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

Archive for June 8th, 2013

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

This post begins with the Bishop’s brief analysis of 2 Corinthians 5, followed by his notes on verses 14-21. Text in purple indicate the bishop’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.


In the first part of this chapter, the Apostle proceeds to account for his own cheerful intrepidity, as well as that of his colleagues, in the midst of dangers and persecutions. It proceeds from the consideration of their future glory, from their firm belief in the future glorification of their bodies (verse 1), which glory they are anxious to have imparted to them without bodily dissolution, as nature recoils so strongly from death (2, 3, 4). But bearing in mind, that it is God who fits them for future glory, of which he has given them a sure earnest, they have great courage and confidence in undergoing all hardships for the Gospel with the hope of arriving at this supreme felicity (5–9), to attain which they endeavour, under all circumstances to please God; and keeping before their eyes his tremendous judgement, they so act as to prove to men their sincerity, lest they should be a stumbling-block or a scandal to anyone (10, 11). He guards against the misconstruction which the false teachers might put upon the circumstance of his praising himself, by an assurance that whether he praises or speaks humbly of his own exploits—he has, in both cases, the glory of God and his neighbour’s good in view (12, 13). He is moved to pursue this disinterested line of conduct by the example of Christ, whose purchased slaves we are all become by Redemption, who has, therefore, a right to all our services (14, 15). Hence, the Apostles, dead to themselves and living only to Christ, regard no one, not even the Redeemer himself, from human considerations; but they regard all from the highest spiritual motives (16). This should not be peculiar to the Apostles, as every Christian, after having entered on his new spiritual existence, should do the same (17). He refers the merit of all these blessings resulting from our new spiritual existence, to their true source, viz., God, who made us sharers in them by having reconciled us with himself (18). He explains the mode in which this reconciliation was effected (19). He points out the exalted dignity of the ministers of religion (20); and, lastly, assigns a new reason for confidently expecting reconciliation with God, founded on the death of Christ.

2Co 5:14  For the charity of Christ presseth us: judging this, that if one died for all, then all were dead.

14. The gratuitous and excessive love of Christ for us, urges us to pursue such a disinterested line of conduct, considering this, that if one man has died to save all from eternal death; therefore, all were spiritually dead (and his death for all shows the extent of the benefit conferred).

The gratuitous, disinterested love of Christ, who did nothing to please himself, non sibi placuit (Romans, 15:3), constrains the Apostles to follow the same disinterested course, having God’s glory and the neighbour’s salvation always in view. “Judging this,” &c. He adds this to show the magnitude of the benefit of Redemption; and to point out the excess of the love of Christ, which “pressed” the Apostle. What a strong exhortation to labour unceasingly for the salvation of our brethren! If Christ died for all, why should not we give our lives for our brethren?

2Co 5:15  And Christ died for all: that they also who live may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again.

15. And also bearing in mind, that Christ has died for all; so that those who now live, are bound to his service in such a way, as to live no longer for themselves, but for him who has died and has risen for their sakes. (Hence, we should live solely for the service of our Redeemer, whose ransomed slaves we are).

“And Christ died for all.” We have not the word “Christ” in the Greek; it is, however, understood. “That they who live,” &c. Besides the motive of Redemption and ransom, Christ in his death also wished to teach us, that we should devote our life to his service; since, as ransomed slaves, we owe all our actions to the master and Lord who purchased us.

2Co 5:16  Wherefore henceforth, we know no man according to the flesh. And if we have known Christ according to the flesh: but now we know him so no longer.

16. Wherefore, since we, Apostles, have become Christians, and dying to ourselves have begun to live to Christ, we have regarded in no man earthly or carnal considerations; and if at anytime we have known and loved Christ from human motives, we do so no longer, but from purer and more exalted spiritual motives, we adore and serve him.

“Henceforth,” that is, since we, Apostles, began to live a new life imparted to us in Christianity. “According to the flesh,” i.e., regarding in them merely human considerations (v.g.), because Jews or Gentiles, learned or unlearned, kinsmen or strangers. “And if we have known Christ,” &c., that is, if from the beginning of our conversion, we regarded in Christ the human consideration of being a fellow-countryman, or of being of Jewish extraction. “But now,” &c., we have been no longer guided by such consideration, we have begun to love and adore him from higher and more spiritual motives. Some understand this of the other Apostles, while living with Christ here on earth; for St. Paul was not a follower of His until after the Ascension. It may refer to St. Paul himself at the commencement of his conversion, for he had not wholly divested himself of human feelings, or of an over zeal for everything Jewish, at once.

2Co 5:17  If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new.

17. This is not peculiar to us, Apostles, but if any person has been regenerated with us in Christ, let him know that he is a new creature, he has received a new existence; for him the old have passed away, behold all things are made new for him (hence, he should lead a new life, conformably to the new spiritual existence which he has received).

“If then any be in Christ a new creature.” The Greek, ει τις εν Χριστῳ καινη κτισις, might be translated, if any be in Christ, he is a new creature. It is not peculiar to the Apostles to enter on a new life in accordance with the object of Christ’s death and resurrection (verse 15), but every Christian, every man who has been baptized, has received a new spiritual existence, to which his actions should conform, by living solely for him who died and rose again for him. “Old things are passed away,” i.e., the passions, inordinate affections of the old, unregenerate man should no longer domineer over him. They are dead to the things of the flesh. “Behold all things are made new.” These words are, according to St. Thomas and Cajetan, mystically allusive to, chap. 43, verses 18 and 19, of Isaias. They are illustrative of the “new creature,” and express, the newness of faith, justice and sanctity, as opposed to unbelief, sin, and immorality. They also convey an allusion to the total renovation of redeemed human nature, both as to soul and body, and to the new heavens and the new earth, the destined abode of the Saints, in which justice is to dwell.

2Co 5:18  But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.

18. But all this renewed spiritual existence, with its accompanying gifts, are from God, the author of all good gifts, who has admitted us, his enemies, by sin into his friendship, through the merits of Christ, and has constituted us the ministers of his reconciliation with others.

“To himself by Christ.” (In the common Greek, by Christ Jesus; “Jesus” is not in the Codex Vaticanus). All these spiritual blessings resulting from our new existence should be referred to God, as their real author. This new existence is the result of our reconciliation with God, and God himself is the author of this reconciliation or his enemies with him, which, through the merits of Christ, and through the ministry of reconciliation, he has perpetuated in his Apostles and the pastors of his Church to the end of time.

2Co 5:19  For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins. And he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation.

19. For God has reconciled a sinful world to himself through Christ, gratuitously remitting their sins, and to us he has intrusted the preaching’ of this reconciliation with others.

In this verse, is explained and developed more fully the idea expressed in the preceding. He reconciled the world through Christ, by gratuitously remitting their sins in consideration of the ransom which he paid for them, and by bestowing on them his sanctifying grace which he gratuitously, merited for them. This passage furnishes no argument in favour of the heretical doctrine of imputative justice. For, the Apostle only considers one circumstance of our reconciliation, namely—the remission of our sins on the part of God. But from other sources we know that this remission is effected by the infusion of sanctifying grace. By this grace sin is really remitted; otherwise, how could God, who hates iniquity, regard with complacency, or repute as just the man who really remains in the mire and filth of sin? He has constituted the Apostles ministers of announcing this great blessing of reconciliation.

2Co 5:20  For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us, for Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.

20. We, Apostles, are, therefore, in the place of Christ, the ambassadors of God with man. Our exhortations and entreaties, to you to return to penance, should be regarded by you, as emanating from God himself. In the name of Christ, therefore, and in his person, we beseech you to become reconciled to God, mindful of his infinite mercy.

We, Apostles, are ambassadors, of Christ; hence, when we exhort or encourage you, it is the same as if this were done by Christ himself; because Christ speaks through us. “For Christ,” i.e., in the name and person of Christ, “we beseech you,” &c. The ministers of the gospel are, then, the ambassadors of Christ. With what reverence and respect are they not, therefore, to be treated, when acting in this capacity. The respect or contempt shown them is shown to Christ himself, by whom they are sent, and in whose name and authority they act. Whosoever touches them might as well touch the apple of his eye. On the other hand, with what circumspection should not the ministers of religion walk, and how cautious should they not be to avoid the least offence, that might mar or obstruct the interests of him by whom they were sent. What sanctity of life should they not practise, both in the presence of God and before men, in order to be fit representatives, before men, of their heavenly Master.

2Co 5:21  Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us: that we might be made the justice of God in him. Sin for us… That is, to be a sin offering, a victim for sin.

21. A reason for seeking and confidently hoping for reconciliation with God, is grounded on his infinite benignity and mercy in making his Son, who had as little commerce with sin, as if he were utterly ignorant of its nature, a victim of sin for us, that through him we might receive real and inherent justice, being made sharers in God’s justice by the infusion of sanctifying grace.

In this verse is assigned a motive to inspire us with confidence in seeking and hoping for reconciliation with God, viz., because he made his Son, who had no experimental knowledge of sin, or who had no more knowledge of it than if he knew not what it was. “Sin,” i.e., a victim of sin, according to the Scripture usage, which often uses the word “sin” to express the victim for sin, (v.g.) Hosea, 4, verse 8; Leviticus, 4, verse 24. “That we might be made,” &c., i.e., that we might be made really and internally just, by a justice like the justice of God, of which we are rendered, by sanctifying grace, sharers through his merits.


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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 5:33-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

Mat 5:33  Again you have heard that it was said to them of old, thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord.

Thou shall perform thy oaths, i.e., Thou shalt pay, shalt fulfil what thou hast sworn unto the Lord, or by the Lord that thou wilt do. So S. Chrysostom properly explains that by oaths are here meant vows confirmed by an oath, that we are bound to render them, that is, perform them unto God. Suarez explains differently. “If thou desirest to swear, swear by the true God, not by idols.”

Mat 5:34  But I say to you not to swear at all, neither by heaven for it is the throne of God:
Mat 5:35  Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king:
Mat 5:36  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

But I say to you, &c. Christ here explains and perfects the third precept of the Decalogue, which the Scribes and Pharisees had explained falsely. For, 1. they asserted that an oath became an oath, and was binding, if it were made by God, and called Him to witness, but not so if it were sworn by creatures. Christ here teaches the contrary. For in creatures the Creator is understood, for they were made by God, and all that they have and are is from God. For he who swears, calls God, who is the prime Verity, to witness his oath. He therefore who swears by a creature, either makes that creature a God, which is the sin of idolatry, or else it behoves to understand God the Creator in the oath.

2. The Scribes erred, who thought that by this precept perjury only was forbidden. On the contrary Christ here teaches that by it every oath is forbidden, all irreverence and abuse of the name of God.

But I say to you, &c. From this passage, the Pelagians, as S. Augustine testifies (Epist. 89, q. 5.) taught that no oath was lawful for Christians. The Waldenses thought the same, as we see from the Council of Constance, and the Anabaptists of the present day hold the same opinion, who will not swear in a trial at the bidding of the judge.

But this is an error of faith, which the perpetual practice of the Church, as well as the example of God Himself, of S. Paul, and the Saints condemns, as is plain from Ps 110:4;  Rom 1:9;  Phi 1:8;  1 Cor 15:31, &c. Reason itself shows us the same thing; for an oath is an honour to God as the prime Verity, because he who swears appeals to Infallible Truth as his witness. Wherefore an oath is an act of religion, and the highest worship, so that it be done in truth and justice, as Jeremiah says, 4:2.

You will ask, Why, then, does Christ say, not to swear at all? S. Bernard answers (Serm. 65 in Cant.) that this is not of precept, but only of counsel.

2. Others allow that this is a precept, but one which only forbids perjury.

3. Others think that the command, Swear not at all, applies only to swearing by creatures, not by God. To this opinion S. Jerome inclines.

But all these explanations are forced and incorrect, and are refuted by what follows; for Christ bids us swear not at all, (1) because, as S. Augustine says (de Verb. Apostoli), “False swearing is destructive, true swearing is perilous, swearing not at all is safe.” Not at all—i.e., “As far as lieth in thee, that thou shouldst not affect nor love swearing, nor take any pleasure in an oath, as though it were a good thing.” Again, to swear is, per se, a moral evil of irreverence with respect to God; just as it is a moral evil, per se, to kill any one; yet there are cases in which it is a duty. So it is with an oath. In Paradise it was not lawful to swear, nor will it be lawful in heaven. So great is the majesty of the Name of God that It must not be called to witness unless necessity compel. For to invoke It about small and worthless things is to make It small and vile, just as would be the action of one who should call the king as witness about a single guinea. Hence the saints were cautious about swearing. In the Life of S. Chrysostom it is recorded as a notable thing that he never swore. The same is testified of S. John the Almoner.

You will ask whether also for Christians it is lawful to swear? For (1) many of the Fathers seem to say that it is not. SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, Euthymius, say that swearing was permitted by God to the Jews, lest they should swear by idols, but is not permitted to Christians. (2) Theophylact and Euthymius are of opinion that an oath was a legal precept of the old law, like circumcision. Wherefore, as the latter has been done away by Christ, so has the former. (3) Others think that an oath was allowed by God to the Jews, as being uninstructed, imperfect, and hard of belief, but has been forbidden to Christians because more perfect things become them as being more perfect, and because they ought to beware of the slightest peril of perjury. That in the same way divorce was permitted to the Jews, lest they should kill the wives whom they hated; and yet Christ takes away this permission from Christians. Thus think S. Hilary (in loc., Can. 4), S. Ambrose (in Ps. 119, Serm. 1), S. Basil (in Ps. 13), Chromatius and Origen (in loc., Tract. 35), Epiphanius (Hæres. 19), S. Athanasius (Serm. de Passione et Cruce Domini), S. Chrysostom (Hom. ad pop.).

If you object that in Holy Scripture God took an oath, as in Gen 22:16, SS. Athanasius, Basil, and Ambrose answer that such oaths of God were not strictly speaking oaths, but  asseverations only—or promises; or, as S. Ambrose says, God may swear because He is able to fulfil that which He swears, and He cannot repent of it. But a man ought not to swear because he has not any certain power of doing that to which he pledges his oath.

If, further, you object that surely S. Paul swore when he said (2 Cor 1:23), “I call God to witness upon my soul” (Vulg.), S. Basil answers that this is not really an oath, but only a simple mode of speech, uttered with the appearance and form of an oath as a stronger affirmation.

But I say that not to the Jews only, but to Christians, is it lawful to swear. This is of faith, as is plain from the perpetual sense, use, and practice of the Church. “For of all strife among men”—even Christians—”an oath for confirmation is the end,” says the Apostle to the Heb 6:16. Moreover, in Scripture there is no affirmative precept for swearing, as there is for praying, sacrificing, loving and praising God, honouring parents, &c., because an oath is not, per se, desirable, but only for the sake of something else, and, as it were, per accidens, in such sort that it is a kind of medicine for unbelief. And there is a negative precept for swearing, namely that you shall not commit perjury or swear by false gods, but only by the true God. There is also a conditional precept that if you swear you shall only swear what is just, true, and necessary.

You may say, Christ here solemnly says to Christians, Swear not at all. I answer, this is true because, per se, it is unbecoming and improper to call the Great and Good God to witness about human disputes on account of men’s mutual distrusts, unless this impropriety may be excused by mutual necessity, as it is often excused by the want of witnesses and other judicial proofs.

To the Fathers who have been cited, I reply that they seem to have spoken in the same sense that Christ did, because they saw men often swearing falsely or unjustly, and, still more frequently, lightly, foolishly and rashly; hence on account of the peril of these things, they forbade an oath to Christians, that they should refrain from it as much as possible. But if any one is careful to avoid such dangers, then it is lawful for him to swear in a case of necessity. This is plain from S. Chrysostom, who, in his homilies to the people of Antioch, frequently and sharply rebuked their habit of rash swearing. And to those who wondered at his so doing, he thus replies. “I say and repeat, as I am accustomed, because ye say and repeat what ye are accustomed.” And he declares that he will not cease from this repetition until they leave off swearing. “For a hard knot a hard and constant wedge must be used.”

Neither by heaven…nor by earth…nor by Jerusalem…, &c. It seems that the Jews were wont to swear by heaven and earth, and similar oaths. And because the Pharisees thought that these oaths, being made by creatures, were of small account, Christ here teaches the contrary—viz., that he who swears by heaven or earth, swears by God their Creator, who has placed the throne of His glory in heaven, and his footstool on earth.

Mat 5:37  But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.

But let your speech be, &c.—i.e., a simple affirmation, or negation. For what is more than these, Gr. περισσὸν. The Syriac has, what is added beyond these. In the Hebrew Gospel ascribed to S. Matthew, we have אין אין ain, ain, כן כן ken, ken—that is no, no, so, so. In this passage a simple affirmation or negation is opposed to an oath; so in S. James (v. 12) ; and it means that whatever is added to these in the way of swearing, is of evil. So S. Chrysostom and S. Jerome, or rather Paulinus, Epist. ad Celantium.

Is of evil. Evil here may be taken either in the masculine or the neuter gender. If the masculine the devil is meant (“is of the evil one”), who, as a ringleader of all iniquity, incites thee to swear without necessity, and so draws thee on by degrees to swear falsely, which is the sin of perjury. So Theophylact, Maldonatus, and others. If you take the neuter, it means cometh of vice, either your own or another’s—that is to say, the custom of swearing arises either from your own vice of levity or irreverence, or else from another man’s incredulity and distrust. Because a man does not believe my simple assertion, I confirm my words by an oath, which, however, is a fault become necessary since the fall of man. So S. Augustine.


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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 5:33-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

Mat 5:33  Again you have heard that it was said to them of old, thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord.

The second and the eighth commandment. It would lead us too far to investigate here the nature of the connection between the preceding and the following parts of our Lord’s discourse: Chrysostom is of opinion that the observance of the seventh commandment is implied in the perfect observance of the eighth; Thomas makes our Lord pass from the precepts concerning the irascible faculties to those concerning concupiscence, and from these again to the rules of the rational faculties; Maldonado sees no special order in the successive points touched upon by our Lord. At any rate, in what follows Jesus first states the precepts of the Old Testament [v. 33], secondly, he formulates the negative precepts of the New Testament [vv. 34–36], and finally he expresses the positive law of the Christian dispensation [v. 37].

Law of the Old Testament. In the first part our Lord quotes the sense of Ex. 20:7 [cf. Deut. 5:11], but adheres almost to the words of Lev. 19:12; in the second part he gives the sense of Num. 30:3 [cf. Deut. 23:21; Ps. 23:4]. The sum of the law thus quoted appears to be contained in the two statements: “it is not allowed to swear falsely” and “only oaths by God himself are binding as such.” This is confirmed by Mt. 23:18.

Mat 5:34  But I say to you not to swear at all, neither by heaven for it is the throne of God:
Mat 5:35  Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king:
Mat 5:36  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

The Christian law. Jesus opposes two statements to the foregoing two: “it is not allowed to swear at all” and “oaths sworn by God’s creatures are binding as such.” Owing to the Greek conjunction employed in the second part of the Christian law [μὴ-μήτε, not μηδὲ], Jerome, Tholuck, Ewald, etc. believe that “not to swear at all” is a mere summary of the four particular forms expressly indicated, i. e. of the oaths by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem, and by one’s head, so that Jesus did not forbid an oath by God himself. But the partitive value of the Greek conjunction seems to have passed out of sight in the New Testament language [cf. Rev 9:21; Winer, Grammatik des neutest. Sprachidioms, 55, 6], and the opposition between Christ’s law and that of the Old Testament demands that “not to swear at all” embraces also oaths by God himself. Nor do we think that the Salmant. [Curs. theol. de iuram. c. 11, punct. 4] are justified in interpreting the words of Jesus in this passage as a mere counsel; if they contained only a counsel, there would be no real comparison between law and law. On the other hand, it cannot be maintained that our Lord forbids all swearing absolutely [cf. Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Jerome]; for we have instances in Sacred Scripture in which God himself, or our Lord, or the apostle Paul confirmed a statement by oath [cf. Gen. 22:16; 26:3; Num. 14:23; Is. 45:23; Lk. 1:73; Acts 7:17; Heb. 6:13; Mt. 26:63 f.; Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23; 11:31; Gal. 1:20; Phil. 1:8; etc.]. Scripture itself shows, therefore, that the prohibition “not to swear at all” must be understood like the prohibition “not to kill”; both killing and swearing divested of their qualifying circumstances are morally bad, and as such fall under a negative precept [Cajetan, Dionysius, Jansenius, Barradas Knabenbauer etc.]. The special forms declared by our Lord to contain real oaths are partially alluded to even in the Old Testament: cf. Gen. 42:15; 1 Sam 1:26; 1 Sam 20:3; 2 Sam11:11; 2 Kings 2:2; etc. Christ’s language is peculiar in this instance, because he gives a reason for his commandments; the general argument supposes that to swear by a creature manifesting an attribute of God is to swear implicitly by God himself.

Mat 5:37  But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.

The positive Christian law. The positive perfection of the Christian dispensation consists in the fact that a simple affirmation or denial has the value of an oath: “that which is over and above these “is not pronounced to be “evil,” but “of evil.” The word “evil” may, according to the original text, be either masculine or neuter; according to the former supposition, the expression signifies “the evil one” or “the devil,” the father of lies and author of the necessity of the oath [Chromatus, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, Bruno, Maldonado Arnoldi]. Though this view agrees well enough with the meaning of the passage, it is not sufficiently reverential on account of the foregoing instances in which God himself employed the solemn oath; hence it is preferable to regard “evil” as neuter, signifying the evil disposition of man that renders the oath necessary either on account of the fallaciousness of the speaker or the incredulity of the hearer [Augustine, Schanz, Knabenbauer etc.]; James 5:12 agrees with this doctrine of our Lord.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 5:33-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

Ver 33. “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:’34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by Heaven; for it is God’s throne;35. Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Gloss. non occ.: The Lord has hitherto taught to abstain from injuring our neighbour, forbidding anger with murder, lust with adultery, and the putting away a wife with a bill of divorce. He now proceeds to teach to abstain from injury to God, forbidding not only perjury as an evil in itself, but even all oaths as the cause of evil, saying, “Ye have heard it said by them of old, Thou shalt not forswear thyself.”

It is written in Leviticus, “Thou shalt not forswear thyself in my name;” [Lev_19:12] and that they should not make gods of the creature, they are commanded to render to God their oaths, and not to swear by any creature, “Render to the Lord thy oaths;” that is, if you shall have occasion to swear, you shall swear by the Creator and not by the creature. As it is written in Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by his name.” [Deu_6:13]

Jerome: This was allowed under the Law, as to children; as they offered sacrifice to God, that they might not do it to idols, so they were permitted to swear by God; not that the thing was right, but that it were better done to God than to daemons.

Pseudo-Chrys.: For no man can swear often, but he must sometimes forswear himself; as he who has a custom of much speaking will sometimes speak foolishly.

Aug., cont. Faust., xix. 23: Inasmuch as the sin of perjury is a grievous sin, he must be further removed from it who uses no oath, than he who is ready to swear on every occasion, and the Lord would rather that we should not swear and keep close to the truth, than that swearing we should come near to perjury.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 17: This precept also confirms the righteousness of the Pharisees, not to forswear; inasmuch as he who swears not at all cannot forswear himself. But as to call God to witness is to swear, does not the Apostle break this commandment when he says several times to the Galatians, “The things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.” [Gal_1:20] So the Romans, “God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit.” [Rom_1:9]

Unless perhaps some one may say, it is no oath unless I use the form of swearing by some object; and that the Apostle did not swear in saying, “God is my witness.” It is ridiculous to make such a distinction; yet the Apostle has used even this form, “I die daily, by your boasting.” [1Co_15:31] That this does not mean, your boasting has caused my dying daily, but is an oath, is clear from the Greek, which is .

Aug., de Mendac. 15: But what we could not understand by mere words, from the conduct of the saints we may gather in what sense should be understood what might easily be drawn the contrary way, unless explained by example. The Apostle has used oaths in his Epistles, and by this shews us how that ought to be taken, “I say unto you, Swear not at all,” namely, lest by allowing ourselves to swear at all we come to readiness in swearing, from readiness we come to a habit of swearing, and from a habit of swearing we fall into perjury. And so the Apostle is not found to have used an oath but only in writing, the greater thought and caution which that requires not allowing of slip of the tongue.

Yet is the Lord’s command so universal, “Swear not at all,” that He would seem to have forbidden it even in writing. But since it would be an impiety to accuse Paul of having violated this precept, especially in his Epistles, we must understand the word “at all” as implying that, as far as lays in your power, you should not make a practice of swearing, not aim at it as a good thing in which you should take delight.

Aug., cont. Faust., xix, 23: Therefore in his writings, as writing allows of greater circumspection, the Apostle is found to have used an oath in several places, that none might suppose that there is any direct sin in swearing what is true; but only that our weak hearts are better preserved from perjury by abstaining from all swearing whatever.

Jerome: Lastly, consider that the Saviour does not here forbid to swear by God, but by the Heaven, the Earth, by Jerusalem, by a man’s head. For this evil practice of swearing by the elements the Jews had always, and are thereof often accused in the prophetic writings. For he who swears, shew either reverence or love for that by which he swears. Thus when the Jews swore by the Angels, by the city of Jerusalem, by the temple and the elements, they paid to the creature the honour and worship belonging to God; for it is commanded in the Law that we should not swear but by the Lord our God.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 17: Or; It is added, “By the Heaven, &c.” because the Jews did not consider themselves bound when they swore by such things. As if He had said, When you swear by the Heaven and the Earth, think not that you do not owe your oath to the Lord your God, for you are proved to have sworn by Him whose throne the heaven is, and the earth His footstool; which is not meant as though God had such limbs set upon the heaven and the earth, after the manner of a man who is sitting; but that seat signifies God’s judgment of us. And since in the whole extent of this universe it is the heaven that has the highest beauty, God is said to sit upon the heavens as shewing divine power to be more excellent than the most surpassing show of beauty; and He is said to stand upon the earth, as putting to lowest use a lesser beauty.

Spiritually by the heavens are denoted holy souls, by the earth the sinful, seeing “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” [1Co_2:15] But to the sinner it is said, “Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return.” [Gen_3:19] And he who would abide under a law, is put under a law, and therefore He adds, “it is the footstool of His feet. Neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King;” this is better said than ‘it is mine;’ though it is understood to mean the same. And because He is also truly Lord, whoso swears by Jerusalem, owes his oath to the Lord. “Neither by thy head.” What could any think more entirely his own property than his own head? But how is it ours when we have not power to make one hair black or white? Whoso then swears by his own head also owes his vows to the Lord; and by this the rest may be understood.

Chrys.: Note how He exalts the elements of the world, not from their own nature, but from the respect which they have to God, so that there is opened no occasion of idolatry.

Rabanus: Having forbidden swearing, He instructs us how we ought to speak, “Let your speech be yea, yea; nay, nay.” That is, to affirm any thing it is sufficient to say, ‘It is so;’ to deny, to say, ‘It is not so.’

Or, “yea, yea; nay, nay,” are therefore twice repeated, that what you affirm with the mouth you should prove in deed, and what you deny in word, you should not establish by your conduct.

Hilary: Otherwise; They who live in the simplicity of the faith have not need to swear, with them ever, what is is, what is not is not; by this their life and their conversation are ever preserved in truth.

Jerome: Therefore Evangelic verity does not admit an oath, since the whole discourse of the faithful is instead of an oath.

Aug.: And he who has learned that an oath is to be reckoned not among things good, but among things necessary, will restrain himself as much as he may, not to use an oath without necessity, unless he sees men loth to believe what it is for their good they should believe, without the confirmation of an oath.

This then is good and to be desired, that our conversation be only, “yea, yea; nay, nay; for what is more than this cometh of evil.” That is, if you are compelled to swear, you know that it is by the necessity of their weakness to whom you would persuade any thing; which weakness is surely an evil. What is more than this is thus evil; not that you do evil in this just use of an oath to persuade another to something beneficial for him; but it is an evil in him whose weakness thus obliges you to use an oath.

Chrys.: Or; “of evil,” that is, from their weakness to whom the Law permitted the use of an oath. Not that by this the old Law is signified to be from the Devil, but He leads us from the old imperfection to the new abundance.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 5:27-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

Mat 5:27  You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Mat 5:28  But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The sixth commandment. Here our Lord explains first the perfection of the law forbidding adultery, then shows its urgency, and in the third place states the law forbidding divorce,

a. The law against adultery, vv. 27, 28. The law is quoted from Ex. 20:14; cf. Deut. 5:18. Jesus prohibits even to “look on a woman to lust after her.” “Woman” is to be taken generally, so that it means virgin, married woman, or widow [Euthymius, Cajetan, Jansenius etc.]. The looks prohibited are first those that spring from evil desire or are connected with it; then those that excite evil desire; and lastly the looks “cum morosa delectatione,” because they at least dispose men for the evil desire [Euthymius Cyril, Basil, Augustine, Dionysius, Opus Imperfectum, Thomas etc.]. “To lust after her” (28) or the evil desire, is forbidden not merely because it disposes men to commit the sin actually, but because the desire in itself is intrinsically bad; because he “hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This reason advanced by our Lord himself shows also that there is no question of the manifestation of the bad wish, which would be rather seduction than a sin committed in one’s heart.

The Greek verb “to commit adultery” signifies properly to have intercourse with the wife of another; according to this view it is only the rights of the husband that can be violated, not those of the wife [Deut. 5:18; Lev. 20:10; Plato’s Republic ii. 360 B; Lucus Brugensis de mar. xii. 1], But “a pari” the Christian law forbids the husband to desire or to have intercourse with any one, married or unmarried, except his wife; and if the Greek word be taken in its wider sense, the present law prohibits any desire after or lustful look at a woman with whom intercourse is forbidden. It is true that even the Old Testament forbade such unchaste desires after the wife of the neighbor [Ex. 20:17]; but this prohibition regarded more the social order of the family, while our Lord’s prohibition, “thou shalt not lust,” starts from the principle that by a sinful desire one commits the same kind of wrong as by a sinful act.

Mat 5:29  And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than thy whole body be cast into hell.
Mat 5:30  And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body go into hell.

b. Urgency of the foregoing prohibition. The obligation of the preceding prohibition is so great that it cannot be transgressed even in case its observance demands the greatest sacrifices from us, and it binds under pain of eternal perdition. Our Lord mentions the “right” eye and the “right” hand, because according to popular opinion the “right” members are preferable to the left [Ex. 29:20; 1 Kings 11:2; Zach. 11:17; Passow s. v.]. Here it is asked whether “eye” and “hand” must be taken figuratively or in their proper meaning:

[1] Maldonado, Arnoldi contend that our Lord speaks of these members in their proper meaning, so that his words bid us to sacrifice even our right eye and our right hand, if it be necessary, in order to secure our eternal beatitude. The reasons for this view are: [a] the force and beauty of language; [b] the context in which there is question of “looking” on a woman; [c] the following words in which the loss of the whole “body” is mentioned.

[2] Hilary, Athanasius, Cyril, Chrysostom Theophylact, Euthymius, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, Augustine, Brune, Thomas, Cajetan, Barradas, Sylveira, Lapide, Schegg, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer. etc. understand “eye” and “hand” in a figurative sense, so that our Lord bids us to sacrifice anything, even though it be as dear to us as our right eye, rather than suffer the loss of our soul. It is true that some of the foregoing writers apply this especially to the satisfaction of mind and will, others to the pleasures of the body, others again to friends and relatives, others to earthly advantages; but they all admit the figurative meaning of “eye” and “hand.” The reasons for this view are the following: [a] If there be question of the literal removing of “hand” and “eye” in order to avoid sin, there is no more reason why we should remove the “right” eye or the “right” hand rather than the left, since the one may be as much an occasion of sin as the other. [b] It is never necessary to remove any member of the body in order to avoid sin, because the will is the sole cause of the sinfulness of our outward actions, [c] The word “body” in the subsequent clauses signifies the whole person, so that it, too, has rather a figurative than its proper meaning, [d] By removing either eye or hand, we do not obtain the end proposed to us by our Lord, since the will always remains. Adding the external evidence for the figurative meaning, it is clear that we must explain the words of Jesus in their figurative sense, i. e. as bidding us to sacrifice for the preservation of our spiritual life any good even though it be as necessary for our bodily life as is the hand or the eye. The verb “to scandalize” has no equivalent in the classical Greek; it corresponds to the Hebrew verb meaning “to stumble,” i. e. to take scandal. In the lxx. it occurs first Sirach 9:5; 23:8; 35:15; the Greek word from which the term has been borrowed signifies properly the piece of the trap on which the bait is fastened.

Mat 5:31  And it hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce.

c. Divorce. [1] The Jewish law. The law here referred to is that of Deut. 24:1 f., where the Jews sending away their wives “for some uncleanness” are commanded to give them a bill of divorce. This document served the dismissed wife as a proof that she was free to marry again; but after her second husband had dismissed her, or was separated from her by death, she could not again become the wife of her first husband. Though the “uncleanness” sufficient to divorce the wife is rather vague, and was understood by the Jewish Rabbis of the school of Hillel in a very wide sense, the law of Moses was really a restriction of the custom that had been prevalent among the Hebrews. Both the writing of the document and the impossibility of future reconciliation were calculated to make the husband more circumspect in his proceeding against his wife. The Mosaic law, therefore, did not command divorce under any circumstances, but implicitly permitted it; it directly commanded that in case of divorce a bill of divorce must be written. The implicit permission of divorce has been explained as the permission of something less good [Thomas], or as the permission of something bad that had ceased to be sinful on account of dispensation [Maldonado], or as the permission of something sinful that was not punishable under the law. In any case, the reason for the permission was the hardheartedness of the Jews on account of which untold sufferings and perhaps the violent death of the wife might have followed, if marriage had been indissoluble.

Mat 5:32  But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery

The Christian law. a. The fact that Jesus contrasts his law with that of the Old Testament, which contained only the permission of divorce, renders it antecedently probable that in the Christian dispensation this permission will be withdrawn. The wording of our Lord’s law confirms this probability; for he that marries her that is put away committeth adultery; and whosoever shall put away his wife maketh her to commit adultery, either forcing her to contract a second marriage or placing her in the danger of incontinency. In any case, the marriage is not annulled by the preceding divorce, and the permission of divorce is therefore withdrawn. It may be noticed in passing, that adultery is throughout represented as the violation of the rights of the husband.

But the simple clearness of this law is seriously obscured by a clause which presents at first the semblance of a possible exception to the general law. For Jesus says “excepting the cause of fornication.” The Greek Church has been led by these words to abandon the absolute insolubility of marriage; many Protestants also base on them their allowance of divorce; even among Catholic writers living before the Council of Trent straggling expressions of doubt are found, though rarely, and not in the works of great theologians. The Council of Trent [sess. xxiv. can. 7] teaches expressly that according to the doctrine of the gospels and the apostles the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved through the adultery of either husband or wife. In point of fact, the parallel passages of Holy Scripture are unanimous in maintaining the doctrine enounced by the Council: Mk. 10:2 ff.; Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:3, 4, 10, 11, 39; Rom. 7:2, 3. The same must be said of the patristic doctrine on this point down to the earliest ages of the church: Hermas, Past. 1. ii. mand. 4; Justin. Apol. i. 15; Athenagoras Legat. pro christ. 33; Theophylact  Ad Autolic. iii. 13; Origen in Matt. t. xiv. n. 23, 24; Chrysostom in loc.; Basil, Moralia reg. 73 c. 1; Augustine De serm. Dni. in monte, i. 16, 43; etc. [cf. Binterim, Denkwüdigkeiten, t. vi. pp. 100–138; Palmieri, De matrim. pp. 141–167; Perrone, De mat. pp. 243–364].

It cannot be replied that the foregoing passages of the Scriptures and of the Fathers state the general rule, while Mt. 5:32 and 19:3 ff. gives the exception to the rule. For most of the Fathers directly refer to the last passages of Matthew, so that they would have to acknowledge the exception, if the evangelist’s words contained any. One of the foregoing passages of Scripture expressly gives the case in which matrimony contracted between infidels may be dissolved, viz. if either of the married parties be converted to Christianity and thereby incur the actual odium of the other partner [cf. 1 Cor. 7:12]; the apostle would therefore have also stated the exception in which Christian marriages might be dissolved, if there were any. This the more, because he distinctly considers the case of divorce “a mensa et thoro,” and knows no alternative except either reconciliation or perpetual continency. Moreover, it is probable that both St. Mark and St. Luke, and it is certain that St. Paul, wrote after St. Matthew; at best, therefore, the first gospel contains an exceptional case that was wholly abrogated by a later universal legislation. Since it is therefore certain that Christ’s law does not permit divorce “a vinculo” even in the case of adultery, how are we to understand the exception stated in the first gospel?

Solutions [a] A number of writers explain the term “fornication” not of carnal intercourse, but of idolatry and of vice in general [cf. Augustine ad loc.; Retract. I. xix. 6]. Though Bruno, Dionysius, Bede, Glossa Ordinari Zach. chrysostom, Anselm of Laon, favor this meaning of “fornication,” and though in the Old Testament idolatry is often represented as fornication, this view rather augments than solves the difficulty; for it tends to give us as many exceptions as there are mortal sins.

[b] Gratz and Döllinger contend that “fornication” in the text refers to carnal intercourse before marriage, which according to these authors rendered matrimony invalid, if it had not been manifested to the other party. But the whole context supposes that there is question of true marriage, and of what happens in the married state; besides, the Greek word meaning properly “fornication” has also the specific meaning “adultery,” as is evident even from its figurative meaning of “idolatry” in which the sinful person or nation was conceived as an unfaithful spouse of God.

[c] “Fornication” is explained as meaning concubinage; according to this view the exception stated by our Lord is the case in which there is no real marriage on account of some invalidating impediment, such as consanguinity, etc. [Patrizi Schegg, Aberle]. It may be true that in 1 Cor. 5:1 “fornication,” or its Greek equivalent, signifies “incest,” and in Acts 15:20; 15:29; 21:15 simple fornication; but it does not follow that the word therefore means regularly “concubinage.” This is not even the case in the instance of the Noachic commandment, and the prohibitions of the apostles recorded in the foregoing passages of Acts cannot be placed on a level with the so-called Noachic prohibition. The weakness of the new converts to Christianity rendered such legislation necessary, on account of the widespread sins of the flesh among the pagans. Besides, if Jesus were considering the case of mere concubinage, he would rather strictly command the dismissal of the woman, than pass it over by way of tacit permission. Deut. 24:1 does not support this opinion, because the “uncleanness” there mentioned does not signify an “impedimentum dirimens.”

[d] The expression “excepting the cause of fornication” cannot signify “setting aside the case of adultery, though I know that license exists which I am not going to confirm.” It is true that Aug. Bellarm. Dreher adhere to this explanation; but the view implies difficulties which it would be hard to answer. It supposes that the whole discourse is directed against the Pharisaic traditions, and simply ignores the Deuteronomic legislation; besides, it does not well agree with Mt. 19:9; it does not strictly adhere to the proper meaning of the Greek word rendered “cause” [λόγος means properly “reason,” but considered as a Hebraism it may signify “thing,” “matter,” “cause”], and finally it does not throw much light on the true position Jesus took with regard to the case in question.

[e] Bleek, Keim, Weiss, etc. assume that the clause which causes the present difficulty is a late addition. But this supposition is against the evidence of all Greek codd., of the verss., and the Fathers. Besides, it impresses one as if the sacred text were tampered with for dogmatic purposes.

[f] The Greek word “fornication” [πορνεία] means real adultery [cf. Jn. 8:41; Ecclus. 26:12; Amos 7:17; Os. 3:3; Chrysostom, Euthymius, Hilary, Augustine, etc.]. The evangelist does not express that crime by the same word as in the preceding verses, because in v. 28 he considers adultery in thought, while here he treats of adultery in deed [Weiss], the sinfulness of which he wishes to emphasize. Supposing this, Hug, Grimm, etc. are of opinion that our Lord grants to the Jews or the new converts to Christianity a temporary dispensation from the indissolubility of marriage in case of adultery. The reasons advanced for this view are the following: [a] This is the obvious meaning of the texts Mt. 5:31; 19:9; [β] this explains why Matthew alone records the exception found neither in Mk. 10:11, nor in Lk. 16:18, nor again in 1 Cor. 7:10; [γ] it is also remarkable that the first evangelist alone represents Jesus as speaking to the Jews and the Pharisees, while according to the second gospel he speaks to the disciples alone, adding the wholly unknown equality of rights between husband and wife, and in the third gospel the words of our Lord are not set in any definite frame of circumstances; [δ] this permission fully agrees with Jewish thought and practice, because the Hebrews regarded it as a matter of conscience to expel an adulterous wife [Prov. 18:22; Mt. 1:19], guilty as she was of a capital offence; [ε] though this stage of the law does not attain to Christian perfection, it surely surpasses the Jewish standard with its wide margin for the practice of divorce [Deut. 24:1 ff.]; [ζ] it cannot be said that this view places an adulteress in a better condition than an innocent wife, since the former was always liable to be punished with death; [η] admitting this interpretation, it remains true that according to the doctrine of the gospel marriage cannot be dissolved in case of divorce, since St. Matthew [Mt. 5:32 and 19:9] says nothing expressly on this point, and since his implied statement [if there be any], is done away with by the law of the second and the third gospel, the principle of doctrinal development holding even in the apostolic times; [θ] this explanation admits more easily the existence of causes for imperfect divorce besides adultery; [ι] though the Fathers may be made to harmonize with this view, it must be confessed that they generally deduce the indissolubility of Christian marriage not merely from the second and the third gospel and 1 Cor. 7:10, but they commonly quote also the first gospel for this dogma.

[g] Considering, however, that the tenor of the law is the same in the first gospel as in the second and the third; and that our Lord had no sufficient motive for being harder in his dealings with Gentiles than he was with the Jews; and moreover, that St. Matthew would have signified the fact in some way, if he had recorded a law that was to be of only temporary value: the preceding view loses some of its probability. The ancient and common explanation, which agrees with the foregoing in admitting the proper, though wider, sense of the word πορνεία. and also the exceptive value of the clause “excepting the cause of fornication,” but which explains the dismissal as meaning divorce “a thoro et habitatione” and not “a vinculo,” is therefore more satisfactory than any of the other solutions. The following are additional reasons in favor of this latter view: [α] It explains the context “and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery”; [the omission of the Greek article before ἀπολελυμένην shows that the law is general, and not restricted to the unjust dismissal]; [β] It explains why the text itself [v. 32] implies that carnal intercourse of the divorced wife with another man is adultery in any case, and that the husband is accountable for the sin if he has sent his partner away without sufficient cause [Basil]; [γ] it agrees with the context of Mt. 19:3 ff. [Mk. 10:3 ff.], where Jesus reëstablishes the primitive indissolubility of marriage which admitted no exception and to which our Lord added no exception [this latter addition should have been made to the law, and not afterward, when another question had come up for discussion]; [δ] if Jesus had permitted perfect divorce in case of adultery, he would have rather relaxed than perfected the former law according to which a bill of divorce had to be given—in other words, the license abolished by Moses would have been legally reestablished; [ε] while the absence of the article before ἀπολελυμένην in Mt. 5:32 demands this explanation, the text of Mt. 19:9 at least admits it. Jerome, Bellarmine, Jansenius, Franz Lucas, Palm, explain the passage as meaning “whosoever shall put away his wife [which is wholly illicit except it be for fornication], and shall marry another, committeth adultery”; while Mald, resolves the sentence into “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, committeth adultery” [cf. Mt. 5:32] and “whosoever shall marry another [the former being dismissed for whatever cause], committeth adultery”; [ζ] the Latin and the Greek Fathers, of the fourth century at least, commonly teach that divorce “a vinculo” is impossible, while divorce “a thoro et habitatione” is allowable in case of adultery, and most theologians teach that the Fathers derived this doctrine from the first gospel; [η] if it be said that the Jews could not have understood the words of Jesus in this way, because imperfect divorce was wholly unknown to them, this manner of reasoning destroys most of the Christian mysteries contained in the words of Christ, because they were unknown to the Jews before our Lord revealed them; [θ] though one or more exceptions may be advanced against the foregoing considerations taken singly, they hardly avail against the collective force of the arguments stated.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 5:27-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

Ver 27. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery:’28. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Chrys., Hom. xvii: The Lord having explained how much is contained in the first commandment, namely, “Thou shalt not kill,” proceeds in regular order to the second.

Aug., Serm. ix, 3 and 10: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” that is, Thou shalt go no where but to thy lawful wife. For if you exact this of your wife, you ought to do the same, for the husband ought to go before the wife in virtue. It is a shame for the husband to say that this is impossible. Why not the husband as well as the wife? And let not him that is unmarried suppose that he does not break this commandment by fornication; you know the price wherewith you have been bought, you know what you eat and what your drink [ed. note, g: Nic. inserts here, from the original, ‘immo quem manduces, quem bibas.’] therefore keep yourself from fornications. Forasmuch as all such acts of lust pollute and destroy God’s image, (which you are,) the Lord who knows what is good for you, gives you this precept that you may not pull down His temple which you have begun to be.

Aug., cont. Faust. 19, 23: He then goes on to correct the error of the Pharisees, declaring, “Whoso looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already with her in his heart.” For the commandment of the Law, “Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour’s wife,” [Exo_20:17] the Jews understood of taking her away, not of committing adultery with her.

Jerome: Between and that is between actual passion and the first spontaneous movement of the mind, there is this difference: passion is at once a sin; the spontaneous movement of the mind, though it partakes of the evil of sin, is yet not held for an offence committed. [ed. note, h: In this passage S. Jerome, who seems to have introduced the word propassio,  into theology, uses it somewhat in a sense of his own; viz. as involving something of the nature of sin; vid. also Comm. in Ezek. xviii, 1, 2. The word is more commonly applied to our Lord, as denoting the mode and extent in which His soul was affected by what in others became . In us passion precedes reason, in Him it followed, or was a . vid. S. Jerome in Matt. xxvi. 37. Leon. Ep. 35. Damasc. F. O. iii. 20 &c. &c.]

When then one looks upon a woman, and his mind is therewith smitten, there is propassion; if he yields to this he passes from propassion to passion, and then it is no longer the will but the opportunity to sin that is wanting. “Whosoever,” then, “looketh on a woman to lust after her,” that is, so looks on her as to lust, and cast about to obtain, he is rightly said to commit adultery with her in his heart.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 12: For there are three things which make up a sin; suggestion either through the memory, or the present sense; if the thought of the pleasure of indulgence follows, that is an unlawful thought, and to be restrained; if you consent then, the sin is complete. For prior to the first consent, the pleasure is either none or very slight, the consenting to which makes the sin. But if consent proceeds on into overt act, then desire seems to be satiated and quenched. And when suggestion is again repeated, the contemplated pleasure is greater, which previous to habit formed was but small, but now more difficult to overcome.

Greg., Mor., xxi, 2: But whoso casts his eyes about without caution  will often be taken with the pleasure of sin, and ensnared by desires begins to wish for what he would not. Great is the strength of the flesh to draw us downwards, and the charm of beauty once admitted to the heart through the eye, is hardly banished by endeavour. We must therefore take heed at the first, we ought not to look upon what it is unlawful to desire. For that the heart may be kept pure in thought, the eyes, as being on the watch to hurry us to sin, should be averted from wanton looks.

Chrys.: If you permit yourself to gaze often on fair countenances you will assuredly be taken, even though you may be able to command your mind twice or thrice. For you are not exalted above nature and the strength of humanity. She too who dresses and adorns herself for the purpose of attracting men’s eyes to her, though her endeavor should fail, yet shall she be punished hereafter; seeing she mixed the poison and offered the cup, though none was found who would drink thereof. For what the Lord seems to speak only to the man, is of equal application to the woman; inasmuch as when He speaks to the head, the warning is meant for the whole body.

Ver 29. “And if they right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.30. And if they right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Gloss, non occ.: Because we ought not only to avoid actual sin, but even put away every occasion of sin, therefore having taught that adultery is to be avoided not in deed only, but in heart, He next teaches us to cut off the occasions of sin.

Pseudo-Chrys.: But if according to that of the Prophet, “there is no whole part in our body,” [Psa_38:3] it is needful that we cut off every limb that we have that the punishment may be equal to the depravity of the flesh.

Is it then possible to understand this of the bodily eye or hand? As the whole man when he is turned to God is dead to sin, so likewise the eye when it has ceased to look evil is cut off from sin. But this explanation will not suit the whole; for when He says, “thy right eye offends thee,” what does the left eye? Does it contradict the right eye, and it is preserved innocent?

Jerome: Therefore by the right eye and the right hand we must understand the love of brethren, husbands and wives, parents and kinsfolk; which if we find to hinder our view of the true light, we ought to sever from us.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 13: As the eye denotes contemplation, so the hand aptly denotes action. By the eye we must understand our most cherished friend, as they are wont to say who would express ardent affection, ‘I love him as my own eye.’ And a friend too who gives counsel, as the eye shews us our way. The “right eye,” perhaps, only means to express a higher degree of affection, for it is the one which men most fear to lose.

Or, by the right eye may be understood one who counsels us in heavenly matters, and by the left one who counsels in earthly matters. And this will be the sense; Whatever that is which you love as you would your own right eye, if it “offend you,” that is, if it be an hindrance to your true happiness, “cut it off and cast it from you.” For if the right eye was not to be spared, it was superfluous to speak of the left. The right hand also is to be taken of a beloved assistant in divine actions, the left hand in earthly actions.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; Christ would have us careful not only of our own sin, but likewise that even they who pertain to us should keep themselves from evil. Have you any friend who looks to your matters as your own eye, or manages them as your own hand, if you know of any scandalous or base action that he has done, cast him from you, he is an offence; for we shall give account not only of our own sins, but also of such of those of our neighbours as it is in our power to hinder.

Hilary: Thus a more lofty step of innocence is appointed us, in that we are admonished to keep free, not only from sin ourselves, but from such as might touch us from without.

Jerome: Otherwise; As above He had placed lust in the looking on a woman, so now the thought and sense straying hither and thither He calls ‘the eye.’ By the right hand and the other parts of the body, He means the initial movements of desire and affection.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The eye of flesh is the mirror of the inward eye. The body also has its own sense, that is, the left eye, and its own appetite, that is, the left hand. But the parts of the soul are called right, for the soul was created both with free-will and under the law of righteousness, that it might both see and do rightly.

But the members of the body being not with free-will, but under the law of sin, are called the left. Yet He does not bid us cut off the sense or appetite of the flesh; we may retain the desires of the flesh, and yet not do thereafter, but we cannot cut off the having the desires. But when we wilfully purpose and think of evil, then our right desires and right will offend us, and therefore He bids us cut them off. And these we can cut off, because our will is free.

Or otherwise; Every thing, however good in itself that offends ourselves or others, we ought to cut off from us. For example, to visit a woman with religious purposes, this good intent towards her may be called a right eye, but if often visiting her I have fallen into the net of desire, or if any looking on are offended, then the right eye, that is, something in itself good, offends me. For the “right eye” is good intention, the “right hand” is good desire.

Gloss. ord.: Or, the “right eye” is the contemplative life which offends by being the cause of indolence or self-conceit, or in our weakness that we are not able to support it unmixed. The “right hand” is good works, or the active life, which offends us when we are ensnared by society and the business of life.

If then any one is unable to sustain the contemplative life, let him not slothfully rest from all action; or on the other hand while he is taken up with action, dry up the fountain of sweet contemplation.

Remig.: The reason why the right eye and the right hand are to be cast away is subjoined in that, “For it is better, &c.”

Pseudo-Chrys.: For as we are every one members one of another, it is better that we should be saved without some one of these members, than that we perish together with them. Or, it is better that we should be saved without one good purpose, or one good work, than that while we seek to perform all good works we perish together with all.

Ver 31. “It hath been said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:’32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Gloss, non occ.: The Lord had taught us above that our neighbour’s wife was not to be coveted, He now proceeds to teach that our own wife is not to be put away.

Jerome: For touching Moses’ allowance of divorce, the Lord and Saviour more fully explains in conclusion, that it was because of the hardness of the hearts of the husbands, not so much sanctioning discord, as checking bloodshed.

Pseudo-Chrys.: For when Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, they were indeed Hebrews in race, but Egyptians in manners. And it was caused by the Gentile manners that the husband hated the wife; and if he was not permitted to put her away, he was ready either to kill her or ill-treat her. Moses therefore suffered a bill of divorcement, not because it was a good practice in itself, but was the prevention of a worse evil.

Hilary: But the Lord who brought peace and goodwill on earth, would have it reign especially in the matrimonial bond.

Aug., cont. Faust., xix, 26: The Lord’s command here that a wife is not to be put away, is not contrary to the command in the Law, as Manichaeus affirmed. Had the Law allowed any who would to put away his wife, to allow none to put away were indeed the very opposite of that. But the difficulty which Moses is careful to put in the way, shews that he was no good friend to the practice at all. For he required a bill of divorcement, the delay and difficulty of drawing out which would often cool headlong rage and disagreement, especially as by the Hebrew custom, it was the Scribes alone who were permitted to use the Hebrew letters, in which they professed a singular skill.

To these then the law would send him whom it bid to give a writing of divorcement, when he would put away his wife, who mediating between him and his wife, might set them at one again, unless in minds too wayward to be moved by counsels of peace. Thus then He neither completed, by adding words to it, the law of them of old time, nor did He destroy the Law given by Moses by enacting things contrary to it, as Manichaeus affirmed; but rather repeated and approved all that the Hebrew Law contained, so that whatever He spoke in His own person more than it had, had in view either explanation, which in divers obscure places of the Law was greatly needed, or the more punctual observance of its enactments.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 14: By interposing this delay in the mode of putting away, the lawgiver shewed as clearly as it could be shewn to hard hearts, that he hated strife and disagreement. The Lord then so confirms this backwardness in the Law, as to except only one case, “the cause of fornication;” every other inconvenience which may have place, He bids us bear with patience in consideration of the plighted troth of wedlock.

Pseudo-Chrys.: If we ought to bear the burdens of strangers, in obedience to that of the Apostles, “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” [Gal_6:2] how much more that of our wives and husbands? The Christian husband ought not only to keep himself from any defilement, but to be careful not to give others occasion of defilement; for so is their sin imputed to him who gave the occasion. Whoso then by putting away his wife gives another man occasion of committing adultery, is condemned for that crime himself.

Aug.: Yea, more, He declares the man who marries her who is put away an adulterer.

Chrys.: Say not here, It is enough her husband has put her away; for even after she is put away she continues the wife of him that put her away.

Aug.: The Apostle has fixed the limit here, requiring her to abstain from a fresh marriage as long as her husband lives. After his death he allows her to marry. But if the woman may not marry while her former husband is alive, much less may she yield herself to unlawful indulgences. But this command of the Lord, forbidding to put away a wife, is not broken by him who lives with her not carnally but spiritually, in that more blessed wedlock of those that keep themselves chaste.

A question also here arises as to what is that fornication which the Lord allows as a cause of divorce; whether carnal sin, or, according to the Scripture use of the word, any unlawful passion, as idolatry, avarice, in short all transgression of the Law by forbidden desires. For if the Apostle permits the divorce of a wife if she be unbelieving, (though indeed it is better not to put her away,) and the Lord forbids any divorce but for the cause of fornication, unbelief even must be fornication. And if unbelief be fornication, and idolatry unbelief, and covetousness idolatry, it is not to be doubted that covetousness is fornication. And if covetousness be fornication, who may say of any kind of unlawful desire that it is not a kind of fornication?

Aug., Retract., i, 19, 6: Yet I would not have the reader think this disputation of ours sufficient in a matter so arduous; for not every sin is spiritual fornication, nor does God destroy every sinner, for He hears His saints daily crying to Him, “Forgive us our debts;” but every man who goes a whoring and forsakes Him, him He destroys.

Whether this be the fornication for which divorce is allowed is a most knotty question – for it is no question at all that it is allowed for the fornication by carnal sin.

Aug., lib. 83, Quaest. q. ult.: If any affirm that the only fornication for which the Lord allows divorce is that of carnal sin, he may see that the Lord has spoken of believing husbands and wives, forbidding either to leave the other except for fornication.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 16: Not only does He permit to put away a wife who commits fornication, but whoso puts away a wife by whom he is driven to commit fornication, puts her away for the cause of fornication, both for his own sake and hers.

Aug., de Fid. et Op. 16: He also rightly puts away his wife to whom she shall say, I will not be your wife unless you get me money by robbery; or should require any other crime to be done by him. If the husband here be truly penitent, he will cut off the limb that offends him.

Aug., Serm. in Mont., i, 16: Nothing can be more unjust than to put away a wife for fornication, and yourself to be guilty of that sin, for then is that happened, “Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” [Rom_2:1] When He says, “And he who marrieth her who is put away, committeth adultery,” a question arises, does the woman also in this case  commit adultery? For the Apostle directs either that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. There is this difference in the separation, namely, which of them was the cause of it. If the wife put away the husband and marry another, she appears to have left her first husband with the desire of change, which is an adulterous thought. But if she have been put away by her husband, yet he who marries her commits adultery, how can she be quit of the same guilt? And further, if he who marries her commits adultery, she is the cause of his committing adultery, which is what the Lord is here forbidding.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 116

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

1. “I have loved, since the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer” (ver. 1). Let the soul that is sojourning in absence from the Lord sing thus, let that sheep which had strayed sing thus, let that son who had “died and returned to life,” who had “been lost and was found;” let our soul sing thus, brethren, and most beloved sons. Let us be taught, and let us abide, and let us sing thus with the Saints: “I have loved: since the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer.” Is this a reason for having loved, that the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer? and do we not rather love, because He hath heard, or that He may hear? What then meaneth, “I have loved, since the Lord will hear”? Doth he, because hope is wont to inflame love, say that he hath loved, since he hath hoped that God will listen to the voice of his prayer?

2. But whence hath he hoped for this? Since, he saith, “He hath inclined His ear unto me: and in my days I have called upon Him” (ver. 2). I loved, therefore, because He will hear; He will hear, “because He hath inclined His ear unto me.” But whence knowest thou, O human soul, that God hath inclined His ear unto thee, except thou sayest, “I have believed”? These three things, therefore, “abide, faith, hope, charity:” because thou hast believed, thou hast hoped; because thou hast hoped, thou hast loved.…

3. And what are thy days, since thou hast said, “In my days I have called upon Him”? Are they those perchance, in which “the fulness of time came,” and “God sent His Son,” who had already said, “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee”?8 … I may rather call my days the days of my misery, the days of my mortality, the days according to Adam, full of toil and sweat, the days according to the ancient corruption. “For I lying, stuck fast in the deep mire,” in another Psalm also have cried out, “Behold, Thou hast made my days old;”10 in these days of mine have I called upon Thee. For my days are different from the days of my Lord. I call those my days, which by my own daring I have made for myself, whereby I have forsaken Him: and, since He reigneth everywhere, and is all-powerful, and holdeth all things, I have deserved prison; that is, I have received the darkness of ignorance, and the bonds of mortality.… For in these days of mine, “The snares of death compassed me round about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me” (ver. 3): pains that would not have overtaken me, had I not wandered from Thee. But now they have overtaken me; but I found them not, while I was rejoicing in the prosperity of the world, in which the snares of hell deceive the more.

4. But after “I too found trouble and heaviness, I called upon the Name of the Lord” (ver. 4). For trouble and profitable sorrow I did not feel; trouble, wherein He giveth aid, unto whom it is said, “O be Thou our help in trouble: and vain is the help of man.” For I thought I might rejoice and exult in the vain help of man; but when I had heard from my Lord, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted:”12 I did not wait until I should lose those temporal blessings in which I rejoiced, and should then mourn: but I gave heed to that very misery of mine which caused me to rejoice in such things, which I both feared to lose, and yet could not retain; I gave heed to it firmly and courageously, and I saw that I was not only agonized by the adversities of this world, but even bound by its good fortune; and thus “I found the trouble and heaviness” which had escaped me, “and called upon the Name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul.” Let then the holy people of God say, “I called upon the Name of the Lord:” and let the remainder of the heathen hear, who do not as yet call upon the Name of the Lord; let them hear and seek, that they may discover trouble and heaviness, and may call upon the Name of the Lord, and be saved.…

5. “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (ver. 5). He is gracious, righteous, and merciful. Gracious in the first place, because He hath inclined His ear unto me; and I knew not that the ear of God had approached my lips, till I was aroused by those beautiful feet, that I might call upon the Lord’s Name: for who hath called upon Him, save he whom He first called? Hence therefore He is in the first place “gracious;” but “righteous,” because He scourgeth; and again, “merciful,” because He receiveth; for “He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;” nor ought it to be so bitter to me that He scourgeth, as sweet that He receiveth. For how should not “The Lord, who keepeth little ones” (ver. 6), scourge those whom, when of mature age, He seeketh to be heirs; “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” “I was in misery, and He helped me.” He helped me, because I was in misery; for the pain which the physician causeth by his knife is not penal, but salutary.

6. “Turn again then unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath done good to thee” (ver. 7): not for thy deservings, or through thy strength; but because the Lord hath done good to thee. “Since,” he saith, “He hath delivered my soul from death” (ver. 8). It is wonderful, most beloved brethren, that, after he had said that his soul should turn unto rest, since the Lord had rewarded him; he added, since “He hath delivered my soul from death.” Did it turn unto rest, because it was delivered from death? Is not rest more usually said of death? What is the action of him whose life is rest, and death disquietude? Such then ought to be the action of the soul, as may tend to a quiet security, not one that may increase restless toil; since He hath delivered it from death, who, pitying it, said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” etc. Meek therefore and humble, following, so to speak, Christ as its path, should the action of the soul be that tendeth towards repose; nevertheless, not slothful and supine; that it may finish its course, as it is written, “In quietness make perfect thy works.”3 “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” Whoever feeleth the chain of this flesh chanteth these things as fulfilled in hope towards himself. For it is truly said, “I was in misery, and He delivered me;” but the Apostle saith this also truly, that we are saved by hope. And that we are delivered from death, is well said to be already fulfilled, so that we may understand the death of unbelievers, of whom he saith, “Leave the dead to bury their dead.”5 … He will then clear our eyes of tears, when He shall save our feet from falling. For there will then be no slipping of our feet as they walk, when there will be no sliding of the weak flesh. But now, however firm our path, which is Christ, be; yet since we place flesh, which we are enjoined to subdue, beneath us; in the very work of chastening and subduing it, it is a great thing not to fall: but not to slip in the flesh, who can attain? “I shall please in the sight of the Lord, in the land of the living” (ver. 9).… We “labour” indeed now, because we are awaiting “the redemption of our body:” but, “when death shall have been swallowed up in victory, and this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality;”7 then there will be no weeping, because there will be no falling; and no falling, because no corruption. And therefore we shall then no longer labour to please, but we shall be entirely pleasing in the sight of the Lord, in the land of the living.

7. … “I believed,” saith he, “and therefore did I speak. But I was sorely brought down” (ver. 10). For he suffered many tribulations, for the sake of the word which he faithfully held, faithfully preached; and he was sorely brought down; as they feared who loved the praise of men better than that of God. But what meaneth, “But I”? He should rather say, I believed, and therefore I have spoken, and I was sorely brought down: why did he add, “But I,” save because a man may be sorely brought down by those who oppose the truth, the truth itself cannot, which he believeth and speaketh? Whence also the Apostle, when he was speaking of his chain, saith, “the word of God is not bound.” So this man also, since there is one person of the holy witnesses, that is, of the Martyrs of God, saith, “I believed, and therefore will I speak.” “But I;” not that which I believed, not the word which I have delivered; “but I was sorely brought down.”

8. “I said in my trance, All men are liars” (ver. 11). By trance he meaneth fear, which when persecutors threaten, and when the sufferings of torture or death impend, human weakness suffereth. For this we understand, because in this Psalm the voice of Martyrs is heard. For trance is used in another sense also, when the mind is not beside itself by fear, but is possessed by some inspiration of revelation. “But I said in my haste, All men are liars.” In consternation he hath had regard to his infirmity, and hath seen that he ought not to presume on himself; for as far as pertaineth to the man himself, he is a liar, but by the grace of God he is made true; lest yielding to the pressure of his enemies he might not speak what he had believed, but might deny it; even as it happened to Peter, since he had trusted in himself, and was to be taught that we ought not to trust in man. And if every one ought not to trust in man, surely not in himself; because he is a man. Rightly therefore in his fear did he perceive that every man was a liar; since they also whom no fear robs of their presence of mind, so that they never lie by yielding to the persecutors, are such by the gifts of God, not by their own strength.…

9. “What,” he asketh, “what reward shall I give unto the Lord, for all the benefits that He hath returned unto me?” (ver. 12). He saith not, for all the benefits that He hath done unto me but “for all the benefits that He hath returned unto me.” What deeds then on the man’s part had preceded, that all the benefits of God were not said to be given, but returned? What had preceded, on the man’s part, save sins? God therefore repayeth good for evil, whilst unto Him men repay evil for good; for such was the return of those who said, “This is the heir: come, let us kill him.”

10. But this man seeketh what he may return unto the Lord, and findeth not, save out of those things which the Lord Himself returneth. “I will receive,” he saith, “the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord” (ver. 13). “My vows will I render to the Lord, before all His people” (ver. 14). Who hath given thee the cup of salvation, which when thou takest, and callest upon the Name of the Lord, thou shalt return unto Him a reward for all that He hath returned unto thee? Who, save He who saith, “Are ye able to drink the cup that I shall drink of?” Who hath given unto thee to imitate His sufferings, save He who hath suffered before for thee? And therefore, “Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints” (ver. 15). He purchased it by His Blood, which He first shed for the salvation of slaves, that they might not hesitate to shed their blood for the Lord’s Name; which, nevertheless, would be profitable for their own interests, not for those of the Lord.

11. Let therefore the slave purchased at so great a price confess his condition, and say, “Behold, O Lord, how that I am Thy servant: “I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid” (ver. 16).… This, therefore, is the son of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is above, the free mother of us all. And free indeed from sin she is, but the handmaid of righteousness; to whose sons still pilgrims it is said, “Ye have been called unto liberty;”4 and again he maketh them servants, when he saith, “but by love serve one another.” … Let therefore that servant say unto God, Many call themselves martyrs, many Thy servants, because they hold Thy Name in various heresies and errors; but since they are beside Thy Church, they are not the children of Thy handmaid. But “I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid.” “Thou hast broken my bonds asunder.”

12. “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of praise” (ver. 17). For I have not found any deserts of mine, since Thou hast broken my bonds asunder; I therefore owe Thee the sacrifice of praise; because, although I will boast that I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy handmaid, I will glory not in myself, but in Thee, my Lord, who hast broken asunder my bonds, that when I return from my desertion, I may again be bound unto Thee.

13. “I will pay my vows unto the Lord” (ver. 18). What vows wilt thou pay? What victims hast thou vowed? what burnt-offerings, what holocausts? Dost thou refer to what thou hast said a little before, “I will receive the cup of salvation, and will call upon the Name of the Lord;” and, “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving”? and indeed whosoever well considereth what he is vowing to the Lord, and what vows he is paying, let him vow himself, let him pay himself as a vow: this is exacted, this is due. On looking at the coin, the Lord saith, “Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s:” his own image is rendered unto Cæsar: let His image be rendered unto God.

14. “In the courts,” he saith, “of the Lord’s house” (ver. 19). What is the Lord’s house, the same is the Lord’s handmaid: and what is God’s house, save all His people? It therefore followeth, “In the sight of all His people.” And now he more openly nameth his mother herself. For what else is His people, but what followeth, “In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem”? For than that which is returned grateful, if it be returned from peace, and in peace. But they who are not sons of this handmaid, have loved war rather than peace.…

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

This post includes Father Callan’s brief summaries of 2 Cor 4:7-12, and 4:13-18. These will appear at the appropriate places in the commentary.


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12~St. Paul has described very clearly the excellence of the Apostolic ministry. This is now understood. But how reconcile the discharge of such exalted functions as fall to the lot of Christian ministers with the weakness and abject misery of the lives of the Apostles? Looking at the lowly condition of St. Paul and his companions, their adversaries could easily make a case against them by telling their converts not to believe them and not to follow them, seeing that they were abandoned and rejected of God. The Apostle, therefore, anticipates this objection by showing that God chose weak instruments (a) to make it plain that the power of the Gospel was not from men, but from Himself; and (b) to render the Apostles more like to Christ whose death and Resurrection they exemplified and preached for the life and salvation of the faithful.

7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God, and not of us.

This treasure, i.e., the exalted office of the Christian ministry.

In earthen vessels, i.e., in fragile vessels made of clay. The allusion is not only to man’s body, but especially to his weak human nature, as is clear from verse 8. God chose weak instruments to spread His Gospel, in order to make it plain that the efficacy of their preaching and the excellence of their message were due to Him, and not to themselves.

8. In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute;

Five illustrations of the contrast between the “treasure” and the “earthen vessels” now follow (verses 8-1 1).

In all things we suffer, etc. More literally, “Pressed on every side, but not crushed”; “perplexed, but not unto despairing.” The participles in Greek look back to εχομεν, we have, of verse 7.

9. We suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not:

We suffer persecution, etc. Better, “Pursued, but not deserted,” by God so as to be captured by enemies; “struck down (as in battle), but not destroyed.”

10. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.

The divine purpose of the Apostles’ suffering is now explained. By their continual tortures and exposure to death the Apostles represented and, in a sense, repeated the sufferings of Christ, in order that their many deliverances might be a proof of the life of the risen Jesus whose rescuing power was thus manifested in them. Like Christ’s Resurrection, the Apostles were witnesses to the truth of the Gospel, for they showed that Jesus is still alive and able to save (Plummer).

The mortification of Jesus means the dying, or putting to death of Jesus, although the Greek νεκρωσιν is used elsewhere in the New Testament only once (Rom 4:19), and then to describe the “deadness” of Sara’s womb.

11. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake; that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

The thought of the preceding verse is brought out more clearly.

We who live, etc., i.e., we the living, are constantly exposed to death, although constantly rescued by the living Christ. God wishes the lives of the Apostles to be such in order that now, while on earth, they may manifest in their mortal bodies the life, i.e., the triumph of Jesus who died and is risen again for us.

12. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

The Apostles were continually exposed to death for their preaching, but they were sustained by the living Jesus to work for the spiritual life and salvation of the faithful. “The Corinthian Church enjoyed the fruit of supernatural life, gathered for it by the Apostles’ perils” (Rickaby).


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 4:13-18~Having explained the purpose of God in permitting the sufferings of the Apostles, St. Paul now speaks of the end the Apostles themselves had in view in the exercise of their difficult ministry. In spite of the constant menace of death they ceased not to preach the Gospel, knowing that a glorious resurrection awaited them and their converts, that God’s glory was promoted by their labors, and that an eternal reward would be given in exchange for their transitory sufferings.

13. But having the same spirit of faith, as it is written: I believed, for which cause I have spoken ; we also believe, for which cause we speak also :

The Apostle wishes to say that the same trust and confidence in God sustains him and his companions in their tribulations which sustained the Psalmist in his desolation and sorrow. As the Psalmist spoke in consequence of his faith in the divine promises, so the Apostles fearlessly preach because of the same faith. St. Paul quotes the LXX of Psalm 116:10, which in form only differs from the Hebrew: “I believed, for I must speak.” The Psalmist believed that God would deliver him from the death, tears, and dangers spoken of in Ps 116:1-9, and therefore he spoke the thanksgiving part of Psalm 116, of which the first verse (10) is given here. The Apostles believed that God would never forsake them, and therefore they spoke the Gospel truths.

14. Knowing that he who raised up Jesus, will raise us up also with Jesus, and place us with you.

Who raised up Jesus. Better, “Who raised up the Lord Jesus” (with manuscripts C D F G K L P). In their sufferings the Apostles are encouraged by the hope that as God raised Jesus, their Head, from the grave, so He will one day raise them from the dead and unite them and their converts with their divine Chieftain.

With Jesus, rather than “through Jesus,” according to the best MSS. The preposition “with” indicates not time, but the unity of all the faithful in and with Christ.

And place us, etc., i.e., will place us Apostles with you alive in the kingdom of God. For this same use of παραστησει, see Acts 1:3; Acts 9:41.

The Apostle here, as in 5:1-8, speaks as if he did not expect to be alive at the Second Coming of Christ; whereas in 1 Cor 15:51-52, he spoke as though he might live to see that event. This shows that he had no revelation in the matter: he knew “not the day nor the hour” (Matt 25:13).

Jesus (Vulg., Jesum) in the first part of the verse should be preceded by “Lord” (Dominum), as in the best MSS.

15. For all things are for your sakes; that the grace abounding through many, may abound in thanksgiving unto the glory of God.

For (γαρ) looks back to the last words of the preceding verse. The prominence given the faithful there, with whom he hoped to be associated in heaven, reminds the Apostles here that all his labors, sufferings, trials, etc., as well as his deliverances, have been for their sakes, that they may have life (verse 12), and that the grace, i.e., the divine help, granted to him in answer to their prayers, may call forth their thanksgiving, thus giving glory to God. The glory of God was, therefore, the ultimate end of all the labors and sufferings of the Apostles.

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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

This post opens with the Bishop’s brief analysis of chapter 4, followed by his notes on verses 7-15. Text in purple represent his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


Having established, in the preceding chapter, the superior excellence of the Apostolit ministry, the Apostle employs this chapter in defending himself and his colleagues against the charges of the false teachers; his apology is contrived in such a way as, by implication, to insinuate against his accusers the very charges which they preferred against himself. He says, that in discharging his exalted ministry, he has avoided everything, even in private, that might damage its efficacy (verse 1, 2). If to any persons this Gospel publicly preached is unknown, it is through their own fault (3, 4). In preaching, he seeks only God’s glory and his neighbour’s utility, in order to correspond with the designs of God in imparting his ministry (5, 6). But the treasure of celestial knowledge communicated to others, is carried in frail vessels in order to consult for the glory of God alone, whose power appears clearly in preserving the Apostles in the midst of sufferings. (7, 8, 9). They suffer thus, in the hope that by representing Christ’s death, they may share hereafter in the glory of his resurrection (10, 11, 12). But, notwithstanding their constant exposure to death, the Apostles intrepidly preach the Gospel and profess their faith, as did David in the like circumstances (13). Being firmly convinced, that God will, one day, resuscitate them with Jesus, and give a share in the glory of his heavenly kingdom to them as well as to their faithful converts, for whose advantage all the Apostolic ministrations are intended (14, 15). Hence, in the midst of trials, their souls are become more and more vigorous, while constantly making the inexpressible and never ending glory of the life to come, the subject of their continual meditation (16, 17, 18).

2Co 4:7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us.

7. But this treasure of the heavenly knowledge of the truths of God for the enlightenment of others, we carry in ourselves who are frail and contemptible, like earthen vessels, that the excellence which is in us, and the fruit resulting from our ministry may redound to the glory of God, and not to our own.

The Lord wished to confide this treasure of the ministry of heavenly illumination to poor, ignorant, frail, and contemptible men, in order that all its glory and excellence should be attributed to himself. By the “earthen vessels,” some understand the mortal bodies of the Apostles formed from the earth. Others, more probably, understand them of the persons of the Apostles, who were weak, frail, and despicable in the eyes of men.

2Co 4:8  In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute.

8. And in the preservation of such frail beings in the midst of the most imminent perils, the divine power is clearly displayed; for, although we are pressed on all sides by adversity; still we are not utterly ruined; and although we are destitute of corporal aid and human counsel in our perplexities, we are not altogether left without resource, God in his mercy suggesting a means of evading our perplexities and embarrassments.

In the following verses, is shown how the power of God was exerted in favour of his ministers, although placed in the most imminent perils. It may not be necessary to give a distinct meaning to each word of the two following verses, the whole passage being nothing more than a mere rhetorical amplification conveying the same idea in different words, which increase in intensity. “Distressed,” στενοχωρούμενοι, is interpreted by many, we are seized with excessive mental anxiety. The version of Erasmus gives the same meaning to the corresponding Greek word. The purpose of the Apostle, however, would appear to be, to show that, although as brittle as earthen vessels, they are still preserved from bodily destruction in the midst of the greatest dangers.

“Straitened but not destitute.” The Greek, απορουμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐξαπορουμενοι (aporoumenoi all’ ouk exaporoumenoi), literally translated, is, aporiati, sed non exaporiati; the former (“we are straitened” = aporoumenoi) means destitute of human counsel in perplexity, without knowing what to do; the latter (“not destitute” = exaporoumenoi), that they are not oppressed in this perplexity, from which they knew not how to extricate themselves, because God suggests to them a means of effecting an escape. The bishop is here trying to bring out the connection between the words aporoumenoi and
exaporoumenoi (Latin~aporiati and exaporiati). They are destitute or constrained (humanly speaking) without being destitute or constrained because of God’s power.

2Co 4:9  We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not.

9. We suffer persecution on account of the exercise of our ministry, but we are not forsaken by God who rescues us in our perils; we are cast down to the earth in our struggles with our opponents; but still, we are not despatched (because God interposes to save and raise us up).

“We are cast down,” &c., conveys the idea of most imminent danger of life, just as if a man in single combat were thrown to the earth by his adversary, and ready to be despatched, unless some one interpose to raise him up and enable him to avoid the fatal stab. God interposed to rescue the Apostles placed in the like danger. The words may also convey the idea, in allusion to earthen vessels, that although flung down upon the earth, God still interposed to save them from being utterly destroyed.

2Co 4:10  Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.

10. By our daily exposure to dangers and death, we always carry about, and by certain resemblance express in our bodies, the death of our Lord Jesus, in order that the life of glory which he now enjoys, may at a future day be revealed in us, when this mortal shall put on immortality.

“The mortification.” The Greek word, νεκρωσιν (necrosin), denotes a dying state without actual death. “of Christ.” (In the common Greek, of the Lord Jesus). The word “Lord” is wanting in the chief MSS. which support the Vulgate. “That the life also of Jesus,” &c., are understood by some as referring, not to the future glory of the children of God (as in Paraphrase), but to the proof of Christ’s Resurrection, in consequence of rescuing so miraculously out of the very jaws of death, those who were thus exposed for his sake, so that the life of Jesus now risen may be clearly manifested and seen in our bodies rescued by him from death; for, had He not lived, He could not have rescued them. Others understand these words as referring to a typifying of His Resurrection; for, as our constant exposure to death was a type of His passion and death, so was our deliverance from these imminent perils of death a type of His Resurrection. “In our bodies.” In Greek, ἐν τῶ σηματι ἡμῶν (en to somati hemon), in our body.

2Co 4:11  For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

11. For, although living, we are constantly given over to death on account of the preaching of Jesus, in order that the glorious and immortal life of Jesus may, at a future day, be revealed in this mortal flesh.

This verse is illustrative of the preceding. “That the life of Jesus,” &c., may also mean, that the life of Jesus risen from the dead may be made manifest by His having saved those perishable bodies amidst such deadly perils; and hence, our preservation furnishes a confirmatory proof of the Resurrection of Jesus.

2Co 4:12  So then death worketh in us: but life in you.

12. Therefore, by the preaching of the gospel, death is caused in us; but, by this means, your spiritual life is advanced.

The conclusion drawn by the Apostle is, that by these sufferings, death is exercised in himself and his colleagues, by which means their spiritual life is advanced. Others, with St. Chrysostom, understand the words of this verse to convey a reproach to the Corinthians, who were living in ease and abundance, while the Apostles were exposed to danger and want of all sorts. The former interpretation is the more probable. In all this, the Apostle indirectly and obliquely reproaches the false teachers as having encountered no such dangers or privations for the faith, and as having no such testimony of divine deliverance and interposition in their favour.

2Co 4:13  But having the same spirit of faith, as it is written: I believed, for which cause I have spoken; we also believe. For which cause we speak also:

13. But having, in the midst of dangers and death, the same faith proceeding from the Holy Ghost, that David had of old, when, as it is written of him, he said in the midst of trials and dangers: I have believed, and still believe firmly in the divine promises, and therefore, in consequence of this unhesitating faith in God’s promises, I have proclaimed, and still proclaim it aloud; so we also Apostles firmly believe in the promises, and, therefore, openly proclaim and profess this our faith.

He assigns a reason why the Apostles, in the midst of dangers, preach intrepidly it is because they really and firmly believe, unlike the false teachers, who, in dangerous circumstances, are become like “dumb dogs not able to bark.”—(Isaias, 56:10), “Having the same spirit of faith,” which David had, proceeding from the Holy Ghost, when in Psalm 115 he says, in the midst of the dangers which menaced his life: “I believed” (the perfect tense is put, by a Hebrew idiom, for the present, “I believe:” or, it may mean, I have believed and still continue to believe, in the promises of God made to me by Samuel, that one day I should ascend the throne; for, it is to this he refers in the 115th Psalm), and, therefore, on account of the firmness of this faith, “I have spoken” I have proclaimed, and do proclaim it aloud, knowing that God will preserve me. Some interpreters understand the word thus: having the same faith, with you, emanating from the Holy Ghost, we too believe, and, therefore, as did he of whom it was written, “I believed,” &c. It is better, however, to understand it of the same faith, with David. Hence, the faith of the saints of old is the same with ours. The mode of believing may be different; for they believed implicitly, what we believe explicitly; but “the same spirit” was the author of their faith and ours (For the connection between the ancient faithful and ourselves see Heb 11:13 in conjunction with Heb 11:39-12:2 and Heb 12:22-25). Those, therefore, who believe firmly in their hearts, shall not be afraid or ashamed to profess this interior faith openly, when its external profession becomes a matter of duty.

2Co 4:14  Knowing that he who raised up Jesus will raise us up also with Jesus and place us with you.

14. Firmly impressed with the belief, that he who raised Jesus from the dead, will so raise us, and bestow on us a like glory with Jesus, and give us a place with you in his heavenly kingdom.

 “Raised up Jesus.” In the common Greek, raised up the Lord Jesus. (The Codex Vaticanus has not the word Lord). “With Jesus.” (In the common Greek, δια Ιησου = dia Iesou, through Jesus). The Codex Vaticanus has, συν ιησου (sun Iesou, with Jesus), the Vulgate reading retained by St. Jerome. This firm belief in their future resurrection animates the Apostles to proclaim it aloud and preach the gospel intrepidly amid the most appalling dangers. “And place us with you.” He uses this form rather than place you with us, to show the great value he attaches to them, so as to prefer them to himself in glory, since he is only to come in for a share of glory of which they will be in possession.

2Co 4:15  For all things are for your sakes: that the grace, abounding through many, may abound in thanksgiving unto the glory of God.

15. I said, give us a place with you, for all our ministrations are ordained for your salvation, that the grace of the gospel, being diffused amongst many, whilst many are returning thanks for it, may redound to the glory of God.

 It is not without cause that he placed them first; for they, or rather their salvation, is the end for which all his labours are designed. From making them sharers in his own glory this good shall result, viz., that the benefits of the gospel being more widely diffused and more extensively communicated, may redound to the glory of God, whilst the many on whom they are conferred will join in returning God thanks for them. Acts of thanksgiving, therefore, contribute much to God’s glory. The Greek, την ευχαριστιαν περισευσση εἰς την δοξαν τοῦ θεοῦ, admits the construction of Erasmus, viz., that the grace abounding through many may abound with thanksgiving unto the glory of God, in which the verb “abound” has a transitive signification, as in chapter 11, verse 8.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 99

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013


THIS is a hymn to the holy God of Israel, the King of the world who sits enthroned on the Cherubim. The psalm is divided into three strophes, which are clearly marked off from each Other by a refrain.

The holy and mighty God of Israel has now again shown clearly to the world that He is the Lord and King of Israel, and the Ruler of the world. Let men, therefore, praise His dread and mighty name, for He is holy. (vv. 1-3.)

God has shown His might by exercising justice on behalf of Jacob, by intervening, that is, on Israel’s behalf against the heathen. The overthrow of Israel’s enemies is also the overthrow of the enemies of Yahweh. For His justice in helping Israel the Lord is to be extolled. Holy is He. (vv. 4-5.)

Yahweh is not merely mighty and just. He is gracious as well. In the olden days He was ever accessible to the repentant prayers of His people—even though the whole history of Israel is a History of disloyalty and sin on the part of the people. His graciousness was never deserved by the nation Israel, but it was often moved by the prayers of such heroes of the faith as Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. There are still in Israel men loyal to God, and the recent intervention of Yahweh in defence of His people may have been due to their prayers. In full recognition of the gracious mercies of the Lord let Israel bow down in homage before Him and praise His holiness, (vv. 5-9-)

There is nothing opposed to Davidic authorship in the general tone of the psalm. Many modern non-Catholic critics admit that the psalm is pre-Exilic. Some Protestant writers find the immediate occasion of the poem—the intervention of Yahweh which it celebrates —in the defeat of the army of Sanherib (Sennacherib): others are willing to put it back as far as the beginnings of Hebrew prophetic literature in the middle of the eighth century B.C. Catholic critics while emphasising, in conformity with tradition, the Davidic origin of the psalm, admit here also that a certain amount of post-Davidic editorial work may, perhaps, be traced in the poem. Here, as in the other ‘Domimis regnavit’
psalms (i.e., “The Lord reigns” psalms). Messianic colouring is clearly present.

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