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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

11.  Exposition of the Prophecy of Isaiah Quoted by Jesus.

And, after this, wishing to refute completely from the words of the prophets all these traditions of the elders among the Jews, He brought before them a saying, from Isaiah, which in the exact words is as follows:  “And the Lord said, This people draws nigh to Me with their mouth,” etc.; 5426 and, as we said before, Matthew has not written out the prophetical saying in the very words.  And, if it be necessary because of its use in the Gospel to interpret it according to our ability, we will take in addition the preceding passage which is, in my judgment, noted with advantage by us for the exposition of that passage in the Gospel which was taken from the prophet.  The passage in Isaiah from the beginning is thus, “Be ye faint, and be maddened:  be ye drunken, but not with strong drink nor with wine:  for the Lord hath given you to drink of the spirit of stupor, and He will close their eyes, both of their prophets, and of their rulers who see things secret.  And all these sayings shall be to you as the words of the book, which has been sealed, which if they give to a man who knows letters, saying, Read this, he shall answer, I cannot read, for it is sealed.  And this book will be given into the hands of a man who does not know letters, and one will say to him, Read this, and he will say, I know not letters.  And the Lord said, This people is nigh to Me,” etc., down to the words, “Woe unto them that form counsel in secret, and their works shall be in darkness.” 5427   Taking up then the passage before us in the Gospel, I have put some of the verses which come before it, and some which follow it, in order to show in what way the Word threatens to close the eyes of those of the people who are astonished and drunken, and have been made to drink of the spirit of deep sleep.  And it threatens also to close the eyes of their prophets and their rulers who profess to see things secret,—which things, I think, took place after the advent of the Saviour among that people; for all the words of the whole of the Scriptures, p. 440 and of Isaiah also, have become to them as the words of a sealed book.  Now the expression “sealed” is used of a book closed in virtue of its obscurity and not open in virtue of its lucidity, which is equally obscure to those who are not able to read it at all because they do not know letters, and to those who profess to know letters but do not understand the meaning in the things which have been written.  Well, then, does he add to this, that when the people, fainting because of their sins and being in a state of madness rage against Him through those sins wherewith they shall be drunken against Him with the spirit of stupor, which shall be given to them to drink by the Lord when He closes their eyes, as unworthy to see, and the eyes of their prophets and of their rulers who profess to see the hidden things of the mysteries in the Divine Scriptures; and, when their eyes are closed, then shall the prophetic words be sealed to them and hidden, as has been the case with those who do not believe in Jesus as the Christ.  And when the prophetic sayings have become as the words of a sealed book, not only to those who do not know letters but to those who profess to know, then the Lord said, that the people of the Jews draw nigh to God with their mouth only, and He says that they honour Him with their lips, because their heart by reason of their unbelief in Jesus is far from the Lord.  And now, especially, from the time at which they denied our Saviour, it might be said about them by God, “But in vain do they worship Me;” 5428 for they no longer teach the precepts of God but of men, and doctrines which are human and no longer of the Spirit of wisdom.  Wherefore, when these things happen to them, God has removed the people of the Jews, and has caused to perish the wisdom of the wise men among them; for there is no longer wisdom among them, just as there is no prophecy; but God has utterly destroyed the prudence of the prudent and concealed it, 5429 and no longer is it splendid and conspicuous.  Wherefore, although they may seem to form some counsel in a deep fashion, because they do it not through the Lord they are called miserable; and even though they profess to tell some secrets of the Divine counsel they lie, since their works are not works of light, but of darkness and night. 5430   I have thought it right briefly to set forth the prophecy, and to a certain extent elucidate its meaning, seeing that Matthew made mention of it.  And Mark also made mention of it, from whom we may usefully set down the following words in the place, with reference to the transgression of the elders who held that it was necessary to wash hands when the Jews ate bread, “For the Pharisees and all the Jews, except they wash their hands diligently, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market-place except they wash themselves they eat not.  And there are some other things which they have received to hold, washings of cups and pots and brazen vessels and couches.” 5431



Isa. xxix. 13.


Isa. xxix. 9-15.


Matt. xv. 9.


Isa. xxix. 14.


Isa. xxix. 15.


Mark 7:3, 4.

Next: Chapter XII

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