remained; the consolation would not have been so great as it was. For in fact they clung to Him, and could not bear to part with Him; wherefore also to comfort them He said, “It is expedient for you that I go away.” (Jn 16,7). On this account He also waits during those intermediate days, that they might first despond for awhile, and be made, as I said, to feel their need of Him. and then reap a full and unalloyed delight. But if the Spirit were inferior to the Son, the consolation would not have been adequate; and how could He have said, “It is expedient for you?” For this reason the greater matters of teaching were reserved for the Spirit, that the disciples might not imagine Him inferior.
Consider also how necessary He made it for them to abide in Jerusalem, by promising that the Spirit should be granted them. For lest they should again flee away after His Ascension, by this expectation, as by a bond, He keeps them to that spot. But having said, “Wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of Me,” He then adds, “For Jn truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (v. 4, 5). For now indeed He gives them to see the difference there was betwixt Him and John, plainly, and not as heretofore in obscure hints; for in fact He had spoken very obscurely, when He said, “Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he:” but now He says plainly, “Jn baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” (Mt 11,11). And he no longer uses the testimony, but merely adverts to the person of John, reminding the disciples of what he had said, and shows them that they are now become greater than John; seeing they too are to baptize with the Spirit. Again, He did not say, I baptize you with the Holy Ghost, but, “Ye shall be baptized:” teaching us humility. For this was plain enough from the testimonyof John, thatit was Christ Himself Who should baptize: “He it is that shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Lc 3,16).; wherefore also He made mention of John.17
The Gospels, then, are a history of what Christ did and said; but the Acts, of what that “other Comforter” said and did. Not but that the Spirit did many things in the Gospels also; even as Christ here in the Ac still works in men as He did in the Gospels only then the Spirit wrought through the Temple, now through the Apostles: then, He came into the Virgin’s womb, and fashioned the Temple; now, into Apostolic souls: then in the likeness of a dove; now, in the likeness of fire. And wherefore? Showing there the gentleness of the Lord, but here His taking vengeance also, He now puts them in mind of the judgment likewise. For, when need was to forgive, need was there of much gentleness; but now we have obtained the gift, it is henceforth a time for judgment and examination.
But why does Christ say, “Ye shall be baptized,” when in fact there was no water in the upper room? Because the more essential part of Baptism is the Spirit, through Whom indeed the water has its operation; in the same manner our Lord also is said to be anointed, not that He had ever been anointed with oil, but because He had received the Spirit. Besides, we do in fact find them receiving a baptism with water [and a baptism with the Spirit], and these at different moments. In our case both take place under one act, but then they were divided. For in the beginning they were baptized by John; since, if harlots and publicans went to that baptism, much rather would they who thereafter were to be baptized by the Holy Ghost. Then, that the Apostles might not say, that they were always having it held out to them in promises (Jn 14,15-16), (for indeed Christ had already discoursed much to them concerning the Spirit, that they should not imagine It to be an impersonal Energy or Operation, energeian anupostaton that they might not say this, then, He adds, “not many days hence.” And He did not explain when, that they might always watch: but, that it would soon take place, He told, them, that they might not faint; yet the exact time He refrained from adding, that they might always be vigilant. Nor does He assure them by this alone; I mean, by the shortness of the time, but withal by saying, “The promise which ye have heard of Me.” For this is not, saith He, the only time I have told you, but already I have promised what I shall certainly perform. What wonder then that He does not signify the day of the final consummation, when this day which was so near He did not choose to reveal? And with good reason; to the end they may be ever wakeful, and in a state of expectation and earnest heed.
For it cannot, it cannot be, that a man should enjoy the benefit of grace except he watch. Seest thou not what Elias saith to his disciple? “If thou see me when I am taken up” (2R 2,10), this that thou askest shall be done for thee. Christ also was ever wont to say unto those that came unto Him, “Believest thou?” For if we be not appropriated and made over to the thing given,18 neither do we greatly feel the benefit. So it was also in the case of Paul; grace did not come to him immediately, but three days intervened, during which he was blind; purified the while, and prepared by fear. For as those who dye the purple first season with other ingredients the cloth that is to receive the dye, that the bloom may not be fleeting19 so in this instance God first takes order that the soul shall be thoroughly in earnest, and then pours forth His grace. On this account also, neither did He immediately send the Spirit, but on the fiftieth day. Now if any one ask, why we also do not baptize at that season of Pentecost? we may answer, that grace is the same now as then;20 but the mind becomes more elevated now, by being prepared through fasting. And the season too of Pentecost furnishes a not unlikely reason. What may that be? Our fathers held Baptism to be just the proper curb upon evil concupiscence, and a powerful lesson for teaching to be sober-minded even in a time of delights.
As if then we were banquetting with Christ Himself, and partaking of His table, let us do nothing at random, but let us pass our time in fastings, and prayers, and much sobriety of mind, For if a man who is destined to enter upon some temporal government, prepares himself all his life long, and that he may obtain some dignity, lays out his money, spends his time, and submits to endless troubles what shall we deserve, who draw near to the kingdom of heaven with such negligence, and both show no earnestness before we have received, and after having received are again negligent? Nay, this is the very reason why we are negligent after having received, that we did not watch before we had received. Therefore many, after they have received, immediately have returned to their former vomit, and have become more wicked, and drawn upon themselves a more severe punishment; when having been delivered from their former sins, herein they have more grievously provoked the Judge, that having been delivered from so great a disease, still they did not learn sobriety, but thathas happened unto them, which Christ threatened to the paralytic man, saying, “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (Jn 5,14): and which He also predicted of the Jews, that “the last state shall be worse than the first.” (Mt 12,45). For if, saith He, showing that by their ingratitude they should bring upon them the worst of evils, “if I had not come, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin” (Jn 15,22); so that the guilt of sins committed after these benefits is doubled and quadrupled, in that, after the honour put upon us, we show ourselves ungrateful and wicked. And the Layer of Baptism helps not a whir to procure for us a milder punishment. And consider: a man has gotten grievous sins by committing murder or adultery, or some other crime: these were remitted through Baptism. For there is no sin, no impiety, which does not yield and give place to this gift; for the Grace is Divine. A man has again committed adultery and murder; the former adultery is indeed done away, the murder forgiven, and not brought up again to his charge, “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rm 11,29); but for those committed after Baptism he suffers a punishment as great as he would if both the former sins were broughtup again, and many worse than these. For the guilt is no longer simply equal, but doubled and tripled.21 Look: in proof that the penalty of these sins is greater, hear what St. Paul says: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (He 10,28-29).
Perhaps we have now deterred many from receiving baptism. Not however with this intention have we so spoken, but on purpose that having received it, they may continue in temperance and much moderation. ‘But I am afraid,’ says one. If thou wert afraid, thou wouldest have received and guarded it. ‘Nay,’ saith he, ‘but this is the very reason why I do not receive it,—that I am frightened.’ And art thou not afraid to depart thus? ‘God is merciful,’ saith he. Receive baptism then, because He is merciful and ready to help. But thou, where to be in earnest is the thing required, dost not allege this mercifulness; thou thinkest of this only where thou hast a mind to do so. And yet that was the time to resort to God’s mercy, and we shall then be surest of obtaining it, when we do our part. For he that has cast the whole matter upon God, and, after his baptism, sins, as being man it is likely, he may, and repents, shall obtain mercy; whereas he that prevaricates with God’s mercy, and departs this life with no portion in that grace, shall have his punishment without a word to be said for him. ‘But how if he depart,’ say you, ‘after having had the grace vouchsafed to him?’ He will depart empty again of all good works.22 For it is impossible, yes, it is in my opinion impossible, that the man who upon such hopes dallied with baptism should have effected ought generous and good. And why dost thou harbor such fear, and presume upon the uncertain chance of the future? Why not convert this fear into labor and earnestness, and thou shalt be great and admirable? Which is best, to fear or to labor? Suppose some one to have placed thee, having nothing to do, in a tottering house, saying, Look for the decaying roof to fall upon thy head: for perhaps it will fall perhaps not; but if thou hadst rather it should not, then work and inhabit the more secure apartment: which wouldest thou have rather chosen, that idle condition accompanied with fear, or this labor with confidence? Why then, act now in the same way. For the uncertain future is like a decayed house, ever threatening to fall; but this work, laborious though it be, ensures safety.
Now God forbid that it should happen to us to fall into so great straits as to sin after baptism. However, even if aught such should happen, God is merciful, and has given us many ways of obtaining remission even after this. But just as those who sin after baptism are punished for this reason more severely than the Catechumens, so again, those who know that there are medicines in repentance, and yet will not make use of them, will undergo a more grievous chastisement. For by how much the mercy of God is enlarged, by so much does the punishment increase, if we do not duly profit by that mercy. What sayest thou, O man? When thou wast full of such grievous evils, and given over, suddenly thou becamest a friend, and wast exalted to the highest honor, not by labors of thine own, but by the gift of God: thou didst again return to thy former misconduct; and though thou didst deserve to be sorely punished, nevertheless, God did not turn away, but gave unnumbered opportunities of salvation, whereby thou mayest yet become a friend: yet for all this, thou hast not the will to labor. What forgiveness canst thou deserve henceforth? Will not the Gentiles with good reason deride thee as a worthless drone? For if there be power in that doctrine of yours, say they, what means this multitude of uninitiated persons? If the mysteries be excellent and desirable, let none receive baptism at his last gasp. For that is not the time for giving of mysteries but for making of wills; the time for mysteries is in health of mind and soundness of soul. For, if a man would not prefer to make his will in such a condition; and if he does so make it, he gives a handle for subsequent litigation (and this is the reason why testators premise these words: “Alive, in my senses, and in health, I make this disposal of my property:”), how should it be possible for a person who is no longer master of his senses to go through the right course of preparation for the sacred mysteries?23 For if in the affairs of this life, the laws of the world would not permit a man who was not perfectly sound in mind to make a will, although it be in his own affairs that he would lay down the law; how, when thou art receiving instruction concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the unspeakable riches of that world, shall it be possible for thee to learn all clearly, when very likely too thou art beside thyself through the violence of thy malady? And when wilt thou say those words24 to Christ, in the act of being buried with Him when at the point to depart hence? For indeed both by works and by words must we show our good will towards Him. (Rm 6,4). Now what thou art doing is all one, as if a man should want to be enlisted as a soldier, when the war is just about to break up; or to strip for the contest in the arena, just when the spectators have risen from their seats. For thou hast thine arms given thee, not that thou shouldest straightway depart hence, but that being equipped therewith, thou mayest raise a trophy over the enemy. Let no one think that it is out of season to discourse on this subject, because it is not Lent now. Nay, this it is that vexes me, that ye look to a set time in such matters. Whereas that Eunuch, barbarian as he was and on a journey, yea on the very highway, he did not seek for a set time (Ac 8,27); no, nor the jailer, though he was in the midst of a set of prisoners, and the teacher he saw before him was a man scourged and in chains, and whom he was still to have in his custody. (Ac 16,29). But here, not being inmates of a jail, nor out on a journey, many are putting off their baptism even to their last breath.
Now if thou still questionest that Christ is God, stand away from the Church: be not here, even as a hearer of the Divine Word, and as one of the catechumens:25 but if thou art sure of this, and knowest clearly this truth, why delay? Why shrink back and hesitate? For fear, say you, lest I should sin. But dost thou not fear what is worse, to depart for the next world with such a heavy burden? For it is not equally excusable, not to have gotten a grace set before you, and to have failed inattempting to live uprightly. If thou be called to account, Why didst thou not come for it? what wilt thou answer? In the other case thou mayest allege the burden of thy passions, and the difficulty of a virtuous life: but nothing of the kind here. For here is grace, freely conveying liberty. But thou fearest lest thou shouldest sin? Let this be thy language after Baptism: and then entertain this fear, in order to hold fast the liberty thou hast received; not now, to prevent thy receiving such a gift. Whereas now thou art wary before baptism, and negligent after it. But thou art waiting for Lent: and why? Has that season any advantage? Nay, it was not at the Passover that the Apostles received26 the grace, but at another season; and then three thousand (Luc says,) and five thousand were baptized: (ch. 2,41; 4,4, and ch. x). and again Cornelius. Let us then not wait for a set time, lest by hesitating and putting off we depart empty, and destitute of so great gifts. What do you suppose is my anguish when I hear that any person has been taken away unbaptized, while I reflect upon the intolerable punishments of that life, the inexorable doom! Again, how I am grieved to behold others drawing near to their last gasp, and not brought to their right mind even then. Hence too it is that scenes take place quite unworthy of this gift.For whereas there ought to be joy, and dancing, and exultation, and wearing of garlands, when another is christened; the wife of the sick man has no sooner heard that the physician has ordered this, than she is overcome with grief, as if it were some dire calamity; she sets up the greatest lamentation, and nothing is heard all over the house but crying and wailing, just as it is when condemned criminals are led away to their doom. The sick man again is then more sorely grieved; and if he recovers from his illness, is as vexed as if some great harm had been done to him. For since he had not been prepared for a virtuous life, he has no heart for the conflicts which are to follow, and shrinks at the thought of them. Do you see what devices the devil contrives, what shame, what ridicule? Let us rid ourselves of this disgrace; let us live as Christ has enjoined. He gave us Baptism, not that we should receive and depart, but that we should show the fruits of it in our after life. How can one say to him who is departing and broken down, Bear fruit? Hast thou not heard that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace?” (Ga 5,22). How comes it then that the very contrary takes place here? For the wife stands there mourning, when she ought to rejoice; the children weeping, when they ought to be glad together; the sick man himself lies there in darkness, and surrounded by noise and tumult, when he ought to be keeping high festival; full of exceeding despondency at the thought of leaving his children orphans, his wife a widow, his house desolate. Is this a state in which to draw near unto mysteries? answer me; is this a state in which to approach the sacred table?27 Are such scenes to be tolerated? Should the Emperor send letters and release the prisoners in the jails, there is joy and gladness: God sends down the Holy Ghost from Heaven to remit not arrears of money, but a whole mass of sins, and do ye all bewail and lament? Why, how grossly unsuitable is this! Not to mention that sometimes it is upon the dead that the water has been poured, and holy mysteries flung upon the ground. However, not we are to blame for this, but men who are so perverse. I exhort you then to leave all, and turn and draw near to Baptism with all alacrity, that having given proof of great earnestness at this present time, we may obtain confidence for that which is to come; whereunto that we may attain, may it be granted unto us all by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen).
1 St. Chrys. had made the same complaint at Antioch in the Homilies (a.d. 387) in Principium Actorum, etc. t. 3,p. 54. “We are about to set before you a strange and new dish. …strange, I say, and not strange. Not strange; for it belongs to the order of Holy Scripture: and yet strange; because peradventure your ears are not accustomed to such a subject. Certainly, there are many to whom this Book is not even known (polloi" goun to biblion touto oude gnwrimon eoti) and many again think it so plain, that they slight it: thus to some men their knowledge, to some their ignorance, is the cause of their neglect. . …We are to enquire then who wrote it, and when, and on what subject: and why it is ordered (nenomoqethtai) to be read at this festival. For peradventure you do not hear this Book read [at other times] from year’s end to year’s end.”
2 The two reasons which Chrysostom urges for the study of the Ac are also the two chief grounds upon which modern criticism depends for establishing not only the general trust-worthiness of the book, but also its authorship by Luke. They are in substance, (1) The continuity of the history as connected with the gospels and, particularly, coincidences of style, matter and diction with the third gospel, and (2) The remarkable undesigned coincidences of statement between the Ac and Pauline Epistles which exclude the possibility of inter-dependence. From Col 1,11 Col 1,14 Phm 1,24 2Tm 4,11, we learn that Lc was a close companion of Paul. In the part of the Book of Acts which treats especially of the work of Paul, the writer frequently refers to himself in the use of the first person plural as an associate of the apostle (vid. Ac 16,10 Ac 20,6 sq.; Ac 21,1 sq.; Ac 27,1). These considerations demonstrate the fitness of Lc to prepare such a treatise as the Ac and render the supposition of his authorship plausible. When they are combined with those mentioned under (1) and when the dedication of both books to a certain Theophilus is considered, the argument becomes very cogent and complete. —G. B. S.
3 The reference in the Text of the expression: “the Gospel which ye received,” (1Co 15,1) to Luke’s “gospel” is, of course, groundless. Paul speaks of it as the gospel which he preached unto them. It is “his gospel” as in Rm 2,16; Rm 16,25; Ga 1,11, etc. The use of euaggelion to denote a book is post apostolic.— G. B. S.
4 Hom. in Princip. Act. p. 54. “First we must see who wrote the Book. …whether a man, or God: and if man, let us reject it; for, ‘Call no man master upon earth: but if God, let us receive it.’ ”
5 Hom. cur in Pentec. Acta legantur, t. iii. p. 89. E. “The demonstration of the Resurrection is, the Apostolic miracles: and of the Apostolic miracles this Book is the school.”
6 The statement that the Ac is a “Demonstration of the Resurrection” has a certain profound truth, but is incorrect if intending to assert that such was the conscious purpose of the author. The resurrection of Jesus is a prominent theme in the Apostolic discourses but the book is no mre designed primarily to prove the resurrection than are the Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians. The immediate purpose of the book is to record the labors and triumphs of the Apostolic Church as supplementary to the narrative of the teaching and work of Jesus (i. 1. 2). The events narrated presuppose the resurrection and would have been impossible without it.—G. B. S.
7 Chrys. states too confidently that “the brother” whose praise is referred to in 2Co 8,18, is Luke. It cannot be determined who this “brother” was. See Meyer in loco. Other conjectures are: Barnabas, Mark, Erastus, and an actual brother of Titus.—G. B. S).
8 Ms. C. has oiktirmona", merciful; the rest, akthmona", without possessions, which is certainly the true reading. Thus in the Sermon de futurae Vitae deliciis, where Chrys. discourses largely on the harmony of Christ’s teaching and actions, he says, Palin akthmosunhn paideuwn, ora pw" dia twn ergwn authn epideiknutai, legwn, Ai alwpeke", k. t. l.
9 “He taught them to be poor.” Here we have a tinge of asceticism. Even if we suppose that the beatitude of the poor refers to literal poverty (Lc 6,20) as well as to poverty in spirit (Mt 5,3), it is still incorrect to say that Jesus taught his disciples that poverty was in itself a virtue. The ascetic principle is of heathen, not of Christian origin. It is noticeable that Chrys. quotes no passage to sustain his statement.—G. B. S.
10 The latter is doubtless the correct interpretation. (So Meyer, Hackett). Cf. Mt 12,28 Jn 3,34 Lc 4,1.—G. B. S).
11 1. e. as Oecumenius explains in l. ina mh ti" nomish eterou ounamei touto genesqai, lest any should suppose this to have been done by the power of another, he adds, to show that it was His own act, To whom also, etc.
12 It is more than doubtful whether the mention of the resurrection is introduced (i. 3 sq). for the purpose of meeting sceptical objections. The writer will rather make it the point of departure for his subsequent narrative. He has mentioned the ascension; the resurrection is the other great event and he will introduce a resume of the more important circumstances which happened during the period between these two events and which have an important bearing upon the history about to be related. —G. B. S.
13 Chrys, seems to overlook the appearance “to above five hundred brethren at once,” 1Co 15,6.—G. B. S.
14 Peripeirousi, Ms. C. and Cat. (see (1Tm 6,9, pierced themselves through with many sorrows), and in this sense Hom. in Matt. 455 B). 463 A. The word is used as here, ibid). 831 C. where several mss. have pantacou h planh eauthn peripeirei, for eauth peripiptei.
15 Sunalizomeno". In the margin of E. V. “Eating together with them.” The Catena here and below, had pr. man. the other reading, sunaulizomeno", but corrected in both places. St. Chrys. so takes the word, Hom. in Princip. Act. §11.767 E). in Joann. 522 D. Oecumen. in 1. explains it, toutesti koinwnwnalwn, koinwnwn trapezh", “Partaking of the salt, partaking of the table.”
16 Chrys. here follows the interpretation which derives sunalizeno" (i. 4) from sun and al" (salt) hence, eating together. So several ancient authorities as Vulgate (convesceus) and even modern, as Meyer. But the preferable derivation is from sun and alh" (crowded), hence to be assembled, to meet with (sc). autoi"). So Olshausen, Hackett, Lechler, Thayer’s Lex. and most modern authorities.—G. B. S).
17 (So mss. C. F. D. and the Catena. The others have monou antou, “of him (John) alone,” not of his testimony.
18 AEEan gar mh oikeiwqwmen pro" to didomenon. Erasm). Nisi rei datae addicti fuerimus.
19 Oi thn alourgida baptonte". <`85Ÿina mh exithlon genhtai to anqo". Comp). Plat. Republ. 4,vol. 1,p. 289. Stallb). Oukoun oisqa, hn d egw, oti oi bafei", epeidan boulhqwsi bayai eria wst einai alourga, prwton men eklegontai ek tosoutwn crwmatwn mian fusin thn twn leukwn, epeita proparaskeuazousi ouk oligh para: skeuh qerapeusante" opw" dexetai oti malista to anqo", kai outw dh baptousi.
20 The question, fully expressed, is, ‘Why do we baptize, not at Pentecost, but on Easter Eve?’ And the answer is, ‘Because the lenten fast forms a meet preparation for the reception of baptism. And moreover, there is a reason which weighed with our fathers, in respect of this season of the fifty days, the time of the Church’s great festivity. The baptism newly received would restrain the neophytes from giving loose to carnal lusts; having prepared them to keep the feast with a holy and awful gladness.’ It should be borne in mind, that these Homilies were commenced during the Penthkosth, i.e. the period of fifty days between Easter and Pentecost; at which season the Book of Ac was usually read in the Churches.
21 This view, that baptism cleansed from all sin, and that, therefore, sin after baptism was far more heinous and hard to be forgiven, held wide sway in the early church and operated as a powerful motive for the delay of baptism. The reception of the grace of baptism involves this increased liability to deadlier sin. For this reason Tertullian had urged its postponement. “And so according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children.” “If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay,” etc). De Baptismo, 18,Chrys. did not carry the idea to this length.—G. B. S.
22 Ti oun dn kataxiwqei" fhsin apeleusetai palin keno" katorqwmatwn, Cod. C, and so A, but with apeleush In the latter recension this sentence is omitted, and instead of it, we have, Ti de tauta kata th" seautou swthria" proballh; ‘But why dost thou put forth such pretences against thine own salvation?’ Chrys. had just said, apelqwn amoiro" th" carito" apairaithton exei thn timwrion. The objector (with the usual prevaricating formula, ti oun ean to kai to; Hom. in Mt 229 D). says: ti oun an kataxiwqei", sc). th" carito" apelqh; to which Chrys. answers: AEApeleusetai palin keno" katorqwmatwn: He will depart as empty of good works as he was before his baptism: adding, For it is, I think, utterly impossible that such an one [though he should live ever so long after baptism] would have wrought out his own salvation).
23 Meta akribeia" mustagwgeisqai: alluding to the kathchsi" mustagwgikh, i.e. the course of instruction by which the catechumens were prepared for baptism. See the Catechetical Discourses of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.
24 Ta rhmata ekeina: i.e. not (as Ben seems to interpret) “Buried with Christ; ”as if this were part of the form of words put into the mouth of the person to be baptized; but the words, “I renounce thee, O Satan, and all thy angels, and all thy service, and all thy pomp: and I enlist myself with Thee, O Christ.” St. Chrysost). Serm. ad pop. Antioch, 21,p. 244. The words, “buried with Him,” serve to show more clearly the absurdity of such delay: “we are ‘buried with Christ in His death,’ that we may rise again to newness of life, not that we should pass at once from the spiritual burial to the literal.”
25 The catechumens were allowed to be present at the first part of the service (Missa catechumenorum); and were dismissed after the Sermon, before the proper Prayers of the Church, or Missa Fidelium.
26 Kathxiwqhsan th" carito", as above, p. 8, note 1, ti oun an kataxiwqei";
27 The Holy Communion, administered immediately after baptism).
Chrysostom on Acts