Commentaries of Origen (Cont.)
1. Jesus Comes to Capernaum. Statements of the Four Evangelists Regarding This.
“After this (Joh_2:12-25) He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and there they abode not many days. And the passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and He found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting, and He made a sort of scourge of cords, and cast them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the small money of the changers and overthrew their tables, and to those that sold the doves He said, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandize. Then His disciples remembered that it was written, that the zeal of thy house shall eat me up. The Jews therefore answered and said unto Him, What sign showest Thou unto us, that Thou doest such things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews therefore answered, Forty-six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But He spoke of the temple of His body. When therefore He rose from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus said. Now when He was at Jerusalem at the passover at the feast, many believed in His name, beholding His signs which He did. But Jesus Himself did not trust Himself to them, for that He knew all men, and because He had no need that any should bear witness concerning man. For He Himself knew what was in man.”
The numbers which are recorded in the book of that name54 obtained a place in Scripture in accordance with some principle which determines their proportion to each thing. We ought therefore to enquire whether the book of Moses which is called Numbers teaches us, should we be able to trace it out, in some special way, the principle with regard to this matter. This remark I make to you at the outset of my tenth book, for in many passages of Scripture I have observed the number ten to have a peculiar privilege, and you may consider carefully whether the hope is justified that this volume will bring you from God some special benefit. That this may prove to be the case, we will seek to yield ourselves as fully as we can to God, who loves to bestow His choicest gifts. The book begins at the words: “After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and there they abode not many days.” The other three Evangelists say that the Lord, after His conflict with the devil, departed into Galilee. Matthew and Luke represent that he was first at Nazara,55 and then left them and came and dwelt in Capernaum. Matthew and Mark also state a certain reason why He departed thither, namely, that He had heard that John was cast into prison. The words are as follows: Matthew says, (Mat_4:11-15, Mat_4:17) “Then the devil leaveth Him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto Him. But when He heard that John was delivered up, He departed into Galilee, and leaving Nazareth He came and dwelt at Capernaum on the seashore in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali;” and after the quotation from Isaiah: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mark has the following: (Mar_1:13, Mar_1:14, Mar_1:21) “And He was in the desert forty days and forty nights tempted by Satan, and He was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto Him. But after John was delivered up Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe in the Gospel.” Then after the narrative about Andrew and Peter and James and John, Mark writes: “And He entered into Capernaum, and straightway on the Sabbath He was teaching in the synagogue.” Luke has, (Luk_4:13-16) “And having finished the temptation the devil departed from Him for a season. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a fame went out concerning Him into all the region round about, and He taught in their synagogues being glorified of all. And He came to Nazara, where He had been brought up, and He entered as His custom was into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” Then Luke (Luk_4:21 sqq) gives what He said at Nazara, and how those in the synagogue were enraged at Him and cast Him out of the city and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their cities were built, to cast Him down headlong, and how going through the midst of them the Lord went His way; and with this he connects the statement, “And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath day.”
2. The Discrepancy Between John and the First Three Gospels at This Part of the Narrative, Literally Read, the Narratives Cannot Be Harmonized: They Must Be Interpreted Spiritually.
The truth of these matters must lie in that which is seen by the mind. If the discrepancy between the Gospels is not solved, we must give up our trust in the Gospels, as being true and written by a divine spirit, or as records worthy of credence, for both these characters are held to belong to these works. Those who accept the four Gospels, and who do not consider that their apparent discrepancy is to be solved anagogically by mystical interpretation, will have to clear up the difficulty, raised above, about the forty days of the temptation, a period for which no room can be found in any way in John’s narrative; and they will also have to tell us when it was that the Lord came to Capernaum. If it was after the six days of the period of His baptism, the sixth being that of the marriage at Cans of Galilee, then it is clear that the temptation never took place, and that He never was at Nazara, and that John was not yet delivered up. Now, after Capernaum, where He abode not many days, the passover of the Jews was at hand, and He went up to Jerusalem, where He cast the sheep and oxen out of the temple, and poured out the small change of the bankers. In Jerusalem, too, it appears that Nicodemus, the ruler and Pharisee, first came to Him by night, and heard what we may read in the Gospel. “After these things, (Joh_3:23-26) Jesus came, and His disciples, into the land of Judaea, and there He tarried with them and baptized, at the same time at which John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there were many waters there, and they came and were baptized; for John was not yet cast into prison.” On this occasion, too, there was a questioning on the part of John’s disciples with the Jews about purification, and they came to John, saying of the Saviour. “Behold, He baptizeth, and all come to Him.” They had heard words from the Baptist, the exact tenor of which it is better to take from Scripture itself. Now, if we ask when Christ was first in Capernaum, our respondents, if they follow the words of Matthew, and of the other two, will say, After the temptation, when, “leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea.” But how can they show both the statements to be true, that of Matthew and Mark, that it was because He heard that John was delivered up that He departed into Galilee, and that of John, (Joh_3:24) found there, after a number of other transactions, subsequent to His stay at Capernaum, after His going to Jerusalem, and His journey from there to Judaea, that John was not yet cast into prison, but was baptizing in Aenon near Salim? There are many other points on which the careful student of the Gospels will find that their narratives do not agree; and these we shall place before the reader, according to our power, as they occur. The student, staggered at the consideration of these things, will either renounce the attempt to find all the Gospels true, and not venturing to conclude that all our information about our Lord is untrustworthy, will choose at random one of them to be his guide; or he will accept the four, and will consider that their truth is not to be sought for in the outward and material letter.
3. What We Are to Think of the Discrepancies Between the Different Gospels.
We must, however, try to obtain some notion of the intention of the Evangelists in such matters, and we direct ourselves to this. Suppose there are several men who, by the spirit, see God, and know His words addressed to His saints, and His presence which He vouchsafes to them, appearing to them at chosen times for their advancement. There are several such men, and they are in different places, and the benefits they receive from above vary in shape and character. And let these men report, each of them separately, what he sees in spirit about God and His words, and His appearances to His saints, so that one of them speaks of God’s appearances and words and acts to one righteous man in such a place, and another about other oracles and great works of the Lord, and a third of something else than what the former two have dealt with. And let there be a fourth, doing with regard to some particular matter something of the same kind as these three. And let the four agree with each other about something the Spirit has suggested to them all, and let them also make brief reports of other matters besides that one; then their narratives will fall out something on this wise: God appeared to such a one at such a time and in such a place, and did to him thus and thus; as if He had appeared to him in such a form, and had led him by the hand to such a place, and then done to him thus and thus. The second will report that God appeared at the very time of the foresaid occurrences, in a certain town, to a person who is named, a second person, and in a place far removed from that of the former account, and he will report a different set of words spoken at the same time to this second person. And let the same be supposed to be the case with the third and with the fourth. And let them, as we said, agree, these witnesses who report true things about God, and about His benefits conferred on certain men, let them agree with each other in some of the narratives they report. He, then, who takes the writings of these men for history, or for a representation of real things by a historical image, and who supposes God to be within certain limits in space, and to be unable to present to several persons in different places several visions of Himself at the same time, or to be making several speeches at the same moment, he will deem it impossible that our four writers are all speaking truth. To him it is impossible that God, who is in certain limits in space, could at the same set time be saying one thing to one man and another to another, and that He should be doing a thing and the opposite thing as well, and, to put it bluntly, that He should be both sitting and standing, should one of the writers represent Him as standing at the time, and making a certain speech in such a place to such a man, while a second writer speaks of Him as sitting.
4. Scripture Contains Many Contradictions, and Many Statements Which Are Not Literally True, But Must Be Read Spiritually and Mystically.
In the case I have supposed where the historians desire to teach us by an image what they have seen in their mind, their meaning would be found, if the four were wise, to exhibit no disagreement; and we must understand that with the four Evangelists it is not otherwise. They made full use for their purpose of things done by Jesus in the exercise of His wonderful and extraordinary power; they use in the same way His sayings, and in some places they tack on to their writing, with language apparently implying things of sense, things made manifest to them in a purely intellectual way. I do not condemn them if they even sometimes dealt freely with things which to the eye of history happened differently, and changed them so as to subserve the mystical aims they had in view; so as to speak of a thing which happened in a certain place, as if it had happened in another, or of what took place at a certain time, as if it had taken place at another time, and to introduce into what was spoken in a certain way some changes of their own. They proposed to speak the truth where it was possible both materially and spiritually, and where this was not possible it was their intention to prefer the spiritual to the material. The spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in the material falsehood. As, for example, we might judge of the story of Jacob and Esau. Gen_27:1-46 Jacob says to Isaac, “I am Esau thy firstborn son,” and spiritually he spoke the truth, for he already partook of the rights of the first-born, which were perishing in his brother, and clothing himself with the goatskins he assumed the outward semblance of Esau, and was Esau all but the voice praising God, so that Esau might afterward find a place to receive a blessing. For if Jacob had not been blessed as Esau, neither would Esau perhaps have been able to receive a blessing of his own. And Jesus too is many things, according to the conceptions of Him, of which it is quite likely that the Evangelists took up different notions; while yet they were in agreement with each other in the different things they wrote. Statements which are verbally contrary to each other, are made about our Lord, namely, that He was descended from David and that He was not descended from David. The statement is true, “He was descended from David,” as the Apostle says, (Rom_1:3) “born of the seed of David according to the flesh,” if we apply this to the bodily part of Him; but the self-same statement is untrue if we understand His being born of the seed of David of His diviner power; for He was declared to be the Son of God with power. And for this reason too, perhaps, the sacred prophecies speak of Him now as a servant, and now as a Son. They call Him a servant on account of the form of a servant which he wore, and because He was of the seed of David, but they call Him the Son of God according to His character as first-born. Thus it is true to call Him man and to call Him not man; man, because He was capable of death; not man, on account of His being diviner than man. Marcion, I suppose, took sound words in a wrong sense, when he rejected His birth from Mary, and declared that as to His divine nature He was not born of Mary, and hence made bold to delete from the Gospel the passages which have this effect. And a like fate seems to have overtaken those who make away with His humanity and receive His deity alone; and also those opposites of these who cancel His deity and confess Him as a man to be a holy man, and the most righteous of all men. And those who hold the doctrine of Dokesis, not remembering that He humbled Himself even unto death (Phi_2:8) and became obedient even to the cross, but only imagining in Him the absence of suffering, the superiority to all such accidents, they do what they can to deprive us of the man who is more just than all men, and are left with a figure which cannot save them, for as by one man came death, so also by one man is the justification of life. We could not have received such benefit as we have from the Logos had He not assumed the man, had He remained such as He was from the beginning with God the Father, and had He not taken up man, the first man of all, the man more precious than all others, purer than all others and capable of receiving Him. But after that man we also shall be able to receive Him, to receive Him so great and of such nature as He was, if we prepare a place in proportion to Him in our soul. So much I have said of the apparent discrepancies in the Gospels, and of my desire to have them treated in the way of spiritual interpretation.
5. Paul also Makes Contradictory Statements About Himself, and Acts in Opposite Ways at Different Times.
On the same passage one may also make use of such an example as that of Paul, who at one place Rom_7:14 says that he is carnal, sold under sin, and thus was not able to judge anything, while in another place he is the spiritual man who is able to judge all things and himself to be judged by no man. Of the carnal one are the words, “Not what I would that do I practise, but what I hate that do I.” And he too who was caught up to the third heaven and heard unspeakable words (2Co_12:3, 2Co_12:4, 2Co_12:5) is a different Paul from him who says. Of such an one I will glory, but of myself I will not glory. If he becomes (1Co_9:20-22) to the Jews as a Jew that he may gain the Jews, and to those under the law as under the law that he may gain those under the law, and to them that are without law as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that he may gain those without law, and if to the weak he becomes weak that he may gain the weak, it is clear that these statements must be examined each by itself, that he becomes a Jew, and that sometimes he is under the law and at another time without law, and that sometimes he is weak. Where, for example, he says something by way of permission (1Co_7:6) and not by commandment, there we may recognize that he is weak; for who, he says, (2Co_11:29) is weak, and I am not weak? When he shaves his head and makes an offering, (Act_21:24, Act_21:26) or when he circumcises Timothy, (Act_16:3) he is a Jew; but when he says to the Athenians, (Act_17:23) “I found an altar with the inscription, To the unknown God. That, then, which ye worship not knowing it, that declare I unto you,” and, “As also some of your own poets have said, For we also are His offspring,” then he becomes to those without the law as without the law, adjuring the least religious of men to espouse religion, and turning to his own purpose the saying of the poet, “From Love do we begin; his race are we.”56 And instances might perhaps be found where, to men not Jews and yet under the law, he is under the law.
6. Different Accounts of the Call of Peter, and of the Imprisonment of the Baptist. The Meaning of “Capernaum.”
These examples may be serviceable to illustrate statements not only about the Saviour, but about the disciples too, for here also there is some discrepancy of statement. For there is a difference in thought perhaps between Simon who is found by his own brother Andrew, and who is addressed “Thou shalt be called Cephas,” (Joh_1:41) and him who is seen by Jesus when walking by the sea of Galilee, (Mat_4:18; Mar_1:16) along with his brother, and addressed conjointly with that brother, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” There was some fitness in the fact that the writer who goes more to the root of the matter and tells of the Word becoming flesh, and hence does not record the human generation of the Word who was in the beginning with God, should not tell us of Simon’s being found at the seashore and called away from there, but of his being found by his brother who had been staying with Jesus at the tenth hour, and of his receiving the name Cephas in connection with his being thus found out. If he was seen by Jesus when walking by the sea of Galilee, it would scarcely be on a later occasion that he was addressed, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My church.” With John again the Pharisees know Jesus to be baptizing with His disciples, (Joh_4:1, Joh_4:2) adding this to His other great activities; but the Jesus of the three does not baptize at all. John the Baptist, too, with the Evangelist of the same name, goes on a long time without being cast into prison. With Matthew, on the contrary, he is put in prison almost at the time of the temptation of Jesus, and this is the occasion of Jesus retiring to Galilee, to avoid being put in prison. But in John there is nothing at alI about John’s being put in prison. Who is so wise and so able as to learn all the things that are recorded about Jesus in the four Evangelists, and both to understand each incident by itself, and have a connected view of all His sojournings and words and acts at each place? As for the passage presently before us, it gives in the order of events that on the sixth day the Saviour, after the business of the marriage at Cana of Galilee, went down with His mother and His brothers and His disciples to Capernaum, which means “field of consolation.” For after the feasting and the wine it was fitting that the Saviour should come to the field of consolation with His mother and His disciples, to console those whom He was training for disciples and the soul which had conceived Him by the Holy Ghost, with the fruits which were to stand in that full field.
7. Why His Brothers Are Not Called to the Wedding; and Why He Abides at Capernaum Not Many Days.
But we must ask why His brothers are not called to the wedding: they were not there, for it is not said they were; but they go down to Capernaum with Him and His mother and His disciples. We must also examine why on this occasion they do not “go in to” Capernaum, nor “go up to,” but “go down to” it. Consider if we must not understand by His brothers here the powers which went down along with Him, not called to the wedding according to the explanations given above, since it is in lower and humbler places than those who are called disciples of Christ, and in another way, that these brothers receive assistance. For if His mother is called, then there are some bearing fruit, and even to these the Lord goes down with the servants and disciples of the Word, to help such persons, His mother also being with Him. Those indeed who are called Capernaum appear not to be able to allow Jesus and those who went down with Him to make a longer stay with them: hence they remain with them not many days. For the lower field of consolation does not admit the illumination of many doctrines, but is only capable of a few. To get a clear view of the difference between those who receive Jesus for longer and for shorter time, we may compare with this, “They abode there not many days,” the words recorded in Matthew as spoken by Christ when risen from the dead to His disciples who were being sent out to teach all nations, (Mat_18:20) “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” To those who are to know all that human nature can know while it still is here, is said with emphasis, “I am with you;” and as the rise of each new day upon the field of contemplation brings more days before the eyes of the blessed, therefore He says, “All the days till the end of the world.” As for those in Capernaum, on the contrary, to whom they go down as to the more needy, not only Jesus, but also His mother and His brothers and His disciples “abode there not many days.”
8. How Christ Abides with Believers to the End of the Age, and Whether He Abides with Them After That Consummation.
Some may very likely and not unreasonably ask, whether, when all the days of this age are over, there will no longer be any one to say, “Lo, I am with you,” with those, namely, who received Him till the fulfilment of the age, for the “until” seems to indicate a certain limit of time. To this we must say that the phrase, “I am with you,” is not the same as “I am in you.” We might say more properly that the Saviour was not in His disciples but with them, so long as they had not arrived in their minds at the consummation of the age. But when they see to be at hand, as far as their effort is concerned, the consummation of the world which is crucified to them, then Jesus will be no longer with them, but in them, and they will say, “It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me,” (Gal_2:20) and “If ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me.” (2Co_13:3) In saying this we are keeping for our part also to the ordinary interpretation which makes the “always” the time down to the consummation of the age, and are not asking more than is attainable to human nature as it is here. That interpretation may be adhered to and justice yet be done to the “I.” He who is with His disciples who are sent out to teach all the nations, until the consummation, may be He who emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, and yet afterwards may be another in point of state; afterwards He may be such as He was before He emptied Himself, until all His enemies are made by His Father the footstool of His feet; and after this, when the Son has delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, it may be the Father who says to them, “Behold, I am with you.” But whether it is “all the days” up to that time, or simply “all the days,” or not “all days” but “every day,” any one may consider that likes. Our plan does not allow us at present to digress so far.
9. Heracleon Says That Jesus Is Not Stated to Have Done Anything at Capernaum. But in the Other Gospels He Does Many Things There.
But Heracleon, dealing with the words, “After this He went down to Capernaum,” declares that they indicate the introduction of another transaction, and that the word “went down” is not without significance. “Capernaum,” he says, “means these farthest-out parts of the world, these districts of matter, into which He descended, and because the place was not suitable, he says, He is not reported either to have done anything or said anything in it.” Now if the Lord had not been reported in the other Gospels either as having done or said anything at Capernaum, we might perhaps have hesitated whether this view ought or ought not to be received. But that is far from being the case. Matthew says our Lord left Nazareth and came and dwelt at Capernaum on the seaside, and that from that time He began to preach, saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And Mark, starting in his narrative (Mar_1:14-27) from the temptation by the devil, relates that after John was cast into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and after the call of the four fishermen to the Apostleship, “they enter into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath day He taught in the synagogue, and they were astonished at His doctrine.” And Mark records an action of Jesus also which took place at Capernaum, for he goes on to say, “In their synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, saying, Ah! what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us? We know Thee who Thou art, the Son of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace and come out of him; and the unclean spirit, tearing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed.” And at Capernaum Simon’s mother-in-law is cured of her fever. And Mark adds that when evening was come all those were cured who were sick and who were possessed with demons. Luke’s report is very like Mark’s about Capernaum. (Mar_4:31-41) He says, “And He came to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath day, and they were astonished at His teachings, for His word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man having a spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, Ah! what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? Hast Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the holy one of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace and come out of him. Then the demon having thrown him down in the midst, went out of him, doing him no harm.” And then Luke reports how the Lord rose up from the synagogue and went into the house of Simon, and rebuked the fever in his mother-in-law, and cured her of her disease; and after this cure, “when the sun was setting,” he says, “all, as many as had persons sick with divers diseases, brought them to Him, and He laid his hands on each one of them and cured them. And demons also went out from many, crying and saying, Thou art the Son of God, and He rebuked them and suffered them not to speak because they knew that He was the Christ.” We have presented all these statements as to the Saviour’s sayings and doings at Capernaum in order to refute Heracleon’s interpretation of our passage, “Hence He is not said to have done or to have spoken anything there.” He must either give two meanings to Capernaum, and show us his reasons for them, or if he cannot do this he must give up saying that the Saviour visited any place to no purpose. We, for our part, should we come to passages where even a comparison of the other Gospels fails to show that Jesus’ visit to this place or that was not accompanied by any results, will seek with the divine assistance to make it clear that His coming was not in vain.
10. Significance of Capernaum.
Matthew for his part adds, (Mat_8:5 sqq) that when the Lord had entered into Capernaum the centurion came to him, saying, “My boy is lying in my house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented,” and after telling the Lord some more about him, received the reply, “Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it unto thee.” And Matthew then gives us the story of Peter’s mother-in-law, in close agreement with the other two. I conceive it to be a creditable piece of work and becoming to one who is anxious to hear about Christ, to collect from the four Gospels all that is related about Capernaum, and the discourses spoken, and the works done there, and how many visits the Lord paid to the place, and how, at one time, He is said to have gone down to it, and at another to have entered into it, and where He came from when He did so. If we compare all these points together, we shall not go astray in the meaning we ascribe to Capernaum. On the one hand, the sick are healed, and other works of power are done there, and on the other, the preaching, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, begins there, and this appears to be a sign, as we showed when entering on this subject, of some more needy place of consolation, made so perhaps by Jesus, who comforted men by what He taught and by what He did there, in that place of consolation. For we know that the names of places agree in their meaning with the things connected with Jesus; as Gergesa, where the citizens of these parts besought Him to depart out of their coasts, means, “The dwelling of the casters-out.” And this, also, we have noticed about Capernaum, that not only did the preaching, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” begin there, but that according to the three Evangelists Jesus performed there His first miracles. None of the three, however, added to the first wonders which he records as done in Capernaum, that note attached by John the disciple to the first work of Jesus, “This beginning of His signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.” For that which was done in Capernaum was not the beginning of the signs, since the leading sign of the Son of God was good cheer, and in the light of human experience it is also the most representative of Him. For the Word of God does not show forth His own beauty so much in healing the sick, as in His tendering the temperate draught to make glad those who are in good health and are able to join in the banquet.
11. Why the Passover Is Said to Be That of the “Jews.” Its Institution: and the Distinction Between “Feasts of the Lord” and Feasts Not So Spoken of.
“And the passover of the Jews was at hand.” (Joh_2:13) Inquiring into the accuracy of the most wise John on this passage, I put myself the question, What is indicated by the addition “of the Jews”? Of what other nation was the passover a festival? Would it not have been enough to say, “And the passover was at hand”? It may, however, be the case that the human passover is one thing when kept by men not as Scripture intended, and that the divine passover is another thing, the true passover, observed in spirit and truth by those who worship God in spirit and in truth; and then the distinction indicated in the text may be that between the divine passover and that said to be of the Jews. We should attend to the passover law and observe what the Lord says of it when it is first mentioned in Scripture. (Exo_12:1-3) “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month is to you the beginning of months, it is the first for you among the months of the year. Speak thou to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, On the tenth of this mouth shall every man take a sheep, according to the houses of your families;” then after some directions in which the word passover does not occur again, he adds, (Exo_12:11) “Thus shall ye eat it, your loins girt and your shoes on your feet, and your staves in your hands, and ye shall eat it with haste. It is the passover of the Lord.” He does not say, “It is your passover.” And a little further on He names the festival again in the same way, (Exo_12:26) “And it shall come to pass, when your sons say to you, What is this service? And ye shall say to them, It is the sacrifice, the passover of the Lord, how He guarded the houses of the children of Israel.” And again, a little further on, “And the Lord spake to Moses and Aaron, saying, This is the law of the passover. No alien shall eat of it.” And again in a little, (Exo_12:43-48) “But if a proselyte come to you, and keep the passover of the Lord, every male of him shall be circumcised.” Observe that in the law we never find it said, “Your passover;” but in all the passages quoted the phrase occurs once without any adjunct, while we have three times “The passover of the Lord.” To make sure that there is such a distinction between the passover of the Lord and the passover of the Jews, we may consider the way in which Isaiah speaks of the matter: (Isa_1:13) “Your new moons and your Sabbaths and your great day I cannot bear; your fast and your holiday and your new moons and your feasts my soul hateth.” The Lord does not call them His own, these observances of sinners they are hated of His soul, if such there be; neither the new moons, nor the Sabbaths, nor the great day, nor the fast, nor the festivals. And in the legislation about the Sabbath in Exodus, we read, (Exo_16:23) “And Moses said unto them, This is the word which the Lord spake, The Sabbath is a holy rest unto the Lord.” And a little further on, “And Moses said, Eat ye; for to-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord.” And in Numbers, (Num_28:1) before the sacrifices which are offered at each festival, as if all the festivals came under the law of the continuous and daily sacrifice, we find it written, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, Announce to the children of Israel, and thus shall thou say unto them, My gifts, My offerings, My fruits for a smell of sweet savour, ye shall observe to offer unto Me at My festivals. And thou shall say unto them, These are the offerings which ye shall offer unto the Lord.” The festival set forth in Scripture He calls His own, not those of the people receiving the law, He speaks of His gifts, His offerings. A similar way of speaking is that in Exodus with regard to the people; it is said by God to be His own people, when it does not sin; but in the section about the calf He abjures it and calls it the people of Moses. (Exo_18:21-23) On the one hand, “Thou shalt say to Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But if thou wilt not let My people go, behold, I will send against thee and against thy servants, and against thy people and against thy houses, the dog-fly; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of the dog-fly, and on the land on which they are, against it will I send them. And I will glorify on that day the land of Gesem, on which My people are; on it there shall be no dog-fly, that thou mayest know that I am the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. And I will make a distinction between My people and thy people.” To Moses, on the other hand, He says, (Exo_32:7) “Go, descend quickly, for thy people hath transgressed, which thou leddest out of the land of Egypt.” As, then, the people when it does not sin is the people of God, but when it sins is no longer spoken of as His, thus, also, the feasts when they are hated by the Lord’s soul are said to be feasts of sinners, but when the law is given regarding them, they are called feasts of the Lord. Now of these feasts passover is one, which in the passage before us is said to be that not of the Lord, but of the Jews. In another passage, too, (Lev_23:2) we find it said, “These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall call chosen, holy.” From the mouth of the Lord Himself, then, we see that there is no gainsaying our statement on this point. Some one, no doubt, will ask about the words of the Apostle, where he writes to the Corinthians: (1Co_5:7) “For our Passover also was sacrified for us, namely, Christ;” he does not say, “The Passover of the Lord was sacrificed, even Christ.” To this we must say, either that the Apostle simply calls the passover our passover because it was sacrificed for us, or that every sacrifice which is really the Lord’s, and the passover is one of these, awaits its consummation not in this age nor upon earth, but in the coming age and in heaven when the kingdom of heaven appears. As for those feasts, one of the twelve prophets says, (Hos_9:5) “What will ye do in the days of assembly, and in the days of the feast of the Lord?” But Paul says in the Epistle to the Hebrews: (Heb_12:22, Heb_12:23) “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to ten thousands of angels, the assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven.” And in the Epistle to the Colossians: (Col_2:16) “Let no one judge you in meat and in drink, or in respect of a feast-day or a new moon, or a sabbath-day; which are a shadow of the things to come.”
12. Of the Heavenly Festivals, of Which Those on Earth Are Typical.
Now in what manner, in those heavenly things of which the shadow was present to the Jews on earth, those will celebrate festivals who have first been trained by tutors and governors under the true law, until the fulness of the thee should come, namely, above, when we shall be able to receive into ourselves the perfect measure of the Son of God, this it is the work of that wisdom to make plain which has been hidden in a mystery; and it also may show to our thought how the laws about meats are symbols of those things which will there nourish and strengthen our soul. But it is vain to think that one desiring to work out in his fancy the great sea of such ideas, even if he wished to show how local worship is still a pattern and shadow of heavenly things, and that the sacrifices and the sheep are full of meaning, that he should advance further than the Apostle, who seeks indeed to lift our minds above earthly views of the law, but who does not show us to any extent how these things are to be. Even if we look at the festivals, of which passover is one, from the point of view of the age to come, we have still to ask how it is that our passover is now sacrificed, namely, Christ, and not only so, but is to be sacrificed hereafter.
13. Spiritual Meaning of the Passover.
A few points may be added in connection with the doctrines now under consideration, though it would require a special discussion in many volumes to treat of all the mystical statements about the law, and specially of those connected with the festivals, and more particularly still with the passover. The passover of the Jews consists of a sheep which is sacrificed, each taking a sheep according to his father’s house; and the passover is accompanied by the slaughter of thousands of rams and goats, in proportion to the number of the houses of the people. But our Passover is sacrificed for us, namely, Christ. Another feature of the Jewish festival is unleavened bread; all leaven is made to disappear out of their houses; but “we keep the feast (1Co_5:8) not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Whether there be any passover and any feast of leaven beyond the two we have mentioned, is a point we must examine more carefully, since these serve for a pattern and a shadow of the heavenly ones we spoke of, and not only such things as food and drink and new moons and sabbaths, but the festivals also, are a shadow of the things to come. In the first place, when the Apostle says, “Our passover is sacrificed, Christ,” one may feel with regard to this such doubts as these. If the sheep with the Jews is a type of the sacrifice of Christ, then one should have been offered and not a multitude, as Christ is one; or if many sheep were offered it is to follow out the type, as if many Christs were sacrificed. But not to dwell on this, we may ask how the sheep, which was the victim, contains an image of Christ, when the sheep was sacrificed by men who were observing the law, but Christ was put to death by transgressors of the law, and what application can be found in Christ of the direction, (Exo_12:8) “They shall eat the flesh this night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread on bitter herbs shall they eat,” and “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden with water, but roast with fire; the head with the feet and the entrails; ye shall not set any of it apart till the morning, and a bone thereof ye shall not break. But that which is left thereof till the morning ye shall burn.” The sentence, “A bone of it ye shall not break,” John appears to have made use of in his Gospel, as applying to the transactions connected with Christ, and connecting with them the occasion spoken of in the law when those eating the sheep are bidden not to break a bone of it. He writes as follows: (Joh_19:32) “The soldiers therefore came and brake the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they brake not His legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and straightway there came out blood and water. And he that hath seen hath borne witness and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he sayeth truth that ye also may believe. And these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “A bone of Him ye shall not break.” There are a myriad other points besides this in the Apostle’s language which would call for inquiry, both about the passover and the unleavened bread, but they would have to be dealt with, as we said above, in a special work of great length. At present we can only give an epitome of them as they bear on the text presently before us, and aim at a short solution of the principal problem. We call to mind the words, “This is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” for it is said of the passover, (Exo_12:5) “Ye shall take it of the lambs or of the goats.” The Evangelist here agrees with Paul, and both are involved in the difficulties we spoke of above. But on the other hand we have to say that if the Word became flesh, and the Lord says, (Joh_6:53) “Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him,” — then the flesh thus spoken of is that of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world; and this is the blood, some of which was to be put on the two side posts of the door, and on the lintels in the houses, in which we eat the passover. Of the flesh of this Lamb it is necessary that we should eat in the thee of the world, which is night, and the flesh is to be roast with fire, and eaten with unleavened bread; for the Word of God is not flesh and flesh only. He says, in fact, Himself, (Joh_6:48-50) “I am the bread of life,” and “This is the bread of life which came down from heaven, that a man should eat of it, and not die. I am the bread of life that came down from heaven; if a man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” We must not overlook, however, that by a loose use of words, any food is called bread, as we read in Moses in Deuteronomy, (Deu_9:9) “Forty days He ate no bread and drank no water,” instead of, He took no food, either wet or dry. I am led to this observation by John’s saying, “And the bread which I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world.” Again, we eat the flesh of the Lamb, with bitter herbs, and unleavened bread, when we repent of our sins and grieve with the sorrow which is according to God, a repentance which operates for our salvation, and is not to be repented of; or when, on account of our trials, we turn to the speculations which are found to be those of truth, and are nourished by them. We are not, however, to eat the flesh of the Lamb raw, as those do who are slaves of the letter, like irrational animals, and those who are enraged at men truly reasonable, because they desire to understand spiritual things; truly, they share the nature of savage beasts. But we must strive to convert the rawness of Scripture into well-cooked food, not letting what is written grow flabby and wet and thin, as those do who have itching ears, (2Ti_4:3, 2Ti_4:4) and turn away their ears from the truth; their methods tend to a loose and flabby conduct of life. But let us be of a fervent spirit and keep hold of the fiery words given to us of God, such as Jeremiah received from Him who spoke to him, (Jer_5:14) “Behold, I have made My words in thy mouth like fire,” and let us see that the flesh of the Lamb be well cooked, so that those who partake of it may say, as Christ speaks in us, “Our heart burned by the way, as He opened to us the Scriptures.” (Luk_24:32) Further, if it is our duty to enquire into such a point as the roasting of the flesh of the Lamb with fire, we must not forget the parallel of what Jeremiah suffered on account of the words of God, as he says: (Jer_20:9) “And it was as a glowing fire, burning in my bones, and I am without any strength, and I cannot bear it.” But, in this eating, we must begin at the head, that is to say, at the principal and the most essential doctrines about heavenly things, and we must end at the feet, the last branches of learning which enquire as to the final nature in things, or about more material things, or about things under the earth, or about wicked spirits and unclean demons. For it may be that the account of these things is not obvious, like themselves, but is laid away among the mysteries of Scripture, so that it may be called, tropically, the feet of the Lamb. Nor must we fail to deal with the entrails, which are within and hidden from us; we must approach the whole of Scripture as one body, we must not lacerate nor break through the strong and well-knit connections which exist in the harmony of its whole composition, as those do who lacerate, so far as they can, the unity of the Spirit that is in all the Scriptures. But this aforesaid prophecy of the Lamb is to be our nourishment only during the night of this dark life of ours; what comes after this life is, as it were, the dawn of day, and why should we leave over till then the food which can only be useful to us now? But when the night is passed, and the day which succeeds it is at hand, then we shall have bread to eat which has nothing to do with the leavened bread of the older and lower state of things, but is unleavened, and that will serve our turn until that which comes after the unleavened bread is given us, the manna, which is food for angels rather than men. Every one of us, then, may sacrifice his lamb in every house of our fathers; and while one breaks the law, not sacrificing the lamb at all, another may keep the commandment entirely, offering his sacrifice, and cooking it aright, and not breaking a bone of it. This, then, in brief, is the interpretation of the Passover sacrificed for us, which is Christ, in accordance with the view taken of it by the Apostles, and with the Lamb in the Gospel. For we ought not to suppose that historical things are types of historical things, and material things of material, but that material things are typical of spiritual things, and historical things of intellectual. It is not necessary that our discourse should now ascend to that third passover which is to be celebrated with myriads of angels in the most perfect and most blessed exodus; we have already spoken of these things to a greater extent than the passage demands.
54 The text is doubtful here, but the above seems to be the meaning.
55 Nazara is with Origen a neuter plural
56 Aratus phenom. 5