Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9: 9.13.19 Origen - Gospel of Matthew - Book 10 Part 2

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9: 9.13.19 Origen - Gospel of Matthew - Book 10 Part 2

TOPIC: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 9.13.19 Origen - Gospel of Matthew - Book 10 Part 2

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Commentaries of Origen (Cont.)

Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Cont.)

Book X. (Cont.)

16. Parables in Relation to Similitudes, Jesus in His Own Country.

“And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence. And coming into His own country.” (Mat_13:53, Mat_13:54) Since we inquired above whether the things spoken to the multitude were parables, and those spoken to the disciples were similitudes, and set forth observations bearing on this in my judgment not contemptible, you must know that the sentence which is subjoined, “And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence,” will appear to be in opposition to all these arguments, as applying not only to the parables, but also to the similitudes as we have expounded. We inquire therefore whether all these things are to be rejected, or whether we must speak of two kinds of parables, those spoken to the multitudes, and those announced to the disciples; or whether we are to think of the name of parable as equivocal; or whether the saying, “And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables,” is to be referred only to the parables above, which come before the similitudes. For, because of the saying, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the rest in parables,” (Mat_13:11) it was not possible to say to the disciples, inasmuch as they were not of those without, that the Saviour spoke to them in parables. And it follows from this, that the saying, “And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence,” is to be referred to the parables spoken above, or that the name parable is equivocal, or that there are two kinds of parables, or that these which we have named similitudes were not parables at all. And observe that it was outside of His own country He speaks the parables “which, when He had 424 finished, He departed thence; and coming into His own country He taught them in their synagogue.” And Mark says, “And He came into His own country and His disciples follow Him.” (Mar_6:1) We must therefore inquire whether, by the expression, “His own country,” is meant Nazareth or Bethlehem, — Nazareth, because of the saying, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” (Mat_2:23) or Bethlehem, since in it He was born. And further I reflect whether the Evangelists could have said, “coming to Bethlehem,” or, “coming to Nazareth.” They have not done so, but have named it “His country,” because of something being declared in a mystic sense in the passage about His country, — namely, the whole of Judaea, — in which He was dishonoured according to the saying, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” (Mat_13:57) And if anyone thinks of Jesus Christ, “a stumbling-block to the Jews,” (1Co_1:23) among whom He is persecuted even until now, but proclaimed among the Gentiles and believed in, — for His word has run over the whole world, — he will see that in His own country Jesus had no honour, but that among those who were “strangers from the covenants,” (Eph_2:12) the Gentiles, He is held in honour. But what things He taught and spake in their synagogue the Evangelists have not recorded, but only that they were so great and of such a nature that all were astonished. And probably the things spoken were too high to be written down. Only be it noted, He taught in their synagogue, not separating from it, nor disregarding it.

17. The Brethren of Jesus.

And the saying, “Whence hath this man this wisdom,” (Mat_13:54) indicates clearly that there was a great and surpassing wisdom in the words of Jesus worthy of the saying, “And lo, a greater than Solomon is here.” (Mat_12:42) And He was wont to do greater miracles than those wrought through Elijah and Elisha, and at a still earlier date through Moses and Joshua the son of Nun. And they spoke, wondering, not knowing that He was the son of a virgin, or not believing it even if it was told to them, but supposing that He was the son of Joseph the carpenter, “is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Mat_13:55) And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, “Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?” (Mat_13:55, Mat_13:56) They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter,17 as it is entitled, or “The Book of James,”18 that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee,” (Luk_1:35) might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity. And James is he whom Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians that he saw, “But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” (Gal_1:19) And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ.19 And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James. And Jude, who wrote a letter of few lines, it is true, but filled with the healthful words of heavenly grace, said in the preface, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James.” (Jud_1:1) With regard to Joseph and Simon we have nothing to tell; but the saying, “And His sisters are they not all with us.” (Mat_13:56) seems to me to signify something of this nature — they mind our things, not those of Jesus, and have no unusual portion of surpassing wisdom as Jesus has. And perhaps by these things is indicated a new doubt concerning Him, that Jesus was not a man but something diviner, inasmuch as 425 He was, as they supposed, the son of Joseph and Mary, and the brother of four, and of the others — the women — as well, and yet had nothing like to any one of His kindred, and had not from education and teaching come to such a height of wisdom and power. For they also say elsewhere, “How knoweth this man letters having never learned?” (Joh_7:15) which is similar to what is here said. Only, though they say these things and are so perplexed and astonished, they did not believe, but were offended in Him; as if they had been mastered in the eyes of their mind by the powers which, in the time of the passion, He was about to lead in triumph on the cross.

18. Prophets in Their Country.

“But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” (Mat_13:57) We must inquire whether the expression has the same force when applied universally to every prophet as if each one of the prophets was dishonoured in his own country only, but not as if every one who was dishonoured was dishonoured in his country; or, because of the expression being singular, these things were said about one. If, then, these words are spoken about one, these things which have been said suffice, if we refer that which is written to the Saviour. But if it is general, it is not historically true; for Elijah did not suffer dishonour in Tishbeth of Gilead, nor Elisha in Abetmeholah, nor Samuel in Ramathaim, nor Jeremiah in Anathoth. But, figuratively interpreted, it is absolutely true; for we must think of Judaea as their country, and that famous Israel as their kindred, and perhaps of the body as the house. For all suffered dishonour in Judaea from the Israel which is according to the flesh, while they were yet in the body, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, as having been spoken in censure to the people, “Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute, who showed before of the coming of the Righteous one?” (Act_7:52) And by Paul in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians like things are said: “For ye brethren became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus, for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen even as they did of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drave out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men.” (1Th_2:14, 1Th_2:15) A prophet, then, is not without honour among the Gentiles; for either they do not know him at all, or, having learned and received him as a prophet, they honour him. And such are those who are of the Church. Prophets suffer dishonour, first, when they are persecuted, according to historical fact, by the people, and, secondly, when their prophecy is not believed by the people. For if they had believed Moses and the prophets they would have believed Christ, who showed that when men believed Moses and the prophets, belief in Christ logically followed, and that when men did not believe Christ they did not believe Moses. (Joh_5:46) Moreover, as by the transgression of the law he who sins is said to dishonour God, so by not believing in that which is prophesied the prophet is dishonoured by the man who disbelieves the prophecies. And so far as the literal truth is concerned, it is useful to recount what things Jeremiah suffered among the people in relation to which he said, “And I said, I will not speak, nor will I call upon the name of the Lord.” (Jer_20:9) And again, elsewhere, “I was continually being mocked.” (Jer_20:7) And how great sufferings he endured from the then king of Israel are written in his prophecy. And it is also written that some of the people often came to stone Moses to death; for his fatherland was not the stones of any place, but the people who followed him, among whom also he was dishonoured. And Isaiah is reported to have been sawn asunder by the people; and if any one does not accept the statement because of its being found in the Apocryphal Isaiah,20 let him believe what is written thus in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted;” (Heb_11:37) for the expression, “They were sawn asunder,” refers to Isaiah, just as the words, “They were slain with the sword,” refer to Zacharias, who was slain “between the sanctuary and the altar,”21 as the Saviour taught, bearing testimony, as I think, to a Scripture, though not extant in the common and widely circulated books, but perhaps in apocryphal books. And they, too, were dishonoured in their own country among the Jews who went about “in sheep-skins, in goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted,” and so on; (Heb_11:37) “For all that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2Ti_3:12) And probably because Paul knew this, 426 “That a prophet has no honour in his own country,” though he preached the Word in many places he did not preach it in Tarsus. And the Apostles on this account left Israel and did that which had been enjoined on them by the Saviour, “Make disciples of all the nations,” (Mat_28:19) and, “Ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Act_1:8) For they did that which had been commanded them in Judaea and Jerusalem; but, since a prophet has no honour in his own country, when the Jews did not receive the Word, they went away to the Gentiles. Consider, too, if, because of the fact that the saying, “I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh, and they shall prophesy,” (Joe_2:28) has been fulfilled in the churches from the Gentiles, you can say that those formerly of the world and who by believing became no longer of the world, having received the Holy Spirit in their own country — that is, the world — and prophesying, have not honour, but are dishonoured. Wherefore blessed are they who suffer the same things as the prophets, according to what was said by the Saviour, “For in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” (Luk_6:23) Now if any one who attends carefully to these things be hated and attacked, because of his living with rigorous austerity, and his reproof of sinners, as a man who is persecuted and reproached for the sake of righteousness, he will not only not be grieved, but will rejoice and be exceeding glad, being assured that, because of these things, he has great reward in heaven from Him who likened him to the prophets on the ground of his having suffered the same things. Therefore, he who zealously imitates the prophetic life, and attains to the spirit which was in them, must be dishonoured in the world, and in the eyes of sinners, to whom the life of the righteous man is a burden.

19. Relation of Faith and Unbelief to the Supernatural Powers of Jesus.

Following this you may see, “He did not there many mighty works because of their unbelief.” (Mat_13:58) We are taught by these things that powers were found in those who believed, since “to every one that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance,” (Mat_13:12) but among unbelievers not only did the powers not work, but as Mark wrote, “They could not work.” (Mat_17:19, Mat_17:20) For attend to the words, “He could not there do any mighty works,” for it is not said, “He would not,” but “He could not;” as if there came to the power when working co-operation from the faith of him on whom the power was working, but this co-operation was hindered in its exercise by unbelief. See, then, that to those who said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said, “Because of your little faith.” (Mat_14:31) And to Peter, when he began to sink, it was said, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Luk_8:45, Luk_8:46) But, moreover, she who had the issue of blood, who did not ask for the cure, but only reasoned that if she were to touch the hem of His garment she would be healed, was healed on the spot. And the Saviour, acknowledging the method of healing, says, “Who touched Me? For I perceived that power went forth from Me.” (Mat_17:20) And perhaps, as in the case of material things there exists in some things a natural attraction towards some other thing, as in the magnet for iron, and in what is called naphtha for fire, so there is an attraction in such faith towards the divine power, according to what is said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove.” (Mat_13:58) And Matthew and Mark, wishing to set forth the excellency of the divine power, that it has power even in unbelief, but not so great power as it has in the faith of those who are being benefited, seem to me to have said with accuracy, not that He did not “any” mighty works because of their unbelief, but that He did not “many” there. (Mar_6:5) And Mark also does not say, that He could not do any mighty work there, and stop at that point, but added, “Save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk and healed them,” (Mar_6:5) the power in Him thus overcoming the unbelief. Now it seems to me that, as in the case of material things, tillage is not sufficient in itself for the gathering in of the fruits, unless the air cooperates to this end, nay, rather, He who forms the air with whatever quality He wills and makes it whatever He wills; nor the air apart from tillage, but rather He who by His providence has enacted that the things which spring up from the earth could not spring up apart from tillage; for this He has done once for all in the law, “Let the earth put forth grass sowing seed after its 427 kind and after its likeness;” (Gen_1:11) so also neither do the operations of the powers, apart from the faith of those who are being healed, exhibit the absolute work of healing, nor faith, however great it may be, apart from the divine power. And that which is written about wisdom, you may apply also to faith, and to the virtues specifically, so as to make a precept of this kind, “If any one be perfect in wisdom among the sons of men, and the power that comes from Thee be wanting, he will be reckoned as nothing;” (Wisdom of Solomon 9:6) or, “If any one be perfect in self-control, so far as is possible for the sons of men, and the control that is from Thee be wanting, he will be reckoned as nothing;” or, “If any one be perfect in righteousness, and in the rest of virtues, and the righteousness and the rest of the virtues that are from Thee be wanting to him, he will be reckoned as nothing.” Wherefore, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength,” (Jer_9:23) for that which is fit matter for glorying is not ours, but is the gift of God; the wisdom is from Him, and the strength is from Him; and so with the rest.

20. Different Conceptions of John the Baptist.

“At that season Herod the tetrarch heard the report concerning Jesus and said unto his own servants, This is John the Baptist.” (Mat_14:1) In Mark (Mar_6:14) it is the same, and also in Luke. (Luk_9:7) The Jews had different opinions, some false, such as the Sadducees held about the resurrection of the dead, that they do not rise, and in regard to angels that they do not exist, but that those things which were written about them were only to be interpreted figuratively, but had no reality in point of fact; and some true opinions, such as were taught by the Pharisees about the resurrection of the dead that they rise. We must therefore here inquire, whether the opinion regarding the soul, mistakenly held by Herod and some from among the people, was somewhat like this — that John, who a little before had been slain by him, had risen from the dead after he had been beheaded, and was the same person under a different name, and being now called Jesus was possessed of the same powers which formerly wrought in John. For what credibility is there in the idea that One, who was so widely known to the whole people, and whose name was noised abroad in the whole of Judaea, whom they declared to be the son of the carpenter and Mary, and to have such and such for brothers and sisters, was thought to be not different from22 John whose father was Zacharias, and whose mother was Elisabeth, who were themselves not undistinguished among the people? But it is probable that the fact of his being the Son of Zacharias was not unknown to the people, who thought with regard to John that he was truly a prophet, and were so numerous that the Pharisees, in order to avoid the appearance of saying that which was displeasing to the people, were afraid to answer the question, “Was his baptism from heaven or from men?” (Mat_21:25) And perhaps, also, to some of them had come the knowledge of the incident of the vision which was seen in the temple, when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias. What credibility, forsooth, has the erroneous opinion, whether of Herod or of some of the people, that John and Jesus were not two persons, but that it was one and the same person John who rose from the dead after that he had been beheaded and was called Jesus? some one might say, however, that Herod and some of those of the people held the false dogma of the transmigration of souls into bodies, in consequence of which they thought that the former John had appeared again by a fresh birth, and had come from the dead into life as Jesus. But the time between the birth of John and the birth of Jesus, which was not more than six months, does not permit this false opinion to be considered credible. And perhaps rather some such idea as this was in the mind of Herod, that the powers which wrought in John had passed over to Jesus, in consequence of which He was thought by the people to be John the Baptist. And one might use the following line of argument. Just as because of the spirit and the power of Elijah, and not because of his soul, it is said about John, “This is Elijah which is to come,” (Mat_11:14) the spirit in Elijah and the power in him having gone over to John — so Herod thought that the powers in John wrought in his case works of baptism and teaching, — for John did not one miracle, (Joh_10:41) but in Jesus miraculous portents. It may be said that something of this kind was the thought of those who said that Elijah had appeared in Jesus, or that one of the old prophets had risen. Luk_9:8 But the opinion of those who said that Jesus was “a prophet even as one of the prophets,” (Mar_6:15) has no bearing on the question. False, 428 then, is the saying concerning Jesus, whether that recorded to have been the view of Herod, or that spoken by others. Only, the saying, “That John went before in the spirit and power of Elijah,” (Luk_1:17) which corresponds to the thoughts which they were now cherishing concerning John and Jesus, seems to me more credible. But since we learned, in the first place, that when the Saviour after the temptation heard that John was given up, He retreated into Galilee, and in the second place, that when John was in prison and heard the things about Jesus he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Art thou He that cometh, or look we for another?” (Mat_11:2, Mat_11:3) and in the third place, generally that Herod said about Jesus, “It is John the Baptist, he is risen from the dead,” (Mat_14:2) but we have not previously learned from any quarter the manner in which the Baptist was killed, therefore Matthew has now recorded it, and Mark almost like unto him; but Luke passed over in silence the greater part of the narrative as it is found in them.”23

21. Herod and the Baptist.

The narrative of Matthew is as follows, — “for Herod had laid hold on John and bound him in the prison.” (Mat_14:3) In reference to these things, it seems to me, that as the law and the prophets were until John, (Luk_16:16) after whom the grace of prophecy ceased from among the Jews; so the authority of those who had rule among the people, which included the power to kill those whom they thought worthy of death, existed until John; and when the last of the prophets was unlawfully killed by Herod, the king of the Jews was deprived of the power of putting to death; for, if Herod had not been deprived of it, Pilate would not have condemned Jesus to death; but for this Herod would have sufficed along with the council of the chief priests and elders of the people, met for the purpose. And then I think was fulfilled that which was spoken as follows by Jacob to Judah: “A ruler shall not depart from Judah, nor a leader from Israel, until that come which is laid up in store, and he is the expectation of the Gentiles.” (Gen_49:10) And perhaps also the Jews were deprived of this power, the Providence of God arranging for the spread of the teaching of Christ among the people, so that even if this were hindered by the Jews, the opposition might not go so far as the slaying of believers, which seemed to be according to law. “But Herod laid hold on John and bound him in prison and put him away,” (Mat_14:3) by this act signifying that, so far as it depended on his power and on the wickedness of the people, he bound and imprisoned the prophetic word, and prevented him from continuing to abide a herald the truth in freedom as formerly. But this Herod did for the sake of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John said unto him, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” (Mat_14:3, Mat_14:4) Now this Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and of Trachonitis. Some, then, suppose that, when Philip died leaving a daughter, Herodias, Herod married his brother’s wife, though the law permitted marriage only when there were no children. But, as we find nowhere clear evidence that Philip was dead, we conclude that a yet greater transgression was done by Herod, namely, that he had induced his brother’s wife to revolt from her husband while he was still living.

22. The Dancing of Herodias. The Keeping of Oaths.

Wherefore John, endued with prophetic boldness and not terrified at the royal dignity of Herod, nor through fear of death keeping silence in regard to so flagrant a sin, filled with a divine spirit said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her; for it is not lawful for thee to have the wife of thy brother.” For Herod having laid hold on John bound him and put him in prison, not daring to slay him outright and to take away the prophetic word from the people; but the wife of the king of Trachonitis — which is a kind of evil opinion and wicked teaching — gave birth to a daughter of the same name, whose movements, seemingly harmonious, pleasing Herod, who was fond of matters connected with birthdays, came the cause of there being no longer a prophetic head among the people. And up to this point I think that the movements of the people of the Jews, which seem to be according to the law, were nothing else than the movements of the daughter of Herodias but the dancing of Herodias was opposed to that holy dancing with which those who have not danced will be reproached when they hear the words. “We piped unto you, and ye did not dance.” (Mat_11:17; Luk_7:32) And on birthdays, when the lawless word reigns over them, they dance so that their movements please that word. Some one of those before us has observed what is written in Genesis about the birthday of Pharaoh, and has told 429 that the worthless man who loves things connected with birth keeps birthday festivals; and we, taking this suggestion from him, find in no Scripture that a birthday was kept by a righteous man. For Herod was more unjust than that famous Pharaoh; for by the latter on his birthday feast a chief baker is killed; (Gen_40:20) but by the former, John, “than whom no one greater hath risen among those born of women,” (Mat_11:11) in regard to whom the Saviour says, “But for what purpose did ye go out? To see a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” (Luk_7:26) But thanks be unto God, that, even if the grace of prophecy was taken from the people, a grace greater than all that was poured forth among the Gentiles by our Saviour Jesus Christ, who became “free among the dead;” (Psa_88:6) for “though He were crucified through weakness, yet He liveth through the power of God.” (2Co_13:4) Consider also the word in which pure and impure meats are inquired into; but prophecy is despised when it is brought forward in a charger instead of meat. But the Jews have not the head of prophecy, inasmuch as they disown the crown of all prophecy, Christ Jesus; and the prophet is beheaded, because of an oath in a case where the duty was rather to break the oath than to keep the oath; for the charge of rashness in taking an oath and of breaking it because of the rashness is not the same in guilt as the death of a prophet. And not on this account alone is he beheaded, but because “of those who sat at meat with him,” who preferred that the prophet should be killed rather than live. And they recline at the same table and also feast along with the evil word which reigns over the Jews, who make merry over his birth. At times you may make a graceful application of the passage to those who swear rashly and wish to hold fast oaths which are taken with a view to unlawful deeds, by saying that not every keeping of oaths is seemly, just as the keeping of the oath of Herod was not. And mark, further, that not openly but secretly and in prison does Herod put John to death. For even the present word of the Jews does not openly deny the prophecies, but virtually and in secret denies them, and is convicted of disbelieving them. For as “if they believed Moses they would have believed Jesus,” (Joh_5:46) so if they had believed the prophets they would have received Him who had been the subject of prophecy.

But disbelieving Him they also disbelieve them, and cut off and confine in prison the prophetic word, and hold it dead and divided, and in no way wholesome, since they do not understand it. But we have the whole Jesus, the prophecy concerning Him being fulfilled which said, “A bone shall not be broken.” (Exo_12:46; Joh_19:36)

23. The Withdrawal of Jesus.

And the disciples of John having come bury his remains, and “they went and told Jesus.” (Mat_14:12) And He withdrew to a desert place, — that is, the Gentiles — and after the killing of the prophet multitudes followed Him from the cities everywhere; seeing which to be great He had compassion on them, and healed their sick; and afterwards with the loaves which were blessed and multiplied from a few loaves He feeds those who followed Him. “Now when Jesus heard it He withdrew thence in a boat to a desert place apart.” (Mat_14:13) The letter teaches us to withdraw as far as it is in our power from those who persecute us, and from expected conspiracies through words; for this would be to act according to prudence; and, when one can keep outside of critical positions, to go to meet them is rash and headstrong. For who would still hesitate about avoiding such things, when not only did Jesus retreat in view of what happened to John, but also taught and said, “If they persecute you in this city, flee ye into the other”? (Mat_10:23) When a temptation comes which is not in our power to avoid, we must endure it with exceeding nobleness and courage; but, when it is in our power to avoid it, not to do so is rash. But since after the letter we must also investigate the place according to the mystical meaning, we must say that, when prophecy was plotted against among the Jews and destroyed, because of their giving honour to matters of birthdays, and in respect of their reception of vain movements which, though conceived by the ruler of the wicked and those who feast along with him to be regular and pleasing to them, were irregular and out of tune, if truth be umpire, then Jesus withdraws from the place in which prophecy was attacked and condemned; and He withdraws to the place which had been barren of God among the Gentiles, in order that the Word of God, when the kingdom was taken from the Jews and “given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof,” (Mat_21:43) might be among the Gentiles; and, on 430 account of it, “the children of the desolate one,” who had not been instructed either in the law or the prophets, “might be more than of her who has the husband,” (Isa_54:1; Gal_4:27) that is, the law. When, then, the word was of old among the Jews, it was not so among them as it is among the Gentiles; wherefore it is said that, “in a boat,” — that is, in the body — He went to the desert place apart, when He heard about the killing of the prophet. And, having come into the desert place apart, He was in it, because that the Word dwelt apart, and His teaching was contrary to the customs and usages which obtained among the Gentiles. And the crowds among the Gentiles, when they heard that Jesus had come to stay in their desert, and that He was apart, as we have already reported, followed Him from their own cities, because each had left the superstitious customs of his fathers and come to the law of Christ. And by land they followed Him, and not in a boat, inasmuch as not with the body but with the soul only, and with the resolution to which they had been persuaded by the Word, they followed the Image of God. And to them Jesus comes out, as they were not able to go to Him, in order that, having gone to those who were without, He might lead within those who were without. And great is the crowd without to whom the Word of God goes out, and, having poured out upon it the light of His “visitation,” beholds it; and, seeing that they were rather deserving of being pitied, because they were in such circumstances, as a lover of men He who was impassible suffered the emotion of pity, and not only had pity but healed their sick, who had sicknesses diverse and of every kind arising from their wickedness.

24. The Diverse Forms of Spiritual Sickness.

And, if you wish to see of what nature are the sicknesses of the soul, contemplate with me the lovers of money, and the lovers of ambition, and the lovers of boys, and if any be fond of women; for these also beholding among the crowds and taking compassion upon them, He healed. For not every sin is to be considered a sickness, but that which has settled down in the whole soul. For so you may see the lovers of money wholly intent on money and upon preserving and gathering it, the lovers of ambition wholly intent on a little glory, for they gape for praise from the masses and the vulgar; and analogously you will understand in the case of the rest which we have named, and if there be any other like to them. Since, then, when expounding the words, “He healed their sick,” (Mat_14:14) we said that not every sin is a sickness, it is fitting to discuss from the Scripture the difference of these. The Apostle indeed says, writing to the Corinthians who had diverse sicknesses, “For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep.” (1Co_11:30) Hear Him in these words, knitting a band and making it plaited of different sins, according as some are weak, and others sickly more than weak, and others, in comparison with both, are asleep. For some, because of impotence of soul, having a tendency to slip into any sin whatever, although they may not be wholly in the grasp of any form of sin, as the sickly are, are only weak; but others who, instead of loving God “with all their soul and all their heart and all their mind,” love money, or a little glory, or wife, or children, are suffering from something worse than weakness, and are sickly. And those who sleep are those who, when they ought to be taking heed and watching with the soul, are not doing this, but by reason of great want of attention are nodding in resolution and are drowsy in their reflections, such as “in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at naught that which is highest in authority, and rail at dignities.” (Jud_1:8) And these, because they are asleep, live in an atmosphere of vain and dream-like fancies concerning realities, not admitting the things which are actually true, but deceived by what appears in their vain imaginations, in regard to whom it is said in Isaiah, “Like as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking, but when he has risen up is still thirsty, and his soul has cherished a vain hope, so shall be the wealth of all the nations as many as have warred in Jerusalem.”24 If, then, we have seemed to make a digression in recounting the difference between the weak and the sickly and those that sleep, because of that which the Apostle said in the letter to the Corinthians which we have expounded, we have made the digression in our desire to represent what is meant to be understood by the saying, “And He healed their sick.” (Mat_14:14)

25. Healing Precedes Participation in the Loaves of Jesus.

After this the word says, “And when 431 even was come, His disciples came to Him, saying, The place is desert and the time is already past; send, therefore, the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” (Mat_14:15) And first observe that when about to give to the disciples the loaves of blessing, that they might set them before the multitudes, He healed the sick, in order that, having been restored to health, they might participate in the loaves of blessing; for while they are yet sickly, they are not able to receive the loaves of the blessing of Jesus. But if any one, when he ought to listen to the precept, “But let each prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread,” etc., (1Co_11:28) does not obey these words, but in haphazard fashion participates in the bread of the Lord and His cup, he becomes weak or sickly, or even — if I may use the expression — on account of being stupefied by the power of the bread, asleep.


17 The Gospel of Peter, of which a fragment was recovered in 1886 and published in 1892.

18 Protevangelium Jacobi, c. 9

19 Jos. Ant. xviii. 4.

20 Probably the Ascensio Isaiae. Cf. Orig. Ep. ad Afric. c. 9.

21 Mat_23:35. Cf. Orig. Ep. ad Afric. c. 9.

22 Or, none other than.

23 The question of John’s relation to Jesus and of the supposed transcorporation, is more fully discussed by Origen in his Commentary on John, book vi. 7, p. 353, sqq.

24 Isa_29:8 LXX., which has “against Mount Zion,” where Origen has “in Jerusalem”.