How do we define “anti-semitism” so that we can use it for testing Matthew 27:25?

I’ve written now a series of posts on the use of Matthew 27:25 – “His blood be upon us and upon our children” – in Christian writers up to the 6th century.  This was provoked by the question of whether this verse was the cause of, or contributory to, anti-semitism.

In order to examine that question at all, it is  fairly obvious that you have to have some working definition of “anti-semitism” to use.  The term is very vaguely used in our day.  I am having genuine difficulty in separating something measurable from the noise of our unhappy time.  So I have been thinking about this, and trying to come up with something useful.  I don’t feel that I have succeeded, but I offer my thoughts for what they are worth.  If anyone can come up with something better, then I am all ears.

My first thought was to google for a definition.  I found nothing useful, because the definitions used were so extreme.  Indeed I found evidence that Jewish groups are lobbying in the US and EU to create formal, legally binding definitions, which define as “antisemitism” any criticism or opposition to the policies of the state of Israel.

It’s hard not to laugh at such arrogance. Just imagine if we had a crime of “antiamericanism” in England, punishable in the same manner, or a crime of “antienglishism” in the US, where the expression of any opposition to the policies of David Cameron risked fines and expulsion from your job?  One can only shake one’s head at the folly of those responsible.

Here’s another deeply daft example of over-extension of the term which I came across on Twitter today:

That is, a  bunch of pro-Israeli Americans expressing a hope for the conversion of the Jews is “anti-semitism” to this fool.   But to use the word in this manner renders it empty of meaning.

I quickly found, therefore, that definitions on Google were worthless.  We need merely change them to refer to Americans, or Britons, to see how extreme they are.

Meaningless usage need not be so crude.  Let me give a passage from Sax Rohmer, The Devil Doctor.  This Fu Manchu novel was published before the first world war, and has great charm in its way, and would appeal most likely to anyone who enjoys the gaslight era stories of Sherlock Holmes.  Here is how Rohmer begins chapter 11, “The White Peacock”:

Nayland Smith wasted no time in pursuing the plan of campaign which he had mentioned to Inspector Weymouth. Less than forty-eight hours after quitting the house of the murdered Slattin I found myself bound along Whitechapel Road upon strange enough business.

A very fine rain was falling, which rendered it difficult to see clearly from the windows; but the weather apparently had little effect upon the commercial activities of the district. The cab was threading a hazardous way through the cosmopolitan throng crowding the Street. On either side of me extended a row of stalls, seemingly established in opposition to the more legitimate shops upon the inner side of the pavement.

Jewish hawkers, many of them in their shirt-sleeves, acclaimed the rarity of the bargains which they had to offer; and, allowing for the difference of costume, these tireless Israelites, heedless of climatic conditions, sweating at their mongery, might well have stood, not in a squalid London thoroughfare, but in an equally squalid market-street of the Orient.

They offered linen and fine raiment; from foot-gear to hair-oil their wares ranged. They enlivened their auctioneering with conjuring tricks and witty stories, selling watches by the aid of legerdemain, and fancy vests by grace of a seasonable anecdote.

Poles, Russians, Serbs, Roumanians, Jews of Hungary, and Italians of Whitechapel mingled in the throng. Near East and Far East rubbed shoulders. Pidgin English contested with Yiddish for the ownership of some tawdry article offered by an auctioneer whose nationality defied conjecture, save that always some branch of his ancestry had drawn nourishment from the soil of Eternal Judaea.

Some wearing men’s caps, some with shawls thrown over their oily locks, and some, more true to primitive instincts, defying, bare-headed, the unkindly elements, bedraggled women – more often than not burdened with muffled infants – crowded the pavements and the roadway, thronged about the stalls like white ants about some choicer carrion.

Vivid stuff indeed.  This depicts a bunch of Jewish street traders in the East End of London, and a grubby and mercenary bunch they are (and probably are still, for the breed is not extinct).

Is this passage “anti-semitic”?  In the wild, woolly, political usage of today, it is undoubtedly anti-semitic.  It depicts Jews in a negative light, and that is more than enough for today’s thought police.  Favoured groups may not be depicted in any way that they dislike, and few Jews would probably care to be identified in this way, whether fairly or not.  Indeed few people of any group would like to be; but some groups have the power to enforce their will.

If we changed a few words, to describe Moslem traders, it would instantly become “islamophobic”.   Another change of scene, making the traders Negros, and it is unlikely that we would be allowed to retain our jobs, or to feed our families.

But change it again, to refer to English people in an American novel, or Americans in a British novel, and all would be well.  You may sneer at “rednecks” as you choose.  Make the mistake of then making them into Red Indians, and all hell would break loose.

These remarks are not intended to make a political statement, but to clarify what a useful definition will not be.  The examples above show that these definitions have no meaning other than to tell us which identity groups are currently in favour with those who control the media agenda in our day.  They are equivalent to “shut up, peasant”.

We may, I think, safely disregard any definition that fits into a scenario of this kind.  There is, after all, no rational or moral reason why one particular ethnico-religious group should enjoy the privilege of being above negative comment.

There is another reason to disregard this kind of definition. Is there any point whatsoever in reading through the fathers to determine whether they conform to Political Correctness as it is in 2015?  The Fathers cannot be politically correct, for they lived before it was invented.  Nor can anybody else in that period, other than accidentally.  In fact, the standard of these modern definitions keeps shifting.  There can be few more politically correct than US President Obama.  In 2008 he dismissed “gay marriage”.  The words he used in 2008, expressed in 2015 by others are now grounds for dismissal from office.  To conduct a test based on definitions derived from such shifting sources is to waste our time; and in any event every writer of antiquity – or of a period before 2010 – would fail the test.  It’s not worth doing.

Perhaps the answer is to go back 50 years.  In those happier days we did not ruin a man, or sentence his family to beggary, merely for expressing an opinion, unless that opinion was provably untrue and defamatory.  It is characteristic of modern politics that words are proof of guilt, and that the truth of those words is not a defense.  This again provides a fingerprint for what we want to avoid.

Faced with this endless nonsense, I started looking in older sources for definitions.  My search led me to a really interesting statement in Bernard Lazare, Antisemitism: Its history and causes.  The book is pre-WW2 in origin.  From p.157-8:

… the antisemitism of the Christian conservatives, says: “If modem society is so different from the old regime; if religious faith has diminished; if the political system has been entirely changed; if stock-gambling, if speculation, if capital in its industrial and financial forms, knowing no spirit of nationality dominates now and is to dominate in the future, the fault rests with the Jew.”

Let us clearly examine this point. The Jew has been living for centuries in the midst of those nations which, so it is said, are now perishing on account of his presence. Why, it may be asked, has the poison taken such a long time to work?

The usual answer is, because formerly the Jew was outside of society; because he was carefully kept apart. Now that the Jew has entered into society, he has become a source of disorder, and, like the mole, he is busily engaged in undermining the ancient foundations upon which rests the Christian state. And this accounts for the decline of nations, and their intellectual and moral decadence: they are like a human body which suffers from the intrusion of some foreign element which it cannot assimilate and the presence of which brings on convulsions and lasting disease. By his very presence the Jew acts as a solvent; he produces disorders, he destroys, he brings on the most fearful catastrophcs. The admission of the Jew into the body of the nations has proved fatal to them; they are doomed for having received him. Such is the very simple explanation which the antisemites advance to account for the changes which society is undergoing.

The accusation has not been limited to this alonc. The Jew, it is said, is not only a destroyer, but also an up-builder; arrogant, ambitious and domineering, he seeks to subject everything to himself. He is not content merely to destroy Christianity, but he preaches the gospel of Judaism; he not only assails the Catholic or the Protestant faith, but he incites to unbelief, and then imposes on those whose faith he has undermined his own conception of the world, of morality and of life.

Now this has the right sound about it.  Classically anti-semitism wasn’t about negative depictions in novels, but about plots, conspiracies, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Enemy Within, the Merchants of Death, and so on.  It was about the perception of a conspiracy by Jews to do down everyone else, in their own selfish interest.  Nor is it a perception without elements of truth, which had led to its rise in the first place.

Violence against Jews, as Jews, was also comprehended in the definition.  Pogroms against Jews in Tsarist Russia were certainly an example of anti-semitism, and seen as such.

But not all violence counted.  A boy who thumped another boy “because the latter was a Jew” was not anti-semitic, but a quarrelsome boy; a gang of men who preyed on Jews undoubtedly was.

How then do we distill this, far more genuine sentiment, into something that can be used for our examination of the Fathers?

What we may do, I think, is to ask this: does what the Fathers write intentionally tend to encourage the reader to consider Jews as a group apart, in a way that no other group is; to consider them as a sinister group, most likely plotting against the rest of us; to think of them as somehow less human, less like “real people”?  Does it tend to demonise, to marginalise?

That, it seems to me, is a testable definition of whether a given writer is, or is not, anti-semitic.

One problem with this is that we must normalise for the climate of the times.  Some of the trends in antiquity themselves may have had this effect.  Does a writer reflect his times, or shape them?


Origen, Homily 26 on Joshua and Matthew 27:25

Another of the last remaining references to Matthew 27:25 is found in the Homilies on Joshua by Origen, extant in a Latin translation-cum-paraphrase by Rufinus.  It is found in homily 26, and as this is short, I thought that I would post it here.  The translation is from the Fathers of the Church vol. 105,[1] and “Jesus” is of course the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua.  As usual, I omit the footnotes.

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Concerning why the rock swords were buried, and concerning the altar that the two and a half tribes that are across the Jordan erected [Jos.22]

It was said above that the sons of Israel gave a lot to Jesus on Mount Ephraim and that, when he had accepted the lot, “Jesus built a city there and dwelt in it.” But now Scripture repeats the same things again so that it may add this, that “in that city that he had built and in which he dwelt, Jesus concealed the rock swords,” that is, the knives made from stone, “with which he circumcised the sons of Israel in the wilderness.” Whence we also must repeat the exposition and explain what was added so that, God granting, the entire meaning of the Scripture may be completed.

And indeed we said above that even our Lord Jesus Christ asks us for a place he may build and in which he may live, and that we ought to become so clean of heart, and so sincere of mind, so holy in body and spirit, that he may both deign to ac-cept this place in our soul and to build it and dwell in it. And who do you think among all the people are so acceptable to God that they are worthy to be chosen for this? Or perhaps no individuals can be capable of this, but can the whole people and all the Church together barely be capable of receiving the Lord Jesus in themselves so that he may dwell in them?

Let us see, therefore, what is this place in which Jesus is bound to dwell. “In Mount Ephraim,” it says, that is, in the fruit bearing mountain. Who do you think among us are fruit bearing mountains, in whom Jesus may dwell? Surely those in whom exist “the fruit of the spirit: joy, peace, patience, love,” and the rest. Those, therefore, are the fruit bearing mountains who produce the fruit of the spirit and who are always lofty in mind and expectation. And although few are able to be like this, nevertheless, even if they are few, the Lord Jesus, who is the “true light” dwelling in them, will send forth the beams of his light also upon all the rest, those whom he has not yet, in this first round, judged worthy of his habitation.

2. Now, therefore, let us see what are the rock swords by which Jesus circumcises the sons of Israel. If you pray for us that our “word may’ be living and effective and sharper than every sword,”8 our Lord Jesus will also bring it to pass for us that the word of God that we speak to you may circumcise every un-cleanness, cut back impurities, separate vices from those who hear, and remove each thing by which the strength of the mind and natural efficiency is covered over. And thus, through the word of God, which here is called a rock sword, you too will be circumcised by Jesus and you will hear, “Today I have taken away from you the reproach of Egypt.”

For what good is it for us to have gone forth from Egypt and yet carry around with us the reproaches of Egypt? What good is it to travel through the wilderness, that is, what does it help us to have renounced this age in baptism but to retain the former filth of our behavior and the impurities of our carnal vices? Thus it is fitting, after the parting of the Red Sea, that is, after the grace of baptism, for the carnal vices of our old habits to be removed from us by means of our Lord Jesus, so that we can be free from the Egyptian reproaches.

Therefore, those rock swords and knives of stone, by which we are circumcised by Jesus a second time, are put in that place that Jesus requests and receives. In that place that he possesses in the soul of the righteous, he also conceals the swords. Often we display a sword called the Word of God, by which word sins are separated and purged from the souls of the hearers.10 There-fore, this power of the divine word is concealed in that place, to whom a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of wisdom is granted, so that at the opportune time that soul, which was filled up with the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge through the gift of the Spirit, may produce those swords in the Church and circumcise a second time those who need a second circumcision.

But because it says “rock swords,” that is, knives made from stone and not fashioned out of iron by the craft of an artisan, it indicates that this discourse of God that is able to cast away impurities from the hearts of the hearers does not come from grammatical or rhetorical art. It is neither beaten by the hammers of teachers nor polished by whetstones of studies, but it descends from that “rock that was cut without hands from the mountain and filled the earth” and distributed spiritual gifts to believers.

After these things Jesus assembles the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, who had served as soldiers with him to overcome the foes of the Israelites, and he dismisses them to go to their inheritance with certain gifts given to them, as it is written. Whereby this seems to indicate the mystery that “when the fullness of the nations will come in,” they receive from the Lord Jesus what was promised to them, those who had been taught and instructed by Moses and who by prayers and entreaties brought aid to us who are placed in the contest. They have not yet “attained the promises,” waiting so that our calling might also be fulfilled, as the Apostle says. But now at last with the gifts they receive from Jesus they may attain the perfection that had been deferred for them so that each one may dwell in peace with every war and every battle ceasing.

3. After this it was read to us that the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh who were across Jordan had built “an immense altar.” But the other sons of Israel, not knowing why this altar had been erected, send Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, with ten men selected from each tribe. Therefore, if by chance they had made this as though departing from God, as if they had become apostates acting against the commandment of God, they would be assaulted by the other sons of Israel; but if not, the other sons might still learn the cause. But they give satisfaction about the altar and say, “We know that the true altar is among you where Jesus dwells. But we made this altar as an imitation of that altar that was erected among you, so that a type and image of the true altar may also be held among us, lest by chance tomorrow,” it says, “it may please you to say that the Jordan is the boundary between us and you and it itself determines this, and therefore you have no share in our altar.” These are the replies they sent.

But let us see what sacrament lies within this deed. The former people of the circumcision are represented in Reuben, who was the firstborn; but also in Gad, who also is the firstborn out of Zelpha; and Manasseh, no less a firstborn. But insofar as I say “firstborn,” I speak chronologically. Therefore, these things are said, not that it might be evident some division and separation is between us and those who were righteous before the coming of Christ, but that they might reveal themselves to still be our brothers even if they existed before the coming of Christ. For although they possessed an altar then before the coming of the Savior, nevertheless, they knew and perceived that it was not that true altar, but that it was a form and figure of what would be the true altar. Those persons knew this because the true victims and those who were able to take away sins were not offered on that altar that the firstborn people possessed, but on this one where Jesus was. Here the heavenly victims, here the true sacrifices are consumed. Therefore, they are made “one flock and one shepherd,” those former righteous ones and those who are now Christians.

But to prove these things I wish to make mention also of a certain story, so that, if only the Lord deigns to grant, we may be able to discover the spiritual explanation of it. Once the people fell down in the desert and died. Aaron the chief priest came and “stood in the midst of those who died and of those who lived,” so that the devastation of death might not advance even further among the rest And then came the true high priest, my Lord, and he came into the midst between those dying and the living. That is, he came between those Jews who accepted his presence and those who not only did not accept but killed themselves more completely than him, saying, “The blood of that one be upon us and upon our sons!” Whence also “all the righteous blood that has been poured forth upon the earth from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah whom they killed between the sanctuary and the altar will be required from that generation” that said, “His blood be upon us and upon our sons.”

Therefore, these are a part of the dead people because they do not properly perform either the feast of unleavened bread or the feast days. But “their feast days have been turned into sorrow and their songs into lamentations,” they who, even if they wished, could not celebrate the feast days in that place that the Lord God chose. And indeed we ourselves did not say to them, “You will have no part in this altar or in the inheritance of the Lord,” but they themselves of their own accord refute the true altar and the heavenly high priest and have been brought to such a point of unhappiness that they both lost the image and did not accept the truth. Therefore it is said to them, “Behold your house is left to you deserted.”

For the grace of the Holy Spirit has been transferred to the nations; the celebrations have been transferred to us because the high priest has passed over to us, not the imagined, but the true high priest, chosen “according to the order of Melchisedek.” It is necessary that he offer for us true sacrifices, that is, spiritual, where “the temple of God is built from living stones,” which is “the Church of the living God,” and where true Israel exists, in Christ Jesus our Lord, “to whom is the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen!”

  1. [1]Barbara J. Bruce (tr), Origen: Homilies on Joshua, in: Fathers of the Church 105 (2002), p.215-220

Augustine, Homily 229F and Matthew 27:25

I’ve made a bit of an effort today to finish off my series on references to Matthew 27:25 in patristic literature.  One of these references can be found in one of Augustine’s sermons, number 229F (which was one of those discovered by G. Morin in the 1930’s).

Today I was able to access the New City Press translation of all of Augustine’s sermons, in 11 very smart-looking volumes, and I thought that, as it is short, I’d just give this sermon complete.  Here it is.  I have omitted the footnotes, however.

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Date: after 418

We have believed in the resurrection of Christ, though we never saw it, on hearing the writings of those who didn’t believe, even when they saw.

1. Some people saw the resurrection of the Lord, others did not believe it when told about it; and they were chided by the Lord, now present among them, because they had not believed those who saw it and brought them the news. What a stupendous favor done to the nations, and to those born long afterward! What has God granted those who now fill the churches of Christ? The holy apostles had gone round with the Lord, heard the word of truth from his mouth, seen him raise the dead; and they didn’t believe that the Lord had risen. We though, born long afterward, have never seen his bodily presence, never heard a word from the mouth of his flesh, never observed with these eyes any miracle performed by him; and yet we have come to believe, on hearing what was written by those who at the time refused to believe. They didn’t believe a most recent event when news of it was brought them; they wrote something for us to read, we heard it, and we believe.

That the Lord Jesus, though, declined to appear to the Jews is because he did not judge them worthy to see the Lord Christ after the resurrection; he showed himself to his own people, not to strangers. And while his own people were preaching, strangers came to believe;4 and those who had been strangers became his own. I mean, many of those, as you can read in the Acts of the Apostles; many of those who crucified the Lord, who defiled themselves by shedding his blood; many of those who said, His blood be upon us and upon our children (Mt 27:25), later on came to believe the apostles bringing them the good news of the resurrection. His blood was indeed upon them, but it was to wash them, not to destroy them; well, upon some to destroy them, upon others to cleanse them; upon those to be destroyed, injustice; upon those to be cleansed, in mercy.

And now too, do all have faith? Just as at that time some of the Jews themselves believed, others did not, so too now with the nations; some have come to believe, others don’t believe. Not everyone has faith (2 Thes 3:2). Those who do have faith, though, believe by God’s grace; they mustn’t pride themselves on it. It’s a gift from God. Is the reason God chose us, do you suppose, that we were good? He didn’t choose good people, but people he wished to make good. We were all in the shadow of death, we were all being held, bundled together in the lump of sin coming from Adam. With the root infected, what sort of fruit could be born of the tree of the human race? But the one who would heal the infection came without infection, and the one who came to clean up sins came without sin.

How Jacob, in his wrestling with the angel, prefigured both the Jews who believed in Christ and those who rejected him.

2. Don’t concentrate on the Jews who are now chaff, that is, who derive from the threshing floor that was threshed then. I mean, if we were to think a bit, my brothers and sisters, from the Jews came the prophets, from the Jews the patriarchs, from the Jews the apostles, from the Jews the virgin Mary who gave birth to Christ, from the Jews later on came Paul as a believer, and so many thousands baptized on one day, from the Jews innumerable Churches of Christians. But all that grain is now stored in the granary; with the chaff the devil will be having his fun.

Believing Jews and unbelieving Jews. Where were they first condemned? In the first of them, in the father of all of them, Jacob himself, who was also called Israel. Jacob: “Supplanter” or “Heel”; Israel: “Seeing God.” When he returned from Mesopotamia with his children, an angel wrestled with him, representing Christ; and while he wrestled, though he surpassed him in strength, he still seemed to succumb to him, and Jacob to prevail. In the same sort of way the Lord Christ too succumbed to the Jews; they prevailed when they killed him.

He was overcome by superior strength; precisely when he was overcome, that was when he overcame for us. What’s that—when he was overcome was when he overcame for us? Because when he suffered, he shed the blood with which he redeemed us.

So then, that’s what’s written: Jacob prevailed over him. And yet Jacob himself, who was wrestling, acknowledged the mystery involved. A man, wrestling with an angel, prevailed over him; and when he said, Let me go, the one who had prevailed said, I am not letting you go, unless you bless me. O grand and splendid mystery! Overcome, he blesses, just as having suffered, he sets free; that is when the blessing was completed. What are you called? he said to him. He replied, Jacob. You shall not be called Jacob, he said, but you shall be called Israel (Gen 32:25-29). The imposition of such a great name is a great blessing. “Israel,” as I said, means “Seeing God”; one man’s name, everyone’s reward. Everyone’s; but provided they believe and are blessed, both Jews and Greeks. Greeks, you see, is what the apostle calls all nationalities, the reason being that the Greek language has such prestige among the nations. Glory, he says, and honor—they are the apostle’s words—glory and honor and peace to everyone doing good, to Jew first and Greek; wrath and indignation, trouble and distress on every soul doing evil, to Jews first and Greeks (Rom 2:10.9). Good for good Jews, bad for bad ones; good for good Gentiles, bad for bad ones.

If you have come to believe in Christ, recognize yourself as blessed; if you have denied Christ, recognize yourself as lame.

3. The Jews shouldn’t pat themselves on the back, and say, “There you are, Jacob all the same is our father; he prevailed over the angel and was blessed by the angel.”

We, though, reply, “People of Israel, look at yourself there. Israel isn’t what you are, it’s what you’re called, but aren’t; the name’s all wrong in you, the crime remains in you.”

But he says to me, “Look, my father is Jacob, my father is Israel. There’s the name; where’s the crime?”

“Read the story, discover yourself in it there. You see, it’s written there, And he touched Jacob on the breadth of his thigh, and it withered, and he began to limp (Gen 32:26). Jacob, one man, both blessed and lame. Blessed in whom, and lame in whom? If you have come to believe in Christ, recognize yourself as blessed. If you have denied Christ, recognize yourself as lame; it means, you see, that you are one of those about whom the prophet says, They have limped off from their paths (Ps 18:45).

Where were the holy women from, to whom the Lord first showed himself as he rose again? From the Jews, weren’t they? Where were the apostles from, who even if they didn’t believe the women when they first brought them the news, nonetheless heard Jesus himself later on, and acknowledged his rebuke, and adhered to his teaching? From the Jews, weren’t they? There’s Israel for you, blessed. But limping in many, blessed only in few; that, you see, is the breadth of the thigh—the majority of his race. It didn’t simply say, “He touched his thigh,” but the breadth of his thigh. Where you have the breadth of the thigh, you undoubtedly have the majority of the race. And what’s so surprising about that? I acknowledge the few grains, and I’m astonished at the heap of chaff? But I see what is due for the granary, and what for the flames. And now, let them listen; they’re still alive; let them correct their limping, let them come to the blessing.


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.


From my diary

I am still collecting references to Matthew 27:25 in the fathers, and still encountering interesting and unusual texts that are unfamiliar to me.  The major chunk of material still in my hands is a bunch of references in the commentaries of St Jerome, and a library visit is going to be necessary to finish them up.

Another project of mine has sprung back into life this week.  I’ve wanted to do something about Methodius of Olympus for a while.  I was resigned to paying for translations from Russian; but I was never very happy about that.  Rather to my surprise, a kindly colleague has found for me a gentleman who knows Old Slavonic!

Today I have agreed with him to translate into English some of the works of Methodius of Olympus, found only in that language.  Thankfully there are a couple of manuscripts online, and he is able to work from these.  For the text itself has never been published.  The text is rather corrupt, apparently, but probably as a result of some earlier accident.

The sample of the first page of one of them arrived today, and looks excellent.  Unless there are any mishaps, I am confident that we’ll get at least one work of Methodius online from this.

Working with anyone that you haven’t worked with before always involves a settling-in period.  He doesn’t know my quirks, copious as they are, and I don’t know his.  But it usually works out OK with goodwill on both sides.

Mind you, I still cherish the memory of one chap who withdrew in a fit of political correctness almost before we started.  I had explained to him that I’d want to see a sample page of translation without obligation, because of a bad experience in the past with some Lebanese translators.  They’d produced gibberish, which I felt obliged to pay for, but was unusable.   This apparently was a major solecism.  He informed me that I shouldn’t have said that they were Lebanese – he didn’t say why – and he threw all his toys out of the cot, refused to proceed, and never corresponded with me again.  That the project was of benefit to the world was of less importance than ideology, I fear.

I tend to look for a couple of things in every translation that I’m involved with.

Firstly, the result must always mean something in English.  There should never be any doubt, in my opinion, what the translator thought the author was saying, and that something should be in the translation.  This principle protects one against producing gibberish, which is always a risk when a translation becomes too literal.  I feel that one should never shy away from paraphrasing when the alternative is unintelligible, but always include a footnote.  The footnote preserves us both from the carping reviewer, of course.

Secondly, I think we ought to remember that, in these days of the internet, material in English may be read by those for whom it is a second language, or indeed only barely so.  There’s several billion people out there, who might potentially wish to read what the author had to say.  Let them do so!  But we can effectually stop this, if we use obscure or archaic language.  In particular the “language of Zion” is a chancy business: in some ways, it can be a universal language.  In other times, it can be a complete barrier.

The influence of the Authorised Version of the Bible lives on.  Most of us at some time have struggled with some translation of a patristic author, and found ourselves mentally retranslating each sentence out of stilted wording into the English we would actually use, simply so that we can work out what is being said.

I’m not intending to commission any other projects at the moment, as my industry is in the doldrums right now.  But I still have various Greek and Latin texts that I want to do.  There are still more texts about Nicholas of Myra to attack.  I’d like to get a work against the Jews by Maximinus the Arian into English.  But for now, let’s concentrate on Methodius.


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.”

The “Glaphyra” of Cyril of Alexandria and Matthew 27:25

Cyril of Alexandria wrote quite a number of commentaries on the Old Testament.  There is the De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate, in 17 books, in the form of a dialogue with a certain Palladius.  There is the massive line-by-line Commentary on Isaiah, in 5 books; and his Commentary on the minor prophets, with which we have been concerned recently.  There is also a collection of fragments from a Commentary on the Psalms, collected by Angelo Mai.  But not all of these are genuine.[1]

But there is also the Glaphyra, the “Elegant Comments”, in 13 books, which he deals with select passages from the Pentateuch.  7 books are devoted to Genesis, 3 to Exodus, and 1 book each to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  It appears in the Patrologia Graeca volume 69, cols. 9-678, and as far as I know has not been translated into English, or any other modern language.  The work was also translated into Syriac in the 6th century by Moses of Agel, and fragments of this translation are extant.

The work begins with a preface (cols.9-10) in which he makes clear that the purpose of his exegesis is to show that “the end of the law and the prophets is Christ.”

These notes are necessary, for I find that an online search on Cyril of Alexandria and Glaphyra produces almost no information.  But of course our interest is his references to Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  The TLG gives 4 results in the Glaphyra in Pentateuchum {4090.097}, when searched:

  • PG 69 page 44 line 17: τῶν ὅλων Κύριον, καὶ τετολμήκασιν εἰπεῖν ἐκ πολλῆς ἄγαν ἀνοσιότητος, «Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν.» Ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν αἷμα τοῦ Ἄβελ
  • PG 69 page 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.»
  • PG69 page 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 page 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-

So let’s go and look at the first of these.  As ever I give the Latin text, which I can OCR using Abbyy Finereader 12 Screenshot, rather than the Greek which I cannot; and translating from it.

The first passage, col. 44, is on Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel.

For everywhere they [the Jews] live, as strangers and foreigners, and fearful, and that which is right for free-born men, without liberty.  Now Cain received the sign so that they might not kill him.  For not all Israel was ruined.  But the rest were made saved, as the prophet said, who understood this and prophesied, saying “If the Lord of the Sabbath had not left us a seed, we would have been like Sodom and Gomorrha.”  For this reason also the divine psalmist, lest Israel might be dissolved in the world, called upon the God of the whole world, saying, “Do not kill them, lest they forget your law.”  So Cain went out from the face of the Lord.  For so it is written, “And Cain went out from the face of the Lord.”  The same thing happened to the Israelites, to whom it was spoken by the voice of the prophet, “When you stretch out your hands to me, I will turn my eyes away from you; and if you multiply your prayers, I will not hear you.  For your hands are full of blood.”   For they killed the Lord of all, and in their extreme impiety dared to say, “His blood be upon us and our children.”  The blood of Abel cried out only against his single killer.  But the precious blood of Christ cried out so greatly against the cruelty and inhumanity of the Jews, for he freed the world from sin, for he was poured out for it.  For this reason the divine Paul says, “”we come near, we who are justified by faith, by the shedding of the blood which is called better than the blood of Abel.”  I think that this must be added to what has been said: “For afterwards”, he said, “Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Seth, saying, ‘God has appointed for me another seed, in place of Abel whom Cain killed.”[2]

As usual with Cyril, we see an Old Testament story being interpreted as a prediction of the events of the New Testament.

More in due course!

  1. [1]Robert Wilken, “Cyril of Alexandria as interpreter of the Old Testament” in: The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation, A&C Black (2003) p.4.
  2. [2]Ubique enim hospites atque advenae, et trepidi, et ea quae ingenuos maxime decet, libertate carentes vivunt. Caeterum accepit Cain signum ut non interficerent eum. Periit enim non totus in universum Israel. Reliquiae autem salvae factae Sunt, juxta prophetae vocem, qui cum hoc intelligeret, praeclamavit, dicens: «Et nisi Dominus Sabaoth reliquisset nobis semen, sicut Sodoma facti essemus, et sicut Gomorrha similes essemus.»Quocirca, divinus etiam Psalmista, ne in universum absumeretur Israel, Deum totius universi rogavit, dicens: «Ne interficias eos, ne quando obliviscantur legis tuae.» Praeterea egressus est Cain a facie Domini. Ita enim scriptum est:«Et egressus est Cain a facie Domini.» Tale quid accidit Israelitis, ad quos dictum est per vocem propheta :« Quando extenderitis manus vestras ad me, avertam oculos meos a vobis; et si multiplicaveritis orationem vestram, non exaudiam vos. Manus enim vestra sanguine plenae sunt.» Occiderunt enim universorum Dominum, et prae nimia impietate ausi sunt dicere: «Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros.» Atqui sanguis Abel adversus solum interfectorem clamavit : pretiosus vero Christi sanguis fere tantum clamavit adversus Judaeorum crudelitatem atque ingratitudinem : liberavit autem mundum a peccato , utpote fusus pro ipso. Idcirco etiam divinus Paulus ait, «accedere nos, qui per fidem justificati sumus, fusione sanguinis melius loquente quam sanguis Abelis». Illud vero etiam iis quae dicta sunt adjiciendum puto : «Postquam enim, inquit, «mortuus est Abel, cognovit Adam Evam uxorem suam, et concipiens peperit filium, et vocavit nomen ejus Seth, dicens “Suscitavit enim mihi Deus semen aliud pro Abel, quem occidit Cain.»