Another Matthew 27:25 reference in Theodoret on the Psalms?

The next reference in the Fathers to Matthew 27:25 – “His blood be upon us and our children” – is to be found in Theodoret.  The Biblindex site gives the reference simply as “Theodoret, Interpretatio in Psalmos. PG 80, 857-1997″ which is notable for the lack of a precise column number.  Oh dear.

Today I started the tedious process of flicking through the pages of a downloaded PDF of the PG80.  It’s more fun than a boy should have, I can tell you.  Only another 500-odd clicks to go.  Whee!

This evening, overcome by nagging doubt, I recalled the existence of an index volume by Cavallera.  Sadly, even on a smartphone, I quickly verified that it wouldn’t tell me where or whether Matt.27:25 was used in the text.

My next thought was whether an English translation existed of the Interpretatio in Psalmos.  And … one does!  A two volume “Commentary on the Psalms” is published by Catholic University of America Press in the Fathers of the Church series.  Furthermore there is a quite generous preview accessible via Google Books, from which I learn (on p.4) that the PG text is indeed the one translated.  This is useful in view of the tendency of ancient commentators on scripture to go round the ground more than once.  The translator writes:

Today’s reader of this work by Theodoret enjoys the advantage of its rich manuscript tradition, direct and in the catenae, while suffering the limitation of lack of a modern critical text. What is to hand is the eighteenth-century edition by J. L. Schulze that appeared a century later in J. P. Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 80.857-1998 with a Latin translation by Antonio Carafa. Study of the Commentary is further complicated by its survival in two forms, long and short, the latter better attested to by more ancient witnesses, yet the long form being cited by the Palestinian catena and thus in existence since the sixth century. Schulze  adopts the short form of the text for his edition, but—without obvious rationale—also incorporates excerpts of the longer form that would puzzle readers did he not acknowledge their inclusion, and that deepen the sense of urgency of need of a critical edition …

It is rather fun, this, chasing down the reference to an ancient text of which I knew nothing before this evening.  The Indiana Jones instinct is alive and well!

But the next stage is to lay hands on this translation.  And this is, of course, not so straightforward.

The FoC series now numbers over 127 volumes.  There is a reasonable possibility that Cambridge University Library will have the volumes in question: and a drive over there will supply me with the reference more easily than paging through 1000 columns of Migne.  Of course I’d rather have a PDF on my own machine, if I could obtain one.  After all, if they sold them at $5 a pop as ebooks, I’d buy just copies and think no more of it.  Maybe even at $10 a pop.

The world is changing, in this regard.  For instance computer manuals such as Spring in Action, sold by Manning, now come bundled with a copy of the eBook version as well.  They enclose a key in the book, and you unseal it and download it.  I have bought a number of their manuals, precisely because I got both (and wanted both).

So what about CUA?  A look at their website shows that they do offer ebooks, and well done them.  The pricing however, is less forward-thinking:

FOC_ebook_priceYour eyes do not deceive you, dear reader.  CUA do indeed want $40 for the paper book, and exactly the same for the ebook. Oh dear.  But as I say, at least the ebook does exist.  Not every publisher has got this far.  So … it’s progress of a sort.

Meanwhile, browsing Theodoret’s preface to the commentary I find an interesting snippet, relevant to my quest for patristic references to Matt.27:25, on p.41, complete with interesting footnote:

In my opinion, it is for a wise man to shun the extreme tendencies of both the former[Jews] and the latter[Christians]: the things that are relevant to stories of the past should be applied to them even today, whereas the prophecies about Christ the Lord, about the Church from the nations, the evangelical lifestyle, and the apostolic preaching should not be applied to anything else, as Jews with their proclivity to malice love to do and contrive a defense for their disbelief.[11]

11. This edge against the Jews can be found in other churchmen in Antioch, of course.

It will be interesting to see whether my survey of the use of Matthew 27:25 bears this last comment out.

Now I was going to leave it there: but these previews are such useful tools, particularly when a publisher is generous and allows a good portion of the book to appear (and, in honesty, you can’t read a book in a preview but you can find it is of use).  I remembered that the previews have a search box on them. So I thought that I’d try a search for “blood”.

And … it worked!  On p.338 and p.340 I found my reference, which is on cols. 1308 and 1312 of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 80, it seems.  Theodoret is commenting on Psalm 59, which he reads as David foreseeing how the Jews would show their fury against Christ.

You, O Lord God of hosts, God of Israel, take the trouble to survey all the nations (v. 5). Perceiving sinlessness to belong to him alone who came from him in the flesh, and foreseeing in the Spirit the fury directed against him by the Jews who were of the same stock, he begs the Lord of’ hosts and God of Israel to leave the Jews to their own devices and transfer all his providence to the nations, illuminating them with the light of the knowledge of God. Now, in announcing this to the nations, he predicts the Jews’ punishment: Have pity on none of the workers of iniquity. Since with the eyes of inspiration he saw the cross, you see, he seemed also to hear [1308] the Lord of glory saying, “Father, forgive them their sin: they do not know what they are doing.” Loathing the extraordinary degree of their impiety, he prays that they enjoy no pardon.

(6) Then he prophesies the dearth of spiritual nourishment about to affect them. In the evening they will return, they will be as hungry as dogs, and will go around the city (v. 6). Just as dogs are in the habit of prowling around the streets of the cities at night, he is saying, forced to do it by an empty stomach, in like manner these people will be devoid of all spiritual provender; not enjoying the charism of inspiration, they will be completely bereft of high-priestly attention. Like a dog they will continue their meandering, not accorded the right to share even the scraps falling from their master’s table, as the Gospel saying has it.

(7) Then he teaches more clearly the cause of the punishment. Lo, with their own mouth they will speak out, and a sword on their lips, saying, Who has heard? (v. 7). With their tongue they cause slaughter, he is saying, giving forth their words like some dagger and sword, and events bear out their words. They crucified their Lord with their tongue, crying aloud, “Away, away with him, crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children!” They put their words into action with the aid of Pilate’s troops, and nailed the Savior to the gibbet. The inspired word said this, too: With their own mouth they will speak out, and a sword on their lips, saying, Who has heard? Because the words they utter they use in place of swords. Now, they do this, he is saying, as though no one were watching; the phrase saying, Who has heard? indicates this: they are so bold as though no one were watching or listening to what happened or requiring an account. Symmachus brought out this sense, in fact: in place of saying, Who has heard?he put “as though no one were listening.”

(8) Perceiving this attitude of theirs ahead of time, therefore, David adds the words, You, O Lord, will mock them (v. 8): [1309] though they are so bold, in other words, you are listening and watching and mocking their futility. You will set all the nations at naught: it is easy for you to prevail not only over them but over all the nations as well. The divinely inspired Isaiah said this, too, in his efforts to bring out the extraordinary degree of the divine power: “If all the nations were considered to be like a drop in the bucket, like a tilt in the scales and like spittle, and will be so considered, to what did you compare the Lord? By what comparison did you compare him?”

(9) I shall watch for you, my strength, because you are my support, O God (v. 9). I have you as supporter and guardian of my power, he is saying; I continue to enjoy your providence. My God, his mercy will anticipate me (v. 10): you always anticipate my petitions, O Lord, and in an excess of loving-kindness you do not wait for supplication. My God will show it to me among my foes. The inspired author considers his foes to he the same as the Savior’s foes. Then he predicts to them the future: Do not kill them lest they forget your Law (v. 11). I beg you, he is saying, not to let them undergo complete ruin: there are many among them who are being cured by the remedies of repentance. “In death there is no-one to remember you, after all; in Hades who will confess to you?”So what penalty does he intend to exact of them? Scatter them in your power and bring them down, O Lord, my protector. Scatter them throughout the whole world, he is saying, and make them exiles and refugees since they were involved in a wicked conspiracy against you.

(10) Now, what that conspiracy was he informs us: A sin of their mouth, a word of their lips (v. 12). This also concurs with what was said before: above he had said, Lo, with their own mouth they will speak out, and a sword on their lips, and here in turn he accuses them of a sin of the mouth, a word of the lips, teaching us in every case that they will pay [1312] a penalty for that statement which they uttered in concert, undermining Pilate’s just verdict. While he intended, in fact, to release him as an innocent man, they cried aloud, “Away, away with him! Crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children.” Symmachus, on the other hand, rendered this more clearly: instead of, Scatter them in your power, he said, “Drive them out in your power and destroy them, O Lord, our protector, in the sin of their mouths, the word of their lips.” Make them fugitives, he is saying, and turn them from free men into slaves on account of the sin of their mouth and the word of their lips. Likewise in the case of the construction of the tower he dissolved their evil concert in discord, and to the ailment of the damaging harmony he applied the antidote of division of languages.

Which is what we’re looking for.  Thank you CUA and Google Books!

I did look into the preview of volume 2 as well, but there are no references.

As a bonus, I found a footnote referring to Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, not mentioned in Biblindex, but giving a reference to I, 384 (although what that reference is I don’t know).

58. New Testament scholar Raymond F. Brown, The Death of the Messiah, ABRL (New York: Doubleday, 1994) traces this attitude back to the NT and the early Fathers, quoting Origen on Matt 27.25: “Therefore the blood of Jesus came not only on those who existed at that time but also upon all generations of Jews who would follow afterwards till the endtime” (I, 384).

And a search in the Ante-Nicene Fathers produces a result here, although not obviously the same one.  So I have more to do here: and this also casts doubt on the completeness of Biblindex.  Hum.  But what fun!


4 thoughts on “Another Matthew 27:25 reference in Theodoret on the Psalms?

  1. Brown’s “Death of Messiah” is a 2vol work – hence I,384. The citation from Origen is from the Latin trans (curiously divided into “Homilies”) = hom 124, p.260 in vol.11 of Works of Origen in GCS.

  2. The phrase is indeed on p.260, although the quote of Matthew 27:25 is on p.259.

    propterea sanguis Iesu non solum super eos factus est, qui tunc fuerunt, verum etiam super omnes generationes Iudaeorum post sequentes usque ad consummationem. propterea usque nunc domus eorum derelicta est eis deserta. Pilatus autem oblitus verborum suorum bonorum, quibus coeperat defendere innocentiam Christi, declinans ad malum non solum tradidit Iesum, sed etiam flagellis caesum tradidit, ut crucifigerent eum.

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