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 Matthew 11:20-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 9, 2011

Mat 11:20  Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance.

Then began He to upbraid, &c. Then namely, when He sent the Apostles to preach throughout Galilee, and He preached by Himself, though with little fruit and few conversions. Began he  to upbraid the extreme ingratitude and obstinate wickedness of these cities, viz, those in which most of His mighty works, i.e., His miracles, were done. These were the miracles by which He confirmed His teaching. And He upbraided the cities because after so many miracles, and so many exhortations, so many threats of hell, so many promises of the Kingdom of Heaven, they had not repented.

Mat 11:21  Woe thee, Chorazin, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they would have long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes.

Woe unto thee, Chorazin, &c. Chorazin was a renowned city of Galilee, which was numbered amongst the ten more celebrated towns of Decapolis. It was situated over against Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, where the Jordan flows into it. It was about two miles distant from Capernaum. Wherefore Christ, who had fixed his home and settled abode at Capernaum, frequently made excursions to preach in Chorazin and Bethsaida, and the neighbouring towns. Chorazin, or Cozorain in Chaldee, is the same as Co, i.e., here, and raya, i.e., a secret. Appropriately, because Christ here preached the arcana, or secrets of the faith. S. Jerome, in his work on Hebrew places, testifies that in his time Corozain, as it is spelt in the Vulgate, was deserted. There are still some ancient ruins remaining on its site. Some persons are of opinion that Antichrist will be born at Chorazin, and brought up there, though others think he will be born in Babylon, according to the words of Jeremiah (cap. 1.), “From Babylon shall all evil be opened out.” But both these opinions are extremely doubtful.

Bethsaida: Bethsaida also was one of the chief cities of Galilee, adjacent to the sea, and distant from Capernaum about three hours’ journey. It received its name from being inhabited by fishermen. Beth means a house, and saida is fishing, צור sud in Heb. means to hunt, but in Syriac to fish, because fishing is hunting in the sea, whence saida means fishermen. So Franc. Lucas. It is probable that the home of Peter and Andrew was in this city, where Christ healed Peter’s mother in law, who was sick of a fever. But see what I have said on Matt 8:14. Here, also, Christ placed spittle in the eyes of a certain blind man, and restored him to perfect sight (see Mark, ch. 8) Wherefore, Christ deservedly upbraids Bethsaida, because, though its people had seen so many miracles of His, they did not believe in Him. And so he threatens it with destruction, future as well as present; and this really happened to them. For this city formerly so abounding in prosperity, and so populous, is so deserted that it scarcely cntains six houses. (See Adrichomius, Descrip. Terræ Sanct. p. 137.)

For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles, &c. We must understand, if the inward grace of God had accompanied the outward miracles: that is to say, if there, had been an illumination of the understanding, and an influencing of the will, agreeable and proportionable to those, such as God is wont ordinarily to give. For without inward grace to influence the mind, all outward preaching is vain and worthless.

They would have long ago done penance, &c. Theologians gather from this passage that God knows certainly conditional events, which depend on free will, even although those events will never happen, forasmuch as the condition does not exist in the nature of things. Christ here asserts positively that the Tyrians and Sidonians would have repented if they had seen the miracles of Christ, yet they did not see these miracles, and consequently did not repent. The reason a priori is, the infinite nature of the Divine Mind, the immeasurable scope and activity of the Divine understanding, which wholly comprehends, penetrates and perfectly beholds all things, even those that are the most secret, and what is called the liberty of man, and his free thoughts and volitions. Therefore it is omniscient, and nothing is able to escape it, so that it should not thoroughly behold and perceive it. For the object of the Divine omniscience is all truth, past, present, and future, and that either conditional or absolute. In future conditional events, one half of a contradiction is true, as in absolute propositions. For with the condition, that which is said will either be, or will not be. See what I have said on Jer 38:17., also on Wisdom 4:11 on the words, “He was taken away, lest wickedness should change his understanding.”

Again, S. Aug. (lib. de bono perseveran. caps. 9 and 10), refutes by means of this passage the Semipelagians who said that God predestinates such and such men, because He foresees they will use well grace, if it be given them. For the Tyrians would have used grace well, if it had been given, yet it was not given.

Lastly, from this place do not gather that to the Tyrians was wanting sufficient grace, but such copious and abundant grace as the Galilæans had.

Mat 11:22  But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.

But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable: Arabic, there shalt be greater remission for Tyre, &c. For the Tyrians and Sidonians shall be punished on account of their own wickednesses, but you, 0 ye Galilæans shall be more severely punished: 1. Because ye had greater knowledge of God’s law, and virtue. 2. Because ye have often heard Me preaching and exhorting to repentance, and have beheld Me doing many miracles, none of which things the Tyrians have either seen or heard.

Moraliter: In like manner, Christians shall be more heavily punished in the day of judgment than the Jews; the citizens of Rome, than the inhabitants of India; priests, than laymen; religious, than seculars, if the former classes have lived sinful lives; forasmuch as they have received greater degrees of grace and knowledge from God, and would not make use of them, but abused them to their own greater damnation.

Mat 11:23  And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day.

And thou Capernaum, &c. Thou, which art exalted through My miracles and doctrine and preaching, rather than by thy merchandise and thy wealth, and who hast been made glorious and famous with God and man, shalt thou, I say, be always exalted? Not so: but in the day of judgment thou shalt be thrust down to hell . Thou shalt descend into its lowest pit; that beneath the Tyrians and Sidonians who have sinned less than thou hast, thou mayst abide in the very centre of Gehenna, and there mayest feel more than others its fiery burnings. Thou shalt be tormented and burnt up, because very many of thy citizens shall be cast into hell. Hence S. Aug. (Serm. 42 de Sanc.) explains exalted, as follows. “Forasmuch as thou seemest to thyself to be very happy, very powerful, very proud, and so dost despise Me, and all who admonish thee, this is the very cause why thou rushest on thine own destruction.”

For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in tee, perhaps as the Vulg. here hath it: (forte) &c. But this word forte, peradventure, or perchance, does not in this place denote doubt, or hesitation. It represents the α̉ν of the Gr. text, α̉ν being here an expletive, or a particle expressing confirmation, and signifies, certainly, verify. The translation omits to render α̉ν in v. 21., and various other passages, where it is found in the Greek. Indeed α̉ν is only translated forte, perhaps, in four places, viz., here; in John 5:46; in Ps 81:15; and in 2 Cor7:5. In all the other passages, which are very numerous, in which α̉ν occurs in the Greek, it is not translated in the Vulgate, but the passage is rendered affirmatively, as in Matt 3:18, Matt 5:18, Matt 6:5, Matt 10:12, and very many other places, as you may perceive from a Greek Concordance. This is the reason why Vatablus and others omit the perchance in this passage, and trans. simply, it would have remained. The perchance does not mean that Christ had any doubt about Sodom’s remaining, but that although it certainly would have remained, yet this remaining would have been free, i.e. of its own free will, therefore the word α̉ν denotes that he foresaw what would have happened, as it were fortuitously. Thus Terence says in the Andria, “Perchance I behold a soldier: I approach the man.” Also Livy (lib. 1.), “Perchance it fell out.” The meaning therefore is, If the Sodomites had heard My preaching, and had beheld as many miracles, as you have, 0 ye inhabitants of Capernaum, in confirmation of that preaching, verify they would have felt compunction and would have repented, and would have remained until this very day. Understand; unless they themselves or their descendants had after their repentance again relapsed into the same, or similar sins, and had again provoked the anger of God to bring upon them a like destruction. But if they had continued in their repentance and change of life, they would have remained until this day. All this is intimated by the word, perchance, here. And this is why Franc. Lucas renders α̉ν έμειναν, by the potential mood, they might have remained.

Mat 11:24  But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.

But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable: Arabic, it shall find greater forgiveness: Syriac, they shall be more tranquil.

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2 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary Matthew 11:20-24”

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