Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XVI.—Of the passion of Jesus Christ; that it was foretold
Chap. XVI.—Of the Passion of Jesus Christ; That It Was Foretold.
I come now to the passion itself, which is often cast in our teeth as a reproach: 684 that we worship a man, and one who was visited and tormented with remarkable punishment: that I may show that this very passion was undergone by Him in accordance with a great and divine plan, and that goodness and truth and wisdom are contained in it alone. For if He had been most happy on the earth, and had reigned through all His life in the greatest prosperity, no wise man would either have believed Him to be a God, or judged Him worthy of divine honour: which is the case with those who are destitute of true divinity, who not only look up 685 to perishable riches, and frail power, and the advantages arising from the benefit of another, but even consecrate them, and knowingly do service to the memory of the dead, worshipping fortune when it is now extinguished, which the wise never regarded as an object of worship even when alive and present with them. For nothing among earthly things can be venerable and worthy of heaven; but it is virtue alone, and justice p. 117 alone, which can be judged a true, and heavenly, and perpetual good, because it is neither given to any one, nor taken away. And since Christ came upon earth, supplied with virtue and righteousness, yea rather, since He Himself is virtue, and Himself righteousness, He descended that He might teach it and mould the character of man. And having performed this office and embassy from God, on account of this very virtue which He at once taught and practised, He deserved, and was able, to be believed a God by all nations. Therefore, when a great multitude from time to time flocked to Him, either on account of the righteousness which He taught or on account of the miracles which He worked, and heard His precepts, and believed that He was sent by God, and that He was the Son of God, then the rulers and priests of the Jews, excited with anger because they were rebuked by Him as sinners, and perverted by envy, because, while the multitude flocked to Him, they saw themselves despised and deserted, and (that which was the crowning point of their guilt) blinded by folly and error, and unmindful of the instructors sent from heaven, and of the prophets, they caballed against Him, and conceived the impious design of putting Him to death, and torturing Him: of which the prophets had long before written.
For both David, in the beginning of his Psalms, foreseeing in spirit what a crime they were about to commit, says, 686 “Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the way of the ungodly; “and Solomon in the book of Wisdom used these words: 687 “Let us defraud the righteous, for he is unpleasant to us, and upbraideth us with our offences against the law. He maketh his boast that he has the knowledge of God; and he calleth himself the Son of God. He is made to reprove 688 our thoughts: it grieveth us even to look upon him: for his life is not like the life of others; his ways are of another fashion. 689 We are counted by him as triflers, 690 he withdraweth himself from our ways as from filthiness; he commendeth greatly 691 the latter end of the just, and boasteth that he has God for his Father. Let us see, therefore, if his words be true; let us prove what end 692 he shall have; let us examine him with rebukes and torments that we may know his meekness, 693 and prove his patience; let us condemn him to a shameful death. Such things have they imagined, and have gone astray. For their own folly hath blinded them, and they do not understand the mysteries 694 of God.” Does he not describe that impious design entered into by the wicked against God, so that he clearly appears to have been present? But from Solomon, who foretold these things, to the time of their accomplishment, ten hundred and ten years intervened. We feign nothing; we add nothing. They who performed the actions had these accounts; they, against whom these things were spoken, read them. But even now the inheritors of their name and guilt have these accounts, and in their daily readings re-echo their own condemnation as foretold by the voice of the prophets; nor do they ever admit them into their heart, which is also itself a part of their condemnation. The Jews, therefore, being often reproved by Christ, who upbraided them with their sins and iniquities, and being almost deserted by the people, were stirred up to put Him to death.
Now His humility emboldened them to this deed. For when they read with what great power and glory the Son of God was about to descend from heaven, but on the other hand saw Jesus humble, peaceful, of low condition, 695 without comeliness, they did not believe that He was the Son of God, being ignorant that two advents on His part were foretold by the prophets: the first, obscure in humility of the flesh; the other, manifest in the power of His majesty. Of the first David thus speaks in the seventy-first Psalm: 696 “He shall descend as rain upon a fleece; and in His days shall righteousness spring forth, and abundance of peace, as long as the moon is lifted up.” For as rain, if it descends upon a fleece, cannot be perceived, because it makes no sound; so he said that Christ would come to the earth without exciting the notice 697 of any, that He might teach righteousness and peace. Isaiah also thus spoke: 698 “Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We made proclamation 699 before Him as children, and as a root in a thirsty land: He has no form nor glory; and we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness. But His form was without honour, and defective beyond the rest of men. He is a man acquainted 700 with grief, and knowing how to endure infirmity, because He turned 701 His face away from us; and He was not esteemed. He p. 118 carries our sins, and He endures pain for us: and we thought that He Himself 702 was in pain, and grief, and vexation. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised 703 for our offences; the chastisement 704 of our peace was upon Him, by His bruises 705 we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, and God hath delivered Him up for our sins.” And in the same manner the Sibyl spoke: “Though an object of pity, dishonoured, without form, He will give hope to those who are objects of pity.” On account of this humility they did not recognise their God, and entered into the detestable design of depriving Him of life, who had come to give them life.
The pagans upbraided Christians, that they worshipped a man who was put to d eath as a slave.116:685
Suspiciunt, “view with admiration.”117:686
Ps. i. 1.117:687
Wisd. ii. 12-22.117:688
In traductionem cogitationum nostrarum. Traductio is sometimes used, as here, to denote exposure to ignominy.117:689
Nugaces. In the Greek it is εἰς κιβδηλον, as a counterfeit.117:691
Præfert. The Greek has μακαρίζει, “deems happy.”117:692
Quæ ventura sunt illi.117:693
Ps. 72:6, 7, quoted from the Septuagint,117:697
Sine cujusquam suspicione.117:698
Isa. liii. 1-6.117:699
Annuntiavimus coram ipso sicut pueri; and so the Septuagint, ἀνηγγείλαμεν ἐνάντιον αὐτου̑ ὡς παιδίον. It is most difficult to account for this remarkable translation. The meaning of the passage is plain, that the Messiah would spring from an obscure source. [Elucidation III.]117:700
Homo in plagâ positus. The Septuagint, ἄνθρωπος ἐν πληγη̑ω̈̀ν.117:701
Aversus est. So also the Septuagint, ἀπέστραπται τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτου̑. Some have supposed that there is a reference to lepers, who were compelled to cover their faces.118:702
i.e., for Himself, as though He were bearing the punishment of His own sins.118:703
Doctrina pacis nostræ, “the correction.”118:705
Livore ejus nos sanati sumus. The word “livor” properly denotes the blackness arising from a bruise.
Next: Chap. XVII.—Of the superstitions of the Jews, and their hatred against Jesus
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