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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2018

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

This and the two following chapters are employed by the Apostle in delivering instructions concerning the gifts of the Holy Ghost. In this chapter, he undertakes to remedy certain abuses of which these gratiæ gratis datæ, with which the Corinthian Church was abundantly favoured, were the occasion. It appears, that many among them, upon whom were conferred gifts of a more exalted and honourable description, had, in consequence, grown insolent, and despised their humbler and less favoured brethren. These, on the other hand, indulged feelings of jealousy and envy. Hence, schisms and divisions among them. To remedy this evil, the Apostle reminds them, in the first place, of their former degraded condition, when professing the errors of Paganism. As they, therefore, possessed no claim to these gifts, they should not make them serve as occasions of pride (1 Cor 12:1–4). In the next place, he shows that these gifts, although differing in number and quality, were one in their source and origin, viz., God, their author; and hence, they should serve rather to cement union, than cause divisions (1 Cor 12:4–6). He then reminds them that these gifts were given for the profit of the entire body of the faithful, as well those who were not favoured with them, as those who were (1 Cor 12:7). In the next place, he shows that in the distribution of the several gifts, which he enumerates and classes wider nine distinct heads, the Holy Ghost is influenced solely by his own gratuitous will; and, therefore, these gifts should neither prove the occasion of pride to one party, nor of envy to the other (1 Cor 12:8–12). By a beautiful illustration drawn from the unity of the natural body of man, although composed of different members, he points out the relative duties which the different members of the mystic body of Christ owe to each other. He shows, that, like the natural body, the mystic body of Christ is one (1 Cor 12:12–13). (Hence, the members of the Church should have but one soul), and composed of different members (1 Cor 12:14). (Hence, all cannot have the same gifts). He then points out, that the different members, all enjoy the honours of the body by incorporation (1 Cor 12:15-16). And, that consistently with the nature of an organized body, all cannot have the same functions (1 Cor 12:17–20). Addressing the more highly gifted, he assigns reasons why they should treat the others with greater attention (1 Cor 12:21–27). He applies all that had been said of the natural body to the Church, and shows the variety of gifts and functions in it 1 Cor 12:(27–30). He recommends charity (1 Cor 12:31).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

1 Cor 12:1. Whilst deferring until the period of my advent amongst you all further arrangements respecting your Agapes and the Adorable Eucharist (1 Cor 11:34), I am anxious to instruct you regarding the spiritual gifts which are the occasion of certain abuses.

“Concerning spiritual things,” the Greek, πνευματικῶν, will also admit, “concerning spiritual persons.” The former is, however, the more probable rendering of the words. “I would not have you ignorant,” is a form of words requesting serious attention and undoubting faith.

1 Cor 12:2. You know, that before your conversion, when you professed the errors of Paganism, you were in the habit of going to pay your senseless homage to mute idols which were devoid of reason or intelligence, according as you were impelled either by curiosity, or custom, or the craft of the devil.

“When you were heathens,” in which they are reminded of what they now are through the divine mercy. “When,” ὅτε, is omitted in the common Greek text, but found in the chief MSS. “You went.” The Greek is in the participial form, απαγωμενοι, you were going, it expresses custom or habit. “Dumb idols,” devoid of reason or intelligence. “As you were led,” i.e., impelled by curiosity, or custom, or the craft of die devil. The Apostle reminds the Corinthians of their former wretched condition, as the most effectual security against those feelings of pride, which their present favours were apt to engender.

1 Cor 12:3. Wherefore, I wish to make known to you, that no one speaking under the influence of God’s Spirit, will curse, or say anathema to Jesus. (As, then, you were identified in your Pagan state with those who cursed the Lord Jesus, you had no claim whatever to receive those spiritual gifts of which you now boast). And no one can so much as pronounce, in a pious manner, and in a way conducive to salvation, the name of Jesus, without the grace of the Holy Ghost. (Hence, whatever gifts you possess at present come from the Spirit of God).

“Wherefore,” may be connected with the preceding verse, thus: “I have reminded you of your wretched condition in Paganism, in order to make you understand the following truth, viz.”:—“That no man speaking by the Spirit of God,” &c.—A’Lapide; or, with the first verse, thus:—as “I would not have you ignorant of spiritual things” (verse 1), “I therefore,” to remove this ignorance, “give you to understand,” &c. Piconio, in his Triplex Expositio, and others, say, that the object of the Apostle, after reminding the Corinthians of their former wretched condition in Paganism (verse 2), is, to give them a sign for distinguishing from true prophets, those men who falsely pretended to heavenly revelations, many of whom they formerly witnessed, and had still to witness among the Pagans. The false prophets, when questioned about the Lord Jesus, curse him, and wish him to be anathematized, or to be regarded as an object of execration; whereas, the true prophets, under the influence of God’s spirit, pronounce his name with piety and respect. This, although a very ingenious connexion, does not seem to accord well with the context, nor is it suggested by the consideration of the passage itself. The mode of connecting it, adopted in the Paraphrase, seems much preferable, being the most natural, and the one suggested by the context. The Apostle reminds the Corinthians of their wretched condition in Paganism, from which state most of them were converted to the gospel, in order to show them that they were altogether devoid of God’s spirit, having been identified with those who anathematized the Lord Jesus, and hence, not in the way of receiving those spiritual favours of which they now boast; and, if at present, they have any favour of which to boast, it surely comes from the Spirit of God, without whose grace they could not perform the most trifling meritorious action, nor even so much as pronounce the name of Jesus in a pious manner—or, in a manner conducive to salvation. “Saith Anathema to Jesus.” In the common Greek, λεγει αναθεμα Ιησοῦν, calleth Jesus accursed. The chief MSS. have the Vulgate reading, λεγει αναθεμα Ιησους. “No man can say Lord Jesus;” in the common Greek, ειπεῖν κυρίον Ιησοῦν, that Jesus is the Lord. The chief manuscripts have the Vulgate reading, εἰπεῖν κύριος Ἰησοῦς.

1 Cor 12:4. But, although there is a different distribution of gratuitous gifts, the source and principle of them is one and the same—viz., the Holy Ghost.

“There are diversities of graces.” The Greek, διαιρεσεις δε χαρισματων εισιν, means, there are differences of gifts, and the same word which is here translated “graces” is translated “gifts.”—(Rom. 12:6). By it are meant the several gratiæ gratis datæ, as they are termed by Theologians, viz., the word of wisdom, prophecy, the gift of tongues, &c., enumerated by the Apostle, (1 Cor 12:8-10), as distinct from “ministries” and “operations.” Others say that the word “graces,” mentioned in this verse, is a generic term, denoting all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, under which are included “ministries” (1 Cor 12:5), “operations” (1 Cor 12:6), and the other gifts enumerated (1 Cor 12:7-9). The former division is the more probable. These several “graces” are, by appropriation, ascribed to the “same Spirit,” or Holy Ghost, who is goodness and love, because they emanate from the gratuitous goodness of God.

1 Cor 12:5. And although the distribution of ministrations be different, the principle and source of them is the same: viz., God the Son, who is our Lord by the special title of Redemption.

“Ministries,” διακονιῶν, refer to the different orders of ministry established in the Church—viz., Episcopacy, Priesthood, Deaconship, &c., including also the functions committed to females—such as was confided to Phœbe, the deaconess.—(Rom. 14:1). And these are, by appropriation, attributed to the Son, “the same Lord,” because he is the head of the Church, purchased with his blood; he is our “Lord” by the special title of Redemption.

1 Cor 12:6. And although the distribution of supernatural operations, of the active faculties of working great and distinguished miracles be different, their principle is still one and the same—viz., God the Father.—(Having, then, but one source to which all their glory is due, they should not prove the occasion of divisions by engendering feelings of pride in one party, or of envy in the other).

“Operations,” i.e., the active faculties of performing great and splendid miracles, such as raising the dead to life, &c., to distinguish them from “the grace of healing” (verse 9). These, like all the other efforts of Omnipotence, are, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father, “who worketh all in all.” As first and primary cause, he concurs in the production of all works, whether natural or supernatural; in the former, by his concursus generalis; in the latter, by divine grace. “The same Spirit” (verse 4) “the same Lord” (verse 5), “the same God” (verse 6), serve to remind the Corinthians, that, although these gifts differ in multitude and variety, their source is still the same; and hence, that they should be the occasion of harmony rather than of disunion. The Trinity of Persons in the Godhead is here distinctly insinuated by the Apostle, with the order inverted, to indicate the perfect equality of these Persons.

1 Cor 12:7. (Another reason why these gifts should secure harmony is, the end which God had in view in bestowing them). Every one of these gifts, by which the operation of the Holy Spirit is manifested, was given to each person not for his own private profit, but for the utility of the entire Church. (Hence, the less favoured man is a sharer in the benefits accruing from them).

Another reason why these gifts, which proved the occasion of division, should rather promote harmony—viz., the end for which they were given, which was, the “profit” or general utility of the entire Church; and hence, they were intended to benefit the less favoured as much as those specially favoured with them. “The manifestation of the spirit,” i.e., the gifts by which the operation of the Holy Spirit was manifested.

1 Cor 12:8. To one man, indeed, is given by the Holy Ghost the faculty of treating of the sublime truths of Revelation, and of explaining them on the lofty principles of faith. To another, is given by the same spirit the faculty of explaining truths of Revelation on principles, and by examples, derived from human things.

“The word of wisdom,” most probably means (as in the Paraphrase), the faculty of discoursing on, and explaining, the divine truths of faith on the principles of faith, (v.g.), to explain the congruity of the Incarnation on the grounds pointed out by faith, and all the other truths, which the Apostle terms “wisdom,” of which he treats, with the perfect.—(1 Cor. 2:7). “The word of knowledge,” (vide Paraphrase), these words may also mean, the faculty of explaining moral precepts. The term “word,” shows that in both the gifts referred to in this verse, he considers the power of discoursing on something or other. In this, and the two following verses, the Apostle enumerates the several gifts with which the primitive Church was favoured, and divides them into nine kinds.—(See Analysis).

1 Cor 12:9. To another, is imparted by the same Spirit, the faith by which are wrought miracles: to another, the gift of miraculously healing divers maladies and distempers.

“Faith.” Not the theological virtue of faith; but, the faith of miracles. It most probably consists in an extraordinary enlightenment of the intellect, joined with great confidence in God. Whatever it may consist in, we know that our Redeemer refers to it, as a means of working miracles (Mark 9:9–23; Luke, 17:6); and so does the Apostle (1 Cor 13:2).

1 Cor 12:10. To another, the faculty of working great and splendid miracles. To another, the faculty of explaining, without previous consideration, the SS. Scriptures and points of Revelation. To another, the faculty of discerning the quarter from which the several communications made may come—whether from God or the enemy. To another, the faculty of speaking in several tongues to him hitherto unknown. To another, the faculty of explaining those unknown tongues in the vernacular of the country.

“The working of miracles.” This gift is distinguished from the preceding gift of miraculously curing bodily distempers, in this, that this gift consists in performing great and splendid manifestations of power—such as raising the dead, miraculously punishing others with sudden death—as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira.—(Acts 5:5). The Greek word for “miracles,” δυναμεων, means, manifestations of strength or power.

“To another prophecy,” most probably means, as in the Paraphrase, the gift of explaining extraordinarily, and without previous preparation, the abstruse points of Revelation. It may also denote the power of predicting future events.—(See 1 Cor 11:5).

“The discerning of spirits,” i.e., the faculty of discerning whether certain communications come from God, or are only artifices of the enemy. “Kinds of tongues.” The faculty of speaking several languages of which one before knew nothing. “Interpretation of speeches”—in Greek, γλωσσων, of tongues. The faculty of explaining in the vernacular language of the people these unknown tongues to which those who had the gift of tongues gave utterance. These two giftswere not always united in the same person. The man who could give expression to unknown tongues had not always the power of explaining them, and vice versa, as is clear in 1 Cor 14:28.

1 Cor 12:11. But all these gifts, differing in number and variety, are bestowed by one and the same Spirit, who also co-operates in their exercise, distributing them to each one according as he may think fit and proper. (And hence, one man should not be puffed up with pride, nor should another pine away from envy on account of the gifts bestowed by the Holy Ghost according to his own gratuitous pleasure).

“Worketh.” The Greek word, ενεργει, means, inworketh, i.e., co-operates in the exercise of all these gifts—“one and the same spirit.” Hence, instead of creating disunion, the gifts should, on the contrary, be the source of harmony, as having the same cause and principle. The Apostle is not tired of repeatedly inculcating this truth—viz., that all these gifts, differing in number and variety, have, still, but one principle—the Holy Ghost—in order to reproach the Corinthians with the divisions, of which these gifts were the occasion among them. “Dividing to every one,” in the Greek, ἰδία ἑκάστῶ, severally: “as he (the Holy Ghost) wills.” In these words the Apostle conveys an additional reason why these gifts should neither be the occasion of pride to one party, nor of envy to the other; because, in the distribution of them, in giving greater gifts to one man, and lesser gifts to another, and none at all to some, the Holy Ghost is influenced solely by his own will and pleasure; for, by looking to their former state, in which they anathematized Jesus, and served dumb idols (1 Cor 12:2-3) they will find that none of them had any claim to such gifts.

1 Cor 12:12. (And that the very difference of these gifts conferred on the several members of the Church should, far from creating disunion, on the contrary, secure harmony, is clear from the example of the human body and its several component members). For, as the human body is one, although composed of different members, nor does the difference or multitude of members make it cease to be one body; so it is also with the mystical body of which Christ is head. (It is one, although composed of several members.)

Under an expressive metaphor, derived from the mutual co-operation and dependence of the several members of the human body the Apostle points out the relation which the different members of the mystic body, of which Christ is head, hold towards each other, and inculcates cordial union in contributing mutually to the common advantage of the entire Church, without repining on one side, or pride on the other. “As the body,” i.e., the human body, “is one,” … “and all the members of the body,” (in the common Greek, of that one body, the chief MSS. omit “one,”) “so is also Christ;” i.e., the mystic body of which Christ is head. It is needless to remind the readers of Roman history how successfully this famous apologue of the human body was employed by Menenius Agrippa in reconciling the Roman Plebeians with the Patricians.—(Vide Livy, Book ii. c. xxii.)

1 Cor 12:13. For that the mystic body of Christ is one, is clear from this fact, that in baptism we all, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or freemen, are by one Spirit, ingrafted on the one body of Christ. And besides baptism, we have another bond of union, in our having been made partakers of the sacred blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and thus made into one Spirit.

He applies to the mystic body of Christ, the two qualities which he predicated of the natural body in the preceding verse—viz., that it is one; and, secondly, that it is composed of many and different members. Applying the first part in this verse, he proves that the mystic body of Christ is one. “Baptized into one body,” i.e., by baptism ingrafted on the mystic body of Christ. “And in one spirit we have been all made to drink.” The common Greek is, εἰς ἑν πνευμα, into one spirit. The interpretation of the Paraphrase, which refers this to the Adorable Eucharist, seems preferable to any other. In the first ages of the Church, the Eucharist was given to children under the species of wine; or it might have been the general practice to administer it under that species; because, the administering of it under the one species or the other, or under both, is a point of discipline which may vary at different times according to the will of the Church. In this interpretation, the words mean, that having been “made to drink” of the Eucharist, they are formed into one spirit, in the same way, as speaking of the participation of the Eucharist under the species of bread (1 Cor 10:17), he says they are made, “one body.” The words may also mean, that they were filled with and drank plentifully of the grace of the same holy Ghost, which was abundantly poured out upon them.

1 Cor 12:14. And that this mystic body has many members follows from the very nature of a body, which is composed not of one, but of many members.

He proves that the Church must be composed of different members. This follows from the very fact of its being a body. The Apostle wishes the Corinthians to learn from the natural body the duties which they owe each other. In this verse, he shows that there must be a variety in the members of the mystic body, and that all, therefore, cannot have the same gifts.

1 Cor 12:15. And in the natural body were the foot to complain that it is not the hand, would it, therefore, cease to be of the body, or to partake of its honours?

In this verse, the Apostle undertakes to offer consolation to the less favoured members of the Church—“the foot”—and thereby to remove all ground for murmuring on their part. He consoles them by the assurance, that they partake of the honours of the mystic body, no less than the most highly gifted and exalted of their brethren.

1 Cor 12:16. The same holds for the several inferior members, should they murmur or repine at the place allotted to them respectively in the body—(v.g.), should the ear murmur for not being the eye, would it, therefore cease to belong to the entire body, or to partake of its honour and glory? By no means.

“The ear,” probably refers to the hearers, and to persons requiring instruction. “The eye,” to the learned, and to the teachers among them.

1 Cor 12:17. And if the entire body were reduced to an eye, as the repining member would have it (for, the other members might just as well wish to be the eye as the repining one), where would be the ear?—where the sense of smelling?

He shows in this verse, that consistently with the nature of a body, which must be composed of a variety of members (verse 14), all can neither hold the same place, nor enjoy the same privileges. If, in the natural body, all were reduced to an eye, where would be the ear, or sense of hearing?—where the sense of smelling? So it is also with the mystical body of Christ, if all were teachers, where would be the disciples and hearers?

1 Cor 12:18. But now God has so arranged the different members in the body, that each one should hold its proper place according as it has pleased him.

He shows the ordination of God to be in favour of this diversity of members, as well in the mystical as in the natural body, and to the supreme and adorable will of God all should at once humbly submit.

1 Cor 12:19. And if, contrary to this ordination of God, all the members were reduced to one, where would be the harmony and order of a body regularly organized and composed of different parts?
In this verse he repeats, in an interrogatory form, the assertion which he already made (1 Cor 12:14)—viz., that it is of the very nature of an organized body, to be composed, not of one, but of many members.

1 Cor 12:20. But now, there are many component members, and but one body, as has been asserted, verse 12.

Here he repeats his assertion (verse 12), to the proof of which the preceding verses are devoted.

1 Cor 12:21. (And as the less favoured members should neither repine at their place in the body, nor envy the more highly favoured, so these latter should not in turn grow proud of their position, nor despise the less favoured members.) The eye cannot say to the hand, I require not your assistance; nor can the head say to the feet, you are not necessary for me.

After addressing himself in the foregoing passage to the less honourable members, the Apostle now points out to the more highly favoured, their duties in regard to the less honoured members—viz., that they should treat them with greater attention and respect in proportion to their wants; for they stand in mutual need of each other. By “the eye” and “head” are meant these who hold an exalted position, analogous to that which the eye and head occupy in the natural body. From this verse the Apostle wishes it to be inferred, that those who hold a more exalted position in the Church cannot dispense with the aid and assistance of their more humble brethren.

1 Cor 12:22. Far from undervaluing any member as useless, we should keep in mind, that the very members, which appear to be the most feeble, are the most necessary for the maintenance of life—(v.g.), the brains, intestines, &c.

Not only are the inferior members necessary for the more honourable, but they are indispensable for the existence of the entire body, and the most feeble are the most necessary (v.g.), the brains and intestines.

1 Cor 12:23. And on the members which we regard as least honourable, we bestow the greatest honour, by more studiously covering them with raiment, and those that are called the uncomely parts are covered with greater care and decency.

“The less honourable members,” probably refer to the feet and the lower part of the trunk of the body, especially the ducts, by which nature empties herself and discharges what is redundant. “More abundant honour,” by more studiously covering them with raiment. “Our uncomely parts,” probably refer to the pudenda. In the moral body they refer to sinners, who should be particularly attended to; and hence, their failings cloaked and concealed, as much as possible.

1 Cor 12:24. But our comely parts, viz., the hands, face, &c., require no particular care or honour in having them clothed. But God has so attempered the human body, and nicely balanced all things, as that men bestow more external honour and care on the members that require it.

“But our comely parts,” such as the face, eyes, hands, “have no need” of particular care in having them clothed. This he adds, to conciliate the more highly gifted members of the Church, who might take offence at the foregoing. “But God has tempered the body together.” This he has done by making compensation to the less honoured members for their native unworthiness by adding greater external care and culture, “giving more abundant honour to that which wanted it.”

1 Cor 12:25. In order that there should be no schism or division in the body in consequence of the less favoured members repining at the place allotted to them, but that all might mutually assist and anxiously co-operate with one another in promoting the welfare of the entire body.

The schism of which St. Paul here speaks, is, of course, to be dreaded only in the moral or mystical body. To it, the Apostle wishes to apply all that he has been saying regarding the relations, which the members of the natural body bear to each other.

1 Cor 12:26. And such is the concord and union established by God, that if one member suffer pain, all the others sympathize with it—if one member rejoice and feel pleasure, the others exult with it.

In the mystical body, the order of charity requires that all the others sympathize with the suffering, and exult with the delighted member.

1 Cor 12:27. Now, you are the body of Christ, and fellow-members with each other. (As fellow-members, then, depending on each other, you should afford one another mutual aid and assistance).

In this verse, the Apostle tells the Corinthians and all Christians, that they should apply to themselves, as the mystical body of Christ, what he had been saying of the natural or human body; it was for the purpose of pointing out their relative duties towards one another, that he introduced the comparison between them and the natural body. “You are the body of Christ,” from which they should infer that all which has been said of the relations and duties of the several members of the natural body should be understood to apply to them, and fulfilled by them towards one another.

“And members of member,” i.e., fellow-members of the same body, mutually connected with, and depending on each other. The words are probably allusive to the passage in the Book of Genesis (Gen 2:23). “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” which is mystically understood of Christ and his Church. The words, as containing this allusion, might also mean, members of Christ, because they are members of the body of which he is head, or chief member—hence, “members of member,” μελη εκ μελους. The Greek reading runs thus: μελη εκ μερους, members in part. The Greek reading, followed by the Vulgate, and still found in the manuscripts of St. Germain and Clermont, was, εκ μελους. The meaning of the words, according to the present Greek, is, that they are particular members of Christ’s mystic body, and all, therefore, cannot have the same gifts. This interpretation accords well with the Syriac reading of the words—you are members in your proper places.

1 Cor 12:28. And as the natural body is composed of different members; so it is also the case with the mystical body, or Church of Christ: God has placed in it different members destined for different purposes. First, Apostles, his own legates. Secondly, Prophets, to explain the truths of faith by a sudden inspiration. Thirdly, Doctors, having the faculty of explaining the doctrines of faith in a plain, intelligible way to the people. After these, men gifted with the divine power of working miracles. Next, those gifted with the power of curing diseases. After them, those who have the gift of consoling the miserable, and such as are in pain and sorrow. Next, those who are gifted with peculiar prudence in managing the temporalities of the Church; then those who have the gift of strange and unknown tongues; and, finally, those who have the gift of interpreting those tongues in the vernacular of the country.

The Apostle adopts in this verse the similitude of the natural body to the Church; and by recounting part of the gifts and offices conferred on her, he shows that God has set the different members as he thought proper, conformably to what is said (1 Cor 12:18). He places these gifts and offices in their order of dignity.

“First, Apostles.”—(See Gal. 1:1). These may be regarded as the visible head of the body, as being Christ’s representatives and vicegerents. “Secondly, Prophets.” They were gifted with the “words of wisdom” (verse 8). They may be regarded as the eyes of the body. “Thirdly, Teachers,” who had the faculty of explaining the truths of faith in a plain, simple way. They had the “word of knowledge” (verse 8); the tongue of the body. It is observed by Commentators, that these teachers of the gospel are preferred by the Apostle to those who had the gifts of miracles and of tongues, so much prized by the Corinthians. “After that, miracles.” The workers of miracles—the hands of the body. In the latter part of this verse, the Apostle employs the abstract for the concrete term. “Then, the graces of healings.” Those who are divinely endowed with the gift of healing bodily diseases. “Helps.” Those who assisted their brethren in distress, not by any miraculous operation, but by the performance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. “Governments,” are understood by some to refer to the directors of souls. The interpretation of the Paraphrase seems preferable. “Kinds of tongues.”—(See 1 Cor 12:10). St. Chrysostom remarks, that almost the last place is given by the Apostle to this gift, so highly prized by the Corinthians. “Interpretation of speeches.” These words are wanting in the Greek copies. But as all Greek manuscripts give the same words in an interrogatory form, next verse—“do all interpret?” it is likely, that the Greek copy from which the Vulgate was taken, was the correct one. The Vulgate is preferred by Beza.

1 Cor 12:29. Are all favoured with these gifts? Are all Apostles?—Prophets?—Doctors? as explained above.
1 Cor 12:30. Are all gifted with the faculty of working miracles?—or with the faculty of healing diseases?—or, with the faculty of speaking in unknown tongues?—or, with the faculty of explaining these tongues in the vernacular of the country? (By no means; for, if so, where would be the variety of members necessary to constitute an organized body?—verse 19. This diversity of gifts in the Church has been arranged by God for the greater beauty and harmony of the entire mystical body).

The several questions are equivalent to so many negations. By them the Apostle intends to assert, that in the mystical, as well as in the natural body, a variety of functions and offices is necessary, in order to consult for the beauty and harmony of the entire body. Each one, therefore, should rest content with whatever place it may please Providence to assign him in the Church.

1 Cor 12:31. But have emulation for gifts, not the most honourable, but the most useful for yourselves and the Church. And I will point out to you a way for exercising them with profit, or, wherein you may walk, a way far exceeding any gift or endowment; and, this is charity!

“But be zealous,” &c. The Greek word for “be zealous,” ζηλοῦτε, may be rendered, you are zealous. The Vulgate, æmulamini, “be zealous,” is preferable. Estius understands the words conditionally, thus: If you are zealous for gifts, be zealous for the better gifts. This is in accordance with the Syriac Paraphrase, and also derives probability from this consideration; that it is not likely the Apostle gives an absolute precept to be zealous for gifts, which might in the end prove injurious.

“A more excellent way.” This is charity, which leads to God and to eternal glory and which sanctifies the use of all the other gifts.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018


A Summary of Philippians 2:1-11~In verse 27 of the preceding Chapter St. Paul exhorted the Philippians to unity of thought and action in their efforts for the spread of the Gospel, and here (Phil 2:1-4) he goes back to that thought and appeals to his readers in still more earnest tones that they should make full his joy by the practice and cultivation of complete unity and harmony among them. This relationship of concord among brethren, he goes on to say, must be grounded on humility, on lowliness of mind. And since in the pagan world humility was despised as a sign of degradation, as an abject and groveling state suited only to the condition of slaves, he cites (Phil 2:5-11) the supreme example of Christ who, though He was the Son of the eternal God Himself, took on Himself for our salces the form of a lowly servant, even that of an outcast dying the most ignominious of deaths; and who in return for His extreme self-humiliation merited an exaltation above all other names, whether in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, that, namely, of supreme Lordship of the world.

Phil 2:1. If there be therefore any comfort in Christ, if any consolation of  charity, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels of commiseration,
Phil 2:2. Fulfill ye my joy, that you be of one mind, having the same charity, being of one accord, agreeing in sentiment.

It seems St. Paul must have learned that there were at Philippi some discordant elements among the Christians, arising from ambition, pride, vainglory, self- seeking, and the like; and hence he appeals to them by the deepest spiritual sentiments and relationships between him and them to complete his happiness and joy by exhibiting towards one another a spirit of concord and mutual charity. He piles up his reasons of appeal in rhetorical fashion, introducing each member by “if,” not as though he doubted their state of mind and heart, but only to strengthen his exhortation. He means to say: “If there be any comfort in the fact that you are Christians, if there be any consolation which charity can inspire, if there be any reality in the common spiritual benefits and blessings we enjoy in the Holy Ghost, if there be in you any tender feelings of mercy and compassion; then complete the joy I have in you by thinking alike, by exercising mutual charity towards one another, by having one soul and mind in all you do.” Of the phrases in verse 2 inculcating unity, Vaughan says St. Paul has multiplied them in a “tautology of earnestness.”

Phil 2:3. Let nothing be done through contention, neither by vain glory: but in humility, let each esteem others better than himself;

Here the Apostle indicates the obstacles to unity and concord of spirit, namely, “contention,” i.e., a spirit of partisanship or faction, and “vain glory,” i.e., the inordinate seeking of one’s own interests and self-praise. Instead of being moved by such unworthy impulses in their dealings with their neighbor, the Apostle urges that they be guided by the Christian virtue of “humility,” which will teach them to see the good that it in everybody else while making them conscious of their own defects, and will thus lead each one of them to “esteem others better than himself.” There is no one so good as not to have some defects, and no one so bad as to be devoid of all good qualities; and hence if we keep in mind our own faults, on the one hand, and the good traits of our neighbor, on the other hand, it is easy to esteem others better than ourselves (St. Thomas, h. l.).

Phil 2:4. Each one not considering the things that are his own, but also those that are other men’s.

The Apostle gives another means of exercising fraternal charity, and thus of promoting unity, namely, sympathy and a kindly interest in the affairs of others.

The Vulgate sed ea, quæ, etc., should read, sed et ea, quæ, etc., to agree with the Greek; which shows that, while looking after our own affairs with due attention, we should also take a helpful interest in things that concern others.

Phil 2:5.  For let this feeling be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

In verses 5-11 St. Paul will illustrate and enforce the doctrine he has been inculcating by the supreme example of the Saviour in His voluntary incarnation, humiliation, and exaltation. Though issuing from a practical exhortation, the passage is profound in its doctrinal teaching and unsurpassed in its theological importance. In these few verses we have summed up the whole history of Christ—His nature and eternity as God, His incarnation with its humiliating consequences, and His glorious triumph and exaltation. The fact that St. Paul, in order to enforce some of the simplest moral duties, makes an appeal to such profound mysteries shows, on the one hand, the natural and intimate connection between Christian theological teaching and practical Christian life; and, on the other hand, how thorough and profound must have been the instruction given the early Christians by the Apostles and how these great doctrines of the divinity, incarnation, etc., of Christ formed a part of that instruction, and were, at the writing of this letter, apparently so well understood as to need only to be stated in their broad outlines to be grasped in their meaning and application.

Let this mind, etc. The enim of the Vulgate at the beginning of this verse is not represented in the best Greek. The Apostle wishes to say that, if his readers will have the same attitude of mind and soul which our Lord had at the time of His incarnation, all that he has requested in the verses just preceding will be easily and readily complied with.

In Christ Jesus, i.e., in the Divine Person who was God from eternity, who was eternally predestined by the Eternal Father as the Christ to be, and who became incarnate in time to save mankind from their sins.

Phil 2:6. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God.

Jesus Christ is here described in His eternal, pre-existent life as God.

Who refers to the single Personality, who is one and the same both in His pre-existence and in His earthly life.

Being (ὑπάρχων = hyparchon). The Greek participle emphasizes the preexistence of Christ.

In the form of God, i.e., having the nature, essence, inward being of God; for such is the meaning of “form” (μορφῇ = morphe) here. Thus, before His incarnation Christ, or the Divine Person who became the Christ, pre-existed in the Divine Nature, as the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

Thought. This is a human way of expressing the Son’s attitude regarding the surrender of His position of equality with God in order to become man; not that He actually gave up anything that belonged to Him as God, but that His Divine Person in the incarnation took upon Himself the lowly form of human nature.

Robbery. The Greek word for “robbery” (ἁρπαγμὸν = harpagmon) occurs only here in the Greek Bible, and may mean (a) the act of robbing or seizing by force; or (b) the matter of robbery, or thing to be seized. The latter is the meaning here, and it conveys the idea of holding to a thing with a tenacity and jealousy that would make one unwilling to surrender it. There is no question here of unlawful possession, but only of anxiously clinging to what rightfully belongs to one. The sense of the whole phrase is that the eternal Son, at the prospect of His becoming man, did not so cling to His dignity and equality with God the Father in His divine nature as to be unwilling to become incarnate, thus assuming an inferior state as man.

Fr. Rickaby says the phrase “equal to God,” or “on equality with God,” does not regard the relation of the Son to the Father, but the relation of the Word to the nature which He chose as man; and he explains οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν (= ouch harpagmon) as (He) “made no hurry.” In his view the passage means that our Lord did not at once insist on appearing as man in His glorified human nature, but delayed it till after His Resurrection (Further Notes on St. Paul, h. l.).

Having spoken of the divine nature and dignity of the Son, the Apostle will speak in the two following verses of His humiliation in His earthly life.

Phil 2:7.  Yet emptied himself out, taking the form of a slave, made into the likeness of men, and was found in habit as man.

But emptied himself, by becoming man, by taking for a time an external human form which veiled, as it were, the Divinity that He possessed as God, and deprived Him of the external prerogative of glory to which as God He always retained His right. On this phrase, “he emptied himself,” St. Thomas says: “Hoc est intelligendum secundum assumptionem eius quod non habuit; sicut enim descendit de coelo, non quod desineret esse in coelo, sed quia incepit novo modo esse in terra, sic etiam se exinanivit, non deponendo divinam naturam, sed assumendo naturam humanam.” (But this must be understood in regard to the assumption of what He had not, and not according to the assumption of what He had. For just as He descended from heaven, not that He ceased to exist in heaven, but because He began to exist in a new way on earth, so He also emptied Himself, not by putting off His divine nature, but by assuming a human nature). How the Son “emptied himself” (kenosis), the Apostle describes in the three phrases that follow:

(a) by “taking the form of a servant,” literally, “of a slave,” i.e., taking the nature of man. With regard to God all creatures are servants or slaves, even the angels. The word “form” here is the same as in verse 6 above, and hence means nature, essence, etc.;

(b) by “being made in the likeness of men,” i.e., appearing like other men, since He had the same nature as other men. The Divine Word, without ceasing to be God, assumed human nature, uniting the natures of God and of man in the one Divine Person, and appeared externally just like other men;

(c) by “being in habit found as a man,” i.e., being recognized as a man in His outward form and manner of acting by all His compatriots and associates (e.g., by eating, drinking, etc., like other men). In the preceding verse the Apostle affirmed the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and here he affirms the true humanity of the same Divine Person, shovi^ing that Christ was both true God and true man. Cf. Sales, h. I.

Phil 2:8. He humbled himself, being made obedient even to death, and the death of the cross. 

Having described the way in which the Divine Word emptied Himself, the Apostle will now show the extreme humility and self-abasement to which He subjected Himself in the human nature which He assumed: He became “obedient” to the will of His heavenly Father “unto death,” and that, not an ordinary death, but one of shame and horror, namely, “the death of the cross.” The expression “unto death” expresses the degree of His obedience. St. Paul wishes his readers to learn from this example of full and supreme self- abnegation on the part of their Master the humility, charity, and self-denial that will bring them peace and concord.

Phil 2:9. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names

In verses 9-1 1 we have a description of the exaltation of our Lord, corresponding to His kenosis. We have already seen the extreme degree to which He emptied and humiliated Himself in obedience to the will of His eternal Father, and now we shall see what recompense He received.

For which cause, etc., i.e., as a reward for our Lord’s extreme and voluntary abasement He was exalted by the Eternal Father to a dignity beyond any that exists or can exist below the Divinity Itself. That our Lord merited this supreme exaltation. He Himself declared on the day of His resurrection: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). His own great saying was fulfilled in His case: “He that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt 23:12; Luke 14:11, 18:14).

Hath exalted him, above all other creatures, placing Him in the highest position of honor and authority next to the Godhead (cf. Eph 1:21 ff.; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13; Rom 8:34, 14:19; etc.).

Name stands here for power, dignity, majesty; and therefore a name “above all names” means a dignity and a majesty greater than anything that is possible below the Divinity Itself. By “name” here the Apostle does not refer to our Lord’s proper name, Jesus, which was given Him long before His exaltation and was recognized by men, and which was common to many other men (Estius).

Phil 2:10. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,

The purpose of the exaltation of Jesus is now given.

That in the name of Jesus, etc., i.e., so great a dignity and honor was bestowed on our Lord in order that all creatures might bow before His revealed majesty and adore Him as Lord of the world and Saviour of mankind.

Every knee should bow is a phrase signifying supreme adoration (cf. Isa 14:24; Rom 14:11; Eph 3:14). The human nature of Christ, as being hypostatically united to the Word, deserves the same adoration as the Divinity of the Word Itself.

Of those that are in heaven, etc., i.e., of angels in heaven, of men on earth, and of those who are in their graves (Theodoret), and even of the demons (St. Chrysostom). Most likely all created things are in view here. See Rev 5:12 ff., James 2:19, for references to all creatures, including the demons. The phrase “under the earth” means the underworld, the realm of the dead, of discarnate spirits. The pious custom of bowing the head at the mention of the name Jesus has at least indirect sanction from this verse.

Phil 2:11. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

The same thought is continued and developed.

That every tongue, etc., i.e., that all nations and peoples shall praise and honor the Son as they do the Father, recognizing the same glory in the Son as in the Father, as is said in John 5:23. But the Greek of this passage is as follows: “That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In this reading the direct object of the confession is the universal sovereignty and therefore the Divinity of our Lord, and such a confession or recognition of the Son is ordained to the glory of the Father as to its last end: it is to the glory of the Father to have a Son to whom all things are subjected (Theophylact), the praise of Christ the Lord is to the glory of the Father (Estius). Thus, our Lord Himself said: “Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee” (John 17:1).

In verses 5-1 1 here we have the following dear teachings: (a) the Divinity of Jesus Christ and His consubstantiality with the Father; (b) the true humanity of Christ; (c) the union of two natures in the one Divine Person; (d) the merit of our Lord’s sacrificial obedience and death. In consequence we also have here the refutation of the following errors: (a) Arianism, which denied the consubstantiality and equality of the Son with the Father; (b) Sabellianism, which denied the plurality of persons in God; (c) Nestorianism, which held that there were two persons in Jesus Christ; (d) Eutychianism, which taught only one nature in Christ; (e) Docetism, which attributed to our Lord a fantastic and not a real body; (f) Apollinarism, which said the body of Christ was not like our bodies. Cf. St. Thomas, h. l.


A Summary of Philippians 2:12-18~It seems the Philippians had made known to Paul their anxiety regarding the welfare of the Gospel, as a result of his imprisonment; they feared the Gospel was suffering while he was enchained. But the Apostle informs them here that the contrary is the case, inasmuch as the success of his preaching in prison has excited the jealousy of other preachers and thus stimulated them to greater efforts. This is a cause of great rejoicing on his part. As for his own prospects of release, he is confident that all will turn out for the best. Personally he is torn between the alternatives of dying and being with Christ, on the one hand, and living for the sake of the Philippians, on the other hand. He seems to be confident of the latter; he will again be with them to assist them and give them joy in Christ Jesus.

Phil 2:12. Wherefore, my beloved (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence), with fear and trembling work out your salvation..

Wherefore. The Apostle deduces a practical conclusion from what he has been saying about the self-denial and obedience of Christ. He first praises his beloved Philippians for the obedience they have always shown in being faithful to his teachings and the precepts of the Gospel, and then goes on to exhort them to still greater faithfulness and efforts in his absence, because their perils are increased by the very fact that he is not present to warn them of dangers and to prescribe remedies and helps as he did when with them. They must work out their salvation “with fear and trembling,” i.e., with great solicitude for their own spiritual welfare and a reverential fear of offending God. In thus admonishing his readers the Apostle was only prescribing what he practised in his own case, as we see in 1 Cor. 9:27, 10:12. From this exhortation it is clear that we can co-operate with the grace of God in effecting our salvation, and also that no one can be absolutely sure, without a special divine revelation, of persevering to the end in God’s favor.

Phil 2:13. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will.

The Apostle now adds the reason why they are to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, namely, because the business of their salvation is not simply a matter of their own strength, but depends on God both as to its wish and accomplishment, so that without the grace of God they can neither desire nor do anything in the way of supernatural salvation. Thus it is the grace of God that produces in us “to will” (i.e., the efficacious determination to perform supernatural good) and “to accomplish” (i.e., the execution of that determination); and this grace God gives, not because He is obliged to give it, but because it is His “good will” (i.e., it is an act of pure benevolence on His part). It follows, then, that God can withdraw this grace if we are unfaithful to it.

And this efficacious movement on the part of God, far from destroying our liberty, presupposes it, otherwise the Apostle could not have just told his readers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. On this subject St. Augustine says: “Certum est nos velle cum volumus, sed ille facit ut velimus bonum. . . . Certum est nos facere cum facimus, sed ille facit ut facimus praebendo vires efficacissimas voluntati . . . et ipse ut velimus operatur incipiens, qui volentibus cooperatur perficiens. . . . Ut ergo velimus sine nobis operatur, cum autem volumus et sic volumus ut faciamus nobiscum cooperatur, tamen sine illo vel operante ut velimus vel cooperante cum volumus, ad bona pietatis opera nihil valemus” (On Nature and Grace, chapters 32-33).  [It is certain that we wish when we wish; but He (God) brings it about that we wish the good thing….It is certain that it is we that act when we act; but it is He (God) who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will…He (God) who prepares the will, and perfects by His (God’s) co-operation….operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He (God) co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him (God) either working that we may will, or co-working when we will.]

In these two verses, 12 and 13, the Apostle teaches the following: (a) that of ourselves we cannot be sure of persevering in good; (b) that faith without works is not sufficient for salvation; (c) that good works can merit salvation; (d) that these good works are done by our free will; (e) that free will is not sufficient of itself to perform good works, but must be moved by grace, without which we can do nothing useful for eternal life (see Cone. Trid., sess. VI, De justipcatione) . Cf. Sales, h. I.

Phil 2:14. And do ye all things without murmurings and disputings;
Phil 2:15. That you may become blameless, and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation ; among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Phil 2:16. Holding forth the word of life to my glory in the day of Christ, because I have not run in vain, nor labored in vain.

As contributing to the work of their salvation, therefore, the Apostle now admonishes his readers to avoid all “murmurings” against God because of their lot as Christians, and all “disputings” and wranglings with one another about the ways of divine providence; so that their lives may be an example to the pagans among whom they live and a shining light in the moral darkness that surrounds them. Thus they will be living as becomes their dignity as “children of God” (i.e., as Christians), and will be “holding forth the word of life” (i.e., the teachings of the Gospel) as the sure and safe guide to the true and only real life (John 6:6, 9; Acts 5:20;  1 Jn 1:1); and this will rebound to the glory of their Apostle, showing that he has not labored for them in vain, when Christ comes to judge all mankind at the end of the world.

Phil 2:17. Yea, and if I be made a victim upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and congratulate with you all.
Phil 2:18. And for the selfsame thing, do you also rejoice, and congratulate with me.

St. Paul expected to see the Philippians again, but he speaks here as if he considered his execution a possibility; and in that event he says that, even if he is to “be made a victim, etc.” (better, “to be poured out” as a libation over the “sacrifice and service” of their faith) he will rejoice, and he assumes that they will also rejoice with him, as sharing his spirit of martyrdom. St. Paul is picturing the Philippians, in their character as Christian believers, as a “sacrifice”; he regards their lives as a “service” or sacerdotal ritual; and he is looking upon his own life-blood, in his possible martyrdom, as an accompanying libation. His figurative language may refer to the Jewish sacrifices or to the pagan sacrifices, with both of which his converts must have been familiar.


A Summary of Philippians 2:19-30~In this familiar letter the Apostle has given his readers advice, he has written about himself—what he hopes and fears as regards his future—and now he speaks of the two faithful disciples whom he is sending to Philippi. Timothy, his most reliable coworker, who is also deeply interested in the Philippians and well known to them, will come as soon as St. Paul learns how things are going to turn out in his own case; and then he himself hopes to come before long (Phil 2:19-24). He is sending to them at once Epaphroditus, who has been so kind and helpful to him, and who for the sake of the Gospel has been seriously ill, as they know to their sorrow. May they be cheered by his coming, may they receive him with gladness, and honor all such self-sacrificing workers for God (Phil 2:25-30)!

Phil 2:19. And I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy unto you shortly, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know the things concerning you.

In the Lord. All Paul’s hopes, thoughts, emotions, activities, etc., repose in divine help.

Timothy, who had helped to found the Church at Philippi (Acts 16:3 ff).

Shortly, i.e., as soon as Paul knows the outcome of his trial.

Phil 2:20. For I have no man so of the same mind, who with sincere affection is solicitous for you.

He now gives the reason why he will send Timothy, namely, because he has no one “so of the same mind, etc.,” i.e., no one who can equal Timothy in zeal and solicitude for the welfare of the Philippians. Paul is not comparing Timothy with himself, at least directly, but with his other workers; Timothy excels them all in interest for the faithful of Philippi, and in that respect of course he more closely resembles his great master.

Phil 2:21. For all seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.

A further reason is given for sending Timothy.

For all seek, etc. The Apostle is referring to his immediate circle of workers, most of whom apparently had not always shown the spirit of utter self-denial and self-forgetfulness which his own invincible character demanded: they were inclined at times to seek their personal ease and safety. Perhaps he had Demas and those like him in mind (2 Tim. 4:10; cf. Col. 4:14; Phlm. 24).

Phil 2:22. And ye know the proof of him, that as a son with the father, so hath he served with me in the gospel.
Phil 2:23. Him therefore I hope to send unto you immediately, as soon as I see how it will go with me.

Phil 2:24. And I trust in the Lord, that I myself also shall come to you shortly.

And ye know the proof of him, i.e., they know his worth from his zealous labors with St. Paul at Philippi (Acts 16:3, 17:14-15).

As soon as I see, etc., i.e., as soon as he knows the issue of his Roman trial. He expects to be released, and then he will follow Timothy to Philippi.

Phil 2:25. But I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-laborer, and fellow-soldier, but your apostle, and he hath ministered to my wants.

The Apostle begins here to speak of Epaphroditus, whom the Philippians had sent to Rome with gifts (Phil 4:18), and whom he now considers it “necessary” to send back to Philippi for the reasons given below in Phil 2:26-27.

Epaphroditus is mentioned only here and in iv. 18. St. Paul speaks of him as a “fellow-soldier,” i.e., a companion in the battle against the enemy of souls and the faith. He was the Philippians’ “apostle,” i.e., their messenger to St. Paul in Rome.

Phil 2:26. For indeed he longed after you all: and was sad, for that you had heard that he was sick.
Phil 2:27. For indeed he was sick, nigh unto death ; but God had mercy on him; and not only on him, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

These verses assign the reason for the return of Epaphroditus to Philippi. He desires to return for he knows the Philippians are anxious about him, and St. Paul wishes him to go back for the same reason. Had death taken him in his illness, another great sorrow would have been added to the sorrows of the Apostle’s imprisonment.

Phil 2:28. Therefore I am sending him the more speedily: that seeing him again, you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful.

Less sorrowful. His soul was never free from sorrow. Hence he says “less sorrowful,” not “without sorrow.” St. Paul is more concerned over the happiness of the Philippians than over his own; to add to their joy will mean more to him than to retain the presence and helpfulness of their messenger to him, much as he desires the latter.

Phil 2:29. Receive him therefore with all joy in the Lord; and treat with honor such as he is;

Treat with honor, etc., i.e., hold in high esteem all such zealous and loyal Gospel-workers.

Phil 2:30. Because for the work of Christ he came to the point of death, hazarding his life, that he might fulfill that which on your part was wanting towards my service.

The work of Christ, i.e., the long journey to Rome and the labors and fatigue endured at Rome in behalf of St. Paul and the Gospel.

Hazarding, etc. Literally, “gambling, etc.,” i.e., he risked his life in order to supply by personal effort what it was impossible for the Philippians to do for St. Paul in the eternal city, and which in their enforced absence they required him to discharge in their name.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018

Text in red are my additions 

A Summary of Philippians 1:1-2

St. Paul together with Timothy, his trusted companion and probably his amanuensis at this time, addresses in artless and affectionate terms the beloved faithful of Philippi and their spiritual leaders, wishing them, in combined Greek and Hebrew forms, grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus, their Saviour.

amanuensis: one who writes down the dictation of another; a secretary.

artless: simple, natural, unpretentious.

Phil 1:1. Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ; to all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.

Paul, the author of this letter. He omits the title “apostle” here because there is no reason to require insistence on his divine authority and mission. See on Rom 1:1. There Fr. Callan writes: Called to be an apostle, i.e., called by a special vocation (κλητός= klētos) to go and preach the Gospel. The term “apostle” means one sent, as a messenger, a commissioned agent. Thus all the Apostles were messengers sent by Christ to announce the kingdom of God, to proclaim the good tidings of redemption and salvation. St. Paul was equal in dignity to the twelve, because like them, he was called and instructed immediately by Christ Himself (Gal 1:1). Sometimes in an opening address St Paul had to insist on his apostolic status because of trouble makers in the church (e.g., 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1). Sometimes it was more directly necessitated by the fact that he was not acquainted firsthand with the church he is writing to (e.g., Rom 1:1-7; Col 1:1).  In these two letters both issues may have contributed. The greeting in the two letters to Thessalonica have no descriptive title at all. Here in Philippians he describes himself as a slave or servant of Jesus Christ because he wishes to associate the Phillippians service to him with his own service (see Phil 1:3-7, 29-30; 2:25, 29-30).

Timothy, who was with Paul at this time and perhaps wrote down the present Epistle, and who had helped the Apostle in founding the Church at Philippi (Acts 16:1ff). For further particulars about Timothy, see Introduction to 1 Timothy in this volume.

Servants. Literally, “slaves,” but in a redeemed and figurative sense of that degrading word.

Jesus Christ. There is more evidence for the reverse order of these terms, “Christ Jesus.” This title of our Lord is peculiarly Pauline, occurring in the two orders about 165 times in his Epistles.

All the saints, i.e., all those who by their religious profession have separated themselves from the world and consecrated themselves to God. The Apostle says “all,” showing no distinction, and no cause of distinction, such as factions or sects.

Philippi. See Introduction, No. 1. Read it here.

With the bishops, etc. This is the only time St, Paul mentions the clergy in the inscription of a letter. In early times the title “bishop” was given to the heads of the various local churches, whether they were bishops In the strict sense of the word or only priests; the term here being in the plural doubtless means priests or presbyters. See Acts 21:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Tim. 3:1-13, 5:17, where the terms “bishops” and “presbyters” are interchanged. St. Paul names the bishops and deacons most likely because they took the principal part in sending gifts and helps to him.

Phil 1:2. Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace . . . peace. See on Eph. 1:2.

God our Father, etc. The Father is the ultimate source of all blessings, and Christ, His co-equal Son, is the medium and channel. See also on Eph. 1:2.

A Summary of  Philippians 3:3-11

Here the Apostle begins to speak in the first person singular, showing that the letter is his own, and not a joint work between him and Timothy. He thanks God for the part the Philippians have had in the work of the Gospel and in the merits of his sufiferings (Phil 1:3-8), and he prays that they may continually progress in spiritual knowledge and in the grace of Him to whom they owe their spiritual life, so as to be perfect when the heavenly Bridegroom comes to call them to their eternal rewards (Phil 1:9-1 1).

Phil 1:3. I give thanks to my God in every remembrance of you,
Phil 1:4. Always in all my prayers, making supplication for you all, with joy,

3-4. The Apostle assures his readers that in all his remembrance of them he thanks God, who is the source of all their spiritual blessings, and that in all his petitions it is a cause of joy to him to make requests for them.

In all my prayers. Better, “In every request of mine.”

Phil 1:5. For your communication in the gospel of Christ from the first day unto now,

He assigns the reason for his supplication with joy In their behalf, namely, their “communication in the gospel, etc.,” i.e., their co-operation with him in the work of spreading the Gospel from the first day they heard it preached up to the time this letter was written. The reference is to the devotedness, labors, sufferings, gifts, etc., by which they had participated with the Apostle in the propagation and furtherance of the Gospel.

Phil 1:6. Being confident of this very thing, that he, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus.

The Apostle now tells the Philippians that he feels certain that God the Father who began in them the work of their redemption and sanctification will complete the process, bringing it to perfection against the day of their deliverance from the present life. Thus, he teaches the necessity of grace, not only to begin a good work in the supernatural order, but also to continue it and to persevere in it until death (cf. Conc. Trid., sess. VI, cap. 13).

A good work, i.e., their conversion to Christianity, which was followed by their labor and zeal in behalf of the Gospel and St. Paul.

The day of Christ Jesus is a frequent expression with St. Paul, and refers to our Lord’s coming in judgment, whether at the death of the individual or at the end of time to judge the world. The similar expression of the Old Testament, “the day of the Lord,” meant the day of God’s visitation of the earth in judgment and redemption.

Phil 1:7. Indeed it is right for me to be so minded in regard of you all, for that I have you in my heart; that in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace.

He gives the reason for the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. It is perfectly right and natural that he should feel thus toward the Philippians, because of his intimate and tender love for them, and because, through the help they have given him, they are sharers in the “grace” of his apostolate, whether exercised in “bonds,” i.e., in prison, or in “defence” of himself and of his preaching against the accusations and calumnies of the Jews, or “in confirmation of the gospel,” i.e., in explaining and proving the truth of the Gospel before Jews and Gentiles (Acts 28:23 ff.). “For that I have you in my heart” may also be rendered “for that you have me in your heart,” i.e., he is mindful of them because they also remember him.

The gaudii mei of the Vulgate should be gratiæ meæ, to agree with the Greek.

Phil 1:8. For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the heart of Christ Jesus.

As a proof of his ardent love for the faithful of Philippi St. Paul now invokes God, who reads the heart, as his witness; he loves them all with the love wherewith Christ loves them; his heart is one with the heart of his Master.

In visceribus of the Vulgate means with the most ardent love, the Greek of which is properly rendered in English by “heart,” as it refers to the seat of tender and noble affections. The Greek also reverses the order of Jesu Christi of the Vulgate here.

Phil 1:9. And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all discernment,

In verse 4 the Apostle told his readers that he prayed for them all with joy. Now he tells them what he requested for them, namely, that their “charity” (i.e., their love of God and their neighbor) might continually increase and become ever more perfect “in knowledge,” i.e., in full, developed understanding (επιγνωσει) of Christian virtues, and “in all discernment,” i.e., practical judgment (αισθησει) as to the application of those virtues in dealing with their neighbor.

Phil 1:10. That you may approve the better things, that you may be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ,

This full knowledge and judgment St. Paul requests for the Philippians in order that they may be able to appraise things according to their true worth; that, distinguishing between the moral values of their actions, they “may approve, etc.,” i.e., that they may test and choose those which are more excellent, with the result that they “may be sincere” (i.e., pure and innocent in the sight of God) “and without offence” (i.e., that their conduct may be no obstacle or stumbling block to their neighbor).

Unto the day of Christ, i.e., when the Lord comes to judge and reward them according to their works. See on verse 6 above.

Phil 1:11. Filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

The Apostle wishes the faithful not only to be innocent and blameless, but also to be “filled with the fruit of justice,” i.e., with good works, which can be done only through the grace of Christ. “Justice” here is better rendered “justness” or “righteousness,” which implies a complete harmony between the soul and God; it is given through Christ. “Only so far as the life of the believer is absorbed in the life of Christ, does the righteousness of Christ become his own” (Lightfoot). Hence our Lord said: “I am the true vine, etc.” (John 15:1 ff.).

Unto the glory, etc. The glory and praise of God is the last end and true goal of all our charity, justice, good works, etc., as the Apostle here reminds us.


Phil 1:12-4:9 Summary of the Body of the Epistle

The Apostle explains his personal situation and the progress of the Gospel in the Eternal City, in spite of rivalry and opposition (Phil 1:12-26); and then, as if in response to news received, he goes on to exhort his readers to be true to their calling in doing and suffering for the sake of the Gospel, stressing the need of unity and humility (Phil 1:27—2:4). In the practice of humility and in bearing their sufferings they have the supreme example of Christ Himself, who thus merited His exaltation to supreme Lordship (Phil 2:5-11). It is therefore Christ that they should copy; and in so doing they will reflect glory on their Apostle who has not labored in vain and who is willing to die in their behalf (Phil 2:12-18). He is sending to them at once Epaphroditus, Timothy will follow soon, and shortly he hopes to come himself (Eph 2:19-30). Beginning his final injunctions (Phil 3:1), he digresses to warn against Judaizers, citing his own career (Phil 3:2-16), and against pagan self-indulgence and a spirit of worldliness among Christians (Phil 3:17-21). Some final exhortations close the body of the letter (Phil 4:1-9).


It seems the Philippians had made known to Paul their anxiety regarding the welfare of the Gospel, as a result of his imprisonment; they feared the Gospel was suffering while he was enchained. But the Apostle informs them here that the contrary is the case, inasmuch as the success of his preaching in prison has excited the jealousy of other preachers and thus stimulated them to greater efforts. This is a cause of great rejoicing on his part. As for his own prospects of release, he is confident that all will turn out for the best. Personally he is torn between the alternatives of dying and being with Christ, on the one hand, and living for the sake of the Philippians, on the other hand. He seems to be confident of the latter; he will again be with them to assist them and give them joy in Christ Jesus.

Phil 1:12. Now, brethren, I desire you should know that the things which have happened to me have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel:

St. Paul wishes the brethren of Philippi to know that his imprisonment, with all its circumstances and consequences, instead of being a damage to the spread of the Gospel and a knowledge of its teachings, has had rather the opposite effect; it has made the Gospel better known, as he will now explain.

Phil 1:13. So that my bonds are made manifest in Christ, in all the court, and in all other places:

In the first place, the Apostle’s imprisonment has become known in its true significance, as the result of preaching Christ as the promised Messiah and the Saviour of the whole world; he is a prisoner not on account of any crime that he has committed, not out of politics in which he has been implicated, but on account of his identification with the cause of Christ. And this real cause of his imprisonment has become known “in all the court” (better, “throughout the whole praetorian guard”), through the many soldiers who successively relieved one another in guarding the Apostle and to each of whom he and his cause became well known and advertised “in all other places” (better, “to every one else besides,” i.e., to the whole imperial city, generally speaking).

We have taken “in Christ” to mean in the cause of Christ, for the sake of Christ; but it can also mean “through Christ,” i.e., by the counsel and provision of Christ. Taken in this latter sense, the meaning would be that it was by Christ’s divine intervention, though all unseen, that the real cause of St. Paul’s imprisonment became widely known, and through this a knowledge of the Gospel spread abroad. Other explanations of “in all the court” are less likely.

Phil 1:14. And many of the brethren in the Lord, growing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Another salutary effect of the Apostle’s chains was the infusion of fresh energy into “many” (better, “the majority”) of the Christians in Rome who, having become timid and remiss in theirpreaching and work for the Evangel, now beholding the zeal and intrepitude of their fettered Apostle were exhibiting more energy and fearlessness than ever before in behalf of the Gospel’s saving truths.

Brethren in the Lord means Christians, as distinguished from Paul’s brethren in the flesh, the Jews.

There is sufficient MSS. evidence for omitting Dei of the Vulgate, as a gloss explanatory of verbum.

Phil 1:15. Some indeed, even out of envy and contention; but some also for good will preach Christ.

Not all these preachers, however, were animated by the same spirit.

Some may refer to Christian Judaizers, who, while not denying at this time at least any point of revealed doctrine, were nevertheless contending that the Mosaic observances were the necessary gateway to the full benefits and perfect blessings of Christianity, and who, witnessing the greater fame and success of Paul, were moved with “envy” to emulate his influence and his preaching from prison. But more likely these “some” were just certain members of the Christian community of Rome who were ambitious and jealous of Paul, a stranger who in so short a time had so great an influence (cf. Lemonnyer, Ep. de S. Paul, II partie, pp. lo-ii). Certainly, whatever these preachers were contending for, there was no question at this time of a preaching of false doctrine on the part of St. Paul’s opponents, otherwise he could never have rejoiced over their work for Christ (ver. 18); the Apostle had not forgotten what he had previously written to the Galatians, 1:6-9; 3:1 ff. But there were other preachers who were altogether in sympathy with the Apostle, and who were inspired by the zeal and influence of his prison labors in behalf of the Gospel to greater eflPorts in their own respective fields, thus affording added joy and consolation to the Apostle’s heart.

Good will here means sympathy for the things of God.

Phil 1:16. Some out of charity, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel;
Phil 1:17. And some out of contention preach Christ not sincerely, supposing that they raise affliction to my bonds.

In these two verses the Apostle explains the motives by which the two classes just mentioned were moved, the one to support and the other to oppose his preaching.

The order of these verses, 16 and 17, is inverted in some MSS., but the great weight of authority favors the order of the Vulgate.

Some out of charity, etc., i.e., some of those preachers proclaimed the Gospel out of love for St. Paul, knowing the divine commission he had received, etc.; but the others had a bad motive, being moved by a spirit of partisanship or intriguing (ἐξ ἐριθείας = ex erittheias), and so tried to lessen the Apostle’s popularity and influence and keep hearers away from him, thus adding to his “affliction,” i.e., the distress of being in prison, and so unable to go out and seek his audience and refute his opponents.

Phil 1:18. But what then? So that by all means, whether by occasion, or by truth, Christ be preached: in this also I rejoice, yea, and shall rejoice;

But what then? That is, what difference does it make whether those preachers were moved by good or by bad motives in their preaching of the Gospel, so long as Christ was preached? The Apostle was not seeking his own glory, but the glory of Christ; and therefore it made little difference to him whether or not those who promoted the cause of Christ liked or disliked him personally.

By occasion, or by truth, i.e., whether the Gospel was only a secondary or the primary reason of their preaching. “Per occasionem annunciat Christum, qui non intendit hoc principahter, sed propter aliud, puta lucrum vel gloriam” (“One announces Christ in pretense when he does not chiefly aim at this but at something else, as profit or glory.” St. Thomas: Lecture on Philippians 1:18-24).

I rejoice, etc. If those opponents of the Apostle had been preaching false doctrine of any kind, he could never have rejoiced over their preaching in any sense of the word (see Gal. 1:6-9).

Phil 1:19. For I know that this shall fall out to me unto salvation, through your prayers, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Besides the fact that Christ is being preached by Paul’s enemies, which is the primary cause of his rejoicing, the Apostle finds a secondary cause for joy, now and in the future, in the thought that his sufferings and afflictions, through the help of the prayers of the faithful and the grace of the Holy Ghost, will contribute to his eternal salvation and his greater blessedness in heaven.

It is worthy of note that, notwithstanding all his vast labors for the Gospel, St. Paul rests the hope of his salvation, not on his own merits, but on the prayers of others and the abundant supply of grace of the Holy Spirit. That “salvation” here refers to his eternal reward, and not to liberation from prison, or any lesser spiritual good along the way to heaven, is clear from the usual meaning of σωτηριαν (soterian) elsewhere (i.e., Rom. 13:11; 1Thess. 5:8; Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter 1:5).

Through your prayers. St. Paul often manifested his confidence in the power and efficacy of intercessory prayer (e.g., Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 1:11; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1; Col. 4:3).

The supply. The Greek carries the idea of ample, abundant supply.

The Spirit of Jesus Christ is none other than the Holy Ghost, who proceeds equally from the Father and the Son, and who is called sometimes the Spirit of the Father and sometimes the Spirit of the Son (cf. Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; John 14:16, 26, 15:26, etc.). Whether we are to understand here the Holy Spirit Himself or His grace, makes little difference, since the two ideas would come to the same thing. These final words are also a proof of the divinity of our Lord, the Holy Spirit being His Spirit.

Phil 1:20. According to my expectation and hope; that in nothing I shall be confounded, but with all confidence, as always, so now also shall Christ be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Through the prayers of the faithful and the grace of Christ the Apostle is ardently hoping (such is the meaning of the Greek) for eternal salvation, but on his own part he is going to see that in nothing shall he be found wanting, that he will continue in the future as in the past to preach the Gospel “with all confidence” (i.e., freely and fearlessly), so that the glory of Christ shall continue to be manifested “in my body, etc.” (i.e., by spending his body and his energies for Christ, if he lives, or by the sacrifice of his life in the cause of Christ if he is put to death). Why he will not “be confounded” (i.e., disappointed), whether he lives or dies, he explains in the following verses.

Phil 1:21. For to me, to live is Christ: and to die is gain.

St. Paul had already told the Galatians: “I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). He was totally identified with Christ; Christ was the soul and centre of his life, the prime mover in all his actions, the goal and term of all his aspirations; to the Apostle “to live” was to labor for Christ and in union with Christ, and thus augment his merits for heaven, while “to die” was to be with Christ in glory and to enjoy his eternal reward.

Phil 1:22. But if to live in the flesh, this is to me the fruit of labor, and which I shall choose I know not.
Phil 1:23. But I am straitened between two: having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, a thing by far the better:
Phil 1:24. But to abide still in the flesh, is more needful for you.

The Apostle is confronted by the alternatives of dying and being with Christ in glory, on the one hand, and of remaining in this earthly life for a time and thus serving the interests of the Gospel and the Church, on the other hand; and he knows not which to choose, as there is great profit in either choice. So he is torn between conflicting emotions, desiring the former, knowing that it would be far better “to be dissolved” (or better, “to depart”), and thus be forever with Christ in paradise, but feeling that the Philippians need him, and that consequently he ought to remain on earth a while longer.

This is to me the fruit of labor. The Greek is concise and therefore somewhat difficult, but the meaning is clear: To continue in this life would mean to the Apostle an occasion of fruitful labor (καρπος εργου = karpos ergou) for the cause of Christ on earth.

Far the better, literally, “much more better,” a phrase indicative of St. Paul’s strong preference to die and be with Christ. From ver. 23 it is evident that the souls of the saints are admitted to the presence of God immediately after death.

The necessarium of the Vulgate (ver. 24) is a comparative in Greek, more necessary.

Phil 1:25. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith:
Phil 1:26. That your rejoicing may abound in Christ Jesus in me by my coming to you again.

And having this confidence. The Greek means that the Apostle is firmly persuaded, that he enjoys a feeling of personal certainty. But with regard to what? That he is going to live and see the Philippians again? If this is the meaning, it would seem to be out of harmony with the uncertainty expressed just above in Phil 1:20-23, and also with what he says below in Phil 2:17. The best explanation seems to be that of St. Chrysostom and others, who say that St. Paul is speaking above about the uncertainty of life or death in his case, whereas here he is stressing the utility and profit of the event, whichever it turns out to be: if he dies, he will be with Christ in glory; if he lives, he will be a help and a source of joy to the Philippians; in any case the result will certainly be good, of this he is firmly persuaded. In this explanation verse 25 is to be understood, in the light of the whole context, as conditional. “This confidence” refers to what follows: if he continues to live, he knows that he will be of great spiritual profit to the Philippians, and will thus give joy to their faith.

In me. The meaning is that St. Paul will be the occasion of their rejoicing, all the more so because the Apostle’s adversaries have been trying to discredit him while he has been in prison.


At the close of the previous section St. Paul seemed to express the likelihood of seeing the Philippians again; but here he exhorts them to be good citizens and live worthily of the Gospelwhether he sees them again or not. He wants them to be united in mind and action in their fight for the saving truths they profess and not to fear their adversaries, being assured that final victory will be theirs. They are suffering for Christ’s sake, and are waging the same conflict which they beheld in their Apostle when he was in Philippi and which still is his in Rome, as they know.

Phil 1:27. Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ; that, whether I come and see you, or, being absent, may hear of you, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind laboring together for the faith of the gospel.

Just above the Apostle has spoken of his own condition and prospects. Now he turns to the Philippians and tells them there is only one thing that will trouble him, and that is if he should hear something bad about them and their conduct. Wherefore he says: “Let your conduct be worthy, etc.,”—literally, “let your citizenship be worthy, etc.,” i.e., conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, as citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20).

In one spirit, i.e., in unity of mind, heart, and way of acting, as a result of the grace of the one Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Some take “spirit” here to mean the Holy Ghost directly, and refer to 1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 2:18, where the identical phrase here used is doubtless to be understood of the Holy Spirit. The effect will be the same in either opinion, as St. Paul is speaking of religious conduct.

Laboring, better, “striving” or “contending.” The metaphor is drawn from the prize-seeking contests in the amphitheatre.

Phil 1:28. And in nothing be ye terrified by the adversaries : which to them is a sure sign of perdition, but to you of salvation, and this from God:

The Apostle now tells the Philippians not to be “terrified by the adversaries,” i.e., the idol-worshippers and Jews of Philippi who persecute them, but to face them with courage and steadfastness. Their calm fortitude, he says, since they are contending for the eternal truth of the Gospel, will be, in the nature of things, “a sure sign” of the ultimate overthrow of their foes and of their own spiritual triumph.

Others explain “a sure sign” thus: the persecutions which they inflict on you will be for them a cause of perdition and for you a source of profit and salvation. The first explanation seems preferable, and appears to imply that the opponents themselves are inwardly persuaded of the final loss of their cause. At best the passage is obscure.

And this refers to the whole idea previously expressed, namely, their constancy in the face of opposition, which is not from their own strength, but “from God,” i.e., the gift of God.

Phil 1:29. For unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him;

In the preceding verse St. Paul encouraged the faithful by saying that their very constancy in fighting and enduring for the Gospel was an evident token of their eternal salvation; and here he bids them be reassured in the great privilege they enjoy as a gift of God, not only in believing in Christ, but in having the high honor “also to sufifer for him,” i.e., in His behalf. If they suffer for Christ and with Christ, they will also be crowned with Him.

Phil 1:30. Having the same conflict as that which you have seen in me, and now hear to be still mine.

Finally, the Apostle encourages his readers by reminding them that in their sufferings they are sharing the lot experienced by him, the founder of their Church, when he first preached the Gospel in their city (Acts 16:20 ff.), and which he has been enduring in Rome, as they “now hear,” very likely from Epaphroditus, the bearer of this letter.

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Father Callan’s Introduction to Philippians

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018


1. The City of Philippi. 

Philippi was a city in Eastern Macedonia on the borders of Thrace, some eight or nine miles inland and to the northwest from ancient Neapolis, its seaport on the JEgean Sea. Its original name was Crenides, or Little Fountains, so called from the springs which fed a great marsh to the south of the town. About the middle or latter part of the fourth century B.C. it was taken enlarged, and fortified by Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great; and from him it received its later name.

Philippi was situated on a hill dominating a large and fertile plain which stretched to the north and northwest of the city, and it was cut off from the sea by a line of hills on its east and southeast. It was, however, easily accessible from Neapolis through the Via Egnatia, the great Roman highway, which ran through a depression in the hills from Neapolis to Philippi and connected the Aegean on the east with the Adriatic on the west.

In the neighborhood of Philippi were rich gold and silver mines which offered the chief attraction to Philip of Macedon in his refounding of the city, and from which he drew the vast wealth needed for his victorious military career. The city and the rest of the dominions of Perseus, King of Macedonia, fell into the hands of the Romans in i68 B.C., and in 42 b.c, on the plain of Philippi, Mark Antony and Octavian (afterwards Augustus) in a decisive battle defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, thus bringing to an end the party that had hoped by the death of Caesarto restore the old Roman republic. In commemoration of this victory the Emperor Augustus made Philippi a Roman military colony, calling it after himself Colonia Julia Augusta Victrix Philippensium, and conferring upon it the jus Italicum, which gave its colonists the right of constitutional government, independent of the provincial governor, the right of proprietorship according to Roman law, and exemption from poll and land taxes. As a Roman colony Philippi had its own duumviri, or two supreme magistrates, the στρατηγοις of Acts 16:20, 22, 35-38. Thus, the city became a center of Roman influence, and with its public baths and theatres, its worship of Diana, Sylvanus and Dionysus, its cosmopolitan character (combining as it did the life of Asia and the life of Europe), it was like another Rome in miniature. St. Luke (Acts 16:12) called it the chief city of the district, but its rank was seriously disputed by Amphipolis, about thirty miles to the southwest, with the precedence inclining to the latter city. The inhabitants of Philippi in St. Paul’s time were mostly Latin in origin, with a strong minority of Macedonian stock and a sprinkling of other nationalities attracted by the military and commercial importance of the place. There were Jews also, but so few in number that they had not even one synagogue. The town was destroyed by the Turks in later centuries, and nothing remains of it now but some ruins.

2. The Church of Philippi.

St. Paul came to Philippi from Troas during the first part of his second missionary journey, around 51 A.D. (cf. Acts 16:11 ff.). His companions were Silas from Antioch (Acts 15:40), Timothy from Lystra (Acts 16:1), and very likely Luke from Troas—as we gather from Acts 16:10, where the first person plural begins to appear in the narrative. The Apostle was accustomed to begin his preaching in the houses of Jewish worship, but Philippi seems to have had no synagogue, so few and unimportant were the Jews there. On the Sabbath day a little company of worshippers gathered for prayer beyond the city gates on the bank of the River Gangites, and when St. Paul appeared to address them he found that only a few devout women made up the assembly. Of these the first to respond to his preaching was a Gentile lady by the name of Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira in Asia, who was living in Philippi for commercial purposes. She was soon followed by the whole family of which she was the mistress, and her house became the home of St. Paul and the centre of the Christian community of the town (Acts 16:13-15). Among the other women attracted by the new preaching was a slave girl, who, for the profit of her masters, discharged the functions of an oracle, giving answers to questions under a kind of inspiration or faculty of divining. As she annoyed Paul by acclaiming him as he daily passed by to the place of prayer, the Apostle finally turned and exorcised her; and the spirit of divination left her, and she became a devout Christian. But the girl’s masters, stirred by their pecuniary loss, brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates of the city, and had them scourged and cast into prison. The innocence of the two prisoners, however, was vindicated the first night by an earthquake which nearly destroyed the prison and was the occasion of converting the Roman jailer and his whole family. The magistrates also learning that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, whom it was unlawful to scourge, sent their lictors to the prison to release the prisoners. At St. Paul’s demand they acknowledged their error, but besought him and his companions to leave the town. This they consented to do after a meeting of the brethren in the house of Lydia (Acts 16:16-40), while leaving Luke behind to look after the newly founded but flourishing Church of Philippi.

It is worthy of note that the Philippian Church was composed mostly of Gentile converts, and that the earliest of these were women. The female element seems to have continued strong there, as we may gather from Phil. 4:2-3; and this may account for the absence of doctrinal disputes in the Church, and especially for the great kindness the Philippians always manifested toward St. Paul. They were poor themselves, but at Paul’s request they collected money for the poor saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:3), they sent gifts to Paul when he was in Thessalonica and in Corinth (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 4:15-16), and again when he was a prisoner in Rome (Phil. 4:18).

St. Paul’s next visits to Philippi were some years later, while on his third missionary journey. The first was doubtless when passing through Macedonia on his way from Ephesus to Corinth, perhaps in the early summer of 57 a.d. (1 Cor. 16:8; Acts 19:23 ff., Acts 20:1 ff.), though we are not told explicitly of this visit. It is very probable that it was at Philippi that St. Paul waited in anxiety for the arrival of Titus from Corinth, and there wrote 2 Cor. after the arrival of Titus (2 Cor. 2:12-13, 7:5-6, 8:1, 9:2, 4). The third visit occurred the next spring when St. Paul, returning from Corinth through Macedonia, arrived at Phihppi in time for the Passover, there joined Luke again (as we conclude from the resumption of the “we passages” in Acts), and then continued his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5 ff.)- This is the last recorded visit of the Apostle to the Philippian Church, but we may pretty safely assume from the Pastoral Epistles that he paid a subsequent visit there during his eastern travels, after being released from his first Roman captivity, when journeying from Ephesus to Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3). In fact, 2 Tim. 4:13 seems to point to another and still later visit to Philippi.

The next time we hear of the Church of Philippi is in the first part of the second century, when St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, having been condemned to death as a Christian, passed that way on his journey to Rome, where he was to be thrown to the wild beasts. We know from his Epistles that his route lay through Philadelphia, Smyrna, and Troas. From the last town, like St. Paul, he must have passed over to Neapolis, and thence by the Via. Egnatia to Philippi. On his departure the Philippians wrote a letter to the faithful of Antioch, consoling them for the loss of their Bishop, and another letter to his friend Polycarp of Smyrna, asking him for as many of Ignatius’ letters written in Asia Minor as could be spared. Our knowledge of these events is derived from St. Polycarp’s reply to the Philippians, which is still extant. The subsequent history of the Church of Philippi is unimportant, especially for our purpose here.
3. Occasion, Purpose, and Character of This Letter.

As said above, the Philippians possessed and always retained a particular affection for and interest in St. Paul, due perhaps to the influence from the beginning of devout women in the Church there. Although not at all well-to-do themselves, they sent the Apostle money on different occasions, as we have seen, and when they learned of his imprisonment in Rome they sent Epaphroditus to him with gifts and instructions to minister to his needs (Phil. 2:25-29, 4:18), and to report on the condition of the Church at Philippi. Paul was naturally very much delighted at the arrival of the beloved envoy and the practical testimony he conveyed of continued devotion and love on the part of the Philippians for their Apostle and founder —affection which had already been shown repeatedly by the same community. The report given of the Church at Philippi seems also to have been pleasing and generally satisfactory.

Not long after his arrival in Rome Epaphroditus fell seriously ill, much to the distress of St. Paul as well as the Philippians, but fortunately recovered in due time. As soon as he v^as well again, the Apostle hastened to send him back to his home (Phil. 2:26-30), giving him at the same time this letter to the faithful and heads of the Church at Philippi. The letter is an intimate expression of joy and gratitude for the help given the Apostle by the Philippians and for the loving sentiments that prompted it. But intermingled with these familiar outpourings of the heart are a number of moral reflections and exhortations, based on the example of Christ and in conformity with the teachings of the Gospel, particularly with regard to charity and concord among all the faithful (Phil. 1:9-11, 26 ff., 2:1-8, 13, 14, 16). St. Paul seemed especially disturbed over the misunderstandings between Evodia and Syntyche, two prominent women in the Church (Phil. 4:2 ff.), and this is a distinct indication of the influence of the female element among the faithful at Philippi. He warns also against the evil influence, actual or possible, of Judaizers, and of those whose life is a scandal, and who make a god of their belly (Phil. 3:2-4, 18, 19). There is still another passage in this Epistle which seems to point to some keen disappointment at the lack of zeal and self-sacrifice manifested by some of the Apostle’s co-workers; Timothy appears to be the only one that comes up to the high standard of his requirements (Phil. 2:19-23).

Since the letter is so very personal and familiar, these observations and counsels do not follow any particular order, but are set down just as they occur to the Apostle as he writes. This Epistle is one of the most intimate of St. Paul’s writings. Here he addresses his tried and trusted friends, and we get an idea of the overflowing affection which was natural to him and one of the secrets of his genius for friendship. He is deeply grateful for the gifts and the love of the Philippians, but his acknowledgment is restrained by his sense of duty as their Apostle and counsellor (Phil. 4:10-20).

4.Date and Place of Writing. 

This aspect of the present Epistle has been sufficiently discussed under the similar heading in the Introduction to Ephesians. It is enough to say here that the weight of argument and of authority shows that this letter was written from Rome during Paul’s first captivity there (61-63 a.d.), either before or after the writing of the other Captivity Epistles—Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. Whether this letter preceded or followed those other Captivity Epistles is earnestly disputed, but without any convincing conclusion one way or the other. For a summary of the arguments on both sides see Moule, Introd. To Philipplans, pp. 15 ff.

5. Authenticity and Integrity.

All antiquity is unanimous in accepting the authenticity and integrity of this Epistle. Apart from quotations from it or references to it in the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, The Shepherd of Hernias, etc. (cf. Cornely, Introduction, vol. IV, p. 491 ; Toussaint, Philippiens in Diet, de la Bible), we have St. Polycarp early in the second century writing to the Philippians and speaking explicitly of the letter or letters (cViorroAai) St. Paul had sent them, some passages of which Polycarp quotes in his own letter. Marcion included it in his Canon, and the Muratorian Fragment, Irenseus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian expressly attribute it to St. Paul. After Tertullian the testimonies are still more numerous and incontestable. As regards modern scholars, the great majority concede without hesitation that the Epistle as we have it is the work of St. Paul. In fact, its authenticity and integrity were never questioned until the nineteenth century when Baur, followed by others of the German rationalistic school, denied that Philippians was the work of Paul. The arguments, however, on which these critics have essayed to ground their claims are of so little value now as to be rejected by all the best rationalistic and Protestant scholars (cf. Jacquier, Histoire, etc., tom. I, pp. 349 ff .; Vigouroux, Diet, de la Bible, Philippiens).

The language and style of the Epistle are also thoroughly Pauline. Although there occur in it some forty strange expressions not found elsewhere in St. Paul, that proves nothing, since the same phenomenon is true of the admittedly authentic letters of the great Apostle; and over against this we can cite the presence of many words, expressions, figures, and characteristics of writing which are acknowledged to be peculiar to St. Paul.

Nor can any difficulty be found in the doctrine of this Epistle. The theology is again Pauline throughout, as even so rationalistic a writer as Holsten readily concedes. Attempts to find differences between the Christology of this Epistle and that of 1 Corinthians and other Epistles, or between the doctrine of justification taught here and that of Romans, have proved groundless and futile.

Some authors have felt there is a break in the unity of the Epistle at Phil 3:2, which extends to Phil 4:1, where Jews or Judaizing Christians suddenly fall under the Apostle’s severe censure. It is suggested that this may be a fragment from some other letter of St. Paul’s, perhaps to the Romans, which somehow found its way into this Epistle. But, in the first place, it is very hard to see how a part of one letter could get into the middle of the roll of another letter (for these letters were copied on rolls of parchment) ; and, in the second place, to deny the integrity of one of Paul’s Epistles because of some sudden interruptions in the style or breaks in the continuity of the thought is to betray essential ignorance of the Apostle’s character and literary habits. Again, repetitions, like the double conclusion in Php 3:1 and Php 4:4, instead of being difficulties against the oneness of the document are only natural in a letter so familiar and personal as is this one. It is little wonder, ‘therefore, that small success has attended the efforts made against the unity and integrity of the Epistle to the Philippians; and we may well conclude this section of our Introduction to this letter with the following testimony concerning it of the Protestant scholar, McGiffert: “The Epistle deserves to rank alongside of Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans as an undoubted product of Paul’s pen, and as a coordinate standard by which to test the genuineness of other and less certain writings” (The Apostolic Age, p. 393).

6. Analysis of Contents.

We have observed above that this Epistle does not follow any very orderly plan, owing to its essentially personal and intimate character. Dogma is not absent from the letter, though it is not prominent, and when it does occur it is intermixed with the moral exhortations, counsels and effusions which constitute the bulk of the Epistle. We may, however, distinguish in Philippians three main divisions: (a) an introductory part (Phil 1:1-11); (b) a body (Phil 1:12-4:9); (c) a conclusion (Phil 4:10-23).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018

Scripture links are to the Douay-Rheims translation

After having pointed out in the foregoing chapter, the order and several other circumstances of the Resurrection, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians in this, that there is one circumstance of the General Resurrection, which it is neither necessary nor possible for them to know at present; that circumstance is, the precise time at which it will occur (1 Th 5:1). They know from faith, that it will come unexpectedly, and will bring sudden destruction on the wicked; but it will not surprise, nor will it come unawares upon, the just, so as to find them unprepared, since, as children of light, they are always on the alert, always employed in the works of light, in hopes of the Lord’s coming (1 Th 5:2–8). He exhorts them to correspond with the designs of God in their regard, putting on the breast-plate of faith and charity, and the helmet of hope—to live in the expectation of salvation from the goodness of God, who gave us his Son for Saviour (1 The 5:9-11).

He inculcates, with regard to the people, the necessity of discharging certain duties towards their Pastors; while, to the latter, he points out the duties which they in turn owe their people (1 Th 5:12–15).

He enjoins on all the faithful to cultivate and exhibit spiritual joy—to practise assiduous prayer—to employ the gifts of the Holy Ghost with profit and discernment, and to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Th 5:16–22).

Finally, he beseeches God to grant them the gift of perfect sanctity both of soul and body, and recommends himself to their prayers; he salutes them all, and adjures them to have this Epistle read to all the brethren. He concludes with the usual form of Apostolical benediction.

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

1 Th 5:1. But as to the periods of time or precise moments at which this great event shall take place, it is not necessary (nor indeed is it possible) that I should write to you.

The word “times,” denotes longer periods, such as years; “moments,” shorter terms, such as months, days, hours.

“You need not that we should write to you,” as if to say, it was necessary for your consolation, that we should explain to you the order and the other circumstances of the Resurrection referred to already; but the time you need not, nay, you cannot know.

1 Th 5:2. For you know yourselves full well, from the principles of your faith, that the day of the Lord shall come suddenly and unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

He shall come unexpectedly. This is true of the death of each one, when the day of judgment for him shall have virtually arrived; and, although Antichrist will precede it, this, however, shall not be a sign so much of the precise time of Christ’s coming, as of the approaching end of the world; and so far as the signs in the sun and in the moon, &c., are concerned, these may occur, probably on the very day of Judgment.

1 Th 5:3. For when the impious shall say, peace and security, i.e., all things are quite secure; then, shall sudden and unexpected destruction come upon them, as the throes of child-birth come upon a woman with child, from which they will not be able to escape.

“For when they,” the impious, “shall say peace,” &c., because as it happened in the days of Noe, so shall men be eating and drinking, &c., at the coming of the Lord.—(Matthew 24:37).

“For,” is omitted in the Greek. The example of the woman with child is frequent in the SS. Scripture. As she knows that she is to bring forth, but knows not the moment in which she may be suddenly seized with the throes of child-birth, so neither will the wicked know when the final destruction shall come upon them.

1 Th 5:4. But although this day may come unexpectedly, like the approach of the nightly thief, still, it will not surprise you unawares, who are not unprepared for it, having been enlightened by faith, and free from the darkness of infidelity and sin.

“Overtake,” i.e. catch by surprise, so as to be unprepared for it.

1 Th 5:5. For, how could you be in darkness, you, who are the sons of light and the sons of day? For, we Christians, are not the children of night nor of darkness.

“Children of Light,” i.e., called to perform good works, suited to appear in open light, and not followers of the works of darkness. “Light” and “darkness” are frequently used in the SS. Scripture, to signify good and evil. Christians are called “children of light,” in allusion to the light of faith which they received, and because they are called to good works, forsaking the darkness of infidelity and sin.

1 Th 5:6. Let us, therefore correspond with our calling, and not be, like the infidels, engaged in the works of darkness, regardless of the coming of our Lord but, like men who are called to the works of light, let us be on the alert, and let us be sober.

From the metaphors of light and darkness, the Apostle takes occasion to exhort them to good works, to live up to their Christian profession, which will avail them nothing, but rather deepen their damnation, if, like Pagans, they indulge in the works of darkness. “Sleep as others do.” The Vulgate has sicut et ceteri, “even as others do.”

1 Th 5:7. For the time suited for sleep and drunkenness is the night; hence, those who indulge in sleep and those who indulge in drunkenness, do so in the night (we should, therefore, not indulge in sleep or drunkenness, which are unsuited to our vocation, or to the time of our actions, i.e., the day).

We should watch and be sober, in consequence of being children of light, because the opposite characteristics—viz., sleep and drunkenness—are peculiar to the night. On this account it is that men select the night for indulging in sleep and drunkenness. Hence, as these deeds are unsuited to our calling, or to the time of our action, we should wholly abstain from the works signified by them.

1 Th 5:8. Let us, therefore, who belong to the day (abstaining from these deeds which are signified by sleep and drunkenness), be vigilant and sober, putting on faith enlivened by charity, as a breast-plate, and the hope of salvation, for a helmet.

We should, therefore, as children of the day, perform the works represented, or signified, by vigilance and soberness; but, in order to do so, we should be cased in the Christian panoply; for otherwise, although sober and vigilant, we will not be able to make a stand against the powerful enemies with whom we have to contend. “The breast-plate of faith and charity.” In the panoply of the Christian soldier (Ephes. 6). The Apostle calls “justice” the “breast-plate,” but it does not differ from this—for, faith animated by charity is “justice.” “And hope of salvation for helmet;” since hope will raise and elevate our thoughts on high. Three things are necessary for us—vigilance, sobriety, and armour. St. Chrysostom excites to vigilance in the narrow way of salvation, which is beset on all sides with dangers and precipices, by the example of rope-dancers, and of those who walk on the brink of precipices, all whose senses are awake and on the alert; so ought it be with us in the way of salvation. We ought to be sober, free from all vicious affections; and for armour we should have faith, hope, but especially active, operative charity towards our neighbour.

1 Th 5:9. I say, we should put on the helmet of hope. For, God has not destined us for damnation, but for eternal salvation, to be acquired through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

1 Th 5:10. Who died for us, in order that, whether living or dead, we may live with him here a life of grace, and hereafter a life of eternal glory.

“Watch,” in this verse, means to be in this life, and “sleep,” to be dead; hence, they have a signification different from that which they have in the preceding verses.

1 Th 5:11. In consequence, then, of these cheering motives of your hope—viz., the death of Christ to bestow on us eternal life, continue to console one another, to edify one another, by word and deed, as indeed, you are already doing.

“Edify one another;” for the meaning of this word, see 1st Epistle to Cor. 8:1. “As you also do,” he adds these words of well-timed praise with a view of rendering his exhortation more agreeable.

1 Th 5:12. But we implore of you to reverence and respect those who are labouring amongst you in preaching the gospel, and who preside over you in a spiritual capacity, and admonish you of your duties.

He here addresses the people, and inculcates reverence and respect for their prelates and the ministers of the gospel.

1 Th 5:13. And treat them with more abundant honour by administering to their support in consequence of their labours amongst you, and this from a feeling of charity. Be at peace with them.

“Have peace with them,” i.e., have no difference with your pastors. In the Greek it is, have peace among yourselves; a reading which is preferred by some, Estius among the rest.

1 Th 5:14. But, we entreat you, brethren, who preside, to correct the disorderly, who are causing disturbances, to console the faint-hearted under afflictions, to prop up the weak who may be easily scandalized, accommodating yourselves to their weakness, and to be patient towards all.

He now addresses those who preside: “Be patient towards all men,” whether they be “unquiet,” “feeble-minded,” or “weak.”

1 Th 5:15. Take care that no one, in a spirit of vengeance, render evil for evil to any man, but always endeavour to do good to all men whomsoever, whether brethren or unbelievers.

“But ever follow towards all men.” This is perfectly conformable to the precept of our Lord in the gospel, commanding us to love all men, not excepting our very enemies.

1 Th 5:16-17. Under all circumstances spiritually rejoice. Pray without ceasing.

“Pray without ceasing.” This, of course, is to be understood in this sense, that we should frequently and at certain times pray, and that the intervals of labour should be consecrated to God by prayer, and that our actions should be of such a nature as to be referable to his glory.

1 Th 5:18. Give thanks to God in all things (whether in prosperity or adversity), for, this is the will of God, that you should all do so, through Jesus Christ.

“This is the will of God;” is referred by some to the three preceding precepts of spiritual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving; by others, it is confined to the precept of thanksgiving.

1 Th 5:19. Do not extinguish the Holy Ghost in his gifts, by altogether prohibiting the exercise of spiritual gifts.

It appears that many pretended to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, prophecy, miracles, &c., who had them not, and that to prevent altogether, any such practices of imposition, the heads of the Church wished to prohibit the exercise of these gifts, in every instance. Of this the Apostle disapproves. Others interpret the verse, do not expel from you the Holy Ghost; thus, as far as you are concerned, destroying him. The word “extinguish” has reference to the form in which the Holy Ghost is frequently exhibited in SS. Scripture—viz., that of fire.

1 Th 5:20. But especially do not despise the useful gifts of prophecy.

For the meaning of “prophecies,” see chapter 16, 1st Epistle to Corinthians.

1 Th 5:21. But examine all matters proposed to you by those who have the gift of prophecy, and retain what is good.

There is question here of private prophecies, and of doubtful matters, which had not been defined by competent authority,—and the Apostle is addressing the rulers, whom he authorizes to judge of such matters, and reject or retain them, as they may think fit. Hence, this passage contains no argument against the Dogmatic Decrees of Councils; for, in them, there is question of quite a different matter altogether, a matter defined by a competent authority.

1 Th 5:22. Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

1 Th 5:23. May God, the author of peace, perfectly sanctify you, so that your entire being, your soul, considered both as to its sensitive and rational part, and your body, may be preserved without reproach, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall render to every one, according to his works.

“Your whole spirit and soul.” He considers the human soul under two different respects, and as exercising different faculties. “Spirit,” is the rational soul guided in its judgment by reason, and exercising the higher faculties of intellect and will. “Soul,” the sensitive, concupiscible part, guided by sensation, common to us with the beasts. So that your mind, your will, and all your senses, external and internal, be preserved from the stain of sin.

Fr. MacEvilly offers no no commentary on the final 5 verses beyond the following paraphrase.

1 Th 5:24. God, who called you to sanctity, is faithful, and he will perfect what he has begun, by giving you the grace of perseverance.

1 Th 5:25. Brethren, pray for us.

1 Th 5:26. In my name, salute all the brethren in a holy kiss, the symbol of charity.

1 Th 5:27. I conjure you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to have this Epistle read in a public assembly of all the faithful.

1 Th 5:28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 11

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle undertakes, in this chapter, the correction of three abusive practices, which prevailed at Corinth. The first was, the indecorous practice on the part of the Corinthian females of appearing in the churches with heads uncovered, while the men appeared with their heads covered. In order to combat this abuse, he shows the relation of inferiority and subjection which the woman holds towards the man; whence he infers the deordination of the man appearing with covered head, and the woman with head uncovered, and from other reasons of congruity, and finally, from the practice of the Church, he demonstrates the same (1 Cor 11:1–16).

The second regarded their conduct at the Agapes, celebrated immediately before Holy Communion. He reproves the Corinthians for their dissensions on such occasions. He taxes the rich with a want of consideration for the poor, when they assemble together; and in order to bring them to a sense of what they owed this divine banquet, he relates the history of the institution of the adorable Eucharist (1 Cor 11:16–26).

The third regarded the sacrilegious impiety of unworthy communion. He points out its enormity (1 Cor 11:27), its antidote (1 Cor 11:28), and in order to stimulate them to greater diligence in their preparation for this divine banquet, he again depicts the enormity of unworthy communion (1 Cor 11:29). He refers to instances of its punishment even among themselves (1 Cor 11:30). He shows the mode of avoiding these punishments (1 Cor 11:31), and again reverts to the subject of the Agapes.

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

1 Cor 11:1. (Since, then, regardless of my own temporal ease and profit, I have had always in view, the glory of God, and my neighbour’s spiritual advantage); be you imitators of me, as I have been of Christ.

This is connected with the preceding chapter, in the last verse of which the Apostle encouraged the Corinthians to perform certain laudable actions after his own example. In this verse, he gives the reason for proposing his own example, viz., because he imitated Christ; and it is only inasmuch as they imitate their heavenly model, that we are to follow the example of superiors.

1 Cor 11:2. Now, I have reason to praise you for being mindful of all my precepts, and for observing all my ordinances, as I have delivered them to you.

Before entering on the disagreeable duty of denouncing abuses, the Apostle, in order to soften down the harshness generally involved in their correction, with apostolic prudence, first compliments the Corinthians for what was deserving of praise in them. “That in all things you are mindful,” &c. “All things,” must be taken with some limitation; for, in this very chapter, the Apostle censures them for the violation of some of his precepts (verse 22). Hence, the words must be confined to the more religious among them; or, if they be understood to extend to all, then, they must mean, on the whole “you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances.” By “ordinances,” as appears from the Greek word, παραδοσεις, are meant oral instructions. The word “delivered” also, as appears from the Greek word, παρεδωκα, means, orally delivered.

1 Cor 11:3. But I wish you to know, that Christ is the head or superior to whom every man is immediately subject; and the man is the immediate head or superior to whom the woman owes subjection; and God, or, the blessed Trinity, is the head or superior to whom Christ, as Man, is subject.

The first abuse which he wishes to correct is, that of women appearing with heads uncovered in the Church, either at times of prayer or public instruction. It is not unlikely that, among the several questions proposed to the Apostle by the Corinthians (7:1), he was consulted about the propriety of women appearing in the Church without veils. In order to point out more clearly the impropriety of such conduct, he shows the place which the woman holds with regard to her husband, at the same time he shows the relation of subjection which the husband holds in regard to Christ, and following up the order of subjection, he brings it to the supreme headship and high dominion of God. “The head of every man is Christ.” He is the head of every woman also; but the man is her immediate head or superior. “The head of Christ,” as Man—it is under this respect that the Apostle considers him—“is God,” or the Blessed Trinity. This is said of him in the same nature, of which it is said, “Pater major me est.” Hence, all dominion is ultimately referred to God.

1 Cor 11:4. Every man who prophesies or prays, having his head covered, disgraces his head.

“With his head covered.” The Greek is κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων, having on his head; of course, covering is understood; hence, our version expresses the sense. “Disgraces his head.” because, as the covering of the head was, according to the usage prevalent in the days of the Apostle, a sign of subjection to those before whom it was covered, the man, by having his head covered, would imply that he had a superior on earth; and hence, he would be disgracing his dignity, as lord of creation. It is observed by Commentators, that a different and contrary meaning is now attached to covering and uncovering the head. It is hardly necessary to remark that, with us, the inferior keeps the head uncovered before the superior, in token of reverence and respect. Even of old, the Jewish High Priest, in the discharge of his sacerdotal functions, wore a tiara on his head, with his feet naked; but this was done for a mystical reason, to signify that in the Old Law things were obscured and veiled in mystery.

1 Cor 11:5. While, on the other hand, every woman, who publicly prays or prophesies with head uncovered, disgraces her head; it is just as bad as if she were shaved.

It is a matter of dispute what the word “prophesying” means. It is clear, the Apostle is censuring a fault committed in the public assemblies convened either for the purposes of prayer or instruction, &c. But how it comes to pass that the Apostle censures women merely for prophesying or speaking publicly with heads uncovered, instead of preventing them from speaking at all in the temples, as he does (14:34), is a matter of difficulty; to solve which some say, that by “prophesying,” is meant joining in singing psalms, in which women could take a part. This is a signification of the words not uncommon in SS. Scripture (v.g.), “Saul amongt he prophets” (1 Sam 19:24), i.e., the singers of God’s praises. Others, by “prophesying” understand, not the predicting of future events, but the explaining of the Scriptures in an extraordinary manner, as the result of the inspiration of the moment. These say, that the Apostle censures the women who speak publicly in the Church, for two reasons: First, for doing so with heads uncovered—and this is the reason expressed by him here; and, secondly, for doing so at all, which he reserves for 1 Cor 14:34; whereas, the women who pray in public, he censures only on the ground of appearing with head uncovered; and this is a fair reply; because a person may censure one bad quality of an action, without entering into a condemnation of all the evils which it involves, if his scope do not require it, as is the case here with the Apostle. Others understand the word “prophesying,” of the prediction of future events, as in the case of the daughters of Philip.—(Acts 21:1). The former is, however, the more probable view of the case; for, although it was a fault in them to speak at all in public; still, that was not precisely the fault which the Apostle intended to censure here.

The Corinthian women were remarkable for immodesty in dress, and after their conversion, they adhered to the same, as a matter of fashion in the country. This proved a source of offence to the converted Jews, whose women always appeared with, veils in the temple; and, as this immodesty in dress was the result of improper conduct, to which it also served as an incentive on the part of the Pagan population, it might be, that the Pagans, on seeing Christian women appearing in the same dress with the uncoverted females, would regard the morals of both in the same light, to the detriment of Christian faith and morality. As a city dedicated to Venus, Corinth was the very seat of impurity. Hence, the zeal of the Apostle in remedying this evil. Of course, the meaning attached to covering or uncovering the head, depends on custom, which is always variable. The Apostle argues from the meaning of the usage in his own time. This much, however, is to be inferred, as a precept binding at all times, that women should always appear in modest, becoming dress, whether in the church or elsewhere; but particularly when assisting at the Adorable Sacrifice, and, above all, when approaching Holy Communion.

1 Cor 11:6. Now, if a woman be not veiled, she might as well be shorn; but if it be disgraceful for a woman to appear shorn or bald (as it surely is), then, let her be veiled.

“If a woman be not covered, let her be shorn,” i.e., she might as well be shorn. It was the general feeling that women should be veiled. This was indicated by her natural veil or long hair, which nature gave her as an emblem of that veil which modesty should superadd, and if she throw away this latter veil, she might as well throw away the former or natural one; and so, be shorn. “But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn,” &c., as it surely is, being adopted only in case of extreme grief, or inflicted as a mark of infamy on harlots or adulteresses. This, of course, contains no argument against the propriety of religious females cutting off their hair; because they lay aside their hair in token of their total renunciation of the world, and their entire devotedness to a better, a heavenly lover. Moreover, the natural disgrace attached to cutting the hair regards those females only who engage in the world and mix in society.

1 Cor 11:7. The man ought not to cover his head, because he is the subject in whom God has cause to glory, as in his most perfect work, and the glory of God is to be manifested and not concealed; he is also the image of God, made after God’s likeness; having, therefore, no superior on earth, he should, as a mark of pre-eminence, keep his head uncovered. But the woman is the subject wherein the man has cause to glory; and hence, in token of subjection to him, whose glory she is, and whose control she is to acknowledge, she should be veiled.

He assigns a reason why the woman and not the man should wear a veil; the man should not wear a veil. “because he is the image and glory of God,” i.e., the glorious image of God; or perhaps, it is better to read the words, “glory” and “image” separately, on account of the following words “the woman is the glory of the man.” She is a subject of glory to him, having been formed from his side. Hence, Adam cried out on seeing Eve: “Hoc nunc os ex ossibus meis,” &c.—(Genesis 2). Is not the woman also the image of God? Moses says of both: “ad imaginem Suam creavit Deus hominem. Mascuium et feminam creavit eos.”—(Genesis 1:27). But still, the image of God is more clearly reflected in the man, his faculties having been more vigorous, and his dominion over creation more universal, than is the case with the woman; for, she herself is subject to man’s control. Moreover, he refrains from calling the woman, the image of God, because she is immediately the image of man, having been formed from man for an assistance like unto himself. Hence, she is the image of God, in the same way as she has Christ for her head, i.e., mediante viro.

1 Cor 11:8. For, that the woman is the glory of the man, whose superiority, therefore, she should acknowledge by wearing a veil, is clear from the fact, that she was formed out of the man, but not reciprocally, the man, in the first instance, out of her.

The Apostle points out the reasons of the inferiority of the woman, in point of nature, having been formed from man, and having been consequently posterior to him in the order of creation.

1 Cor 11:9. The same is clear from the end of woman’s creation, which was the service of man, to be a helpmate to him; but the woman was not the end of the man’s creation. As, then, subserviency implies inferiority, and the means are inferior to the end; hence, the superiority of the man over the woman.

Another ground of inferiority: the purpose of her creation was to be a helpmate to him; and hence, as the woman is, in a certain sense, from the man, as the man is from God, and as she was created for the man, as the man was, in a certain sense, for God, she is the glory of the man, and should acknowledge his superiority by wearing a veil.

1 Cor 11:10. She ought, therefore, wear a veil on her head, in token of her subjection to her husband’s power, on account of the angelic spirits, who are present in our temples, and prostrate before their annihilated God, encircle our altars during the celebration of the divine mysteries.

“A power over her head.” The thing signified, viz., “power,” is used for the sign, viz., a veil, which is a sign of power, one the one hand, and of subjection, on the other. He appeals to the women to guard against impropriety in dress, on account of the angelic pure spirits who are present in our temples, and shall one day appear as witnesses before God, of their immodesty and disorderly conduct. St. John Chrysostom, as we are informed by his disciple, St. Nilus (Epistola ad Anastasium), saw the temple filled with hosts of angels during the celebration of the divine mysteries. And St. Chrysostom himself assures us, that the Cherubim and Seraphim assist at the divine mysteries in prostrate adoration.—(Homilia de Sacra Mensa). St. Gregory (Libro iv. Dialog. chapter 58) asserts the same. How great, then, should be the feelings of awe and reverence which we ought to carry with us into the house of God, in which the Lord of glory remains really, truly, and substantially, on our altars. Quam terribilis est locus iste; non est hic aliud nisi domus Dei, et porta cæli.—(Genesis 28:17).

By “angels” others understand the bishops and priests who may be endangered in their ministry, unless the woman appear clad in modest dress. The Prophet, Malachy, (Mal 2:7) calls the priests “the angels of the Lord of armies.”

1 Cor 11:11. But the man should by no means grow insolent on account of the superiority which we have asserted for him over the woman; for the ordinance of the Lord has been, that the man requires the assistance of the woman, and the woman, that of the man.

Lest the man should grow insolent on account of the superiority which has been asserted for him over the woman; and the woman, on the other hand, should despond and undervalue her position too much, the Apostle now asserts that the ordinance and disposition of God—“in the Lord”—is, that they should mutually depend on each other; and this holds particularly in the management of the household and the education of their families—they should, therefore, live in indissoluble union.

1 Cor 11:12. And as the first woman was formed from the man, so now, in turn, is man born of woman, and this by the arrangement of God, the primary source and fountain of all things, in order to secure for them reciprocal dependence and mutual love.

And as the first woman was formed out of the man; so, now, man is born of woman, God, the first source and principle of everything, so arranging it, ex ipso et per ipsum, et in ipso sunt omnia.—(Rom. 11).

1 Cor 11:13. I appeal to your own sense of propriety, if it be becoming in a woman to appear at prayer without a veil in the public assemblies of the faithful.

He now appeals to their own sense of propriety in proof of what he has been saying; “yourselves,” in Greek ἐν ὑμιν αὐτοῖς, in yourselves; “to pray to God, uncovered.” He omits the word “prophesying,” because veiled, or unveiled, this latter would be improper in her, as he shows (1 Cor 14:34).

1 Cor 11:14. Does not a sense of natural decency, manifested by the repugnance which men commonly feel to nourish their hair, show us, that it is a disgrace for a man to nourish his hair in a womanlike way.

“Nature” may also refer to the usage or custom, which is a sort of second nature. The custom among the Greeks or Hebrews was, for the woman to wear long, and the men, short hair. Of course, the Apostle does not contemplate the case in which men may have particular reasons for wearing long hair.

1 Cor 11:15. For the God of nature has given her long flowing hair as a natural veil (which should, at the same time, remind her of putting on a head-covering, in token of submission to her husband).

This precept of observing propriety in dress is obligatory on women, not only on occasions of public prayer, but at all times.

1 Cor 11:16. But if any person, anxious for superiority in argument, will insist on the propriety of woman appearing unveiled in public, my only reply to him—(and this is the last and the strongest that can be adduced, viz., that of authority)—is, that neither we Apostles (or Jewish converts), nor the Church of God, know any such custom.

His last and most forcible argument on this subject, is the practice of the Church—the safest rule that can be followed in all matters appertaining to either faith or morals. “Contentious.” The Greek word, φιλονεικος, means, fond of superiority in argument. “No such custom,” may either refer to the custom animadverted upon, of men wearing long hair, and of women appearing in church without veils, or, to the custom and practice of pertinaciously resisting apostolic authority. “Nor the Church of God.” In Greek αἱ εκκλησιαι, the churches.

1 Cor 11:17. But with regard to what I am now about to prescribe to you, I enter on the subject, instead of praising you (as heretofore, verse 2), rather disposed to censure you, for causing your religious assemblies to be attended with greater spiritual detiment than profit.

The Apostle now proceeds to treat of another abuse of a still more serious nature, which called for the most rigorous measures of correction. It appears that for the purpose of perfectly representing the institution of the Adorable Eucharist at which our Divine Redeemer, in common with his Apostles, had first partaken of the ordinary Jewish Paschal supper, and afterwards (as we learn from the Evangelists), gave them his adorable Body and Blood, the primitive Christians were wont to go in the evening to the church or room set apart for religious meetings, and there partake in common, rich and poor, of an ordinary repast, to which the rich principally contributed and invited the poor.—(Vide Calmet, Dictionnaire de la Bible). These suppers—termed Agapes, or Charity feasts, from commemorating the love of the faithful for one another—were intended to represent the Paschal and ordinary Jewish suppers, of which our Redeemer and his Apostles partook, before he gave them the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist itself sufficiently represented its own institution. These banquets were made the occasion of very great abuses; for, the rich, instead of joining in the Agapes, and contributing towards them, according to the primitive institution, brought with them, to the Church, each one, his own supper, and indulged to excess in eating and drinking. On this account, they disedified the faithful; they sowed divisions, in consequence of excluding from their tables the poor and hungry, and immediately after received the body and blood of the Lord, unworthily, to their own condemnation. What wonder, then, that the Apostle should have exerted all his zeal to put a stop to such fearful evils. “Now this I ordain.” Some Expositors join these words with the preceding, thus:—these injunctions I have given about women wearing veils, &c., and then, they say, he commences the subject of the Eucharist in the words, “not praising you,” &c., as if he said: while praising you in general (verse 2), I must except your conduct in reference to the following abuse. The arrangement adopted in the Paraphrase seems to be the more natural. In the common Greek, the words, “this I ordain, not praising,” &c., run thus: τοῦτο δὲ παραγγελλων ουκ επαινω, while ordaining this, I praise you not. The Vulgate is the reading of the Alexandrian and other MSS., and of the ancient versions. The Codex Vaticanus has, τουτο παραγγελλων ουκ επαινων, “while ordaining this, not praising you.” The meaning is the same in all.

1 Cor 11:18. For, in the first place, I hear, that when you assemble together in the church, especially destined for the sacred meetings of the faithful, instead of being united in brotherly concord, you, on the contrary, have schisms and divisions among you, and I am inclined to believe these charges to be true of some of you, or some of these charges to be true of you all.

“In the Church” (εν εκκλησια, in church—the article is wanting in the chief MSS.) may either mean the place set apart for sacred assemblages (as in Paraphrase), or, the collection and assemblage itself. So that the words may mean, when you meet together in the assembly of the faithful, which assembling together is calculated to bind them firmly in concord. “There are schisms among you.” What the cause of these “schisms,” or divisions, was, the Apostle does not explain. It appears, however, from the context, that they were occasioned by the manner in which they assembled and celebrated the Agapes: the rich not waiting for, nay, excluding the poor. “And in part I believe it.” “In part,” may refer either to the people; and mean, I believe these charges to be true of some of you; or, to the charges, and mean, I believe some of these charges to be true of all of you.

1 Cor 11:19. Nor does it cause me surprise to witness such breaches of charity and concord amongst you; for, looking to the nature of man, there must be divisions even in the dogmas of faith, which divisions in faith God permits, in order that those who are genuine and sincere amongst you may be made manifest by the contrast with those who err.

“There must be also heresies.” (In the Greek is added, ἐν ὐμιν, among you). By “heresies,” are commonly meant, errors in faith. St. Chrysostom understands the word here to signify the same as “schisms” (verse 18), but improbably; for, by saying, “there must be heresies also,” the Apostle implies that they are different from the others. They “must be,” as a matter of consequent necessity, considering the corruption of human nature; just as “scandals must be.” “That,” may mean the consequence, or, the final cause which God has in view in suffering heresies to exist. “Melius judicavit de malis benefacere quam mala nulla esse permittere.”—(St. Augustine, Enchirid., 27). “Who are approved.” The Greek word, δοκιμοι, means those who are tested and tried, like gold in the furnace, the genuine, sterling believers.

1 Cor 11:20. When, therefore, you assemble together in the meetings referred to, it is no longer to eat the Lord’s Supper.

“Therefore,” is resumptive of the subject referred to, verse 18. “The Lord’s supper.” This was a supper of charity, concord, and love; a supper celebrated in common, to which even Judas was admitted; whereas, their banquets were the occasion of divisions; private banquets from which the poor were excluded. By “the Lord’s supper,” it is clear he means the Agape, and not the Eucharist itself; for, no one would be permitted to drink to excess of the Eucharist, as the ministers of religion would not have given it so abundantly. Moreover, the abusive practice of not waiting for each other could not regard the Eucharistic supper, which was not celebrated until all were assembled. Again, the excesses on account of which he taxes them with unworthy communions, must have preceded the Eucharist; for, though the circumstance of sinning after the communion would aggravate the sin, it would not still prove the preceding communion to be bad or sacrilegious. Hence, from his charging them with bad communions, in consequence of the excesses which took place at the “supper of the Lord,” these excesses, and the supper consequently, must have preceded communion.

1 Cor 11:21. For each one takes with him beforehand his own supper to eat; the consequence is, that while one party, viz., the poor, stands by hungry, another, viz., the rich, drinks to excess.

“The abuse which the Apostle here denounces was occasioned by the fact, that the rich, instead of partaking of a supper in common with the poor, brought their own suppers to the church, and partook of them apart, without waiting for, or inviting the poor; nay, even excluding them.” The consequence was that some of them committed excess (“is drunk”), approached holy communion in mortal sin, and thus became guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

“One man is hungry,” who probably fasted until evening, and hoped to join in the Agape, from which he is excluded.

“And another is drunk.” This word here simply implies excessive indulgence, which, however, did not reach a deprivation of reason.

1 Cor 11:22. If you wish to enjoy your private suppers, have you not your own houses?—or do you despise the house of God by such profanation, and the whole Christian congregation, by outraging and causing shame in those who have nothing to contribute? Surely, for conduct like this I cannot praise you.

“The church of God,” may either mean the congregation, or the place of meeting (as in Paraphrase). Respecting these Agapes, to which reference is made here, it is to be observed, that at the time referred to by the Apostle, they were celebrated immediately before holy communion, as is clear from this entire passage, verse 20 (although St. Chrysostom and others are of a contrary opinion), and continued to be celebrated in the same way, for a considerable time after, in some churches. Sozomen relates, that such was the case in some churches of Egypt, even in his own time; and from the decree of the third Council of Carthage, at which St. Augustine assisted and over which Aurelius, Primate of Africa, presided, prohibiting all who were not fasting beforehand, to receive the Holy Eucharist, Maunday Thursday excepted (canon 29), it is inferred, that the contrary usage generally prevailed throughout the several churches of Africa. It is, however, asserted by many, that those Agapes were, after the time referred to hear, celebrated throughout the church generally after holy communion; and some assert that this change in the time of the celebration was one of the points of reformation promised by the Apostle (verse 34). St. Augustine (Epistola ad Januarium), and others, refer the discipline of fasting before holy communion to the age of the Apostles. This is, however, called in question by many. But although the precise period at which this discipline of fasting before holy communion was introduced, cannot be defined for certain, it is universally agreed that it is of the highest antiquity. In consequence of the abuses to which these Agapes or charity feasts gave occasion, whether they were celebrated before or after communion (and we are told by Baronius, ad annum Christi 57, that they were frequently celebrated on the feasts of the martyrs, and on the occasion of the dedication of churches), the Council of Laodicea (canon 28) prohibited them altogether in the church, and forbade any such banquets in the house of God. The same prohibition was renewed by the Council of Quinisextum (canon 14).

1 Cor 11:23. For I have received by revelation from the Lord himself immediately and directly (as, indeed, I have the entire Gospel, of which the doctrine of the Eucharist forms a prominent part), what I have already described to you by word of mouth touching this subject, viz., that the Lord Jesus, on the very night on which he was betrayed, took bread into his venerable and creative hands;

In order to point out the enormity of the sacrilegious communions, which were the great evils resulting from the excesses committed at the Agapes, the Apostle repeats the loving history of the institution of the adorable Eucharist, which he had already, when among them, described orally, and to their forgetfulness of which, as well as of the sanctity of the mystery they were about to approach, their irreverences, their contempt of the entire church, their neglect of the poor, their excesses might be attributed.

“The same night on which he was betrayed.” This circumstance the Apostle mentions, in order to commend the excessive charity of Christ for us in this adorable institution, wherein our amiable Saviour poured forth all the riches of his Divine love for man (Council of Trent, SS. 13, ch. 2), and exhausted all the treasures of his infinite riches, all the inventions of wisdom, and all the efforts of infinite power.—(St. Augustine). Oh! how calculated is not the frequent consideration of the boundless love of our Blessed Jesus in the Sacrament of the altar—wherein he makes it his delight to remain with the children of men, even unto the end of the world, although the greater part of mankind are quite insensible to the incomprehensible prodigy of love, which he there never fails to exhibit—wherein he is prodigal of himself, to an extent that the mind of man could not fathom, and faith alone could believe—to draw us, to force us to love this disinterested lover who first loved us. What is the gift bestowed? On whom is it bestowed? How long is it to last? When was it given? Why was it given? At how great a sacrifice was it given? Shall not the consideration of these and the other circumstances of this Divine institution, force us to love our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist!

1 Cor 11:24. And giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat, this is my body which shall be delivered for you. What I have now done, do you and your successors also to the end of time, in commemorat on of my bitter passion and death.

“And giving thanks.” These words express the act of returning thanks to his Heavenly Father, as well for his great benefit, which he had long pre-ordained, and which he is now immediately about to give, as for all his other blessings bestowed on mankind. The Evangelists add, in the history of the institution of the Eucharist—“he blessed”—the object of which benediction was, to implore upon the bread which he was about to consecrate, the Divine beneficence. In the Canon of the Mass, wherein the whole action is minutely and circumstantially detailed, are added the words, elevatis oculis in cœlum, which he is presumed to have done on this as well as on the other occasions when he performed miracles; he did so in multiplying the bread (Matt. 14), and in raising Lazarus from the grave (John, 11)

“Broke.” According to some Expositors, he did this before consecration. These say, there was a two-fold breaking, the one referred to here, the other in the words, “this is my body which shall be delivered for you,” or, as in the Greek, which is broken for you, very expressive of his immolation and subjection to great tortures on the altar of the Cross. It seems, however, more probable that only one breaking took place, viz., that which occurred at the consecration, and of which the Apostle only gives a summary account, neglecting the order in which things took place.

“This is my body, which shall be delivered for you.” In Greek, τὁ ὑπερ ὑμῶν κλωμενον, which is broken for you, of course in the external species or appearances. The words, “which is broken,” although in the present tense, are used for a proximate future; they have a pregnans significatio, equivalent to “broken and given.” It corresponds with διδομενον, in St. Luke (Lk 22:19). Hence, it is well expressed by the Vulgate, tradetur. The word, κλωμενον, is wanting in the Vatican and Alexandrian MSS. From these words is derived a most solid and unanswerable proof of the real presence of the body and blood of our Lord in the blessed Sacrament.—(Concil. Trid. SS. xiii. c. 1). The words must have been understood in their plain, literal sense by the Apostles at the Last Supper; for, the Redeemer gave them no clue, that we are aware of, for understanding them, figuratively. On the contrary, the words of promise, which they had heard a year before (John, 6), and of which the fulfilment was deferred to the present moment, should have made them expect, that he would leave them his real body and blood, which it is clear, from the offence his words caused them, they understood him to promise.—(John, 6:62, &c.) Hence, our Blessed Redeemer could not have employed figurative language on this occasion, unless he had forewarned his Apostles, that he intended doing so; since, according to all the acknowledged laws of language, the man would be guilty of a he, who would employ language, in a figurative sense, which he knew his hearers were prepared to understand, literally. Now, the Apostles could be prepared to understand our Redeemer’s words, in the literal sense only: and his words, therefore, could be uttered in that sense only by our Divine Reedeemer. Taken literally, they clearly enunciate, and, therefore, prove the real presence. “Which shall be delivered for you;” according to this reading, adopted by the Vulgate, reference is made in these words to our Redeemer’s death upon the cross. If we follow the Greek reading, which is broken for you, the words express the present breaking of his body under the appearance or species of bread; and this breaking, which affects only the species, is referred to the substance contained under them, viz., the body and blood of Christ.

“This do for a commemoration of me,” i.e., in commemoration of his death and passion (as in verse 24). It is to be observed, that the three Evangelists (Matthew, 26.; Mark, 14.; Luke, 22), and St. Paul here, give the same precise words in the consecration of the bread, “This is my Body;” to which St. Luke adds, “which is given for you,” and St. Paul here, “which shall be delivered for you.”

1 Cor 11:25. In like manner, after having first partaken of the Paschal supper, and also of the ordinary Jewish supper, he took the chalice, saying, this chalice, i.e., the contents of this chalice, is the authentic instrument of the New Testament, sealed and sanctioned in my blood, or, the thing contained in this chalice of my blood, it is, that ratifies and confirms the New Testament. As often as you shall drink of this, do it in commemoration of me.

“After he had supped.” These words are added in the account given by St. Paul of the consecration of the chalice; because, as is clear from the history of the Last Supper by St. Luke (22:17–20), there were two different chalices used on the occasion; one, the cup employed by the Jewish householder, before the Paschal supper; the other, the Eucharistic chalice, which is not to be confounded with the former—for, it was only after the Paschal Supper, and after the Jewish common supper also, that the Eucharistic chalice was consecrated. It is to be borne in mind, that it was only after the Paschal and the Jewish common suppers, which were used on the occasion of the Pasch (for the Jews had two suppers on this occasion, the Paschal and the common one), the bread also was transubstantiated; but this circumstance is omitted by the Apostle when describing the consecration of the bread; because, no confusion would result from such omission; whereas, if omitted in the history of the consecration of the cup, this Euchariastic cup might be confounded with that used at the common supper.

“This chalice,” the container for the thing contained.

“Is the new testament.” It is a “testament,” being the instrument through which a dying testator bequeathes a gift.

“New,” in opposition to the old, given by Moses; and, moreover, it conveys new blessings of a more exalted and spiritual character.

The form of the consecration of the chalice left us by St. Paul and St. Luke, is perfectly the same; “this chalice is the new testament in my blood,” to which St. Luke adds, τό ὑπερ ὑμῶν εκχυνομενον, “which shall be shed for you,” (Lk 22:20). The form recorded by St. Matthew, which is the same as that of St. Mark, is somewhat different from that employed here by St. Paul and by St. Luke. In Matthew and Mark, the form is, “this is my blood of the new testament which shall be shed for many,” to which is added in St. Matthew, “unto the remission of sin.” The meaning of which is, that the new covenant of God with man, promising grace here and glory hereafter, on certain conditions, is ratified and sanctioned by the blood contained in the chalice; for it was by the effusion of the blood of Christ that these blessings were secured to man. The form here employed by St. Paul, and by St. Luke, “this chalice is the new testament,” &c., is reconciled by Piconio and A’Lapide with the form used by St. Matthew, “this is my blood of the new testament,” &c., in this way: they attach a different meaning to “testament,” in both cases. With St. Matthew, it means, the will itself. Here, according to them, it means the authentic instrument or copy of that will. Estius gives the word, “testament,” the same precise signification in both cases; he says, that the form here used by St. Paul means precisely the same thing with the form of St. Matthew. This chalice, or what is contained in this chalice of my blood, it is, that ratifies and confirms the new testament. Estius transposes the words, “in my blood,” as they are found in the form used here by St. Paul, and joins them with the word “chalice,” “this chalice in my blood,” which, according to him, means the same as “this chalice of my blood;” and he appears to insinuate that the difference of case “in my blood,” for, “of my blood,” is owing to some idiomatic peculiarity of language. This exposition has the advantage of giving the words used on this solemn occasion, the same fixed and definite meaning.

From this is clearly proved that the real blood of Christ was there; for, it was real blood that was shed in the testament of Moses, to which these words are allusive, and it would be perfectly unmeaning to suppose that the type was dedicated in real blood, and the antitype, only in the figure of blood.

“This do ye, as often as you shall drink,” &c. It is the doctrine of the Council of Trent (SS. xxii. chap. 1, de Missæ Sacrif.) that, at the institution of the adorable Eucharist, our Redeemer constituted his Apostles priests of the new testament, and commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to offer up (his body and blood), under the symbols or appearances of bread and wine, when he uttered the words, “Do this in commemoration of me.”

The precept conveyed in this and the preceding verses, by no means implies that the faithful are bound to receive communion under both kinds. For, our Redeemer directly addresses his priests, and commands them to offer sacrifice; to do, what he has done, to the end of time, in commemoration of his bitter death and passion. The only precept indirectly, or, rather, by correlative obligation binding on the faithful, is, to receive the Eucharist from the hands of their pastors, and in receiving it, to commemorate the death of Christ. But there is no command imposed on them to receive it under two kinds. Nay, the very conditional form in which our Redeemer speaks, when referring to the chalice, “this is ye as often as you shall drink.” &c., would imply the contrary; for why employ a condition if it were absolutely imperative? The command goes no farther in reference to the faithful, than to commemorate the death of Christ, when approaching to Holy Communion, and this may be done even under one kind. No doubt, Holy Communion was given in the early ages under both kinds; but, this was only a matter of discipline which might vary, but not of precept, which it was not in the power of the Church to change. She, for wise reasons, changed the discipline of former ages, and now allows Communion to be given to the faithful under one kind only. The precept of receiving under both kinds, only regarded the priests offering sacrifice, and the sacrifice most perfectly “shewed” forth the death of Christ, under the two distinct kinds.

1 Cor 11:26. As often, then, as you shall partake of this bread (transubstantiated into the body), and drink the chalice (changed into the blood of Christ), you shall announce the death of the Lord until he comes to judge the world.

In this verse, the Apostle explains the precept included in the institution of the Eucharist, as regarded the faithful, viz., that as often as they partook of the body and blood of Christ, they should announce his death, until he comes to judge the world. The Eucharist, therefore, is to continue till the end of time. “And drink the chalice,” the common Greek has, ποτηριον τουτο, this chalice, but, this, is cancelled by the best critics, on the authority of the chief MSS. “You shall shew.” The Greek is in the present, “you do show,” καταγγελλετε.

1 Cor 11:27. Whosoever, therefore, shall eat this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, i.e., in the state of mortal sin, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

“Therefore,” shows the object which the Apostle had in view in referring to the institution of the Eucharist, viz., to impress the Corinthians with the enormity of the sin of unworthy Communion. As, then, the Eucharist is a real representation of the suffering and death of Christ (verse 26), “whosoever, therefore,” receives him unworthily in the Eucharist “is guilty,” &c.

“Unworthily,” by positive irreverence, in the state of mortal sin, such as was the state of those referred to here, who committed excesses, and were harsh to the poor at the Agapes.

“Guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” These words evidently suppose his body and blood to be present: otherwise, how could so strong an assertion be warranted? Who could, with any degree of propriety, say, that by insulting or maltreating the picture of a king, a man is guilty of the body and blood of the king? Such a man might be justly charged with irreverence or disrespect to the king, whose image he abuses; but, surely, it would be preposterous to say of him, that he would be guilty of the body and blood of the king. Hence, the body and blood of Christ must be present in the Eucharist, to warrant so strong an assertion on the part of the Apostle.

From this verse it follows, that both species are not necessarily, as a matter of precept, to be taken together at Holy Communion. For, the Apostle supposes that a man may receive either one or the other unworthily; and as it is evident from the entire context, this unworthiness is made by him to consist, not in the separate taking of one species without the other, or in disjoining what should be taken jointly, but in the previous unworthy dispositions of the recipient; for, he speaks of the abuses against morals committed at the Agapes. Hence, it follows, that one part could be received worthily without the other, provided the previous dispositions of the recipient were worthy. In the Protestant Bibles, the words of this verse, contrary to the original Greek, are corruptly rendered. “Whoesoever shall eat this bread, and drink,” &c. The Greek is ἤ πίνη, &c., “or drink,” &c.

1 Cor 11:28. If, then, a man feels conscious of being in mortal sin, let him prove himself by good sacramental confession; and, then, he may eat of this flesh and drink of this chalice.

“Prove himself.” This proof is made by the Council of Trent (SS. 13, chap. 7). to consist, should a man be conscious of a mortal sin, in a good sacramental confession, and this the Council commands, should there be an opportunity of confessing—“and so let him eat of that bread,” &c. The meaning of the words is—he may then, after such proof, partake of that bread and drink of the chalice. The proof here required does not regard faith, as the sectaries pretend; for the Apostle is referring to breaches of morality.

1 Cor 11:29. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment—that is to say, entails damnation on himself, in punishment of his not discerning the body of the Lord, treating it with no more respect than he would treat common bread.

“For he that eateth and drinketh” (or does one or the other, as is clear from verse 27, of which this is but a fuller repetition), “unworthily” in the sense already assigned—such a man “eateth and drinketh judgment,” i.e., damnation to himself. He receives his judge, Christ, who will condemn him.

“Not discerning the body of the Lord.” Now, if the body of the Lord were not really there, how incur guilt for not discerning it? This verse is the same as verse 27, the words of which, “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” show that the guilt of those who received him unworthily in holy Communion, was equal to that of those who crucified Christ; since receiving him in Communion, his death is commemorated. And a man is said to be guilty of the body and blood of another, not simply by killing him, but when he murders him in a cruel, barbarous manner. O God of mercy! pardon us the many outrages committed against thee in the Sacrament of thy love. Preserve us from murdering, by an unworthy Communion, Him who was tortured for our sakes, to save us from the eternal tortures of the damned.

1 Cor 11:30. In punishment of these bad communions, many amongst you are afflicted with divers maladies and infirmities, and many, punished with death.

Many were visited in the primitive Church, with corporal infirmities and premature death in punishment of unworthy Communions.

1 Cor 11:31. If, then, we would examine and prove ourselves, and expiate our sins by a good confession, we would avert these judgments and punishments from us.

While referring to the visible punishments inflicted on many of them, he consoles them at the same time by the assurance, that these punishments were only the paternal and salutary corrections which God, as a merciful and tender lather, had inflicted on them for their greater good, viz., to save them from the eternal punishment of the damned, in store for the infidels and sinners of “this world.” The visible punishment here referred to is that of death, verse 30.

From this it follows, that although the guilt and eternal debt or liability of sin be remitted, as happened in this case, “that we may not be condemned with this world,” still, the temporal debt sometimes remains to be remitted, “whilst we are judged, we are corrected [i.e., punished] by the Lord.” This proposition, viz., that sometimes, after the remission of the guilt and eternal punishment due to sin, a temporal debt remains to be expiated, either in this life or in Purgatory, is, de fide Catholica, defined in the Council of Trent, (SS. xiv., chap, viii.):—“Sancta Synodus declarat falsum omnino esse, et a verbo Dei alienum, culpam a Domino nunquam remitti, quin universa etiam pœna condonctur;” and (Can. xii.):—“Si quis dixerit totam pœnam simul cum culpa remitti semper a Deo—Anathema sit.”

1 Cor 11:32. Whilst, however, we are thus punished, we are only experiencing the correction which the Lord administers to us as children, to save us from being involved in the same judgment of condemnation with the sinners and infidels of this world.

No commentary on this verse is offered beyond the paraphrase

1 Cor 11:33. Wherefore, on the occasion of all your future meetings at your Agapes; let them be in reality the Lord’s suppers, common to all, and wait for one another.

This shows that the Apostle does not intend to abolish the Agapes, but only to correct the abuses committed in them, and have them reformed.

1 Cor 11:34. If any man be too hungry to remain fasting so long, let him eat at home, in order that your meetings may not serve as so many occasions of damnation on account of your excesses, your pride, and contempt of the poor. Other matters connected with this subject, I will prescribe and arrange as soon as I shall have come amongst you.

“If any man be hungry,” i.e., unable to fast until evening, when the Agape was celebrated, “let him eat at home,” and not make these religious assemblies, intended for their salvation, the occasion of damnation. He is contented with inculcating this one point. He reserves all other points of reformation for his advent amongst them. What these were, cannot be determined. St. Augustine says (Epistle 118), that receiving the Communion in a state of fasting, was one of the points arranged by him.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 10

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle continues, as far as verse 14 of this chapter, the subject referred to in the close of the preceding. He shows why both he and they should fear, lest they might be cast off and numbered amongst the reprobate; and, in order to guard them against relying too confidently on the signal favours which they heretofore received, he introduces the example of the Jews, who left Egypt, whose history—both as to favours conferred and punishment inflicted—was a type of the benefits conferred on us in the New Law, and of the punishment to be inflicted on ns, should we imitate them in sinning. Their passage through the desert was a figure of our passage through life, towards the true Chanaan. Their helps given them primarily, in reference to a temporal end, were a figure of ours given in reference to a spiritual; and, as all the Jews who, the year after leaving Egypt, reached the twentieth year of their age, to the number of six hundred thousand, died in the desert (Caleb and Joshua excepted), without entering the land of Chanaan, although they all partook of the same favours and privileges;—so there is cause for us to dread, should we follow their sinful example, the like exclusion from the Chanaan of Heaven (verse 14). He reverts, after a long digression, to the subject of Idolothytes, of which he treated (chap. 8), and classes the use of them, in certain circumstances, with Idol worship (14). He proves from examples drawn both from the Christian and Jewish laws, that, by partaking of Idolothytes, they join in Idol worship (1 Cor 10:14–19). He shows the enormity of this crime, as it is nothing short of joining in the worship of devils (1 Cor 10:19–22). He next considers the circumstance of scandal, resulting from the use of Idolothytes (1 Cor 10:22–25). He shows when the use of them is allowed (1 Cor 10:25–28). In case, however, a remark be made, either by believers or unbelievers, that the things set before us were offered to Idols, we should abstain from them in charity to our informants (1 Cor 10:28–30). The safest rule for avoiding scandal in every case is to refer all our actions to the glory of God without giving offence in any quarter, after the example of the Apostle himself.

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.

1 Cor 10:1. (It is not without reason, that I, as well as you, have to fear the dreadful curse of reprobation, notwithstanding the many spiritual advantages bestowed upon us.) For, I would not have you ignorant, that our fathers were under the pillar of cloud, and they all miraculously crossed the Red Sea, after their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt.

“Our fathers.” He calls the ancient Jews the “fathers” of the Corinthians, because the Corinthians were the spiritual Israel at the time; or it may be, that he addresses the Jewish portion particularly, as being the best informed in religion. “The cloud” is that referred to (Exodus 13:22-23). It preceded the people, overshadowing and protecting them from the sun’s heat by day, and this during their entire journey, from the time they left Egypt until they reached Chanaan. By night, in its place was a pillar of fire. “Through the sea” refers to their miraculous passage across the Red Sea. This, and the preceding, were signal favours on the part of God.

1 Cor 10:2. And they were all baptized by the ministry and under the guidance of Moses, in this cloud and in the sea.

The baptism in question, caused, probably, by their immersion in the thick vapours from the cloud that overhung them, and from the sea through which they passed, was typical of our baptism; and several other circumstances attending their passage, were types of the effects which baptism produces (verse 9); the drowning of Egyptians was a type of the destruction of our sin in baptism, &c. Others, strictly adhering to the Greek, “and all unto Moses were baptized,” εἰς τὸν Μω̈υσην, interpret the words thus:—They were initiated into the religion of Moses, in the same way as we are introduced into the Church by baptism; because the protection divinely extended to them in both these instances, made them at once follow Moses and embrace the religion propounded by him. The former, however, is the more probable interpretation; because, the Apostle speaks of what occurred to the incredulous as well as to the believers.

1 Cor 10:3. And they all ate the same spiritual food, viz., the manna.

“The same spiritual food,” viz., the manna, which is called “spiritual,” because formed in the air by the hands of angels; or, rather, on account of its spiritual signification; for, it signified the adorable body of Christ, given us for food in the Holy Eucharist. “The same,” among themselves, but not as St. Augustine understands it, the same with our spiritual food. According to him, they took the same spiritual food as ours, because they partook by faith of that which we receive really. This interpretation of St. Augustine is very improbable; because the Apostle has not hitherto said a single word about our spiritual food. Moreover, it is of the Hebrews alone he speaks in the fifth verse, where it is said, “but with the most of them, God was not pleased.” Again, “all” the Jews did not receive Christ spiritually by faith; for many of them were incredulous.

1 Cor 10:4. And they all drank the same spiritual drink, viz., the water from the rock; for, they drank of the spiritual rock, which followed them in the rivers of water flowing from it to a great distance after them, till they reached abundance; and the object signified by this rock was Christ.

“The same spiritual drink.” “Spiritual,” because figurative of the sacred blood of Christ. This, most probably, refers to the issue from the rock of Horeb, at Raphidim, in the first year of their egress from Egypt (Exodus 18), and not to that recorded (Num. 20), because, this latter issuing of the water occurred at Cades, in Sin, in the last year of the sojourn of the Jews in the desert, and after the construction of the tabernacle, as is clear from the fact of Moses taking the rod, “which was before the Lord” (Num. 20:8), i.e., in the tabernacle of the covenant. And as the Apostle refers to this as one of the blessings, notwithstanding which, “they were overthrown in the desert,” he must, consequently have referred to the issuing of the water which occurred before their death, and hence, not to that which occurred the last year of their abode in the desert, when most of those who left Egypt, after the age of twenty, were dead. (“And they drank of the spiritual rock,” &c.; in Greek, ἔπεινον γὰρ, for they drank, &c., as if these words were corroborative of the preceding.) The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase is founded on the words of the Psalmist, who, in commemorating the benefits of God towards the Jews in the desert says, et deduxit tanquam flumina aquas (Psalm 68), disrupit petram et fluxerunt aquæ, abierunt flumina in sicco,—(Psalm 105). Others interpret the words thus: they drank of the spiritual rock which followed them; because they were favoured with the exercise of the power of Christ which followed and protected them through the desert. However, in this interpretation, the Apostle should have rather said, which preceded them, because Christ, or his conducting angel, preceded rather than “followed” them.—(Exodus, 23 and 32)

“And the rock was Christ.” From the Greek, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός, it cannot be ascertained which word is the predicate, and which, the subject of this proposition. However, the evident meaning is, that Christ was the object signified by this rock, or this rock in signification was Christ; and hence, spiritual.

The Sacramentarians can ground no objection against the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, on the analogy between the two propositions, “the rock was Christ,” and “this is my body.” Because, in order to be warranted, according to the established laws of human language, in saying of the sign that it is a thing signified, we should be aware, that either our hearers or readers were prepared to understand us as speaking figuratively, as predicating of the sign, the thing signified. This is one of the fundamental laws of human language. Now, at the Last Supper—the occasion when the words, “this is my body,” were uttered—the Apostles received no intimation whatever, that our Redeemer meant the words, “this is my body,” to be taken figuratively—on the contrary, they were to expect that he would leave them his real body and blood, as their meat and drink, in fulfilment of the promise made to them on a former occasion (John, chapter 6); whereas, we are informed by the Apostle, in this place that there is question of figurative language throughout (verses 6 and 11). Secondly, whenever it would involve an absurdity to predicate one thing of another, in the literal signification, then the proposition must be taken figuratively, as in the propositions, Christ is a lion, Christ is a door. &c. So it is also with regard to the proposition, “the rock was Christ.” Hence, it must be understood figuratively: but there is no absurdity in saying of the object present at the Last Supper, in the most literal sense, this is my body. Since Christ not only announced a truth, but operated a change, making the thing to be, what he announced or predicated regarding it.

1 Cor 10:5. But most of them did not please God; for, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, the carcases of all the men, who, after the numbering which occurred the first year of their leaving Egypt, had reached the age of twenty, were strewed in the wilderness.—(Num. 14:29-30; 26:64-65).

Although all had been favoured with these signal blessings on the part of God, which served as it were for so many pledges, that they were to enter the land of Chanaan; still, out of six hundred thousand men, who reached the age of twenty, the first year after their departure from Egypt, only two, viz., Caleb and Joshua, entered the land of promise; and this, in punishment of their having displeased God by their sins—an awful warning to us not to confide too much on the past favours and pledges of God’s goodness; for, if we follow the sinful example of the Israelites, we too shall be excluded from the true Chanaan of heaven, whereof that, towards which they were journeying, was a figure. “With most of them,” ἐν τοῖς πλείοσιν, “with many of them.”

1 Cor 10:6. Now, all these things were typical of us; their helps of our graces; their temporal punishment and exclusion from Chanaan, of our eternal punishment and exclusion from heaven; and convey to us, at the same time, a wholesome warning, not to imitate their sinful course, not to covet evil things, as they inordinately coveted flesh meat.

“Were done in a figure of us.” In Greek, ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἑγενήθησαν, were types of us; the word signifies both a type or rude delineation, and also an example or warning, both which meanings are given in the Paraphrase; as the gifts were types, so likewise was the punishment. “That we should not covet evil things.” (In allusion to the greediness of the Corinthians for Idolothytes). “As they also coveted.” The Apostle refers to the occasion (Numbers 11), when disgusted with the manna, they cried out, “who will give us flesh to eat?” (Numbers 11:4); and from the punishment inflicted on them, after partaking of the quails sent into the camp, the place was called “the graves of lust.”—(Numbers 11:34).

1 Cor 10:7. Nor become idolaters, like some of them, when in the absence of Moses, they adored the golden calf of which occurrence, it was written (Exodus 35:6): The people sat down to eat and drink, and afterwards rose up to indulge in sportive amusement of all sorts, in honour of their new god.

“Neither become ye idolaters” (in allusion to the participation of Idolothytes in suspicious circumstancs, which might render them suspected of joining in idol worship), “as some of them.” He refers to the adoration of the golden calf set up by Aaron, while Moses was receiving the law from God on Mount Sinai. “As it is written: The people sat down to eat,” &c.—(Exodus 32). The people after presenting holocausts and peace offerings to their idol, sat down to eat and drink; and then rose up to indulge in all sorts of sportive amusements, leaping, dancing, &c. in honour of their new God. These words, viz., the people sat down, &c., are quoted by the Apostle, simply because in Exodus they are found immediately connected with the description of their idolatrous conduct. The Apostle does not appear to intend them for a proof of any kind. He merely quotes them, because of their connection with idolatry to which he refers.—(Exodus 32:6).

1 Cor 10:8. Nor commit fornication as some of them did, on the occasion of the introduction of the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1), and twenty-three thousand were slain in one day.

“Neither let us commit fornication.” These words are allusive to the libidinous propensities of the Corinthians (see chap. 6) “And there fell in one day three-and-twenty thousand.” In the book of Numbers 25:9, it is said, “four and twenty thousand fell.” How reconcile both accounts? Some say, there is no contradiction whatever. St. Paul says, “twenty-three thousand in one day fell.” Moses does not say “twenty-four thousand in one day.” By these Expositors it is supposed that a thousand of the chiefs were slain on the first day, and twenty-three thousand of the people, on the second day, to which St. Paul here refers. Others say, that between twenty-three and twenty-four thousands were the numbers slain, and that both the Apostle and Moses, as historians of the fact, recorded only the round numbers, without attending to strict numerical accuracy; so that St. Paul took the lesser, and Moses, the greater number. Estius adopts the mode of reconciling both statements proposed by Œcumenius, who says, that he found in some copies of this epistle twenty-four thousand, and that twenty-three thousand was inserted through the carelessness of the amanuensis. A’Lapide says, the twenty-three thousand slain, mentioned in this verse, refer not to the fornicators; but to the idolaters (verse 7); and in the book of Exodus 32:28, we find the number of them slain to be “about twenty-three thousand men,” in which interpretation, there is no discrepancy whatever. In favour of this opinion, A’Lapide asserts that it was not unusual with Hebrew writers to refer to a remote antecedent, what might naturally be connected with what immediately precedes.

1 Cor 10:9. Nor tempt Christ, as some of them did, and were destroyed by fiery serpents.

“Neither let us tempt Christ,” probably contains an allusion to the denial of His resurrection by some of the Corinthians. “As some of them tempted.” How could the Jews of old “tempt Christ” since it was only after His Incarnation the Second person of the Adorable Trinity was called “Christ” or the anointed? Again, from the comparison instituted by St. Paul to the Hebrews (chap. 2) between the promulgation of the New Law and the Old, we know that the former was promulgated by Christ himself, and the latter only by his angels; and was it not the same angel whom God intrusted with the guidance of his people, generally supposed to be Michael the Archangel—the protector of the Synagogue, as he is now of the Church—who had a principal share in promulgating the law of Sinai? The common answer of the Holy Fathers and Divines is, that the Angel in question, who also appeared to Abraham, Daniel, and Moses, in the burning bush, and is called “Dominus,” assumed the same external form, which Christ united to himself hypostatically; and hence, it was Christ represented by him that the Jews tempted.

1 Cor 10:10. Nor murmur against authority, as some of them murmured, in the rebellion of Core, Dathan, and Abiron, and were exterminated by the destroying Angel.

This, most probably, refers to the murmuring consequent on the rebellion of Core, Dathan, and Abiron, on which occasion the multitude cried out against Moses and Aaron, “you have killed the people of the Lord” (Numbers 16:41), in punishment of which, fourteen thousand seven hundred were destroyed (verse 49), besides the two hundred and fifty whom the earth swallowed up in the rebellion of Core, &c. The destruction to which the Apostle here refers, as effected by the destroying angel, was put a stop to by Aaron when, taking a censer in his hand, he interposed “between the dead and the living” (verse 48). In the five preceding verses, the Apostle is instancing the crimes which he had to animadvert upon in the Corinthians, and by showing the punishments inflicted upon the Jews for the like transgressions, he wishes to inspire them with a salutary dread of falling into those sins in future.

1 Cor 10:11. Now, all these things happened to them in figure, their punishment was but a type of ours, and serves as an awful warning to us, against imitating their transgressions. They were written for our admonition who have lived in the last age of the world.

“Our correction.” In Greek, νουθεσιαν ἡμῶν, which may also be rendered, our admonition. They were written to admonish us not to sin as they did, for fear of being involved in the like punishment. “Upon whom the ends of the word,” &c.; by these words is meant, the end of the ages of the world. Ours is the last age, because no other form of religion—no other dispensation will succeed ours till the end of all things. Hence, the term of the Christian religion is called “the last hour.”—(1 Jn 2:18).

1 Cor 10:12. Wherefore, let him who thinks that he is firmly established in the state of grace, not be too confident, but take care lest he fall.

From this passage is drawn a conclusive argument against the heretical doctrine of the inamissibility of grace; the Apostle supposes the man in question to be just; for, unless he supposed him to be really standing in grace, his exhortation would be: “let him take to stand really, and not in an imaginary way; let him attain justice and return by penance;” but, by exhorting him to take care, “lest he fall” or lose justice, he evidently supposes him to be just; and hence, that the just man can lose grace, for how could he fall away from justice, unless he were before in it?

Objection.—The Apostle speaks only of him who thinks he stands.

Resp.—The Apostle uses this form of language in preference to the words, he who stands; because many think they stand who do not, in reality; and, secondly, because if he said, he who stands, his exhortation would be without effect, since no one could be certain whether he stood or not, “whether he was worthy of love or hatred;” at all events, the words suppose that a man can fall, and, hence, lose grace; for, if he was not in the state of grace, he could not fall from it.

1 Cor 10:13. Hitherto you have experienced some trials. May God grant, that no temptation assail you in future, unless such as may be accommodated to human strength, aided by the ordinary helps of Divine grace; but no matter to what trials you may be exposed God—who is faithful to His Divine promises, assuring us, that if we call upon him, he will hear us—will not permit you to be assailed beyond your strength; nay, by administering the necessary graces, he will bring the temptation to so favourable a conclusion, as that you may come off victorious in the conflict.

“Let no temptation take hold on you,” &c. This rendering of the words, “Let no temptation,” &c., in the imperative mood, is perfectly in accordance with the Latin Vulgate, non apprehendat tentatio, &c. According to this rendering, the words mean: take care that no temptation of a diabolical nature assail you; as for those that are “human,” i.e., incidental to our nature, God will so temper them, as to lead to a favourable issue, and cause you gain by them. The optative rendering is preferred in the Paraphrase: “May no temptation in future assail you,” &c., this is also admitted by the Vulgate, apprehendat. According to the Greek reading, the words are employed in the perfect indicative, πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν, “a temptation has not assailed you, except a human one,” &c. According to this reading, the meaning is—you need not be too confident of your strength (verse 12); nor should you rely to much on your past firmness—for, no temptation has hitherto assailed you, that could not be easily overcome by man, aided by the ordinary helps of Divine grace. By this, the Apostle prepares them for the heavy and severe trials, to which they afterwards had to submit in the persecutions they endured for the faith. This is the meaning and bearing of the passage according to the Greek. In the Paraphrase the Vulgate is followed. “And God is faithful,” &c. God is faithful to the promise he has repeatedly pledged of hearing us, if we call upon him, and of giving us the crown of life—“but will make also with the temptation, issue,” τὴν ἕκβασιν, the way of escape, a triumphant evasion or deliverance from it. “That you may be able to bear it,” that is, bear up against the shock of the temptation, and suffer no injury from it. From this verse is proved the dogma of faith against Jansenius, viz., that the just have hic et nunc, sufficient grace to overcome the urgent temptation; for, St. Paul addresses the just; otherwise, verse 12, he would tell them to repent rather than “take care not to fall”—and of them he says, God will give all the necessary graces, so that no temptation, which may be above their strength, shall assail them.

1 Cor 10:14. Wherefore, keeping in mind all the foregoing examples of punishment inflicted on the sinful Jews, or, in order that God may give you grace to persevere under temptation, fly from the worship of idols, this not being a human, but a diabolical temptation.

“Wherefore.” This may regard what immediately precedes, viz., “that you may be able to bear;” or, his motive in adducing the foregoing example of Jewish infidelities and punishment (as in Paraphrase), “flee from the service of idols.” This has reference to their partaking of idolothytes, of which he treated in chapter 8. After a long digression, he reverts to the same subject, and shows that the use of them savours, to a certain extent, of idol worship (verse 20).

1 Cor 10:15. I speak to persons of judgment, capable of appreciating the force of my observations. Be you, yourselves, judges of what I am about to say

This, he adds, to guard against giving any offence, and to soften down any harshness which they might conceive to be involved in the observations, and proofs which he is about to adduce.

1 Cor 10:16. The blessed chalice, upon which we invoke the Divine bounty and omnipotence, doth it not make us partakers of the blood of Christ, and by this participation, unite us with him? And the heavenly bread which we break, in its external species, doth it not make us partakers of his divine body in the same way?

In the following verses, the Apostle undertakes to prove the truth of the assertion implied in the words, “flee from the service of idols” (verse 14), viz., that by partaking of the meats, &c., offered to idols in certain circumstances, they incurred the guilt of taking part in the sacrifice offered to idols: and for this end, he adduces two illustrations, one derived from the Christian law (verses 16-17); another, from the law of Moses (verse 18). “The chalice of benediction,” i.e., the chalice blessed by Christ, “which we bless,” i.e., upon which we daily invoke, in the adorable Sacrifice, the benediction pronounced over it by Christ. What the “benediction” referred to here means, is a matter of dispute. It does not appear to regard the act of thanksgiving, gratias agens, uttered by Christ before he pronounced the word of consecration at the Last Supper; for, this was referred to God, and not to the bread or wine; neither does it seem to regard the act of consecration itself. It, most probably, refers to the act distinct from both, performed by Christ before the consecration, as we find in St. Matthew and St. Mark, and usually performed by him in the several instances of the multiplication of material bread, viz., the act of invoking the Divine bounty and omnipotence on the bread and wine about to be transubstantiated into his body and blood, imparting the heavenly efficacy of transubstantiation to the form of consecration, to be pronounced on future occasions by his annointed ministers. This is the meaning given of the word “benediction” by the Council of Trent, SS. 13, ch. 1:—Post panis vinique benedictionem, se suum ipsius corpus illis præbere, ac suum sanguinem, disertis ac perspicuis verbis testatus est; and in the Canon of the Mass, the act of benediction is accurately distinguished from either the thanksgiving or consecration, tibi gratis agens benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens; Hoc est enim Corpus meum.

“The chalice of benediction”—the container for the thing contained—“is it not the communion (in the Greek, κοινωνια), of the blood of Christ?”—that is, does it not make us partakers of the blood of Christ, so as to become united with him in this participation of his blood? “And the bread,” he calls it “bread,” on account of its pre-existing materials, just as the serpent of Aaron, which devoured those of the magicians, is still called “a rod,” the form from which it was changed (Exodus 7:12), “which we break,” as to its external species and appearances. “Is it not the partaking (κοινωνια) of the body of the Lord,” (in Greek, τοῦ Χριστοῦ, of Christ), uniting us to him as above, in the case of his blood. In this interrogative form the Apostle supposes the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as a dogma of faith, with which they were all intimately acquainted.

1 Cor 10:17. So real is the communication of his body and blood in the Eucharist, and our consequent union with him, that all of us who partake of the one bread, although we are many, become, by this participation, one bread and one body.

Having supposed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the preceding verse, the Apostle, in this verse, refers to one of the effects of communion—viz., perfect union between the receivers themselves, and also perfect union between them and Christ whom they receive, leaving it to the Corinthians to be inferred, that by partaking of the Idolothytes, they become sharers with the infidels in the sacrifice, and thus fall into idolatry.

The words of this verse contain a most conclusive proof of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. First.—This is inferred from the Apostle’s calling the bread, of which he himself and they partook, at communion, “one bread.” No other bread used at communion (to which the Apostle here refers) could be called “one bread,” except the body of Christ. He could not, with any propriety of language, call several common loaves or breads, “one bread,” in consequence of their having one typical signification, or representation, as our adversaries explain it. As well might it be said, that the priests of the Old Law had eaten of one lamb, because the lambs of which they severally partook had one mystical signification—they signified Christ; and yet no one could say the latter, without the grossest impropriety. Hence, by saying, “we are one body, one bread, all that partake of one bread,” including himself with them, though living in places so far asunder, the Apostle must suppose them to partake of the same identical bread—viz., the body of Christ. Nor could it be said that the Apostle might refer to one large loaf, which would suffice for the communion of all; because, the number of Christians at Corinth was too large for one loaf to suffice for their communion. “I have much people in that city,” (Acts 18); and, besides, these words are intended for all future times—for the body of the Church, when the number of her children partaking of this one bread would be beyond number. It is, then, only in reference to the body of Christ, he could say that he and they partook of the one bread; because the body of Christ was everywhere one and the same.

Secondly.—The same is inferred from his saying, “we being many are one bread, one body,” &c. By partaking of bread, the food and the receiver become one. If one man partake of food, although of the same description, distinct from the portion taken by another, the receivers are not, therefore, identified with one another; it is only in the supposition, that the food taken by a number of persons is identically the same—that the receivers are, on account of this participation, identified, according to the logical axiom, “Quæ sunt eadem uni tertio sunt eadem interse.” It is by their partaking of the same identical food, that they are identified with the food, and therefore among themselves; and there is no other food or bread in creation which is taken identically the same by all receivers, except the body of Christ; hence, by saying that, in consequence of partaking of one bread, they are made “one body and one bread,” the Apostle supposes them to partake of the body of Christ.

1 Cor 10:18. Look to the Jews who continue to profess the Jewish religion, are not those, who eat of the victims offered, made partakers of the altar? Do they not join, and have they not a share in the sacrifice?

This is a second illustration, or argument, drawn from the Jewish religion, to prove that, by partaking of Idolothytes in certain circumstances, they join in the worship of idols.

1 Cor 10:19. What then is my conclusion? Do I contradict what I have already stated (chap. 8) regarding idols? Do I say that an idol is anything?—or, that the thing offered to idols receives any sacrifices therefrom? By no means.

To all these different questions, the answer, by no means, is understood. The several questions may be regarded as so many negations.

1 Cor 10:20. But, what the Gentiles offer in sacrifice, they immolate not to God, but to demons. (Hence, he who partakes of Idolothytes communicates with demons). I do not wish you to hold communion with demons.

“But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils.” And hence, by partaking, in certain circumstances, of the things offered to their idols, you may be fairly presumed to identify yourselves with the Pagans, and join in their intention. Whenever, then, a man would be considered by all, and rationally presumed, from circumstances, to join the Pagans, in consummating their sacrifice by partaking of the things offered to idols, he would incur the guilt of idolatry. The tables of the Gentiles, in such circumstances, are nothing else than “tables of devils:” for, it is to honour the devils (“all gods of the Gentiles are devils”—Psalm 96), and consummate the sacrifice offered to them, that such tables are set up. And, even were a Christian to exclude all idea, under these peculiar circumstances, of joining in a false worship, still, the external act itself would be fairly construed into an external participation in idol worship.

1 Cor 10:21. You cannot, without a monstrous association of things in themselves incompatible, drink the chalice of the Lord and that of devils—partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils.

This passage furnishes the clearest proof in favour of the sacrifice of the Mass. The evident scope of the Apostle, in referring to the practice observed in the Christian and Mosiac laws, is to prove that by joining the Pagans in partaking of Idolothytes, the Christians of Corinth joined in Pagan sacrifices. Now, unless he supposes the Christians to have a sacrifice on their altar, his reasoning, so far as the example drawn from the Christian law is concerned, would be quite inconclusive. Moreover, he institutes a comparison between the “table of the Lord” and “the table of devils.” The latter, then, must denote a table for sacrifice, or, at least, one in immediate connection with it; for, he would never term the ordinary table of the Gentiles, “the table of devils,” since he permits the Christians to eat of it (verse 17). Hence, he supposes “the table of the Lord” also to be an altar, as otherwise there would be no meaning in the comparison instituted. We know the Pagans did offer sacrifices, and that it is to the meats, &c., offered in sacrifice the Apostle here alludes. The word “table” in Scripture language is frequently used to designate an altar; thus Isiaias 65, “qui ponitis mensam fortunæ,” &c.; and Malachy, 1, “mensa Domini despecta est,” with many similar examples. Again, the Apostle compares the Pagan with the Christian offerings in the same way that he compares them with the Jewish offerings, and for the same purpose. Now, the latter were real sacrifices, and so must, therefore, the Christians offerings also; otherwise, the Apostle would adduce two examples from two different dispensations—viz., the Christian (verse 16), and the Mosaic (verse 18), for the purpose of proving that by partaking of Idolothytes in certain circumstances, the Corinthians were joining in Pagan sacrifice, the first of which would not be, at all, in point, unless he supposed a sacrifice to take place in the Christian communion, when they approach “the table of the Lord.” Hence, the Apostle supposes as a matter already known to them, that they had a sacrifice on the Christian altars.

Question.—Does not the Apostle, in this passage, contradict what he asserts, chap. 8, and also verse 27 of this chapter, in both which places he appears to say, that, per se, the partaking of meats, &c., offered to idols, is perfectly a matter of indifference?

Resp.—There is no contradiction whatever. It is clear, that, of itself, there was nothing wrong in partaking of the things offered to idols. But St. Paul considers two circumstances in which the matter becomes unlawful: first, the circumstance of scandal, of which circumstance alone he treats (chap. 8 and verse 23 of this chapter); secondly, the circumstance of partaking of them in a place specially destined for the consumation of the sacrifice in the mind of the Pagans and of all others. To this latter circumstance, from which he abstracts chap. 8, the Apostle refers in verse 14 of this chapter. In this latter case, abstracting altogether from the circumstance of scandal, or sin against their brethren, men are guilty of the crime of idolatry, since they join in a rite instituted by the Pagans in honour of devils, no matter what may be their internal feelings or intention on the occasion—just as a Catholic, who partakes of the Protestant communion cup, be his intention what it may, joins in false worship. There is no contradiction, then, between this and the other passages, unless it be made out that a man who does not fully consider all the bearings of a subject, at one time, falls into a contradiction by considering its different circumstances, at different times.

1 Cor 10:22. Do we by such conduct wish to provoke God to jealousy?—or combat his omnipotence? But, if not taken in prohibited places, may not the eating of these things be licit? Yes; but many things are licit, that are not expedient for our neighbour’s good or our own.

“Do we provoke?” &c. These words show the enormity of the sin which he is after condemning.

1 Cor 10:23. Many things are lawful that may not promote the spiritual advancement, or the edification of our neighbour, as they should.

“All things are lawful,” &c., i.e., all the things that are in themselves lawful, are not, under certain circumstances, expedient or edifying. Similar is the passage (1 Cor 6:12). The Apostle, in this verse, considers another circumstance of the participation of Idolothytes, viz., when they are attended with scandal or disedification. For the meaning of “edify,” see comments on 8:1.

1 Cor 10:24. But charity dictates to us that we should not seek our own interests merely to the detriment of our neighbour, but that we should consult for his spiritual interests also.

He shows what charity demands of us towards our neighbour. “But that which is another’s.” In Greek but (each one) that which is another’s; “each one,” ἕκαστος, is cancelled by critics on the authority of the chief MSS. and ancient versions.

1 Cor 10:25. Eat of everything sold at the market, asking no questions for conscience sake. Make no inquiries, whether it has been offered to idols or not.

He shows when it is lawful to partake of these meats, &c.

1 Cor 10:26. For to the Lord belong the earth and all its contents, which are, therefore, in themselves good and unpolluted.

As the earth and its contents are the Lord’s, hence, none of its contents are polluted or bad; and so, you can, in proper circumstances, eat of these meats, whether offered or not. “The earth is the Lord’s.” The Greek has, “for the earth is the Lord’s.”

1 Cor 10:27. Should a Pagan invite you to table, and you think fit to accept of his invitation, you may partake of whatever is set before you, asking no question as to whether it was immolated or not.

“Eat of anything that is set before you.’ Here, it is asked by some, why it is that the Apostle did not absolutely prohibit the use of Idolothytes, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Jerusalem?—(Acts 15:29). The probable answer to which is, that the prohibition of the Council in question was neither general nor intended for all places. It was merely a temporary decree, intended for the converted Gentiles of “Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia,” as the title of the decree expresses it; and, if this decree was, for some time after, observed in distant Churches, it was done, not as a matter of strict necessity, but from a feeling of reverence for the Apostles; just as the Mosaic rites were observed for some time by the converted Jews, in order to bury the synagogue with honour.—St. Augustine.

1 Cor 10:28. But should any person present observe, that the meat set before you was immolated, abstain from it both for the sake of him who made the observation, and also for conscience sake.

“And for conscience sake.” To which is added in the Greek—For the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. But this repitition from verse 26, is cancelled by the best critics, on the authority of the ancient versions and chief MSS.

1 Cor 10:29. When I say, conscience sake, I mean not your own conscience but your informant’s; for, if he be a Pagan, the observation shows that he regards the meats as having some degree of sacredness imparted to them. Should you then eat of them, he shall consider Christians to be regardless of their religioius obligations; and hence, you will give occasion to him to blaspheme our holy religion. If he be a Christian, the remark shows him to be weak, and by eating you would scandalize him, for why should I use my liberty in circumstances, where it is judged and condemned by the conscience of another?

“For why is my liberty?” &c. These words, according to some interpreters, convey an objection. But the particle “for,” shows that they rather contain a proof that we should respect the conscience of others in such circumstances, by abstaining from food. And, moreover, if they contained an objection, the Apostle would answer it, and we have no answer given here. The words may have reference to the weak Christian, who may have been scandalized.

1 Cor 10:30. And if I partake of these things with thankfulness to God, why do so in circumstances where my religious faith is blasphemed and maligned on account of my partaking of the thing for which I give God thanks?

This, most likely, refers to the Gentile who would blaspheme the Christian religion, seeing its followers so indifferent with regard to it.

1 Cor 10:31. The safest rule then to follow, in order to avoid giving scandal either in eating or drinking, or in any of our actions, is, to do all for the glory of God.

The object of the Apostle in this verse is, to caution them against injuring the glory of God, by preventing the spread of the gospel through any act of their’s. “Whether you eat,” &c. Some say these words convey merely a counsel—others, a strict precept. The latter opinion is open to this difficulty, that from it would appear to follow, that all the actions of infidels are sins—because, not knowing God, they can offer no action to his glory. To this, it is replied by some, that the precept is binding only on Christians; others say, it is binding on all men, but that it only requires of us to refer to God’s glory our actions, either by express intention, or virtually, i.e., by performing such actions as are of themselves referrible to God’s glory, and the infidels perform many such actions, viz.—actions morally good, by the sole aid of nature, or by the aid of grace, which we know is sometimes given to infidels. The proposition put forward in the schismatical Council of Pistoia, fides est prima gratia, was condemned by Pius VI. in the Bull, Auctorem fidei, &c.

1 Cor 10:32. Give no cause of offence to either Gentile, or Jew, or Christian.

“And to the Gentiles,” in Greek is, και Ἕλλησιν, and to the Greeks. The meaning is the same. Give no cause of offence to either believers or unbelievers, be they Jews or Gentiles. The former, if weak, would be scandalized; the latter would think the Christians joined in idol worship.

1 Cor 10:33. As I in all things please all men, seeking not my own profit, but what is most conducive to the salvation of others.

He proposes himself as their model; he asks them to do nothing of which he himself had not given first the example.

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Father MacEvilly’s Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2018

Thessalonica—now called Salonica—was the Capital of Macedonia. The history of St. Paul’s arrival at Thessalonica, of the success of his preaching there, is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (chap. 17). After leaving Philippi, the Apostle, accompanied by Silas, came, about the year 50, to Thessalonica, and preached, for three sabbath days, in the Jewish synagogue. The fruit of his preaching was the conversion of some among the Jews, and of a great multitude of the Gentiles, among whom were many women of quality. This excited the envy of the Jews; and in consequence, tumults were excited by them over the whole city; the Apostle was, therefore, forced to fly to Berea. Having preached there for some time with success, he was obliged to depart, owing to the same spirit of jealousy; he then came to Athens. The Thessalonians were, in the meantime, subjected to much persecution, and had to endure many privations for the faith. The Apostle, having been informed of this, began to entertain fears and anxiety for their perseverance; and in consequence, sent Timothy from Athens to console and confirm them in the true doctrine of Christ. Timothy, after discharging the duties of his mission, returned to St. Paul, who was now at Corinth (for he remained but a very short time at Athens), and bore a most consoling and satisfactory testimony regarding the unshaken firmness of their faith.

Hence, the Occasion of this Epistle.—In the three first chapters, the Apostle congratulates the Thessalonians on their unshaken constancy and firmness in the faith; and brings forward the most engaging motives to encourage them to perseverance. In the two remaining chapters, he inculcates certain duties of morality, particularly in regard to chastity and the marriage bed; he also treats of the general resurrection and other subjects, regarding which it would appear, as he had been informed by Timothy and Silas, erroneous notions were entertained at Thessalonica.

Time and Place of.—It is asserted by the subscription of the Greek copies, that this Epistle was written at Athens. But the more common, as well as the more probable, opinion held by Baronius and others is, that it was written at Corinth; for, Timothy had returned before it was written (chap. 3). Now, it was to Corinth, and not to Athens (where St. Paul’s stay had been very short), Timothy had returned from his mission, as is clear from chap. 23 of the Acts of the Apostles; hence, the date of this Epistle is fixed about the year 52. St. Paul preached at Thessalonica about the year 50; and that it was the first written by St. Paul seems clear, as we have no account of any other written at an earlier period.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2018

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle encourages the Thessalonians to perseverance (1 Th 4:1); he delivers a precept regarding the practice of purity, and the avoidance of adultery, and he adduces several motives to stimulate them to fidelity in this matter (1 Th 4:3–8). He praises their charity, and encourages the poor to engage in some honest employment, so that by this means they would not abuse the liberality of the rich (1 Th 4:9-11). Finally, he assuages their excessive grief for their departed friends, by propounding the doctrine of the general resurrection, the order and manner of which he describes (1 Th 4:12–17).

This and the following chapters are employed in such subjects of morality, as the Thessalonians, according to the information furnished by Timothy, needed instruction in.

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.

1 Th 4:1. For the rest, therefore, brethren, we implore and exhort you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that as you have received precepts from us, by word of mouth when amongst you, regarding the manner of living and of pleasing God, you would so live, as to observe these precepts, and by advancing in perfection, please him more and more.

“For the rest”—a form of transition usual with the Apostle, particularly at the close of his Epistles. The Greek copies want the words “so also you would walk;” according to the Greek, the words, “that you may abound the more,” will signify, that, not contenting themselves with mere precepts, they ought to practise matters of counsel.

1 Th 4:2. I have said, as you have received from us. For, you know what precepts of a holy life we delivered to you, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Th 4:3. Now, this is a summary of God’s precepts, or the expression of his will, that you should lead a life of sanctity, a life free from all sins, but particularly from sins of impurity, or unlawful sensual pleasures.

Fr. MacEvilly offers no comment on these verses besides the paraphrase.

1 Th 4:4. So that every one of you should be able to master and keep under subjection his own body, in sanctification and honour.

By “vessel” some persons understand, the wife of the married husband. However, as St. Paul refers to the sins of luxury, as well in the unmarried as in the married state, it is better to refer it to the body of each person; of course, not excluding those engaged in marriage; and this meaning of “vessel” is common in SS. Scripture (1 Sam 16:5), and also with profane writers; because, the body is the receptacle of the soul, or the instrument through which the soul acts. “Possess” is frequently used to signify, holding the mastery over, and is here opposed to the dominion which lust, or his lustful body, exercises over the voluptuous man. “Honour” is opposed to those pollutions and defilements by which the Gentile philosophers (Romans, 1) are said to dishonour their bodies.

1 Th 4:5. And not be the slave of the strong, impulsive motions of concupiscence, like the Gentiles that know not God.

He shows, by the contrary, what “honour” is.

1 Th 4:6. And let no one exceed the limits of justice or circumvent his brother in this matter, by indulging in unlawful pleasures in violation of the rights of the father or husband; for, the Lord is the avenger of all these crimes, as we foretold, and solemnly assured you, when present amongst you.

Some Commentators understand this of real property, and of injustice committed in business transactions. The article prefixed to the word “business” shows, however, that he is referring to the matter of chastity, or the exercise of marriage. Besides, “business” has this meaning frequently with profane writers. He assigns a reason why they should exercise justice in such matters, because God will avenge such crimes, “as we have told and testified.” This solemn assurance was required, because the Pagans made light of crimes against chastity.

1 Th 4:7. For in calling us to Christianity, the Lord has called us not to a state, or to the practice of impurity, but to a state, and to the practice of purity and sanctity.

The second motive by which he deters them from the commission of impurities, is the reason upon which the menace on the part of God is grounded, viz., that by calling them to Christianity, he called them to a state of purity and sanctity which they desert, and not to the state of impurity, which they indulge in against his will and ordinances.

1 Th 4:8. Wherefore, whosoever despises these precepts, despises not man who propounds them, but God himself, from whom they emanated, who has given us, Apostles, his holy spirit, authorizing us to announce such precepts.

The third motive is, because such sins of impurity are committed as acts of contempt against God himself. These words, “who also hath given his holy spirit in us,” may also mean, that these impurities committed against God’s precepts, besides the contempt against God, from whom these precepts emanated, also involve a special contempt of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in the bodies of the baptized, as in his temple.

1 Th 4:9. In reference to the subject of fraternal charity, unlike the preceding one, it is unnecessary to say anything regarding it: for, God himself, by the law of Christ, and the internal inspiration of his grace, has instructed you in this love towards one another.

The words, “have learned of God,” are expressed by one word in the Greek, θεοδίδακτοὶ and signify, that special unction of divine grace, inclining their wills to the practice of this precept.—(See 1 John 2:27) “We have no need.” In Greek, ye have no need. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate reading.

1 Th 4:10. For, you fulfil this precept, by excercising fraternal charity towards all the brethren throughout the entire of Macedonia, but we entreat you to make still greater progress in this brotherly love.

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered on this verse.

1 Th 4:11. And to use your best exertions to be quiet, and not be interfering with the peace of others, also to mind your own business, and engage in manual labour, according to the instructions received from us, when amongst you; also to live in such a way in your intercourse with the Pagans as to be without reproach, and not to covet the property of any one.

The Apostle now cautions them against idleness and curiosity. It would appear that some persons amongst them were going about indulging in idleness and curiosity, searching into the concerns of others, to the total neglect of their own business, and while able to work, contenting themselves with begging, to the great disgust of the Gentiles, and the injury of the faith. Nothing could be so disgusting to the infidels as to see able bodied men going about as mendicants, when they might work, and this they would be apt to attribute to the Christian religion. The Apostle witnessed this irregularity himself, and he was informed by Timothy of its continuance. He treats of the subject more fully in the 3rd chapter of 2nd Epistle. “Use your endeavour,” the Greek word, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, conveys an allusion to the diligent exertions employed by the ambitious, in pursuit of honours and self-advancement.

1 Th 4;12. In reference to the dead, brethren, I will not that you should be ignorant of their condition, in order that you may cease from indulging in the immoderate excessive grief, in which the Pagans, who have no hope of a future resurrection, are wont to indulge

It appears that the Thessalonians had indulged in immoderate and excessive grief at the death of their near relations, and deplored it as bitterly as they had done when in a state of Paganism, and when they regarded them as lost for ever. The Apostle proposes as a remedy for this abusive practice, the doctrine of the future resurrection of the dead—a doctrine already propounded to them, as appears from his referring to it at the end of the 2nd and 3rd chapters of this Epistle; but they practically forgot it; and hence, he takes occasion here to inculcate it anew and propound it more fully. The Apostle is by no means to be understood as censuring all grief for the dead, as had been done by the Stoic philosophers. Our Redeemer wept for his friend Lazarus, and among the crimes of the Pagans (Romans, 1) the Apostle reckons the want of “affection;” and he himself would have sorrowed for the death of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:27). He only censures that excessive grief which would argue ignorance, at least practical ignorance, of the doctrine of the resurrection. “We will not.” In Greek, I will not. The Codex Vaticanus has “we.”

1 Th 4:13. For, if we believe (as we really do) that Christ has died and risen from the dead, so (ought we likewise believe) that he will resuscitate with him, and evoke from their graves, those who have died in the faith, and bring them to eternal life.

The connexion between the resurrection of Christ, and the general resurrection of all, is clearly pointed out by the Apostle (1 Cor 15). It is worthy of remark, that in speaking of the death of Christ, he says, “Jesus died,” lest there might be any mistake about the reality of his death, as if it were merely apparent; whereas, speaking of our death, he says, “those who have slept,” to console those in sorrow, whose friends were not lost to them for ever, but were merely in the condition of persons asleep, to be again roused and resuscitated; and in SS. Scripture, death is frequently termed “sleep.”—(Daniel 12:2; St. John 11:11). Hence, the usual form among Christians of saying, he slept in the Lord, to express, that a person died, because death is but a mere protracted sleep, as sleep is but a short death. For the same reason, churchyards are termed cemeteries, or sleeping places.

1 Th 4:14. For, this I tell you, on the authority of the word of God, or of divine revelation, that such of us as will be left in life, or shall be alive at the coming of the Lord, will not anticipate in the glory of the resurrection, those who died before us.

“We who live.” He speaks in the person of those who are to be alive at the day of judgment. In this verse, the Apostle meets an error existing in the minds of the Thessalonians regarding the manner of the resurrection; they did not imagine that it would occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”—(1 Cor. 15) They thought there would be in it a succession of time, and that those whose bodies were corrupted would be resuscitated more slowly; and hence, that they would see their deceased friends more tardily in glory. He removes this erroneous impression in this verse. He says, “we who are alive,” not but he knew well, that he would not live till the day of judgment; but, he wishes to teach us by his own example, always to keep in view and prepare for this great day, which virtually happens at our death.

1 Th 4:15. For the Lord himself (and not an angel, as on Sinai), after issuing his order to the angels to attend his descent, and after the archangel, in a voice louder than the loudest trumpet, shall have evoked the dead from their tombs, shall descend from heaven; and those who died in the faith shall rise in the first place.

He now describes the glorious coming of the Judge, and mentions some circumstances calculated to give us an exalted idea of the glory and majesty that will attend him. “With commandment.” The Greek word, κελεύσματι, properly signifies the shout of sailors or soldiers rushing in concert to battle, or of labourers encouraging each other to some common exertion. The Greeks retain the idea of command, and say, it refers to the command of God, ordering all the angels to be ready. “The trumpet of God,” by a Hebrew phrase, means the loudest trumpet (v.g.) “The cedars of God,” mean, the tallest cedars. It refers to the same thing with the “voice of the archangel.” Whether the archangel shall use a trumpet or not is disputed. The more probable opinion is, that by the agitation or commotion of the air, he will cause a tremendous sound louder than thunder, like that caused by the loudest trumpet, which shall reach the dead in their graves; this by the power of God, they shall hear. Hence, it is called in the gospel, “the voice of the Son of God.” St. Thomas says it shall have an instrumental efficacy in resuscitating by its very announcement. It is commonly supposed, after St. Jerome, that it shall distinctly sound forth these words: surgite mortui et venite ad judicium. “And the dead who are in Christ will rise first.” All the dead will rise at the same time, but the Apostle omits all mention of the resurrection of the reprobate, as it would not serve to console those who were in mourning. “First” does not mean that there will be any priority of time in the resurrection of the dead among themselves; it only means, as the Greek word, πρῶτον, shows, in the first place. This event of their resuscitation shall take place before that mentioned in the next verse, that is, before they are drawn into the clouds.

1 Th 4:16. And after that, such of us as shall live till then, shall be instantaneously drawn up with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and thus we shall be always with the Lord (and enjoying his glory).

“Then,” i.e., after the resurrection. The order which shall take place in the resurrection, though instantaneous, is conceived in the following way:—The Lord Jesus, accompanied with all his angels, whom he shall command to be ready, will descend from Heaven. He shall issue his command to the archangel, who, with a loud voice, like that of a trumpet, shall sound the signal of the resurrection. At this sound, all the dead shall arise—those who are then alive shall be changed—all the just shall be caught up into the air to meet the Judge, while the reprobate shall be at his left hand on the earth. The other circumstances are more fully recorded in the 1st Epistle to Cor. 15, and by our Redeemer—Mt 24:29, &c.; Mt 25:31, &c. From this verse, some persons infer that the men living at the day of judgment will be changed into a state of immortality, without suffering death. This is the opinion of the Greeks, who understand the words of the Apostles’ creed, to judge the living and the dead, in the same sense. Others say, that their death will take place in raptu, or, while they are being caught up into the clouds. The more common opinion, however, is, that they shall die on the earth, probably, by the agency of the fire of conflagration, and that after death, which shall be only momentary, they shall, in common with those, whose bodies were long before corrupted and for ages mouldering in their graves, and who now have come forth from heaven or purgatory to resume them, be caught up into the air, to meet Christ in the clouds. This he says in order to show that the living will not be glorified in their bodies before the dead, and that this shall occur to all at once, “in the twinkling of an eye.”—(1 Cor. 15) They shall all, in the first place, arise; after that, they shall be taken up into the air to meet the Judge: he says, “they shall be taken up;” for, although they can go there of themselves by the quality of agility, with which they shall be clothed; still, they shall go thither, owing to a kind of draw or moral attraction to meet their Lord.

1 Th 4:17. Wherefore, console each other in your grief for departed friends by this announcement regarding the resurrection.

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered for this verse.


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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2018

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle expresses his affectionate solicitude for the Thessalonians, in consequence of which he sent Timothy to ascertain their steadfastness in the faith after having been tested in the severe ordeal of persecution (1 Th 3:1–5). He expresses the intense joy, which the cheering accounts regarding them brought back by Timothy had caused him (1 Th 3:6–8). He returns thanks to God, the source of these blessings. He prays that it may be granted him to visit them once more, in order to complete the system of religious teaching, which he had commenced amongst them (1 Th 3:9–11). He prays, that God may grant them abundant increase of faith and charity, together with the grace of persevering in sanctity, unto the end (1 Th 3:12-13).

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

1 Th 3:1. On this account, being no longer able to bear up against the desire with which we eagerly longed to see you, and being prevented from visiting you in person, we thought fit to employ the services of our dearest friends for that purpose, and remain alone, deprived of their society, at Athens.

“For which cause” has reference to the state of bereavement in which he was, and his anxious desire to pay them a visit, from which he was prevented by the wiles of Satan (1 Th 2:18).

“We thought it good.” He employs the plural, “we,” although he is speaking of himself, as appears from 1 Th 3:5.

1 Th 3:2. And we sent Timothy, our brother, (although very necessary for us), being the minister of God, and our co-operator in preaching the gospel of Christ, to confirm you in the faith, and by his consoling exhortations, to animate you to perseverance.

“The minister of God” to which the Greek adds, (and our fellow-labourer), “in the gospel of Christ.” “For your faith.” In Greek, concerning your faith.

1 Th 3:3. Lest any of you should be moved or terrified by those afflictions which have befallen you; for, you know that, by our call to Christianity, we are destined to undergo suffering.

“In these tribulations,” are understood by some of the Apostle’s own sufferings. “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name sake” (Acts 9); by others, more probably, of the sufferings of the Macedonians, as these would be more apt to stagger their faith. “By many tribulations we must all enter the kingdom of God.”—(Acts, 14) “And all who will live piously in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution.”—(2 Tim. 3:12).

“We are appointed.” In Greek, κείμεθα, we lie, which probably conveys a military allusion to sentinels at their posts.

1 Th 3:4. For, when amongst you, we predicted that we would endure the sufferings, which you know have since befallen us.

In this verse, reference is made to the Apostle’s own sufferings also. The greater the glory destined for us, the greater must our sufferings be. Hence, Apostolic men suffer more than others. The momentary and light sufferings of the present life will hereafter work in us an eternal weight of glory.

1 Th 3:5. Wherefore, no longer able to bear up against our ardent desire of seeing you, and of knowing all regarding you, we sent to know, how your faith held out; for, we feared, lest Satan, taking occasion from the sufferings you had to undergo, would tempt you, and that thus our labour amongst you would be rendered fruitless.

“Wherefore I also,” &c. He now employs the singular number, to express the same thing for which he already had employed the plural; 1 Th 3:3-4, being parenthetical, he resumes the subject, of which he had been treating in verses 1 Th 3:1-2.

1 Th 3:6. But now, after the return of Timothy, and the cheering account which he has given us of your faith and charity, and of the kind remembrance which you always make of us, and of your ardent desire of seeing us, which we in turn reciprocate:

“Related.” In Greek, evangelized, conveyed good news.

1 Th 3:7. From these joyous tidings we derived such consolation, in the midst of all the perils and tribulations to which we were subjected, as to forget them all, on account of your steadfastness in the faith.

The effect of the good news conveyed to him by Timothy was, “in all necessity,” i.e., perils and danger, and in “all tribulation,” to forget all his sufferings on account of the abundance of the consolation which their faith afforded him.

1 Th 3:8. For (although we are dying daily), we still are kept alive, and in joy, if you persevere in the faith.

Although the Apostle was daily in the midst of the perils of death (1 Cor. 15); still, he valued these perils as nought, and he felt the joy of a man perfectly secure, as long as his converts persevered. So closely did he connect his own welfare, nay, his life, with their perseverance, that without it, he would not value existence.

1 Th 3:9. For, what thanks can we return to God, for your firmness and stability in the faith, and for the very great joy, which we feel in God’s presence on your account?

“In all the joy,” i.e., the exceeding great joy. The second effect which the good news brought by Timothy had on him was to make him render God thanks for it.

1 Th 3:10. Constantly and most earnestly do we beseech God to enable us to see you, and thus complete the system of Christian faith, by either disclosing new truths, or more fully explaining those you already know; the suddenness of our departure prevented us from doing so.

“And may accomplish those things that are wanting to your faith.” There were a good many points which the Apostle did not, in all probability, propound to them, or, at least, fully explain, in consequence of being obliged to leave suddenly, and or this sudden departure he would make up, by visiting them again. He might refer to the article of the resurrection of the dead, and of the day of judgment, regarding which he afterwards instructs them more fully. The Greek word for “accomplish,” καταρτισα, conveys the idea of filling up the joints, wanting in a human body. Hence, he refers to a body or system of faith.

1 Th 3:11. May God himself, who is our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our journey to you.

It is uncertain whether he went to them or not. It is more probable, however, that he did, as appears from the 20th chapter of the Acts, in which account is given of his second journey to Macedonia.

1 Th 3:12. May the Lord increase the number of the faithful amongst you, and make you advance in mutual charity towards one another, and towards all men, as I abound in charity towards you and all mankind.

“And may the Lord multiply you,” i.e., increase your number, so that a greater number would embrace the faith. In Greek, may the Lord make you to increase and abound in love.

1 Th 3:13. I also pray, that he may confirm your hearts in exterior edification, so as to be blameless before men, and in true interior sanctity in the sight of God and our Father, and that, on the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ will come, with all his saints, to judge the world. Amen.

“Without blame,” irreprehensible and free from all complaint before men, and “in holiness before God and our Father,” i.e., true and real holiness, “at the coming,” &c., and this with constancy and perseverance, to the end. “Amen” is not in the Greek. It is, however, found in several ancient versions, and in some of the chief manuscripts.

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