>   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   009  >   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   009

Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.: Chapter XIV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

14.  The Disciples as Scribes.

Have ye understood all these things?  They say, Yea.” 5219   Christ Jesus, who knows the things in the hearts of men, 5220 as John also taught concerning Him in the Gospel, puts the question not as one ignorant, but having once for all taken upon Him the nature of man, He uses also all the characteristics of a man of which “asking” is one.  And there is nothing to be wondered at in the Saviour doing this, since indeed the God of the universe, bearing with the manners of men as a man beareth with the manners of his son, makes inquiry, as—“Adam, where art thou?” 5221 and, “Where is Abel thy brother?” 5222   But some one with a forced interpretation will say here that the words “have understood” are not to be taken interrogatively but affirmatively; and he will say that the disciples bearing testimony to His affirmation, say, “Yea.”  Only, whether he is putting a question or making an affirmation, it is necessarily said not “these things” only,—which is demonstrative,—not “all things” only, but “all these things.”  And here He seems to represent the disciples as having been scribes before the kingdom of heaven; 5223 but to this is opposed what is said in the Acts of the Apostles thus, “Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” 5224   Some one may inquire in regard to these things—if they were scribes, how are they spoken of in the Acts as unlearned and ignorant men?  Or if they were unlearned and ignorant men, how are they very plainly called scribes by the Saviour?  And it might be answered to these inquiries that, as a matter of fact, not all the disciples but only Peter and John are described in the Acts as unlearned and ignorant, but that there were more disciples in regard to whom, because they understood all things, it is said, “Every scribe,” etc.  Or it might be said that every one who has been instructed in the teaching according to the letter of the law is called a scribe, so that those who were unlearned and ignorant and led captive by the letter of the law are spoken of as scribes in a particular sense.  And it is very specially the characteristic of ignorant men, who are unskilled in figurative interpretation and do not understand what is concerned with the mystical 5225 exposition of the Scriptures, but believe the bare letter, and, vindicate it, that they call themselves scribes.  p. 422 And so one will interpret the words, “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” 5226 as having been said to every one that knows nothing but the letter.  Here you will inquire if the scribe of the Gospel be as the scribe of the law, and if the former deals with the Gospel, as the latter with the law, reading and hearing and telling “those things which contain an allegory,” 5227 so as, while preserving the historic truth of the events, to understand the unerring principle of mystic interpretation applied to things spiritual, so that the things learned may not be “spiritual things whose characteristic is wickedness,” 5228 but may be entirely opposite to such, namely, spiritual things whose characteristic is goodness.  And one is a scribe “made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven” in the simpler sense, when he comes from Judaism and receives the teaching of Jesus Christ as defined by the Church; but he is a scribe in a deeper sense, when having received elementary knowledge through the letter of the Scriptures he ascends to things spiritual, which are called the kingdom of the heavens.  And according as each thought is attained, and grasped abstractly 5229 and proved by example and absolute demonstration, can one understand the kingdom of heaven, so that he who abounds in knowledge free from error is in the kingdom of the multitude of what are here represented as “heavens.”  So, too, you will allegorise the word, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand,” 5230 as meaning that the scribes—that is, those who rest satisfied in the bare letter—may repent of this method of interpretation and be instructed in the spiritual teaching which is called the kingdom of the heavens through Jesus Christ the living Word.  Wherefore, also, so far as Jesus Christ, “who was in the beginning with God, God the word,” 5231 has not His home in a soul, the kingdom of heaven is not in it, but when any one becomes nigh to admission of the Word, to him the kingdom of heaven is nigh.  But if the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are the same thing in reality, 5232 if not in idea, manifestly to those to whom it is said, “The kingdom of God is within you,” 5233 to them also it might be said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you;” and most of all because of the repentance from the letter unto the spirit; since “When one turn to the Lord, the veil over the letter is taken away.  But the Lord is the Spirit.” 5234   And he who is truly a householder is both free and rich; rich because from the office of the scribe he has been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven, in every word of the Old Testament, and in all knowledge concerning the new teaching of Christ Jesus, and has this riches laid up in his own treasure-house—in heaven, in which he stores his treasure as one who has been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven,—where neither moth doth consume, nor thieves break through. 5235   And in regard to him, who, as we have said, lays up treasure in heaven, we may truly lay down that not one moth of the passions can touch his spiritual and heavenly possessions.  “A moth of the passions,” I said, taking the suggestion from the “Proverbs” in which it is written, “a worm in wood, so pain woundeth the heart of man.” 5236   For pain is a worm and a moth, which wounds the heart which has not its treasures in heaven and spiritual things, for if a man has his treasure in these—“for where the treasure is, there will the heart be also,” 5237 —he has his heart in heaven, and on account of it he says, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” 5238   And so neither can thieves in regard to whom the Saviour said, “All that came before Me are thieves and robbers,” 5239 break through those things which are treasured up in heaven, and through the heart which is in heaven and therefore says, “He raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ,” 5240 and, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” 5241



Matt. xiii. 51.


John ii. 25.


Gen. iii. 9.


Gen. iv. 9.


Matt. xiii. 52.


Acts iv. 13.


Or, anagogical.


Matt. xxiii. 13.


Gal. iv. 24.


Eph. vi. 12.


Or, in an exalted sense.


Matt. iii. 2.


John 1:1, 2.


Or, substance.


Luke xvii. 21.


2 Cor. 3:16, 17.


Matt. vi. 20.


Prov. xxv. 20.


Matt. vi. 21.


Ps. xxvii. 3.


John x. 8.


Eph. ii. 6.


Phil. iii. 20.

Next: Chapter XV