Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels Golden Chain Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 19". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ gcc/ matthew-19.html.
Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 19". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://studylight.org/
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Ver l. And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;2. And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.3. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"4. And he answered and said unto them, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,5. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?6. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."7. They say unto him, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?"8. He said unto them, "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so."
Chrys., Hom., lxii: The Lord had before left Judaea because of their jealousy, but now He keeps Himself more to it, because His passion was near at hand. Yet does He not go up to Judaea itself, but into the borders of Judaea; whence it is said, "And it came to pass when Jesus had ended all these sayings, he departed from Galilee."
Raban.: Here then He begins to relate what He did, taught, or suffered in Judaea. At first beyond Jordan eastward, afterwards on this side Jordan when He came to Jericho, Bethphage, and Jerusalem; whence it follows, "And He came into the coasts of Judaea beyond the Jordan."
Pseudo-Chrys., [ed. note: The Latin commentary that goes under the name of Chrysostom’s resumes again at the first verse of this chapter]: As the righteous Lord of all, who loves these servants so as not to despise those.
Raban.: It should be known, that the whole territory of the Israelites was called Judaea, to distinguish it from other nations. But its southern portion, inhabited by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, was called Judaea proper, to distinguish it from other districts in the same province as Samaria, Galilee, Decapolis, and the rest. It follows, "And great multitudes followed him."
Pseudo-Chrys.: They were conducting Him forth, as the young children of a father going on a far journey. And He setting forth as a father, left them as pledges of His love the healing of their diseases, as it is said, "And he healed them."
Chrys.: It should be also observed, that the Lord is not either ever delivering doctrine, or ever working miracles, but one while does this, and again turns to that; that by His miracles faith might be given to what He said, and by His teaching might be shewed the profit of those things which He wrought.
Origen: The Lord healed the multitudes beyond Jordan, where baptism was given. For all are truly healed from spiritual sickness in baptism; and many follow Christ as did these multitudes, but not rising up as Matthew, who arose and followed the Lord.
Hilary: Also He cures the Galileans on the borders of Judaea, that He might admit the sins of the Gentiles to that pardon which was prepared for the Jews.
Chrys.: For indeed Christ so healed men, as to do good both to themselves, and through them to many other. For these men’s healing was to others the occasion of their knowledge of God; but not to the Pharisees, who were only hardened by the miracles.
Whence it follows; "And the Pharisees cause to him, tempting him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"
Jerome: That they might have Him as it were between the horns of a syllogism, so that, whatever answer He should make, it would lie open to cavil. Should He allow a wife to be put away for any cause, and the marriage of another, he would seem to contradict Himself as a preacher of chastity. Should He answer that she may not be put away for any cause whatsoever, He will be judged to have spoken impiously, and to make against the teaching of Moses and of God.
Chrys.: Observe their wickedness even in the way of putting their question. The Lord had above disputed concerning this law, but they now ask Him as though He had spoken nothing thereof, supposing He had forgot what He had before delivered in this matter.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But, as when you see one much pursuing the acquaintance of physicians, you know that he is sick, so, when you see either man or woman enquiring concerning divorce, know that that man is lustful and that woman unchaste. For chastity has pleasure in wedlock, but desire is tormented as though under a slavish bondage therein. And knowing that they had no sufficient cause to allege for their putting away their wives, save their own lewdness, they feigned many divers causes. They feared to ask Him for what cause, lest they should be tied down within the limits of fixed and certain causes; and therefore they asked if it were lawful for every cause; for they knew that appetite knows no limits, and cannot hold itself within the bounds of one marriage, but the more it is indulged the more it is kindled.
Origen: Seeing the Lord thus tempted, let none of His disciples who is set to teach think it hard if he also be by some tempted. Howbeit, He replies to His tempters with the doctrines of piety.
Jerome: But He so frames His answer as to evade their snare. He brings in the testimony of Holy Writ, and the law of nature, and opposing God’s first sentence to this second, "He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?"
This is written in the beginning of Genesis. This teaches that second marriages are to be avoided, for He said not male and females, which was what was sought by the putting away of the first, but, male and female, implying only one tie of wedlock.
Raban.: For by the wholesome design of God it was ordained that a man should have in the woman a part of his own body, and should not look upon as separate from himself that which he knew was formed out of himself.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If then God created the male and female out of one, to this end that they should be one, why then henceforth were not they born man and wife at one birth, as it is with certain insects? Because God created male and female for the continuance of the species, yet is He ever a lover of chastity, and promoter of continence. Therefore did He not follow this pattern in all kinds, to the end that, if any man choose to marry, he may know what is, according to the first disposition of the creation, the condition of man and wife; but if he choose not to marry, he shall not be under necessity to marry by the circumstances of his birth, lest he should by his continence be the destruction of the other who was not willing to be continent; for which same cause God forbids that after being joined in wedlock one should separate if the other be unwilling.Chrys.: But not by the law of creation only, but also by the practice of the law, He shews that they ought to be joined one and one, and never put asunder; "And he said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife."
Jerome: In like manner He says "his wife," and not wives, and adds expressly, "and they twain shall be one flesh." For it is the reward of marriage that one flesh, namely in the offspring, is made of two.
Gloss. interlin.: Or, "one flesh," that is in carnal connexion.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If then because the wife is made of the man, and both one of one flesh, a man shall leave his father and his mother, then there should be yet greater affection between brothers and sisters, for these come of the same parents, but man and wife of different. But this is saying too much, because the ordinance of God is of more force than the law of nature. For God’s precepts are not subject to the law of nature, but nature bends to the precepts of God. Also brethren are born of one, that they shouldst seek out different roads; but the man and the wife are born of different persons, that they should coalesce in one.
The order of nature also follows the appointment of God. For as is the sap in trees, so is affection in man. The sap ascends from the roots into the leaves, and passes forth into the seed. Therefore parents love their children, but are not so loved of them, for the desire of a man is not towards his parents, but towards the sons whom he has begot; and this is what, is said, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife."
Chrys.: See the wisdom of the Teacher. Being asked, "Is it lawful," He said not straight, It is not lawful, lest they should be troubled, but establishes it through a proof. For God made them from the beginning male and female, and not merely joined them together, but bade them quit father and mother; and not bade the husband merely approach his wife, but be joined to her, shewing by this manner of speaking the inseparable bond. He even added a still closer union, saying, "And they twain, shall be one flesh."
Aug., Gen. ad lit., ix. 19: Whereas Scripture witnesses that these words were said by the first man, and the Lord here declares that God spake them, hence we should understand that by reason of the ecstasy which had passed upon Adam, he was enabled to speak this as a prophecy.
Remig.: The Apostle says [margin note: Eph 5:32] that this is a mystery in Christ and the Church; for the Lord Jesus Christ left His Father when He came down from heaven to earth; and He left His mother, that is, the synagogue, because of its unbelief; and clave unto His wife, that is, the Holy Church, and they two are one flesh, that is, Christ and the Church are one body.
Chrys.: When He had brought forward the words and facts of the old law, He then interprets it with authority, and lays down a law, saying, "Therefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." For as those who love one another spiritually are said to be one soul, "And all they that believed, had one heart and one soul," [Acts 4:32] so husband and wife who love each other after the flesh, are said to be one flesh. And as it is a wretched thing to cut the flesh, so is it an unjust thing to put away a wife.
Aug., City of God, book xiv, ch. 22: For they are called one, either from their union, or from the derivation of the woman, who was taken out of the side of the man.
Chrys.: He brings in God yet again, saying, "What God has joined, let no man put asunder," shewing that it is against both nature and God’s law to put away a wife; against nature, because one flesh is therein divided; against law, because God has joined and forbidden to sunder them.
Jerome: God has joined by making man and woman one flesh; this then man may not put asunder, but God only. Man puts asunder, when from desire of a second wife the first is put away; God puts asunder, who also had joined, when by consent for the service of God we so have our wives as though we had them not. [marg. note: 1 Cor 7:29]
Aug., Cont. Faust., xix, 29: Behold now out of the books of Moses it is proved to the Jews that a wife may not be put away. For they thought that they were doing according to the purport of Moses’ law when they did put them away. This also we learn hence by the testimony of Christ Himself, that it was God who made it thus, and joined them male and female; which when the Manichaeans deny, they are condemned, resisting the Gospel of Christ.
Pseudo-Chrys.: This sentence of chastity seemed hard to these adulterers; but they could not make answer to the argument. Howbeit, they will not submit to the truth, but betake themselves for shelter to Moses, as men having a bad cause fly to some powerful personage, that where justice is not, his countenance may prevail; "They say unto him, Why did Moses then command, to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?"
Jerome: Here they reveal the cavil which they had prepared; albeit the Lord had not given sentence of Himself, but had recalled to their minds ancient history, and the commands of God.
Chrys.: Had the Lord been opposed to the Old Testament, He would not thus have contended in Moses’ behalf, nor have gone about to shew that what was his was in agreement with the things of old. But the unspeakable wisdom of Christ made answer and excuse for these in this manner, "He saith unto them, Moses for the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives." By this He clears Moses from their charge, and retorts it all upon their own head.
Aug.: For how great was that hardness? When not even the intervention of a bill of divorce, which gave room for just and prudent men to endeavour to dissuade, could move them to renew the conjugal affection. And with what wit do the Manichaeans blame Moses, as severing wedlock by a bill of divorce, and commend Christ as, on the contrary, confirming its force? Whereas according to their impious science they should have praised Moses for putting asunder what the devil had joined, and found fault with Christ who riveted the bonds of the devil.
Chrys.: At last, because what He had said was severe, He goes back to the old law, saying, "From the beginning it was not so."
Jerome: What He says is to this purpose. Is it possible that God should so contradict Himself, as to command one thing at first, and after defeat His own ordinance by a new statute? Think not so; but, whereas Moses saw that through desire of second wives who should be richer, younger, or fairer, that the first were put to death, or treated. ill, he chose rather to suffer separation, than the continuance of hatred and assassination. Observe moreover that He said not God suffered you, but, Moses; shewing that it was, as the Apostle speaks, a counsel of man, not a command of God. [marg. note: 1 Cor 7:12]
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore said He well, Moses suffered, not commanded. For what we command, that we ever wish; but when we suffer, we yield against our will, because we have not the power to put full restraint upon the evil wills of men. He therefore suffered you to do evil that you might not do worse; thus in suffering this he was not enforcing the righteousness of God, but taking away its sinfulness from a sin; that while you did it according to His law, your sin should not appear sin.
Ver 9. And I say unto you, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
Chrys.: Having stopped their mouths, He now set forth the Law with authority, saying, "But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.
Origen: Perhaps some one will say, that Jesus in thus speaking, suffered wives to be put away for the same cause that Moses suffered them, which He says was for the hardness of the hearts of the Jews. But to this it is to be answered, that if by the Law an adulteress is stoned, that sin is not to be understood as the shameful thing for which Moses suffers a writing of divorcement; [Deuteronomy 24:1] for in a cause of adultery it was not lawful to give a writing of divorcement. But Moses perhaps calls every sin in a woman a shameful thing, which if it be found in her, a bill of divorcement is written against her. But we should enquire, If it is lawful to put away a wife for the cause of fornication only, what is it if a woman be not an adulteress, but have done any other heinous crime; have been found a poisoner, or to have murdered her children? The Lord has explained this matter in another place, saying, "Whoso putteth her away, except for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery," [Matthew 5:32] giving her an opportunity of a second marriage.
Jerome: It is fornication alone which destroys the relationship of the wife; for when she has divided one flesh into two, and has separated herself by fornication from her husband, she is not to be retained, lest she should bring her husband also under the curse, which Scripture has spoken, "He that keepeth an adulteress is a fool and wicked." [Proverbs 18:23]
Pseudo-Chrys.: For as he is cruel and unjust that puts away a chaste wife, so is he a fool and unjust that retains an unchaste; for in that he hides the guilt of his wife, he is an encourager of foulness.
Aug., De Conjug. Adult., ii, 9: For a reunion of the wedlock, even after actual commission of adultery, is neither shameful nor difficult, where there is an undoubted remission of sin through the keys of the kingdom of heaven; not that after being divorced from her husband an adulteress should be called back again, but that after her union with Christ she should no longer be called an adulteress.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For every thing by whatsoever causes it is created, by the same is it destroyed. It is not matrimony but the will that makes the union; and therefore it is not a separation of bodies but a separation of wills that dissolves it. He then who puts away his wife and does not take another is still her husband; for though their bodies be not united, their wills are united. But when he takes another, then he manifestly puts his wife away; wherefore the Lord says not, Whoso putteth away his wife, but, "Whoso marrieth another, committeth adultery."
Raban.: There is then but one carnal cause why a wife should be put away, that is, fornication; and but one spiritual, that is, the fear of God. But there is no cause why while she who has been put away is alive, another should be married.
Jerome: For it might be that a man might falsely charge an innocent wife, and for the sake of another woman might fasten an accusation upon her. Therefore it is commanded so to put away the first, that a second be not married while the first is yet alive. Also because it might happen that by the same law a wife would divorce her husband, it is also provided that she take not another husband; and because one who had become an adulteress would have no further fear of disgrace, it is commanded that she marry not another husband. But if she do marry another, she is in the guilt of adultery; wherefore it follows, "And whoso marrieth her that is put away, committeth adultery."
Gloss. ord.: He says this to the terror of him that would take her to wife, for the adulteress would have no fear of disgrace.
Ver 10. His disciples say unto him, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry."11. But he said unto them, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.12. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."
Jerome: A wife is a grievous burden, if it is not permitted to put her away except for the cause of fornication. For what if she be a drunkard, an evil temper, or of evil habits, is she to be kept? The Apostles, perceiving this burdensomeness, express what they feel; "His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry."
Chrys.: For it is a lighter thing to contend with himself, and his own lust, than with an evil woman.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And the Lord said not, It is good, but rather assented that it is not good. However, He considered the weakness of the flesh; "But he said unto them, All cannot receive this saying;" that is, All are not able to do this.
Jerome: But let none think, that wherein He adds, "save they to whom it is given," that either fate or fortune is implied, as though they were virgins only whom chance has led to such a fortune. For that is given to those who have sought it of God, who have longed for it, who have striven that they might obtain it.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But all cannot obtain it, because all do not desire to obtain it. The prize is before them; he who desires the honour will not consider the toil. None would ever vanquish, if all shunned the struggle. Because then some have fallen from their purpose of continence, we ought not therefore to faint from that virtue; for they that fall in the battle do not slay the rest.
That He says therefore, "Save they to whom it is given," shews that unless we receive the aid of grace, we have not strength. But this aid of grace is not denied to such as seek it, for the Lord says above, "Ask; and ye shall receive."
Chrys.: Then to shew that this is possible, He says, "For there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men;" as much as to say, Consider, had you been so made of others, you would have lost the pleasure without gaining the reward.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For as the deed without the will does not constitute a sin; so a righteous act is not in the deed unless the will go with it. That therefore is honourable continence, not which mutilation of body of necessity enforces, but which the will of holy purpose embraces.
Jerome: He speaks of three kinds of eunuchs, of whom two are carnal, and one spiritual. One, those who are so born of their mother’s womb; another, those whom enemies or courtly luxury has made so; a third, those who have made themselves so for the kingdom of heaven, and who might have been men, but become eunuchs for Christ. To them the reward is promised, for to the others whose continence was involuntary, nothing is due.
Hilary: The cause in one item he assigns nature; in the next violence, and in the last his own choice, in him, namely, that determined to be so from hope of the kingdom of heaven.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For they are born such, just as others are born having six or four fingers. For if God according as He formed our bodies in the beginning, had continued the same order unchangeably, the working of God would have been brought into oblivion among men. The order of nature is therefore changed at times from its nature, that God the framer of nature may be had in remembrance.Jerome, cf Origen in loc.: Or we may say otherwise. The eunuchs from their mothers’ wombs are they whose nature is colder, and not prone to lust. And they that are made so of men are they whom physicians made so, or they whom worship of idols has made effeminate, or who from the influence of heretical teaching pretend to chastity, that they may thereupon claim truth for their tenets.
But none of them obtain the kingdom of heaven, save he only who has become a eunuch for Christ’s sake. Whence it follows, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it;" let each calculate his own strength, whether he is able to fulfil the rules of virginity and abstinence. For in itself continence is sweet and alluring, but each man must consider his strength, that he only that is able may receive it.
This is the voice of the Lord exhorting and encouraging on His soldiers to the reward of chastity, that he who can fight might fight and conquer and triumph.
Chrys.: When he says, "Who have made themselves eunuchs," He does not mean cutting off of members, but a putting away of evil thoughts. For he that cuts off a limb is under a curse, for such an one undertakes the deeds of murderers, and opens a door to Manichaeans who depreciate the creature, and cut off the same members as do the Gentiles. For to cut off members is of the temptation of daemons. But by the means of which we have spoken desire is not diminished but made more urgent; for it has its source elsewhere, and chiefly in a weak purpose and an unguarded heart. For if the heart be well governed, there is no danger from the natural motions; nor does the amputation of a member bring such peacefulness and immunity from temptation as does a bridle upon the thoughts.
Ver 13. Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.14. But Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."15. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord had been holding discourse of chastity; and some of His hearers now brought unto Him infants, who in respect of chastity are the purest; for they supposed that it was the pure in body only whom He had approved; and this is that which is said, "Then were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray."
Origen: For they now understood from His previous mighty works, that by laying on of His hands and by prayer evils were obviated. They bring therefore children to Him, judging that it were impossible that after the Lord had by His touch conveyed divine virtue into them, harm or any daemon should come nigh them.
Remig.: For it was a custom among the ancients that little children should be brought to aged persons, to receive benediction by their hand or tongue; and according to this custom little children are now brought to the Lord.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The flesh as it delights not in good, if it hear any good readily forgets it; but the evil that it has it retains ever. But a little while before Christ took a little child and said, "Except ye become as this child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," [Matthew 18:3] yet His disciples, presently forgetting this innocence of children, now forbid children, as unworthy to come to Christ.
Jerome: Not because they liked not that they should have benediction of the Saviour’s hand and mouth; but forasmuch as their faith was not yet perfect, they thought that He like other men would be wearied by the applications of those that brought them.
Chrys.: Or the disciples would have thrust them away, from respect to Christ’s dignity. But the Lord teaching them holy thoughts, and to subdue the pride of this world, took the children into His arms, and promised to such the kingdom of heaven; "But Jesus saith unto them, Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Pseudo-Chrys.: For who were worthy to come to Christ, if simple infancy were thrust away? Therefore he said, "Forbid them not." For if they shall turn out saints, why hinder ye the sons from coming to their Father? And if sinners, why do ye pronounce a sentence of condemnation, before you see any fault in them?
Jerome: And He said distinctly, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven," not Of these, to shew that it was not years, but disposition that determined His judgment, and that the reward was promised to such as had like innocence and simplicity.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The present passage instructs all parents to bring their children to the priests, for it is not the priest who lays his hands on them, but Christ, in whose name hands are laid. For if he that offers his food in prayer to God eats it sanctified, for it is sanctified by the word of God, and by prayer, as the Apostle speaks [marg. note: 1 Timothy 4:5], how much rather ought children to be offered to God, and sanctified? And this is the reason of blessing of food, "Because the whole world lieth in wickedness; [1 John 5:19] so that all things that have body, which are a great part of the world, lie in wickedness. Consequently infants when born, are as respects their flesh lying in wickedness.
Origen: Mystically; We call them children who are yet carnal in Christ, having need of milk. They who bring the babes to the Saviour, are they who profess to have knowledge of the word, but are still simple, and have for their food children’s lessons, being yet novices. They who seem more perfect, and are therefore the disciples of Jesus, before they have learnt the way of righteousness which is for children, rebuke those who by simple doctrine bring to Christ children and babes, that is, such as are less learned.
But the Lord exhorting His disciples now become men to condescend to the needs of babes, to be babes to babes, that they may gain babes, says, "For of such is the kingdom of heaven." For He Himself also, when He was in the form of God, was made a babe. These things we should attend to, lest in esteeming that more excellent wisdom, and spiritual advancement, as though we were become great we should despise the little ones of the Church, forbidding children to be brought to Jesus.
But since children cannot follow all things that are commanded them, Jesus laid His hands upon them, and leaving virtue in them by His touch, went away from them, seeing they were not able to follow Him, like the other more perfect disciples.
Remig.: Also laying His hands upon them, He blessed them, to signify that the lowly in spirit are worthy His grace and blessing.
Gloss., non occ.: He laid His hands upon them while men held them, to signify that the grace of His aid was necessary.
Hilary: The infants are a type of the Gentiles, to whom salvation is rendered by faith and hearing. But the disciples, in their first zeal for the salvation of Israel, forbid them to approach, but the Lord declares that they are not to be forbidden. For the gift of the Holy Ghost was to be conferred upon the Gentiles by laying on of hands, as soon as the Law had ceased.
Ver 16. And, behold, one came and said unto him, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?"17. And he said unto him, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."18. He saith unto him, "Which? Jesus said, "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,19. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."20. The young man saith unto him, "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"21. Jesus said unto him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."22. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Raban., e Bed. in Luc., Matthew 18:3: This man had, it may be, heard of the Lord that only they who were like to little children were worthy to enter into the heavenly kingdom; but desiring to know more certainly, he asks to have it declared to him not in parables, but expressly, by what merits he might attain eternal life.
Therefore it is said; "And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
Jerome: He that asks this question is both young, rich, and proud, and he asks not as one that desires to learn, but as tempting Him. This we can prove by this, that when the Lord had said unto him, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," he further insidiously asks, which are the commandments? as if he could not read them for himself, or as if the Lord could command any thing contrary to them.
Chrys., Hom., lxiii: But I for my part, though I deny not that he was a lover of money, because Christ convicts him as such, cannot consider him to have been a hypocrite, because it is unsafe to decide in uncertain cases, and especially in making charges against any. Moreover Mark removes all suspicion of this kind, for he says that he came to Him, and knelt before Him; and that Jesus when He looked on him, loved him. [marg. note: Mark 10:17] And if he had come to tempt Him, the Evangelist would have signified as much, as he has done in other places. Or if he had said nothing thereof, Christ would not have suffered him to be hid, but would either have convicted him openly, or have covertly suggested it.
But He does not this; for it follows, "He saith unto him, Why askest thou me concerning good?"
Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 63: This may seem a discrepancy, that Matthew here gives it, "Why askest thou me concerning good?" whereas Mark and Luke’s have, "Why callest thou me good?" For this, "Why askest thou me concerning good?" may seem rather to be referred to his question, "What good thing shall I do?" for in that he both mentioned "good," and asked a question. But this, "Good Master," is not yet a question. Either sentence may be understood thus very appropriately to the passage.
Jerome: But because he had styled Him Good Master, and had not confessed Him as God, or as the Son of God, He tells him, that in comparison of God there is no saint to be called good, of whom it is said, "Confess unto the Lord, for he is good; [Psalms 118:1] and therefore He says, "There is one good, that is, God."
But that none should suppose that by this the Son of God is excluded from being good, we read in another place, "The good Shepherd layeth down his life for his sheep." [1 John 10:11]
Aug., de Trin., i, 13: Or, because he sought eternal life, (and eternal life consists in such contemplation in which God is beheld not for punishment, but for everlasting joy,) and knew not with whom he spake, but thought Him only a Son of Man, therefore He says, "Why askest thou me concerning good," calling me in respect of what you see in me, Good Master? This form of the Son of Man shall appear in the judgment, not to the righteous only, but to the wicked, and the very sight shall be to them an evil, and their punishment. But there is a sight of My form, in which I am equal to God. That one God therefore, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is alone good, because none see Him to mourning and sorrow, but only to salvation and true joy.
Jerome: For Our Saviour does not reject this witness to His goodness, but corrected the error of calling Him Good Master apart from God.
Chrys.: Wherein then was the profit that He answered thus? He leads him by degrees, and teaches him to lay aside false flattery, and rising above the things which are upon earth to cleave to God, to seek things to come, and to know Him that is truly good, the root and source of every good.
Origen: Christ also answers thus, because of that He said, "What good thing shall I do? For when we depart from evil and do good, that which we do is called good by comparison with what other men do. But when compared with absolute good, in the sense in which it is here said, "There is one good," our good is not good.
But some one may say, that because the Lord knew that the purpose of him who thus asked Him was not even to do such good as man can do, that therefore He said, "Why askest thou me concerning good?" as much as to say, Why do you ask me concerning good, seeing you are not prepared to do what is good. But after this He says, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Where note, that He speaks to him as yet standing without life; for that man is in one sense without life, who is without Him who said, "I am the life."
Otherwise, every man upon earth may be, not in life itself, but only in its shadow, while he is clad in a body of death. But any man shall enter into life, if he keep himself from dead works, and seek living works. But there are dead words and living words, also dead thoughts and living thoughts, and therefore He says, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Aug., Serm., 84, 1: And He said not, "If thou desirest life eternal; but, "If thou wilt enter into life," calling that simply "life," which shall be everlasting. Here we should consider how eternal life should be loved, when this miserable and finite life is so loved.
Remig.: These words prove that the Law gave to such as kept it not only temporal promises, but also life eternal. And because the hearing these things made him thoughtful, "He saith unto him, Which?"
Chrys.: This he said not to tempt Him, but because he supposed that they were other than the commandments of the Law, which should be the means of life to him.
Remig.: And Jesus, condescending as to a weak one, most graciously set out to him the precepts of the Law; Jesus said, "Thou shalt do no murder;" and of all these precepts follows the exposition, "And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." For the Apostle says, "Whoso loveth his neighbour has fulfilled the Law?" [Proverbs 13:10]
But it should be enquired, why the Lord has enumerated only the precepts of the Second Table? Perhaps because this young man was zealous in the love of God, or because love of our neighbour is the step by which we ascend to the love of God.
Origen: Or perhaps these precepts are enough to introduce one, if I may say so, to the entrance of life; but neither these, nor any like them, are enough to conduct one to the more inward parts of life. But whoso transgresses one of these commandments, shall not even come to the entrance in unto life.
Chrys.: But because all the commandments that the Lord had recounted were contained in the Law, The young man saith unto him, "All these have I kept from my youth up." And did not even rest there, but asked further, "What lack I yet? which alone is a mark of his intense desire.
Remig.: But to those who would be perfect in grace, He shews how they may come to perfection, "Jesus saith unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go, and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor." Mark the words; He said not, Go, and consume all thou hast; but Go, and sell; and not some, as did Ananias and Sapphira, but "All." And well He added, "that thou hast," for what we have are our lawful possessions. Those therefore that he justly possessed were to be sold; what had been gained unjustly were to be restored to those from whom they had been taken. And He said not, Give to thy neighbours, nor to the rich, but to the poor.
Aug., de Op. Monach., 25: Nor need it be made a scruple in what monasteries, or to the indigent brethren of what place, any one gives those things that he has, for there is but one commonwealth of all Christians. Therefore wheresoever any Christian has laid out his goods, in all places alike he shall receive what is necessary for himself, shall receive it of that which is Christ’s.
Raban.: See two kinds of life which we have heard set before men; the Active, to which pertains, "Thou shalt not kill," and the rest of the Law; and the Contemplative, to which pertains this, "If thou wilt be perfect." The active pertains to the Law, the contemplative to the Gospel; for as the Old Testament went before the New, so good action goes before contemplation.
Aug., cont. Faust, v. 9: Nor are such only partakers in the kingdom of heaven, who, to the end they may be perfect, sell or part with all that they have; but in these Christian ranks are numbered by reason of a certain communication of their charity a multitude of hired troops; those to whom it shall be said in the end, "I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat;" [Matthew 25:35] whom be it far from us to consider excluded from life eternal, as they who obey not the commands of the Gospel.
Jerome, Hieron. cont. Vigilant., 15: That Vigilantius asserts that they who retain the use of their property, and from time to time divide their incomes among the poor, do better than they who sell their possessions and lavish them in one act of charity, to him, not I, but God shall make answer, If thou wilt be perfect, "Go and sell." That which you so extol, is but the second or third grade; which we indeed admit, only remembering that what is first is to be set before what is third or second.
Pseudo-Aug., Gennadius, de Eccles. Dogm. 36: It is good to distribute with discrimination to the poor; it is better, with resolve of following the Lord to strip one’s self of all at once, and freed from anxiety to suffer want with Christ.
Chrys.: And because He spake of riches warning us to strip ourselves of them, He promises to repay things greater, by how much heaven is greater than earth, and therefore He says, "And thou shalt have treasure in heaven." By the word treasure He denotes the abundance and endurance of the reward.
Origen: If every commandment is fulfilled in this one word, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," and if he is perfect who has fulfilled every command, how is it that the Lord said to the young man, If thou wilt be perfect, when he had declared, "All these have I kept from my youth up." Perhaps that he says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," was not said by the Lord, but added by some one, for neither Mark nor Luke have given it in this place.
Or otherwise; It is written in the Gospel [ed. note: see above, p. 4, note b] according to the Hebrews, that, when the Lord said, "Go, and sell all that thou hast," the rich man began to scratch his head, being displeased with the saying. Then the Lord said unto him, How sayest thou, I have kept the Law, and the Prophets, since it is written in the Law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself?" For how many of thy brethren sons of Abraham, clothed in filth, perish for hunger? Thy house is full of many good things, and nothing goes thereout to them.
The Lord then, desiring to convict this rich man, says to him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor;" for so it will be seen if thou dost indeed love thy neighbour as thyself. But if he is perfect who has all the virtues, how does he become perfect who sells all that he has and gives to the poor? For suppose one to have done this, will he thereby become forthwith free from anger, desire, having every virtue, and abandoning all vice? Perhaps wisdom may suggest, that he that has given his goods to the poor, is aided by their prayers, receiving of their spiritual abundance to his want, and is made in this way perfect, though he may have some human passions.
Or thus; He that thus exchanged his riches for poverty, in order that he might become perfect, shall have assistance to become wise in Christ, just, chaste also, and devoid of all passion; but not so as that in the moment when he gave up all his goods, he should forthwith become perfect; but only that from that day forward the contemplation of God will begin to bring him to all virtues.
Or again, it will pass into a moral exposition, and say, that the possessions of a man are the acts of his mind. Christ then bids a man to sell all his evil possessions, and as it were to give them over to the virtues which should work the same, which were poor in all that is good. For as the peace of the Apostles returns to them again, [marg. note: Matthew 10:13] unless there be a son of peace, so all sins return upon their actors, when one will no longer indulge his evil propensities; and thus there can be no doubt that he will straightway become perfect who in this sense sells all his possessions.
It is manifest that he that does these things, has treasure in heaven, and is himself become of heaven; and he will have in heaven treasure of God’s glory, and riches in all God’s wisdom. Such an one will be able to follow Christ, for he has no evil possession to draw him off from so following.
Jerome: For many who leave their riches do not therefore follow the Lord; and it is not sufficient for perfection that they despise money, unless they also follow the Saviour, that unless having forsaken evil, they also do what is good. For it is easier to contemn the hoard than quit the propensity [ed. note: Vallarsi reads ’voluptas,’ which would seem to make the passage mean, ’It is easier to relinquish avarice than pleasure.’].
Therefore it follows, "And come and follow me;" for he follows the Lord who is his imitator, and who walks in his steps. It follows, "And when the young man had heard these words, he went away sorrowful." This is the sorrow that leads to death. And the cause of his sorrow is added, "for he had great possessions," thorns, that is, and briars, which choked the holy leaven.
Chrys.: For they that have little, and they that abound, are not in like measure encumbered. For the acquisition of riches raises a greater flame, and desire is more violently kindled.
Aug., Ep. 31, 5: I know not how, but in the love of worldly superfluities, it is what we have already got, rather than what we desire to get, that most strictly enthrals us. For whence went this young man away sorrowful, but that he had great possessions? It is one thing to lay aside thoughts of further acquisition, and another to strip ourselves of what we have already made our own; one is only rejecting what is not ours, the other is like parting with one of our own limbs.
Origen: But historically, the young man is to be praised for that he did not kill, did not commit adultery; but is to be blamed for that he sorrowed at Christ’s words calling him to perfection. He was young indeed in soul, and therefore leaving Christ, he went his way.
Ver 23. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, "Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.24. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."25. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, "Who then can be saved?"26. But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
Gloss., ap. Anselm: The Lord took occasion from this rich man to hold discourse concerning the covetous; "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, &c."
Chrys.: What He spoke was not condemning riches in themselves, but those who were enslaved by them; also encouraging His disciples that being poor they should not be ashamed by reason of their poverty.
Hilary: To have riches is no sin; but moderation is to be observed in our havings. For how shall we communicate to the necessities of the saints, if we have not out of what we may communicate?
Raban.: But though there be a difference between having and loving riches, yet it is safer neither to have nor to love them.
Remig.: Whence in Mark the Lord expounding the meaning of this saying, speaks thus, "It is hard for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven." [Mark 10:24] They trust in riches, who build all their hopes on them.
Jerome: Because riches once gained are hard to be despised, He saith not it is impossible, but it is hard. Difficulty does not imply the impossibility, but points out the infrequency of the occurrence.
Hilary: It is a dangerous toil to become rich; and guiltlessness occupied in increasing its wealth has taken upon itself a sore burden; the servant of God gains not the things of the world, clear of the sins of the world. Hence is the difficulty of entering the kingdom of heaven.
Chrys.: Having said that it was hard for a rich man to eater into the kingdom of heaven, He now proceeds to shew that it is impossible, "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Jerome: According to this, no rich man can be saved. But if we read Isaiah, how the camels of Midian and Ephah came to Jerusalem with gifts and presents, [Isaiah 60:6] and they who once were crooked and bowed down by the weight of their sins, enter the gates of Jerusalem, we shall see how these camels, to which the rich are likened when they have laid aside the heavy load of sins, and the distortion of their whole bodies, may then enter by that narrow and strait way that leads to life.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Gentile souls are likened to the deformed body of the camel, in which is seen the humpback of idolatry; for the knowledge of God is the exaltation of the soul. The needle is the Son of God, the fine point of which is His divinity, and the thicker part what He is according to His incarnation. But it is altogether straight and without turning; and through the womb of His passion, the Gentiles have entered into life eternal. By this needle is sewn the robe of immortality; it is this needle that has sewn the flesh to the spirit, that has joined together the Jews and the Gentiles, and coupled man in friendship with angels. It is easier therefore for the Gentiles to pass through the needle’s eye, than for the rich Jews to enter into the kingdom of heaven. For if the Gentiles are with such difficulty withdrawn from the irrational worship of idols, how much more hardly shall the Jews be withdrawn from the reasonable service of God?
Gloss., ap. Anselm: It is explained otherwise; That at Jerusalem there was a certain gate, called, The needle’s eye, through which a camel could not pass, but on its bended knees, and after its burden had been taken off; and so the rich should not be able to pass along the narrow way that leads to life, till he had put off the burden of sin, and of riches, that is, ceasing to love them.
Greg., Mor., xxxv, 16: Or, by the rich man He intends any one who is proud, by the camel he denotes the right humility. The camel passed through the needle’s eye, when our Redeemer through the narrow way of suffering entered in to the taking upon Him death; for that passion was as a needle which pricked the body with pain. But the camel enters the needle’s eye easier than the rich man enters the kingdom of heaven; because if He had not first shewn us by His passion the form of His humility, our proud stiffness would never have bent itself to His lowliness.
Chrys.: The disciples though poor are troubled for the salvation of others, beginning even now to have the bowels of doctors.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., 1, 26: Whereas the rich are few in comparison of the multitude of the poor, we must suppose that the disciples understood all who wish for riches, as included in the number of the rich.
Chrys.: This therefore He proceeds to shew is the work of God, there needing much grace to guide a man in the midst of riches; "But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
By the word "beheld" them, the Evangelist conveys that He soothed their troubled soul by His merciful eye.
Remig.: This must not be so understood as though it were possible for God to cause that the rich, the covetous, the avaricious, and the proud should enter into the kingdom of heaven; but to cause him to be converted, and so enter.
Chrys.: And this is not said that you should sit supinely, and let alone what may seem impossibilities; but considering the greatness of righteousness, you should strive to enter in with entreaty to God.
Ver 27. Then answered Peter and said unto him, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?"28. And Jesus said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.29. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.30. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."
Origen: Peter had heard the word of Christ when He said, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast." Then he observed that the young man had departed sorrowful, and considered the difficulty of riches entering into the kingdom of heaven; and thereupon he put this question confidently as one who had achieved no easy matter. For though what he with his brother had left behind them were but little things, yet were they not esteemed as little with God, who considered that out of the fulness of their love they had so forsaken those least things, as they would have forsaken the greatest things if they had had them.
So Peter, thinking rather of his will than of the intrinsic value of the sacrifice, asked Him confidently "Behold, we have left all."
Chrys., Hom., lxiv: What was this "all," O blessed Peter? The reeds, your net, and boat. But this he says, not to call to mind his own magnanimity, but in order to propose the case of the multitude of poor. A poor man might have said, If I have nought, I cannot become perfect. Peter therefore puts this question that you, poor man, may learn that you are in nothing behind. For he had already received the kingdom of heaven, and therefore secure of what was already there, he now asks for the whole world. And see how carefully he frames his question after Christ’s requirements: Christ required two things of a rich man, to give what he had to the poor, and to follow Him; wherefore he adds, "and have followed thee."
Origen: It may be said, In all things which the Father revealed to Peter that the Son was, righteousness, sanctification, and the like, in all we have followed Thee. Therefore as a victorious athlete, he now asks what are the prizes of his contest.
Jerome: Because to forsake is not enough, he adds that which makes perfection, "and have followed thee." We have done what thou commandedst us, what reward wilt thou then give us? What shall we have?"
Jerome: He said not only, "Ye who have left all," for this did the philosopher Crates, and many other who have despised riches, but added, "and have followed me," which is peculiar to the Apostles and believers. [ed. note: ~ The later editions of the Catena, and nearly all the Mss. of Jerome, read ’Socrates.’ but Vallarsi adopts the reading of a few Mss., Crates, as more agreeable to history, as being named by Origen whom S. Jerome in this place follows, and as being often alluded to by S. Jerome. This is further supported by the ED. PR. of the Catena]
Hilary: The disciples had followed Christ in the regeneration, that is, in the laver of baptism, in the sanctification of faith, for this is that regeneration which the Apostles followed, and which the Law could not bestow.
Jerome: Or it may be constructed thus, "Ye which have followed me, shall in the regeneration sit, &c.;" that is, when the dead shall rise from corruption incorrupt, you also shall sit on thrones of judges, condemning the twelve tribes of Israel, for that they would not believe when you believed.
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 5: Thus our flesh will be regenerated by incorruption, as our soul also shall be regenerated by faith.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For it would come to pass, that in the day of judgment the Jews would allege, Lord, we knew Thee not to be the Son of God when Thou wast in the flesh. For who can discern a treasure buried in the ground, or the sun when obscured by a cloud? The disciples therefore will then answer, We also were men, and peasants, obscure among the multitude, but you priests and scribes; but in us a right will became as it were a lamp of our ignorance, but your evil will became to you a blinding of your science.
Chrys.: He therefore said not the Gentiles and the whole world, but, the "tribes of Israel," because the Apostles and the Jews had been brought up under the same laws and customs. So that when the Jews should plead that they could not believe in Christ, because they were hindered by their Law, the disciples will be brought forward, who had the same Law.
But some one may say, What great thing is this, when both the Ninevites and the Queen of the South will have the same? He had before and will again promise them the highest rewards; and even now He tacitly conveys something of the same. For of those others He had only said, that they shall sit, and shall condemn this generation; but He now says to the disciples, "When the Soul of Man shall sit, ye also shall sit."
It is clear then that they shall reign with Him, and shall share in that glory; for it is such honour and glory unspeakable that He intends by the "thrones." How is this promise fulfilled? Shall Judas sit among them? By no means. For the law was thus ordained of the Lord by Jeremiah the Prophet, "I will speak it upon my people, and upon, the kingdom, that I may build, and plant it. But if it do evil in, my sight, then will I repent me of the good which I said I would do to them;" [Jeremiah 18:9] as much as to say, If they make themselves unworthy of the promise, I will no more perform that I promised.
But Judas shewed himself unworthy of the preeminence; wherefore when He gave this promise to His disciples, He did not promise it absolutely, for He said not, Ye shall sit, but, "Ye which have followed me shall sit;" at once excluding Judas, and admitting such as should be in after time; for neither was the promise confined to them only, nor yet did it include Judas who had already shewn himself undeserving.
Hilary: Their following Christ in thus exalting the Apostles to twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, associated them in the glory of the twelve Patriarchs.
Aug.: From this passage we learn that Jesus will judge with His disciples; whence He says in another place to the Jews, "Therefore shall they be your judges." [Matthew 12:27] And whereas He says they shall sit upon twelve thrones, we need not think that twelve persons only shall judge with Him. For by the number twelve is signified the whole number of those that shall judge; and that because the number seven which generally represents completeness contains the two numbers four and three, which multiplied together make twelve. For if it were not so, as Matthias was elected into the place of the traitor Judas, the Apostle Paul who laboured more than they all should not have place to sit to judge; but he shews that he with the rest of the saints pertains to the number of judges, when he says, "Know ye not that we shall judge Angels?" [1 Corinthians 6:3]
Aug., Serm., 351, 8: In the number of judges therefore are included all that have left their all and followed the Lord.
Greg., Mor., x, 31: For whosoever, urged by the spur of divine love, shall forsake what he possesses here, shall without doubt gain there the eminence of judicial authority; and shall appear as judge with the Judge, for that he now in consideration of the judgment chastens himself by a voluntary poverty.
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 5: The same holds good, by reason of this number twelve, of those that are to be judged. For when it is said, "Judging the twelve tribes," yet is not the tribe of Levi, which is the thirteenth, to be exempt from being judged by them; nor shall they judge this nation alone, and not also other nations.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, by that, "In the regeneration," Christ designs the period of Christianity that should be after His ascension, in which men were regenerated by baptism; and that is the time in which Christ sat on the throne of His glory. And hereby you may see that He spake not of the time of the judgment to come, but of the calling of the Gentiles, in that He said not, "When the Son of Man shall come sitting upon the throne of his majesty;" but only, "In the regeneration when he shall sit," which was from the time that the Gentiles began to believe on Christ; according to that, "God shall reign over the heathen; God sitteth upon his holy throne." [Psalms 47:8]
From that time also the Apostles have sat upon twelve thrones, that is, over all Christians; for every Christian who receives the word of Peter, becomes Peter’s throne, and so of the rest of the Apostles. On these thrones then the Apostles sit, parcelled into twelve divisions, after the variety of minds and hearts, known to God only. For as the Jewish nation was split into twelve tribes, so is the whole Christian people divided into twelve, so as that some souls are numbered with the tribe of Reuben, and so of the rest, according to their several qualities. For all have not all graces alike, one is excellent in this, another in that. And so the Apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, all the Jews, by this, that the Gentiles received the Apostles’ word.
The whole body of Christians are indeed twelve thrones for the Apostles, but one throne for Christ. For all excellencies are but one throne for Christ, for He alone is equally perfect in all virtues. But of the Apostles each one is more perfect in some one particular excellence, as Peter in faith; so Peter tests upon his faith, John on his innocence, and so of the rest. And that Christ spake of reward to be given to the Apostles in this world, is shewn by what follows, "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, &c." For if these shall receive an hundred fold in this life, without doubt to the Apostles also was promised a reward in this present life.
Chrys.: Or; He holds out rewards in the future life to the Apostles, because they where already looking above, and desired nothing of things present; but to others He promises things present.
Origen: Or otherwise; whosoever shall leave all and follow Christ, he also shall receive those things that were promised to Peter. But if he has not left all, but only those things in special here enumerated, he shall receive manifold, and shall possess eternal life.
Jerome: There are that take occasion from this passage to bring forward the thousand years after the resurrection, and say that then we shall have a hundred fold of the things we have given up, and moreover life eternal. But though the promise be in other things worthy, in the matter of wives it seems to have somewhat shameful, if he who has forsaken one wife for the Lord’s sake, shall receive a hundred in the world to come. The meaning is therefore, that he that has forsaken carnal things for the Saviour’s sake, shall receive spiritual things, which in a comparison of value are as a hundred to a small number.
Origen: And in this world, because for his brethren after the flesh he shall find many brethren in the faith; for parents, all the Bishops and Presbyters; for sons, all that have the age of sons. The Angels also are brethren, and all they are sisters that have offered themselves chaste virgins to Christ, as well they that still continue on earth, as they that now live in heaven. The houses and lands manifold more suppose in the repose of Paradise, and the city of God. And besides all these things they shall possess eternal life.
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 7: That He says, "An hundred fold," is explained by the Apostle, when he says, "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things." [2 Corinthians 6:10] For a hundred is sometimes put for the whole universe.
Jerome: And that, "And every one that hath forsaken brethren," agrees with that He had said before, "I am come to set a man at variance with his father." [Matthew 10:35] For they who for the faith of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel shall despise all the ties, the riches, and pleasures of this world, they shall receive an hundred fold, and shall possess eternal life.
Chrys.: But when He says, "He that has forsaken wife," it is not to be taken of actual severing of the marriage tie, but that we should hold the ties of the faith dearer than any other. And here is, I think, a covert allusion to times of persecution; for because there should be many who would draw away their sons to heathenism, when that should happen, they should be held neither as fathers, nor husbands.
Raban.: But because many with what zeal they take up the pursuit of virtue, do not with the same complete it; but either grow cool, or fall away rapidly; it follows, "But many that are first shall be last, and the last first."
Origen: By this He exhorts those that come late to the heavenly word, to haste to ascend to perfection before many whom they see to have grown old in the faith. This sense may also overthrow those that boast to have been educated in Christianity by Christian parents, especially if those parents have filled the Episcopal see, or the office of Priests or Deacons in the Church; and hinder them from desponding who have entertained the Christian doctrines more newly.
It has also another meaning; the "first," are the Israelites, who become last because of their unbelief; and the Gentiles who were "last" become first. He is careful to say, "Many;" for not all who are first shall be last, nor all last first. For before this have many of mankind, who by nature are the last, been made by an angelic life above the Angels; and some Angels who were first have been made last through their sin.
Remig.: It may also be referred in particular to the rich man, who seemed to be first, by his fulfilment of the precepts of the Law, but was made last by his preferring his worldly substance to God. The holy Apostles seemed to be last, but by leaving all they were made first by the grace of humility. There are many who having entered upon good works, fall therefrom, and from having been first, become last.