Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Cont.)
1. Concerning Those Who Asked Him to Show Them a Sign from Heaven.
“And the Sadducees and Pharisees came, and tempting Him kept asking Him to shew them a sign from heaven.” (Mat_16:1) The Sadducees and Pharisees who disagreed with each other in regard to the most essential truths, - for the Pharisees champion the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, hoping that there will be a world to come, while the Sadducees know nothing after this life in store for a man whether he has been advancing towards virtue, or has made no effort at all to come out from the mountains of wickedness, - these, I say, agree that they may tempt Jesus. Now, a similar thing, as Luke has narrated, (Luk_23:12) happened in the case of Herod and Pilate, who became friends with one another that they might kill Jesus; for, perhaps, their hostility with one another would have prevented Herod from asking that He should be put to death, in order to please the people, who said, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him,” (Luk_23:21) and would have influenced Pilate, who was somewhat inclined against His condemnation, his hostility with Herod giving fresh impulse to the inclination which he previously cherished to release Jesus. But their apparent friendship made Herod stronger in 450 his demand against Jesus with Pilate, who wished, perhaps, also because of the newly-formed friendship to do something to gratify Herod and all the nation of the Jews. And often even now you may see in daily life those who hold the most divergent opinions, whether in the philosophy of the Greeks or in other systems of thought, appearing to be of one mind that they may scoff at and attack Jesus Christ in the person of His disciples. And from these things I think you may go on by rational argument to consider, whether when forces join in opposition which are in disagreement with one another, as of Pharaoh with Nebuchadnezzar, (2Ki_24:7) and of Tirhakah, king of the Ethiopians, with Sennacherib, (2Ki_19:9) a combination then takes place against Jesus and His people. So perhaps, also, “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers were gathered together,” (Psa_2:2) though not at all before at harmony with one another, that having taken counsel against the Lord and His Christ, they might slay the Lord of glory.
2. Why the Pharisees Asked a Sign from Heaven.
Now, to this point we have come in our discourse, because of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming together unto Jesus, who disagreed in matters relating to the resurrection, but came, as it were, to an agreement for the sake of tempting our Saviour, and asking Him to show them a sign froth heaven. For, not satisfied with the wonderful signs shown among the people in the healing of all forms of disease and sickness, and with the rest of the miracles which our Saviour had done in the knowledge of many, they wished Him to show to them also a sign from heaven. And I conjecture that they suspected that the signs upon earth might possibly not be of God; for they did not hesitate indeed to say, “Jesus casts out demons by Beelzebub the prince of the demons;” (Mat_9:24; Mat_12:24) and it seemed to them that a sign from heaven could not spring from Beelzebub or any other wicked power. But they erred in regard to both, in regard to signs upon earth as well as to signs from heaven, not being “approved money-changers,”36 nor knowing how to distinguish between the spirits that are working, which kind are from God, and which have revolted from Him. And they ought to have known that even many of the portents wrought against Egypt in the time of Moses, though they were not from heaven, were clearly from God, and that the fire which fell from heaven upon the sheep of Job was not from God; (Job_1:16) for that fire belonged to the same one as he to whom belonged those who carried off, and made three bands of horsemen against, the cattle of Job. I think, moreover, that in Isaiah - as if signs could be shown both from the earth and from heaven, the true being from God, but “with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2Th_2:9) those from the evil one - it was said to Ahaz, “Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God in the depth or in the height.” (Isa_7:11) For, unless there had been some signs in the depth or in the height which were not from the Lord God, this would not have been said, “Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God in the depth or in the height.” But I know well that such an interpretation of the passage, “Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God,” will seem to some one rather forced; but give heed to that which is said by the Apostle about the man of sin, the son of perdition, that, “with all power and signs and lying wonders and with all deceit of unrighteousness,” (2Th_2:9-10) he shall be manifested to them that are perishing, imitating all kinds of wonders, to-wit, those of truth. And as the enchanters and magicians of the Egyptians, as being inferior to the man of sin and the son of perdition, imitated certain powers, both the signs and wonders of truth, doing lying wonders so that the true might not be believed; so I think the man of sin will imitate signs and powers. And perhaps, also, the Pharisees suspected these things because of the prophecies concerning Him; but I inquire whether also the Sadducees tempting Him asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. For unless we say that they suspected this, how shall we describe their relation to the portents which Jesus wrought, who continued hard-hearted and were not put to shame by the miraculous things that were done? But if any one supposes that we have given an occasion of defence to the Pharisees and Sadducees, both when they say that the demons were cast out by Jesus through Beelzebub, and when tempting Him, they ask Jesus about a heavenly sign, let him know that we plausibly say that they were drawn away to the end that they might not believe in the miracles of Jesus; but not as to deserve 451 forgiveness; for they did not look to the words of the prophets which were being fulfilled in the acts of Jesus, which an evil power was not at all capable of imitating. But to bring back a soul which had gone out, so that it came out of the grave when already stinking and passing the fourth day, (Joh_11:39) was the work of no other than Him who heard the word of the Father, “Let us make man after our image and likeness.” (Gen_1:26) But also to command the winds and to make the violence of the sea cease at a word, was the work of no other than Him through whom all things, both the sea itself and the winds, have come into being. Moreover also as to the teaching which stimulates men to the love of the Creator, in harmony with the law and the prophets, and which checks passions and moulds morals according to piety, what else did it indicate to such as were able to see, than that He was truly the Son of God who wrought works so mighty? In respect of which things He said also to the disciples of John, “Go your way and tell John what great things ye see and hear; the blind receive their sight,” etc. (Mat_11:4-5)
3. The Answer of Jesus to Their Request.
Next let us remark in what way, when asked in regard to one sign, that He might show it from heaven, to the Pharisees and Sadducees who put the question, He answers and says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall be no sign given to it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet,” when also, “He left them and departed.” (Mat_16:4) But the sign of Jonah, in truth, according to their question, was not merely a sign but also a sign from heaven; so that even to those who tempted Him and sought a sign from heaven He, nevertheless, out of His own great goodness gave the sign. For if, as Jonah passed three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so the Son of man did in the heart of the earth, and after this rose up from it, - whence but from heaven shall we say that the sign of the resurrection of Christ came? And especially when, at the time of the passion, He became a sign to the robber who obtained favour from Him to enter into the paradise of God; after this, I think, descending into Hades to the dead, “as free among the dead.” (Psa_88:6) And the Saviour seems to me to conjoin the sign which was to come from Himself with the reason of the sign in regard to Jonah when He says, not merely that a sign like to that is granted by Him but that very sign; for attend to the words, “And there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.” (Mat_16:4) Accordingly that sign was this sign, because that became indicative of this, so that the elucidation of that sign, which was obscure on the face of it, might be found in the fact that the Saviour suffered, and passed three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. At the same time also we learn the general principle that, if the sign signifies something, each of the signs which are recorded, whether as in actual history, or by way of precept, is indicative of something afterwards fulfilled; as for example, the sign of Jonah going out after three days from the whale’s belly was indicative of the resurrection of our Saviour, rising after three days and three nights from the dead; and that which is called circumcision is the sign of that which is indicated by Paul in the words: “We are the circumcision.” (Phi_3:3) Seek you also every sign in the Old Scriptures as indicative of some passage in the New Scripture, and that which is named a sign in the New Covenant as indicative of something either in the age about to be, or even in the subsequent generations after that the sign has taken place.
4. Why Jesus Called Them an Adulterous Generation, the Law as Husband.
And He called them, indeed, “an evil generation,” because of the quality arising from evil which had been produced in them, for wickedness is voluntary evil-doing, but “adulterous” because that when the Pharisees and Sadducees left that which is figuratively called man, the word of truth or the law, they were debauched by falsehood and the law of sin. For if there are two laws, the law in our members warring against the law of the mind, and the law of the mind, (Rom_7:23) we must say that the law of the mind - that is, the spiritual - is man, to whom the soul was given by God as wife, that is, to the man who is law, according to what is written, “A wife is married to a man by God;” (Pro_19:14) but the other is a paramour of the soul which is subject to it, which also on account of it is called an adulteress. Now that the law is husband of the soul Paul clearly exhibits in the Epistle to the Romans, saying, “The law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth; for the woman that hath a husband is bound to the husband 452 while he liveth, to the husband who is law,”37 etc. For consider in these things that the law hath dominion over the man so long time as the law liveth, - as a husband over a wife. “For the woman that hath a husband,” that is, the soul under the law, “is bound to the husband while he liveth,” to the husband who is the law; but if the husband - that is, the law die - she is discharged from the law, which is her husband. Now the law dies to him who has gone up to the condition of blessedness, and no longer lives under the law, but acts like to Christ, who, though He became under law for the sake of those under law, that He might gain those under law, (1Co_9:10) did not continue under law, nor did He leave subject to law those who had been freed by Him; for He led them up along with Himself to the divine citizenship which is above the law, which contains, as for the imperfect and such as are still sinners, sacrifices for the remission of sins. He then who is without sin, and stands no longer in need of legal sacrifices, perhaps when he has become perfect has passed beyond even the spiritual law, and comes to the Word beyond it, who became flesh to those who live in the flesh, but to those who no longer at all war after the flesh, He is perceived as being the Word, as38 He was God in the beginning with God, and reveals the Father. Three things therefore are to be thought of in connection with this place - the woman that hath a husband, who is under a husband - the law; and the woman who is an adulteress, to-wit, the soul, which, while her husband, the law, liveth, has become joined to another husband, namely, the law of the flesh; and the woman who is married to the brother of the dead husband, to the Word who is alive and dies not, who “being raised from the dead dieth no more, for death hath no more dominion over Him.” (Rom_6:9) So far then because of the saying, “But if the husband die she is discharged from the law, the husband,” and because of this, “so then, while her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be joined to another man,” and because of this, “but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress though she be joined to another man.” (Rom_7:2, Rom_7:3) But this very saying, “So then while her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress,” we have brought forward, wishing clearly to show why in answer to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were tempting Him and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven, He said not only “a wicked generation,” but an “adulterous” generation. (Mat_16:4) In a general way, then, the law in the members which wars against the law of the mind, (Rom_7:23) as a man who is an adulterer, is an adulterer of the soul. But now also every power that is hostile, which gains the mastery over the human soul, and has intercourse with it, commits adultery with her who had a bridegroom given to her by God, namely, the Word. After these things it is written that “He left them and departed.” For how was the bridegroom - the Word - not going to leave the adulterous generation and depart from it? But you might say that the Word of God, leaving the synagogue of the Jews as adulterous, departed from it, and took a wife of fornication, (Hos_1:2) namely, those from the Gentiles; since those who were “Sion, a faithful city,” (Isa_1:21) have become harlots; but these have become like the harlot Rahab, who received the spies of Joshua, and was saved with all her house; (Jos_6:25) after this no longer playing the harlot, but coming to the feet of Jesus, and wetting them with the tears of repentance, and anointing them with the fragrance of the ointment of holy conversation, on account of whom, reproaching Simon the leper, - the former people, - He spoke those things which are written. (Luk_7:37-50; Mat_26:6)
5. Concerning the Leaven of the Pharisees.
“And His disciples came to the other side and forgot to take loaves.” (Mat_16:5) Since the loaves which they had before they came to the other side were no longer useful to the disciples when they came to the other side, for they needed one kind of loaves before they crossed and a different kind when they crossed, - on this account, being careless of taking loaves when going to the other side, they forgot to take loaves with them. To the other side then came the disciples of Jesus who had passed over from things material to things spiritual, and from things sensible to those which are intellectual. And perhaps that He might turn back those who, by crossing to the other side, “had begun in spirit,” (Gal_3:3) from running back to carnal things, Jesus said to them when on the other side, “Take heed and beware.” (Mat_16:6) For there was a certain lump of teaching 453 and of truly ancient leaven, - that according to the bare letter, and on this account not freed from those things which arise from wickedness, - which the Pharisees and Sadducees offered, of which Jesus does not wish His own disciples any longer to eat, having made for them a new and spiritual lump, offering Himself to those who gave up the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and had come to Him - “the living bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (Joh_6:33, Joh_6:51) But since, to him who is no longer going to use the leaven and the lump and the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the first thing is to “see” and then to “beware,” so that no one, by reason of not seeing and from want of taking heed, may ever partake of their forbidden leaven, - on this account He says to the disciples, first, “see,” and then, “beware.” It is the mark of the clear-sighted and careful to separate the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and every food that is not of “the unleavened-bread of sincerity and truth” (1Co_5:8) from the living bread, even that which came down from heaven, so that no one who eats may adopt the things of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, but by eating the living and true bread may strengthen his soul. And we might seasonably apply the saying to those who, along with the Christian way of life, prefer to live as the Jews, materially, for these do not see nor beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but, contrary to the will of Jesus who forbade it, eat the bread of the Pharisees. Yea and also all, who do not wish to understand that the law is spiritual, and has a shadow of the good things to come, (Heb_10:1) and is a shadow of the things to come, (Col_2:17) neither inquire of what good thing about to be each of the laws is a shadow, nor do they see nor beware of the leaven of the Pharisees; and they also who reject the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead are not on their guard against the leaven of the Sadducees. And there are many among the heterodox who, because of their unbelief in regard to the resurrection of the dead, are imbued with the leaven of the Sadducees. Now, while Jesus said these things, the disciples reasoned, saying not aloud, but in their own hearts, “We took no loaves.” (Mat_16:7) And something like this was what they said, “If we had loaves we would not have had to take of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; but since, from want of loaves, we run the risk of taking from their leaven, while the Saviour does not wish us to run back to their teaching, therefore He said to us, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” (Mat_16:6) And these things then they reasoned; Jesus, while looking to that which was in their hearts, and hearing the reasons in them, as the true overseer of hearts, reproves them because they did not see nor remember the loaves which they received from Him; on account of which, even when they appeared to be in want of loaves, they did not need the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
6. The Meaning of Leaven. Jesus’ Knowledge of the Heart.
Then expounding clearly and representing to them, who were being distracted because of the equivocal meaning of loaf and leaven, in an undisguised fashion, that He was not speaking to them about sensible bread but about the leaven in the teaching, He subjoins, “How is it that ye do not perceive that I spake not you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” (Mat_16:11) And though He had not laid bare the interpretation, but still continued to use metaphorical language, the disciples would have understood that the discourse of the Saviour was about the teaching, figuratively called leaven, which the Pharisees and Sadducees were teaching. So long, then, as we have Jesus with us fulfilling the promise which runs, “Lo, I am with you always unto the consummation of the age,” (Mat_18:20) we cannot fast nor be in want of food, so that, because of want of it we should desire to take and eat the forbidden leaven, even from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Now there may sometimes be a time, when He is with us, that we are without food, as is spoken of in the passage above, “They continue with me now three days and have nothing to eat;” (Mat_15:32) but, even though this should happen, being unwilling to send us away fasting lest we faint on the way, He gives thanks over the loaves which were with the disciples, and causes us to have the seven baskets over from the seven loaves, as we have recorded. And moreover this also is to be observed, in view of those who think that the divinity of the Saviour is not at all demonstrable from the Gospel of Matthew, that the fact that, when the disciples were reasoning among themselves 454 and saying, “We have no loaves,” Jesus knew their reasonings and said, “Why reason ye among yourselves, O ye of little faith, because ye took no loaves,” (Mat_16:8) was beyond the power of man; for the Lord alone, as Solomon says in the third Book of Kings, knows the hearts of men. (1Ki_8:39) But since the disciples understood, when Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven,” (Mat_16:6) that He did not tell them to beware of the loaves but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, you will understand that whenever leaven is named it is put figuratively for teaching, whether in the law, or in the Scriptures which come after the law; and so perhaps leaven is not offered upon the altar; for it is not right that prayers should take the form of teaching, but should only be supplications of good things from God. But one might inquire, on account of what has been said about disciples who came to the other side, if any one who has reached the other side can be reproached as one of little faith, and as not yet understanding nor remembering what was done by Jesus. But it is not difficult, I think, to say to this, that in relation to that which is perfect, on the coming of which “that which is in part shall be done away,” (1Co_13:10) all our faith here is little faith, and in regard to that, we who know in part do not yet know nor remember; for we are not able to obtain a memory which is sufficient and able to attain to the magnitude of the nature of the speculations.
7. Relative Magnitude of Sins of the Heart and Actual Sins.
But we may also learn from this, that in respect of the reasonings only which we reason within ourselves, we are sometimes convicted and reproached as being of tittle faith. And I think that just as a man commits adultery in his heart only, though not proceeding altogether to the overt act, so he commits in his heart the rest of the things which are forbidden. As then he who has committed adultery in his heart will be punished proportionately to adultery of this kind, so also he who has done in his heart any one of the things forbidden, for example, who has stolen in his heart only, or borne false witness in his heart only, will not be punished as he who has stolen in fact, or who has completed the very act of false testimony, but only as he who has done such things in his heart. There is also the case of the man who while he did not arrive at the evil action, came short of it in spite of his own will. For if, in addition to willing it, he has attempted it, but not carried it out, he will be punished not as one who has sinned in his heart alone but in deed. To questions of this sort one might ask, whether any one commits adultery in his heart, even if he does not do the deed of adultery, but lacks self-control in heart only. And the like also you will say concerning the rest of things which are deserving of praise. But the passage possibly contains a plausible fallacy which must be cleared away, I think, in this manner: adultery which takes place in the heart is a less sin, than if one were also to add to it the act. But it is impossible that there can be chastity in the heart, hindering the chaste action - unless indeed one brings forward for an illustration of this the case of the virgin who according to the law was violated in solitude; (Deu_22:25) for it may be granted that the heart of any one may be most pure,39 but that force in a matter of licentiousness has caused the corruption of the body of her who was chaste. In truth she seems to me to be altogether chaste in secret heart, but no longer to be pure in body such as she was before the act of violence; but though she is not pure outwardly, is she therefore now also unchaste? I have said these things because of the words, “They reasoned among themselves saying, We took no loaves,” to which is added, “And Jesus perceiving it, said, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves,” (Mat_16:7, Mat_16:8 etc.); for it was necessary that investigation should be made in regard to the censure of things in secret and correlatively to the praise of things in secret.
8. The Leaven Figurative Like the Water Spoken of by Jesus to the Woman of Samaria.
But I wonder if the disciples thought, before the saying was explained to them by Jesus, that their Teacher and Lord was forbidding them to beware of the sensible leaven of the Pharisees or the Sadducees as impure, and on this account forbidden, lest they might use that leaven because they had not taken loaves. And we might make a like inquiry in regard to other things; but by-way of illustration the narrative about the woman of Samaria sufficeth, “Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” (Joh_14:13, Joh_14:14) For there, also, so far as the mere form of expression 455 is concerned, the Samaritan woman would seem to have thought that the Saviour was giving a promise about sensible water, when He said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” And those things then must be figuratively interpreted, and we must examine and compare the water of the spring of Jacob from which the woman of Samaria drew water with the water of Jesus; and here the like must be done; for perhaps the loaves were not baked, but a kind of raw leaven solely, the teaching, namely, of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
9. Concerning the Question of Jesus in Caesarea, Who Do Men Say That I Am? Different Conceptions of Jesus.
“Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples.” (Mat_16:13) Jesus inquires of the disciples, “Who do men say that I am,” that we may learn from the answer of the Apostles the different conceptions then held among the Jews in regard to our Saviour; and perhaps also that the disciples of Jesus might learn to be interested in knowing what is said by men about them;40 because that will be an advantage to them who do it, by cutting off in every way occasions of evil if anything evil is spoken of, and by increasing the incitements to good, if anything good is spoken of. Only, observe how, on account of the different movements of opinion among the Jews about Jesus, some, under the influence of unsound theories, said that He was John the Baptist, like Herod the tetrarch who said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist, he is risen from the dead, and therefore do the powers work in him;” (Mat_14:2) but others that He who was now called Jesus was Elijah, either having been born a second time, or living from that time in the flesh, and appearing at the present time. But those who said that Jesus was Jeremiah, and not that Jeremiah was a type of the Christ, were perhaps influenced by what is said in the beginning of Jeremiah about Christ, which was not fulfilled in the prophet at that time, but was beginning to be fulfilled in Jesus, whom “God set up over nations and kingdoms to root up, and to break down, and to destroy, and to build up, and to transplant,” (Jer_1:10) having made Him to be a prophet to the Gentiles to whom He proclaimed the word. Moreover also those who said, “that he was a certain one of the prophets,” (Mat_16:14) conceived this opinion concerning Him because of those things which had been said in the prophets as unto them, but which had not been fulfilled in their case. But also the Jews, as worthy of the veil which was upon their heart, held false opinions concerning Jesus; while Peter as not a disciple “of flesh and blood,” (Mat_16:17) but as one fit to receive the revelation of the Father in heaven, confessed that He was the Christ. The saying of Peter to the Saviour, “Thou art the Christ,” when the Jews did not know that He was Christ, was indeed a great thing, but greater that he knew Him not only to be Christ, but also “the Son of the living God,” (Mat_16:16) who had also said through the prophets, “I live,” (Jer_22:24) and “They have forsaken Me the spring of living water;” (Jer_2:13) - and He is life also, as from the Father the spring of life, who said, “I am the Life;” (Joh_14:6) And consider carefully, whether, as the spring of the river is not the same thing as the river, the spring of life is not the same as life. And these things we have added because to the saying, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of God,” was subjoined the word “living;” (Mat_16:16) for it was necessary to set forth something noteworthy in regard to that which is said about God and the Father of all things as living, both in relation to His absolute life, and in relation to those things which participate in it. But since we said that they were under the influence of unsound opinions who declared that Jesus was John the Baptist, or any one of those named, in saying this let us prove that if they had fallen in with Jesus as He was going away to John for baptism, or with John when he was baptizing Jesus, or if they had heard it from any one, they would not have said that Jesus was John. But also if they had understood the opinions under the influence of which Jesus said, “If ye are willing to receive it, this is Elijah which is to come.” (Mat_11:14) and had heard what was said, as men having ears, some would not have said that He was Elijah. And if those who said that He was Jeremiah had perceived that the most of the prophets took upon themselves certain features that were symbolical of Him, they would not have said that He was Jeremiah; and in like manner the others would not have said that He was one of the prophets.
10. The Answer of Peter.
And perhaps that which Simon Peter answered 456 and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Mat_16:6) if we say it as Peter, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto us, but by the light from the Father in heaven shining in our heart, we too become as Peter, being pronounced blessed as he was, because that the grounds on which he was pronounced blessed apply also to us, by reason of the fact that flesh and blood have not revealed to us with regard to Jesus that He is Christ, the Son of the living God, but the Father in heaven, from the very heavens, that our citizenship may be in heaven, (Phi_3:20) revealing to us the revelation which carries up to heaven those who take away every veil from the heart, and receive “the spirit of the wisdom and revelation” of God. (Eph_1:17) And if we too have said like Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” not as if flesh and blood had revealed it unto us, but by light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart, we become a Peter, and to us there might be said by the Word, “Thou art Peter,” etc. (Mat_16:18) For a rock41 is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, (1Co_10:4) and upon every such rock is built every word of the church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.
11.The Promise Given to Peter Not Restricted to Him, but Applicable to All Disciples Like Him.
But if you suppose that upon that one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,” (Mat_16:18) hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, “Upon this rock I will build My church”? (Mat_16:18) Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” (Mat_16:19) be common to the others, how shall not all the things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them? For in this place these words seem to be addressed as to Peter only, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” (Mat_16:19) etc; but in the Gospel of John the Saviour having given the Holy Spirit unto the disciples by breathing upon them said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” (Joh_20:22 etc.) Many then will say to the Saviour, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;” but not all who say this will say it to Him, as not at all having learned it by the revelation of flesh and blood but by the Father in heaven Himself taking away the veil that lay upon their heart, in order that after this “with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord” (2Co_3:18) they may speak through the Spirit of God saying concerning Him, “Lord Jesus,” and to Him, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mat_16:16) And if any one says this to Him, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto Him but through the Father in heaven, he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches, to every one who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname of “rock” who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, (1Co_10:4) that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of the rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters. And taking occasion from these things you will say that the righteous bear the surname of Christ who is Righteousness, and the wise of Christ who is Wisdom. (1Co_1:30) And so in regard to all His other names, you will apply them by way of surname to the saints; and to all such the saying of the Saviour might be spoken, “Thou art Peter,” etc., down to the words, “prevail against it.” But what is the “it”? Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the church, or is it the church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it as if the rock and the church were one and the same? This I think to be true; for neither against the rock on which Christ builds the church, nor against the church will the gates of Hades prevail; just as the way of a serpent upon a rock, according to what is written in the Proverbs, (Pro_30:19) cannot be found. Now, if the gates of Hades prevail against any one, such an one cannot be a rock upon which Christ builds the church, nor the church built by 457 Jesus upon the rock; for the rock is inaccessible to the serpent, and it is stronger than the gates of Hades which are opposing it, so that because of its strength the gates of Hades do not prevail against it; but the church, as a building of Christ who built His own house wisely upon the rock, (Mat_7:24) is incapable of admitting the gates of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the church, but have no power against it.
12. Every Sin - Every False Doctrine is a “Gate of Hades.”
But when we have understood how each of the sins through which there is a way to Hades42 is a gate of Hades, we shall apprehend that the soul, which has “spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” (Eph_5:27) and because of wickedness is neither holy nor blameless, is neither a rock upon which Christ builds, nor a church, nor part of a church which Christ builds upon the rock. But if any one wishes to put us43 to shame in regard to these things because of the great majority of those of the church who are thought to believe, it must be said to him not only “Many are called, but few chosen;” (Mat_22:14) but also that which was said by the Saviour to those who come to Him, as it is recorded in Luke in these words, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in through the narrow door and shall not be able;” (Luk_13:24) and also that which is written in the Gospel of Matthew thus, “For narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.” (Mat_7:14) Now, if you attend to the saying, “Many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able,” (Luk_13:24) you will understand that this refers to those who boast that they are of the church, but live weakly and contrary to the word. Of those, then, who seek to enter in, those who are not able to enter will not be able to do so, because the gates of Hades prevail against them; but in the case of those against whom the gates of Hades will not prevail, those seeking to enter in will be strong, being able to do all things, in Christ Jesus, who strengtheneth them. (Phi_4:13) And in like manner each one of those who are the authors of any evil opinion has become the architect of a certain gate of Hades;but those who co-operate with the teaching of the architect of such things are servants and stewards, who are the bond-servants of the evil doctrine which goes to build up impiety. And though the gates of Hades are many and almost innumerable, no gate of Hades will prevail against the rock or against the church which Christ builds upon it. Notwithstanding, these gates have a certain power by which they gain the mastery over some who do not resist and strive against them; but they are overcome by others who, because they do not turn aside from Him who said, “I am the door,” (Joh_10:9) have rased from their soul all the gates of Hades. And this also we must know that as the gates of cities have each their own names, in the same way the gates of Hades might be named after the species of sins; so that one gate of Hades is called “fornication,” through which fornicators go, and another “denial,” through which the deniers of God go down into Hades. And likewise already each of the heterodox and of those who have begotten any “knowledge which is falsely so called,” (1Ti_6:20) has built a gate of Hades - Marcion one gate, and Basilides another, and Valentinus another.
13. The “Gates of Hades” and the “Gates of Zion” Contrasted.
In this place, then, the gates of Hades are spoken of; but in the Psalms the prophet gives thanks saying, “He who lifteth me up from the gates of death that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Zion.” (Psa_9:13, Psa_9:14) And from this we learn that it is never possible for any one to be fit to declare the praises of God, unless he has been lifted up from the gates of death, and has come to the gates of Zion. Now the gates of Zion may be conceived as opposed to the gates of death, so that there is one gate of death, dissoluteness, but a gate of Zion, self-control; and so a gate of death, unrighteousness, but a gate of Zion, righteousness, which the prophet shows forth saying, “This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter into it.” (Psa_118:20) And again there is cowardice, a gate of death, but manly courage, a gate of Zion; and want of prudence, a gate of death, but its opposite, prudence, a gate of Zion. But to all the gates of the “knowledge which is falsely so called” (1Ti_6:20) one gate is opposed, the gate of knowledge which is free from falsehood. But consider if, because of the saying, 458 “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood,” (Eph_6:12 etc.), you can say that each power and world-ruler of this darkness, and each one of the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph_6:12) is a gate of Hades and a gate of death. Let, then, the principalities and powers with which our wrestling is, be called gates of Hades, but the “ministering spirits” (Heb_1:14) gates of righteousness. But as in the case of the better things many gates are first spoken of, and after the gates, one, in the passage, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will enter into them, and will make full confession to the Lord,” and “this is the gate of the Lord, by it the righteous shall enter;” (Psa_118:19, Psa_118:20) so also in the case of those gates which are opposed, many are the gates of Hades and death, each a power; but over all these the wicked one himself. And let us take heed in regard to each sin, as if we were descending into some gate of death if we sin; but when we are lifted up from the gates of death let us declare all the praises of the Lord in the gates of the daughter of Zion; as, for example, in one gate of the daughter of Zion - that which is called self-control - we will declare by our self-control the praises of God; and in another which is called righteousness, by righteousness we will declare the praises of God; and, generally, in all things whatsoever of a praiseworthy character with which we are; occupied, in these we are at some gate of the daughter of Zion, declaring at each gate some praise of God. But we must make inquiry whether in one of the Twelve44 it is said, “They hated him that reproveth in the gates, and they loathed the holy word.” (Amo_5:10) Perhaps, then, he who reproves in the gates is of the gates of the daughter of Zion, reproving those who are in sins which are opposed to this gate, even of the gates of Hades or death. But if ye do not so understand the words, “They hated him that reproveth in the gates,” either the expression “in the gates” will be held to be superfluous, or investigate how that which is said can be worthy of the prophetic spirit.
36 The familiar saying so frequently quoted as Scripture in the Fathers, sometimes ascribed to Jesus by them, sometimes to Paul. See Suicer.
37 Rom_7:1-2. Ἠ γὰρ ὕμανδρος γυνὴ τῷ ζῶντι ἀνδρι δέδεται νόμω. The reader must note that Origen takes νόμῳ in apposition to ἀνδρὶ.
38 Or, who was God.
39 Or, violence in the licentious person.
40 Or, Him.
41 Or, a Peter.
42 Or, each of the sins on account of which Christ was about to go to Hades, Erasmus.