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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

9.  Explanation of “Corban.”

Jesus, however, does not accuse them with reference to a tradition of the Jewish elders, but with regard to two most imperative commandments of God, the one of which was the fifth in the decalogue, being as follows:  “Honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long on the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee;” 5410 and the other was written thus in Leviticus, “If a man speak evil of his father or his mother, let him die the death; he has spoken evil of his father or mother, he shall be guilty.” 5411   But when we wish to examine the very letter of the words as given by Matthew, “He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death,” 5412 consider whether it was taken from the place where it was written, “Whoso striketh his father or mother, let him die the death; and he that speaketh evil of father or mother let him die p. 438 the death.” 5413   For such are the exact words taken from the Law with regard to the two commandments; but Matthew has quoted them in part and in an abridged form, and not in the very words.  But what the nature of the charge is which the Saviour brings against the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem, when He says that they transgress the commandment of God because of their tradition we must consider.  And God said, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” 5414 teaching that the child should pay the honour which is due to his parents.  Of this honour to parents one part was to share with them the necessaries of life, such as food and clothing, and if there was any other thing in which it was possible for them to show favour towards their own parents.  But the Pharisees and scribes promulgated in opposition to the law a tradition which is found rather obscurely in the Gospel, and which we ourselves would not have thought of, unless one of the Hebrews had given to us the following facts relating to the passage.  Sometimes, he says, when money-lenders fell in with stubborn debtors who were able but not willing to pay their debts, they consecrated what was due to the account of the poor, for whom money was cast into the treasury by each of those who wished to give a portion of their goods to the poor according to their ability.  They, therefore, said sometimes to their debtors in their own tongue, “That which you owe to me is Corban,”—that is, a gift—“for I have consecrated it to the poor, to the account of piety towards God.”  Then the debtor, as no longer in debt to men but to God and to piety towards God, was shut up, as it were, even though unwilling, to payment of the debt, no longer to the money-lender, but now to God for the account of the poor, in name of the money-lender.  What then the money-lender did to the debtor, that sometimes some sons did to their parents and said to them, “That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me, father or mother, know that you will receive this from Corban,” 5415 from the account of the poor who are consecrated to God.  Then the parents, hearing that that which should have been given to them was Corban,—consecrated to God,—no longer wished to take it from their sons, even though they were in extreme need of the necessaries of life.  The elders, then, declared to the people a tradition of this kind, “Whosoever said to his father or mother, that which should be given to any of them is Corban and a gift, that man was no longer a debtor to his father or mother in respect of giving to them the necessaries of life.”  The Saviour censures this tradition, as not being sound but opposed to the commandment of God.  For if God says, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” but the tradition said, he is not bound to honour his father or mother by a gift, who has consecrated to God, as Corban, that which would have been given to his parents, manifestly the commandment of God concerning the honour due to parents was made void by the tradition of the Pharisees and scribes which said, that he was no longer bound to honour his father or mother, who had, once for all, consecrated to God that which the parents would have received.  And the Pharisees, as lovers of money, in order that under pretext of the poor they might receive even that which would have been given to the parents of any one, gave such teaching.  And the Gospel testifies to their love of money, saying, “But the Pharisees who were lovers of money heard these things and they scoffed at Him.” 5416   If, then, any one of those who are called elders among us, or of those who are in any way rulers of the people, profess to give to the poor under the name of the commonweal, rather than to be of those who give to their kindred if they should chance to be in need of the necessaries of life, and those who give cannot do both, this man might with justice be called a brother of those Pharisees who made void the word of God through their own tradition, and were accused by the Saviour as hypocrites.  And as a very powerful deterrent to any one from being anxious to take from the account of the poor, and from thinking that “the piety of others is a way of gain,” 5417 we have not only these things, but also that which is recorded about the traitor Judas, who in appearance championed the cause of the poor, and said with indignation, “This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor,” 5418 but in reality “was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein.” 5419   If, then, any one in our time who has the bag of the Church speaks likes Judas on behalf of the poor, but takes away what is put therein, let there be assigned to him the portion along with Judas who did these things; on account of which things eating like a gangrene into his soul, the devil cast it into his p. 439 heart to betray the Saviour; and, when he had received the “fiery dart,” 5420 with reference to this end, the devil afterwards himself entered into his soul and took full possession of him.  And perhaps, when the Apostle says, “The love of money is a root of all evils,” 5421 he says it because of Judas’ love of money, which was a root of all the evils that were committed against Jesus.



Ex. xx. 12.


Lev. xx. 9.


Matt. xv. 4.


Exod. 21:15, Lev. 20:9.


Exod. xx. 12.


Matt. xv. 4.


Luke xvi. 14.


1 Tim. vi. 5.


Mark 14:5, John 12:5.


John xii. 6.


Eph. vi. 16.


1 Tim. vi. 10.

Next: Chapter X