Golden Chain 5223
5223 (Mt 22,23-33)
(p. 753) Chrys.: The disciples of the Pharisees with the Herodians being thus confuted, the Sadducees next offer themselves, whereas the overthrow of those before them ought to have kept them back. But presumption is shameless, stubborn, and ready to attempt things impossible. So the Evangelist, wondering at their folly, expresses this saying, "The same day came to him the Sadducees."
Pseudo-Chrys.: As soon as the Pharisees were gone, came the Sadducees; perhaps with like intent, for there was a strife among them who should be the (p. 754) first to seize Him. Or if by argument they should not be able to overcome Him, they might at least by perseverance wear out His understanding.
Jerome: There were two sects among the Jews, the Pharisees and the Sadducees; the Pharisees pretended to the righteousness of traditions and observances, whence they were called by the people 'separate.' The Sadducees (the word is interpreted 'righteous') also passed themselves for what they were not; and whereas the first believed the resurrection of body and soul, and confessed both Angel and spirit, these, according to the Acts of the Apostles (marg. note: Ac 23,8), denied them all, as it is here also said, "Who say that there is no resurrection."
Origen: They not only denied the resurrection of the body, but took away the immortality of the soul.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For the Devil finding himself unable to crush utterly the religion of God, brought in the sect of the Sadducees denying the resurrection of the dead, thus breaking down all purpose of a righteous life, for who is there would endure a daily struggle against himself, unless he looked to the hope of the resurrection?
Greg., Mor. xiv. 55: But there are who observing that the spirit is loosed from the body, that the flesh is turned to corruption, that the corruption is reduced to dust, and that the dust again is resolved into the elements, so as to be unseen by human eyes, despair of the possibility of a resurrection, and while they look upon the dry bones, doubt that they can be clothed with flesh, and be quickened anew to life.
Aug., Enchir., 88: But that earthy matter of which the flesh of men is made perishes not before God; but into whatsoever dust or ashes reduced, into whatsoever gases or vapours dispersed, into whatsoever other bodies incorporated, though resolved into the elements, though become the food or part of the flesh of animals or men, yet is it in a moment of time restored to that human soul, which at the first quickened it that it became man, lived and grew.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But the Sadducees thought they had now discovered a most convincing argument in favour of their error.
Chrys., non occ.: For because death to the Jews, who did all things for the present life, seemed an unmixed evil, Moses ordered that the wife of one who died without sons should be given to his brother, that a son might be born to the dead man by his brother, and his name should not perish, which (p. 755) was some alleviation of death. And none other but a brother or relation was commanded to take the wife of the dead; otherwise the child born would not have been considered the son of the dead; and also because a stranger could have no concern in establishing the house of him that was dead, as a brother whose kindred obliged him thereto.
Jerome: As they disbelieved the resurrection of the body, and supposed that the soul perished with the body, they accordingly invent a fable to display the fondness of the belief of a resurrection. Thus they put forward a base fiction to overthrow the verity of the resurrection, and conclude with asking, "in the resurrection whose shall she be?" Though it might be that such an instance might really occur in their nation.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 32: Mystically; by these seven brethren are understood the wicked, who could not bring forth the fruit of righteousness in the earth through all the seven ages of the world, during which this earth has being, for afterwards this earth also shall pass away, through which all those seven passed away unfruitful.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Wisely does He first convict them of folly, in that they did not read; and afterwards of ignorance, in that they did not know God. For of diligence in reading springs knowledge of God, but ignorance is the offspring of neglect.
Jerome: They therefore err because they know not the Scriptures; and because they know not the power of God.
Origen: Two things there are which He says they know not, the Scriptures and the power of God, by which is brought to pass the resurrection, and the new life in it.
Or by the power of God, which the Lord here convicts the Sadducees that they knew not, He intends Himself, who was the power of God; and Him they knew not (marg. note: 1Co 1,24), as not knowing the Scriptures which spoke of Him; and thence also they believed not the resurrection, which He should effect. But it is asked when the Saviour says, "Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures," if He means that this text, "They neither marry, nor are given in marriage," is in some Scripture, though it is not read in the Old Testament? We say that these very words are indeed not found, but that the truth is in a mystery implied in the moral sense of Scripture; the Law, which is "a shadow of good things to come," whenever it speaks of husbands and wives, speaks chiefly of spiritual (p. 756) wedlock.
But neither this do I find any where spoken in Scripture that the Saints shall be after their departure as the Angels of God, unless one will understand this also to be inferred morally; as where it is said, "And, thou shalt go to thy fathers," (Gn 15,15) and "He was gathered to his people." (Gn 25,8) Or one may say; He blamed them that they read not the other Scriptures which are besides the Law, and therefore they erred.
Another says, That they knew not the Scriptures of the Mosaic Law, for this reason, that they did not sift their divine sense.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, when He says, "In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage," He referred to what He had said, "Ye know not the power of God;" but when He proceeded, "I am the God of Abraham, &c." to that "Ye know not the Scriptures."
And thus ought we to do; to cavillers first to set forth Scripture authority on any question, and then to shew the grounds of reason; but to those who ask out of ignorance to shew first the reason, and then the authority. For cavillers ought to be refuted, enquirers taught. To these then who put their question in ignorance, He first shews the reason, saying, "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Jerome: In these words the Latin language cannot follow the Greek idiom. For the Latin word 'nubere' is correctly said only of the woman. But we must take it so as to understand "marry" of men, "to be given in marriage" of women.
Pseudo-Chrys.: In this life that we may die, therefore we are born; and we marry to the end that which death consumes, birth may replenish; therefore where the law of death is taken away, the cause of birth is taken away likewise.
Hilary: It had been enough to have cut off this opinion of the Sadducees of sensual enjoyment, that where the function ceased, the empty pleasure of the body accompanying it ceased also; but He adds, "But are as the Angels of God in heaven."
Chrys.: Which is an apt reply to their question. For their reason for judging that there would be no resurrection, was that they supposed that their condition when risen would be the same; this reason then He removes by shewing that their condition would be altered.
Pseudo-Chrys.: It should be noted, that when He spoke of fasting, alms, and other spiritual virtues, He did not bring (p. 757) in the comparison of Angels, but only here where He speaks of the ceasing of marriage. For as all acts of the flesh are primal acts, but this of lust especially so; so all the virtues are angelic acts, but especially chastity, by which our nature is bound to the other virtues.
Jerome: This that is added, "But are as the Angels of God in heaven," is an assurance that our conversation in heaven shall be spiritual.
Dionys., de Divin., Nom. i: For then when we shall be incorruptible and immortal, by the visible presence of God Himself we shall be filled with most chaste contemplations, and shall share the gift of light to the understanding in our impassible and immaterial soul after the fashion of the exalted souls in heaven; on which account it is said that we shall be equal to the Angels.
Hilary: The same cavil that the Sadducees here offer respecting marriage is renewed by many who ask in what form the female sex shall rise again. But what the authority of Scripture leads us to think concerning the Angels, so must we suppose that it will be with women in the resurrection of our species.
Aug., City of God, book 22, ch. 17: To me they seem to think most justly, who doubt not that both sexes shall rise again. For there shall be no desire which is the cause of confusion, for before they had sinned they were naked; and that nature which they then had shall be preserved, which was quit both of conception and of child-birth. Also the members of the woman shall not be adapted to their former use, but framed for a new beauty, one by which the beholder is not allured to lust, which shall not then be, but God's wisdom and mercy shall be praised, which made that to be which was not, and delivered from corruption that which was made.
Jerome: For none could say of a stone and a tree or inanimate things, that they shall not marry nor be given in marriage, but of such things only as having capacity for marriage, shall yet in a sort not marry.
Raban.: These things which are spoken concerning the conditions of the resurrection He spoke in answer to their enquiry, but of the resurrection itself He replies aptly against their unbelief.
Chrys.: And because they had put forward Moses in their Question, He confutes them by Moses, adding, "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read."
Jerome: In proof of the resurrection there were many plainer passages (p. 758) which He might have cited; among others that of Isaiah, "The dead shall be raised; they that are in the tombs shall rise again:" (Is 26,29, Septuagint) and in another place, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." (Da 12,2)
It is enquired therefore why the Lord should have chosen this testimony which seems ambiguous, and not sufficiently belonging to the truth of the resurrection; and as if by this He had proved the point adds, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
We have said above that the Sadducees confessed neither Angel, nor spirit, nor resurrection of the body, and taught also the death of the soul. But they also received only the five boots of Moses, rejecting the Prophets. It would have been foolish therefore to have brought forward testimonies whose authority they did not admit. To prove the immortality of souls therefore, He brings forward an instance out of Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, &c." and then straight subjoins, "He it not the God of the dead, but of the living;" so that having established that souls abide after death, (forasmuch as God could not be the God of those who had no existence any where,) there might fitly come in the resurrection of bodies which had together with their souls done good or evil.
Chrys.: How then is it said in another place, "Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." (Rm 14,8) This which is said here differs from that. The dead are the Lord's, those, that is, who are to live again, not those who have disappeared for ever, and shall not rise again.
Hilary: It should be further considered, that this was said to Moses at a time when those holy Patriarchs had gone to their rest. They therefore of whom He was the God were in being; for they could have had nothing, if they had not been in being; for in the nature of things that, of which somewhat else is, must have itself a being; so they who have a God must themselves be alive, since God is eternal, and it is not possible that which is dead should have that which is eternal. How then shall it be affirmed that those do not, and shall not hereafter, exist, of whom Eternity itself has said that He is?
Origen: God moreover is He who says, "I am that I am;" (Ex 3,14) so that it is impossible that He should be called the God of those who are not. And see that He said not, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." But in another place He said thus, (p. 759) "The God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee." (Ex 7,16)
For they who in comparison of other men are most perfect before God, have God entirely in them, wherefore He is not said to be their God in common, but of each in particular. As when we say, That farm is theirs, we shew that each of them does not own the whole of it; but when we say, That farm is his, we mean that he is owner of the whole of it. When then it is said, "The God of the Hebrews," this shews their imperfection, that each of them has some small portion in God. But it is said, "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," because each one of these possessed God entirely. And it is to the no small honour of the Patriarchs that they lived to God.
Aug., cont. Faust., xvi. 24: Seasonably may we confute the Manichaeans by this same passage by which the Sadducees were then confuted, for they too, though in another manner, deny the resurrection.
Aug., in Joan. Tr., xi, 8: God is therefore called in particular "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," because in these three are expressed all the modes of begetting the sons of God. For God begets most times of a good preacher a good son, and of a bad preacher a bad son. This is signified in Abraham, who of a free woman had a believing son, and of a bondslave an unbelieving son. Sometimes indeed of a good preacher He begets both good and bad sons, which is signified in Isaac, who of the same free woman begot one good and the other bad. And sometimes He begets good sons both of good and bad preachers; which is signified in Jacob, who begot good sons both of free women and of bondmaids.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And see how the assault of the Jews against Christ becomes more faint. Their first challenge was in a threatening tone, "By what authority doest thou these things," to oppose which firmness of spirit was needed. Their second was with guile, to meet which was needed wisdom. This last was with ignorant presumption which is easier to cope with than the others. For he that thinks he knows somewhat, when he knows nothing, is an easy conquest for one who has understanding. Thus the attacks of an enemy are vehement at first, but if one endure them with a courageous spirit, he will find them more feeble.
"And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine."
Remig.: Not the Sadducees but the multitudes (p. 760) were astonished. This is daily done in the Church; when by Divine inspiration the adversaries of the Church are overcome, the multitude of the faithful rejoice.
5234 (Mt 22,34-40)
Jerome: The Pharisees having been themselves already confuted (in the matter of the denarius), and now seeing their adversaries also overthrown, should have taken warning to attempt no further deceit against Him; but hate and jealousy are the parents of impudence.
Origen: Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, to shew that the tongue of falsehood is silenced by the brightness of truth. For as it belongs to the righteous man to be silent when it is good to be silent, and to speak when it is good to speak, and not to hold his peace; so it belongs to every teacher of a lie not indeed to be silent, but to be silent as far as any good purpose is concerned.
Jerome: The Pharisees and Sadducees, thus foes to one another, unite in one common purpose to tempt Jesus.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or the Pharisees meet together, that their numbers may silence Him whom their reasonings could not confute; thus, while they array numbers against Him, shewing that truth failed them; they said among themselves, Let one speak for all, and all speak, through one, so if He prevail, the victory may seem to belong to all; if He be overthrown, the defeat may rest with Him alone; so it follows, "Then one of (p. 761) them, a teacher of the Law, asked him a question, tempting Him."
Origen: All who thus ask questions of any teacher to try him, and not to learn of him, we must regard as brethren of this Pharisee, according to what is said below, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of mine, ye have done it unto me." (Mt 25,40)
Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 73: Let no one find a difficulty in this, that Matthew speaks of this man as putting his question to tempt the Lord, whereas Mark does not mention this, but concludes with what the Lord said to him upon his answering wisely, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." (Mc 12,34) For it is possible that, though he came to tempt, yet the Lord's answer may have wrought correction within him.
Or, the tempting here meant need not be that of one designing to deceive an enemy, but rather the cautious approach of one making proof of a stranger. And that is not written in vain, "Whoso believeth lightly, he is of a vain heart." (Eccl. 19:4)
Origen: He said "Master" tempting Him, for none but a disciple would thus address Christ. Whoever then does not learn of the Word, nor yields himself wholly up to it, yet calls it Master, he is brother to this Pharisee thus tempting Christ. Perhaps while they read the Law before the Saviour's coming, it was a question among them which was the great commandment in it; nor would the Pharisee have asked this, if it had not been long time enquired among themselves, but never found till Jesus came and declared it.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He who now enquires for the greatest commandment had not observed the least. He only ought to seek for a higher righteousness who has fulfilled the lower.
Jerome: Or he enquires not for the sake of the commands, but which is the first and great commandment, that seeing all that God commands is great, he may have occasion to cavil whatever the answer be.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But the Lord so answers him, as at once to lay bare the dissimulation of his enquiry, "Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love," not 'fear,' for to love is more than to fear; to fear belongs to slaves, to love to sons; fear is in compulsion, love in freedom. Whoso serves God in fear escapes punishment, but has not the reward of righteousness because he did well unwillingly through fear. God does not desire to be served servilely by (p. 762) men as a master, but to be loved as a father, for that He has given the spirit of adoption to men.
But to love God with the whole heart, is to have the heart inclined to the love of no one thing more than of God. To love God again with the whole soul is to have the mind stayed upon the truth, and to be firm in the faith. For the love of the heart and the love of the soul are different. The first is in a sort carnal, that we should love God even with our flesh, which we cannot do unless we first depart from the love of the things of this world. The love of the heart is felt in the heart, but the love of the soul is not felt, but is perceived because it consists in a judgment of the soul. For he who believes that all good is in God, and that without Him is no good, he loves God with his whole soul. But to love God with the whole mind, is to have all the faculties open and unoccupied for Him. He only loves God with his whole mind, whose intellect ministers to God, whose wisdom is employed about God, whose thoughts travail in the things of God, and whose memory holds the things which are good.
Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: Or otherwise; You are commanded to love God "with all thy heart," that your whole thoughts -- "with all thy soul," that your whole life -- "with all thy mind," that your whole understanding -- may be given to Him from whom you have that you give. Thus He has left no part of our life which may justly be unfilled of Him, or give place to the desire after any other final good (marg. note: alia re frui); but if aught else present itself for the soul's love, it should be absorbed into that channel in which the whole current of love runs. For man is then the most perfect when his whole life tends towards the life (marg. note: al. bonum) unchangeable, and clings to it with the whole purpose of his soul.
Gloss., interlin.: Or, "with all thy heart," i.e. understanding; "with all thy soul," i.e. thy will; "with all thy mind," i.e. memory; so you shall think, will, remember nothing contrary to Him.
Origen: Or otherwise; "With all thy heart," that is, in all recollection, act, thought; "with all thy soul," to be ready, that is, to lay it down for God's religion; "with all thy mind," bringing forth nothing but what is of God. And consider whether you cannot thus take the heart of the understanding, by which we contemplate things intellectual, and the "mind" of that by which we utter thoughts, walking as it were with the mind through each expression, (p. 763) and uttering it.
If the Lord had given no answer to the Pharisee who thus tempted Him, we should have judged that there was no commandment greater than the rest. But when the Lord adds, "This is the first and great commandment," we learn how we ought to think of the commandments, that there is a great one, and that there are less down to the least. And the Lord says not only that it is a great, but that it is the first commandment, not in order of Scripture, but in supremacy of value.
They only take upon them the greatness and supremacy of this precept, who not only love the Lord their God, but add these three conditions. Nor did He only teach the first and great commandment, but added that there was a second like unto the first, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:" But if "Whoso loveth iniquity hath hated his own soul," (Ps 11,5) it is manifest that he does not love his neighbour as himself, when he does not love himself.
Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 30; see Rom 13:10: It is clear that every man is to be regarded as a neighbour, because evil is to be done to no man. Further, if every one to whom we are bound to shew service of mercy, or who is bound to shew it to us, be rightly called our neighbour, it is manifest that in this precept are comprehended the holy Angels who perform for us those services of which we may read in Scripture.
Whence also our Lord Himself would be called our neighbour; for it was Himself whom He represents as the good Samaritan, who gave succour to the man who was left half-dead by the way.
Aug., de Trin., viii, 6: He that loves men ought to love them either because they are righteous, or that they may be righteous; and so also ought he to love himself either for that he is, or that he may be righteous. And thus without peril he may love his neighbour as himself.
Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: But if even yourself you ought not to love for your own sake, but because of Him in whom is the rightful end of your love, let not another man be displeased that you love even him for God's sake. Whoso then rightly loves his neighbour, ought to endeavour with him that he also with his whole heart love God.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But who loves man is as who loves God; for man is God's image, wherein God is loved, as a King is honoured in his statue. For this cause this commandment is said to be like the first.
Hilary: Or otherwise; That the second command is like (p. 764) the first signifies that the obligation and merit of both are alike; for no love of God without Christ, or of Christ without God, can profit to salvation.
It follows, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 33: "Hang," that is, refer thither as their end.
Raban.: For to these two commandments belongs the whole decalogue; the commandments of the first table to the love of God, those of the second to the love of our neighbour.
Origen: Or, because he that has fulfilled the things that are written concerning the love of God and our neighbour, is worthy to receive from God the great reward, that he should be enabled to understand the Law and the Prophets.
Aug., de Trin., viii. 7: Since there are two commandments, the love of God and the love of our neighbour, on which hang the Law and the Prophets, not without reason does Scripture put one for both; sometimes the love of God; as in that, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God;" (Rm 8,28) and sometimes the love of our neighbour; as in that, "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Ga 5,14)
And that because if a man love his neighbour, it follows therefrom that he loves God also; for it is the selfsame affection by which we love God, and by which we love our neighbour, save that we love God for Himself, but ourselves and our neighbour for God's sake.
Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 26, 30: But since the Divine substance is more excellent and higher than our nature, the command to love God is distinct from that to love our neighbour. But if by yourself, you understand your whole self, that is both your soul and your body, and in like manner of your neighbour, there is no sort of things to be loved omitted in these commands. The love of God goes first, and the rule thereof is so set out to us as to make all other loves center in that, so that nothing seems said of loving yourself.
But then follows, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," so that love of yourself is not omitted.
5241 (Mt 22,41-46)
(p. 765) Pseudo-Chrys.: The Jews tempted Christ, supposing Him to be mere man; had they believed Him to be the Son of God, they would not have tempted Him. Christ therefore, willing to shew that He knew the treachery of their hearts, and that He was God, yet would not declare this truth to them plainly, that they might not take occasion thence to charge Him with blasphemy, and yet would not totally conceal this truth; because to that end had He come that He should preach the truth.
He therefore puts a question to them, such as should declare to them who He was; "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He?"
Chrys., Hom. lxxi: He first asked His disciples what others said of Christ, and then what they themselves said; but not so to these. For they would have said that He was a deceiver, and wicked. They thought that Christ was to be mere man, and therefore "they say unto Him, The Son of David." To reprove this, He brings forward the Prophet, witnessing His dominion, proper Sonship, and His joint honour with His Father.
Jerome: This passage is out of the 109th Psalm. Christ is therefore called David's Lord, not in respect of His descent from him, but in respect of His eternal generation from the Father, wherein He was before His fleshly Father. And he calls Him Lord, not by a mere chance, nor of his own thought, but by the Holy Spirit.
Remig.: That He says, "Sit thou on my right hand," is not to be taken as though God had a body, and either a right hand or a left hand; but to sit on the right hand of God is to abide in the honour and equality of the Father's majesty.
Pseudo-Chrys.: I suppose that He formed this question, not only against the Pharisees, but also against the heretics; for (p. 766) according to the flesh He was truly David's Son, but his Lord according to His Godhead.
Chrys.: But He rests not with this, but that they may fear, He adds, "Till I make thine enemies thy footstool;" that at least by terror He might gain them.
Origen: For God puts Christ's enemies as a footstool beneath His feet, for their salvation as well as their destruction.
Remig.: But "till" is used for indefinite time, that the meaning be, Sit Thou for ever, and for ever hold thine enemies beneath thy feet.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: That it is by the Father that the enemies are put under the Son, denotes not the Son's weakness, but the union of His nature with His Father. For the Son also puts under Him the Father's enemies, when He glorifies His name upon earth. He concludes from this authority, "If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?"
Jerome: This question is still available for us against the Jews; for these who believe that Christ is yet to come, assert that He is a mere man, though a holy one, of the race of David. Let us then thus taught by the Lord ask them, If He be mere man, and only the Son of David, how does David call Him his Lord?
To evade the truth of this question, the Jews invent many frivolous answers. They allege Abraham's steward, he whose son was Eliezer of Damascus, and say that this Psalm was composed in his person, when after the overthrow of the five kings, the Lord God said to his lord Abraham, "Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool."
Let us ask how Abraham could say the things that follow, and compel them to tell us how Abraham was born before Lucifer, and how he was a Priest after the order of Melchisedech, for whom Melchisedech brought bread and wine, and of whom he received tithes of the spoil?
Chrys.: This conclusion He put to their questionings, as final, and sufficient to stop their mouth. Henceforward accordingly they held their peace, not by their own good-will, but from not having aught to say.
Origen: For had their question sprung of desire to know, He would never have proposed to them such things as should have deterred them from asking further.
Raban.: Hence we learn that the poison of jealousy may be overcome, but can hardly of itself rest at peace.
5301 (Mt 23,1-4)
(p. 767) Pseudo-Chrys.: When the Lord had overthrown the Priests by His answer, and shewn their condition to be irremediable, forasmuch as clergy, when they do wickedly, cannot be amended, but laymen who have gone wrong are easily set right, He turns His discourse to His Apostles and the people. For that is an unprofitable word which silences one, without conveying improvement to another.
Origen: The disciples of Christ are better than the common herd; and you may find in the Church such as with more ardent affection come to the word of God; these are Christ's disciples, the rest are only His people. And sometimes He speaks to His disciples alone, sometimes to the multitudes and His disciples together, as here.
"The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat," as professing his Law, and boasting that they can interpret it. Those that do not depart from the letter of the Law are the Scribes; those who make high professions, and separate themselves from the vulgar as better than they, are called Pharisees, which signifies (p. 768) 'separate'.
Those who understand and expound Moses according to his spiritual meaning, these sit indeed on Moses' seat, but are neither Scribes nor Pharisees, but better than either, Christ's beloved disciples. Since His coming these have sat upon the seat of the Church, which is the seat of Christ.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But regard must be had to this, after what sort each man fills his seat; for not the seat makes the Priest, but the Priest the seat; the place does not consecrate the man, but the man the place. A wicked Priest derives guilt and not honour from his Priesthood.
Chrys., Hom. lxxii: But that none should say, For this cause am I slack to practise, because my instructor is evil, He removes every such plea, saying, "All therefore whatsoever they say unto you, that observe and do," for they speak not their own, but God's, which things He taught through Moses in the Law. And look with how great honour He speaks of Moses, shewing again what harmony there is with the Old Testament.
Origen: But if the Scribes and Pharisees who sit in Moses' seat are the teachers of the Jews, teaching the commandments of the Law according to the letter, how is this that the Lord bids us do after all things which they say; but the Apostles in the Acts (marg. note: Ac 15,19) forbid the believers to do according to the letter of the Law. These indeed taught after the letter, not understanding the Law spiritually. Whatsoever they say to us out of the Law, with understanding of its sense, that we do and keep, not doing after their works, for they do not what the law enjoins, nor perceive the veil that is upon the letter of the Law.
Or by "all" we are not to understand every thing in the Law, many things for example relating to the sacrifices, and the like, but such as concern our conduct.
But why did He command this not of the Law of grace, but of the doctrine of Moses? Because truly it was not the time to publish the commandments of the New Law before the season of His passion. I think also that He had herein something further in view. He was about to bring many things against the Scribes and Pharisees in His discourse following, wherefore that vain men might not think that He coveted their place of authority, or spoke thus out of enmity to them, he first puts away from Himself this suspicion, and then begins to reprove them, that the people might not fall into their (p. 769) faults; and that, because they ought to hear them, they should not think that therefore they ought to imitate them in their works, He adds, "But do ye not after their works." What can be more pitiable than such a teacher, whose life to imitate is ruin, to refuse to follow is salvation for his disciples?
Pseudo-Chrys.: But as gold is picked out of the dross, and the dross is left, so hearers may take doctrine and leave practice, for good doctrine oft comes from an evil man. But as Priests judge it better to teach the bad for the sake of the good, rather than to neglect the good for the sake of the bad; so also let those who are set under them pay respect to the bad Priests for the sake of the good, that the good may not be despised because of the bad; for it is better to give the bad what is not their due, rather than to defraud the good of what is justly theirs.
Chrys.: Look with what He begins His reproof of them, "For they say, and do not." Every one who transgresses the Law is deserving of blame, but especially he who has the post of instruction. And this for a threefold cause; first, because he is a transgressor; secondly, because when he ought to set others right, be himself halts; thirdly, because, being in the rank of a teacher, his influence is more corrupting.
Again, He brings a further charge against them, that they oppress those that are put under them; "They bind heavy burdens;" in this He shews a double evil in them; that they exacted without any allowance the utmost rigour of life from those that were put under them, while they allowed themselves large licence herein. But a good ruler should do the contrary of this, to be to himself a severe judge, to others a merciful one. Observe in what forcible words He utters His reproof; He says not they cannot, but "they will not;" and not, lift them, but "touch them with one of their fingers."
Pseudo-Chrys.: And to the Scribes and Pharisees of whom He is now speaking, heavy burdens not to be borne are the commandments of the Law; as St. Peter speaks in the Acts, "Why seek ye to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? (Ac 15,10) For commending the burdens of the Law by fabulous proofs, they bound as it were the shoulders of the heart of their hearers with bands, that thus tied as though with proof of reason to them, they might not fling (p. 770) them off; but themselves did not in the least measure fulfil them, that is, not only did not wholly, but did not so much as attempt to.
Gloss., interlin.: Or, "bind burdens," that is, gather traditions from all sides, not to aid, but to burden the conscience.
Jerome: But all these things, the shoulders, the finger, the burdens, and the bands with which they bind the burdens, have a spiritual meaning. Herein also the Lord speaks generally against all masters who enjoin high things, but do not even little things.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Such also are they who lay a heavy burden upon those who come to penitence, so that while men would avoid present punishment, they overlook that which is to come. For if you lay upon a boy's shoulders a burden more than be can bear, be must needs either cast it off, or be broken down by it; so the man on whom you lay too grievous a burden of penance must either wholly refuse it, or if be submit himself to it will find himself unable to bear it, and so be offended, and sin worse.
Also, if we should be wrong in imposing too light a penance, is it not better to have to answer for mercy than for severity ? Where the master of the household is liberal, the steward should not be oppressive. If God be kind, should His Priest be harsh? Do you seek thereby the character of sanctity? Be strict in ordering your own life, in that of others lenient; let men hear of you as enjoining little, and performing much. The Priest who gives licence to himself, and exacts the utmost from others, is like a corrupt tax-gatherer in the state, who to ease himself taxes others heavily.
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