December 12, 2007

Things Biblical

For what it's worth, of the top ten most popular bible verses three were Christ's direct words. The favorite verse, John 3:16, is a reflection on God's action.

I happened across Matthew 18:7-8 the other day. A more piquant one-sentence summary of the earthly condition from Jesus could scarcely be found:
Alas for the world that there should be such obstacles!
Continuing in the Jerusalem Bible translation: "Obstacles indeed there must be, but alas for anyone who provides them!"

I like the back and forth from the early Christian giants weighing in on Scripture in the Catena Aurea:
Gloss, non occ.: The Lord had said, that it is better for him who gives offence, that a mill-stone be hanged about his neck, which He now subjoins the reason, "Woe unto the world from offences!" i. e. because of offences.

Origen: This we may understand not of the material elements of the world; but here the men who are in the world, are called the world. But Christ's disciples are not of this world, whence there cannot be woe to them from offences; for though there be many offences, they do not touch him who is not of this world. But if he be yet of this world in loving the world, and the things in it, as many offences will seize him as those by which he was encompassed in the world. It follows, "For it must needs be that offences come."

Chrys., Hom., lix: This does not subvert the liberty of the will, or impose a necessity of any act, but foreshews what must come to pass. Offences are hindrances in the right way. But Christ's prophecy does not bring in the offences, for it is not done because He foretold it, but He foretold it because it was certainly to come to pass. But some one will say, If all men are recovered, and if there be none to bring the offences, will not His speech be convicted of falsehood? By no means; for seeing that men were incurable, He therefore said, "It must needs be that offences come;" that is, they surely will come; which He never would have said, if all men might be amended.

Gloss. interlin.: Or they must needs come because they are necessary, that is, useful, that by this mean "they that are approved may be made manifest." [1 Cor 11:19]

Chrys.: For offences rouse men, and make them more attentive; and he who falls by them speedily rises again, and is more careful.

Hilary: Or; The lowliness of His passion is the scandal of the world, which refused to receive the Lord of eternal glory under the disgrace of the Cross. And what more dangerous for the world than to have rejected Christ? And He says that offences must needs come, forasmuch as in the sacrament of restoring to us eternal life, all lowliness of suffering was to be fulfilled in Him.

Origen: Or; The scandals that are to come are the Angels of Satan. But do not look that these offences should shew themselves in a substantial or natural shape, for in some the freedom of the will has been the origin of offence, not liking to undergo toil for virtue's sake. But there cannot be real good, without the opposition of evil. It must needs be then that offences [p. 627] come, as it must needs be that we encounter the evil assaults of spiritual powers; whose hatred is the more stirred up, as Christ's word invading men drives out the evil influences from them. And they seek instruments by whom the offences may the rather work; and to such instruments is more woe; for him who gives, it shall be worse than for him who takes, the offence, as it follows, "But woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh."

Jerome: As much as to say, Woe to that man through whose fault it comes to pass, that offences must needs be in the world. And under this general declaration, Judas is particularly condemned, who had made ready his soul for the act of betrayal.

Hilary: Or; By the man is denoted the Jewish people, as the introducers of all this offence that is about Christ's passion; for they brought upon the world all the danger of denying Christ in His passion, of whom the Law and the Prophets had preached that He should suffer.

Chrys.: But that you may learn that there is no absolute necessity for offences, hear what follows, "If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, &c." This is not said of the limbs of the body, but of friends whom we esteem as limbs necessary to us; for nothing is so hurtful as evil communications.

Jerome: So all affection, our whole kindred, are severed from us; lest under cover of duty any believer should be exposed to offence. If, He says, he be united to thee as close as is thy hand, or foot, or eye, and is useful to thee, anxious and quick to discern, and yet causes thee offence, and is by the unmeetness of his behaviour drawling thee into hell; it is better for thee that thou lack his kindred, and his profitableness to thee, than that whilst thou seekest to gain thy kindred or friends, thou shouldest have cause of failings. For every believer knows what is doing him harm, what troubles and tempts him, for it is better to lead a solitary life, than to lose eternal life, in order to have the things necessary for this present life.

Origen: Or, The priests may with good reason be called the eyes of the Church, since they are considered her watchmen; but the deacons and the rest her hands, for by them spiritual deeds are wrought; the people are the feet of the body, the Church; and all these it behoves not to spare, if they become an offence to the Church. Or, by the offending hand is understood an act of the mind; a motion of the mind is the offending foot, and a vision of the mind is the sinning eye, which we ought to cut off if they give offence, for thus the acts of the limbs are often put in Scripture for the limbs themselves.

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