Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel...: Tractate CXVIII
Chapter XIX. 23, 24.
1. The things that were done beside the Lords cross, when at length He was now crucified, we would take up, in dependence on His help, in the present discourse. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.” It was done as the Jews wished; not that it was they themselves, but the soldiers who obeyed Pilate, who himself acted as judge, that crucified Jesus: and yet if we reflect on their wills, their plots, their endeavors, their delivering up, and, lastly, on their extorting clamors, it was the Jews certainly, more than any else, who crucified Jesus.
2. But we must not speak in a mere cursory way of the partition and dividing by lot of His garments. For although all the four evangelists make mention thereof, yet the others do so more briefly than John: and their notice of it is obscure, while his is in the plainest manner possible. For Matthew says, “And after they crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots.” 1882 Mark: “And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” 1883 Luke: “And they parted His raiment, and cast lots.” 1884 But John has told us also how many parts they made of His garments, namely, four, that they might take one part apiece. From which it is apparent that there were four soldiers, who obeyed the governors orders in crucifying Him. For he plainly says: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and likewise the coat,” where there is understood, they took: so that the meaning is, they took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and they took also His coat. And he so spake, that we might see that there was no lot cast on His other garments; but His coat, which they took along with the others, they did not similarly divide. For in regard to it he proceeds to explain, “Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” And then telling us why they cast lots on it, he says, “They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.” Hence it is clear that in the case of the other garments they had equal parts, so that there was no need to cast lots: but that as regards this one, they could not have had a part each without rending it, and thereby possessing themselves only of useless fragments of it; to prevent which, they preferred letting it come to one of them by lot. The account given by this evangelist is also in harmony with the testimony of prophecy, which he likewise immediately subjoins, saying, “That the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.” For He says not, they cast lots, but “they parted:” nor does He say, casting lots they parted; but while making no mention whatever of the lot in regard to the rest of the garments, He afterwards said, “and for my vesture they did cast lots,” in reference solely to the coat that remained. On which I shall speak as He Himself enables me, after I have first refuted the calumny, which may possibly arise, as if the evangelists disagreed with one another, by showing that the words of none of the others are inconsistent with the narrative of John.
3. For Matthew, in saying, “They parted His garments, casting lots,” wished it to be p. 431 understood, that in the whole affair of parting the garments, the coat was also included, on which they cast lots; for in course of parting all the garments, of which it also was one, on it alone they cast lots. To the same purpose also are the words of Luke: “Parting His garments, they cast lots;” for in the process of parting they came to the coat whereon the lot was cast, that the entire parting of His garments among them might be completed. And what difference is there whether it is said, “Parting they cast lots,” according to Luke; or, “They parted, casting the lot,” according to Matthew: unless it be that Luke, in saying “lots,” used the plural for the singular number,—a form of speech that is not unusual in the Holy Scriptures, although some copies are found to have “lot,” 1885 and not “lots”? Mark, therefore, is the only one who seems to have introduced any kind of difficulty; for in saying, “Casting the lot upon them, what every man should take,” his words seem to imply, as if the lot was cast on all the garments, and not on the coat alone. But here also brevity is the cause of the obscurity; for the words, “Casting the lot upon them,” are as if it were said, Casting the lot when they were in the process of division; which was also the case. For the partition of all His garments would not have been complete, had it not been declared by lot which of them also should get possession of the coat, so as thereby to bring any contention on the part of the dividers to an end, or rather prevent any such from arising. In saying, therefore, “What every man should take,” so far as that has to do with the lot, we must not take it as referring to all the garments that were divided; for the lot was cast, who should take the coat: whereof having omitted to describe the particular form, and how, in the equal division that was made of the parts, it remained by itself, in order, without being rent, to be awarded by lot, he therefore made use of the expression, “what every man should take,” in other words, who it was that should take it: as if the whole were thus expressed, They parted His garments, casting the lot upon them, who should take the coat, which had remained over in addition to their equal shares of the rest.
4. Some one, perhaps, may inquire what is signified by the division that was made of His garments into so many parts, and of the casting of lots for the coat. The raiment of the Lord Jesus Christ parted into four, symbolized His quadripartite Church, as spread abroad over the whole world, which consists of four quarters, and equally, that is to say, harmoniously, distributed over all these quarters. On which account He elsewhere says, that He will send His angels to gather His elect from the four winds: 1886 and what is that, but from the four quarters of the world, east, west, north, and south? But the coat, on which lots were cast, signifies the unity of all the parts, which is contained in the bond of charity. And when the apostle is about to speak of charity, he says, “I show you a more excellent way;” 1887 and in another place, “To know also the love of Christ, which far excelleth knowledge;” 1888 and still further elsewhere, “And above all these things charity which is the bond of perfectness.” 1889 If, then, charity both has a more excellent way, and far excelleth knowledge, and is enjoined above all things, it is with great propriety that the garment, by which it is signified, is represented as woven from the top. 1890 And it was without seam, that its sewing might never be separated; and came into the possession of one man, because He gathereth all into one. Just as in the case of the apostles, who formed the exact number of twelve, in other words, were divisible into four parts of three each, when the question was put to all of them, Peter was the only one that answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;” and to whom it was said, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” 1891 as if he alone received the power of binding and loosing: seeing, then, that one so spake in behalf of all, and received the latter along with all, as if personifying the unity itself; therefore one stands for all, because there is unity in all. Whence, also, after here saying, “woven from the top,” he added, “throughout.” 1892 And this also, if referred to its meaning, implies that no one is excluded from a share thereof, who is discovered to belong to the whole: from which whole, as the Greek language indicates, the Church derives her name of Catholic. And by the casting of lots, what else is commended but the grace of God? For in this way in the person of one it reached to all, since the lot satisfied them all, because the grace of God also in its unity reacheth unto all; and when the lot is cast, the award is decided, not by the merits of each individual, but by the secret judgment of God.
5. And yet let no one say that such things had no good signification because they were done by the bad, that is to say, not by those who followed Christ, but by those who perse p. 432 cuted Him. For what could we have to say of the cross itself, which every one knows was in like manner made and fastened to Christ by enemies and sinners? And yet it is to it we may rightly understand the words of the apostle to be applicable, “what is the breadth, and the length, and the height, and the depth.” 1893 For its breadth lies in the transverse beam, on which the hands of the Crucified are extended; and signifies good works in all the breadth of love: its length extends from the transverse beam to the ground, and is that whereto the back and feet are affixed; and signifies perseverance through the whole length of time to the end: its height is in the summit, which rises upwards above the transverse beam; and signifies the supernal goal, to which all works have reference, since all things that are done well and perseveringly, in respect of their breadth and length, are to be done also with due regard to the exalted character of the divine rewards: its depth is found in the part that is fixed into the ground; for there it is both concealed and invisible, and yet from thence spring up all those parts that are outstanding and evident to the senses; just as all that is good in us proceeds from the depths of the grace of God, which is beyond the reach of human comprehension and judgment. But even though the cross of Christ signified no more than what was said by the apostle, “And they who are Jesus Christs have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts,” 1894 how great a good it is! And yet it does not this, unless the good spirit be lusting against the flesh, seeing that it was the opposing, or, in other words, the evil spirit that constructed the cross of Christ. And lastly, as every one knows, what else is the sign of Christ but the cross of Christ? For unless that sign be applied, whether it be to the foreheads of believers, or to the very water out of which they are regenerated, or to the oil with which they receive the anointing chrism, or to the sacrifice that nourishes them, none of them is properly administered. How then can it be that no good is signified by that which is done by the wicked, when by the cross of Christ, which the wicked made, every good thing is sealed to us in the celebration of His sacraments? But here we stop; and what follows we shall consider at another time in the course of dissertation, as God shall grant us assistance.
Matt. xxvii. 35.430:1883
Mark xv. 24.430:1884
Luke xxiii. 34.431:1885
As it now is in the Greek [Textus receptus], κλῆρον.—Migne.431:1886
Matt. xxiv. 31.431:1887
1 Cor. xii. 31.431:1888
Eph. iii. 19.431:1889
Col. iii. 14.431:1890
Matt. 16:15, 16, 19.431:1892
Eph. iii. 18.432:1894
Gal. v. 24.
Next: Tractate CXIX
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