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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

4.  Why Jesus Called Them an Adulterous Generation.  The Law as Husband.

And He called them, indeed, “an evil generation,” because of the quality arising from evil which had been produced in them, for wickedness is voluntary evil-doing, but “adulterous” because that when the Pharisees and Sadducees left that which is figuratively called man, the word of truth or the law, they were debauched by falsehood and the law of sin.  For if there are two laws, the law in our members warring against the law of the mind, and the law of the mind, 5572 we must say that the law of the mind—that is, the spiritual—is man, to whom the soul was given by God as wife, that is, to the man who is law, according to what is written, “A wife is married to a man by God;” 5573 but the other is a paramour of the soul which is subject to it, which also on account of it is called an adulteress.  Now that the law is husband of the soul Paul clearly exhibits in the Epistle to the Romans, saying, “The law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth; for the woman that hath a husband is bound to the husband p. 452 while he liveth, to the husband who is law,” 5574 etc.  For consider in these things that the law hath dominion over the man so long time as the law liveth,—as a husband over a wife.  “For the woman that hath a husband,” that is, the soul under the law, “is bound to the husband while he liveth,” to the husband who is the law; but if the husband—that is, the law die—she is discharged from the law, which is her husband.  Now the law dies to him who has gone up to the condition of blessedness, and no longer lives under the law, but acts like to Christ, who, though He became under law for the sake of those under law, that He might gain those under law, 5575 did not continue under law, nor did He leave subject to law those who had been freed by Him; for He led them up along with Himself to the divine citizenship which is above the law, which contains, as for the imperfect and such as are still sinners, sacrifices for the remission of sins.  He then who is without sin, and stands no longer in need of legal sacrifices, perhaps when he has become perfect has passed beyond even the spiritual law, and comes to the Word beyond it, who became flesh to those who live in the flesh, but to those who no longer at all war after the flesh, He is perceived as being the Word, as 5576 He was God in the beginning with God, and reveals the Father.  Three things therefore are to be thought of in connection with this place—the woman that hath a husband, who is under a husband—the law; and the woman who is an adulteress, to-wit, the soul, which, while her husband, the law, liveth, has become joined to another husband, namely, the law of the flesh; and the woman who is married to the brother of the dead husband, to the Word who is alive and dies not, who “being raised from the dead dieth no more, for death hath no more dominion over Him.” 5577   So far then because of the saying, “But if the husband die she is discharged from the law, the husband,” and because of this, “so then, while her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be joined to another man,” and because of this, “but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress though she be joined to another man.” 5578   But this very saying, “So then while her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress,” we have brought forward, wishing clearly to show why in answer to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were tempting Him and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven, He said not only “a wicked generation,” but an “adulterous” generation. 5579   In a general way, then, the law in the members which wars against the law of the mind, 5580 as a man who is an adulterer, is an adulterer of the soul.  But now also every power that is hostile, which gains the mastery over the human soul, and has intercourse with it, commits adultery with her who had a bridegroom given to her by God, namely, the Word.  After these things it is written that “He left them and departed.”  For how was the bridegroom—the Word—not going to leave the adulterous generation and depart from it?  But you might say that the Word of God, leaving the synagogue of the Jews as adulterous, departed from it, and took a wife of fornication, 5581 namely, those from the Gentiles; since those who were “Sion, a faithful city,” 5582 have become harlots; but these have become like the harlot Rahab, who received the spies of Joshua, and was saved with all her house; 5583 after this no longer playing the harlot, but coming to the feet of Jesus, and wetting them with the tears of repentance, and anointing them with the fragrance of the ointment of holy conversation, on account of whom, reproaching Simon the leper,—the former people,—He spoke those things which are written. 5584



Rom. vii. 23.


Prov. xix. 14.


Rom. 7:1, 2῾Η γὰρ ὕπανδρος γυνὴ τῷ ζῶντι ἀνδρὶ δέδεται νόμῳ.  The reader must note that Origen takes νόμῳ in apposition to ἀνδρὶ.


1 Cor. ix. 10.


Or, who was God.


Rom. vi. 9.


Rom. 7:2, 3.


Matt. xvi. 4.


Rom. vii. 23.


Hos. i. 2.


Isa. i. 21.


Josh. vi. 25.


Luke vii. 37-50Cf. Matt. xxvi. 6.

Next: Chapter V

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