Ancient references to Jewish attitudes to abortion

There seem to be very few statements in ancient literature on Jewish attitudes to abortion.  Here is what I have been able to find.  I have not included material from the Mishnah or Talmud, which I may include in a separate post.

For reference, here’s the Masoretic text of Exodus 21:22-25 (RSV).

22 “When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

The Septuagint version (NETS) is slightly different:

22 Now if two men fight and strike a pregnant woman and her child comes forth not fully formed, he shall be punished with a fine. According as the husband of the woman might impose, he shall pay with judicial assessment. 23 But if it is fully formed, he shall pay life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Philo, The Special Laws, book 3, 108-9, 117-8 (online here):

(108) But if any one has a contest with a woman who is pregnant, and strike her a blow on her belly, and she miscarry, if the child which was conceived within her is still unfashioned and unformed, he shall be punished by a fine, both for the assault which he committed and also because he has prevented nature, who was fashioning and preparing that most excellent of all creatures, a human being, from bringing him into existence. But if the child which was conceived had assumed a distinct Shape in all its parts, having received all its proper connective and distinctive qualities, he shall die; (109) for such a creature as that is a man, whom he has slain while still in the workshop of nature, who had not thought it as yet a proper time to produce him to the light, but had kept him like a statue lying in a sculptor’s workshop, requiring nothing more than to be released and sent out into the world.

XX. (110) On account of this commandment he also adds another proposition of greater importance, in which the exposure of infants is forbidden, which has become a very ordinary piece of wickedness among other nations by reason of their natural inhumanity; (111) for if it is proper to provide for that which is not yet brought forth by reason of the definite periods of time requisite for such a process, so that even that may not suffer any injury by being plotted against, how can it be otherwise than more necessary to take similar care of the child when brought to perfection and born, and sent forth…

(117) Therefore, Moses has utterly prohibited the exposure of children, by a tacit prohibition, when he condemns to death, as I have said before, those who are the causes of a miscarriage to a woman whose child conceived within her is already formed. And yet those persons who have investigated the secrets of natural philosophy say that those children which are still within the belly, and while they are still contained in the womb, are a part of their mothers; and the most highly esteemed of the physicians who have examined into the formation of man, scrutinising both what is easily seen and what is kept concealed with great care, by means of anatomy, in order that, if there should be any need of their attention to any case, nothing may be disregarded through ignorance and so become the cause of serious mischief, agree with them and say the same thing. (118) But when the children are brought forth and are separated from that which is produced with them, and are set free and placed by themselves, they then become real living creatures, deficient in nothing which can contribute to the perfection of human nature, so that then, beyond all question, he who slays an infant is a homicide, and the law shows its indignation at such an action

Josephus, Antiquities book 4, 278 (at Lacus Curtius here, as chapter 8, 33):

He that kicks a woman with child, so that the woman miscarry, (29) let him pay a fine in money, as the judges shall determine: as having diminished the multitude by the destruction of what was in her womb: and let money also be given the woman’s husband by him that kicked her: but if she die of the stroke, let him also be put to death. The law judging it equitable that life should go for life.

Josephus, Against Apion book 2, 202 (Lacus Curtius here, ch. 25) (which begins with an interesting statement on homosexuality also):

The law moreover enjoins us to bring up all our offspring: and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten; or to destroy it afterward. And if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child; by destroying a living creature, and diminishing human kind.

In the Sentences of pseudo-Phocylides, verses 184-5 (via Walter T. Wilson, The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides, de Gruyter (2005) p.187):

184 A woman should not destroy an unborn babe in the womb, 185 nor after bearing it should she cast it out as prey for dogs and vultures.

The Sybilline Oracles, book 2 (via Sacred Texts here, Milton S. Terry, 1899):

315 … and the godless furthermore
Shall to all ages perish, all who did
Evils aforetime, and …

345 And all who loosed the girdle of the maid
For secret intercourse, and all who caused
Abortions, and all who their offspring cast
Unlawfully away; and sorcerers
And sorceresses with them, and these wrath
350 Of the heavenly and immortal God shall drive
Against a pillar where shall all around
In a circle flow a restless stream of fire;

There are further quotations on when an unborn child gains a soul, or is legally considered a separate person, but I have not included these here.  A number of these are listed in Gorman, The Early Church and Abortion, IVP (1982), repr. Wpif & Stock (1998).


Rutilius Namatianus, the Jews, and some notes on the fate of the unique manuscript

In 1493 a manuscript of the 7-8th century was discovered at the Irish monastery of St. Columbanus at Bobbio in north Italy, which contained some previously unknown ancient works.  One of these was a poem, De reditu suo – On his return – by Rutilius Namatianus, who was Urban Prefect in Rome in 414 AD.  The poem describes his return to Gaul by sea around 416 AD.  It is incomplete, but it lambasts the policy of Stilicho that brought the Goths over the Alps.

The text and English translation of the poem may be found at Bill Thayer’s site Lacus Curtius here, which is now back online.  The text is out of date, tho, as we shall see in a moment.

The poem also contains a passage recounting how Rutilius and his company were harassed by a Jew when they put in to land.  Rutilius does not hold back his feelings about the man and his race.

This I learned of thanks to a link back from an article at a fringe blog named History Reviewed, here.  Here’s the text, overparagraphed by me.

The neighbouring Faleria​ checks our weary course, though Phoebus scarce had reached his mid career. That day it happened merry village-bands along the country cross-roads soothed their jaded hearts with festal observances; it was in truth the day when, after long time restored, Osiris wakes the happy seeds to yield fresh produce. Landing, we seek lodging,​ and stroll within a wood; we like the ponds which charm with their shallow enclosed basin. The spacious waters of the imprisoned flood permit the playful fish to sport inside these preserves.

But we were made to pay dear for the repose of this delightful halting-place by a lessee who was harsher than Antiphates as host!​ For a crabbed Jew was in charge of the spot — a creature that quarrels with sound human food.​ He charges in our bill for damaging his bushes and hitting the seaweed, and bawls about his enormous loss in water we had sipped.

We pay the abuse due to the filthy race that infamously practises circumcision: a root of silliness they are: chill Sabbaths are after their own heart, yet their heart is chillier than their creed. Each seventh day is condemned to ignoble sloth, as ’twere an effeminate picture of a god fatigued.​ The other wild ravings from their lying bazaar methinks not even a child in his sleep could believe.

And would that Judaea had never been subdued by Pompey’s wars and Titus’ military power. The infection of this plague, though excised, still creeps abroad the more: and ’tis their own conquerors that a conquered race keeps down.

Against us rises a North wind; but we too strive with oars to rise, while daylight shrouds the stars. Close at hand Populonia opens up her safe coast, where she draws her natural bay well inland. …

Readers of Horatius, in Lord Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome will be reminded of Lars Porsenna gathering his Etruscans,

From lordly Volaterræ,
Where scowls the far-famed hold
Piled by the hands of giants
For godlike kings of old;
From seagirt Populonia,
Whose sentinels descry
Sardinia’s snowy mountain-tops
Fringing the southern sky;

Rutilius’ unnamed Jew is an unattractive figure.  It is interesting that a man who had held such a high office, and must have travelled with his clients, could be abused like this.  The Urban Prefect was the emperor’s strong-arm boy in the City, after all.  Possibly this suggests that the episode is a literary fiction; or else it testifies to the disturbed state of Italy, only a few years after the Gothic sack of Rome.

But it does provide a vehicle to criticise the Christians, now fully in the saddle in the Roman empire.  The ruinous effects of the rise of superstition and dogma, of heresy trials and smelling-out of dissenters, upon that fragile state, were obvious to anybody.  It is telling that so senior an aristocrat feels quite powerless to do anything about any of these disasters.  A little later he says:

As we advance at sea, Capraria now rears itself — an ill-kept isle full of men who shun the light. Their own name​ for themselves is a Greek one, “monachoi” (monks), because they wish to dwell alone with none to see. They fear Fortune’s boons, as they dread her outrages: would anyone, to escape misery, live of his own choice in misery? What silly fanaticism of a distorted brain is it to be unable to endure even blessings because of your terror of ills? Whether they are like prisoners​ who demand the appropriate penalties for their deeds, or whether their melancholy hearts are swollen with black bile, it was even so that Homer assigned the ailment of excessive bile as cause of Bellerophon’s troubled soul;​ for it was after the wounds of a cruel sorrow that men say the stricken youth conceived his loathing for human kind.

The monks of the late fourth century could be a very rubbishy crew.  In Egypt they were gangs of illiterates, used as muscle by bishops like Theophilus of Alexandria, in their struggles with their personal enemies.  Rutilius has no respect for them.

The text of Rutilius Namatianus reached us in a single manuscript at Bobbio.  Fortunately it was copied.  For in 1706 a French adventurer stole the ancient volume from the abbey.  His name was Comte Claude Alexandre de Bonnival, a successful French military man who had entered Austrian service that year, and was a Major-General in the service of Prince Eugene, campaigning near Turin.

This we learn from a handwritten note by Michel-Ange Carisio, Abbot of Bobbio in 1792, printed in M. Tulli Ciceronis, Orationum pro Scauro, pro Tullio, et in Clodium, fragmenta inedita, ed. Amedeus Peyron, 1824 (online here), p.xx:

Sadly the manuscript was never seen again.  In 1973 a reseacher found a fragment of a leaf of the manuscript, which had become separated from the rest, in a binding from Bobbio.  This restored the endings of a number of lines in book 2.

De Bonneval led a rackety life.  He was a very capable French army officer.  But he was his own worst enemy, and he could never stay out of trouble.  He quarreled with the war minister, the Duc de Vendôme, was condemned to death, after an exchange of insulting letters, in the pleasant manner of the time, and was therefore obliged to flee to Germany.  Prince Eugene took him on, and he was very effective in Austrian service, first against the French and then against the Ottoman Turks.  His reputation increased so much so that he became famous in France, and, his enemies being dead, was pardoned and allowed to return.  But he went back to Austrian service in Italy, where he became notorious for duelling, and then circulated insults about Prince Eugene, despite the warnings of his wife.  Prince Eugene sent him to the Low Countries where he got into more trouble and was condemned to death again, although in fact he only served a year in prison.  In disgrace in Vienna, he then “went Turk”, offered his services to the Ottoman empire, became a Muslim, joined their army and fought against the Austrians and the Russians with distinction.  He was made governor of Chios, but once again fell out with his employers and was banished to the Black Sea.  He died in Constantinople in 1747, apparently without having been condemned to death yet again.  I have read that his “Memoirs” are fakes, however.

If only he had stayed away from Bobbio!


Did Constantine put the Jews to death at Passover? A passage in Eutychius

In a comment here on an old post, an interesting question is raised:

Hi, do you have a translation of Patrologiae Graeca 111, pages 1012-13 where Eutychius talks about how Constantine killed the Jewish Christians on Passover?

The link is to column (not page) 1012 in PG 111.

Doing a google search for a source for this claim – which it is always prudent to do -, I found this Israeli page which said the following:

“From the late account of Eutychius (Patrologia Graeca 111, 1012-13) that, just at this time [333 C.E.], the faithful while they were leaving the church on E*aster day, were forced to eat pork under pain of death. We know how the Judeo-Christians refused this in order not to transgress the Mosaic law to which they held they were bound” (Bagatti, p. 14).

Bellarmino Bagatti, The Church from the Circumcision (Yerushâlayim, Franciscan Press 1971), pp. 13-14.

I found it quite interesting that Bagatti was published by Franciscan Press, as they published the translation of Eutychius into Italian, and I bought my own copy of it from their bookshop in Jerusalem.

Now Eutychius of Alexandria was the Melkite patriarch of Alexandria in the 10th century AD and wrote his Annals in Arabic.  It was translated into Latin in the 17th century by Edward Pococke; and Migne has reprinted Pococke’s translation.

The passage does, of course, appear in Bartolomeo Pirone’s modern Italian translation of the Annals.  Rather than translate Pococke’s Latin, based on who knows what text, let’s look at Pirone’s Italian, chapter 11, section 20, p.203:

20. Il re Costantino diede disposizione che nessun giudeo abitasse a Gerusalemme né che vi transitasse e ordinò inoltre di mettere a morte tutti coloro che si fossero  rifiutati di farsi  cristiani (58). Moltissimi pagani e Giudei abbracciarono allora la fede cristiana ed il cristianesimo prese ovunque piede. Fu poi riferito al re Costantino che i Giudei si erano fatti cristiani per paura di essere uccisi ma che continuavano a seguire la  loro religione. Il re disse: “Come potremo saperlo?”. Paolo, patriarca di Costantinopoli, gli disse: “La Torah proibisce Idi mangiarel il maiale ed è per questo motivo che i Giudei non ne mangiano la carne. Ordina quindi di far sgozzare dei maiali, che ne vengano cotte le carni e siano date da mangiare ai membri di questa comunità. In tal modo si potrà scoprire che sono ancora legati alla loro religione tutti coloro che si rifiuteranno di mangiarne”. Il re Costantino replicò. “Ma se la Torah proibisce il maiale, come mai è invece lecito a noi mangiarne la carne e farla mangiare agli altri?”. Il  patriarca Paolo gli rispose: “Devi sapere che Cristo, nostro Signore, ha abrogato tutte le disposizioni della Torah e ci ha dato una nuova Legge che è il Vangelo. Egli ha detto nel santo vangelo: “Non tutto quello che entra per la bocca contamina l’uomo (ed intendeva  dire: ogni cibo). Quello che contamina l’uomo è solo quanto esce dalla sua bocca” (59), ossia la  stoltezza e l’empietà e tutto quanto è a ciò simile. Anche l’apostolo Paolo ha così detto nella sua prima lettera ai Corinzi: “Il cibo è per il ventre e il ventre è per il cibo, ma Dio distruggerà entrambi” (60).  Ed è anche scritto nella Praxis: “Pietro, capo degli Apostoli, si trovava nella città di Giaffa (61) in casa di un conciatore di nome Simone. All’ora sesta del giorno salì sulla terrazza di casa per pregare, ma un sonno profondo cadde su di lui e vide il  cielo aprirsi. Dal cielo vide scendere fino a toccar terra un manto in  cui c’era ogni specie di quadrupedi, di bestie feroci, di mosche e di uccelli del cielo, e sentì una voce che gli diceva: “O Pietro, alzati, uccidi e mangia”. Pietro rispose: “O Signore, non ho mai mangiato alcunché di immondo”.  Ma una seconda voce gli disse: “Mangia, ciò che Dio ha purificato tu non ritenerlo immondo”. La voce lo ripetè per tre volte. Poi il  manto fu riportato in cielo” (62). Pietro ne restò meravigliato e si chiedeva perplesso cosa potesse significare l’accaduto. Ma per quella visione e per ciò che Cristo nostro Signore ha detto nel santo vangelo, Pietro e  Paolo ci  hanno ordinato di mangiare la  carne  di ogni quadrupede e perciò ci è lecito mangiare carne di maiale e di ogni altro animale”. Il  re allora ordinò di ammazzare dei maiali, di cuocerne le carni e di farle mettere alle porte delle chiese in tutto il suo regno nella domenica di pasqua. A chiunque usciva dalla chiesa veniva dato un boccone di carne di maiale e chi si rifiutava di mangiarlò veniva ucciso. Fu cosÌ che molti Giudei furono uccisi in quella circostanza. Costantino fece erigere un muro attorno a Bisanzio e la chiamò Costantinopoli. Ciò avveniva nel suo trentesimo anno di regno. Elena, madre di Costantino, morì all’età di ottanta anni. Costantino regnò  per trentadue anni e morì. Era vissuto in  tutto sessanta cinque anni: Lasciò tre  figli.  Al maggiore aveva dato il suo nome, Costantino, aveva chiamato il secondo con il  nome di suo  padre, Costanzo, ed  il  terzo  l’aveva  chiamato Costante (63).  A Costantino assegnò  la  città di Costantinopoli, a Costanzo Antiochia, la Siria e l’Egitto, e a Costante Roma.

This I translated here:

20. The King Constantine gave orders that no Jew should live in Jerusalem or pass through it, and he also ordered to put to death all those who refused to become Christians (58). Many pagans and Jews then embraced the Christian faith and Christianity took root everywhere.  It was then told to king Constantine that the Jews had become Christians for fear of being killed but that they continued to follow their religion.  The king said: “How will we know?” Paul, the patriarch of Constantinople, said: “The Torah forbids [eating] pork and it is for this reason that the Jews do not eat meat. Order that the throats of pigs be cut, that the meat should be cooked, and fed to the members of this community.  In this way you will find that all those who refuse to eat are still tied to their religion.” King Constantine replied. “But if the Torah forbids the pig, why is lawful for us to eat its flesh and make others eat it?”. Patriarch Paul replied: “You must know that Christ our Lord, repealed all provisions of the Torah and gave us a new law which is the Gospel. He said in the Holy Gospel: “Not everything that enters the mouth defiles a man (and he meant any food). What defiles a man is just what comes out of his mouth” (59), i.e. folly and wickedness, and all that is similar to this. The apostle Paul said so in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will destroy both” (60). And it is also written in the Acts: “Peter, chief of the Apostles, was in the city of Jaffa (61) in the house of a tanner named Simon. At the sixth hour of the day he went out on the terrace of the house to pray, but a deep sleep fell upon him and saw the sky open. From the sky he saw a mantle descend to earth in which there was every kind of quadruped, wild beasts, flying things and birds of the air, and he heard a voice saying: ‘O Peter, get up, kill and eat.’ Peter replied: ‘O Lord, I have never eaten anything unclean.’ But a second time the voice said: ‘Eat, what God has cleansed you must not consider unclean.’ The voice repeated it three times. Then the mantle was taken back into heaven.” (62) Peter was amazed and wondered what it meant. Because of that vision and because of what Christ our Lord said in the Holy Gospel, Peter and Paul ordered us to eat the flesh of every quadruped and therefore it is not wrong to eat pork or any other animal.”The king then ordered him to kill the pigs, cook the meat and put it at the doors of the churches in all his kingdom on Easter Sunday.  To everyone coming out of the church a bite of pork was given, and those who refused to eat it were killed.  Thus it was that many Jews were killed in that circumstance.  Constantine erected a wall around Byzantium and called Constantinople.  This was in his thirtieth year of the reign.  Helena, mother of Constantine, died at the age of eighty years. Constantine reigned for thirty-two years and died.  He lived in all for sixty-five years. He left three children.  The first was given his name, Constantine, he had called the second with the name of his father, Constantius, and the third was called Constans (63).  To Constantine he gave the city of Constantinople, to Constantius Antioch, Syria and Egypt, and Rome to Constans.

The historical value of this anecdote, complete with “he said, he said”, is probably nothing, at a distance of 7 centuries.  Constantine did not force pagans to become Christians, and indeed paganism remained the state religion for another 50 years.


Asterius on Matthew 27:25

My original reason for interest in Asterius the Sophist, and the collection of 31 homilies that bears his name in Richard’s edition, is the reference to Mathew 27:25 – His blood be upon us and upon our children – in homily 21.  Of course we must now recognise that this is by Asterius the Homiletist, and written around 400 AD, as has emerged from the series of posts on Asterius.

I’ve got the text of Homily 21 from Richard’s edition, and I’ll post it here, for those without access to the TLG:

The passage of interest to us has very generously been translated by “Inepti graeculi” for us all.  The file is here, with copious and useful notes:

But let me give just the raw translation here:

13. On the eighth day he was raised from the dead. For the end, upon the eighth, when the end of the world became the beginning of the world and since death was cut off on the eighth. For the end, upon the eighth, when also on the second eighth he appeared to Thomas and cut off his disbelief by belief. For the one who said ‘unless I put my hand in his side’, used the sight alone of Christ as a knife and cut off disbelief, and believing in him he said, ‘my Lord and my God.’

14. Eight days after the resurrection Jesus came to the disciples when the doors were shut and stood among them and said: ‘Peace be with you.’ For the enemy death, by [his] death had been put to death. Then he said to Thomas: ‘Put your hand in my side, not to pierce my side with a spear as the soldier, but (so that) you may receive the blood and water from my side in your mind, and learn why the blood and water came out, the two witnesses of the Lord-killers: the blood in order to convict the Jews who said; ‘His blood be on us and on our children’; the water, in order to accuse Pilate, who taking water and washing his hands, as innocent an innocent and righteous [man] scourged and crucified. Put your finger, Thomas and put your hand, first your finger and thus your hand. First taste that the lord is good, [he] who while [you were] disbelieving did not beat you, and so receive the bread of life. And so Thomas had not yet tasted, and immediately blurted out the confession: ‘And Thomas replied, saying to him: “My Lord and my God”’.


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.


Some more from St. Jerome on Matthew 27:25

Last week, using the Brepols Library of Latin Texts Series A database (formerly Cetedoc), I was able to increase my list of references to Matthew 27:25 in patristic authors.

It is slightly curious to discover that the results from a search of the database change, if I include a comma, but they do.  The search that gives most results is for “Sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros”, and specifying a date range up to the end of the 5th century AD.

I will integrate the outcome into the main post in due course; but as that post is getting very long, and somewhat hard to work with in WordPress, I thought that I would do some of the work here.  I shall add English translations as I get them, and eventually merge the two posts.

For now, here are the chunks of Latin.  I think all of them now are by St Jerome.

  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in Isaiam (Commentary on Isaiah) (CPL 0584).  English translation in ACW 68.

Book 2, Isaiah 4:4.  (4:4) When the Lord will cleanse the filth of the daughters of Zion and wash the blood of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning, then a remnant from Israel will be sins will be forgiven them in the baptism of the Savior,40 and that blood is washed away that the erring people invoked upon themselves: “May his blood be upon us and upon our sons” [Matt 27:25]. Hence we read above, “When you stretch out your hands, I will not hear you, for your hands are covered with blood” [Isa 1:15]. And later, summoning them to repentance, he adds, “Be washed, be clean” [Isa 1:16].[1]

Book 8, Isaiah 27:9.    37. (27:9) Therefore to these (super his) shall the iniquity of the house of Jacob be forgiven, and this is all the fruit, that its sin should be taken away, because he made all the stones of the altar as stones of ashes broken in pieces; the groves and temples will not stand. Septuagint: “Therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be taken away; and this will be his blessing, when I remove his sin, when he makes all the stones of the altars shattered as ashes, and their trees and idols will not remain.” He gives the reasons why the Jews, after they laid their hands on the Lord, will obtain pardon, if they are willing to repent, in order that the Savior’s prayer may be fulfilled: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34]. Therefore, he says, shall the iniquity of the house of Jacob be forgiven, and its sin will be taken away, so that the Jew who had prayed a curse upon himself by saying, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” [Matt 27:27], may deserve God’s blessing. For the gospel will be sown in the whole world through the apostles who were from the stock of Israel; and idolatry will be destroyed, and “altars” will be shattered to dust, groves will be burned, temples will fall, and knowledge of the Trinity will be preached under the mystery of the one God.[2]

Book 16. Isaiah 57:3.  (57:3-4a) But draw near hither, you sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer, and of the harlot. (4) Upon whom have you jested? Upon whom have you opened your mouth wide, and put out your tongue? Septuagint: “But draw near hither, you sons of the iniquitous one, the seed of adulterers and the prostitute. (4) At whom have you jested, and upon whom have you opened your mouth, and against whom have you put out your tongue?” With the just man removed, or rather, removed out of the way, whose burial is in peace [cf. Isa 57:1-2], you who are sons of “iniquity,” draw near to me and hear what I say. For just as “he who does iniquity is a slave of iniquity” [John 8:34], so he who is a son of perdition like Judas the traitor [cf. John 17:12] can be called a “son of iniquity.” After all, of the Lord and Savior it is written, “And the son of iniquity will not afflict him again” [Ps 89:22]. In place of the Septuagint’s translation of “iniquity,” or “iniquitous ones,” Theodotion recorded the Hebrew word itself, wvy\vcl, which we have translated in accordance with Symmachus as of the sorceress, namely because Jerusalem, which is the mother of those who hear [cf. Gal 4:26], was always devoted to idolatry. For this reason he calls them the seed of the adulterer, or “adul­terers,” of whom it was said, “And they committed adultery with wood and stone” [Jer 3:9]. Doubtless he means the same one of whom we read above, “How has the faithful city of Zion become a prostitute?” [Isa 1:21] Upon whom have you jested? he says, by spitting in his face and plucking out his beard [cf. Isa 50:6]. And upon whom have you widened and “opened” your mouth, and put out your tongue, when you said to him, ‘You are a Samaritan and have a demon” [John 8:48] ? And again, “This man does not expel demons except by Beelzebub, the prince of demons” [Matt 12:24]. And later on during the passion, “Crucify, cru­cify him!” [Luke 23:21]. And again, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” [Matt 27:25]. And elsewhere, “Hah, he who destroys the temple and rebuilds it in three days; he saved others, he cannot save himself; let him come down now from the cross and we [will] believe in him” [Matt 27:40].[3]

Book 16.  On Isaiah 59:3.  (59:3-4b) For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue utters iniquity. (4) There is no one who calls upon justice, neither is there anyone who judges truly, but they trust in nothing and speak vanities. Septuagint: “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with are defiled with iniquity, and your tongue meditates upon injustice. (4) None speaks just things, neither is there a just judgment; they trust in vain things and they speak empty things.”  He now expounds in detail the iniquities and sins that he had identified in a general way up above. And one should notice that he does not bring up idolatry to them, by which they were held fast dur­ing the time of Isaiah, but the shedding of blood, of which he had already earlier said, “The just man perishes, and no one considers, and just men are taken away, and no one understands in his heart; for the just man has been removed out of the way of iniquity, his burial shall be in peace, he shall be removed out of the way” [Isa 57:1-2]. And although they did not set their hands on the Lord and Savior, nev­ertheless in unison they shouted with the voice of impiety, “His blood [be] upon us and upon our children” [Matt 27:25]. They are culpable for his death, and they have defiled hands. The same prophet testifies about this, “If you shall lift up your hands to me, I shall not hear; for your hands are full of blood” [Isa 1:15].[4]

Book 17.  On Isaiah 63:17.  He says, Our enemies have trodden down your “sanctuary,” doubt­less signifying the temple, which the victorious Romans trampled, and we have become as in the beginning, before we were called in Abraham, and while we were in Egypt, not having God, nor kings, nor rulers, nor prophets, nor the law of the commandments of God. All of these things were fulfilled after the Lord’s passion, and they are being ful­filled today.34 For an eternal curse remains on those who say, “His blood be upon us and upon our sons” [Matt 27:25]; and God does not rule over them, nor is his name invoked upon them, so long as they are not called the people of God.[5]

  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in Ezechielem (Commentary on Ezekiel) (CPL 0587).  lib. : 14, cap. (s.s.) : 47, linea : 1187.  quare non ascendit sanatio populi mei? -, et ipse hieremias uociferatur et dicit: sana me, domine, et sanabor; saluum me fac et saluus ero, denique angeli – qui praesides erant iudaeorum eo tempore, quando clamauit multitudo insipiens et ait: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, et uelum templi scissum est et omnia hebraeorum sacramenta reserata – responderunt praecipienti domino, atque dixerunt: curauimus babylonem et non est sanata; relinquamus eam, urbem uidelicet confusionis atque uitiorum – unde et iosephus in sua narrat historia, quod, postquam dominus crucifixus est et uelum templi scissum, siue liminare templi fractum corruit, audita sit uox in adytis templi uirtutum caelestium: transeamus ex his sedibus -. hoc totum non superfluo sed necessario dictum sit, quia mare mortuum influente in se flumine domini dicitur esse curatum -. super hoc mare – ab ‘engaddi’, ‘oculo et fonte haedi’ qui pro peccatis semper offertur, usque ad ‘engallim’, ‘fontem uitulorum’ qui mactantur domino et imitantur uitulum cornua efferentem et ungulas, qui in typo saluatoris ad altare mactantur – erunt piscatores, quibus loquitur iesus: uenite ad me et faciam uos piscatores, de quibus et hieremias: ecce ego, inquit, mittam piscatores; et plurimae species immo genera piscium erunt in mari quondam mortuo, quos pisces ad dexteram partem iubente domino extraxit petrus et erant centum quinquaginta tres ita ut prae multitudine eorum retia rumperentur – aiunt autem qui de animantium scripsere naturis et proprie qui ἁλιευτικά tam latino quam graeco edidere sermone – de quibus opianicus cilex est poeta doctissimus -, centum quinquaginta tria esse genera piscium; quae omnia capta sunt ab apostolis, et nihil remansit incaptum, dum et nobiles et ignobiles et diuites et pauperes et omne genus hominum de mari huius saeculi extrahitur ad salutem – quod autem sequitur: in littoribus eius et in palustribus (siue his quae ex littora egrediuntur) aquae non sanabuntur, illud latenter ostendit quod qui in noe arca non fuerit pereat regnante diluuio, et quos iste fluuius non attigerit non suscipiant sanitatem: sed in salinas, inquit, dabuntur, iuxta illud quod scriptum est: pestilente flagellato, stultus sapientior erit – erudiunt enim bonos exempla peiorum -, siue: in salinas dabuntur, iuxta illud quod in euangelio scriptum est: bonum est sal; si autem sal infatuatum fuerit in nihil est utile, ut in perpetuum frugibus careant et uirore – quod et urbs post ruinam sale conspersa demonstrat -. super torrentem uero (siue fluuium) orietur in ripis eius ex utraque parte lignum omne pomiferum (siue, ut omnes uoce consona transtulerunt, βρώσιμον ‘quod cibum et escam tribuit’ et ‘quod mandi potest’, appellatur que lingua hebraea ‘machal’).
  • Hieronymus. Commentarii in prophetas minores (Commentary on Hosea) (CPL 0589) SL 76, In Osee, lib. : 1, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 276.   iuxta typum dicimus, eos qui propter sanguinem seminis dei uocantur: absque misericordia, et dicere ausi sunt: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, hucusque seruire romanis.
  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in prophetas minores.  (Commentary on Joel) (CPL 0589) SL 76, In Ioelem, cap. (s.s.) : 2, linea : 721.  sol quoque est uersus in tenebras, quando pendentem dominum suum uidere non ausus est, et luna in sanguinem, quod aut iuxta historiam factum esse credamus et ab euangelistis silentio praetermissum, neque enim omnia quae fecit iesus, scripta referuntur; quae si scribantur per singula, ne ipsum quidem arbitror mundum capere eos, qui scribendi sunt, libros, aut certe quomodo sol uersus in tenebras est, non quod ipse sit mutatus in tenebras, sed quod tenebras mundo induxerit; sic et luna non est uersa in sanguinem, sed iudaeos blasphemiarum et negationis in christum horrore coopertos, aeterno testimonii sui sanguine condemnauit, dicentes: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.
  • Hieronymus (Jerome), Commentarii in prophetas minores (Commentary on Amos) (CPL 0589) SL 76, In Amos.

lib. : 2, cap. (s.s.) : 5, linea : 773.  quorum deus odit et proicit festiuitates, et non capit odorem coetus eorum, quando congregati dicunt: crucifige, crucifige talem, et: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros.

lib. : 3, cap. (s.s.) : 9, linea : 23.  quod que iuxta lxx legimus: ut dissecaret in capitibus omnium, pulchre eorum capita diuiduntur, qui ab eo, qui caput est omnium, sua sponte diuisi sunt atque dixerunt: non habemus regem nisi caesarem, qui uoce impia clamauerunt: crucifige, crucifige talem, et: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Jonah), chap. 1. Via Cetedoc.[6]

LXX: And they shouted to the Lord, and they said: “By no means, Lord, may we perish because of the soul of this man, and do not hold over us the blood of a just man; for you, Lord, have done just as you wished.”

Great is the faith of the sailors, who are themselves in danger, yet they pray for the soul of another: for they know that death from sin is worse than physical death. “And do not hold over us”, they say, “the blood of an innocent man.” They call God to witness that whatever they would do should not be reckoned against them, and in a way they are saying: “We do not wish to kill your prophet, but he himself has admitted your wrath, and the storm tells us ‘that you, Lord, have done just as you have wished’– your will is being fulfilled through our hands.”

Does not the voice of the seamen seem to us to be the confession of Pilate, who washes his hands and says: “I am clean from the blood of this man.” (Mt. 27:24) The gentiles do not wish Christ to perish; they protest that this is the blood of an innocent man. But the Jews say: “His blood be upon us, and upon our children.” (Mt. 27:25) Therefore, if they lift up their hands in prayer they are not heard, since they are full of blood.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Habbakuk) (CPL 0589)

SL 76A, In Abacuc, lib. : 1, cap. (s.s.) : 2, linea : 270.  sed et terrae impietas, id est iudaicae, et ciuitatis hierusalem, et omnium habitatorum eius; qui dixerunt aduersum creatorem suum: crucifige, crucifige eum; sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, reuertetur in caput tuum, et exspoliationis tuae causae erunt.

SL 76A, In Abacuc, lib. : 1, cap. (s.s.) : 2, linea : 507.  et quae dicit in domini passione: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Zephaniah) (CPL 0589)

SL 76A, In Sophoniam, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 421. multi putant iuxta historiam quod ad babyloniorum tempora retulimus, intellegendum esse de primo saluatoris aduentu, quando propter peccata nimia, et clamorem populi concrepantem: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, circumdata est ab exercitu hierusalem, et a duobus ursis, uespasiano uidelicet et tito, irridentium puerorum turba consumpta est.

SL 76A, In Sophoniam, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 645.  uere enim expetita uindicta est a sanguine abel iusti usque ad sanguinem zachariae, quem occiderunt inter templum et altare, et ad extremum de dei filio, dicentes: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, experti sunt diem amaram, quia ad amaritudinem dominum prouocauerant; diem a domino constitutam, in qua non imbecillis quilibet, sed fortissimi uiri deprimentur, et ueniet super eos ira in finem.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores  (On Haggai) (CPL 0589) SL 76A, In Aggaeum, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 45.  porro ubi manus sanguine plenae sunt, et interficitur iesus, et audet populus dicere: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros ibi non fit sermo dei.
  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in prophetas minores (On Zachariah) (CPL 0589) SL 76A, In Zachariam.

lib. : 3, cap. (s.s.) : 11, linea : 191.  et hoc de uno iudaico populo dicere uidebatur, quod interfectis prophetis, etiam in filium dei misissent manus, et uoce temeraria conclamassent: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

lib. : 3, cap. (s.s.) : 12, linea : 362.  igitur et nunc tribus domus David, et tribus domus Nathan, et tribus domus Levi, et tribus domus  semei, a suis uxoribus separantur, ut plangant unigenitum et primogenitum dominum iesum, de quo dixerat: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros.

  • Hieronymus, Commentarii in iv epistulas Paulinas (Commentary on 4 letters of Paul – Titus) (CPL 0591).  Ad Titum, col. : 628, linea : 35.  postquam uero populus conclamauit: crucifige, crucifige eum; non habemus regem nisi caesarem: et: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, et ablatum est ab eis regnum dei, et traditum genti facienti fructus eius: ex eo tempore, qui in christum non credidit, fuit stultus, errabundus, incredulus, et seruiens uariis uoluptatibus.
  1. [1]SL 73, lib. : 2, cap. (s.s.) : 4, par. : 4, linea : 3.   tunc saluabuntur reliquiae de israel, quando in baptismate saluatoris eis fuerint peccata dimissa et ille sanguis ablutus, quem super se errans populus imprecatus est: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros.
  2. [2]SL 73, lib. : 8, cap. (s.s.) : 27, par. : 9, linea : 11.   propterea, inquit, dimittetur iniquitas domui iacob et auferetur peccatum eius, ut mereatur benedictionem dei, qui sibi maledictionem fuerat imprecatus, dicens: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, quia per apostolos de stirpe israel in toto orbe euangelium seminabitur, et destruetur idololatria, et comminuentur arae usque ad puluerem, succidentur luci, delubra corruent, et dei unius sub mysterio trinitatis notitia praedicabitur
  3. [3]SL 73A, lib. : 16, cap. (s.s.) : 57, par. : 3+, linea : 26.   et rursum: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros.
  4. [4]SL 73A, lib. : 16, cap. (s.s.) : 59, par. : 3+, linea : 16.    et quamquam ipsi manus non miserint in dominum saluatorem, tamen consona impietatis uoce clamantes: sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros, mortis eius rei sunt, et habent pollutas manus.
  5. [5]SL 73A, lib. : 17, cap. (s.s.) : 63, par. : 17+, linea : 83.  dicentibus enim illis: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, manet maledictio sempiterna, et non dominatur eorum deus, neque inuocatur nomen illius super eos, dum nequaquam dei populus nuncupatur.
  6. [6](CPL 0589).  CCSL 76, In Jonam, cap. (s.s.) : 1, linea : 415.  et iudaei dicunt: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros. English translation T. Hegedus, Jerome’s commentary on Jonah: Translation with introduction and critical notes, thesis, 1991, p.24.

The “Glaphyra” of Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 3)

This continues the series dealing with patristic quotations of Matthew 27:25 – “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  Cyril of Alexandria is our current target, but I think we’re getting close to the end.

Now I’ve dealt with the first and second quotations from the Glaphyra.  I think that I probably got a little sidetracked into the larger issue of how an author regards the Jews generally, which of course would be catastrophic because there is so much material.

The third and fourth passages from the TLG are as follows:

  • PG69 col. 629 line 17: ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ἡγούμενον· πυῤῥὰ δὲ ὅτι τῆς οἰκονομίας ὁ τρόπος ἐφ’ αἵματι γέγονε δι’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. Ἄμωμος δὲ, διὰ τὸ ἀπλημμελές· οὐ γὰρ οἶδεν
  • PG 69 col. 649 line 17: Χριστῷ, ταῖς ἑαυτῶν κεφαλαῖς καταγράφουσι τὸ δυσσέβημα, λέγοντες· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.» Οἱ δὲ τῆς παρ’ αὐτοῦ γλιχό-

The first of these is on Numbers, “On the red cow which is burned away from the camp.”  But … it does not appear to contain our text.  It is, in short, a spurious result from the TLG search, itself necessarily imperfect.  The passage is all about sacrifice and blood, and the blood of the Lord as a replacement for it.

The other passage definitely does contain Matthew 27:25.  This is on Deuteronomy, the first passage discussed from that book.  The context is again about how Christ is wounded for our sins.

For the baptized are cleansed through his death: for this, I think, is because the hands may be cleansed by him.  Obviously by confessing that they are partakers in the impiety of the Jews, they obtain remission.  For the Jews, maddened against Christ, brought condemnation on their own heads, saying, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  But they were hoping for grace from him, and they sought the cleansing of holy baptism, by which they understood that he would honour them, did not say so much, saying, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”  In Christ, therefore, there is purification.  And if anyone from among the Jews would like to understand rightly, what the divine disciples indeed did before others, and who they believed through these things, it will be established for them without any undeserved obscurity; then also they themselves may be honoured and chosen, avoiding indeed the impiety of Israel, and joining themselves to Christ, upon whom be honour and worship with the eternal Father and consubstantial Spirit, now and forever and to the end of the world. Amen.[1]

This neatly makes the point that the issue is not race, but religion.

  1. [1]Abluentur enim in mortem ipsius baptizati : hoc enim arbitror, est quod ab ipsis manus sint ablutae. Nimirum ut sic confitentes, quod impietatis Judaeorum participes sint, consequentur remissionem. Nam Judaei in Christum debacchati sua ipsorum capita damnaverunt impietatis, dicentes: «Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros.»Qui autem ab ipso exspectabant gratiam, sanctique baptismatis mundationem quaerebant, per quae intellexerunt se ipsum honorare, tantum non exclamarunt, dicentes : «Manus nostrae non effuderunt sanguinem hunc.» In Christo igitur est purificatio. Et si quis ex Judaeis recte sentire voluerit quod quidem fecerunt prae aliis divini discipuli, quique per hos crediderunt, quibus sane haud immerito personatus imponetur; tum et ipsi fuissent honorati et electi, impietatem quidem Israelis devitantes, ac se per fidem copulantes Christo, quem decet honor et adoratio cum aeterno Patre et consubstantiali Spiritu, nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

The “Glaphyra” of Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 2)

Yesterday I gave the first of the four passages in the Glaphyra in which Cyril quotes Matt.27:25, “His blood be upon us and our descendants.”  Today I continue with the second.  The TLG entry is as follows:

  • PG 69 col. 349 line 29: Ἕτερον γὰρ, οἶμαι, παρὰ τοῦτό ἐστιν οὐδὲν τὸ ἀσυνέτως εἰπεῖν ἐπὶ Χριστῷ· «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.»

This is found in book 7 of the Glaphyra which starts at col. 336, and begins as follows:

On the blessings of the twelve patriarchs.

The scope and principle of the present book is to narrate the things which Jacob predicted for the sons descended from himself.  But first it is obvious that the meaning of the text is very intractable, and not easy for ordinary people, but contains an abstruse and obscure significance within itself.  But the blessed method [of interpretation] is not confused, and will not have it so, and that so far was more difficult than this.   Indeed the divine Jacob undertook to predict to his sons what the final outcome would be.  Indeed he made mention of the past, and measured sin, indeed firstly of Reuben himself, and after this for Simeon and Levi.  Who indeed would dare to say that a  legitimate commemoration of past things and of sin was a road by which blessings would come?  Would he not be considered a liar, and a stranger from the true faith?  And so it is very awkward to take up this passage with these feelings.   What then shall we say, inviting full approval from them to our design?  Because the explanation of our prophecy or prediction will introduce completely a type of the synagogue of the Jews, or, to speak briefly, of the whole race, and of exactly those who are of one tribe, of what sort they were in their day, whether they should be condemned or on the other hand approved: likewise in what way, if he was in them, or ???  For look at the way in which he describes another covenant to come, from those which had already been made, and truly sets forth the event of the future for others from the declaration or interpretation of their very names.  Therefore it was written so, “But Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, and I will make known to you what will happen to you in the last days.  Gather together, and listen, sons of Jacob: listen to your father Israel.”[1]

With these words Cyril gives us fair warning that he is going to discuss the future of the Jews, as seen in the words of Genesis 49.  We need to understand the context, of course.

He then moves into a section headed “Concerning Reuben”.  But almost immediately he mentions the actions of Reuben in sleeping with his father’s wife, and says that “the rest of what is given here, I believe nobody will consider as relating to what will happen in the last days.  It would be absurd to think so.”  Instead he suggests that the story relates to the unfaithfulness of the “synagogue” – i.e. the doctrinal adultery of Israel – to God.  Quotations from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Christ himself are used to point up their willingness to transgress the law of God. “The fornicating woman is, therefore, the synagogue of the Jews.  But the chaste and blameless virgin, ‘free from any spot or wrinkle’, is the church…”  “For old and wrinkled is the synagogue of the Jews, and on the other hand the new and faithful people flourish.”  … “For it is right to understand the people of Israel as impure and full of wrinkles, who would not accept the purification of Christ.” … “And Christ himself asks, ‘Which of the prophets did your fathers not kill?  And you have filled up the measure of your fathers.”  He continues by quoting the “vehement attacks” of Christ on “the leaders of the Jews”.

The next section is headed “Concerning Simeon and Levi”, and starts by quoting Genesis 49:5-7, on the wickedness of the brothers Simeon and Levi.  He then discusses the shedding of blood for redemption, illustrated by various episodes in the Old Testament, and the section ends as follows, before moving on to “Concerning Judah”:

Although each of these may be said to be complete in its own time, nevertheless we now remind and repeat this.  You understand that some were freed by their own covenant from the accusation of shedding blood through the [sacrifice of a] calf, which represents Emmanuel.  For it is right, I think, that they, when they justify themselves, speak thus: “Our hands have not shed this blood.”  Of course you will discover that the people of the Jews never said this, but in fact instead, after sacrificing the calf, they dared to say further, “Our hands have shed this blood.”  This is the same as what they ignorantly said concerning Christ, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”[2]

It’s interesting to see the sacrifices of the OT linked so definitely to Christ.  But one can’t help feeling that the listener would not be induced to regard the Jew with esteem by any of this; rather the reverse.

Two more passages to go.

  1. [1]Latin translation as given in the PG, from which I have translated this: Scopus quidem atque institutum praesentis sermonis est narrare ea quae Jacob filiis ex se natis creatura praedixit. Sed prius quasi contestatur, difficilem admodum esse dictorum sensum, neque vulgo obvium, sed abstrusam obscuramque significationem in se habere. Immistum vero est benedictionis modo, id quod non ita se habet, et quod adhuc his difficilius est. Promittit quidem divinus Jacob praedicere filiis quae novissimo eventura sint; facit vero praeteritorum mentionem, et peccatum metitur, primum quidem ipsius Ruben, ac post hoc Simeonis et Levi. Quis vero dicere audeat esse legitimum benedicendi modum praeteritorum peccatorum commemorationem? Annon is mendax et a recta ratione alienus habeatur? Obscurus itaque admodum est capere volentibus hac de re sermo. Quid ergo dicemus, adhibentes probationem hisce a nobis propositis commodam? Quia explicatio ipsius prophetiae sive praedictionis omnino nobis introducet typum Synagogae Judaeorum, aut, ut summatim dicam, totius generis, atque adeo eorum quae uniuscujusque tribus sunt, qualisnam illa futura sit suo tempore, an damnanda, an e diverso approbanda: item quomodo, aut in quibus fuerit, et quo illa quae secundum ipsa sunt evadant. Vide autem quo pacto aliis quidem, ex iis quae jam facta sunt, futura describit, aliis vero ex ipsa nominum declaratione sive interpretatione futurorum eventum declarat. Scriptura est igitur sic: “Vocavit autem Jacob filios suos, et dixit: Congregamini, ut annuntiem vobis quid accidet vobis in novissimis diebus. Congregamini, et audite, filii Jacob; audite lsraelem patrem vestrum.»
  2. [2]Verum etsi de hisce singulis suo tempore dicendum sit accurate, illud tamen nunc admonemus, et dicimus. Intelligis quo pacto seipsos liberent nonnulli ab accusatione fusi sanguinis per vitulam, quae adumbrat Emmanuelem. Oportet enim eos, ut arbitror, quando se excusant, ita dicere: “Manus nostra non effuderunt hunc sanguinem.” Verum enimvero populum Judaeorum nunquam hoc exclamasse reperies, quin potius, postquam taurum enervarunt, ausi sunt insuper dicere : “Nostra manus effuderunt hanc sanguinem.” Nihil enim aliud quam hoc est, quod imperite de Christo dixerant: “Sanguis ejus super nos, et super filios nostros.”

Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25 (part 2): the case of the vanishing passage!

Yesterday I discussed 5 passages from Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the XII minor prophets, which according to a TLG search supposedly reference Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us all”.  Passage #1 was a glitch, and #3-5 are genuine and I gave the passages in translation using the Fathers of the Church translation.

But it is passage 2 that I want to discuss now.  For I was unable to see it, in the Google Books Preview of the commentary.  The TLG result is as follows:

  • 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,

As we can see, the Greek of Matthew 27:25 is right there.  Here is the page from the Pusey edition[1], volume 1, page 530 (click on the picture below for a larger image):


So … why did it not show up in my search of the Fathers of the Church translation?

The running header in Pusey tells me that this is from the Commentary on Amos, chapter 9:4, at the end.  If I look at the Fathers of the Church 116, Commentary on 12 Minor prophetsvolume 2, p.120 indicates the start of Pusey p.530, and p.121 shows the start of p.531.  But it is noticeable how much less text there is, than between “(531)” and “(532)”.


There’s only one conclusion to draw.  The translator, for whatever reason, has omitted this passage from his translation.

This may be an honest error. After all, similar passages do appear translated in the next volume of the same commentary.  But the passage might be considered anti-Semitic, and so politically controversial.  I have referred before to the atmosphere of fear in US universities these days.  It would be worrying if it was omitted for reasons of self-preservation: just as copies of the Talmud in medieval Europe omitted material about Jesus, out of fear of the inquisition.

I have asked a correspondent for a translation of the missing portion, which I will add here.  And I shall write to the editors of the FOC series, and draw their attention to the omission.

UPDATE: Two kind commenters have had a go at the passage (see below).  Bryson Sewell has sent in a version in PDF, with some notes on an unusual Greek usage, which I attach.  Comments are welcome!

“And the wretched crowd of the Jews has endured this, who transferred his righteous blood upon their own heads. For when they were persuading Pilate to crucify Christ, they said, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children!’ Accordingly, they all perished with their whole households and their cities were plundered together with their men, so that no one was able to escape. As regards the sort and number of the things that they have suffered, the long history books of those who have written about such matters sing of them.”

In addition I have looked again at Pusey’s edition, and verified that there are four, and only four references to Matt.27:25 in the commentary on the 12 prophets:


  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.

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.