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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

14.  Why the Pharisees Were Not a Plant of God.  Teaching of Origen on the “Bread of the Lord.”

After this, it is worth while to look at the phrase which has been assailed in a sophistical way by those who say 5454 that the God of the law and the God of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the same; for they say that the heavenly Father of Jesus Christ is not the husbandman of those who think that they worship God according to the law of Moses.  Jesus Himself said that the Pharisees, who were worshipping the God who created the world and the law, were not a plant which His heavenly Father had planted, and that for this reason it was being rooted up. 5455   But you might also say this, that even if it were the Father of Jesus who “brought in and planted the people,” when it came out of Egypt, “to the mountain of His own inheritance, to the place which He had prepared for Himself to dwell in,” 5456 yet Jesus would have said, in regard to the Pharisees, “Every plant which My heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up.”  Now, to this we will say, that as many as on account of their perverse interpretation of the things in the law were not a plant of His Father in heaven, were blinded in their minds, as not believing the truth, but taking pleasure in unrighteousness, 5457 by him who is deified by the sons of this world, and on this account is called by Paul the god of this world. 5458   And do not suppose that Paul said that he was truly God; for just as the belly, though it is not the god of those who prize pleasure too highly, being lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, is said by Paul to be their god, 5459 so the prince of this world, in regard to whom the Saviour says, “Now has the prince of this world been judged,” 5460 though he is not God, is said to be the god of those who do not wish to receive the spirit of adoption, in order that they may become sons of that world, and sons of the resurrection from the dead, 5461 and who, on this account, abide in the sonship of this world.  I have deemed it necessary to introduce these matters, even though they may have been spoken by way of digression, because of the saying, “They are blind guides of the blind.” 5462   Who are such?  The Pharisees, whose minds the god of this world hath blinded as they are unbelieving, because they have not believed in Jesus Christ; and he hath blinded them so that the “light of the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ should not dawn upon them.” 5463   But not only must we avoid being guided by those blind ones who are conscious that they are in need of guides, because they have not yet received the power of vision of themselves; but even in the case of all who profess to guide us in sound doctrine, we must hear with care, and apply a sound judgment to what is said, lest being guided according to the ignorance of those who are blind, and do not see the things that concern sound doctrine, we ourselves may appear to be blind because we do not see the sense of the Scriptures, so that both he who guides and he who is guided will fall into the ditch of which we have spoken before.  Next to this, it is written in what way Peter answered and said to the Saviour, as if he had not understood the saying, “Not that which cometh into the mouth defileth the man, but that which goeth out of the mouth,” “Declare unto us the parable.” 5464   To which the Saviour says, “Are ye also, even yet, without understanding?” 5465   As if He had said, “Having been so long time with Me, do ye not yet understand the meaning of what is said, and do ye not perceive that for this reason that which goeth into his mouth does not defile the man, because it passeth into the belly, p. 443 and going out from it is cast into the draught?” 5466   It was not in respect of the law in which they appeared to believe, that the Pharisees were not a plant of the Father of Jesus, but in respect of their perverse interpretation of the law and the things written in it.  For since there are two things to be understood in regard to the law, the ministration of death which was engraven in letters 5467 and which had no kinship with the spirit, and the ministration of life which is understood in the spiritual law, those who were able with a sincere heart to say, “We know that the law is spiritual,” 5468 and therefore “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and righteous and good,” 5469 were the plant which the heavenly Father planted; but those who were not such, but guarded with care the letter which killeth only, were not a plant of God but of him who hardened their heart, and put a veil over it, which veil had power over them so long as they did not turn to the Lord; “for if any one should turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away, and the Lord is the Spirit.” 5470   Now some one when dealing with the passage might say, that just as “not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man,” 5471 of even though it may be thought by the Jews to be defiled, so not that which entereth into the mouth sanctifieth the man, even though what is called the bread of the Lord may be thought by the simpler disciples to sanctify.  And the saying is I think, not to be despised, and on this account, demands clear exposition, which seems to me to be thus; as it is not the meat but the conscience of him who eats with doubt which defiles him that eateth, for “he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith,” 5472 and as nothing is pure to him who is defiled and unbelieving, not in itself, but because of his defilement and unbelief, so that which is sanctified through the word of God and prayer 5473 does not, in its own nature, sanctify him who uses it, for, if this were so, it would sanctify even him who eats unworthily of the bread of the Lord, and no one on account of this food would become weak or sickly or asleep for something of this kind Paul represented in saying, “For this cause many among you are weak and sickly and not a few sleep.” 5474   And in the case of the bread of the Lord, accordingly, there is advantage to him who uses it, when with undefiled mind and pure conscience he partakes of the bread.  And so neither by not eating, I mean by the very fact that we do not eat of the bread which has been sanctified by the word of God and prayer, are we deprived of any good thing, nor by eating are we the better by any good thing; for the cause of our lacking is wickedness and sins, and the cause of our abounding is righteousness and right actions; so that such is the meaning of what is said by Paul, “For neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse.” 5475   Now, if “everything that entereth into the mouth goes into the belly and is cast out into the drought,” 5476 even the meat which has been sanctified through the word of God and prayer, in accordance with the fact that it is material, goes into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but in respect of the prayer which comes upon it, according to the proportion of the faith, becomes a benefit and is a means of clear vision to the mind which looks to that which is beneficial, and it is not the material of the bread but the word which is said over it which is of advantage to him who eats it not unworthily of the Lord.  And these things indeed are said of the typical and symbolical body.  But many things might be said about the Word Himself who became flesh, 5477 and true meat of which he that eateth shall assuredly live for ever, no worthless person being able to eat it; for if it were possible for one who continues worthless to eat of Him who became flesh, who was the Word and the living bread, it would not have been written, that “every one who eats of this bread shall live for ever.” 5478



Marcion and his followers.


Matt. xv. 13.


Exod. xv. 17.


2 Thess. ii. 12.


2 Cor. iv. 4.


Phil. iii. 19.


John xvi. 11.


Cf. Luke xx. 36.


Matt. xv. 14.


2 Cor. iv. 4.


Matt. xv. 11.


Matt. xv. 16.


Matt. xv. 17.


Cf. 2 Cor. iii. 7.


Rom. vii. 14.


Rom. vii. 12.


2 Cor. 3:16, 17.


Matt. xv. 11.


Rom. xiv. 23.


Cf. 1 Tim. iv. 5.


1 Cor. xi. 30.


1 Cor. viii. 8.


Matt. xv. 17.


John i. 14.


John vi. 51.

Next: Chapter XV