Ver 38. Then certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, “Master, we would see a sign from thee.”39. But he answered and said unto them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:40. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly: so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Chrys., Hom., xliii: Because the Lord had so oft repressed the shameless tongue of the Pharisees by His sayings, they now turn to His works, whereat the Evangelist wondering, says, “Then certain of the Scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign of thee;” and that at a time when they should have been moved, when they should have wondered, and been dumb with astonishment; yet even at such time they desist not from their malice. For they say, “We would see a sign of thee,” that they may take Him as in a snare.
Jerome: They require a sign of Him, as though what they had seen were not signs; and in another Evangelist what they required is more fully expressed, “We would see of thee a sign from heaven.”
Either they would have fire from heaven as Elias did; or after the example of Samuel they would that in summer-time, contrary to the nature of the climate, thunder should be heard, lightnings gleam, and rain descend; as though they could not have spoken falsely even against such miracles, and said that they befel by reason of divers hidden motions in the air.
For if thou cavillest against what thou not only beholdest with thine eyes, but feelest with thine hand, and reapest the benefit of, what wilt thou do in those things which come down from heaven? You might make answer, that in Egypt the magi also had given many signs from heaven.
Chrys.: But their words are full of hypocrisy and irony. But now they were railing against Him, saying that He had a deamon; now they fawn upon Him, calling Him, Master. Wherefore the Lord rebukes them severely; “He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”
When they railed on Him, He had answered them mildly; now they approached Him with smooth and deceitful words, He rebukes them sharply; shewing that He was above either affection, and was neither moved to anger by evil speaking, nor was to be gained by flattery. What He says is this; What wonder that ye do thus to Me who am unknown to you, when you have done the same to the Father, of whom ye have had such large knowledge, in that, despising Him ye went after daemons? He calls them an evil generation, because they have ever been ungrateful to their benefactors, and were made worse when they received benefits, which is the extreme of wickedness.
Jerome: Excellently is that said, “and adulterous,” seeing she has put away her husband, and, according to Ezekiel, has joined herself to many lovers.
Chrys.: Which also proves Him to be equal to the Father, if not to believe in Him makes them adulterous.
Raban.: Then He begins to answer them, giving them a sign not from heaven, which they were unworthy to see, but giving it them from the deep beneath. But to His own disciples He gave a sign from heaven, to whom He shewed the glory of His blessed eternity both in a figure on the mount, and after in verity when He was taken up into heaven.
Wherefore it follows, “And there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonas.”
Chrys.: For the signs He wrought were not in order to move them, for He knew that they were hard as stone, but for the profit of others. Or because they had not received it when He had given them a sign such as they now desired. And a sign was given them, when by their own punishment they learned His power. This He alludes to when He says, “No sign shall be given it.” As much as to say; I have shewn yon many mercies; yet none of these has brought you to honour My power, which you will then know when you shall behold your city thrown down upon the ground in punishment.
In the mean time He brings in a saying concerning the Resurrection which they should after understand by those things that they should suffer; saying, “Except the sign of the Prophet Jonas.” For verily His Cross would not have been believed, unless it had had signs to testify to it. But if that were not believed, truly the Resurrection would not have been believed. For this reason also He calls this a sign, and brings forward a figure thereof, that the verity itself may be believed.
It follows, “As Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale.”
Raban.: He shews that the Jews were as criminal as the Ninevites, and that unless they repented they would be destroyed. But like as punishment was denounced against the Ninevites, and at the same time a remedy was set before them, so neither should the Jews despair of pardon, if at least after Christ’s resurrection they should do penitence. For Jonah, that is The Dove, or The mourner, is a sign of Him on whom the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a Dove, and “who bare our sorrows.” [Isa 53:4]
The fish which swallowed Jonas in the sea, shews forth the death which Christ suffered in the world. Three days and nights was the one in the whale’s belly, the other in the tomb; the one was cast up on dry land, the other arose in glory.
Aug., De Cons., Ev., iii, 24: Some, not knowing the Scripture manner of speaking, would interpret as one night those thee hours of darkness when the sun was darkened from the sixth to the ninth hour; and as a day in like manner these other three hours in which it was [p. 468] again restored to the world, from the ninth hour till sunset. Then follows the night preceding the sabbath, which if we reckon with its own day we shall have thus two days and two nights. Then after the sabbath follows the night of the sabbath prime, that is of the dawning of the Lord’s day on which the Lord arose. Thus we shall only get two nights and two days, with this one night to be added if we might understand the whole of it, and it could not be shewn that that dawn was indeed the latter part of the night.
So that not even by taking in those six hours, three of darkness, and three of restored light, can we establish the computation of three days and three nights. It remains therefore that we find the explanation in that usual manner of Scripture of putting a part for the whole.
Jerome: Not that He remained three whole days and three nights in hell, but that this be understood to imply a part of the preparation day, and of the Lord’s day, and the whole sabbath day.
Aug., De Trin., iv. 6: For that the three days were not three full and entire days, Scripture witnesses; the first day is reckoned because the latter end of it comes in; and the third day is likewise reckoned, because the first part of it is included; while the day between, that is the second day, appears in all its twenty-four hours, twelve of the night and twelve of the day. For the succeeding night up to the dawn when the Lord’s resurrection was made known, belongs to the third day. For as the first days of creation were, because of man’s coming fall, computed from morning to night; so these days are because of man’s restoration computed from night to morning.
Chrys.: He said not openly that He should rise again, because they would have derided him, but hints it distantly that even they might believe that He foreknew it. He said not in the earth, but in the heart of the earth, therein declaring His tomb, and that none might suspect that there was only the semblance of death. Therefore also He spake of three days, that it should be believed that He was dead.
But the sign itself proves the truth of it; for Jonas was in the whale’s belly not in figure but in deed; and surely the sign did not happen in very deed, if the thing signified happened only in figure. Wherefore it is manifest that they are children of the Devil who follow Marcion asserting that the passion of Christ was only a phantasy. And that He should suffer for them also, though they would not profit by it, is shewn by that which He speaks, that to this generation should be given the sign of Jonas the Prophet.
Ver 41. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.42. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”
Chrys.: That none should think that the same things would come to pass now among the Jews, as had of old been among the Ninevites; that as Jonas converted them and their city was delivered out of danger, so the Jews should be converted after the resurrection, the Lord now shews the contrary, that they should have no fruit of the benefit of the passion, but should suffer moreover grievous things, as He signifies below in the example of the daemon.
But now He first shews what just punishment they shall suffer, saying, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation.”
Remig.: The Lord shews in these words that there shall be one resurrection of the good and the bad against certain heretics, who said that there should be two, one of the good, another of the bad. These words likewise overthrow that fable of the Jews, who use to say that the Resurrection shall be held a thousand years before the Judgment; these words clearly proving that the Judgment shall ensue straight upon the Resurrection. “And shall condemn it.
Jerome: Not by a sentence of judgment, but by the comparison of their example; as He adds, “For they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” This word ‘hic’ is to be taken as an adverb [p. 470] of place, not as a pronoun. Jonas (according to the LXX) preached for three days, I for this so long time; he to the Assyrians an unbelieving nation, I to God’s own people the Jews; he preached with his voice only, doing no miracles, I, doing so many wonders, am falsely accused as Beelzebub.
Chrys.: Yet does not the Lord stay here, but adds another denunciation, saying, “The queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon.” This was yet more than that first. Jonas went to them; the queen of the south waited not for Solomon to come to her, but herself sought him. Both a woman and a barbarian, and dwelling so far away, she was not afraid of death in her desire to hear his wise words. This woman went to Solomon, I came hither; she rose up from the ends of the earth, I go round about your towns and villages; he spake of trees and wood, I of unspeakable mysteries.
Jerome: So the queen of the south will condemn the Jews in the same manner as the men of Nineveh will condemn unbelieving Israel. This is the queen of Saba, of whom we read in the book of Kings and Chronicles, who leaving her nation and kingdom came through so many difficulties to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and brought him many gifts.
Also in these instances of Nineveh and the queen of Saba, the faith of the Gentiles is significantly set above that of Israel.
Raban.: The Ninevites typify those who cease from sin — the queen those that know not to sin; for penitence puts away sin, wisdom shuns it.
Remig.: Beautifully is the Church gathered out of the Gentiles spoken of as a queen who honours how to rule her ways. Of her the Psalmist speaks; “The queen stood on, thy right hand.” [Psa 45:9] She is the queen of the south because she abounds in the fervour of the Holy Spirit. Solomon, interpreted ‘peaceful,’ signifies Him of whom it is said, “He is our peace.” [Eph 2:14]
Ver 43. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.44. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.45. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
Chrys.: The Lord had said to the Jews, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it;” that they should not therefore be careless, He tells them that not only in the world to come but here also they should suffer grievous things; setting forth in a sort of riddle the punishment that should fall upon them whence He says, “When, the unclean spirit has gone out of a man.”
Jerome: Some suppose that this place is spoken of heretics, because the unclean spirit who dwelt in them before when they were Gentiles, is cast out before the confession of the true faith; when after they went over to heresy, and garnished their house with feigned virtues, then it is that the Devil, having taken to him other seven evil spirits, returns and dwells in them; and their last state becomes worse than their first. And indeed heretics are in a much worse condition than the Gentiles; for in the heretics was a hope of faith, in the Gentiles a war of discord.
Yet though this exposition has a plausibility and a shew of learning, I am doubtful of its truth. For by the concluding words of this, whether it be parable or example, “Thus shall it be to this evil generation,” we are compelled to refer it, not to heretics, or to men in general, but to the Jewish people. So the context of the passage may not shift about loosely and vaguely, and be like unmeaning speeches, but may be consistent with itself from first to last. The unclean spirit then went out from the Jews when they received the Law; and being cast out of the Jews, he walked through the wilderness of the Gentiles; as it follows, “He walketh through dry places seeking rest.”
Remig.: He calls the hearts of the Gentiles, “dry places,” as lacking all the moisture of wholesome waters, that is of the holy Scriptures, and of spiritual gifts, and strangers to the pouring in of the Holy Spirit.
Raban.: Or, the “dry places” are the hearts of the faithful, which after they have been purged from the weakness of loose thoughts, the crafty lier-in-wait tries if by any means he may fix his footsteps there; but lying from the chaste spirit, the Devil finds no resting place to his mind but in the heart of the wicked; as it follows, “and findeth none.”
Remig.: The Devil supposed he should have rest for ever among the Gentiles, but it is added, “and findeth none,” because when the Son of God appeared in the mystery of His Incarnation, the Gentiles believed.
Jerome: And when they believed on the Lord, the Devil, finding no place among the nations, said, “I will return into my house whence I came out;” I have the Jews from whom I formerly departed. “And when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.” [John 14:31] For the temple of the Jews was empty, and had not Christ to dwell therein, He having said, “Arise, let us go hence.”
Seeing then they had not the protection of Angels, and were burdened with the useless observances of the Law, and the traditions of the Pharisees, the Devil returns to his former dwelling, and, taking to him seven other daemons, inhabits it as before. And the last state of that nation is worse than the first, for they are now possessed by a larger number of daemons in blaspheming Jesus Christ in their synagogues, than they were possessed with in Egypt before they had knowledge of the Law; for it is one thing to have no belief that He should come, another not to receive Him when He is come.
A number seven-fold is joined with the Devil, either because of the sabbath, or from the number of the Holy Spirit; that as in Isaiah [margin note: Isa 11:2] upon the bud which comes from the root of Jesse, seven spirits of virtues are related to have descended; so on the other hand an equal number of vices should he poured forth upon the Devil.
Beautifully then are seven spirits said to be taken to him, either because of the breaking of the sabbath, or because of the heinous sins which are contrary to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Chrys.: Or, herein He may be shewing forth their punishment. As when daemoniacs have been loosed from their infirmity, if they after become remiss, they draw upon themselves more grievous illusions, so shall it be among you — before ye were possessed by a daemon, when you worshipped idols, and slew your sons to daemons; yet I forsook you not, but cast out that daemon by the Prophets, and afterwards came Myself seeking to purify you altogether. Since then ye would not hearken to me, but have fallen into more heinous crime, (as it is greater wickedness to slay Christ than to slay the Prophets,) therefore ye shall suffer more heavy calamities. For what befel them under Vespasian and Titus, were much more grievous than they had suffered in Egypt, in Babylon, and under Antiochus.
And this indeed is not all He shews concerning them, but also that since they were destitute of every virtue, they were more fit for the habitation of daemons than before. It is reasonable to suppose that these things were said not to them only, but also to us. If after being enlightened and delivered from our former evils, we are again possessed by the same wickedness, the punishment of these latter sins will be greater than of the first; as Christ spake to the paralytic, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin not, lest a worse thing come upon thee.” [John 5:14]
Raban,: For when any one is converted to the faith, the Devil is cast out of him in Baptism, who driven thence wanders up and down through the dry places, that is, the hearts of the faithful.
Greg., Mor., xxxiii, 3: The dry places where no water is are the hearts of the righteous, which by the power of discipline are dried from all humours of carnal lust. The wet places are the minds of worldly men, which the humour of carnal lust fills, and makes watery; in such the Devil imprints his footsteps the more deeply, inasmuch as in his wanderings he comes down upon such hearts as upon low and marshy ground.
Raban.: And returning to his house whence he had gone out, “he findeth it empty,” of good works through slothfulness, “swept,” that is, of its old vices by Baptism, and “garnished” with feigned virtues through hypocrisy.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 8: So that in these words the Lord signifies that some shall so believe as not to have strength for the work of continence, and shall return to the world. “He taketh unto him other seven,” is to be understood that when any has fallen from righteousness, he shall also have hypocrisy. For the lust of the flesh being cast out of its wonted works by penitence, when it finds not any delights in which it may rest, returns the more greedily, and again takes possession of the goal, if carelessness has ensued, and there has not been introduced as the dweller in the cleansed abode the word of God in sound doctrine.
And as he will not only have the seven vices which are the contraries of the spiritual virtues, but will hypocritically feign that he has the virtues, therefore his old lust, taking to itself seven other worse, that is, this seven-fold hypocrisy, returns to him so as to make the last state of that man worse than the former.
Greg., Mor., vii, 17: For it often happens that the soul in the commencement of its progress is lifted up, and prides itself on its virtues, that it opens an entrance to the adversary who is raging against it, and who shews himself the more violent in breaking into it, by how much he was grieved at being cast out, though but for a short space.
Ver 46. While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.47. Then one said unto him, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.”48. But he answered and said unto him that told him, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?”49. And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, “Behold my mother and my brethren!50. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Hilary: Because He had spoken all the aforesaid things in the power of His Father’s majesty, therefore the Evangelist proceeds to tell what answer He made to one that told Him that His mother and His brethren waited for Him without; “While he yet spake unto the people, his mother and brethren stood without desiring to see him.”
Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 40: We are to understand without doubt that this happened close upon the foregoing; for he begins to tell it with the words, “And while he yet spake.” What can that “yet” mean but that it was at the very time He spake the foregoing things?
Mark also follows up that which He had said concerning blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, by saying, “And there came his mother and his brethren.” [Mark 3:31] Luke has not observed the order of action here, but has placed this earlier as he happened to recollect it.
Jerome: From this is taken one of Helvidius’ propositions [margin note: Hieron. cont. Helvid. 14, et seq.], on the ground that mention is made in the Gospel of the brethren of the Lord. How says he, are they called brethren of the Lord, if they were not his brethren? But now it should be known that in divine Scripture men are said to be brethren in four different ways, by nature, by nation, by kindred, and by affection.
By nature, as Esau and Jacob. By nation, as all Jews are called brethren, as in Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt not set over thee a foreigner who is not thy brother.” [Deut 17:15] They are called brethren by kindred who are of one family, as in Genesis, “Abraham said unto Lot, Let there not be strife between thee and we, for we are brethren.” [Gen 13:8] Also men are called brethren by affection; which is of two kinds, special and general. Special, as all Christians are called brethren, as the Saviour says, “Go tell my brethren.” [John 20:17] General, inasmuch as all men are born of one father, we are bound together by a tie of consanguinity, as in that, “Say unto them that hate you, Ye are our brethren.” [Isa 66:5]
I ask then, after which manner these are called the Lord’s brethren in the Gospel? According to nature? But Scripture saith not, neither calling them sons of Mary nor of Joseph. By nation? But it is absurd that some few out of all the Jews should be called brethren, seeing that all the Jews who were there might have thus been called brethren. By affection, either of a human sort, or of the Spirit? If that be true, yet how were they more His brethren than the Apostles, whom He instructed in the inmost mysteries. Or if because they were men, and all men are brethren, it was foolish to say of them in particular, Behold, thy brethren seek thee. It only remains then that they should be His brethren by kindred, not by affection, not by privilege of nation, not by nature.
Jerome, Hieron. in loc.: But some suspect the brethren of the Lord to be sons of Joseph by another wife, following the idle fancies of apocryphal writers, who have coined a certain woman called Esca. But we understand by the brethren of the Lord, not the sons of Joseph, but cousins of the Saviour, sons of a sister of Mary, [margin note: Mark 6:3] an aunt of Our Lord, who is said to be the mother of James the Less, and Joseph, and Jude, whom in another place of the Gospel we find called the brethren of the Lord. And that cousins are called brethren, appears from every part of Scripture.
Chrys., Hom., xliv: But mark the loftiness of His brethren [ed. note: The text of S. Chrys. has when they should have come in and hearkened with the crowd, or if they would not this, to have waited the end of His speech, and then to have approached Him — they on the contrary call Him out to them, and do this before the multitude, therein shewing their superabundant love of honour, and also, that with all authority they lay their commands upon Christ.
This the Evangelist covertly hints when he says, “While he yet spake;” as much as to say, Was there no other time? But what did they seek to say? Was it aught of the dogmas of truth? then should they have brought it forth before all, that all might profit thereby. But if of other things that concerned themselves alone, they should not have called Him in such haste, whence it is plain that they did this out of vain glory.
Aug., De Nat. et Grat., 36: But whatever may be decided concerning these brethren, yet concerning the holy Virgin Mary, (for the honour of Christ,) when sin in her is in question, I would not have it brought into doubt. For from this only we might know that more abundant grace was conferred upon her that she should overcome sin on all sides, because she merited to conceive and bring forth Him Who it is clear had no sin.
It follows; “Then said one unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without seeking thee.”
Jerome: He that delivers this message, seems to me not to do it casually and without meaning, but as setting a snare for Him, whether He would prefer flesh and blood to the spiritual work; and thus the Lord refused to go out, not because He disowned His mother and His brethren, but that He might confound him that had laid this snare for Him.
Chrys.: For He said not, Go and say unto her, She is not My mother, but continues His discourse to him that had brought Him word; as it follows; “But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who in my mother? and who are my brethren?”
Hilary: And He cannot be held to have thought meanly of His mother, seeing that in His passion He evinced the most extreme carefulness for her.
Chrys.: But had He desired to disown His mother, He would have done it at the time when the Jews cast His birth in His teeth.
Jerome: He did not then, as Marcion and Manichaeus say, disown His mother, so as to be thought to be born of a phantasm, but He preferred His Apostles to His kindred, that we also in a comparison of our affections should set the spirit before the flesh.
Ambrose, Ambros. in Lk. 8, 21: Nor does He overthrow the duty of filial submission, which is conveyed in the command, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” [Exo_20:12] but shews that He owes more to the mysteries and relationship of His Father, than of His mother; as it follows, “And stretching out his hand to his disciples, he said, Behold my mother and my brethren.”
Greg., Hom. in Ev., iii, 2: The Lord deigned to call faithful disciples His brethren, saying, “Go, tell my brethren.” Since then a man may be made a brother of the Lord by coming to the faith, it should be enquired how one may become also His mother. Be it known by us then, that he that by believing is made brother or sister of Christ, becomes His mother by preaching; for in pouring Him into the heart of the hearer, he may be said to beget the Lord; and he is made the Lord’s mother, when by his word love of the Lord is begotten in the mind of his neighbour.
Chrys.: And besides what has been said, He taught also somewhat more, namely, that we should not neglect virtue relying on any kindred. For if it profited His mother nothing that she was such, if she had not had virtue, who is there that shall be saved by his kindred? For there is one only nobility, to do the will of God, and therefore it follows, “Whoso shall do the will of my Father which it in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Many women have blessed that holy Virgin and her womb, and have desired to be made such mothers. What is it then that hinders? Behold, He hath set before you a broad way, and not women only, but men likewise, may become the mother of God.
Jerome: Let us also expound in another way. The Saviour is speaking to the multitude — that is, He teaches the Gentiles the inward mysteries; His mother and His brethren, that is the synagogue and the Jewish people, stand without.
Hilary: Although they had like the rest power to come in, yet they abstain from all approach to Him, “for he came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
Gregory: Thus also His mother is declared to stand without, as though she was not acknowledged, because the synagogue is therefore not acknowledged by its Author, because it held to the observance of the Law, and having lost the spiritual discernment thereof, kept itself without to guard the letter.
Jerome: And when they shall have asked and enquired, and sent a messenger, they shall receive for answer, that their will is free, and that they can enter in, if they will believe.