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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

19.  Concerning the Seven Loaves.  The Narrative of the Feeding of the Four Thousand Compared with that of the Five Thousand.

And Jesus called unto Him His disciples and said.” 5535   Above in the similar history to this about the loaves, before the loaves are spoken of, “Jesus came forth and saw a great multitude and had compassion upon them and healed their sick.  And when even was come the disciples came to Him saying, The place is desert and the time is already past, send them away,” 5536 etc.  But now after the healing of the deaf and the rest, He takes compassion on the multitude which had continued with Him now three days and had nothing to eat.  And there the disciples make request concerning the five thousand; 5537 but here He speaks of His own accord about the four thousand. 5538   Those, too, are fed when it was evening after they had spent a day with Him; but these, who are testified to have continued with Him three days, partake of the loaves lest they might faint by the way.  And there the disciples say to Him when He was not inquiring, that they had only five loaves and two fishes; but here to Him making inquiry, they give answer about the seven loaves and the few small fishes.  And there He commands the multitudes to sit down or lie upon the grass; for Luke also wrote, “Make them sit down,” 5539 and Mark says, “He commanded them all to sit down;” 5540 but here He does not command but proclaims 5541 to the multitude to sit down.  Again, there, the three Evangelists say in the very same words that “He took the five loaves and the two fishes and looking up to heaven He blessed;” 5542 but here, as Matthew and Mark have written, “Jesus gave thanks and brake;” 5543 there, they recline upon the grass, but here they sit down upon the ground.  You will moreover investigate in the accounts in the different places the variation found in John, who wrote in regard to that transaction that Jesus said, “Make the p. 449 men sit down,” 5544 and that, having given thanks, He gave of the loaves to them that were set down, but he did not mention this miracle at all. 5545   Attending, then, to the difference of those things which are written in the various places in regard to the loaves, I think that these belong to a different order from those; wherefore these are fed in a mountain, and those in a desert place; and these after they had continued three days with Jesus, but those one day, on the evening of which they were fed.  And further, unless it be the same thing for Jesus to do a thing of Himself and to act after having heard from the disciples, consider if those to whom Jesus shows kindness are not superior when He fed them on the spot with a view to showing them kindness.  And, if according to John, 5546 they were barley loaves of which the twelve baskets remained over, but nothing of this kind is said about these, how are not these superior to the former?  And the sick of those He healed, 5547 but here He heals these, along with the multitudes, who were not sick but blind, and lame, and deaf, and maimed; wherefore also in regard to these the four thousand marvel, 5548 but in regard to the sick no such thing is said.  And these I think who ate of the seven loaves for which thanks were given, are superior to those who ate of the five which were blessed; and these who ate the few little fishes to those who ate of the two, and perhaps also these who sat down upon the ground to those who sat down on the grass.  And those from fewer loaves leave twelve baskets, but these from a greater number leave seven baskets, inasmuch, as they were able to receive more.  And perhaps these tread upon all earthly things and sit down upon them, but those upon the grass—upon their flesh only—for “all flesh is grass.” 5549   Consider also after this, that Jesus does not wish to send them away fasting lest they faint on the way, as being without the loaves of Jesus, and while they were still on the way—the way to their own concerns—might suffer injury.  Take note also of the cases where Jesus is recorded to have sent any one away, that you may see the difference of those who were sent away by Him after being fed, and those who had been sent away otherwise; and, as a pattern of one who was sent away otherwise, take “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.” 5550   But further the disciples who are always with Jesus are not sent away by Him; but the multitudes after they have eaten are sent away.  Likewise, again, the disciples who conceive nothing great about the Canaanitish woman say, “Send her away, for she crieth after us;” 5551 but the Saviour does not at all appear to send her away; for saying unto her, “O woman, great is thy faith, be it done to thee even as thou wilt,” 5552 He healed her daughter from that hour:  it is not however written that He sent her away.  So far at the present time have we been able to investigate and see into the passage before us.




Matt. xv. 32.


Matt. xiv. 15.


Matt. xiv. 15.


Matt. xv. 32.


Luke ix. 14.


Mark vi. 39.


ὀυ κελεύει ἁλλὰ παραγγέλλει


Matt. 14:19, Mark 6:41, Luke 9:16.


Matt. 15:36, Mark 8:6.


John vi. 10.


Or, did not mention the occasion of this.


John vi. 13.


Matt. xiv. 14.


Matt. xv. 31.


Isa. xl. 6.


Luke xiii. 12, Literally ‘thou art sent away.’


Matt. xv. 23.


Matt. xv. 28.

Next: Book XII

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