Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Isaiah, on Matthew 27:25

I learn from the TLG (4090.103) that there are two references to this verse of scripture in Cyril of Alexandria, Commentarius in Isaiam prophetam (Commentary on Isaiah). It is not mentioned in BiblIndex.

Here is the TLG results:

PG 70 col 52 line 18: τλήκασι γὰρ τῆς ἑαυτῶν κεφαλῆς τὸ τίμιον αἷμα Χριστοῦ, Πιλάτῳ λέγοντες· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.» Ἀνῃρήκασι δὲ καὶ προφήτας ἁγίους· καὶ τοῦτο αὐτοῖς ὁ μακάριος Στέ-

PG 70 col 824 line 17: οἵ τε τῶν Ἰουδαίων καθηγηταὶ, καὶ ὅσοι τετολμήκασιν εἰπεῖν· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν·») διδοὺς λύπην, συμφοραῖς αὐτοὺς καὶ

Inspection of the PG edition tells me that these are comments upon Isaiah chapter 1, verse 21; and chapter 40, 29-31.

An English translation in 3 volumes exists by Robert C. Hill for Holy Cross Press, which translates the commentary as far as chapter 50 of Isaiah.  This morning I have written to the press to suggest that they commission someone to complete the translation.  But I have obtained copies, and located the relevant passages (it would have been far easier to do so, had I the work in PDF form!)

Here is the first passage.  I thought it best to give the context, as this work is nearly unknown to most people, and the translation likewise.  I’ve omitted the footnotes tho.

From vol. 1, p.48-50, on Isaiah 1:21:

How did she become a whore, the faithful city of Sion, full of justice? Righteousness came to rest in her, but now assassins (v.21). He is struck, as it were, by the degree of decadence of the assembly of the Jews and its ready transformation —deterioration, I mean—and its change from better to worse. After all, it had been instructed by the Law of Moses in the knowledge of what was useful, possessed the word of God that conveyed everything it had to do, was splendid, esteemed, and praiseworthy, celebrated by people far and wide in whom the fruit of righteousness abundantly flourished, and was acceptable to God. It possessed, in fact, both prophets and priests, keepers of the works of righteousness, leaders of the people to maintain justice, recite the Law, and be models of all aspects of good and upright behavior. Later it lost all this—or, rather, it chose to spurn that former goodness, and set no store by reverence and love for God; before the coming of our Savior, it worshipped what were by nature not gods, flagrantly insulting the one and only true Lord by such a degree of infidelity, and, like a promiscuous and swaggering woman, it offended in many ways. It attached itself to a range of guides at different times, who were in the habit of introducing every kind of practice abhorrent to God.

The God of all accuses it, for example, in the words of Jeremiah, “See what she did to me, the house of Israel: she played the whore on every high mountain and under every leafy tree, and was unfaithful there.” And again in words addressed to her, “If a man divorces his wife, and she leaves him and attaches herself to another man, surely she will not return to him again? Would not such a woman be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many shepherds, and are you returning to me? asks the Lord. Direct your eyes straight ahead and see how could it be you were not sullied; you took your place in the very streets, like a crow in a solitary wilderness. You have polluted the land with your whoring and your wickedness, you had many shepherds as a stumbling black to yourself. You had the face of a whore, being shameless before everyone.” In other words, you despised service of God, as I said, took the path of apostasy, and had recourse to unclean spirits and the worship of idols as shepherds and teachers.

These were the crimes of the assembly of the Jews, as I said, before the coming of our Savior. But when Christ shone upon the people on earth (the Lord God appeared to us, Scripture says), it preferred not to apply to him as teacher, preferring instead the teachings and commandments of men. Bypassing the good shepherd, (52) who could supply it with the best of all teaching, it attached itself to the chief priests and Scribes, and even to the Pharisees. Now, by this means it played the whore, despite both Law and Prophets prophesying to it the mystery of Christ and promising that he would come in due course. How did she become a whore, the faithful city of Sion, full of justice? It is like saying, What opportunities did she take to understand—or, rather, how did she run headlong into apostasy after being enriched with spiritual aids, this formerly faithful agent of righteousness, where righteousness dwelt, that is, the Law abided? In other words, the multitude of its students were a kind of domicile for it, but now murderers live there. Do you recall his passing over many other crimes to charge it with murder? They brought upon their own head the precious blood of Christ, remember, in saying to Pilate, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” They also did away with holy prophets; blessed Stephen reproached them with this, “You stiff-necked people, unbelieving in heart, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not kill? You are like your ancestors.”

Now on to the other passage, in vol. 3, p.19-22:

Are you not now aware? Or is it possible you have not heard? God is eternal, God, who formed the ends of the earth, will not hunger or grow weary, nor is investigation possible of his understanding (v.28). Of old, O Israel, you were taught by means of the Law, and in some way through the prophets you gained knowledge of the divine plan coming after the Law. The Law acted as an oracle, in fact, containing shadows and types of the good things to come, and possessing in the text in pregnant fashion the force of the mystery to do with Christ; in a variety of ways Christ was prefigured through the commandment in the Law, and in obscure fashion the mystery to do with him was sketched. (821) He personally confirms this to the people of Israel who chose to disbelieve: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.” Since he had leveled the accusation, he is saying, he does not consider my ways in accordance with the Law (the meaning of My way is hidden from my God, God has disregarded my right or Law and departed). He says the following as though quite ignorant of the one trusting in God: Are you not now aware? Or is it possible you have not heard?—that is, could you not have heard? It would be like saying, I accept the pretense as part of your plan: you would not have known unless you had discovered it or had been told. Listen, then: God is eternal, God, who formed the ends of the earth, will not hunger or grow weary, you offered (he means) sheep as bloody sacrifices, and recited prayers by immolating oxen, you paid homage with incense and smoke, crops and doves. But you should know, and not be unaware, that God, who formed the ends of the earth, is eternal (meaning by ends of the earth the whole of it). He will not hunger or grow weary, which resembles what is said to them in the words of the psalmist, “Surely I do not eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” How is it, in fact, that you make offerings? Surely I am not hungry or wearied under the effects of famine? Perish the foolish thought: God, who is eternal, is not subject to wasting, or being hungry or weary, or any human need.

Nor is investigation possible of his understanding; he sometimes gives the reason when he asks, If as things are you rendered unacceptable the Law given through Moses, or the shadow contained in the Law, why at all did you pass laws in the first place? If the new oracles— that is, those in the Gospels—are preferable to the old, why were they enacted in addition to the Law? Do not ask this question, he is saying; you will not succeed in discovering God’s incomprehensible reasoning or wisdom. The Law, for its part, was given through Moses, remember; why was it, then, and for what reason will Paul teach in these terms, “The Law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied,” and again, “Scripture imprisoned all in disobedience so that he might be merciful to all”? It was therefore established as an indicator of sin, and, as it were, proof of everyone’s weakness, so that since it was incapable of justifying sinners, and instead it condemned them, the grace of liberality through Christ had then to be introduced to justify the impious and free from sins those guilty of them. Accordingly, investigation is not possible of the understanding of God, who plans all things wisely, on the one hand giving the Law so as to offer condemnation of sin, and on the other sending the Son from heaven so as to justify by faith those in sin.

Giving strength to the hungry and grief to those not mourning. After all, younger people will hunger, youths will be weary and the elite will be powerless, whereas those who wait for the Lord will have renewed strength, they will grow wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will march and not hunger (vv.29-31). Take as a given, I ask you, (824) that God, who is eternal, God, who formed the ends of the earth, gives strength to the hungry; being eternal, God is not in need of food. Or, rather, he it is who gives righteousness, spiritual vigor, to those who hunger for it; yet he likewise gives grief to those not mourning. You should take this two ways. As a result of deep insensitivity and failure to know what is pleasing to God, to people unaware that they are gravely offending him and becoming liable to intolerable penalties he finally gives as an aid grief for what they have committed. Grief of a godly kind, you see, brings about repentance that leads to salvation which requires no repenting, or brings grief to those who crucified Jesus, and even perhaps rejoiced in it (the leaders of the Jews were so disposed, remember, and all who were so presumptuous as to say, “His blood be upon us and upon our children”), causing them to be involved in the misfortunes and evils of war.

Because they forfeited their relationship with him, they were deprived of all strength and spiritual nourishment; consequently, as though in comment on the statement, he proceeds, younger people will hunger, youths will be weary and the elite will be powerless. In other words, as far as the nations’ deficiencies and weakness are concerned, their being subject to the devils’ power and doing what the unclean spirits decided, some were stronger and younger in an intellectual and spiritual sense, and were in the grip of hunger and weariness. On the other hand, those with habits of good behavior as a result of instruction in the Law, and discharging the commandments once given them, will hunger and be weary, that is, lack strength for any kind of good works; should they be affected by being starved of the divine sayings, it will render them completely weak, limp, and incapable of effort for good deeds. Now, the fact that the nation of Israel fell victim to famine when those who believed in our Lord Jesus Christ were rescued from trouble, God foretells in saying of old through one of the prophets, “Lo, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I shall send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. They will wander from east to west in search of the word of the Lord, and will not find it.” After all, how were they not destined to feel weakness and weariness, and to be wasted by spiritual famine, clearly because of their not welcoming Christ despite his saying clearly, “I am the living bread who has come down from heaven and gives life to the world; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.” Since in their grievous folly they did not accept the word of life, despite being able to partake of it, they were wasted by famine while the nations found it to their liking; it is true that, as Solomon says, “The Lord does not let the righteous die of famine, but he undermines the life of the impious.” It was the fate of the Jews, however, for they showed impiety toward the author of life. (825)

Interesting: but the reference to Jewish sacrifices shows that none of this has anything to do with contemporary Jewish observance.  It is, in fact, discussing the fate of the people of God.

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