Golden Chain MT-MK 5327
5327 (Mt 23,27-28)
(p. 788) Origen: As above they are said to be "full of extortion and excess," so here they are "full of hypocrisy and iniquity," and are likened to dead men's bones, and all uncleanness.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Justly are the bodies of the righteous said to be temples, because in the body of the righteous the soul has dominion, as God in His temple; or because God Himself dwells in righteous bodies. But the bodies of sinners are called sepulchres of the dead, because the sinner's soul is dead in his body; for that cannot be deemed to be alive, which does no spiritual or living act.
Jerome: Sepulchres are whitened with lime without, and decorated with marble painted in gold and various colours, but within are full of dead men's bones. Thus crooked teachers who teach one thing and do another, affect purity in their dress, and humility in their speech, but within are full of all uncleanness, covetousness, and lust.
Origen: For all feigned righteousness is dead, forasmuch as it is not done for God's sake; yea, rather it is no righteousness at all, any more than a dead man is a man, or an actor who represents any character is the man whom he represents. There is therefore within them so much of bones and uncleanness as are the good things that they wickedly pretend to. And they seem righteous outwardly, not in the eyes of such as the Scripture calls "Gods," but of such only as "die like men." (Ps 82,6)
Greg., Mor., xxvi, 32: But before their strict Judge they cannot have the plea of ignorance, for by assuming in the eyes of men every form of sanctity, they witness against themselves that they are not ignorant how to live well.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But say, hypocrite, if it be good to be wicked, why do you not desire to seem that which you desire to be? For what it is shameful to seem, that it is more shameful to be; and what to seem is fair, that it is fairer to be. Either therefore be what you seem, or seem what you are.
5329 (Mt 23,29-31)
(p. 789) Jerome: By a most subtle syllogism He proves them to be the sons of murderers, while to gain good character and reputation with the people, they build the sepulchres of the Prophets whom their fathers put to death.
Origen: Without just cause He seems to utter denunciations against those who build the sepulchres of the Prophets; for so far what they did was praiseworthy; how then do they deserve this "woe"?
Chrys., Hom. lxxiv: He does not blame them for building the sepulchres, but discovers the design with which they built them; which was not to honour the slain, but to erect to themselves a triumphal monument of the murder, as fearing that in process of time the memory of this their audacious wickedness should perish.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, they said within themselves, If we do good to the poor not many see it, and then but for a moment; were it not better to raise buildings which all may see, not only now, but in all time to come; O foolish man, what boots this posthumous memory, if, where you are, you are tortured, and where you are not there you are praised?
While He corrects the Jews, He instructs the Christians; for had these things been spoken to the former only, they would have been spoken, but not written; but now they were spoken on their account, and written on ours. When one, besides other good deeds, raises sacred buildings, it is an addition to his good works; but if without any other good works, it is a passion for worldly renown.
The martyrs joy not to be honoured with money which has caused the poor to weep. The Jews, moreover, have ever been adorers of saints of former times, and contemners, yea persecutors, of the living. Because they could not endure the reproaches of their own Prophets, they persecuted and killed them; but afterwards the succeeding generation perceived the error of their fathers, and thus in grief at the death of innocent Prophets, they built up (p. 790) monuments of them. But they themselves in like manner persecuted and put to death the Prophets of their own time, when they rebuked them for their sins. This is what is meant, And ye say, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the Prophets."
Jerome: Though they speak not this in words, they proclaim it by their actions, in ambitious and magnificent structures to their memory.
Pseudo-Chrys.: What they thought in their hearts, that they spoke by their deeds. Christ lays bare here the natural habit of all wicked men; each readily apprehends the other's fault, but none his own; for in another's case each man has an unprejudiced heart, but in his own case it is distorted. Therefore in the cause of others we can all easily be righteous judges. He only is the truly righteous and wise who is able to judge himself.
It follows, "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them which killed the Prophets."
Chrys.: What kind of accusation is this, to call one the son of a murderer, who partakes not in his father's disposition? Clearly there is no guilt in being so; wherefore this must be said in proof of their resemblance in wickedness.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The character of the parents is a witness to the sons; if the father be good and the mother bad, or the reverse, the children may follow sometimes one, sometimes the other. But when both are the same, it very rarely happens that bad sons spring of good parents, or the reverse, though it be so sometimes. This is as a man is sometimes born out of the rule of nature, having six fingers or no eyes.
Origen: And in the prophetic writings, the historical sense is the body, the spiritual meaning is the soul; the sepulchres are the letter and books themselves of Scripture. They then who attend only to the historical meaning, honour the bodies of the Prophets, and set in the letter as in a sepulchre; and are called Pharisees, i.e. 'cut off' as it were cutting off the soul of the Prophets from their body.
5332 (Mt 23,32-36)
(p. 791) Chrys.: He had said against the Scribes and Pharisees, that they were the children of those who killed the Prophets; now therefore He shews that they were like them in wickedness, and that was false that they said, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the Prophets."
Wherefore He now says, "Fill ye up the measure of your fathers." This is not a command, but a prophecy of what is to be.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He foretels, that as their fathers killed the Prophets, so they also should kill Christ, and the Apostles, and other holy men. As suppose you had a quarrel with some one, you might say to your adversary, Do to me what you are about to do; but you do not therein bid him do it, but shew him that you are aware of his manoeuvres. And in fact they went beyond the measure of their fathers; for they put to death only men, these crucified God.
But because He stooped to death of His own free choice, He does not lay on them the sin of His death, but only the death of the Apostles and other holy men. Whence also He said, "Fill up," and not "Fill over;" for a just and merciful Judge overlooks his own wrongs, and only punishes those done to others.
Origen: They fill up the measure of their fathers' sins by their not believing in Christ. And the cause of their unbelief was, that they looked only to the letter and the body, and would understand nothing spiritual in them.
Hilary: Because then they will fill up the (p. 792) measure of their fathers' purposes, therefore are they "serpents, and an offspring of vipers."
Jerome: The same had been said by John the Baptist. Wherefore as of vipers are born vipers, so of your fathers who were murderers are you born murderers.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He calls them "offspring of vipers," because the nature of vipers is such that the young burst the womb of their dam, and so come forth; and in like manner the Jews condemned their fathers, finding fault with their deeds.
He says, "How shall ye escape the damnation of hell?" By building the tombs of the saints? But the first step of piety is to love holiness, the next, to love the saints; for it is not reasonable in him to honour the righteous, who despises righteousness. The saints cannot be friends to those to whom God is an enemy. Shall ye be saved by a mere name, because ye seem to be among God's people! Forasmuch as an open enemy is better than a false friend, so is he more hateful to God, who calls himself the servant of God, and does the commands of the Devil.
Indeed, before God he who has resolved to kill a worm is a murderer before the deed is done, for it is the will that is rewarded for good, or punished for evil. Deeds are evidence of the will. God then does not require deeds on His own account that He may know how to judge, but for the sake of other men, that they may perceive that God is righteous.
And God affords the opportunity of sin to the wicked, not to make them sin, but to manifest the sinner; and also to the good He gives opportunity to shew the purpose of their will. In this way then He gave the Scribes and Pharisees opportunity of shewing their purposes, "Behold, I send unto you Prophets, and wise men, and Scribes."
Hilary: That is, the Apostles, who, as foretelling things to come, are "Prophets;" as having knowledge of Christ, are "wise men;" as understanding the Law, are "Scribes."
Jerome: Or, as the Apostle writes to the Corinthians (marg. note: 1Co 12) that there are various gifts among Christ's disciples; some Prophets, who foretel things to come; some wise men, who know when they ought to speak; others Scribes taught in the Law; of whom Stephen was stoned, Paul killed, Peter crucified, and the disciples of the Apostles beaten, in the Acts; and they persecuted them from city to city, driving them out of Judaea, that they might go to the Gentiles.
Origen: Or the Scribes who are sent by Christ, (p. 793) are Scribes according to the Gospel, whom the spirit quickens and the letter does not kill, as did the letter of the Law, which whoso followed ran into vain superstitions.
The simple words of the Gospel are sufficient for salvation. But the Scribes of the Law do yet scourge the Scribes of the New Testament, by detracting from them in their synagogues; and the heretics also, who are spiritual Pharisees, with their tongues murder the Christians, and persecute them from city to city, sometimes in the body, sometimes also in the spirit, seeking to drive them from their own city of the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, into another Gospel.
Chrys.: Then to shew them that they should not do this without punishment, He holds out an unspeakable terror over them, "That upon you may come all the righteous blood."
Raban.: That is, all the vengeance due for the shedding of the blood of the righteous.
Jerome: Concerning the Abel here spoken of, there is no doubt that it is he whom his brother Cain murdered. He is proved to have been righteous, not only by this judgment of the Lord, but by the passage in Genesis, which says that his offerings were accepted by God. But we must enquire who is this Zacharias, son of Barachias, because we read of many Zachariases; and that we might not mistake, here it is added, "whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." Some say that it is that Zacharias who is the eleventh among the twelve Prophets, and his father's name agrees to this, but when he was slain between the temple and the altar, Scripture does not mention; but above all, in his time there were scarce even the ruins of the temple. Others will have it to be Zacharias the father of John.
Origen: A tradition has come down to us, that there was one place in the temple in which virgins were allowed to worship God, married women being forbidden to stand there. And Mary, after the Saviour's birth, going into the temple, stood to pray in this place of the virgins. And when they who knew that she had borne a Son were hindering her, Zacharias said, that forasmuch as she was still a virgin, she was worthy of the place of the virgins.
Whereupon, as though he manifestly were contravening the Law, he was slain there between the temple and the altar by the men of that generation; and thus this (p. 794) word of Christ is true which He spake to those who were standing there, "whom ye slew".
(ed. note: This tradition is mentioned also by Cyril A.? adv. Anthrop. 27. and Pseudo-Basil, Hom. de Sanct. Christ. Gn 5 (in loc.) and Euthymius who mention it, probably derived it from Origen. Jerome (in loc.) gives another of the same character from some apocryphal books, but sets it aside and adopts the interpretation given in the text. The murder of Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, is related in the apocryphal Protevangelium of S. James, c. 23, but ascribed to a different cause.)
Jerome: But as this has no Scripture authority, it is as readily despised as offered. Others will have it to be that Zacharias who was killed by Joas, king of Judah, between the temple and the altar, () that is, in the court of the temple. But that Zacharias was not the son of Barachias, but of Jehoiada the Priest. But Barachias in our language is interpreted 'Blessed of the Lord,' so that the righteousness of Joiada the Priest is expressed by this Hebrew word. But in the Gospel which the Nazarenes use, we find written 'son of Joiada' instead of "son of Barachias."
Remig.: It should be enquired too how He says, "to the blood of Zacharias," since the blood of many more saints was afterwards shed. This is thus explained. Abel a keeper of sheep was killed in the field, Zacharias a priest was slain in the court of the temple. The Lord therefore names these two, because by these all holy martyrs are denoted, both of lay and priestly order.
Chrys.: Moreover, He names Abel, to shew that it would be out of envy that they would kill Christ and His disciples. He names Zacharias, because there was a twofold resemblance in his case, the sacred place, as well as the sacred person.
Origen: Zacharias is interpreted 'The memory of God.' Whosoever then hastes to obliterate the memory of God, seems to those to whom he gives offence to shed the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias. For it is by the blessing of God that we retain the memory of God. Also the memory of God is slain by the wicked, when the Temple of God is polluted by the lustful, and His altar defiled by the carelessness of prayers.
Abel is interpreted 'mourning.' He then who does not receive that, "Blessed are they that mourn," sheds the blood of Abel, that is, puts away the truth of wholesome mourning.
Some also shed, as it were, the blood of the Scriptures by putting aside their truth, for all Scripture, if it is not understood according to its truth, is dead.
Chrys.: (p. 795) And to take away all excuse from them that they might not say, Because you sent them to the Gentiles thereat were we offended, He foretels that His disciples should be sent to them, and it is of their punishment that He adds, "Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation."
Gloss., ord.: He means not only those there present, but the whole generation before and after, for all were one city and one body of the Devil.
Jerome: The rule of the Scriptures is only to know two generations, one of good the other of bad. Of the generation of the good it is said, "The generation of the righteous shall be blessed." (Ps 112,2) And of the bad it is said in the present passage, "Generation of vipers." These then, because they did against the Apostles like things as Cain and Joas, are described as of one generation.
Chrys.: Otherwise; Because He delayed the punishment of hell which He bad threatened them with, He pronounces against them threats of present evil, saying, "All these things shall come upon this generation."
Pseudo-Chrys.: As all the good things which had been merited by all the saints in each generation since the foundation of the world were bestowed upon that last generation which received Christ; so all the evil that all the wicked in every generation from the foundation of the world had deserved to suffer, came upon that last generation of the Jews which rejected Christ.
Or thus; As all the righteous of former saints, yea, of all the saints, could not merit that so great grace as was given to men in Christ; so the sins of all the wicked could not deserve so much evil as came upon the Jews, that they should suffer such things as these suffered from the Romans, and that in after time every generation of them to the end of the world should be cast off from God, and be made a mock by all the Gentiles.
For what is there worse than to reject and in such sort to put to death the Son coming in mercy and lowliness!
Or thus; Nations and states when they sin are not thereupon immediately punished by God, but He waits for many generations; but when He sees fit to destroy that state or nation, He then seems to visit upon them the sins of all former generations, and one generation suffers the accumulation of all that former generations have deserved. Thus this generation of the Jews seems to have been punished for their fathers; but (p. 796) in truth they suffered not for others, but on their own account.
Chrys.: For he who having seen many sinning yet remains uncorrected, but rather does the same or worse, is obnoxious to heavier punishment.
5337 (Mt 23,37-39)
Chrys.: The Lord next turns to address the city, desiring to instruct His bearers thereby. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem:" this repetition of the name is a mark of compassion and intense love.
Jerome: By "Jerusalem" He means not the stones and buildings, but the dwellers there, over whom He laments with the feeling of a Father.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Foreseeing the destruction of the city, and the blow it would receive from the Romans, He called to mind the blood of the saints which had been, and should yet be, shed in it. Thou killedst Esaias who was sent unto thee, and stonedst my servant Jeremias; thou dashedst out the brains of Ezechiel by dragging him over stones; how shalt thou be saved, which wilt not suffer a physician to come nigh thee?
And He said not, Didst kill and stone; but, "Killest," and "Stonest;" that is, This is a common and natural practice with thee to kill and stone the saints. She did to the Apostles the same things which she had once done to the Prophets.
Chrys.: Having thus addressed her, and spoken of her cruel murders, He said, as justifying Himself, "How often would I have gathered thy children together?" as much as to say, Notwithstanding, these thy murders have not alienated Me from thee, but I would have taken thee to Me, not once or twice, but many times. The strength (p. 797) of His affection He shews by the comparison of a hen.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 36: This species has the greatest affection for its brood, insomuch that when they are sick the mother sickens also; and what you will hardly find in any other animal, it will fight against the kite, protecting its young with its wings. In like manner our mother, the Wisdom of God, sickened as it were in the putting on the flesh, according to that of the Apostle, "The weakness of God is stronger than men," (1Co 1,25) protects our weakness, and resists the Devil that he should not make us his prey.
Origen: He calls them children of Jerusalem, just as we call each generation of citizens the sons of the preceding generation. And He says, "How often," though it is well known that once only did He teach the Jews in the body, because Christ was ever present in Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Angels, ministering to human salvation in every generation.
Whosoever shall not have been gathered in by Him shall be judged, as though be had refused to be gathered in.
Raban., non occ.: Let heretics then cease to assign to Christ a beginning from the Virgin; let them leave off to preach one God of the Law and another of the Prophets.
Aug., Euch. 97:. Where is that omnipotence, by the which He did whatsoever pleased Him both in heaven and in earth, if He would have gathered the children of Jerusalem and did not? Was it not that she would not that her children should be gathered by Him, and yet He did, notwithstanding, gather those of her children whom He would?
Chrys.: Then He threatens the punishment of which they were ever in fear, to wit, the overthrow of the city and temple, saying, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."
Pseudo-Chrys.: As the body, when the spirit departs, first becomes cold, and then decays and decomposes; so also your temple, when God's Spirit shall have withdrawn, shall be first filled with strife and anarchy, and after shall come to ruin.
Origen: In like manner to all such as would not be gathered under His wings Christ speaks this threat; "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate;" i.e. your soul and your body. But if any one of you will not be gathered under the wings of Christ, from the very time when he shall have refused to be so gathered, (by a mental rather than a bodily act,) he shall no more see the beauty of the word, till repenting of his evil (p. 798) purpose he shall say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." And the word of the Lord then comes with a blessing upon a man's heart, when one is turned to God.
Jerome: "I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me, &c." That is to say, Unless ye shall do penitence, and shall confess that I am He of whom the Prophets have spoken, the Son of the Almighty Father, ye shall not see My face. Thus the Jews have a time allowed for their repentance. Let them confess Him blessed who cometh in the name of the Lord, and they shall then behold Christ's face.
Chrys.: Otherwise; In this He covertly alludes to His second coming, when surely they shall worship Him. "Henceforth," means from the time of His crucifixion.
5401 (Mt 24,1-2)
(p. 799) Origen: Christ, when He had foretold all that should come upon Jerusalem, "went forth out of the temple," He, who while He was in it, had upheld the temple that it should not fall. And so each man, being the temple of God by reason of the Spirit of God dwelling in him, is himself the cause of his being deserted, that Christ should depart from him. It is worthy of note how they "shew Him the buildings of the temple," as though He had never seen them. We reply, that when Christ had foretold the destruction that should come upon the temple, His disciples were amazed at the thought that so magnificent buildings should be utterly ruined, and therefore they shew them to Him to move Him to pity, that He would not do what He had threatened. And because the constitution of human nature is wonderful, being made the temple of God, the disciples and the rest of the saints confessing the wonderful working of God in respect of the forming of men, intercede before the face of Christ, that He would not forsake the human race for their sins.
Raban.: The historical sense is clear, that in the forty-second year after the Lord's passion, the city and temple were overthrown under the Roman Emperors Vespasian and Titus.
Remig.: So it was ordained of God, that as soon as the light of grace was revealed, the temple with its ceremonies should be taken out of the way, lest any weakling in the faith, beholding all the things (p. 800) instituted of the Lord and hallowed by the Prophets yet abiding, might be gradually drawn away from the purity of the faith to a carnal Judaism.
Chrys., Hom lxxv: How means He Hom. this, "that one stone shalt not be left upon another?" Either as conveying the notion of its utter overthrow; or with respect to the place in which it stood, for its parts were broken up to its very foundations. But I would add, that, after the fate it underwent, the most captious might be satisfied that its very fragments have perished.
Jerome: Figuratively; When the Lord departed from the temple, all the buildings of the Law and the structure of the Commandments were so overthrown, that none of them could be fulfilled by the Jews, but, the Head being taken away, all the parts were at war among themselves.
Origen: Every man also, who, by taking into him the word of God, is become a temple, if after sinning be yet retains in part the traces of faith and religion, his temple is in part destroyed, and in part standing. But he who after sin has no regard for himself is gradually alienated, until he has altogether forsaken the living God, and so one stone is not left upon another of God's commandments, which be has not thrown down.
5403 (Mt 24,3-5)
Remig.: The Lord continuing His walk arrives at Mount Olivet, having by the way foretold the destruction of the temple to those disciples who had shewn and commended the buildings. When they had reached the Mount they came to Him, asking Him further of this.
Chrys.: They asked Him in private, because they were great things about which they were going to ask Him. They wished to know the (p. 801) day of His coming, for the vehement desire they had to see His glory.
Jerome: They ask Him three things. First, The time of the destruction of Jerusalem, saying, "Tell us when shall these things be?" Secondly, The time of Christ's coming, saying, "And what shall be the sign of Thy coming?" Thirdly, The time of the consummation of this world, saying, "And of the end of the world?"
Chrys.: Luke speaks of one enquiry, that concerning Jerusalem, as though the disciples supposed that Christ's coming should be then, and the end of the world should be when Jerusalem should be destroyed.
Whereas Mark does not state them all to have asked concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, but Peter, James, John, and Andrew, as having more bold and free speech with Christ.
Origen: I think Mount Olivet to be a mystery of the Church out of the Gentiles.
Remig.: For Mount Olivet has no unfruitful trees, but olives, which supply light to dispel darkness, which give rest to the weary, health to the sick. And sitting on Mount Olivet over against the temple, the Lord discourses of its destruction, and the destruction of the Jewish nation, that even by His choice of a situation He might shew, that abiding still in the Church He condemns the pride of the wicked.
Origen: For the husbandman dwelling on Mount Olivet is the word of God confirmed in the Church, that is, Christ, who ever grafts the branches of the wild olive on the good olive tree of the Fathers. They who have confidence before Christ, seek to learn the sign of the coming of Christ, and of the consummation of this world.
And the coming of the Word into the soul is of two sorts. The first is that foolish preaching concerning Christ, when we preach that Christ was born and crucified; the second its coming in perfect men, concerning which it is said, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect;" (1Co 2,6) and to this second coming is added the end of the world in the perfect man to whom the world is crucified.
Hilary: And because the questions of the disciples are threefold, they are separated by different times and meanings. That concerning the destruction of the city is first answered, and is then confirmed by truth of doctrine, that no seducer might prevail with the ignorant.
Chrys.: His first answer is neither concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, nor concerning (p. 802) His second coming, but concerning the evils which were to be immediately encountered.
Jerome: One of them of whom He speaks was Simon of Samaria, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that he gave himself out to be the great Power, leaving these things written in his works (ed. note: "The followers of Simon and Cleobius compose books in the name of Christ and His disciples, which they circulate, and so deceive men." Apostol. Const. The author of the Treatise De Divinis Nomin. also mentions "Simon's Controversial Discourses." Vallarsi.) among others, I am the Word of God, I am the Almighty, I am all things of God. The Apostle John also in his Epistle, "Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come; even now there are many Antichrists." (1Jn 2,18)
I suppose all heresiarchs. to be Antichrists, and under the name of Christ to teach those things which are contrary to Christ. No wonder if we see some led away by such teachers, when the Lord has said, "And shall deceive many."
Origen: They that are deceived are many, because "wide is the gate that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." (Mt 7,13) This one thing is enough to detect the Antichrists and seducers, that they shall say, "I am Christ," which Christ Himself is no where read to have said: for the works of God, and the word which He taught, and His power, were enough to produce belief that He is Christ.
For every discourse which professes to expound Scripture faithfully, and has not the truth, is Antichrist. For the truth is Christ, that which feigns itself to be the truth is Antichrist. So also all virtues are Christ, all that feigns itself to be virtue is Antichrist; for Christ has in Himself in truth all manner of good for the edification of men, but the devil has forged resemblances of the same for the deceiving of the saints.
We have need therefore of God to help us, that none deceive us, neither word nor power. It is a bad thing to find any one erring in his course of life; but I esteem it much worse not to think according to the most true rule of Scripture.
5406 (Mt 24,6-8)
(p. 803) Aug., Ep. 199. 25: To this enquiry of the disciples the Lord makes answer, declaring all things which were to come to pass from that time forwards, whether relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which had given occasion to their enquiry; or to His coming through the Church, in which He ceases not to come to the end of time; for He is acknowledged as coming among His own, while new members are daily born to Him; or relating to the end itself when He shall appear to judge the quick and the dead.
When then He describes the signs which shall attend these three events, we must carefully consider which signs belong to which events, lest perchance we refer to one that which belongs to another.
Chrys.: Here He speaks of the battles which should be fought at Jerusalem; when He says, "Ye shall hear wars, and rumours of wars."
Origen: To hear the shouts raised in the battles, is to "hear wars;" to hear "rumours of wars," is to hear accounts of wars waged afar off.
Chrys.: And because this might alarm the disciples, He continues, "See that ye be not troubled." And because they supposed that the end of the world would follow immediately after the war in which Jerusalem should be destroyed, He corrects their suspicions concerning this, "These things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."
Jerome: That is, Think not that the day of judgment is at hand, but that it is reserved against another time; the sign of which is plainly put in what follows, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Raban. (ed. note: From this to v. 36. the commentary of Rabanus is wanting in the printed edition. See Pref.): Or, this is a warning to the Apostles not to flee from Jerusalem and Judaea in terror of these things, when they should begin to come upon them; because the end was not immediately, but the desolation of the province, and the destruction of the city and temple should not come till the fortieth year. And we know that most grievous woes, (p. 804) which spread over the whole province, fell out to the very letter.
Chrys.: And to shew that He also should fight against the Jews, He tells them not only of wars, but of calamities inflicted by Providence, "And there shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in divers places."
Raban.: "Nation shall rise against nation," shews the disquietude of men's minds; "pestilences," the affliction of their bodies; "famines," the barrenness of the soil; "earthquakes in divers places," wrath from heaven above.
Chrys.: And these things shall not happen according to the order of nature before established among men, but shall come of wrath from heaven, and therefore He said not that they should come only, or come suddenly, but adds significantly, "These all are the beginnings of troubles," that is, of the Jewish troubles.
Origen: Or otherwise; As the body sickens before the death of the man, so it must needs be that before the consummation of this world the earth should be shaken, as though it were palsied, with frequent earthquakes, the air should gather a deadly quality and become pestilential, and that the vital energy of the soil should fail, and its fruits wither. And by consequence of this scarcity, men are stirred up to robbery and war. But because war and strife arise sometimes from covetousness, and sometimes from desire of power and empty glory, of these which shall happen before the end of the world a yet deeper cause shall be assignable.
For as Christ's coming brought through His divine power peace to divers nations, so it shall be on the other hand, "that when iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold," and God and His Christ shall desert them; wars shall be again when actions which beget wars are not hindered by holiness; and hostile powers when they are not restrained by the Saints and by Christ shall work unchecked in the hearts of men, stirring up nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
But if, as some will have it, famine and pestilence are from the Angels of Satan, these shall then gather might from opposite powers, when the salt of the earth, and the lights of the world, Christ's disciples, shall be no longer, destroying those things which the malice of daemons hatches. Ofttimes in Israel famines and pestilences were caused by sin, and removed by the prayers of the Saints. (marg. note: 1R 17,1 Jr 14 Jc 5,17-18)
Well is that (p. 805) said, "In divers places," for God will not destroy the whole race of men at once, but judging them in portions, He gives opportunity of repentance. But if some stop be not put to these evils in their commencement, they will progress to worse, as it follows, "These all are the beginnings of sorrows," that is, sorrows common to the whole world, and those which are to come upon the wicked who shall be tormented in most sharp pains.
Jerome: Figuratively; Kingdom rising against kingdom and pestilence of that discourse which spreadeth, as a plague-spot, and hunger of hearing the word of God, and commotion throughout the earth, and separation from the true faith, may be rather understood of the heretics, who fighting among themselves give the victory to the Church.
Origen: This must come to pass before we can see the perfection of that wisdom which is in Christ; but not yet shall be that end which we seek, for a peaceful end is far from those men.
Jerome: "These all are the beginnings Of sorrows," is better understood of pains of labour, as it were the conception of the coming of Antichrist, and not of the birth.
Golden Chain MT-MK 5327