Ver l. And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;2. And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.3. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”4. And he answered and said unto them, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,5. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?6. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”7. They say unto him, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?”8. He said unto them, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”
Chrys., Hom., lxii: The Lord had before left Judaea because of their jealousy, but now He keeps Himself more to it, because His passion was near at hand. Yet does He not go up to Judaea itself, but into the borders of Judaea; whence it is said, “And it came to pass when Jesus had ended all these sayings, he departed from Galilee.”
Raban.: Here then He begins to relate what He did, taught, or suffered in Judaea. At first beyond Jordan eastward, afterwards on this side Jordan when He came to Jericho, Bethphage, and Jerusalem; whence it follows, “And He came into the coasts of Judaea beyond the Jordan.”
Pseudo-Chrys., [ed. note: The Latin commentary that goes under the name of Chrysostom’s resumes again at the first verse of this chapter]: As the righteous Lord of all, who loves these servants so as not to despise those.
Raban.: It should be known, that the whole territory of the Israelites was called Judaea, to distinguish it from other nations. But its southern portion, inhabited by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, was called Judaea proper, to distinguish it from other districts in the same province as Samaria, Galilee, Decapolis, and the rest. It follows, “And great multitudes followed him.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: They were conducting Him forth, as the young children of a father going on a far journey. And He setting forth as a father, left them as pledges of His love the healing of their diseases, as it is said, “And he healed them.”
Chrys.: It should be also observed, that the Lord is not either ever delivering doctrine, or ever working miracles, but one while does this, and again turns to that; that by His miracles faith might be given to what He said, and by His teaching might be shewed the profit of those things which He wrought.
Origen: The Lord healed the multitudes beyond Jordan, where baptism was given. For all are truly healed from spiritual sickness in baptism; and many follow Christ as did these multitudes, but not rising up as Matthew, who arose and followed the Lord.
Hilary: Also He cures the Galileans on the borders of Judaea, that He might admit the sins of the Gentiles to that pardon which was prepared for the Jews.
Chrys.: For indeed Christ so healed men, as to do good both to themselves, and through them to many other. For these men’s healing was to others the occasion of their knowledge of God; but not to the Pharisees, who were only hardened by the miracles.
Whence it follows; “And the Pharisees cause to him, tempting him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”
Jerome: That they might have Him as it were between the horns of a syllogism, so that, whatever answer He should make, it would lie open to cavil. Should He allow a wife to be put away for any cause, and the marriage of another, he would seem to contradict Himself as a preacher of chastity. Should He answer that she may not be put away for any cause whatsoever, He will be judged to have spoken impiously, and to make against the teaching of Moses and of God.
Chrys.: Observe their wickedness even in the way of putting their question. The Lord had above disputed concerning this law, but they now ask Him as though He had spoken nothing thereof, supposing He had forgot what He had before delivered in this matter.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But, as when you see one much pursuing the acquaintance of physicians, you know that he is sick, so, when you see either man or woman enquiring concerning divorce, know that that man is lustful and that woman unchaste. For chastity has pleasure in wedlock, but desire is tormented as though under a slavish bondage therein. And knowing that they had no sufficient cause to allege for their putting away their wives, save their own lewdness, they feigned many divers causes. They feared to ask Him for what cause, lest they should be tied down within the limits of fixed and certain causes; and therefore they asked if it were lawful for every cause; for they knew that appetite knows no limits, and cannot hold itself within the bounds of one marriage, but the more it is indulged the more it is kindled.
Origen: Seeing the Lord thus tempted, let none of His disciples who is set to teach think it hard if he also be by some tempted. Howbeit, He replies to His tempters with the doctrines of piety.
Jerome: But He so frames His answer as to evade their snare. He brings in the testimony of Holy Writ, and the law of nature, and opposing God’s first sentence to this second, “He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?”
This is written in the beginning of Genesis. This teaches that second marriages are to be avoided, for He said not male and females, which was what was sought by the putting away of the first, but, male and female, implying only one tie of wedlock.
Raban.: For by the wholesome design of God it was ordained that a man should have in the woman a part of his own body, and should not look upon as separate from himself that which he knew was formed out of himself.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If then God created the male and female out of one, to this end that they should be one, why then henceforth were not they born man and wife at one birth, as it is with certain insects? Because God created male and female for the continuance of the species, yet is He ever a lover of chastity, and promoter of continence. Therefore did He not follow this pattern in all kinds, to the end that, if any man choose to marry, he may know what is, according to the first disposition of the creation, the condition of man and wife; but if he choose not to marry, he shall not be under necessity to marry by the circumstances of his birth, lest he should by his continence be the destruction of the other who was not willing to be continent; for which same cause God forbids that after being joined in wedlock one should separate if the other be unwilling.Chrys.: But not by the law of creation only, but also by the practice of the law, He shews that they ought to be joined one and one, and never put asunder; “And he said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife.”
Jerome: In like manner He says “his wife,” and not wives, and adds expressly, “and they twain shall be one flesh.” For it is the reward of marriage that one flesh, namely in the offspring, is made of two.
Gloss. interlin.: Or, “one flesh,” that is in carnal connexion.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If then because the wife is made of the man, and both one of one flesh, a man shall leave his father and his mother, then there should be yet greater affection between brothers and sisters, for these come of the same parents, but man and wife of different. But this is saying too much, because the ordinance of God is of more force than the law of nature. For God’s precepts are not subject to the law of nature, but nature bends to the precepts of God. Also brethren are born of one, that they shouldst seek out different roads; but the man and the wife are born of different persons, that they should coalesce in one.
The order of nature also follows the appointment of God. For as is the sap in trees, so is affection in man. The sap ascends from the roots into the leaves, and passes forth into the seed. Therefore parents love their children, but are not so loved of them, for the desire of a man is not towards his parents, but towards the sons whom he has begot; and this is what, is said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.”
Chrys.: See the wisdom of the Teacher. Being asked, “Is it lawful,” He said not straight, It is not lawful, lest they should be troubled, but establishes it through a proof. For God made them from the beginning male and female, and not merely joined them together, but bade them quit father and mother; and not bade the husband merely approach his wife, but be joined to her, shewing by this manner of speaking the inseparable bond. He even added a still closer union, saying, “And they twain, shall be one flesh.”
Aug., Gen. ad lit., ix. 19: Whereas Scripture witnesses that these words were said by the first man, and the Lord here declares that God spake them, hence we should understand that by reason of the ecstasy which had passed upon Adam, he was enabled to speak this as a prophecy.
Remig.: The Apostle says [margin note: Eph 5:32] that this is a mystery in Christ and the Church; for the Lord Jesus Christ left His Father when He came down from heaven to earth; and He left His mother, that is, the synagogue, because of its unbelief; and clave unto His wife, that is, the Holy Church, and they two are one flesh, that is, Christ and the Church are one body.
Chrys.: When He had brought forward the words and facts of the old law, He then interprets it with authority, and lays down a law, saying, “Therefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” For as those who love one another spiritually are said to be one soul, “And all they that believed, had one heart and one soul,” [Acts 4:32] so husband and wife who love each other after the flesh, are said to be one flesh. And as it is a wretched thing to cut the flesh, so is it an unjust thing to put away a wife.
Aug., City of God, book xiv, ch. 22: For they are called one, either from their union, or from the derivation of the woman, who was taken out of the side of the man.
Chrys.: He brings in God yet again, saying, “What God has joined, let no man put asunder,” shewing that it is against both nature and God’s law to put away a wife; against nature, because one flesh is therein divided; against law, because God has joined and forbidden to sunder them.
Jerome: God has joined by making man and woman one flesh; this then man may not put asunder, but God only. Man puts asunder, when from desire of a second wife the first is put away; God puts asunder, who also had joined, when by consent for the service of God we so have our wives as though we had them not. [marg. note: 1 Cor 7:29]
Aug., Cont. Faust., xix, 29: Behold now out of the books of Moses it is proved to the Jews that a wife may not be put away. For they thought that they were doing according to the purport of Moses’ law when they did put them away. This also we learn hence by the testimony of Christ Himself, that it was God who made it thus, and joined them male and female; which when the Manichaeans deny, they are condemned, resisting the Gospel of Christ.
Pseudo-Chrys.: This sentence of chastity seemed hard to these adulterers; but they could not make answer to the argument. Howbeit, they will not submit to the truth, but betake themselves for shelter to Moses, as men having a bad cause fly to some powerful personage, that where justice is not, his countenance may prevail; “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command, to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?”
Jerome: Here they reveal the cavil which they had prepared; albeit the Lord had not given sentence of Himself, but had recalled to their minds ancient history, and the commands of God.
Chrys.: Had the Lord been opposed to the Old Testament, He would not thus have contended in Moses’ behalf, nor have gone about to shew that what was his was in agreement with the things of old. But the unspeakable wisdom of Christ made answer and excuse for these in this manner, “He saith unto them, Moses for the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives.” By this He clears Moses from their charge, and retorts it all upon their own head.
Aug.: For how great was that hardness? When not even the intervention of a bill of divorce, which gave room for just and prudent men to endeavour to dissuade, could move them to renew the conjugal affection. And with what wit do the Manichaeans blame Moses, as severing wedlock by a bill of divorce, and commend Christ as, on the contrary, confirming its force? Whereas according to their impious science they should have praised Moses for putting asunder what the devil had joined, and found fault with Christ who riveted the bonds of the devil.
Chrys.: At last, because what He had said was severe, He goes back to the old law, saying, “From the beginning it was not so.”
Jerome: What He says is to this purpose. Is it possible that God should so contradict Himself, as to command one thing at first, and after defeat His own ordinance by a new statute? Think not so; but, whereas Moses saw that through desire of second wives who should be richer, younger, or fairer, that the first were put to death, or treated. ill, he chose rather to suffer separation, than the continuance of hatred and assassination. Observe moreover that He said not God suffered you, but, Moses; shewing that it was, as the Apostle speaks, a counsel of man, not a command of God. [marg. note: 1 Cor 7:12]
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore said He well, Moses suffered, not commanded. For what we command, that we ever wish; but when we suffer, we yield against our will, because we have not the power to put full restraint upon the evil wills of men. He therefore suffered you to do evil that you might not do worse; thus in suffering this he was not enforcing the righteousness of God, but taking away its sinfulness from a sin; that while you did it according to His law, your sin should not appear sin.
Ver 9. And I say unto you, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Chrys.: Having stopped their mouths, He now set forth the Law with authority, saying, “But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.
Origen: Perhaps some one will say, that Jesus in thus speaking, suffered wives to be put away for the same cause that Moses suffered them, which He says was for the hardness of the hearts of the Jews. But to this it is to be answered, that if by the Law an adulteress is stoned, that sin is not to be understood as the shameful thing for which Moses suffers a writing of divorcement; [Deu_24:1] for in a cause of adultery it was not lawful to give a writing of divorcement. But Moses perhaps calls every sin in a woman a shameful thing, which if it be found in her, a bill of divorcement is written against her. But we should enquire, If it is lawful to put away a wife for the cause of fornication only, what is it if a woman be not an adulteress, but have done any other heinous crime; have been found a poisoner, or to have murdered her children? The Lord has explained this matter in another place, saying, “Whoso putteth her away, except for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery,” [Mat_5:32] giving her an opportunity of a second marriage.
Jerome: It is fornication alone which destroys the relationship of the wife; for when she has divided one flesh into two, and has separated herself by fornication from her husband, she is not to be retained, lest she should bring her husband also under the curse, which Scripture has spoken, “He that keepeth an adulteress is a fool and wicked.” [Pro_18:23]
Pseudo-Chrys.: For as he is cruel and unjust that puts away a chaste wife, so is he a fool and unjust that retains an unchaste; for in that he hides the guilt of his wife, he is an encourager of foulness.
Aug., De Conjug. Adult., ii, 9: For a reunion of the wedlock, even after actual commission of adultery, is neither shameful nor difficult, where there is an undoubted remission of sin through the keys of the kingdom of heaven; not that after being divorced from her husband an adulteress should be called back again, but that after her union with Christ she should no longer be called an adulteress.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For every thing by whatsoever causes it is created, by the same is it destroyed. It is not matrimony but the will that makes the union; and therefore it is not a separation of bodies but a separation of wills that dissolves it. He then who puts away his wife and does not take another is still her husband; for though their bodies be not united, their wills are united. But when he takes another, then he manifestly puts his wife away; wherefore the Lord says not, Whoso putteth away his wife, but, “Whoso marrieth another, committeth adultery.”
Raban.: There is then but one carnal cause why a wife should be put away, that is, fornication; and but one spiritual, that is, the fear of God. But there is no cause why while she who has been put away is alive, another should be married.
Jerome: For it might be that a man might falsely charge an innocent wife, and for the sake of another woman might fasten an accusation upon her. Therefore it is commanded so to put away the first, that a second be not married while the first is yet alive. Also because it might happen that by the same law a wife would divorce her husband, it is also provided that she take not another husband; and because one who had become an adulteress would have no further fear of disgrace, it is commanded that she marry not another husband. But if she do marry another, she is in the guilt of adultery; wherefore it follows, “And whoso marrieth her that is put away, committeth adultery.”
Gloss. ord.: He says this to the terror of him that would take her to wife, for the adulteress would have no fear of disgrace.
Ver 10. His disciples say unto him, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.”11. But he said unto them, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.12. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Jerome: A wife is a grievous burden, if it is not permitted to put her away except for the cause of fornication. For what if she be a drunkard, an evil temper, or of evil habits, is she to be kept? The Apostles, perceiving this burdensomeness, express what they feel; “His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.”
Chrys.: For it is a lighter thing to contend with himself, and his own lust, than with an evil woman.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And the Lord said not, It is good, but rather assented that it is not good. However, He considered the weakness of the flesh; “But he said unto them, All cannot receive this saying;” that is, All are not able to do this.
Jerome: But let none think, that wherein He adds, “save they to whom it is given,” that either fate or fortune is implied, as though they were virgins only whom chance has led to such a fortune. For that is given to those who have sought it of God, who have longed for it, who have striven that they might obtain it.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But all cannot obtain it, because all do not desire to obtain it. The prize is before them; he who desires the honour will not consider the toil. None would ever vanquish, if all shunned the struggle. Because then some have fallen from their purpose of continence, we ought not therefore to faint from that virtue; for they that fall in the battle do not slay the rest.
That He says therefore, “Save they to whom it is given,” shews that unless we receive the aid of grace, we have not strength. But this aid of grace is not denied to such as seek it, for the Lord says above, “Ask; and ye shall receive.”
Chrys.: Then to shew that this is possible, He says, “For there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men;” as much as to say, Consider, had you been so made of others, you would have lost the pleasure without gaining the reward.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For as the deed without the will does not constitute a sin; so a righteous act is not in the deed unless the will go with it. That therefore is honourable continence, not which mutilation of body of necessity enforces, but which the will of holy purpose embraces.
Jerome: He speaks of three kinds of eunuchs, of whom two are carnal, and one spiritual. One, those who are so born of their mother’s womb; another, those whom enemies or courtly luxury has made so; a third, those who have made themselves so for the kingdom of heaven, and who might have been men, but become eunuchs for Christ. To them the reward is promised, for to the others whose continence was involuntary, nothing is due.
Hilary: The cause in one item he assigns nature; in the next violence, and in the last his own choice, in him, namely, that determined to be so from hope of the kingdom of heaven.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For they are born such, just as others are born having six or four fingers. For if God according as He formed our bodies in the beginning, had continued the same order unchangeably, the working of God would have been brought into oblivion among men. The order of nature is therefore changed at times from its nature, that God the framer of nature may be had in remembrance.Jerome, cf Origen in loc.: Or we may say otherwise. The eunuchs from their mothers’ wombs are they whose nature is colder, and not prone to lust. And they that are made so of men are they whom physicians made so, or they whom worship of idols has made effeminate, or who from the influence of heretical teaching pretend to chastity, that they may thereupon claim truth for their tenets.
But none of them obtain the kingdom of heaven, save he only who has become a eunuch for Christ’s sake. Whence it follows, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it;” let each calculate his own strength, whether he is able to fulfil the rules of virginity and abstinence. For in itself continence is sweet and alluring, but each man must consider his strength, that he only that is able may receive it.
This is the voice of the Lord exhorting and encouraging on His soldiers to the reward of chastity, that he who can fight might fight and conquer and triumph.
Chrys.: When he says, “Who have made themselves eunuchs,” He does not mean cutting off of members, but a putting away of evil thoughts. For he that cuts off a limb is under a curse, for such an one undertakes the deeds of murderers, and opens a door to Manichaeans who depreciate the creature, and cut off the same members as do the Gentiles. For to cut off members is of the temptation of daemons. But by the means of which we have spoken desire is not diminished but made more urgent; for it has its source elsewhere, and chiefly in a weak purpose and an unguarded heart. For if the heart be well governed, there is no danger from the natural motions; nor does the amputation of a member bring such peacefulness and immunity from temptation as does a bridle upon the thoughts.