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Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aguinas

3:1–2

1. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituræa and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,

2. Annas and Caiaphas being the High Priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

GREGORY. (Hom. 20. in Ev.) The time at which the forerunner of the Saviour received the word of preaching, is marked by the names of the Roman sovereign and of the princes of Judæa, as it follows: Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, &c. For because John came to preach Him who was to redeem some from among the Jews, and many among the Gentiles, therefore the time of his preaching is marked out by making mention of the king of the Gentiles and the rulers of the Jews. But because all nations were to be gathered together in one, one man is described as ruling over the Roman state, as it is said, The reign of Tiberius Cæsar.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes) For the emperor Augustus being dead, from whom the Roman sovereigns obtained the name of “Augustus,” Tiberius being his successor in the monarchy, was now in the 15th year of his receiving the reins of government.

ORIGEN. In the word of prophecy, spoken to the Jews alone, the Jewish kingdom only is mentioned, as, The vision of Esaias, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Is. 1:1.) But in the Gospel which was to be proclaimed to the whole world, the empire of Tiberius Cæsar is mentioned, who seemed the lord of the whole world. But if the Gentiles only were to be saved, it were sufficient to make mention only of Tiberius, but because the Jews also must believe, the Jewish kingdom therefore, or Tetrarchies, are also introduced, as it follows, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod tetrarch, &c.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Because the Jews were to be scattered for their crime of treachery, the Jewish kingdom was shut up into parts under several governors. According to that saying, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. (Luke 11:17.)

BEDE. Pilate was sent in the twelfth year of Tiberius to take the government of the Jewish nation, and remained there for ten successive years, almost until the death of Tiberius. But Herod, and Philip, and Lysanias, were the sons of that Herod in whose reign our Lord was born. Between these and Herod himself Archelaus their brother reigned ten years. He was accused by the Jews before Augustus, and perished in exile at Vienne. But in order to reduce the Jewish kingdom to greater weakness, August us divided it into Tetrarchies.

GREGORY. Because John preached Him who was to be at the same time both King and Priest, Luke the Evangelist has marked the time of that preaching by the mention not only of Kings, but also of Priests. As it follows, Under the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas.

BEDE. Both Annas and Caiaphas, when John began his preaching, were the High Priests, but Annas held the office that year, Caiaphas the same year in which our Lord suffered on the cross. Three others had held the office in the intervening time, but these two, as having particular reference to our Lord’s Passion, are mentioned by the Evangelist. For at that time of violence and intrigue, the commands of the Law being no longer in force, the honour of the High Priest’s office was never given to merit or high birth, but the whole affairs of the Priesthood were managed by the Roman power. For Josephus relates, that Valerius Gratus, when Annas was thrust out of the Priesthood, appointed Ismael High Priest, the son of Baphas; but not long after casting him off, he put in his place Eleazar the son of the High Priest Ananias. After the space of one year, he expelled him also from the office, and delivered the government of the High Priesthood to a certain Simon, son of Caiaphas, who holding it not longer than a year, had Joseph, whose name also was Caiaphas, for his successor; so that the whole time during which our Lord is related to have taught is included in the space of four years.

AMBROSE. The Son of God being about to gather together the Church, commences His work in His servant. And so it is well said, The word of the Lord came to John, that the Church should begin not from man, but from the Word. But Luke, in order to declare that John was a prophet, rightly used these few words, The word of the Lord came to him. He adds nothing else, for they need not their own judgment who are filled with the Word of God. By saying this one thing, he has therefore declared all. But Matthew and Mark desired to shew him to be a prophet, by his raiment, his girdle, and his food.

CHRYSOSTOM. (in Matt. Hom. 10.) The word of God here mentioned was a commandment, for the son of Zacharias came not of himself, but God moved him.

THEOPHYLACT. Through the whole of the time until his shewing himself he was hid in the wilderness, that no suspicion might arise in men’s minds, that from his relation to Christ, and from his intercourse with Him from a child, he would testify such things of Him; and hence he said, I knew him not. (John 1:33.)

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (de Virg. c. 6.) Who also entered this life at once in the spirit and power of Elias, removed from the society of men, in uninterrupted contemplation of invisible things, that he might not, by becoming accustomed to the false notions forced upon us by our senses, fall into mistakes and errors in the discernment of good men. And to such a height of divine grace was he raised, that more favour was bestowed upon him than the Prophets, for from the beginning even to the end, he ever presented his heart before God pure and free from every natural passion.

AMBROSE. Again, the wilderness is the Church itself, for the barren has more children than she who has an husband. The word of the Lord came, that the earth which was before barren might bring forth fruit unto us.

3:3–6

3. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

4. As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

6. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

AMBROSE. The Word came, and the voice followed. For the Word first works inward, then follows the office of the voice, as it is said, And he went into all the country about Jordan.

ORIGEN. Jordan is the same as descending, for there descends from God a river of healing water. But what parts would John be traversing but the country lying about Jordan, that the penitent sinner might soon arrive at the flowing stream, humbling himself to receive the baptism of repentance. For it is added, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) It is plain to every reader that John not only preached the baptism of repentance, but to some also he gave it, yet his own baptism he could not give for the remission of sins.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) For as the sacrifice had not yet been offered up, nor had the holy Spirit descended, how could remission of sins be given? What is it then that St. Luke means by the words, for the remission of sins? Seeing the Jews were ignorant, and knew not the weight of their sins, and because this was the cause of their evils, in order that they might be convinced of their sins and seek a Redeemer, John came exhorting them to repentance, that being thereby made better and sorrowful for their sins, they might be ready to receive pardon. Rightly then after saying, that he came preaching the baptism of repentance, he adds, for the remission of sins. As if he should say, The reason by which he persuaded them to repent was, that thereby they would the more easily obtain subsequent pardon, believing on Christ. For if they were not led by repentance, in vain could they ask for grace, other than as a preparation for faith in Christ.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or John is said to preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, because the baptism which was to take away sin, as he could not give, he preached; just as the Incarnate Word of the Father preceded the word of preaching, so the baptism of repentance, which was able to take away sin, was preceded by John’s baptism, which could not take away sin.

AMBROSE. And therefore many say that St. John is a type of the Law, because the Law could denounce sin, but could not pardon it.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 39.) To speak now of the difference of baptisms. Moses indeed baptized, but in the water, the cloud, and the sea, but this was done figuratively. John also baptized, not indeed according to the Jewish rite, (for he baptized not only with water,) but also for the remission of sins, yet not altogether spiritually, (for he adds not, in the Spirit.) Jesus baptizes but with the Spirit, and this is perfect baptism. There is also a fourth baptism, namely by martyrdom and blood, by which also Christ Himself was baptized, and which is so far more glorious than the others, as it is not sullied by repeated acts of defilement. There is also a fifth, the most weary, according to which David every night washed his bed and his couch with tears. It follows, As it is written in the book of Esaias the Prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness. (Is. 40:3.)

AMBROSE. John the forerunner of the Word is rightly called the voice, because the voice being inferior precedes, the Word, which is more excellent, follows.

GREGORY. (7, 20. in Ev.) John cries in the desert because he brings the glad tidings of redemption to deserted and forsaken Judæa, but what he cries is explained in the words, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. For they who preach true faith and good works, what else do they than prepare the way for the Lord’s coming into the hearts of the hearers, that they might make the paths of God straight, forming pure thoughts in the mind by the word of good preaching.

ORIGEN. Or, a way must be prepared in our heart for the Lord, for the heart of man is large and spacious if it has become clean. For imagine not that in the size of the body, but in the virtue of the understanding, consists that greatness which must receive the knowledge of the truth. Prepare then in thy heart by good conversation a way for the Lord, and by perfect works pursue the path of life, that so the word of God may have free course in thee.

BASIL. (non occ.) And because a path is a way trodden down by those that have gone before, and which former men have worn away, the word bids those who depart from the zeal of their predecessors repeatedly pursue it.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But to cry, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, was not the office of the king, but of the forerunner. And so they called John the voice, because he was the forerunner of the Word.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (in Esai. 40. lib. 3.) But suppose some one should answer, saying, How shall we prepare the way of the Lord, or how shall we make His paths straight? since so many are the hindrances to those who wish to lead an honest life. To this the word of prophecy replies, There are some ways and paths by no means easy to travel, being in some places hilly and rugged, in others steep and precipitous; to remove which it says, Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall he brought low. Some roads are most unequally constructed, and while in one part rising, in another sloping downwards, are very difficult to pass. And here he adds, And the crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. But this was in a spiritual manner brought to pass by the power of our Saviour. For formerly to pursue an Evangelical course of life was a difficult task, for men’s minds were so immersed in worldly pleasures. But now that God being made Man, has condemned sin in the flesh, all things are made plain, and the way of going has become easy, and neither hill nor valley is an obstacle to those who wish to advance.

ORIGEN. For when Jesus had come and sent His Spirit, every valley was filled with good works, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which if thou hast, thou wilt not only cease to become a valley, but will begin also to be a mountain of God.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Or by the valleys he means a quiet habitual practice of virtue, as in the Psalms, The valleys shall be filled with corn. (Ps. 65:13.)

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) He denounces the haughty and arrogant by the name of mountains, whom Christ has brought low. But by the hills He implies the wreckless, not only because of the pride of their hearts, but because of the barrenness of despair. For the hill produces no fruit.

ORIGEN. Or you may understand the mountains and hills to be the hostile powers, which have been overthrown by the coming of Christ.

BASIL. (non occ.) But as the hills differ from mountains in respect of height, in other things are the same, so also the adverse powers agree indeed in purpose, but are distinguished from one another in the enormity of their offences.

GREGORY. (20. in Ev.) Or, the valley when filled increases, but the mountains and hills when brought low decrease, because the Gentiles by faith in Christ receive fulness of grace, but the Jews by their sin of treachery have lost that wherein they boasted. For the humble receive a gift because the hearts of the proud they keep afar off.

CHRYSOSTOM. (in Matt. Hom. 10.) Or by these words he declares the difficulties of the law to be turned into the easiness of faith; as if he said, No more toils and labours await us, but grace and remission of sins make an easy way to salvation.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Or, He orders the valleys to be filled, the mountains and hills to be cast down, to shew that the rule of virtue neither fails from want of good, nor transgresses from excess.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But the crooked places are become straight, when the hearts of the wicked, perverted by a course of injustice, are directed to the rule of justice. But the rough ways are changed to smooth, when fierce and savage dispositions by the influence of Divine grace return to gentleness and meckness.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) He then adds the cause of these things, saying, And all flesh shall see, &c. shewing that the virtue and knowledge of the Gospel shall be extended even to the end of the world, turning mankind from savage manners and perverse wills to meekness and gentleness. Not only Jewish converts but all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) That is, of the Father, who sent His Son as our Saviour. But the flesh is here taken for the whole man.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or else, All flesh, i. e. Every man can not see the salvation of God in Christ in this life. The Prophet therefore stretches his eye beyond to the last day of judgment, when all men both the elect and the reprobate shall equally see Him.

3:7–9

7. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

9. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire,

ORIGEN. No one that remains in his old state, and forsakes not his old habits and practices, can rightly come to be baptized; whoever then wishes to be baptized, let him go forth. Hence are those words significantly spoken, And he said unto the multitude that went forth to be baptized of him. To the multitudes then who are going forth to the laver of baptism, He speaks the following words, for if they had already gone forth, He would not have said, O generation of vipers.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 10.) The dweller in the wilderness, when he saw all the people of Palestine standing round him and wondering, bent not beneath the weight of such respect, but rose up against them and reproved them. (Hom. in Gen. 12.) The holy Scripture often gives the names of wild beasts to men, according to the passions which excite them, calling them sometimes dogs because of their impudence, horses on account of their lust, asses for their folly, lions and panthers for their ravening and wantonness, asps for their guile, serpents and vipers for their poison and cunning; and so in this place John calls the Jews a generation of vipers.

BASIL. (cont. Eunom. lib. 2.) Now it may be observed, that the following words natus and filius are spoken of animals, but genimen may be said of the fœtus before it is formed in the womb; the fruit of the palm trees is also called genimina, but that word is very seldom used with respect to animals, and when it is, always in a bad sense.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 11.) Now they say that the female viper kills the male in copulation, and the fœtus as it increases in the womb kills the mother, and so comes forth into life, bursting open the womb in revenge as it were of its father’s death; the viper progeny therefore are parricides. Such also were the Jews, who killed their spiritual fathers and teachers. But what if he found them not sinning, but beginning to be converted? He ought not surely to rebuke them, but to comfort them. We answer, that he gave not heed to those things which are outward, for he knew the secrets of their hearts, the Lord revealing them to him; for they vaunted themselves too much in their forefathers. Cutting therefore at this root, he calls them a generation of vipers, not indeed that he blamed the Patriarchs, or called them vipers.

GREGORY. (in Hom. 20, in Ev.) Because the Jews hated good men, and persecuted them, following the steps of their carnal parents, they are by birth the poisonous sons, as it were, of poisonous or sorcerous parents. But because the preceding verse declares that at the last judgment Christ shall be seen by all flesh, it is rightly added, Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? The wrath to come being the awarding of final punishment.

AMBROSE. We see these men through the compassion of God, inspired with prudence to seek repentance of their crimes, dreading with wise devotion the terror of the judgment to come. Or perhaps, according to the precept, Be ye wise as serpents, (Matt. 10:16.) they are shewn to have a natural prudence, who perceive what is coming, and earnestly desire help, though they still forsake not what is hurtful.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But because he cannot then flee from the wrath of God, who now has not recourse to the sorrows of repentance, it is added, Bring forth therefore fruits.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) For it is not sufficient for the penitent to leave off his sins, he must also bring forth the fruits of repentance, as it is in the Psalms, depart from evil and do good, (Ps. 34:14.) just as in order to heal, it will not do to pluck out the arrow only, but we must also apply a salve to the wound. But he says not fruit, but fruits, signifying abundance.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) He warns them that they must bring forth not only the fruits of repentance, but fruits worthy of repentance. For he that has violated no law, to him it is permitted to use what is lawful, but if a man has fallen into sin, he ought so to cut himself off from what is lawful, as he remembers to have committed what is unlawful. For the fruit of good works ought not to be equal in the man who has sinned less, and the man who has sinned more, nor in him who has fallen into no crimes, and him who has fallen into some. In this way it is adapted to the conscience of each man, that they should seek for so much the greater blessing on good works through repentance, as they have by guilt brought on themselves the heavier penalties.

MAXIMUS. (lib. Ascet.) The fruit of repentance is an equanimity of soul, which we do not fully obtain, as long as we are at times affected by our passions, for not as yet have we performed the fruits worthy of repentance. Let us then repent truly, that being delivered from our passions we may obtain the pardon of their sins.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But the Jews glorying in their noble birth were unwilling to acknowledge themselves sinners, because they were descended from the stock of Abraham. So then it is rightly said, And begin not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham for our father.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Not meaning thereby that they had not descended in their natural course from Abraham, but that it avails them nothing to have Abraham for their father, unless they observed the relationship in respect of virtue. For Scripture is accustomed to entitle laws of relationship, such as do not exist by nature, but are derived from virtue or vice. To whichsoever of these two a man conforms himself, he is called its son or brother.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For what profits the nobleness we inherit through the flesh, unless it be supported by kindred feelings in us? It is folly then to boast of our worthy ancestors, and fall away from their virtues.

BASIL. (non occ.) For neither does the speed of its sire make the horse swift; but as the goodness of other animals is looked for in individuals, so also that is reckoned to be man’s legitimate praise which is decided by the test of his present worth. For it is a disgraceful thing for a man to be adorned with the honours of another, when he has no virtue of his own to commend him.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) So then having foretold the casting away of the Jews, He goes on to allude to the calling of the Gentiles, whom He calls stones. Hence it follows, For I say unto you, &c.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) As if He said, Think not that if you perish the Patriarch will be deprived of sons, for God even from stones can produce men unto him, and prolong the line of his descendants. For so has it been from the beginning, seeing that for men to be made from stones unto Abraham is but equivalent to the coming forth of a son from the dead womb of Sarah.

AMBROSE. But although God can alter and change the most diverse natures, yet in my mind a mystery is of more avail than a miracle. For what else than stones were they who bowed down to stones, like indeed to them who made them. It is prophesied therefore that faith shall be poured into the stony hearts of the Gentiles, and through faith the oracles promise that Abraham shall have sons. But that you may know who are the men compared to stones, he has also compared men to trees, adding, For now the axe is laid to the root of the tree. This change of figure was made, that by means of comparison might be understood to have now commenced a more kindly growth of manhood.

ORIGEN. If the completion of all things had been then already begun, and the end of time close at hand, I should have no question but that the prophecy was given, because at that time it was to be fulfilled. But now that many ages have elapsed since the Spirit spoke this, I think it was prophesied to the people of Israel, because their cutting off was approaching. For to those that went out to him that they should be baptized, he gave this warning among others.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. By the axe then he declares the deadly wrath of God, which fell upon the Jews on account of the impieties they practised against Christ; he does not pronounce the axe to be yet fixed to the root, (ad radicem) but that it was laid, i. e. near the root. For though the branches were cut down, the tree itself was not yet entirely destroyed. For a remnant of Israel shall be saved.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or we may take it in this way; The tree represents the whole human race in this world, but the axe is our redeemer, who by the handle and iron, as it were, is held indeed in the hand of man, but strikes by the power of God. Which axe indeed is now laid at the root of the tree; for although it waits patiently, yet it is plain what it is about to do. And we must observe that the said axe is to be laid not at the branches, but at the root. For when the children of the wicked are taken away, what is this but the cutting off of the branches of an unfruitful tree. But when the whole family together with the parent is removed, the unfruitful tree is cut off from the very root. But every hardened sinner finds the fire of hell the quicker prepared for him, as he disdains to bring forth the fruits of good works. Hence it follows, Every one then.

CHRYSOSTOM. It is elegantly said, that beareth not fruit, and it is added, good. For God created man an animal fond of employment, and constant activity is natural to him, but idleness is unnatural. For idleness is hurtful to every member of the body, but much more to the soul. For the soul being by nature in constant motion does not admit of being slothful. But as idleness is an evil, so also is an unworthy activity. But having before spoken of repentance, he now declares that the axe lies near, not indeed actually cutting, but only striking terror.

AMBROSE. Let him then that is able bring forth fruit unto grace, him who ought, unto repentance. The Lord is at hand seeking for His fruit, who shall cherish the fruitful, but rebuke the barren.

3:10–14

10. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

11. He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

12. Then came also Publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?

13. And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.

14. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) In the preceding words of John, it is plain that the hearts of his hearers were troubled, and sought for advice from him. As it is added, And they asked him, saying, &c.

ORIGEN. Three classes of men are introduced as enquiring of John concerning their salvation, one which the Scripture calls the multitude, another to which it gives the name of Publicans, and a third which is noticed by the appellation of soldiers.

THEOPHYLACT. Now to the Publicans and soldiers he gives a commandment to abstain from evil, but the multitudes, as not living in an evil condition, he commands to perform some good work, as it follows, He that hath two coats, let him give one.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Because a coat is more necessary for our use than a cloak, it belongs to the bringing forth of fruits worthy of repentance, that we should divide with our neighbours not only our superfluities but those which are absolutely necessary to us, as our coat, or the meat with which we support our bodies; and hence it follows, And he who has meat, let him do likewise.

BASIL. But we are hereby taught, that every thing we have over and above what is necessary to our daily support, we are bound to give to him who hath nothing for God’s sake, who hath given us liberally whatever we possess.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) For because it was written in the law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, he is proved to love his neighbour less than himself, who does not share with him in his distress, those things which are even necessary to himself. Therefore that precept is given of dividing with one’s neighbour the two coats, since if one is divided no one is clothed. But we must remark in this, of how much value are works of mercy, since of the works worthy of repentance these are enjoined before all others.

AMBROSE. For other commands of duty have reference only to individuals, mercy has a common application. It is therefore a common commandment to all, to contribute to him that has not. Mercy is the fulness of virtues, yet in mercy itself a proportion is observed to meet the capacities of man’s condition, in that each individual is not to deprive himself of all, but what he has to share it with the poor.

ORIGEN. But this place admits of a deeper meaning, for as we ought not to serve two masters, so neither to have two coats, lest one should be the clothing of the old man, the other of the new, but we ought to cast off the old man, and give to him who is naked. For one man has one coat, another has none at all, the strength therefore of the two is exactly contrary, and as it has been written that we should cast all our crimes to the bottom of the sea, so ought we to throw from us our vices and errors, and lay them upon him who has been the cause of them.

THEOPHYLACT. But some one has observed that the two coats are the spirit and letter of Scripture, but John advises him that hath these two to instruct the ignorant, and give him at least the letter.

BEDE. What great virtue there was in the discourse of the Baptist is manifested by this, that the Publicans, nay even the soldiers, he compelled to seek counsel of him concerning their salvation, as it follows, But the publicans came.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 24.) Great is the force of virtue that makes the rich seek the way of salvation from the poor, from him that hath nothing.

BEDE. He commands them therefore that they exact no more than what was presented to them, as it follows, And he said unto them, Do no more than what is appointed to you. But they are called publicans who collect the public taxes, or who are the farmers of the public revenue or public property? Those also who pursue the gain of this world by traffic are denoted by the same titles, all of whom, each in his own sphere, he equally forbids to practise deceit, that so by first keeping themselves from desiring other men’s goods, they might at length come to share their own with their neighbours. It follows, But the soldiers also asked him. In the justest manner he advises them not to seek gain by falsely accusing those whom they ought to benefit by their protection. Hence it follows, And he says unto them, Strike no one, (i. e. violently,) nor accuse any falsely, (i. e. by unjustly using arms,) and be content with your wages.

AMBROSE. Teaching thereby that wages were affixed to military duty, lest men seeking for gain should go about as robbers.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 19.) For by wages he refers to the imperial pay, and the rewards assigned to distinguished actions.

AUGUSTINE. (cont. Faust. lib. xxii c. 74.) For he knew that soldiers, when they use their arms, are not homicides, but the ministers of the law; not the avengers of their own injuries, but the defenders of the public safety. Otherwise he might have answered, “Put away your arms, abandon warfare, strike no one, wound no one, destroy no one.” For what is it that is blamed in war? Is it that men die, who some time or other must die, that the conquerors might rule in peace? To blame this is the part of timid not religious men. The desire of injury, the cruelty of revenge, a savage and pitiless disposition, the fierceness of rebellion, the lust of power, and such like things are the evils which are justly blamed in wars, which generally for the sake of thereby bringing punishment upon the violence of those who resist, are undertaken and carried on by good men either by command of God or some lawful authority, when they find themselves in that order of things in which their very condition justly obliges them either to command such a thing themselves, or to obey when others command it.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 11.) But John’s desire when he spoke to the Publicans and soldiers, was to bring them over to a higher wisdom, for which as they were not fitted, he reveals to them commoner truths, lest if he put forward the higher they should pay no attention thereto, and be deprived of the others also.

3:15–17

15. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;

16. John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

17. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

ORIGEN. It was meet that more deference should be paid to John than to other men, for he lived such as no other man. Wherefore indeed most rightly did they regard him with affection, only they kept not within due bounds; hence it is said, But while the people were expecting whether he were the Christ.

AMBROSE. Now what could be more absurd than that he who was fancied to be in another should not be believed in his own person? He whom they thought to have come by a woman, is not believed to have come by a virgin; while in fact the sign of the Divine coming was placed in the childbearing of a virgin, not of a woman.

ORIGEN. But love is dangerous when it is uncontrolled. For he who loves any one ought to consider the nature and causes of loving, and not to love more than the object deserves. For if he pass the due measure and bounds of love, both he who loves, and he who is loved, will be in sin.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes.) And hence John gloried not in the estimation in which all held him, nor in any way seemed to desire the deference of others, but embraced the lowest humility. Hence it follows, John answered.

BEDE. But how could he answer them who in secret thought that he was Christ, except it was that they not only thought, but also (as another Evangelist declares) sending Priests and Levites to him asked him whether he was the Christ or not?

AMBROSE. Or: John saw into the secrets of the heart; but let us remember by whose grace, for it is of the gift of God to reveal things to man, not of the virtue of man, which is assisted by the Divine blessing, rather than capable of perceiving by any natural power of its own. But quickly answering them, he proved that he was not the Christ, for his works were by visible operations. For as man is compounded of two natures, i. e. soul and body, the visible mystery is made holy by the visible, the invisible by the invisible; for by water the body is washed, by the Spirit the soul is cleansed of its stains. It is permitted to us also in the very water to have the sanctifying influence of the Deity breathed upon us. And therefore there was one baptism of repentance, another of grace. The latter was by both water and Spirit, the former by one only; the work of man is to bring forth repentance for his sin, it is the gift of God to pour in the grace of His mystery. Devoid therefore of all envy of Christ’s greatness, he declared not by word but by work that he was not the Christ. Hence it follows, There cometh after me one mightier than I. In those words, mightier than I, he makes no comparison, for there can be none between the Son of God and man, but because there are many mighty, no one is mightier but Christ. So far indeed was he from making comparison, that he adds, Whose shoes latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Evang. lib. ii. 12.) Matthew says, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. If therefore it is worth while to understand any difference in these expressions, we can only suppose that John said one at one time, another at another, or both together, To bear his shoes, and to loose the latchet of his shoes, so that though one Evangelist may have related this, the others that, yet all have related the truth. But if John intended no more when he spoke of the shoes of our Lord but His excellence and his own humility, whether he said loosing the latchet of the shoes, or bearing them, they have still kept the same sense who by the mention of shoes have in their own words expressed the same signification of humility.

AMBROSE. By the words, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, he shews that the grace of preaching the Gospel was conferred upon the Apostles, who were shod for the Gospel. (Eph. 6:15.) He seems however to say it, because John frequently represented the Jewish people.

GREGORY. (Hom. 7. in Evan.) But John denounces himself as unworthy to loose the latchet of Christ’s shoes: as if he openly said, I am not able to disclose the footsteps of my Redeemer, who do not presume unworthily to take unto myself the name of bridegroom, for it was an ancient custom thata when a man refused to take to wife her whom he ought, whoever should come to her betrothed by right of kin, was to loose his shoe. Or because shoes are made from the skins of dead animals, our Lord being made flesh appeared as it were with shoes, as taking upon Himself the carcase of our corruption. The latchet of the shoe is the connexion of the mystery. John therefore can not loose the latchet of the shoe, because neither is he able to fathom the mystery of the Incarnation, though he acknowledged it by the Spirit of prophecy.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) And having said that his own baptism was only with water, he next shews the excellence of that baptism which was brought by Christ, adding, He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and fire, signifying by the very metaphor which he uses the abundance of grace. For he says not, “He shall give you the Holy Spirit,” but He shall baptize you. And again, by the addition of fire, he shews the power of grace. And as Christ calls the grace of the Spirit, water, (John 4:14; 7:38.) meaning by water the purity resulting from it, and the abundant consolation which is brought to minds which are capable of receiving Him; so also John, by the word fire, expresses the fervour and uprightness of grace, as well as the consuming of sins.

BEDE. The Holy Spirit also may be understood by the word fire, for He kindles with love and enlightens with wisdom the hearts which He fills. Hence also the Apostles received the baptism of the Spirit in the appearance of fire. There are some who explain it, that now we are baptized with the Spirit, hereafter we shall be with fire, that as in truth we are now born again to the remission of our sins by water and the Spirit, so then we shall be cleansed from certain lighter sins by the baptism of purifying fire.

ORIGEN. And as John was waiting by the river Jordan for those who came to his baptism, and some he drove away, saying, Generation of vipers, but those who confessed their sins he received, so shall the Lord Jesus stand in the fiery stream with the flaming sword, that whoever after the close of this life desires to pass over to Paradise and needs purification, He may baptize him with this laver, and pass him over to paradise, but whoso has not the seal of the former baptisms, him He shall not baptize with the laver of fire.

BASIL. (lib. de Spir. Sanct. c. 12.) But because he says, He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, let no one admit that baptism to be valid in which the name of His Spirit only has been invoked, for we must ever keep undiminished that tradition which has been sealed to us in quickening grace. To add or take away ought thereof excludes from eternal life.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) By these words then, He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit, He signifies the abundance of His grace, the plenteousness of His mercy; but lest any should suppose that while to bestow abundantly is both in the power and will of the Creator, He will have no occasion to punish the disobedient, he adds, whose fan is in his hand, shewing that He is not only the rewarder of the righteous, but the avenger of them that speak lies. But the fan expresses the promptitude of His judgment. For not with the process of passing sentence on trial, but in an instant and without any interval he separates those that are to be condemned from the company of those that are to be saved.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Chrys. in Thes. lib. ii. c. 4.) By the following words, And he shall thoroughly purge his floor, the Baptist signifies that the Church belongs to Christ as her Lord.

BEDE. For by the floor is represented the present Church, in which many are called but few are chosen. The purging of which floor is even now carried on individually, when every perverse offender is either cast out of the Church for his open sins, (by the hands of the Priesthood,) or for his secret sins is after death condemned by Divine judgment. And at the end of the world it will be accomplished universally, when the Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom every thing that has offended.

AMBROSE. By the sign of a fan then the Lord is declared to possess the power of discerning merits, since when the corn is winnowed in the threshing floor, the full cars are separated from the empty by the trial of the wind blowing them. Hence it follows, And he shall gather the wheat into his barn. By this comparison, the Lord shews that on the day of judgment He will discern the solid merits and fruits of virtue from the unfruitful lightness of empty boasting and vain deeds, about to place the men of more perfect righteousness in His heavenly mansion. For that is indeed the more perfect fruit which was thought worthy to be like to Him who fell as a grain of wheat, that He might bring forth fruit in abundance. (John 12:24.)

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But the chaff signifies the trifling and empty, blown about and liable to be carried away by every blast of sin.

BASIL. (non occ.) But they are mixed up with those who are worthy of the kingdom of heaven, as the chaff with the wheat. This is not however from consideration of their love of God and their neighbour, nor from their spiritual gifts or temporal blessings.

ORIGEN. Or, because without the wind the wheat and chaff cannot be separated, therefore He has the fan in His hand, which shews some to be chaff, some wheat; for when you were as the light chaff; (i. e. unbelieving,) temptation shewed you to be what you knew not; but when you shall bravely endure temptation, the temptation will not make you faithful and enduring, but it will bring to light the virtue which was hid in you.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) But it is well to know, that the treasures, which according to the promises are laid up for those who live honestly, are such as the words of man cannot express, as eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. And the punishments which await sinners bear no proportion to any of those things which now affect the senses. And although some of those punishments are called by our names, yet their difference is very great. For when you hear of fire, you are taught to understand something else from the expression which follows, that is not quenched, beyond what comes into the idea of other fire.

GREGORY. (Mor. 15. sup. Job 20.) The fire of hell is here wonderfully expressed, for our earthly fire is kept up by heaping wood upon it, and cannot live unless supplied with fuel, but on the contrary the fire of hell, though a bodily fire, and burning bodily the wicked who are put into it, is not kept up by wood, but once made remains unquenchable.

3:18–20

18. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

19. But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,

20. Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

ORIGEN. John having announced the coming of Christ, was preaching the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the other things which the Gospel history has handed down to us. But besides these he is declared to have announced others in the following words, And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

THEOPHYLACT. For his exhortation was the telling of good things, and therefore is fitly called the Gospel.

ORIGEN. And as in the Gospel according to St. John it is related of Christ that He spoke many other things, so also in this place we must understand Luke to say the same of John the Baptist, since certain things are announced by John too great to be entrusted to writing. But we marvel at John, because among them that are born of women there was not a greater than he, for by his good deeds he had been exalted to so high a fame for virtue, that by many he was supposed to be Christ. But what is much more marvellous he feared not Herod, nor dreaded death, as it follows, But Herod the tetrarch being reproved by him.

EUSEBIUS. (non occ.) He is called the tetrarch, to distinguish him from the other Herod, in whose reign Christ was born, and who was king, but this Herod was tetrarch. Now his wife was the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia, but he had sacrilegiously married his brother Philip’s wife, though she had offspring by his brother. For those only were allowed to do this whose brothers died without issue. For this the Baptist had censured Herod. First indeed he heard him attentively, for he knew that his words were weighty and full of consolation, but the desire of Herodias compelled him to despise the words of John, and he then thrust him into prison. And so it follows, And he added this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

BEDE. But John was not imprisoned in those days. According to St. John’s Gospel it was not till after some miracles had been performed by our Lord, and after His baptism had been noised abroad; but according to Luke he had been seized beforehand by the redoubled malice of Herod, who, when he saw so many flock to the preaching of John, and the soldiers believing, the publicans repenting, and whole multitudes receiving baptism, on the contrary not only despised John, but having put him in prison, slew him.

GLOSS. (ordin.) For before that Luke relates any of the acts of Jesus, he says that John was taken by Herod, to shew that he alone was in an especial manner going to describe those of our Lord’s acts, which were performed since the year in which John was taken or put to death.

3:21–22

21. Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

22. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

AMBROSE. In a matter which has been related by others, Luke has rightly given us only a summary, and has left more to be understood than expressed in the fact, that our Lord was baptized by John. As it is said, Now when all were baptized, it came to pass. Our Lord was baptized not that He might be cleansed by the waters but to cleanse them, that being purified by the flesh of Christ who knew no sin, they might possess the power of baptism.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (in Orat. 39.) Christ comes also to baptism perhaps to sanctify baptism, but doubtless to bury the old Adam in water.

AMBROSE. But the cause of our Lord’s baptism He Himself declares when He says, Thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness. But what is righteousness, except that what you would have another do to you, you should first begin yourself, and so by your example encourage others? Let none then avoid the laver of grace, since Christ avoided not the laver of repentance.

CHRYSOSTOM. Now there was a Jewish baptism which removed the pollutions of the flesh, not the guilt of the conscience; but our baptism parts us from sin, washes the soul, and gives us largely the outpouring of the Spirit. But John’s baptism was more excellent than the Jewish; for it did not bring men to the observance of bodily purifications, but taught them to turn from sin to virtue. But it was inferior to our baptism, in that it conveyed not the Holy Spirit, nor shewed forth the remission which is by grace, for there was a certain end as it were of each baptism. But neither by the Jewish nor our own baptism was Christ baptized, for He needed not the pardon of sins, nor was that flesh destitute of the Holy Spirit which from the very beginning was conceived by the Holy Spirit; He was baptized by the baptism of John, that from the very nature of the baptism, you might know that He was not baptized because He needed the gift of the Spirit. But he says, being baptized and praying, that you might consider how fitting to one who has received baptism is constant prayer.

BEDE. Because though all sins are forgiven in baptism, not as yet is the weakness of this fleshly substance made strong. For we rejoice at the overwhelming of the Egyptians having now crossed the Red sea, but in the wilderness of worldly living there meet us other foes, who, the grace of Christ directing us, may by our exertions be subdued until we come to our own country.

CHRYSOSTOM. But he says, The heavens opened, as if till then they had been shut. But now the higher and the lower sheep-fold being brought into one, and there being one Shepherd of the sheep, the heavens opened, and man was incorporated a fellow citizen with the Angels.

BEDE. For not then were the heavens opened to Him whose eyes scanned the innermost parts of the heaven, but therein is shewn the virtue of baptism, that when a man comes forth from it the gates of the heavenly kingdom are opened to him, and while his flesh is bathed unharmed in the cold waters, which formerly dreaded their hurtful touch, the flaming sword is extinguished.

CHRYSOSTOM. The Holy Spirit descended also upon Christ as upon the Founder of our race, that He might be in Christ first of all who received Him not for Himself, but rather for us. Hence it follows: And the Holy Spirit descended. Let not any one imagine that He received Him because He had Him not. For He as God sent Him from above, and as man received Him below. Therefore from Him the Spirit fled down to Him, i. e. from His deity to His humanity.

AUGUSTINE. But it is most strange that He should receive the Spirit when He was thirty years old. But as without sin He came to baptism, so not without the Holy Spirit. For if it was written of John, He shall be filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb, (Luke 1:15.) what must we believe of the man Christ, the very conception of whose flesh was not carnal but spiritual. Therefore He condescended now to prefigure His body, i. e. the Church, in which the baptized especially receive the Holy Spirit.

CHRYSOSTOM. That baptism savoured partly of antiquity, partly of novelty. For that He should receive baptism from a Prophet shewed antiquity, but the Spirit’s descent denoted something new.

AMBROSE. Now the Spirit rightly shewed Himself in the form of a dove, for He is not seen in His divine substance. Let us consider the mystery why like a dove? Because the grace of baptism requires innocence, that we should be innocent as doves. The grace of baptism requires peace, which under the emblem of an olive branch the dove once brought to that ark which alone escaped the deluge.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or to shew the meekness of the Lord, the Spirit now appears in the form of a dove, but at Pentecost like fire, to signify punishment. For when He was about to pardon offences, gentleness was necessary; but having obtained grace, there remaineth for us the time of trial and judgment.

CYPRIAN. (De unit. Eccles.) the dove is a harmless and pleasant creature, with no bitterness of gall, no fierceness of bite, no violence of rending talons; they love the abodes of men, consort within one home, when they have young nurturing them together, when they fly abroad, hanging side by side upon the wing, leading their life in mutual intercourse, giving with their bills a sign of their peaceful harmony, and fulfilling a law of unanimity in every way.

CHRYSOSTOM. Christ indeed had already manifested Himself at His birth by many oracles, but because men would not consult them, He who had in the mean time remained secret, again more clearly revealed Himself in a second birth. For formerly a star in the heavens, now the Father at the waves of Jordan declared Him, and as the Spirit descended upon Him, pouring forth that voice over the head of Him who was baptized, as it follows, And a voice came from heaven, Thou art my beloved Son.

AMBROSE. We have seen the Spirit, but in a bodily shape, and the Father whom we cannot see we may hear. He is invisible because He is the Father, the Son also is invisible in His divinity, but He wished to manifest Himself in the body. And because the Father did not take the body, He wished therefore to prove to us that He was present in the Son, by saying, Thou art my Son.

ATHANASIUS. (De Dec. Nic. Syn.) The holy Scriptures by the name of Son set forth two meanings; one similar to that spoken of in the Gospel, He gave to them power that they should become the sons of God; another according to which Isaac is the son of Abraham. Christ is not then simply called a Son of God, but the article is prefixed, that we should understand that He alone is really and by nature the Son; and hence He is said to be the Only begotten. For if according to the madness of Arius He is called Son, as they are called who obtain the name through grace, He will seem in no way to differ from us. It remains therefore that in another respect we must confess Christ to be the Son of God, even as Isaac is acknowledged to be the son of Abraham. For that which is naturally begotten of another, and takes not its origin from any thing besides nature, accounts a son. But it is said, Was then the birth of the Son with suffering as of a man? By no means. God since He cannot be divided is without suffering the Father of the Son. Hence He is called the Word of the Father, because neither is the word of man even produced with suffering, and since God is by nature one, He is the Father of one only Son, and therefore it is added, Beloved. For when a man has only one son, he loves him very much, but if he becomes father of many, his affection is divided by being distributed.

ATHANASIUS. But as the prophet had before announced the promise of God, saying, I will send Christ my son, that promise being now as it were accomplished at Jordan, He rightly adds, In thee I am well pleased.

BEDE. As if He said, In Thee have I appointed My good pleasure, i. e. to carry on by Thee what seems good to Me.

GREGORY. (sup. Ezech. Hom. 8.) Or else, Every one who by repentance corrects any of his actions, by that very repentance shews that he has displeased himself, seeing he amends what he has done. And since the Omnipotent Father spoke of sinners after the manner of men, saying, It repents me that I have made man, (Gen. 6:7.) He (so to speak) displeased Himself in the sinners whom He had created. But in Christ alone He pleased Himself, for in Him alone He found no fault that He should blame Himself, as it were, by repentance.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 14.) But the words of Matthew, This is my beloved Son, and those of Luke, Thou art my beloved Son, convey the same meaning; for the heavenly voice spoke one of these. But Matthew wished to shew that by the words, This is my beloved Son, it was meant rather to declare to the hearers, that He was the Son of God. For that was not revealed to Christ which He knew, but they heard it who were present, and for whom the voice came.

3:23–38

23. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

24. Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph,

25. Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge,

26. Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda,

27. Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri,

28. Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er,

29. Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi,

30. Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim,

31. Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David,

32. Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson,

33. Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda,

34. Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor,

35. Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala,

36. Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech,

37. Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan,

38. Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

ORIGEN. Having related our Lord’s baptism, he next enters upon the generation of the Lord, not bringing it down from the higher to the lower, but beginning with Christ, he carries it up to God Himself. Hence he says, And Jesus Himself began. For when He was baptized, and had Himself undergone the mystery of the second birth, then He is said to have begun, that thou also mightest destroy this first birth and be born in the second.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 39.) We must therefore consider who He was who was baptized, and by whom and when: seeing He was pure, baptized by John, and at a time when His miracles had begun, that we might thence derive the lesson of purifying ourselves beforehand, and of embracing humility, and of not beginning to preach until the maturity of our spiritual and natural life. The first of these was said for their sakes who are receiving baptism; for although the gift of baptism brings remission, yet we must fear lest we return again to our vomit. The second is pointed at those who exalt themselves against the stewards of the mysteries, whom they may excel in rank. The third was uttered for those who trust in their youth, and imagine that any age is fit for promotion and teaching. Jesus is cleansed, and dost thou despise purification? By John, and dost thou say ought against thy teacher. At thirty years old, but dost thou in teaching precede thy elders? But the example of Daniel and the like are ready in thy mouth, for every guilty person is ready with an answer. But that is not the law of the Church which seldom happens, as neither does a single swallow make the spring.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, He waited accomplishing the whole law until that age which takes in every sin, that none might say that He abrogated the law because He was not able to fulfil it.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus.) For this reason also He came at thirty years to be baptized, to shew that spiritual regeneration makes men perfect as far as regards their spiritual life.

BEDE. The thrice ten years also which our Saviour had passed when He was baptized might intimate also the mystery of our baptism, because of the faith in the Trinity, and the obedience to the Decalogue.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 40.) Still must a child be baptized if necessity demands it. For it is better to be insensibly sanctified, than to pass from this life unsealed. But you will say, Christ is baptized at thirty years old, and He was God, but thou biddest us to hasten our baptism. In that thou saidst God, the objection was done away: He needed no cleansing, nor was any danger hanging over Him while He put off His baptism. But with thee it extends to no slight calamity, if thou passest from this life born in corruption, but not if thou hast put on the robe of incorruption. And truly it is a blessed thing to keep unsullied the clean robe of baptism, but it is better at times to be slightly stained, than to be altogether devoid of grace.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Glaph. in Exod. lib. 1.) Although in truth Christ had no father according to the flesh, yet some fancied he had a father. Hence it follows, As was supposed the son of Joseph.

AMBROSE. Rightly as was supposed, since in reality He was not, but was supposed to be so, because Mary who was espoused to Joseph was His mother. But we might doubt why the descent of Joseph is described rather than that of Mary, (seeing that Mary brought forth Christ of the Holy Spirit, while Joseph seemed to be out of the line of our Lord’s descent,) were we not informed of the custom of the Holy Scripture, which always seeks the origin of the husband, and especially in this case, since in Joseph’s descent we also find that of Mary. For Joseph being a just man took a wife really from his own tribe and country, and so at the time of the taxing Joseph went up from the family and country of David to be taxed with Mary his wife. She who gives in the returns from the same family and country, shews herself to be of that family and country. Hence He goes on in the descent of Joseph, and adds, Who was the son of Eli. But let us consider the fact, that St. Matthew makes Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, to be son of Nathan, but Luke says that Joseph (to whom Mary was espoused) was the son of Eli. How then could there be two fathers, (namely, Eli and Jacob,) to one man.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Carm. 18.) But some say that there is one succession from David to Joseph, which each Evangelist relates under different names. But this is absurd, since at the beginning of this genealogy, two brothers come in Nathan and Salomon, from whom the lines are carried in different ways.

EUSEBIUS. Let us then more carefully explain the meaning of the words themselves. For if when Matthew affirmed Joseph to be the son of Jacob, Luke had in like manner affirmed that Joseph was the son of Eli, there would be some dispute. But seeing the case is that Matthew gives his opinion, Luke repeats the common opinion of many, not his own, saying, as was supposed, I do not think that there is any room for doubt. For since there were among the Jews different opinions of the genealogy of Christ, and yet all traced Him up to David because to him the promises were made, while many affirmed that Christ would come through Solomon and the other kings, some shunned this opinion because of the many crimes related of their kings, and because Jeremiah said of Jechonias that “a man should not rise of his seed to sit on the throne of David.” (Jer. 22:30.) This last view Luke takes, though conscious that Matthew gives the real truth of the genealogy. This is the first reason. The next is a deeper one. For Matthew when he began to write of the things before the conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus in the flesh, very fitly as in a history commences with the ancestry in the flesh, and descending from thence deduces His generation from those who went before. For when the Word of God became flesh, He descended. But Luke hastens forward to the regeneration which takes place in baptism, and then gives another succession of families, and rising up from the lowest to the highest, keeps out of sight those sinners of whom Matthew makes mention, (because that he who is born again in God is separated from his guilty parents, being made the son of God,) and relates those who have led a virtuous life in the sight of God. For thus it was said to Abraham, Thou shalt set out to thy fathers, (Gen. 15:15.) not fathers in the flesh, but in God, on account of their likeness in virtue. To him therefore fore who is born in God he ascribes parents who are according to God on account of this resemblance in character.

PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Aug. Quæst. Nov. ac Vet. Test. 56.) Or in another way; Matthew descends from David through Salomon to Joseph: but Luke beginning from Eli, who was in the line of our Saviour, ascends through the line of Nathan the son of David, and joins the tribes of Eli and Joseph, shewing that they are both of the same family, and thereby that the Saviour was not only the Son of Joseph, but also of Eli. For by the same reason by which the Saviour is called the son of Joseph, he is also the son of Eli, and of all the rest who are of the same tribe. Hence that which the Apostle says, Of whom are the fathers, and from whom Christ came according to the flesh. (Rom. 9:5.)

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. ii. qu. 5.) Or there occur three reasons, by one of which the Evangelist was led. For either one Evangelist has mentioned the father by whom Joseph was begotten, but the other his maternal grandfather, or some one of his ancestors. Or one of the fathers mentioned was the natural father of Joseph, the other his father who had adopted him. Or after the manner of the Jews, when a man has died without children, the next of kin taking his wife ascribes to his dead kinsman the son whom he has himself begotten.

AMBROSE. For it is related that Matthas, who was descended from Salomon, begat Jacob as his son, and died leaving his wife living, whom Melchi took unto him as wife, and from her Eli was born. Again, Eli, when his brother Jacob died without children, was joined to his brother’s wife, and begot a son Joseph, who according to law is called the son of Jacob, since Eli raised up seed to his deceased brother, according to the order of the ancient law. (Deut. 25:5.)

BEDE. Or else, Jacob, taking the wife of his brother Eli who had died without children according to the command of the law, begot Joseph, by natural parentage his own son, but by the ordinance of the law the son of Eli.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 3.) It is most probable that Luke took the origin by adoption, as not being willing to say that Joseph, was begotten by him whose son he related him to be. For more easily is a man said to be his son by whom he was adopted, than to be begotten by him from whose flesh he was not born. But Matthew saying, “Abraham begat lsaac, and Isaac begat Jacob,” and continuing in the word “begat,” until at last he says, but “Jacob begat Joseph,” has sufficiently expressed that he has carried through the succession of the fathers, to that father by whom Joseph was not adopted, but begotten. Although even supposing that Luke should say that Joseph was begotten by Eli, neither ought that word to perplex us. For it is not absurd to say that a man has begotten not in the flesh but in love the Son whom he has adopted. But rightly has Luke taken the origin by adoption, for by adoption are we made the sons of God, by believing on the Son of God, but by His birth in the flesh, the Son of God has rather for our sakes become the Son of man.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 31, in Ep. ad Rom.) But because this part of the Gospel consists of a series of names, men think there is nothing valuable to be derived therefrom. Lest then we should feel this, let us try to examine every step. For from the mere name we may extract an abundant treasure, for names are indicative of many things. For they savour of the Divine mercy and the offerings of thanks by women, who when they obtained sons gave a name significant of the gift.

GLOSS. (interlin.) By interpretation then Eli means, “My God,” or “climbing,” Who was the son of Matthat, i. e. “forgiving sins.” Who was the son of Levi, i. e. “being added.”

AMBROSE. Luke rightly thought, seeing that he could not embrace more of the sons of Jacob, lest he should seem to be wandering from the line of descent in a superfluous course, that the ancient names of the Patriarchs though occurring in others far later, Joseph, Judah, Simeon, and Levi, should not be omitted. For we recognise in these four kinds of virtue; in Judah, the mystery of our Lord’s Passion prophesied by figure; in Joseph, an example of chastity going before; in Simeon, the punishment of injured modesty; in Levi, the priestly office. Hence it follows, Who was the son of Melchi, i. e. “my King.” Who was the son of Janna, i. e. “a right hand.” Who was the son ofJoseph, i. e. “growing up;” but this was a different Joseph. Who was the son of Mattathias, i. e. “the gift of God,” or “sometimes.” Who was the son of Amos, i. e. “loading, or he loaded.” Who was the son of Naum, i. e. “help me.” Who was the son of Matthat, i. e. “desire.” Who was the son of Mattathias, as above. Who was the son of Simei, i. e. “obedient.” Who was the son ofJoseph, i. e. “increase.” Who was the son of Judah, i. e. “confessing.” Joanna, “the Lord, his grace,” or “the gracious Lord.” Resa, “merciful.” Zorobabel, “chief or master of Babylon.” Salathiel, “God my petition.” Neri, “my lanthern.” Melchi, “my kingdom.” Addi, “strong or violent.” Cosam, “divining.” Her, “watching, or watch, or of skins.” Who was the son of Jesus, i. e. “Saviour.” Eliezer, i. e. “God my helper.” Joarim, i. e. “God exalting, or, is exalting.” Matthat, as above. Levi, as above. Simeon, i. e. “He has heard the sadness, or the sign.” Juda, as above. Joseph, as above. Jonah, a dove, or wailing. Eliachim, i. e. “the resurrection of God.” Melchi, i. e. “his king.” Menan, i. e. “my bowels.” Mattathias, i. e. “gift.” Nathan, i. e. “He gave, or, of giving.”

AMBROSE. But by Nathan we perceive expressed the dignity of Prophecy, that as Christ Jesus alone fulfilled all things, in each of His ancestors different kinds of virtue might precede Him. It follows, Who was the son of David.

ORIGEN. The Lord descending into the world took upon Him the person of all sinners, and was willing to be born of the stock of Solomon, (as Matthew relates,) whose sins have been written down, and of the rest, many of whom did evil in the sight of God. But when He ascended, and is described as being born a second time in baptism, (as Luke relates,) He is not born through Salomon, but Nathan, who reproves the father for the death of Uriah, and the birth of Solomon.

AUGUSTINE. (Retract. i. c. 26.) But it must be confessed that a prophet of this same name reproves David, that he might be thought to be the same man, whereas he was different.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (ubi sup.) From David upwards according to each Evangelist there is an unbroken line of descent; as it follows, Who was the son of Jesse.

GLOSS. (ubi sup.) David is interpreted, “with a mighty arm, strong in fight.” Obith, i. e. “slavery.” Booz, i. e. “strong.” Salmon, i. e. “capable of feeling, or peace-making.” Naasson, i. e. “augury, or belonging to serpents.” Aminadab, “the people being willing.” Aram, i. e. “upright, or lofty.” Esrom, i. e. “an arrow.” Phares, i. e. “division.” Judah, i. e. “confessing.” Who was the son of Jacob, i. e. “supplanted.” Isaac, i. e. “laughing or joy.” Abraham, i. e. “the father of many nations, or the people.”

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt 1.) Matthew, who wrote as for the Jews, had no further object than to shew that Christ proceeded from Abraham and David, for this was most grateful to the Jews. Luke however, as speaking to all men in common, carried his account beyond as far even as Adam. Hence it follows, Who was the son of Thara.

GLOSS. (ubi sup.) Which is interpreted, “finding out,” or “wickedness.” Nachor, i. e. “the light rested.” Sarug, i. e. “correction,” or “holding the reins,” or “perfection.” Ragan, i. e. “sick,” or “feeding.” Phares, i. e. “dividing,” or “divided.” Heber, i. e. “passing over.” Sala, i. e. “taking away.” Canaan, i. e. “lamentation,” or “their possession.”

BEDE. The name and generation of Cainan, according to the Hebrew reading, is found neither in Genesis, nor in the Chronicles, (dierum Vulg. verbis.) but Arphaxad is stated to have begot Sala his son, without any one intervening. Know then that Luke borrowed this generation from the Septuagint, where it is written, that Arphaxad at a hundred and thirty-five years old begot Cainan, but he at a hundred and thirty years begot Sala. It follows, Who was the son of Arphaxad.

GLOSS. (ubi sup.) i. e. “healing the laying waste.” Sem, i. e. “a name,” or being “named.” Who was the son of Noe, i. e. “rest.”

AMBROSE. The mention of just Noah ought not to be omitted among our Lord’s generations, that as our Lord was born the builder of His Church, He might seem to have sent Noah beforehand, the author of His race, who had before founded the Church under the type of an ark. Who was the son of Lamech.

GLOSS. (ubi sup.) i. e. “humility, or striking, or struck, or humble.” Who was the son of Mathusalem, i. e. “the sending forth of death,” or “he died,” also “he asked.”

AMBROSE. His years are numbered beyond the deluge, that since Christ is the only one whose life experiences no age, in His ancestors also He might seem to have felt not the deluge. Who was the son of Enoch. And here is a manifest declaration of our Lord’s piety and divinity, since our Lord neither experienced death, and returned to heaven, the founder of whose race was taken up into heaven. Whence it is plain that Christ could not die, but was willing that His death should profit us. And Enoch indeed was taken, that his heart might not change by wickedness, but the Lord, whom the wickedness of the world could not change, returned to that place whence He had come by the greatness of His own nature.

BEDE. But rightly rising up from the baptized Son of God to God the Father, he places Enoch in the seventy-seventh step, who, having put off death, was translated unto Paradise, that he might signify that those, who by the grace of adoption of sons are born again of water and the Holy Spirit, are in the mean time (after the dissolution of the body) to be received into eternal rest, for the number seventy, because of the seventh of the sabbath, signifies the rest of those who, the grace of God assisting them, have fulfilled the decalogue of the aw.

GLOSS. Enoch is interpreted “dedication.” Jared, i. e. descending or “holding together.” Malaleleel, i. e. “the praised of God,” or” praising God.” Cainan, as above. Enos, i. e. “man,” or “despairing,” or “violent.” Seth, i. e. “placing,” “settling,” “he hath placed.” Seth, the last son of Adam, is not omitted, that as there were two generations of people, it might be signified under a figure that Christ was to be reckoned rather in the last than the first.

It follows, Who was the son of Adam.

GLOSS. (ubi sup.) Which is “man,” or “of the earth,” or “needy.” Who was the son of God.

AMBROSE. What could better agree than that the holy generation should commence from the Son of God, and be carried up even to the Son of God; and that he who was created should precede in a figure, in order that he who was born might follow in substance, so that he who was made after the image of God might go before, for whose sake the image of God was to descend. For Luke thought that the origin of Christ should be referred to God, because God is the true progenitor of Christ, or the Father according to the true birth, or the Author of the mystical gift according to baptism and regeneration, and therefore he did not from the first begin to describe His generation, but not till after he had unfolded His baptism, that both by nature and by grace, he might declare Him to be the Son of God. But what more evident sign of His divine generation than that when about to speak of it St. Luke introduces first the Father, saying, Thou art my beloved Son?

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 3.) He sufficiently declared by this that he called not Joseph the son of Eli because he was begotten by him, but rather because he was adopted by him, for he has called also Adam himself son, since though made by God, yet by grace (which he forfeited by sin) he was placed as a son in paradise.

THEOPHYLACT. For this reason he closes the generations in God, that we may learn that those fathers who intervene, Christ will raise up to God, and make them sons of God, and that it might be believed also that the birth of Christ was without seed; as if he said, If thou believest not that the second Adam was made without seed, you must come to the first Adam, and you will find that he was made by God without seed.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup. c. 4.) Matthew indeed wished to set forth God descending to our mortality; accordingly at the beginning of the Gospel he recounted the generations from Abraham to the birth of Christ in a descending scale. But Luke, not at the beginning, but after the baptism of Christ, relates the generation not descending but ascending, as if marking out rather the high priest in the expiation of sins, of whom John bore testimony, saying, Behold, who taketh away the sins of the world. But by ascending he comes to God, to whom we are reconciled, being cleansed and expiated.

AMBROSE. Nor do the Evangelists seem so to differ who have followed the old order, nor can you wonder if from Abraham down to Christ there are more successions according to Luke, fewer according to Matthew, since you must admit the line to have been traced through different persons. But it might be that some men have passed a very long life, but the men of the next generation have died at an early age, since we see how many old men live to see their grandchildren, while others depart as soon as they have sons born to them.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. lib. ii. qu. 6.) But most fitly with regard to our baptized Lord does Luke reckon the generations through seventy-seven persons. For both the ascent to God is expressed, to whom we are reconciled by the abolition of sins, and by baptism is brought to man the remission of all his sins, which are signified by that number. For eleven times seven are seventy-seven. But by the tenth number is meant perfect happiness. Hence it is plain that the going beyond the tenth marks the sin of one through pride coveting to have more. But this is said to be seven times to signify that the transgression was caused by the moving of man. For by the third number the immortal part of man is represented, but by the fourth the body. But motion is not expressed in numbers, as when we say, one, two, three; but when we say, once, twice, thrice. And so by seven times eleven, is signified a transgression wrought by man’s action.








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