The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Cornelius a Lapide on Luke 10:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 18, 2010

Note: Text in red represent additions by me. Most of the additions are taken from Lapide’s commentary on Matthew’s missionary discourse.

Luk 10:1  And after these things, the Lord appointed also other seventy-two. And he sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself was to come.

After these things the Lord appointed also other seventy. Seventy-two in the  Vulgate. Dorotheus and others profess to give their names, but Eusebius declares that he knew of no written list of these seventy disciples, although the names of some might be gathered from the Acts of the Apostles, e.g., Matthias and Barsabas, Acts 1; Stephen and the other Deacons, Acts 6; Ananias and Barnabas, Acts 4; Mnason, Acts 21, and others. Here observe,

1. That as Moses at the beginning of his leadership chose elders or princes for the twelve tribes of Israel and afterwards, by reason of the increase of the people and of the cares of government, made a further choice of six from each tribe, i.e. of seventy-two, to act as rulers: so Christ ordained that each tribe, should have its Apostle, and six presbyters or elders, for such were these disciples, who were commanded to go throughout all Judæa, preaching that the kingdom of God and of Christ was nigh, and confirming their preaching by miracles, that so the work of the Apostles might be furthered and spread.

This number was mystically prefigured by the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint; by the “men of the elders of the people” whom Moses chose (Num 11:16); by the number of the Sanhedrin, and by the wells and palm trees of Elim, Exod 15:27.

Again, the seventy-two disciples, saith Bede, answer to the seventy-two nations of the world, as if Christ had appointed to each nation its own disciple or teacher. For S. Augustine, S. Jerome, and others hold that after the confusion of tongues, mankind was divided into seventy-two nations and languages. See Gen 10:32.

Hence, it is clear that there was distinction and difference in the degrees and duties of the priests. For these disciples were not equal in dignity to the Apostles; indeed Matthias, who was, according to Clement of Alexandria, one of their number, was chosen from them to the Apostolate, Acts 1. Hence the Fathers teach that the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and the priests of the seventy disciples. Although, in the early days of the Church, saith Bede, both the one and the other were called Presbyters or Bishops, in the one case to signify the ripeness of their wisdom, in the other case their zeal in the pastoral office.

Symbolically. As in twenty-four hours the whole world moves round the sun and receives light, so is the world enlightened by Christ through the Gospel of the Trinity, which was preached at His command by the seventy-two -disciples. For three times twenty-four makes seventy-two. S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang.)

And sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself was to come, i.e. into Judæa, as He had before sent the twelve Apostles into Galilee. Jesus wished to make Himself known to the Jews as the Messiah, and to offer them salvation through faith in Him. Therefore as He was Himself unable to go throughout their towns and cities, because the time of His departure was now nigh at hand, He chose the seventy to go before Him and heal the sick, that the minds of His countrymen might be prepared to acknowledge Him as the Christ, and to receive at His hands pardon and forgiveness. But He kept the twelve Apostles with Him to witness to His life, and that they might also assist Him in ministering to the necessities of those who waited on His teaching, and learn how in their turn they should labour for the conversion of the world.

Two by two. For these reasons:

1. That the one might aid and support the other, as Origen, Theophylact and S. Gregory say, and that if one were weary or from any cause unable to carry on the work, the other might take his place. “Two are better than one. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth.” Ecc 4:9-10.

Wherefore Pachonius rules: If the Superior permit, let him take a trustworthy companion and then go forth to visit a brother or a neighbour. And again, Let no one be sent on any business unless another go with him. S. Augustine writes, When ye are journeying, walk together—when at your journey’s end, together rest. And so rule all the other founders of the religious orders.
2. That one may always have in the other a witness to his life, and an adviser and guide. Experience teaches us that they who are associated together two by two, rarely or never are tempted to sins of impurity, but that those who are alone lay themselves open to accusations of evil, even if they have not actually fallen away. Hence S. Thomas was wont to say, A monk away from his brethren is an active evil. S. Augustine rules (Reg. cap. xii.), When ye are in a church, or wheresoever there are women, let each protect the other’s modesty. For thus God, who dwelleth in you, will protect you from yourselves. Another writer, S. Jerome, enjoins: If in the exercise of the priestly office, thou art called upon to visit a widow or a virgin, enter not the house alone; and again, Abide not alone with any woman, unless in the presence of a witness. So also S. Basil. Possidonius also tells us that if S. Augustine was asked by any women to visit them, he never entered their house or conversed with them, even on private matters, unless in the presence of some of his clergy. And so S. Charles Borromeo in our times adopted the rule of S. Augustine, for he never conversed with any of his female relations except one of his upper servants was present. (Vita. Lib. vii. cap. vi). And Seneca even (Epist. 25), says, “Solitude tempts us to every evil;” and as a corrective adds, “Without doubt, it is profitable to place a guard over thyself, so as to have some one to look to, some one to be acquainted with the very thoughts;” and adds, from Epicurus, “Do everything as if there was some one beholding thy actions;” and again (Epist. ii.), “Most sins would be avoided, if a man had a witness beside him when he was about to sin.” The Emperor Justinian also (De Monachis), decrees that monks should go about in company, “to bear witness to each other’s integrity.” And Pope Lucian (Epist. i. ad Episc.) decrees, “We exhort you, for reputation’s sake, that according to the rule of our holy Church ye always take with you priests and deacons as witnesses of your life and conversation; for although ye may have a conscience void of offence, yet because of evilly disposed men, it behoveth you, as the Apostle saith, to have a good report amongst them that are without. 1Ti_3:7. Hence we have ordained that, as a testimony to the Church, two priests or three deacons should always and in all places accompany their Bishop.”

Lastly, we have the authority of S. Thomas of Canterbury, a man of great sanctity and wisdom, who says, “I who have been for thirty years a Bishop know how true is the saying, ‘Woe to him that is alone.’ For I have frequently heard of fearful dangers, and fearful scandals having befallen those who either in public or private affect a solitary life, evils into which they would not have fallen had they not shunned the companionship of their fellow men.”

3. That their preaching might be more powerful to persuade. At the mouth of two or of three witnesses shall the matter be established, Deut 19:15. So we find Christ and His apostles constantly acting on this rule. For Christ sent two of His disciples, Peter and John, to loose the ass and to prepare the passover. After the resurrection Cleophas and a companion went to Emmaus. In like manner we find Peter and John often associated together: they run both to the sepulchre, they go up together to pray at the ninth hour, and both are sent to Samaria by the apostles.

So Paul and Barnabas were separated for the work of the Holy Spirit; Silas and Judas, surnamed Barsabas, sent to Antioch; and Paul and Silas to Syria; and according to the universal belief of the Church, Enoch and Elias will re-appear in the time of Antichrist as witnesses to the truth.

Figuratively. S. Gregory (hom. 17. in Evang.) says, The Lord sent His disciples two by two to preach, because the precepts of charity are two, the love of God and the love of our neighbour, and charity cannot exist without at least two, and thereby he silently suggests to us that he who has not love to another ought not to undertake the office of preaching.

So Origen. It seems from the word of God to be an ancient custom, that two should be associated in His service. For God led Israel out of Egypt by the hands of Moses and Aaron. Joshua and Caleb also united together to appease the people. Hence a brother aided by a brother is as a fortified city. So two by two the animals entered into the ark, unclean by natural generation, but cleansed by the sacrament of the Church, by the spiritual grace attendant on the preaching of the disciples. Gloss.

Into every city and place, whither He Himself was to come. Mystically signifying, as S. Gregory says, that the Lord Himself attends on His preachers. For the words of the preacher persuade men of the truth, and make their hearts ready to be the abiding place of Christ. Hence Isaiah, (Isa 40:3), says, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God.” And the Psalmist, “Make a way for Him who ascendeth upon the west, the Lord is His name.” Ps 67:5, Douay version.

Luk 10:2  And he said to them: The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send labourers into his harvest.

See S. Matt 9:37-38.

Here is the commentary Lapide offers on that text: Then he saith to his disciples, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few.  The harvest He calls the multitude of the people prepared to receive the Gospel, the seeds of which the Prophets had sown. Whence, as S. Austin saith, “the holy Apostles reaped among the Jews, but sowed among the Gentiles, because they delivered to them the first doctrines of the faith, as it were seed.”

Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, &c., namely, that He would send you, 0 ye Apostles, and your co-adjutors and successors, and inspire them with the spirit of wisdom and zeal, assiduously to preach and to labour, that this so copious a harvest perish not.

The Lord of the harvest. Thus, tacitly, Christ calls Himself. As S. Chrysostom says, the Lord sent His Apostles to reap that which He Himself had sown by the Prophets. Remigius adds, The number or labourers was increased by the appointment of seventy-two other disciples.

Luk 10:3  Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves.

Go…I send you as lambs among wolves. That by your innocent and holy lives, through the power of My grace working in you, you may change the wolf into the lamb, i.e., convert evil men from the error of their way. Fear not, therefore, for under My protection no harm can befall you. For, as S. Ambrose says, “the good Shepherd takes care that the wolves do His flock no harm.”

Luk 10:4  Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.

Carry neither purse (provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purse, S. Matt 10.) nor scrip. Neither purse for money, nor scrip for food; for the Shepherd will supply both if needful. He commands them to look to Him who sent them forth for the necessaries of life. Euthymius.

For the preacher ought to have such trust in God, that although unprovided with the expenses of their present life, he should be convinced that they will not fail him; lest whilst his mind is taken up with things temporal, he should be less mindful of things eternal.  S. Gregory. See S. Matt. x. For Christ here gives to the seventy disciples the same commands which He before gave to His twelve apostles.

And salute no man by the way. Do not turn aside to salute your friends or to commune with your acquaintances, but, avoid all such delays, and devote yourselves entirely to the preaching of My gospel. SS. Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory and others

But on the other hand, Euthymius says, Christ means not that His disciples should uncourteously refuse a passing salutation. He only forbids those formal greetings,* which are hindrances to the ministry, and causes of offence. So writes S. Ambrose, who here alludes to the command of Elijah, “If thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him now again” (2Kings 4:29): a command given lest Gehazi might enter into converse with some one by the way, and thus be forgetful of the duty he was sent to perform.

Luk 10:5  Into whatever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house.
Luk 10:6  And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: but if not, it shall return to you.

No commentary is offered on these verses. Here is the commentary on the Matthean parallel:

Mat 10:12  And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house.

When you enter into a house, &c. This (“peace”) was the ancient method of salutation among the Hebrews, by which they prayed for the peace and prosperity of the master of the house and his family. The Hebrews understood it of temporal blessings, but Christ of spiritual. For Christ came to the world to make peace between God, man, and angels. Wherefore when He was born the angels sang, “Peace on earth, to men of goodwill” (Vulg.).

This is the seventh precept (i.e., of the Matthean missionary discourse)—that they should pray for peace for their host, and by their prayer discover if he were worthy and suitable. The Apostles, therefore, pray for peace for their host, first with God, secondly with his family and neighbours and all other persons. S. Chrys. says that this salutation of the Apostles was not a mere naked and verbal one, but real and efficacious, and had the power of conferring upon their host (if he were worthy) actual peace—that is to say, grace, faith, and salvation.

Mat 10:13  And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you.

And if the house be worthy, &c. That is, if—as He had said a little before—the host be worthy, that is, a lover of peace and salvation.

But if it be not worthy, &c. If the host refuse and reject your salutation of peace, your peace shall return unto you—Gr. ε̉πιστραΦήτω, let it return, in the sense of shall return. For the Heb. often uses the imperative instead of the future. Note the personification. Peace is here introduced as a person rejected by a host, and going elsewhere, and carrying the Apostles with him. If the host rejects your salutation of peace, your salutation shall not therefore be unfruitful, for there shall come to yourselves what you prayed for him, that is, peace and all prosperity. Thus shall your peace, repulsed by this unworthy host, come back to you, and lead you to some worthy host who will eagerly receive you and believe your preaching. There is a similar mode of expression in Psa_35:12-13, to which Christ here makes an allusion . “They rewarded me evil for good,” &c.; “And my prayer shall return into mine own bosom.” So Eusebius, S. Athanasius, and Hesychius on this Psalm expound it. The latter says, “Into the bosom of Christ, i e., the Church of the Gentiles, the prayer of Christ (turned away by the Jews) falleth.” This is what S. Paul said to the Jews: “It behoved that the Word of God should be spoken first unto you, but since ye reject it, and count yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”

Luk 10:7  And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house.

For the labourer is worthy of his hire. By hire we must understand not money or its equivalent, but food and nourishment. For the preaching of the kingdom of heaven is above price. Hence S. Augustine says on Ps 103: What do they receive? They bestow spiritual gifts, they receive carnal; they give gold, they receive that which is worthless. Therefore it is clear that the apostles should live by the gospel, and that their hearers were bound by every law, natural and divine, to support them. They were forbidden then to carry either purse or scrip, because God put it into the hearts of those that attended on their teaching to provide for all their wants. For S. Gregory says (Hom. 17), He who forbids us to carry scrip or purse, ordains that we should live of the gospel. Because it is fitting that we should receive earthly things from those to whom we offer heavenly rewards. And again, Christ shows why He bade His disciples carry neither scrip nor purse, not because these things are unneeded, but in order to teach that it was the duty of those to whom they were sent to supply them. S. Augustine, De Consent. Evang. lib. ii.

Luk 10:8  And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.
Luk 10:9  And heal the sick that are therein and say to them: The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

No commentary is offered on these verses by Lapide, however, I will note a couple of things.

Eat such things as are set before you (vs 8).  This was probably interpreted by the original hearers as referring to anything in accord with the food restrictions of the Mosaic Law. In light of future revelatory events (Acts 10) they would have taken on a deeper meaning. It is no accident that the Parable of the Good Samaritan follows the sending and return of the 72. The narrow confines of the Law were to be done away with in accord with the prophetic scripture (see Luke 4:16-30)..

And heal the sick that are therein and say to them: The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you (vs 9). Verse 11 also speaks of the nearness of the Kingdom. “Peace” (vs 5) in the sense of the Hebrew shalom (a total state of well being) is the proper greeting for those open to the nearness of the coming Kingdom, but it is also a judgment upon those who refuse the offer of this peace (vss 6, 11).

7 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide on Luke 10:1-9”

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