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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.: Chapter XIX

Early Church Fathers  Index     

19.  Various Views of Heracleon on Purging of the Temple.

Let us see what Heracleon makes of this.  He says that the ascent to Jerusalem signifies the Lord’s going up from material things to the spiritual place, which is a likeness of Jerusalem.  And he considers that the words are, “He found in the temple,” and not “in the sanctuary,” 5082 because the Lord is not to be understood as instrumental in that call only, which takes place where the spirit is not.  He considers the temple to be the Holy of Holies, into which none but the High-Priest enters, and there I believe he says that the spiritual go; while the court of the temple, where the levites also enter, is a symbol of these psychical ones who are saved, but outside the Pleroma.  Then those who are found in the temple selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers sitting, he took to represent those who attribute nothing to grace, but regard the entrance of strangers to the temple as a matter of merchandise and gain, and who minister the sacrifices for the worship of God, with a view to their own gain and love of money.  And the scourge which Jesus made of small cords and did not receive from another, he expounds in a way of his own, saying that the scourge is an image of the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, driving out by His breath those who are bad.  And he declares that the scourge and the linen and the napkin and other things of such a kind are symbolic of the power and energy of the Holy Spirit.  Then he assumes what is not written, as that the scourge was tied to a piece of wood, and this wood he takes to be a type of the cross; on this wood the gamblers, merchants, and all evil was nailed up and done away.  In searching into the act of Jesus, and discussing the composition of the scourge out of two substances, he romances in an extraordinary way; He did not make it, he says, of dead leather.  He wished to make the Church no longer a den of robbers, but the house of His Father.  We must here say what is most necessary on the divinity, as referred to in Heracleon’s text.  If Jesus calls the temple at Jerusalem the house of His Father, and that temple was made in honour of Him who made heaven and earth, why are we not at once told that He is the Son of no one else than the Maker of heaven and earth, that He is the Son of God?  To this house of the Father of Jesus, as being the house of prayer, the Apostles of Christ also, as we find in their “Acts,” are told 5083 by the angel to go and to stand there and preach all the words of this life.  But they came to the house of prayer, through the Beautiful Gate, to pray there, a thing they p. 400 would not have done had they not known Him to be the same with the God worshipped by those who had dedicated that temple.  Hence, too, they say, those who obeyed God rather than men, Peter and the Apostles, “The God 5084 of our Fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging Him on a tree;” for they know that by no other God was Jesus raised from the dead but the God of the fathers, whom Jesus also extols as the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who are not dead but living.  How, too, could the disciples, if the house was not that of the same God with the God of Christ, have remembered the saying in the sixty-ninth Psalm, “The zeal of thy house shall devour Me;” for thus it is found in the prophet, and not “hath devoured Me.”  Now Christ is zealous principally for that house of God which is in each of us; He does not wish that it should be a house of merchandise, nor that the house of prayer should be a den of robbers; for He is the Son of a jealous God.  We ought to give a liberal interpretation to such utterances of Scripture; they speak of human things, but in the way of metaphor, to show that God desires that nothing foreign should be mixed up with His will in the soul of all men, indeed, but principally of those who are minded to accept the message of our most divine faith.  But we must remember that the sixty-ninth Psalm, which contains the words, “The zeal of thy house shall devour me,” and a little further on, “They gave Me gall for My drink and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar,” both texts being recorded in the Gospels, that that Psalm is spoken in the person of the Christ, and nowhere shows any change of person.  It shows a great want of observation on Heracleon’s part that he considers the words, “The zeal of thy house shall devour Me,” to be spoken in the person of those powers which were cast out and destroyed by the Saviour; he fails to see the connection of the prophecy in the Psalm.  For if these words are understood as spoken by the expelled and destroyed powers, it follows that he must take the words, “They gave Me vinegar to drink,” which are a part of the same psalm, to be also spoken by those powers.  What misled him was probably that he could not understand how the “shall devour Me” could be spoken by Christ, since He did not appreciate the way in which anthropopathic statements are applied to God and to Christ.



ἐν τῶ ἱερῷ, not τῷ ναῷ.  The latter is Neander’s correction for τῶν ἄνω, “the things above.”  Heracleon’s point is that the ἰερόν, the Holy of Holies, represents the spiritual realm; and that Jesus entered it as being, as well as the ναος, in need of His saving work.


Acts v. 20.


Acts 5:29, 30.

Next: Chapter XX

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