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’s Commentary on Matt 10:16-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2011

Mat 10:16  Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

Behold I send you as sheep, &c. S. jerome, by wolves, understands the Scribes and Pharisees: others, any enemies, or persecutors. No animal is so defenceless as a sheep. In this way Christ sends his Apostles without arms, that he may shew forth His own power in them. He does not send them as lions, but as sheep, that by means of His miraculous power they may vanquish the wolves. Listen to S. Chrys., “Let them blush, who, like wolves, persecute their adversaries, when they behold innumerable wolves overcome by a very few sheep. And assuredly, so long as we are sheep, we shall easily overcome our enemies. But when we are changed into the nature of wolves, then we are overcome, for in such a case we have no more help from our shepherd, who feeds sheep not wolves.” S. Chrys. observes that Christ foretells coming evils and persecutions to His Apostles for four reasons. 1. That they may learn His foreknowledge. 2. That they may not suppose such things happen through lack of power in their master. 3. That they may not be suddenly overcome. 4. That they may not be troubled at the time of the Cross. Christ thus, as it were, animates His Apostles, “Come, 0 ye my Apostles, I am sending you to the Jews and to Infidels, who will vex you and persecute you, but think of this, that it is I who send you, I, I say, who sent Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and the rest of the prophets to Ahab, Jezebel and Manasseh, and other wicked kings. I animated, strengthened, and protected them, and when need was, I delivered them. And when at length I permitted them to be slain by them, it was that by their blood they might set a seal to My faith and religion, and win the laurel crown of martyrdom. In the same manner I now send you: and through you I am about to do the same, yea still greater things. I will be always with you, and stand by you, that in life ye may by the innocency of sheep, and in death by the meekness of sheep, conquer all men and all things.

Therefore by these words, Behold I send you, are signified the Divine authority, power, assistance, and protection of Christ whereby He defends His Apostles, as it were innocent sheep, against the wolves their enemies, that they may convert them by preaching, or else nobly vanquish them by dying. He therefore that will be Christ’s true servant, disciple, and Apostle, let him look upon himself as sent forth like a sheep in the midst of wolves. So let him be lavish of his life, as though he were doomed, and prepared to endure labours and crosses, yea death itself, for Christ’s sake. Albanus, the Captain General of the army of Charles V., had 400 stout and resolute youths, who were prodigal of life, and devoted to death, called the forlorn hope. In a battle, he despatched these against the strongest part of the enemy’s ranks, that by their audacity and determination to die, they might throw those ranks into confusion, and so prepare the way for victory. Thus devoted and prodigal of his life let the Apostolic preacher of Christ deem himself, that he may subdue unbelievers to Christ the conqueror. Such a one blessed Xavier deemed himself, when he was going to the Indies, and said to his weeping friends: “Do merchants at such expense and such peril, prodigal of life, sail to India from zeal for earthly merchandise; and shall not I go thither for the sake of God and souls?”

Be ye therefore wise, &c. Wise, i.e., prudent. 1. “That by prudence,” says S. Jerome, “ye may avoid snares, and by harmlessness or simplicity ye may do no evil. And the craft of a serpent is given as an example, because with its whole body it hides its head, to protect that wherein is its life. So too let us, by the exposure of our whole body, guard Him who is our Head—Christ; that is, let us strive to keep the faith whole and undefiled.” 2. Rabanus Maurus says, that the serpent is wont craftily to choose narrow chinks, so as by passing through them, to put off his old skin. Hear Isidore of Pelusium (lib. i. epist. 26): “The serpent by crafty artifice puts off his old skin, by compressing himself into some narrow chink. So Christ wishes us, by means of the narrow way and affliction, to put off the old man and to put on instead the new man, which is renewed after His image.” 3. Remigius says, Beautifully doth the Lord admonish preachers to have the prudence of serpents, because the first man was deceived by a serpent. It was as though He had said, Because the enemy was crafty to deceive, do ye be prudent to deliver. He commanded the Tree, do ye praise the virtue of the Cross. Hilary adds, He falsely promised immortality, saying, You shall be as gods; do ye promise true immortality, that they who believe shall be as angels.

4. The serpent has most clear sight. Whence the adage—the eye of a serpent. So let an Apostle behold all things with the piercing sight of his mind, that he may avoid what is evil and forward what is good.

And simple (Vulg. simplices) as doves. Because, as Remigius says, “Simplicity without prudence is easily deceived, and wisdom is dangerous unless it be tempered with simplicity.” And as S. Gregory says (lib. iv. epist. 31 ad Mauritium), “As the astuteness of the serpent sharpens the simplicity of the dove, so does the simplicity of the dove temper the astuteness of the serpent.”

For simple the Gr. is α̉κέραιοι, which (if it be derived from α̉, privative, and κέρας, a horn) means devoid of malice or harm, innocent, innocuous. So S. Basil: or if from α̉, privative, and κερα̉ννυμι, to mingle, it is the same as unmixed, i.e., pure, sincere—those who, without prevarication, express with their mouths what they think in their hearts. Christ therefore bids them “by prudence avoid snares, by simplicity to do no evil,” says S. Jerome.

S. Chrysos. says, anger is not extinguished by anger, but by meekness. It is not enough to bear evils, but we must not even be troubled, which is dove-like.

Theoph. and Euthym. remark that doves, although they be deprived of their young ones, yet return to the same nests and masters. As though Christ said, “So also, 0 ye Apostles, do not ye remember the injuries done unto you, but meekly and lovingly return ye to those who have vexed and injured you, that ye may help and convert them. This is the ninth precept of Christ. The tenth follows.

Mat 10:17  But beware of men. For they will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.

But beware of men, &c. Councils, Gr. συνέδρια, i.e., sessions of magistrates and judges; lest by them ye be condemned as blasphemers of God, or rather of the gods. The Syriac has, They shall deliver you into the house of judgments, that is, into the prætoria. Beware of men—1, false and treacherous men, who shall bring you to councils and before judges. Such are those, who for this cause are to be guarded against at this day in England, Scotland, and Japan; 2, of men, viz., insidious men, who lay snares for you by means of perplexing and political questions, that they may catch some word out of your mouth against the laws or sovereigns, that they may accuse you to them; 3, of men, i.e., persecutors, who seek to kill you. Beware, i.e., bear yourselves cautiously, as far as may be, remembering your duty, so that ye may avoid their plots and treacheries; but above all, that ye fall not by their persecutions and threats so as to deny Christ.

Moraliter: let every one learn to beware of himself, for man is a wolf to man.

And so no one need say, I have been born in an inauspicious time, I cannot be a martyr. There is no Nero now, no Decius now. Any one can be a martyr if he manfully resist lusts, fears, temptations, for the love of God. Thy cupidity is a Decius to thee, thy fear a Nero, thy temptation is a Julian. Thy companion persecutes thee—laughs at thee—calumniates thee. Fever, cold, asthma torments thee. If thou bear these patiently for the love of God, thou art a martyr of patience, like Job was. Gluttony goads thee to swill in wine and delicacies. Resist, and thou art a martyr of abstinence, like Daniel. Ambition attracts thee to raise thyself above others, to aim at high dignities. Pluck it from thy mind, and thou art a martyr of humility and modesty, like S. Francis. Does thy superior bid thee do hard things, which are repugnant to thy feelings? obey, conquering thyself, and thou art a martyr of obedience, like Abraham, when he offered up Isaac. Does lust titillate thee? Mortify it by fasting, crucify it by hair shirts, and thou wilt be a martyr of chastity, as Joseph was. Study, teach, preach, labour, go to the Indians, that thou mayest save perishing souls, and thou art a martyr of charity, like blessed Xavier.

They will scourge you: Thus Peter and the Apostles were beaten (Acts 5:40). And S. Paul says (2 Cor 2:24), “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.”

And in their synagogues, where the law was read, and breakers of the law were scourged.

Mat 10:18  And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles:

And you shall be brought before governors, i.e., of provinces. So Paul was led as a captive before Felix and Festus, governors of Judea; James the Less before Ananias, the High Priest, by whom he was ordered to be slain; Peter and James the Great before Agrippa, who struck off James’ head. Peter and Paul were brought to Nero, under whom they at length underwent a glorious martyrdom, Thus, too, S. Andrew was led to Ægeus, the pro-consul of Achaia, by whom he was crucified; S. John to the Emperor Domitian, by whom he was placed in a cask of boiling oil, from which he gloriously came forth. From such things it will be seen that what Christ now says does not refer to this first sending the Apostles into Judea, for we do not read of any such things happening then, but of things which were to happen in their future life.

For my sake. He adds, says S. Chrysostom, an alleviation which was no small consolation, that they should suffer for Christ’s sake. Wherefore when the Apostles were beaten, “they went from the Council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

For a testimony of my true faith which ye preach: for of this your martyrdom shall be an illustrious testimony. Hence, many who saw the constancy of the Apostles and Martyrs under their torments were converted to Christ. So S. Hilary.

Mat 10:19  But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak:
Mat 10:20  For it is not you that speak, but the spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.

But when they shall deliver you up, &c. This is the eleventh precept of Christ, by which he forbids the Apostles being anxious about their answers to the questions of the governors, because He promises that He will Himself suggest to them what they shall be. Take no thought. The Gr. is μὴ μεριμνήσητε, do not be anxious and solicitous. He does not forbid their prudently premeditating an answer, but forbids an anxious and troubled care about it. By the martyr in his questionings and torments God must be assiduously invoked that He may inspire him with wisdom to answer, and courage to endure. This is what Luke 21:15 says Christ promised, I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay. Thus it is said of S. Stephen, “They were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spake.” There is a famous example of the literal fulfilment of this promise in the life of Saint Lucy of Syracuse who, when she was ordered by the governor Paschasius to sacrifice to the gods, boldly refused. The prefect said in a threatening tone, “Your words will cease when you come to be scourged.” The Virgin answered, “Words can never be wanting to God’s servants when the Lord Christ has said, ‘When ye stand before kings and governors take no thought how or what ye shall answer, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall say, for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost which speaketh in you.’” Then Paschasius asked her, “Is the Holy Spirit in thee?” She replied, “Those who live chastely and holily are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “I will command thee to be taken to the house of shame, and then the Holy Spirit will leave thee.” The Virgin answered, “If you order me to suffer violence against my will, my chastity shall receive a double crown.” Then Paschasius was inflamed with rage, and commanded her to be led to the house of shame; but by the power of God it came to pass that by no force could the Virgin be removed from the place where she stood. Observe the wonderful prudence of this Virgin, who to every question answered wisely, so that the governor was put to silence. Of a truth the Holy Ghost spake in her.

Tropologically: S. Austin (lib. iv. De Doctrinâ Christiani, c. 15) teaches that a preacher ought to pray and study before his sermon: but for the actual time when he is speaking he ought to think that the Lord’s words are applicable to a good mind—Take no thought how or what to speak, &c.


Mat 10:21  The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall put them to death.

The brother also shall deliver the brother to death, &c. Because they believe in Me and preach Me. Christ fortifies beforehand the Apostles and believers by predicting the persecutions which they were about to suffer from their unbelieving relations, who (forgetful of natural ties and affections) would persecute them even unto death. As Bede says, “He foretold the future trouble, in order that, being known beforehand, they might more easily bear it.” “For the darts which are seen coming are less likely to strike,” says S. Hilary. As examples of the fulfilment of these words, S. Barbara was killed by her own father for the faith of Christ. So, too, was S. Christina. S. Lucia was accused by her own son Euprepius of being a Christian, and was crowned by the judge with the martyr’s laurel on the 16th of September, A.D. 303. S. Wenceslas, prince of Bohemia, was treacherously killed by his brother Boleslas and his mother Drahomira, who were unbelievers. The Emperor Maximian caused his sister Artemias, a Christian, and Diocletian, his wife Serena, Pope S. Caius, and his brother S. Gabinus, with his holy daughter Susanna, his cousins, to suffer martyrdom because they were Christians.

Mat 10:22  And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.

And you shall be hated by all men, &c. All—that is, many, almost all, as was wont to be in councils, judgment-halls, and theatres where the martyrs were. For the faith and preaching of Christ crucified was at the first new and paradoxical to the whole world. Wherefore both Jews (who were accustomed to Moses) and Gentiles (who were attached to their gods) rose up against the Apostles, who preached this doctrine, and against the little flock of believers who were converted to it.

But he that shall persevere, i.e., in patience. For the Gr. is ό ύπυμείνας, he who shall sustain these persecutions and adversities unto the end at once of his persecutions and his life, he wholly and solely shall be saved. He shall be endowed with health, happiness, and eternal glory as the reward and crown of his patience. It is not enough to have endured and overcome once, twice, or thrice: but to win the crown we must endure and conquer to the end, according to those words in the Apoc.: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” See what I have there said. Hear S. Bernard (Epis. 129): “Perseverance merits glory for men, a crown for virtues. It is the vigour of strength, the consummation of virtues; it is a nurse of merit, a winner of reward, a sister of patience, a bulwark of sanctity. Take away perseverance, and there is neither reward for obedience, nor grace for well-doing, nor praise for fortitude.”

Mat 10:23  And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another. Amen I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come.

And when they shall persecute you, &c.—Flee, “not,” says Bede, from fearing suffering, but by yielding, so that the occasion of tribulation may become the seed of the Gospel,” lest by the slaying of the preachers the preaching of the faith should be cut off, but by their fleeing it may be scattered in other places. This flight was indeed victory. For they fled not through fear, but from love to Christ, that they might propagate His faith. So the Tartars, as they flee, cast their darts at their pursuing enemies, and so transfix and slay them.

You will ask whether this be a precept, or only a permission. I reply, it is partly a precept, as when the necessity of the Church, or the faith, or peril of one’s own fall, requires flight. For “he does not deny Christ by flying, who flies lest he should deny,” says S. Chrysos. So S. Nazian. (Orat. 1 in Julian) and Athanasius (de fugâ suâ). For had he not fled from the rage of the Arians, they would have triumphed over the Homoousian faith, which seemed to stand or fall with Athanasius. It is partly of counsel, as when greater benefit is expected for oneself or others from flight. It is partly a permission, as when any one has an excessive dread of torments; and he is not bound by any necessity or obligation (as being a bishop or pastor, for example) to remain in a particular place. For otherwise it is unlawful to flee if peril, or scandal, be likely to accrue to the Faith, the Sacraments, or the Sheep, i.e., the faithful. This is plain from John 10:11-12.

Hence the example of Christ, of His Apostles, of S. Athanasius and others is a refutation of Tertullian who in his book, de Fugâ, contends that flight is unlawful. S. Jer. (in Catal. Scriptor Ecclesiast. in Tertul.) shews that this book was one of those which he wrote against the Church after he became a heretic and a Montanist.

Amen I say to you, you shall not finish, &c. The Gr. is ου̉ μὴ τελέσητε, you shall not have finished, that is, traversing and converting all the cities of Israel. 1. S. Chrysos, explains it of the first mission of the Apostles into Judea; as much as to say, flee from the city where they persecute into another; for ye shall not have gone over all the cities of Palestine until I shall return to you, and recall you to me. But in this first mission the Apostles were kindly received by the Jews, so that there was no need for them to flee. They came back to Christ rejoicing, as we see by Luke 10:17.

2. Bede expounds thus, “Ye shall not have converted the Jews before my resurrection. After that I will return to you and send you to the Gentiles dispersed throughout the world, where you shall have a perpetual field for your labours.”

3. Others say, “Ye shall not have gone over Judea, preaching and fleeing away until I return to it in vengeance by means of Vespasian and Titus, that I may cut off the Jews who have persecuted you.”

4. And correctly, “Ye shall not by journeying and preaching, perfect in the faith of the Gospel and the religion of Christ, the cities, that is the people of Israel, to whom I am now sending you before the second advent of the Son of Man.” For as S. Paul teaches in Romans 11, it behoveth that the fulness of the Gentiles, i.e., all the Gentiles must come first into the Church, and then all Israel shall be saved. Christ intimates that the Jews shall disbelieve the Gospel until the end of the world, but then, a little before the judgment, they will be converted by Enoch and Elias. So S. Hilary.

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3 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matt 10:16-23”

  1. […] UPDATE: Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:16-23). […]

  2. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:17-22). Actually, this post is on verses 16-23. […]

  3. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 10:17-22. Actually, this post is on verses 16-23. […]

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