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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

15.  Greatness Varies in Degree.

But next we must seek to understand this:  the disciples came to Him, as disciples to a teacher proposing difficult questions, and making inquiry, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 5920   And, in this respect, we must imitate the disciples of Jesus; for if, at any time, any subject of investigation among us should not be found out let us go with all unanimity in regard to the question in dispute to Jesus, who is present where two or three are gathered together in His name, 5921 and is ready by His presence with power to illumine the hearts of those who truly desire to become His disciples, with a view to their apprehension of the matters under inquiry.  And likewise it would be nothing strange for us to go to any of those who have been appointed by God as teachers in the church, and propose any question of a like order to this, “Who, then, is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  What, then, was already known to the disciples of the matters relating to this question?  And what was the point under inquiry?  That there is not equality in regard to those who are deemed worthy of the kingdom of heaven they had apprehended, and that, as there was not equality, some one was greatest, and so in succession down to the least:  but of what nature was the greatest, and what was the way of life of him who was the least, and who occupied the middle position, they further desired to know; unless, indeed, it is more accurate to say that they knew who was least from the words, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;” but who was the greatest of all they did not know, even if they had grasped the meaning of the words, “Whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven;” 5922 for as there were many great, it was not clear to them who was the greatest of the great, to use a human standard.  And that many are great, but the great not equally great, will be manifest from the ascription of the epithet “great” to Isaac, “who waxed great, and became exceedingly great,” 5923 and from what is said in the case of Moses, and John the Baptist, and the Saviour.  And every one will acknowledge that even though all these were great according to the Scripture, yet the Saviour was greater than they.  But whether John also (than whom there was no greater among those born of women), 5924 was greater than Isaac and Moses, or whether he was not greater, but equal to both, or to one of them, it would be hazardous to declare.  And from the saying, “But Isaac, waxing great, became greater,” 5925 until he became not simply great, but with the twice repeated addition, “exceedingly,” we may learn that there is a difference among the great, as one is great, and another exceedingly great, and another exceedingly exceedingly great.  The disciples, therefore, came to Jesus and sought to learn, who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and perhaps they wished to learn, hearing from p. 484 Him sometimes like this, “A certain one is greatest in the kingdom of heaven;” but He gives a universal turn to the discourse, showing what was the quality of him who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Let us seek to understand, from what is written, to the best of our ability, who this is.  “For Jesus called a little child,” 5926 etc.



Matt. xviii. 1.


Matt. xviii. 20.


Matt. v. 19.


Gen. xxvi. 13.


Matt. xi. 11.


Gen. xxvi. 13.


Matt. xviii. 2.

Next: Chapter XVI

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