The Divine Lamp

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 23:13-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 23, 2013

Mat 23:13  But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for you yourselves do not enter in and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter.
Mat 23:14  Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour the houses of widows, praying long prayers. For this you shall receive the greater judgment

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. Impeachment of the scribes and Pharisees. Here we have first the eight solemn woes, Mt 23:13–33; secondly, the lamentation over Jerusalem, Mt 23:34–39.

a. The eight woes. According to Lk. 11:39 ff. Jesus pronounced a similar discourse on his way to Jerusalem; Mald. is therefore of opinion that the first evangelist, following his topical arrangement of material, transferred the whole discourse to its present place; but Mk. 12:38–40 and Lk. 20:46, 47 testify that Jesus really spoke against the scribes and Pharisees on Tuesday before his passion; it is therefore preferable to consider the report of the first evangelist as more complete than that of the second and third [cf. Augustine De cons. evang. ii. 75, 144; Meyer, Keil, Weiss], so that Jesus repeated on this occasion in the hearing of the Pharisees and the multitudes some of his former condemnations. Origen, Paschasius, Jansenius etc. draw attention to the circumstance that the woes against the unbelievers at the end of our Lord’s public life correspond with the beatitudes of the believers at its beginning.

My source for the following paragraph appears garbled. Opinions do not agree as to the number of woes; some authors number seven woes, others eight, in accordance with their view on the genuineness or the interpolation of verse 14. Manuscripts E F G H K M S U V Γ Δ Π b c f ff2 h syr [both] æth Chr Dam Op Hilary, Jerome [allusion] Hubertianus, [marg] Theodufianus, Kenanensis, Rushworthianus, Toletanus, fuld [with a slight omission], the desire of conforming the text with the apocalyptic number of threats and punishments in the codices where the verse is omitted, the eight beatitudes, speak in favor of the genuineness of the verse, so that it is retained by Bisping, Fillion, etc.; on the other hand, manuscripts א B D L Z a e ff1 g1, 2 Or Eus Tischendor, Westcott and Hort, Rabanus, Paschasius, Druthmar, Alb, the inversion of verses 13 and 14 in many codd. in which the latter verse is retained, the additional punishment in verse 14 against the analogy of the other woes, the interruption of the connection, and the fact that its interpolation from Mk. 12:40 or Lk. 20:47 is more easily explained that its omission in so many codd., favor the interpolation of the verse, so that it is regarded as inserted from the second or the third gospel by Arnoldi, Schegg, Schanz, Keil, Weiss, Knabenbauer etc.

Alb., omitting verse 14, regards the first two woes as directed against false doctrine, the second two as aimed against a wicked life; according to Thomas Aquinas, Jesus first impeaches the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocritical religion [Mt 23:13–24], then for their hypocritical purity [Mt 23:25–28], and finally for their hypocritical piety [Mt 23:29 ff.].

b. Hypocritical religion. “The kingdom of heaven” does not refer directly to the treasure of blessings promised to the faithful observers of the law [cf. Schegg], but means the Messianic kingdom in accordance with the common language of the first gospel; “those that are going in [that wish to go in; cf. Alb. Chrysostom, Euthymius], you suffer not to enter,” not merely by imposing your heavy burdens on them [cf. Chrysotom, Maldonado], which would rather incline them to seek the light burden of the kingdom, but by your doctrine and practice [Schanz], as well as by your express opposition to the gospel of the kingdom, manifested on countless occasions [cf. Mt. 9:11, 34, 36; 11:16 ff.; 12:14, 24; 15:2 f.; etc.; Origen, Hilary, Paschasius, Theophylact, Alb. Faber Stapulensis, Jansenius, Knabenbauer etc.]. “You devour the houses of widows,” though the Scriptures enjoin their special care and protection [Ex. 22:22; Deut. 14:29; 16:11, 14; 24:17; etc.], and punish their oppression with special punishments [cf. Is. 1:17, 23; 5:28; Ez. 22:7, 25]; and this you do “praying long prayers”—or according to the Greek text, “and for a pretence making long prayers”—in public places and on the corners of the streets, so that you easily deceive the weaker sex [cf. Opus Imperfectum, Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius, Maldonado, Lapide]. “For this you shall receive the greater judgment,” being guilty not only of injuring the widows, but also of a most impious hypocrisy [cf. Cajetan].

Mat 23:15  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you go round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte. And when he is made, you make him the child of hell twofold more than yourselves.

“You go about the sea and the land to make one proselyte,” whether he become a proselyte of the gate [i. e. a worshipper of one God and an observer of the seven Noachic precepts, i.e., the seven laws of Noah], or a proselyte of justice [i. e. a subject of circumcision and the ceremonial law]; though Wünsche doubts the Pharisaic proselytism, its historical truth is fully attested [cf. Josephus Ant. XIII. ix. 1; 18:3:5; 20:2:4; B. J. 2:17:10: Vit. 23; Edersheim ii. p. 411; etc.]. “You make him the child of hell twofold more than yourselves,” not indeed because he relapses generally into paganism [cf. Jerome, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius, Lapide], but because, in the first place, you set him a bad example which he shortly surpasses in wickedness [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Paschasius, Jansenius, Maldonado, Lam.]; secondly, you teach him your own vices without correcting in him the vices of the Gentiles [cf. Origen, Hilary, Opus Imperfectum, Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Fillion, Schegg]; thirdly, you teach him enough of the law to render him more guilty before God for his transgressions [cf. 2 Pet. 2:21; Alb.]; fourthly, you render him more unfit for the Messianic kingdom [cf. Justin Martyr c. Tryph. n. 122; Arnoldi, Weiss]; fifthly, you puff him up with pride and with an empty self-conceit [cf. Keil].

Mat 23:16  Woe to you, blind guides, that say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but he that shall swear by the gold of the temple is a debtor.
Mat 23:17  Ye foolish and blind: for whether is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
Mat 23:18  And whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift that is upon it is a debtor.
Mat 23:19  Ye foolish and blind: for whether is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
Mat 23:20  He therefore that sweareth by the altar sweareth by it and by all things that are upon it.
Mat 23:21  And whosoever shall swear by the temple sweareth by it and by him that dwelleth in it.
Mat 23:22  And he that sweareth by heaven sweareth by the throne of God and by him that sitteth thereon

“The gold of the temple” is either the golden decoration of the temple [Hil. Theoph.], or the golden appointment of the temple [Theodore of Heraclea in cat. Euth.], or the gold in the temple treasury [Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, Bede, Pasch. Maldonado, Jansenius, Lapide, Calmet]. The distinction between the temple and the gold of the temple in swearing is made, first, because the Pharisees really esteemed the gold more than the temple [cf. Apolinar. cat.]; secondly, because the multitude became thus more impressed with the sanctity of the offerings to the temple [cf. Calmet]; thirdly, because the person swearing could not build another temple, but could be held to the payment of a certain amount of gold, which the Pharisees coveted above all else [cf. Jerome, Theophylact, Bede, Paschasius, Alb. Thomas Aquinas]; fourthly, in fine, because the gold of the temple appeared to be more closely related to God than the whole temple building with its many more or less indifferent chambers and implements, and a valid oath must be sworn by the name of God, or by something closely related to God [cf. Surenh. iv. p. 306; Jansenius Schegg, Schanz, Knabenbauer]. The doctrine on the oath is more fully developed in Mt. 5:33–36. Our Lord next shows the folly of the Pharisaic doctrine: since the temple sanctifies the gold, and the altar sanctifies the gift on the altar, both temple and altar must be more holy than the gold and the gift on the altar [cf. Origen]. The inference is evident: whether we swear by the altar, or by the temple, or by heaven, or by any creature, we always swear by the living God present in all creatures [cf. Jansenius, Lam. Knabenbauer].

2 Responses to “Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 23:13-22”

  1. […] Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 23:13-22). […]

  2. […] Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 23:13-22 ( […]

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