Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.: Chapter XII
12. The Divine Scriptures Compared to a Net.
Now, these things being said, we must hold that “the kingdom of heaven is likened to a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind, 5211 ” in order to set forth the varied character of the principles of action among men, which are as different as possible from each other, so that the expression “gathered from every kind” embraces both those worthy of praise and those worthy of blame in respect of their proclivities towards the forms of virtues or of vices. And the kingdom of heaven is likened unto the variegated texture of a net, with reference to the Old and the New Scripture which is woven of thoughts of all kinds and greatly varied. As in the case of the fishes that fall into the net, some are found in one part of the net and some in another part, and each at the part at which it was caught, so in the case of those who have come into the net of the Scriptures you would find some caught in the prophetic net; for example, of Isaiah, according to this expression, or of Jeremiah or of Daniel; and others in the net of the law, and others in the Gospel net, and some in the apostolic net; for when one is first captured by the Word or seems to be captured, he is taken from some part of the whole net. And it is nothing strange if some of the fishes caught are encompassed by the whole texture of the net in the Scriptures, and are pressed in on every side and caught, so that they are unable to escape but are, as it were, absolutely enslaved, and not permitted to escape from the net. And this net has been cast into the sea—the wave—tossed life of men in every part of the world, and which swims in the bitter affairs of life. And before our Saviour Jesus Christ this net was not wholly filled; for the net of the law and the prophets had to be completed by Him who says, “Think not that I came to destroy the law and the prophets, I came not to destroy but to fulfil.” 5212 And the texture of the net has been completed in the Gospels, and in the words of Christ through the Apostles. On this account, therefore, “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind.” And, apart from what has been said, the expression, “gathered from every kind,” may show forth the calling of the Gentiles from every race. And those who attended to the net which was cast into the sea are Jesus Christ, the master of the net, and “the angels who came and ministered unto Him,” 5213 who do not draw up the net from the sea, nor carry it to the shore beyond the sea,—namely, to things beyond this life, unless the net be filled full, that is, unless the “fulness of the Gentiles” has come into it. But when it has come, then they draw it up from things here below, and carry it to what is figuratively called the shore, where it will be the work of those who have drawn it up, both to sit by the shore, and there to settle themselves, in order that they may place each of the good in the net into its own order, according to what are here called “vessels,” but cast without and away those that are of an opposite character and are called bad. By “without” is meant the furnace of fire as the Saviour interpreted, saying, “So shall it be at the consummation of the age. The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.” 5214 Only it must be observed, that we are already taught by the parable of the tares and the similitude set forth, that the angels are to be entrusted with the power to distinguish and separate the evil from the righteous; for it is said above, “The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 5215 But here it is said, “The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.”
Matt. xiii. 47.420:5212
Matt. v. 17.420:5213
Matt. iv. 11.420:5214
Matt. 13:49, 50.420:5215
Matt. xiii. 42.
Next: Chapter XIII
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