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 July 4th, 2017

Commentaries for the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017


Year A: Commentaries for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Year B: Commentaries for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Year C: Commentaries for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Zechariah 8:1-8.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 102.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 102.

Father McSwiney on Psalm 102. Summary and brief notes.

St John Fisher’s Commentary on Psalm 102. In two parts. Online book.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 9:46-50.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke 9:46-50.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 9:46-50.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Zechariah 8:20-23.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 87.

Father McSwiney on Psalm 87. Summary and brief notes.

Pending: Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 87.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 87.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 9:51-56.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke 9:51-56.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 9:51-56.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Nehemiah 2:1-8.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 137.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary on Psalm 137. On verse 1-6, the subject of today’s responsorial.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 9:57-62.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 9:57-62.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 19.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary/Lecture on Psalm 19.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 19.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentaries on Luke 10:1-12. On 1-7 actually.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 10:1-12.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 10:1-12.


Today’s Mass Readings.

My Notes on Baruch 1:15-22.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Baruch 1:15-22.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 79.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 79.

Pending: My Notes on Psalm 79:1-2, 3-5, 8-9. The verses used in today’s responsorial.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 10:13-16.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 10:13-16.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Pending (maybe): My Notes on Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 69.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 69.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 10:17-24.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 10:17-24.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 10:17-24.


Year A: Commentaries for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Year B: Commentaries for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Year C: Commentaries for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Commentaries for the Memorial of the Guardian Angels

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017

Readings From the NABRE.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Zechariah 8:1-8.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 102.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 102.

Father McSwiney on Psalm 102. Summary and brief notes.

St John Fisher’s Commentary on Psalm 102. In two parts. Online book.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 18:1-5, 10.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 18:1-5, 10.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 18:1-5, 10. Includes 12-14.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 18:1-5, 10.

Father Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 18:1-5, 10.


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Father Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017

Verse 1. At that hourABOUT that time, sub idem tempus; a Hebraism. S. Mark 9:33 says that Christ anticipated the Apostles and asked what they disputed of in the way. They had disputed which of them should be the greatest. S. Luke 9:46 says that Jesus, knowing their thoughts, did not ask them, but took a child, and said: Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receiveth Me, and whosoever receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. For he that is the lesser among you all, he is the greater. Of this kind of contention, S. Augustin, on the passage (De Consens., ii. 61), is silent. S. Chrysostom and Euthymius say that the Apostles disputed, not once, but frequently, on the subject. (1) In the way. (2) In the house, when they saw Peter preferred to them in the payment of the tribute. (3) When Christ asked them what they disputed of in the way.

It has been doubted on what occasion they asked this. S. Jerome, Bede, and Euthymius think that it was when they saw Christ pay the tribute for Himself and Peter. Others differ, because it appears from S. Mark 9:33 that they had had their thoughts on the subject in the way before they came to Capernaum and the tribute had been paid; but we have said from S. Chrysostom and Euthymius that they had frequently and on different occasions discussed the question. The payment of the tribute, therefore, did not put the thought into their minds, but only strengthened that which was in them already. For there had been often occasions before. They had seen Peter, with two others, go up the mountain with Christ, and the keys of the kingdom of heaven given to him (Matt 16:19), as again S. Chrysostom and Euthymius say. Others give another and not unacceptable reason that they had heard Christ often speak of His death as being now very near at hand, and wondered which of them would be, so to speak, His heir that is, His vicar after His death. This is very agreeable to human nature and custom, when men stand around those who are at the point of death, with thoughts of their succession. The Apostles seem to have done this on the eve of Christ s Passion (S. Luke 22:24).

Who thinkest thou. The comparative is put for the superlative, and the present for the future, by a Greek idiom, as if it were written, Which of us is to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

In the kingdom of heaven. Some, as SS. Chrysostom and Epiphanius, take these words to mean the kingdom of heaven itself, and the celestial glory, which from verse 3 seems probable. It is credible that Christ answered the Apostles about the same kingdom of heaven as they spoke of.

But it is more likely that in this instance the Church is termed the kingdom of heaven (1) From the cause of their asking the question when they saw Peter in every respect preferred, and they thought that he would be the head of all the Church; (2) From their having been blamed by Christ when He rebuked their ambition. To wish to be the first in the kingdom of heaven is love, not ambition; but to wish to be first in the Church, and to be placed over others, was to incur blame as being ambitious. This may be proved from verse 3, where the contrary opinion is approved. For Christ would say that he who is least in the present kingdom of heaven that is, the Church should be accounted greatest, and should, therefore, be the greatest in heaven. So speaks S. Luke of the present kingdom of the Church (S. Luke 9:48). Christ therefore plays on the ambiguity of the words, when He says, Except ye be converted, as we have observed that He has often done before.

Verse 2. And Jesus calling to Him a little child. Some think that it was an infant, because S. Mark says that Christ took him up in His arms (S. Mark 9:35; 10:6). But they are in error. For a child larger than an infant may be small enough to be taken up in arms, and this child was able to walk. Christ then called, not an infant, but a child, and an innocent one, and placed him in the midst, that, as has been observed by S. Chrysostom, he might teach humility, not in words, but by actual facts.

Verse 3. Unless you be converted. It has been erroneously inferred from these words that the Apostles were then in a state of mortal sin, because Christ said except, as if they were not able to enter the kingdom of heaven at that time. Christ meant simply that they could not enter it themselves unless they were like children in simplicity and humility. This is not to be understood as if a humility and simplicity equal to that of children were required in all men. For if so, who would ever enter the kingdom of heaven? But the greatest example of humility is put forward, not that we may wholly come up to it, but that we may approach as near to it as we possibly can. So we are commanded to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (S. Matt 5:48). Nor is it intended that the Apostles had not such humility as would enable them to enter the kingdom of heaven; but they have what is required shown to them, that if they have it not, they may gain it, and if they have it, they may keep it. The expression, unless you become, &c., does not mean that they were not such then. It alludes to their age, that as they are fully grown now, they should become as little children, as Christ said to Nicodemus (S. John 3:3).

But Christ blamed the ambition of the Apostles. Granted. It does not follow, however, that it was such as to be a mortal sin, or to hinder them from entering the kingdom of heaven; for it might be venial, and it is right that we should believe it to have been such. The Apostles, therefore, are to be excused by this or some other better reason, as S. Chrysostom excuses them, not blamed. Christ commands us to be like children, not in all things, but in simplicity, in humility, and in innocence, as S. Paul (1 Cor 14:20), as say S. Clement of Alexandria (Pædag., i. 5), S. Ambrose (Serm. x.).

Verse 5. And he that shall receive one such little child. The reason of Christ’s saying this may easily be gathered from what has gone before and from what follows. He would prove that he is the greatest who most resembles the least, because a child is most like Himself and bears His Person. He proves this by the fact that whoever receives a child receives Him. But to receive does not only mean, as some think, to receive Him into our houses, but to follow this up by every kind of well-doing in our power: in a word, to do good, as He will say in the judgment (Matt 25:40). S. Mark and S. Luke relate only this part of Christ’s conversation, omitting what S. Matthew has added. Probably because in this lay the sum of the whole matter.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017

Conduct of the Apostles as Leaders of the Church
Matt 18:1-20:28.

A Summary of Matt 18:1-20:28~In this part we possess the special instruction of the disciples on several points of Christian discipline : first, on their relation to the little ones, Matt 18:1-14; secondly, on their care of sinners, Matt 18:15-35; thirdly, on matrimony and virginity, Matt 19:1-15; fourthly, on voluntary poverty, Matt 19:16-30; fifthly, on the working of grace, Matt 20:1-16; sixthly, on suffering and the cross, Matt 20:17-28.

A Summary of Matt 18:1-14~This consists especially in two points: first, we must become like children, Matt 18:1-5; secondly, we must care for children, Matt 18:6-14.

Mat 18:1  At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who, thinkest thou, is the greater in the kingdom of heaven?
Mat 18:2  And Jesus, calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them.
Mat 18:3  And said: amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:4  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:5  And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.

“At that hour” connects the present passage with the preceding; not as if the incident of Peter’s tribute money had given rise to the question among the apostles concerning their greatness in the kingdom, since this discussion had occurred on the way [cf. Mark 9:32], and the tribute money was paid in Capharnaum; nor as if convinced of Peter’s preference, they had inquired into its reasons fcf. Chrys.]; nor again, as if the rebuke of Peter had made them doubt concerning the previous promises [cf. Matt 16:23; Pasch. Sylv.] ; but the discussion arose in connection with Christ’s prediction of his coming death after which they expected the establishment of the Messianic kingdom [cf. Jans. Calm. Knab.]. “The disciples came to Jesus saying” may be harmonized with Mark 9:32-33, either by assuming that on being asked by Jesus concerning their conversation on the way the disciples first were ashamed of confessing their weakness as the second gospel has it, and later on they regained their courage as the first gospel implies [cf. Jans. Bar. Am. Fil.]; or by seeing in the account of the first evangelist a summary of the event, so that the question was asked by the disciples in thought, not in word [cf. Knab. Mt. viii. 5 ff.]. “The greater in the kingdom of heaven” is not the greater in the other world [cf. Euth. Thorn. Bar.], nor the greater in the exercise of supernatural virtue [cf. Schegg], but the greater in the expected earthly kingdom of the Messias; otherwise the disciples would not have been ashamed of their conversation on the way [cf. Mark 9:32ff.], nor would Jesus have inculcated humility in his answer [cf. Jer. Maid.]. “Calling a little child,” Jesus teaches his disciples not merely in words, but also by sight. “Unless you be converted” from your earthly ambition, and become “as little children” in simplicity, purity, and humility [cf. Chrys. Orig. Euth. Hil. Jer.; John 5:44; 1 Cor 2:18; 2 Cor 3:5; Matt 5:48], you shall not even “enter the kingdom of heaven.” After this implicit rebuke Jesus answers the question of the disciples directly: “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven”; of the different virtuous qualities of the child, it is humility that is singled out by our Lord as the measure of our greatness in the kingdom of
heaven [cf. Br.; Matt 7:22]. “And he that shall receive,” i. e. assist in “any way [Maid.], one such little child,” not one resembling a child in humility and simplicity [cf. Chrys. Jer. Rab. Pasch. Br. Dion. Jans. Bar.], nor one of the apostles [Calm.], but primarily a child in years [Fab. Bar. Arn.; Luke 9:47 ff; Mark 9:35], secondarily a child by disposition [cf. Lap. Schegg, Fil. Knab.], “in my name,” or on account of my wish and my precepts [Chrys. Knab.], there is no direct statement that the one to be received ought to be a child for the name of Christ [cf. Schanz], though this is implied, “receiveth me,” because he loves me in the person of the child.

Mat 18:10  See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 

Jesus now adds three reasons why we ought to care for the little ones. α. Care of guardian angels. “See that you despise not,” is an admonition that has borne its fruit in the course of time [compare the fate of the children of slaves at our Lord’s time], though we have not yet reached perfection in this regard. “One of these little ones” does not mean a disciple or apostle [cf. Calm.], even though the apostle work for others [cf. Pasch.], nor does it refer to the just in general [cf. Mald.], or to the imperfect [cf. Dion.], or to the humble [cf. Jans. Sylv.], or equally to children in years and in disposition [cf. Schegg, Grimm, Schanz, Fil.]; but the expression denotes directly the children in years [Chrys. Euth. Theoph. Thom. Lam.], and by inference only the children in disposition [cf. Knab.]. “Their angels in heaven” supposes that they have angels deputed for their special protection [cf. Jer. Hil.], just as in the Old Testament we read of angelic protectors of nations and provinces [cf. Ex. 23:20; Dan. 10:13; 12:1], of angelic patrons of the just in great dangers [cf. Gen. 16:7; 24:7; 32:1; 48:16; 3 Kings. 19:5; Tob. 3:25; Judith 8:20; Ps. 90:11; Dan. 3:49; 2 Mach. 11:6; etc.], and as in Acts there is question of the angel of Peter [Acts 12:15]. Though it cannot be inferred from our passage that there are as many angels as there are children [cf. Caj.], the common opinion holds that every soul has its special angel guardian [cf. Jer. Jans. Mald.]. The fact that the angels of the little ones “always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” does not imply that they are more excellent than the angels of others [cf. Mald.], but alluding to the privileged character of the most familiar servants standing in the presence of the king [cf. 1 Kings. 10:8; 2 Kings. 24:19 heb.], it shows the power of the angelic protectors and their great dignity [cf. Caj.]. The Jewish and Rabbinic traditions concerning the guardian angels may be seen in Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, i. p. 389; ii. p. 370; Schegg, ii. 450; Wünsche, p. 212 [cf. K. L. iii. 584 ff.].

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An Introduction to the Visions of Zechariah (1:1-6:8)

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017

I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding upon a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen; and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses~Zech 1:8

Zech 1:1. The Book of Zechariah opens with a call to conversion which is dated to November, 520 BC (Zech 1:1); it thus comes two months after Haggai’s exhortation to the returned exiles to resume the building of the temple (Hag 1:1). The prophet is to tell his audience that The LORD was angry indeed with your fathers, i.e., the previous generation that went into exile (Zech 1:2). This statement is followed by a call to the present generation to return to their God (Zech 1:3), lest they end up experiencing what befell their fathers (Zech 1:4-6). Prophetic preaching and its threats of judgement–the point of the preaching being that such judgements can be avoided by repenting–are the result of God’s patience, compassion and mercy (2 Chron 36:15-20). The underlying idea here seems to be that it is better to repent in response to this patience, mercy and compassion, than to let the hammer fall and repent after the judgment has come.

Zech 1:7-6:8. This passage contains another prophetic experience consisting of eight visions (some with oracles) which came to Zechariah on the 15th of February, 519 BC, two months after the final prophecy of Haggai (Hag 2:20). In my opinion visions 2 through 8 build upon vision 1; this I will try to bring out in what follows. Many scholars are of the opinion that the visions are structured as a reverse parallel series (1 parallels 8; 2 parallels 7, etc.), I find this plausible but will not consider it in this post.

VISION ONE~Zech 1:7-17. In this vision we see that horses have been sent to patrol the earth and they report to the angel of the Lord that the earth is at peace. The angel of the Lord then speaks: ‘O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these seventy years?’ The Lord makes clear that He is angry with these nations, for while He was angry a little at His people–punishing them with exile–these nations furthered the disaster that befell them (a similar charge was made against Assyria 200 year earlier in Isa 10:5-7). The Lord’s presence has returned to Jerusalem (which He had abandoned in Ezek 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23) and the Lord will oversee the rebuilding of the Temple and the cities in the land will enjoy prosperity. Zion will once again know comfort, and Jerusalem will once again be His chosen city. (Note: The earth at peace and ease may sound like a good thing, but the point here is that the nations have not as yet paid for their sins against God and his people when they “furthered the disaster.” God’s anger at the “ease” of the nations may recall Lamentations 1:5. [Note: the next two visions clearly build upon this one].

VISION TWO~Zech 1:18-21 (2:1-4 in the NABRE). [Vision one had mentioned God’s anger at the nations; this vision indicates His response to them]. Animal horns were often a sign of divine power, might and protection (2 Sam 23:2-3; Ps 18:2; Lk 1:69), but they also signified human power bestowed by God (Ps 18:17); also human or demonic power manifesting hostility toward God or His people (Jer 48:25; Dan 7:7-25; Rev 12:3-9, 13:1-6, etc.). Horns were also found on the four corners of altars, thereby signifying the power of whatever deity the altar was dedicated to (Jer 17:1; Amos 3:14). Here they symbolize the power of the pagan nations that scattered God’s people, but I suspect that the association with the altars and deities is implicit as well. The nations in question are, undoubtedly, the two great exiling powers, Assyria and Babylon, but also those nations that took advantage of the plight of God’s people (Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines.  See 2 Kings 24:2; Ezek 25:1-17; Obad 1:2-21).

The “four smiths.” The Hebrew word indicates anyone who works in wood, stone or metal (standard material for making altars). These “smiths” have been sent “to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”

VISION THREE~Zech 2:1-13 (2:5-17 in the NABRE). [Vision one had had indicated that God had returned to Jerusalem, which would be comforted, prosperity would return to the cities of the land. This vision builds upon that]. In this vision a man is prepared to survey Jerusalem so as to rebuild the walls that had been destroyed at the time of the exile. Lamentations had described the destruction of the walls as God’s doing; He had stretched out His measuring line over it to destroy it (Lam 2:8). But now the wall rebuilder’s task is halted, for the Lord Himself will be the protective wall. The city will no longer be confined by material walls but will be able to accommodate a multitude within the expansive wall of the Lord’s protection. Those who plundered His people will now be plundered by them (recalls the promise of prosperity in vision one, but also Exodus 3:21-22; 12:35-36). Note the emphasis on the Lord’s presence (Zech 2:5, 10-11) and His choice of Jerusalem (Zech 2:12), both picking up themes in vision one.

VISION FOUR~Zech 3:1-10. [Vision one had mentioned the rebuilding of God’s house, i.e., Temple. In this vision we see Joshua being prepared to serve as high priest in that house, indicating that God had again chosen Jerusalem]. “Satan,” without the definite article, is not to be understood here as the Devil; rather, the figure is probably representative of opposition to the temple (Ezra 4:1-24). The filthy garments removed from Joshua indicates the removal of his “iniquity.” The word implies moral fault rather than ritual impurity. Joshua’s letting the reconstruction of the temple cease for 16 years is probably the “iniquity” in view here. Joshua and his fellow priests are called “Men of good omen” because the of God’s servant, “the Branch.” This is a messianic term (Jer 23:5; 33:15). The re-establishment of the priesthood to serve at the soon to be rebuilt temple indicates that the promises to David are still intact. Recall that David had received a kingly dynasty from God because of his desire to build the temple (2 Sam 7).

VISION FIVE~Zech 4:1-14. [Vision one had spoken of the rebuilding of God’s house/temple and that theme is evident here]. These verses are some of the most enigmatic in the bible. This is due in part to the fact that apparently significant elements of the vision are not explained (e.g., lampstand) and several verses are obscure or ambiguous (translations generally smooth over these). As a result of all of this, interpretations vary considerably. The Navarre Bible Commentary interprets the lampstand as the returned Jewish community, and the olive trees as symbols of the High Priest, Joshua, and the Davidic descendant, Zeubabbel, (he had been appoint as governor of the territory by the Persians). As olive oil supplies a lamp these two supply strength and impetus to the community and its actions. Zech 4:6, concerning Zerubabbel, indicates that the force behind him (and, by implication, behind Joshua), is God. The “great mountain” of verse 7 symbolizes the abundant obstacles Zerubabbel will overcome to see the completion of the temple. Verse 14 identifies the two men as “anointed” (literally, sons of new oil). The term is often taken as designating the priestly status of Joshua, and the kingly status of Zerubabbel. The problem with this is that the Hebrew term for “oil” used here is not used elsewhere to designate anointing oil. “New oil,” like “new wine,” often indicates an abundant harvest. The idea here seems to be that through the God-powered activity of these two men prosperity will return to the land, thus linking with a promise in vision one (Zech 1:17), and reversing the situation mentioned in Haggai 1:6, 10-11.

VISION SIX~Zech 5:1-4. [Vision one had spoken of God’s renewed presence dwelling among His people, and of the rebuilding of His house/temple. In vision six evil doers in the land will have God’s curse dwell in their homes, rotting them]. The presence of the Holy God demands holiness on the part of His people. It is no accident that the Ten Commandments and the rest of “The Covenant Code” precedes the command to build the Tabernacle wherein God would manifest His presence (Exodus 20-31). Also, it is no accident that immediately after God’s takes possession of the Tabernacle (Ex 40:34-38) there follows the holiness codes of Leviticus.

VISION SEVEN~ Zech 5:5-11. [Vision one was about the return of God’s presence to Jerusalem/the land and the rebuilding of His house/temple. In this vision iniquity will be driven from the land and deposited in Shinar (i.e., Babylon) the place where God’s people had once been exiled for their iniquity. In Shinar a temple will be built for iniquity to dwell].

VISION EIGHT~Zech 6:1-8. [Vision one contained the symbol of four different colored horses patrolling the earth, gathering information. This vision refers to four chariots with teams of different colored horses]. In the first vision horses patrolled the earth for the purpose of gathering information; here in the last vision chariots–weapons of war in ancient times–are described as “the four winds of heaven” (the RSVCE mistranslates this), they thus represent God’s power of worldwide judgement (Jer 49:36). The visions have come full circle. God, who was exceedingly jealous for His people, and very angry with the nations at ease because of the plight of His people, is now Himself at ease, having undertaken to aid His people and judge their oppressors. The question put to God in vision 1~”O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these seventy years?” has been answered.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 9:1-5

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017


The Apostle, having proved in the foregoing chapters, that faith in Christ, as contradistinguished from the works of the Mosaic Law, or the law of nature, was the only means of arriving at justice and salvation, employs this and the two succeeding chapters in showing that the Jews were rejected, because, confiding too much in the external advantages and privileges they enjoyed, they refused to embrace the faith of Christ; while the Gentiles were called to justice, because they embraced this all necessary faith. Before, however, announcing the disagreeable truth regarding the rejection of the Jews, he employs the strongest and most affecting language, and calls God in the most solemn manner, to witness the intensity of his affection for the Jews, whose rejection (and this he by no means expresses, but leaves to he understood) caused him the most intense grief and sorrow of heart (1–5). He then shows, that the rejection and reprobation of the Jews from the justice of the Gospel, was not opposed to the promises of God made to Abraham; since these promises regarded the spiritual sons of Abraham, and not all his carnal descendants. This he shows from the example of Isaac, and of Jacob, the younger son of Isaac (6–14). And although the promises, to which the Apostle refers, primarily regarded temporal benedictions, still, these temporal blessings, which God bestowed on certain sons of Abraham before the others, were types of spiritual benedictions, in the disposal of which God was as free, as he had been in regard to the temporal inheritance. The argument of the Apostle, then, is, that as God had conferred the temporal inheritance of Abraham on Isaac, before all the other sons of Abraham, and on Jacob, before Esau, so is he also free in calling to the spiritual inheritance of Abraham, that is to say, to the grace of the Gospel, the Gentiles, the children of promise, in preference to the Jews, his descendants according to the flesh.
He next solves an objection, to which the preceding doctrine might give rise (14–18). And as his reply to the objection might give rise to a further difficulty regarding the justice of God in punishing sinners, he solves this difficulty also (19–24). He proves, in the next place, that God called to his Church both Jews and Gentiles (24–29); and, finally, he accounts for the vocation of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews.

Rom 9:1  I speak the truth in Christ: I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost:

I call Christ to witness the truth of what I speak. I have also for this, the testimony of my own conscience directed and strengthened by the Holy Ghost.

Some Expositors interpret this verse in such a way as to make the Apostle swear by three witnesses: viz., Christ, his own conscience, and the Holy Ghost. I call Christ to witness, &c.; I swear by my conscience; and I call the Holy Ghost also to witness, that “I lie not.”

Rom 9:2  That I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart.

I make this most solemn protestation, that I feel great sadness and unceasing excruciating torture of mind (on account of the reprobation and rejection of my brethren).

“Continual sorrow in my heart.” The Greek word for “sorrow,” ὀδυνη, means, “the throes of childbirth.” He forbears from expressing the cause of his sorrow, until he first convinces the Jews of his affection for them. It is clearly inferred from the following chapter, that it regards the reprobation and rejection of the Jews from the grace of the Gospel.

Rom 9:3  For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren: who are my kinsmen according to the flesh:

For (notwithstanding my ardent and unchangeable love for Christ—8:35, &c.) I would wish, were it conformable to the divine will, to be eternally separated from the glory of Christ, and thus be devoted as a victim, should it serve for the glory and vocation of my Jewish brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh.

“For, I wished myself,” i.e., I myself, the very same, whom nothing could separate from the love of Jesus Christ (8:35, &c.), “wished to be anathema,” &c. There is a great variety of opinion among Commentators regarding the object and nature of the wish to which the Apostle here gives expression. Some say (as in Paraphrase) that he wished conditionally to be for ever separated from the glory of Christ, ηυχομεν, I would have wished, provided it were allowed; or provided it were the will of God, and served to secure the vocation and salvation of his brethren. I say, from the glory of Christ, because he could not, for an instant, entertain the wish in any sense, of being separated from the grace and love of Christ. Others understand him to mean, that he wished for this separation by an abstract wish, abstracting from the ordination and decrees of God. Although the wish on the part of St. Paul, so far as his sincerity and self-devotedness were concerned, may be regarded as absolute; still, if we look to the object of separation, it could not be absolute. Indeed, it must be said, that the act of wishing on the part of St. Paul could not be absolute; for, he knew well, that no such thing could take place; and he also knew, that his eternal separation from Christ would never promote the salvation of the Jews.

“To be an anathema.” The word “anathema,” ἀνάθεμα, having the penultimate syllable short (with an ε), as it is written here, means a total separation and destruction of a thing as execrable and abominable, and also the thing itself destroyed and utterly abolished. “Anathema” is the word employed by the Septuagint translators for the Hebrew word, cherem, which always refers to something utterly destroyed, as execrable. In this sense, the word “anathematize” is applied in the Old Testament to the Chanaanite nations destroyed by the Jews (Numbers, 21.; Judges, 1:4; 1 Machabees, 5). When the penultimate syllable is long, αναθήμα, (with an ή), the word signifies votive offerings, such as shields, vases, &c., offered to the gods. In this sense, the word is employed only once in the New Testament (Luke, 21:5). If we cannot comprehend this heroical charity of the Apostle, it is, says St. Chrysostom, because we never experience any such feelings of the love of God or of our neighbour.

Rom 9:4  Who are Israelites: to whom belongeth the adoption as of children and the glory and the testament and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises:

Who enjoy so many singular and distinguishing prerogatives; who are descended from the Patriarch on whom God himself, as a title of honour, bestowed the name of Israel; to whom belongs the privilege of being adopted, in preference to all other nations, as the sons of God; in whose behalf God exhibited many glorious manifestations of his special providence; with whom he established his covenant; to whom He himself gave his law through Moses; to whom He prescribed the true mode of divine worship; to whom were made the promises, of which the principal were those that regarded the Messiah.

To show his affection for his kindred, and remove from their minds every suspicion of his entertaining the aversion for them, with which he was charged, he dilates on the several prerogatives, wherein the Jews excelled all the other nations of the earth. “Who are Israelites?” Israel was a title of honour given by God himself to Jacob. “The adoption of children.” God had adopted them as his children preferably to all the other nations from whom he segregated them (Exodus, 6). He calls them, “My first-born son, Israel,” “And the glory,” the glorious manifestation of God’s special Providence by miracles (v.g.), the passage of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the ark, &c.; and by the prophecies which regarded them. “And the testament,” in the common Greek, διαθῆκαι, “testaments,” might have been used in the plural to designate the repetition of the Old Testament or covenant made repeatedly to the Jews; or, in allusion to the two tables on which the words of the covenant were inscribed. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate, and has διαθήκη. “The service of God” (ἡ λατρεία), refers to the true religion and pure worship of God established amongst them. “And the promises” made at different times, particularly those regarding the Messiah, to be born of them.

Rom 9:5  Whose are the fathers and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. 

Whose progenitors were the renowned Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, &c., and (which is the chief prerogative of all) from whom is Christ descended according to the flesh, who is over all things, God, worthy of divine benediction and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

“Whose are the fathers,” i.e., whose ancestors are the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? “And of whom is Christ according to the flesh?” This is their greatest prerogative, viz., to have Christ take human nature, the second nature which he assumed in time, of their race.

“Who is over all things God blessed for ever.” These words contain an undoubted proof of the divinity of Christ. The groundless subterfuges to which the impugners of the divinity of our Blessed Lord have recourse, in order to evade the unanswerable argument furnished in this verse, only serve to show the weakness of their cause. They place a colon after the word “flesh,” so that the following words are a mere doxology, “May God who is over all be blessed,” &c. Such a construction is unsupported by the authority of any manuscripts, ancient or modern. It is, moreover, opposed to the common interpretation of the Fathers, and the doxology would render the passage quite unmeaning. “Besides, when εὐλογητὸς, ‘blessed,’ is used by way of predicate, with an optative mood, expressed or understood, it always precedes the noun, according to Hebrew usage. In the text, θεος, precedes.”—(Kenrick).

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