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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

3.  The Exposition of Details Continued.  The Sitting Down on the Grass.  The Division into Companies.

We have spoken these things because of the words, “They that did eat were five thousand men, beside children and women,” 5354 which is an ambiguous expression; for either those who ate were five thousand men, and among those who ate there was no child or woman; or the men only were five thousand, the children and the women not being reckoned.  Some, then, as we have said by anticipation, have so understood the passage that neither children nor women were present, when the increase and multiplication of the five loaves and the two fishes took place.  But some one might say that, while many ate and according to their desert and capacity participated in the loaves of blessing, some worthy to be numbered, corresponding to the men of twenty years old who are numbered in the Book of Numbers, 5355 were Israelitish men, but others who were not worthy of such account and numbering were children and women.  Moreover, interpret with me allegorically the children in accordance with the passage, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ;” 5356 and the women in accordance with the saying, “I wish to present you all as a pure virgin to Christ;” 5357 and the men according to the saying, “When I am become a man I have put away childish things.” 5358   Let us not pass by without exposition the words, “He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass, and He look the five loaves and the two p. 433 fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.  And they did all eat.” 5359   For what is meant by the words, “And He commanded all the multitudes to sit down on the grass?”  And what are we to understand in the passage worthy of the command of Jesus?  Now, I think that He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass because of what is said in Isaiah, “All flesh is grass;” 5360 that is to say, He commanded them to put the flesh under, and to keep in subjection “the mind of the flesh,” 5361 that so any one might be able to partake of the loaves which Jesus blesses.  Then since there are different orders of those who need the food which Jesus supplies and all are not nourished by equal words, on this account I think that Mark has written, “And He commanded them that they should all sit down by companies upon the green grass; and they sat down in ranks by hundreds and by fifties;” 5362 but Luke, “And He said unto His disciples, Make them sit down in companies about fifty each.” 5363   For it was necessary that those who were to find rest in the food of Jesus should either be in the order of the hundred—the sacred number—which is consecrated to God, because of the unit, (in it) or in the order of the fifty—the number which embraces the remission of sins, in accordance with the mystery of the Jubilee which took place every fifty years, and of the feast at Pentecost.  And I think that the twelve baskets were in the possession of the disciples to whom it was said “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 5364   And as the throne of him who judges the tribe of Reuben might be said to be a mystery, and the throne of him who judges the tribe of Simeon, and another of him who judges the tribe of Judah, and so on with the others; so there might be a basket of the food of Reuben, and another of Simeon, and another of Levi.  But it is not in accordance with our present discourse now to digress so far from the subject in hand as to collect what is said about the twelve tribes, and separately what is said about each of them, and to say what each tribe of Israel may signify.



Matt. xiv. 21.


Num. i. 3.


1 Cor. iii. 1.


2 Cor. xi. 2.


1 Cor. xiii. 11.


Matt. 14:19, 20.


Isa. xl. 6.


Rom. viii. 6.


Mark 6:39, 40.


Luke ix. 14.


Matt. xix. 28.

Next: Chapter IV

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