Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 1)

The evil day has arrived, when I have to sift the references to Matthew 27:25 found in the works of Cyril of Alexandria.   Woe is me.

We start with his Commentary on the 12 Minor Prophets.  The TLG search gave us the following five references:

  • Volume 1 page 90 line 7: φόνος καὶ κλοπὴ καὶ μοιχεία ἐκκέχυται ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ    αἵματα ἐφ’ αἵμασι μίσγουσιν.   Ἀναγκαῖον ἡμᾶς διατρανοῦν ἐθέλοντας τῶν προκειμένων τὸν νοῦν, μονονουχὶ παλινάγρετα ποιεῖσθαι τὰ ἐν ἀρχαῖς, …
  • Volume 1 page 530 line 13: γὰρ τῷ Πιλάτῳ σταυροῦν ἀναπείθοντες τὸν Χριστόν “Τὸ “αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” τοιγάρτοι  πανοικὶ διολώλασι καὶ αὐτοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἡρπάσθησαν πόλεις,
  • Volume 2 page 232 line 9: τὸ ἀπηνέστερον, ἢ τί πρὸς θυμοὺς ἀγριώτερον; οἵ γε καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ δίκαιον αἷμα ταῖς σφῶν αὐτῶν ἐπαντλήσαντες κεφαλαῖς, ἀπεριμερίμνως ἔφασκον “Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ “ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” πρᾶος δὴ οὖν ὁ λαὸς, ὁ τῆς τούτων
  • Volume 2 page 324 line 22: ὄλεθρον ἐν ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ, καθ’ ἣν ἔφασαν προσάγοντες αὐτὸν τῷ Πιλάτῳ “Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα “ἡμῶν.” εἰ γὰρ μὴ καὶ συνεκβέβηκε παραχρῆμα τὰ ἐκ
  • Volume 2 page 454 line 12: “αἶρε, σταύρου αὐτὸν,” καὶ αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ δίκαιον αἷμα ταῖς    σφῶν αὐτῶν ἐπηντλήκασι κεφαλαῖς. ἔφασκον γὰρ πάλιν “Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.” διὰ τοῦτο τοίνυν, φησὶν, οὐκέτι φείσομαι ἐπὶ τοὺς κατοικοῦντας

The edition used in the TLG is that of Philip E. Pusey in 1868-72.[1].  I would prefer to map this to the PG edition, in PG71-72 (which reprints the Aubert edition).  The page numbers are to the Pusey edition.

Thankfully I learn that a translation (in three volumes!) of this work exists, published by Catholic University of America Press in the Fathers of the Church series, and made by Robert C. Hill, a man who deserves very well of this age.  Better still, Google Books previews exist.  The text used was the same Pusey edition.

The first passage – Pusey vol.1, p.90 – does not seem to reference Matt.27:25, and when I examine the original volume, it does not appear there.  The list of references was supplied to me by a kindly colleague, however, and it may simply be a glitch.

I shall comment separately in a moment about the second passage, where something unusual has happened!

The last three references, all from Pusey’s volume 2, all appear in the FOC translation.  Here they are.

From FOC volume 3, p.51, commenting on Zephaniah 3 (“volume 2” p. 232):

I shall leave in your midst a people gentle and lowly, and the remnant of Israel will reverence the name of the Lord; they will not be guilty of iniquity and will not say idle things, nor will deceitful talk be found in their mouth (vv. 2-13).

Again he addresses Zion, or the holy city—I mean Jerusalem—in which he also promises will be left the gentle and lowly people. Though in fact the synagogue of the Jews had raged against Christ the Savior of all, and had turned murderer of the Lord, and of it he requires an account, yet not all perished; the remnant was preserved and the survivors saved, a great number of them coming to faith. (232) These were the gentle, not venting on Christ their rage like a bull, like of course those who at that time brought him before Pilate, crying out in the words, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him,” and adding to this the cry, “If you do not kill him, you are no friend of Caesar’s.” In fact, what could be more cruel than such people, and more fierce than their anger? They brought innocent blood upon their own heads in saying without a thought, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” So the people who had no share in their savagery were gentle, therefore, and likewise lowly in their subjection to Christ, submitting the neck of their mind to his yoke, and willingly heeding his loving call, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

They are therefore also conformed in this to Christ, who for our sake made himself poor, as though unconcerned for the glory proper to God and his pre-eminence by nature, in order that in the divine plan he might endure the condition proper to a slave. Let those who enjoy spiritual guidance from his laws therefore model themselves on him. It is they who will also reverence the name of the Lord; the divinely inspired disciples, who before others also have the role of light of the world, are among those who have particular love for God. Now, those who love God, and are good, will avoid iniquity and idle words, he says: they will not say idle things, nor will their talk be false, the meaning of deceit. By contrast, this is spiritual adornment, highly befitting the ornaments of virtue like a kind of crown: …

From FOC volume 3, p.124, commenting on Zechariah 3 (“volume 2” p. 324):

Lo, I am digging a pit, says the Lord almighty, and I shall get a grip on all the injustice in that land in one day.

He presented our Lord Jesus Christ as light and dawn, and the fact that he will illuminate like daylight those in darkness and the shadow of death, that is, in error. But it was also necessary to forecast the fulfillment of the divine plan, namely, death for the sake of us all, which he willingly underwent by surrendering his own body to the cross, because the Jewish race had also offended and forfeited their relationship with him. You see, since the  wretches did not understand the mystery of the Incarnation and became murderers of the Lord, consequently and very properly  they were deprived of hope and perished miserably as miserable people, caught up in terrible and ineluctable calamities. So he  actually likens the cross of the Savior to a pit, since those who  shed the Lord’s blood fell into a pit, as it were, even presuming  to give over to crucifixion the Author of life.

Now, if the Father himself spoke of digging a pit, let no-one be scandalized, but consider rather that the expression  is redolent in some way of the Incarnation; it is like what is said wisely and precisely by Christ, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Admittedly, while there is truth in claiming that he did not come for this reason, for some people to become blind, nevertheless it was not only the fault of uncomprehending people that ntisrepresented the manner of the wonderful Incarnation; they refused to see, in fact, despite having access to the divine light. This is the way to take it here, too: while the Father sent the Son “so that the world might be saved through him,” on account of the folly of those who failed to understand, he who was sent became a pit and a trap for those who crucified him. Perhaps it was the one who sent him who is somehow thought to have dug the pit; so he actually says, I shall dig a pit, and I shall get a grip on all the injustice in that land in one day, by digging a pit meaning, I shall seek it out and carefully pry into it.

You see, they killed the holy prophets, and like hunters they assailed those sent at various times, abusing some, maltreating others, killing still others. God was still tolerant, however; the victims were servants and fellow slaves of those who committed the murders. Since in their unrestrained assaults they went to extremes, and contemplated such an unholy outrage as audaciously to do violence to the Son himself, and fell into the pit by crucifixion, he no longer forgave their unbridled sin. He sought out the offenders and submitted them to punishment, decreeing the destruction of the whole of Judea on one day when they paraded him before Pilate and cried, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  Even if the effects of divine wrath did not immediately befall them, even if the penalty was not sought without delay, nevertheless the just sentence from God took effect on them, destruction gripping the land of the Jews, as I said. (325) While the Savior was taken off to crucifixion, therefore, women followed him, weeping and wailing; he then turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me: weep for yourselves and for your children.” They were, in fact, delivered to destruction and slaughter, and there happened to them what was said in the verse of Isaiah, “Your land is desolate, your cities are bumed, foreigners consume your very land before you, and it is devastated and overwhelmed by foreign peoples.”

From FOC volume 3, p.216, commenting on Zechariah (“volume 2” p. 454):

…of all—Christ, I mean—and be subject to him, they stupidly associated themselves instead with those who slaughtered and sold them. The Only-begotten Word of God became man, remember, and clearly said in  unmasking both those men’s knavery and the sincerity of the divine plan for us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, whereas the hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and takes to flight. (454) The wolf snatches them and scatters them, because he is a hired hand, and does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd.” Now, the Jews, miserable though they were and needing to voice their criticism of the hired shepherds, did not do so; rather, the good shepherd, who laid down his own life as a ransom for all, they abused in countless ways, stoned, reproached, and in the end opened their mouth wide against him, crying out along with their leaders in demanding from Pilate, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him,” and actually bringing down his righteous blood on their own heads in the words, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

Hence I shall no longer spare the inhabitants of the earth, the text says: they no longer deserved pity from God; instead, each person was delivered into the hands of their neighbor and into the hands of their king or ruler. In fact, they crucified Emmanuel, and became murderers of the Lord, completely sacrilegious. But God called them to repentance, and did not immediately inflict on them the effects of His wrath. After the lapse of thirty years from the crucifixion of the Savior, however, peace departed from the country of the Jews; there were enemies everywhere, city invading city, people in each one divided among themselves and fighting with one another, the result being that they found themselves in equal trouble from one another as befell them from the enemy. The bold Roman generals were in control of the land of the Jews, burning cities along with inhabitants, (455) and subjecting the country to the yoke of slavery. Those capable of fleeing dwelt in the lands of the nations, which is still the case today.

A Google Books search of volume 1 and volume 2 turns up no results.  In fact there are no results to be found in these volumes.  I will discuss passage #2 in just a moment.

  1. [1]P.E. Pusey, Sancti patris nostri Cyrilli archiepiscopi Alexandrini in xii prophetas, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1868: 1:1-740; 2:1-626.  Volume 1; Volume 2.

10 thoughts on “Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 1)

  1. Dear Roger,
    Am following all your posts without exception – some I have also saved to my hard disk, depending on the topic…
    I have been admiring your dedication to such a complex and difficult opus… keep up the excellent work !!

  2. Roger,

    I must echo Kate’s sentiments inasmuch as I am also an admirer of your works. I found your website dedicated to Tertullian earlier this year, and since then I have visited either your blog or that website almost every day. Your persistence on some of these topics is admirable. It is a little late now, but in April of this year I read your Easter blog post and immediately printed it out. It is one of the best things that I have read this year.

    I do have a few questions for you. I too am interested in the writings of the church fathers, especially those of the second and third centuries and Eusebius’ works. I have a copy of the apostolic fathers by Michael Holmes. I like how he lists the various manuscripts, the dates of the manuscripts, as well as critical evaluations. Most of all I like to have the original language text on the left page and the English translation on the right page. Do you know if something like this exists for second and third century church fathers, for the works of Eusebius, and (rather unrelated) for the works of Tacitus or Suetonius or other first or second century historians? I was looking at the Loeb classical library but was wondering if you came across something, preferably in printed format, that is a little newer? Alternatively, have you come across translations of the church fathers that may just be in English that have lots of footnotes for citations, clarifications etc.?

    Although I should not be, there are times when I’m very startled by the brazen anti-Christian propaganda, half-truths, and deception that is passed along as truth in this world. It is always nice to come back to your websites and be encouraged that we are not alone, and we have no need to fear the truth! Thank you for all of your work.

  3. Thank you very much for your kind words!

    I agree about parallel text editions. But in English they are very rare (the Sources Chretiennes series is entirely original-language opposite French translation). The Loeb is the only series known to me. You have, I presume, discovered the Loebulus list of freely available online Loebs? These contain Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, and Cassius Dio, etc. I’ve not seen Michael Holmes book, I should say.

    The best series in English for commentary is undoubtedly the Ancient Christian Writers series. This has lots of notes. The CUA Press, Fathers of the Church, tends to have scanty comments, although the series is being assiduously added to (130+ vols at the moment). The IVP Academic series has very limited notes, but is also growing apace. But all these series are English only. My own publications, of Eusebius: Gospel Problems and Solutions, and Origen: Homilies on Ezekiel (available via Amazon) have facing original and English; but adding the original increases the pain factor by several fold, and probably was a mistake.

    I agree entirely about listing the manuscripts. Why don’t translators do this? But the information is always available in an edition of the original language.

    It is remarkable, watching our rulers rushing into every evil and folly imaginable, and clearly out of spite in some cases. But war is the inevitable consequence of their policies, and in time of war it becomes impossible to keep up the lies. A society must either abandon them; or go under. War is, in a way, God’s anti-septic.

    It is easy to be confused by the propaganda put out on what were once honest mass-media outlets. In an age when it is unsafe to object to the policies of the establishment, only those who endorse it are reported. This in turn leads the unwary to suppose that nobody objects. Thus it is easy for us to suppose that we are the only ones who object. But in reality it is not so. Elijah was reminded that there were 10,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal, and the same is true for us.

    I find that reading twitter, and ensuring that I follow sensible and Godly people, is a valuable corrective. Indeed I hardly bother with broadcast news any more.

  4. The first extract from TLG doesn’t seem related (I am just looking at the few lines you posted and haven’t looked at context).

  5. Thank you very much Roger. Your response is exactly what I needed. I somehow overlooked the Loebulus earlier, but I will investigate that, your publication on Eusebius, the ancient Christian writers series, and the IVP series.

    By the way, are you working on any other publications? The Gospel problems and solutions book looks really good.

  6. I won’t be doing any more publications in print. The work done by the translators was indeed excellent – but doing those two volumes took 7 years of my life!

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