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Bible Commentaries

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide

Luke 8

 

 

Verses 1-56

CHAPTER8

Ver1.—And the twelve (apostles) were with Him, i.e. they accompanied Jesus as He went through the cities and villages preaching.

Ver2.—And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils. These women followed Christ (1.) out of gratitude, because He had healed their diseases, and cast out the devils which possessed them. (2.) For safety, lest if they were away from their physician, their former ills might again overtake them. (3.) From pious motives, that from His companionship and preaching they might advance in holiness.

Mary. In Hebrew, Mary signifies a "bitter sea" of repentance. Bede.

Called Magdalene. As we have before explained, from the castle or fort near Bethsaida and Capernaum. S. Augustine infers that she was a married woman (Hom33), and therefore calls her not a harlot but an adulteress. But according to S. Jerome, the author of the commentary on S. Mark calls her a widow, which is much the same thing; so also Jansenius, Luke and others. That she was an inhabitant of Juda, and like Lazarus and Martha lived at Bethany, is clear from S. John xii1. Adricomius, in his description of the Holy Land, tells us that the Magdalene"s home was situated on the shore of the sea of Galilee, and towards the north-east looks out on an extensive plain, and that it was called Magdala from the battlements and towers, wherewith it was fortified. Hence Jerome asserts that she was rightly called Magdalene, that is to say, "turreted" because of her zeal and love. Josephus makes mention of this castle, and tells us that Agrippa fruitlessly sent an expedition against it.

In the Hebrew then Magdalene signifies (1.) turreted, or tower-bearing, from the root ξβψμ migdol, a tower; for she was tall of stature, and of a yet loftier mind. "Thy neck is like the tower of David," Son4:4. (2.)Or "magnificent" (Origen), or "magnified," according to Pagninus, because, says Origen, she followed Jesus, ministered unto Him, and beheld the mystery of His Passion. For the root φψμ gadal, means, "to be great and magnificent," and the Magdalene was greatly exalted by Christ. (3.) Pagninus says that Magdalene means, "remarkable for the standard," "bearing, or raising the standard," from the root ψφμ deghol, which, when the letters ghimel and daleth are transposed, signifies a standard. For the Magdalene raised the standard of penitence and love, and of the contemplative life. Like as we read, "His banner over me was love," Son2:4. (4). Or otherwise, as the same writer remarks, the name means, "brought up, nourished," i.e. led by the teaching of Christ to a holy and a virtuous life. For the Hebrew αψμ gadal means the same thing as to nourish and bring up.

Out of whom went seven devils, i.e. seven capital sins, pride, avarice, gluttony, luxury, anger, envy, and careless living. Bede, Theophylact and S. Gregory. For in a literal sense we are to understand that she had been possessed by devils or evil spirits, as I have before said, and that they had gone out of her, or (S. Mark 16:9) been cast out. So teach S. Ambrose, Euthymius, Jansenius, and others.

We may conclude, therefore, that the Magdalene, because of her wickedness and sins, had been possessed by seven devils, and that with other demoniacs she had been made whole by Christ; that on her repentance she had obtained pardon and forgiveness, and, no longer under the power of Satan, but filled with the spirit of God, she devoted her whole after life to the service of Christ. John of Rochester and others.

Seven devils, either seven in actual number, or "seven" in the sense of many, or all; for, as I have often pointed out, "seven" is the sign of multitude or totality.

Ver3.—And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod"s steward (manager or treasurer, according to the Arabic version) and Susanna and many others which ministered unto Him of their substance. For they were rich, and grateful to their deliverer, and therefore sought to further His preaching, and to spread the faith.

So SS. Plautilla, Priscilla, and many other rich and noble matrons ministered unto SS. Peter, Paul, Clement, and other Roman Pontiffs, and other orders of the clergy.

And Susanna, an illustrious woman who, healed by Christ, had become His disciple. Her name in the Hebrew signifies "a lily." On, account of the sweet radiance of a heavenly life (Interlinear Gloss), and the golden fervour of her inward affection. Bede.

Ver15.—Which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it. The Council of Basle observes that for the right hearing of the word of God there is required,

1. A place fitted to receive it, i.e. an honest and good heart.

2. A proper disposition, to "keep" the word when heard; and

3. That best return, fruit brought forth with patience.

A heart is honest and good, says Lyranus, because of the faith which illumines it, and good (optimum) in a higher sense because of grace working in it; or, as others hold, it is "bonum" because disciplined and exercised in virtue, and "optimum" because of inward peace and consolation. Again, it is "bonum" because purified from sin, and "optimum" because conformed to the will of God (Albertus Magnus); or "bonum" in discerning the truth, and "optimum" in its desire of that which is right (Bonaventura); or, according to S. Augustine on Ps. vii., "bonum" on account of the love it bears its neighbour and itself, "optimum" on account of its exceeding love for God.

Hence we may take the Greek, ךבכח̃ ךבב̉דבטח̃, to mean the same as the Vulgate "bono et optimo," for the copula ךב, or "et," signifies gradation and increase. They, therefore, who keep the word of God in an honest and good heart bring forth fruit in proportion: good fruit if the heart is good, better if the heart is better, and the best fruit if the heart is perfect, i.e. thirty fold, sixty fold, or one hundred fold. S. Matt. xiii8. And it does not follow of necessity, as Toletus holds, that these words apply to different persons, for the heart of a believer may grow in grace, until at last it is "optimum," perfect in sight of God.

With patience, ו̀םנןלןםח̃, i.e. in the endurance of labour, disappointment, and sorrow in the plowing, seeding, and harrowing of the soul, and in the long expectation of harvest.

Ver26.—And they arrived at (sailed over to) the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.

Gadarenes. Gergesenes (S. Matt.), or as it is written in some MSS., Gerasenes. Some think that one and the same place is here signified, but Adricomius shows that Gadara, and Gerasa or Gergesa were two distinct cities, but that the surrounding country was named indifferently after either.

The Vulgate translates "the country of the Gerasenes," because this was the best known name.

Ver27.—And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.

"A man." S. Matt. says there were two. But as this one was the fiercer, and possessed by a legion, S. Luke and S. Mark mention him alone.

But in the tombs1. The Jews, as I have before said, had their burial places without their cities. Their tombs were large and lofty chambers as it were, so as to afford burial to many, and to be easy of access to the friends and relatives of the departed. This is clear from what we read of the sepulture of Christ, of Abraham, Sarah, and others.

This demoniac then was driven by the devils which possessed him to dwell among the tombs. For these reasons:

1. In order to excite him to greater ferocity, and that he might be the cause of greater fear to the passers-by.

Probably he was like what the French fable to be a "loup-garou," i.e. a man who after the manner of a wolf sallies forth by night and preys upon men and animals, while by day he hides himself in tombs and by hollows of the rocks. "So that no man might pass by that way" (S. Matthew 8:28), because passers-by were attacked and wounded by him. The evil spirits were mostly wont to attack those of a melancholy disposition of mind, as the more easily driven into the madness of despair.

2. Because unclean spirits love to dwell in unclean places. Hence witches hold their sabbaths underneath the gallows.

3. Because the devils rejoice at the death of men, and triumph over the souls of them who are condemned to hell.

4. S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Theophylact add that he dwelt amongst the tombs, to persuade men that the souls of the dead are changed into devils, who abide in the sepulchres wherein their bodies are buried. Hence demoniacs from time to time have cried out, I am the soul of Peter, or of Paul, or of John.

Ver28.—When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him. S. Mark (chap. v6), adds, "And when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him," i.e. bent the knee before Him. Because he felt the power of Christ"s presence, and was therefore compelled to draw nigh and worship Him, for fear lest, if he acknowledged not the Lord, he might receive greater punishment; and again, Christ caused him to act thus in order that an opportunity might be afforded for his cure.

Son of God most high. It would seem that the devil, who in the temptation had not recognised Christ, now after so many miracles acknowledged Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God; yet, blinded by pride and hatred, he hesitated to believe that the Son of God had stooped to take upon Him our flesh, and thought it impossible that by His death upon the Cross the whole human race could be redeemed, because, as Aquinas remarks, in many ways God had hindered him from recognising, the truth. See S. Mark 4:12.

Torment me not. Do not cast me out and bind me for ever in bell. See S. Matthew 8:31.

Ver29.—For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. From this and similar passages it is clear that the devils are permitted by God to dwell on earth and tempt mankind. Hence it is the custom of the Church to bury the bodies of the faithful in consecrated ground in order that they may rest therein free from the assaults of evil spirits, and may profit by the prayers of the living.

Ver30.—And Jesus asked him, i.e. one of the devils, saying, What is thy name? For Christ willed that the evil spirit should declare his name, that from it the number of the devils, and thence the mightiness of the power which expelled them, might be known.

And he said, Legion. A legion was composed of6000 men, and S. Ambrose thinks that this was the exact number of the devils; others, following the Scripture, take the word generally as meaning "many," "because many devils were entered into him."

S. Gregory of Nyssa adds, "The devils, imitating the angelic host call themselves Legion; nay more, they would liken themselves to God Himself, who is called the Lord God of Sabaoth, i.e. the Lord of Hosts. For Satan is the counterfeit and mockery of God."

Learn then how great must be the number and the malignity of the devils, that so many should possess one man. So we read in the life of S. Dominic, that very many devils were cast out of a man by his prayers and entreaties.

Therefore, since we are surrounded on all sides by so many spiritual foes, we must give ourselves continually to watching and prayer, in order to obtain the victory over them, as Antony, who was wont to say that all temptations could be overcome by the Cross of Christ, by calling on Him, and by praying in the spirit.

Wherefore if any one determines to serve God perfectly, 1et him be well assured that he has arrayed against him, not one legion of devils only, but many, even Satan himself, and all the dwellers in hell. Hence the Apostle ( Ephesians 6:12), "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Following the example of Christ, S. Hilarion is said to have healed a demoniac possessed by Legion. It is said that after he prayed to the Lord that He would release the afflicted man from his misery, there were heard various voices proceeding from the mouth of the demoniac, and as it were the clamour of much people. And straightway the demoniac was healed, and presented himself not long after with his wife and children at the monastery, bearing gifts in gratitude for his cure.

Ver31.—And they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep. For although the devils, whilst they go to and fro on earth, are consumed by the fires of hell, yet it is some gratification, to them that they are not shut up in prison, but are permitted to tempt men to sin, and make them sharers in their condemnation. For they hate God and envy men, because men are heirs of that kingdom from which they by pride fell. Emmanuel Sa very appropriately remarks, "God has appointed a punishment suited to each sin. Hell for the lusts of the flesh; gnashing of teeth for ribald laughter; thirst for self-indulgence and gluttony; the worm for an evilly disposed heart; darkness for ignorance and self deceit; the deep for pride, and therefore for the devil and his angels."

Ver32.—And there was there an herd of many swine (about two thousand, S. Mark 5:2) feeding on the mountain (nigh unto the mountain, S. Mark, ibid.). But for what purpose were these swine, inasmuch as they were forbidden to the Jews by the law of Moses? Gadara, although a city of Judæa or rather of Galilee, had, according to Josephus, been assigned by Cæsar for a dwelling-place to the Syrians and Gentiles; who were not prohibited from keeping swine. And again, the Jews might have been feeding the swine, not for their own eating, but for other purposes: to sell them to the Gentiles for the use of the Roman soldiery, or in order to provide lard for the greasing of their chariot wheels.

And they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. The devils made this request:

1. In order that, inasmuch as they were unable to injure men directly, they might injure them indirectly through their property or possessions.

2. That, as actually came to pass, they might stir up the ill-will of the inhabitants against Christ.

3. Because unclean spirits delight in unclean things. Hence the devil is said to be worshipped by the witches in form of a he-goat. But from this entreaty S. Antony, according to S. Athanasius, infers the powerlessness of the devils. "For how," he says, "can they who are feign to seek permission to enter into the herd of swine, have any real power over man, made in the image of God. Great, my brethren, are our means of defence against the hosts of Satan: an honest and pure life, and unfeigned faith towards God. Believe me, Satan fears the prayers and fasting, the meekness and self-denial, the humility and contempt of vainglory, the compassion and self-command, and above all the heart purified by the love of Christ, of those who are living godly lives. For the old serpent, the worst enemy of man, knows that he lies under the feet of the righteous according to the word of the Lord which saith, "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy."" S. Luke 10:19.

And He suffered them. Christ granted the request of the devils: 1. To show that He had power over the evil spirits, and that they without His leave could do no evil to swine, much less to men. Hence, as we have seen, S. Antony says that they are not to be feared2. To demonstrate the number, strength and malevolence of the devils, and to make manifest by their expulsion the greatness of His power and glory. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius3. To refute the error of the Sadducces, who say that there is "neither angel nor spirit," Acts xxiii8. Hilary. Rupert adds, That the Gadarenes were Jews, who kept swine contrary to the laws, and that the destruction of the herd was a punishment for their disobedience; but this interpretation I have shown to be wrong.

Mystically. Christ did this to show men, who, after the manner of swine wallow in fleshly lusts and pleasures, that they in like manner are rushing into the abyss of hell, and also to teach us that we must account the loss of our earthly possessions as of small account compared with the destruction of the soul. For He permitted the devils to enter into the herd of swine in order to free the demoniac from their power; and to show how impure were the minds of the Gadarenes, and therefore how fitted they were to be possessed by devils; and yet further to intimate that those who live after the manner of swine fall an easy prey to the power of Satan.

Ver33.—The herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake (the lake of Genesareth or sea of Galilee) and were choked. S. Jerome writes that the place where this happened was well known in his day. The Syriac gives this rendering, "The whole herd hurried up the mountain, and thence rushed into the sea."

Ver34.—When they that fed them saw what was done they fled (lest they also should perish. Titus), and went and told it in the city and in the country. To the owners, in order that they might demand redress from Christ, who had given the swine up to the power of the devils, and not blame those who were in charge of the herd for their loss.

Ver35.—Then they (the inhabitants of the city and country round about) went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus. They first wished to ascertain the extent of their loss. Then they "came to Jesus," to see the author of the mischief which had befallen them, and the man from whom the devils had been cast out. For their loss was so great that they were anxious to see whether there was any possibility of redress.

And found the man out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. It is very probable that the man, as soon as the devils were cast out, fell on his knees at the feet of Christ to give Him thanks, and that when bidden to sit down, in reverent humility he placed himself at Jesus" feet.

And they were afraid. Lest Christ should punish them because of their anger and murmurings against Him, and perhaps give them up to the power of the devils.

Ver37.—Then the whole multitude (the whole city, S. Matt.) of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them. They did not make their request out of humility, because they considered themselves unworthy of the presence of Christ, as S. Jerome thinks, but out of distrust and fear, lest His continuing amongst them might cause them further loss. For they knew that Jesus was a Jew by nation, a holy man, and possessed of divine power, and that they were Gentiles of an alien race. They therefore feared lest He might inflict further punishment upon them because of their different religion and their past sins. They feared as did the widow of Sarepta, when she exclaimed, "What have I to do with thee, 0 thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?"

1 Kings 17:18.

Therefore not from any ill-will, but rather from a reverential awe, they besought Jesus to depart out of their coasts. For sinners, knowing that righteousness and sin cannot exist together, fear the presence of holy men, because of the zeal with which they seek the correction of sinners and the punishment of sin.

And He went up into the ship, and returned back again, from the country of the Gadarenes to Capernaum. S. Matt. ix. i. For He would not force Himself or His ministration on those who were unwilling to receive them.

Ver38.—Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that He might be with Him. In gratitude for the mercy he had received, and in hope of further benefits.

But Jesus sent him away, saying,

Ver39.—Return to thy own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee, by means of Me, that therefore acknowledging Me to be the Messiah, and laying aside their bitter feeling because of the loss of their swine, they may believe and be saved.

And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city (in Decapolis, S. Mark 5:20) how great things Jesus had done unto him. This city was in the neighbourhood of Gadara, and near it were the tombs in which the demoniac used to dwell. It is very probable that, besides Jews, some of its inhabitants were Gentiles and unbelievers; to them, therefore, he would tell of his belief in Christ, in order to lead them to acknowledge the Son of God. S. Ambrose and S. Chrysostom.

Mystically. S. Gregory explains (Moral lib. vi. cap. xvii.), that Christ here would teach us to prefer the contemplative to the active life." For when our thoughts are once awakened to divine truths, we are unwilling to be taken up again with earthly concerns, and refuse to be burdened with our neighbours" wants and necessities. We seek the quiet of contemplation, and long for nothing but that which without labour refreshes the mind. But truth bids us return home, and show what great things have been done unto us in order that the mind may be first exercised in working, and then refreshed by contemplation.


Verses 39-56

Ver39.—They answered, &c. Because Christ seemed to imply that they had another father, they wished to learn from Him who he was. We own Abraham, and none other as our father.

Jesus saith unto them, If ye are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. It is so in the Vulgate. But some Greek MSS. read as in the English version. He does not deny their extraction, but condemns their doings. Says S. Augustine, "Your flesh may be from Abraham, but not so your life."

Ver40.—But now ye seek, &c. Abraham did not injure any one, but saved Lot, and as many as he could. But the Jews were eager to kill Christ. The Jews (Perke. Avoth. cap. v.) draw the same contrast between a disciple of Abraham and of Balaam.

Ver41.—Ye do the works of your father. He persists in saying that they were not Abraham"s children, but does not say whose children they were.

Then said they unto Him, We be not born of fornication, &c. Origen, Cyril, and Leontius think that in these words they implicitly reproached Him with His own birth. An atrocious statement, which the Pharisees studiously propagated, to detract from our Lord"s credit and authority. But it would have been atrocious blasphemy. (2.) Euthymius and Rupertus suppose it to be only an assertion of their descent from Sarah, and not from Hagar, and thus not spurious, or in a secondary rank. (3.) We are not born of spiritual fornication, i.e., idolatry. We are not Hagarenes, who were idolaters. Rupertus objects that to make out this meaning the word "but" should have been inserted. But Maldonatus maintains that such particles are often omitted, adding that fornication in the prophets means idolatry, as being spiritual fornication, drawing away the soul from its true Spouse (see Hosea 1:2). Theophylact explains it to mean, "We are not born of mixed marriages of Jews and Gentiles, which were forbidden, and counted illegitimate by the Jews." (4.) The Jews reply in a straightforward manner, Abraham is our true earthly father; and one is our Father, even God in heaven. Your charge is therefore false. You unjustly claim the God of Abraham for thyself alone, and exclude us from sonship with Him, and hand us over to another father, the devil, making us spurious, and consequently infamous.

Ver42.—Jesus said, &c. Put syllogistically, our Lord"s argument runs this, "He who loves God, loves also the Son of God. But ye do not love Me, who am the Son of God. Therefore ye love not God. Just as the Arians, who by denying Christ to be the Son of God, deny the Father also; for if He has not a Son, He cannot be called God the Father.

For I proceeded forth (ε̉ξη̃λθον) and came (ήκω), I am here. S. Augustine, S. Hilary (de Trin. vi.), consider that the twofold generation of our Lord is here set forth. I came forth by eternal generation. I am come into the world by My Incarnation. "That the Word proceeded forth from God, is His eternal procession" (says S. Augustine), but He came to us, because He was made flesh; His advent was His being made man. But Jansen, Maldonatus, and others refer both the expressions to the Incarnation, but yet as implying, and presupposing His eternal generation. "I came forth from God, and came into the world, though I had before come forth from God, and was in heaven as God" ( John 16:27).

For I came not of Myself, but He sent Me. He teaches that He was not self-originate, says S. Hilary (de Trin. vi.). Origen adds, He says this on account of some who came of themselves, and were not sent of the Father (see Jeremiah 33:21). A warning to such as Lutherans, Calvinists, and others, who have no true mission.

Ver43.—Why do ye not understand, &c. Because cleaving to your pride, avarice, hatred, and enmity against Me, ye will not hear Me and understand. "They could not hear," says S. Augustine, "because they refused to be corrected by what they heard;" but (as says the Gloss) ye are of the devil, and have elected to go on with him. S. Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. iv., de Theol.) tells us that in Scripture "I cannot" sometimes means "I will not." (See Matt. xix12.) But secondly, and more properly and forcibly, "Ye do not understand My words because ye cannot endure My teaching, and will not let My words enter your ears, so hateful am I to you, and so obstinately have you from hatred hardened your hearts against Me." Thus Emmanuel Sa.

Ver44.—Ye are of your father the devil. "Not by descent but by imitation," says S. Augustine, quoting Ezek. xvi4; and adding, "The Jews, by imitating their impieties, found for themselves parents, not of whom to be born, but with whom they would be lost, by following their evil ways."

S. Epiphanius (Her38 , 40) by the devil in this place understands Judas Iscariot, whom our Lord also calls a devil. But the author of "Questions on the Old and New Testament" (apud S. Augustine) understands Cain. But it is certain that it must be taken literally to mean Lucifer. For the Jews in persecuting Jesus followed him as their father; "not by succession in the flesh, but in sin," says Ambrose (Lib. iv. in1oc.)

Ye are of, &c. "In order to kill Me." He explains that they are of the devil, by following his suggestion. S. Chrysostom says he speaks not of "works," but of desires (or lusts), showing that both lie and they greatly delighted in murders. For the devil has an ardent desire to destroy all men, both because he grudges them the glory from which he himself fell, but also to injure God, whom he hates as his torturer, and wishes to tear away men from Him whom He created in His own image, and called and predestinated to His own eternal grace and glory.

He was a murderer, &c. For as soon as Adam was created, Lucifer, the very same day through envy destroyed both him and all his posterity, by persuading him to eat of the forbidden fruit. And in like manner does he endeavour through you, 0 Jews, to kill Me, by Whom all men are to be redeemed from death. For he ever persists in his eager desire to destroy men, as the leopard and wolf, which feed on human flesh. He urged on Cain to kill Abel, and Joseph"s brethren to destine him to death. And even now instigates all murderers to commit their murders. And much more does he thirst for the death and destruction of souls, though bodily death is here more properly meant, for this it was they plotted against Christ. Euthymius and S. Augustine (Contra Petib. ii13).

And abode not in the truth, i.e., in the integrity and perfection, the grace, righteousness, and sanctity in which he was created. True means pure and unadulterated. As Nathaniel is called "a true Israelite, in whom is no guile." Again "in truth" means in that which was his duty. In S. John, David, and Solomon "the truth" commonly means this (see John 3:21). There is a threefold truth, in heart, word, and deed. The truth of the heart is opposed to error; the truth of word is opposed to a lie, the truth of deed is when a man acts in accordance with what is practically right, and this is opposed to iniquity and sin. Now the devil did not stand in the truth because he did not persevere in what he ought to have done. He refused to be under God. He claimed to be His equal, a kind of second god, and rose up against Him through pride. Hence he fell from his state of grace, and was cast down to hell (see Isaiah 14:12). And so S. Chrysostom (Hom. liv.; S. Leo, Ser. de Quadr., and others). Hence (1.) S. Augustine (contr. Adimantum iv4), understands by the "truth," the law, meaning that the devil did not abide in the Law of God. Others by "truth" understand fidelity, or the obedience due to God as the Creator.

(2.) S. Irenus (v22 , 23) understands it to mean "veracity," as our Lord says below he is "a liar, and the father of it." Christ seems to charge the Jews with two faults, which they had learned from the devil, murder, and mendacity, and calumny.

(3.) Origen (Tom. xxiv.) understands it to mean "truth in practical matters," which Lucifer abandoned when he sinned by pride, which practically was a false step. This resulted from his not abiding in truth of act, and thus he departed from truth in heart and word, and thus by his lies deceived mankind.

Hence S. Augustine (de Civ. xi13) rightly infers that he was created in grace and righteousness, and that the Manichees were wrong in asserting that he was naturally wicked or created by an evil god. They inferred this wrongly from1John iii., "The devil sinneth from the beginning." The true meaning of this passage is explained in loco.

Because there is no truth in him. Neither in thought, word, or deed, for those three kinds of truth have a sisterly relation to each other. But here "truth" rather signifies veracity.

When he speaketh a lie, &c. When he fell from his original beauty as an angel and became a hideous demon, it was innate in him to deceive; his special and proper business was to lie, and to this he entirely devotes himself.

(2.) "Of his own," means of his own special invention. But men lie from imitating him, and by his suggestion.

(3.) "Of his own," from his own inward delight in it He delights in it, as a thief in his thefts.

For he is a liar. From his constant habit of lying, he is altogether made up of lies. And if he ever speaks truth, it is by compulsion, or else by means of truth to persuade men to what is false.

And the father of it. "His father," says Nonnus. The Cainian heretics understood the devil to mean Cain. But the Manicheans on S. Augustine"s authority (in loco) said that the devil had a father, even the evil god, and that both he and his son were liars. But I maintain that "of it" refers to the word "lie," which is understood in the term liar which occurs just before. And he is the father of a lie. (1.) Because he first invented the act of lying. (2.) Because he fashions and forms lies, as the potter moulds the clay. So S. Augustine and others. It is a Hebraism. Origen says, "The devil begot a lie. He was seduced by himself, and in this respect was worse, because others are deceived by him, whereas he is the author of his own deception." And S. Augustine, "Not every one that lies is a father of a lie, but he only who, like the devil, received it not from any other quarter."

And hence the devil is the father and author of heresies, and therefore heresiarchs have had a devil at their side who suggested their heresies, as well as arguments to uphold them. So Luther confessed of himself. Such a suggester had Arius, Eunomius, Calvin, &c. The Apostle (1Tim. iv1) speaks of heresies as "doctrines of devils" (see notes in loco).

Ver45.--- But if I speak the truth, ye believe Me not. His argument stands thus, "Whosoever believeth a lie is a son of the devil. And ye believe a lie, and are therefore sons of the devil." But "if" may mean "because," as some Greek and Latin copies read. And so it would mean, "Because I speak the truth in truly reproving your sins, and truly asserting myself to be the Messiah, and prove this by miracles, yet ye will not believe Me because ye will not give up your sins, and will not believe what I say and teach, but rather believe the devil who persuades you that I am a false prophet, and my miracles are mere sleight of hand.

Ver46.—Which of you, &c. This is to anticipate an objection of the Jews. For they might say, "We do not believe thee, because thou art a violater of our law, in healing the sick on the Sabbath-day." Produce any other charge against Me, and I will submit to your disbelieving Me. My healing on the Sabbath was not a violation, but a sanctification of the Sabbath. I leave any further charge to be decided by you who are my sworn enemies. So confident was Christ in His innocence that no one could lay anything to His charge which bore the slightest resemblance to sin. For He was Himself sinless, both on account of the Beatific Vision which He enjoyed, as the Blessed in heaven are incapable of sin for the same reason (for seeing God to be the Supreme Good, they necessarily love Him with all their strength, and hate whatever displeases Him) and likewise from the hypostatical union with the Word. For because His humanity existed in the Person of the Word, the Word kept His humanity free from all sin, and in perfect holiness. For if the humanity of Christ had sinned, the Person of the Word would have sinned; which is impossible. For virtuous or vicious actions relate to persons, and are attributed to them. Hence S. Ambrose (on Ps. xl13) brings in God the Father thus addressing Christ, "Thou wert conversant with sinners, Thou didst take on Thee the sins of all, Thou wast made sin for all, but yet no practice of sin could reach Thee. Thou didst dwell among men, as if among angels, Thou madest earth to be like heaven, that even there also Thou mightest take away sin."

If I say the truth, &c. He here shuts out another objection of the Jews. For they could have said, We believe Thee not, not for any sin which Thou hast committed, but because the things Thou sayest and teachest are not true." Christ meets the. objection by saying, "I have proved to you My doctrine by so many arguments and miracles, that no prudent person who is not blinded by hatred could question its perfect truth. If then My life is most innocent, and My doctrine most true, why do ye not believe Me?" Receive then the truth not as a bare assertion, but as demonstrated by reason.

Ver47.—He that is of God, &c. He here assigns the true reason for the unbelief of the Jews, because they were born not of God, but of the devil; that is, ye do not listen to the spirit and instinct of God, but of the devil. For the devil has blinded your hearts with covetousness, hatred, and envy of Me. And ye therefore listen not to the words of God which I, who am sent from Him, announce to you, because ye will not hear and understand them. Because then ye are not the children of God who is true, but of the devil who is a liar, ye listen to his lying suggestions, but will not give a hearing to the true words of God which are uttered by Me.

Moreover S. Augustine and S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.) understand these words of the elect and reprobate. He who is predestinated and elected hears the words of God, ye hear them not because ye are reprobate. But this is not the literal and genuine sense of the word, but merely an adapted one. For as Toletus and Maldonatus observe, many of those who at that time did not believe in Christ afterwards believed at the preaching of S. Peter and the Apostles; and on the other hand, some who then believed in Christ afterwards fell away from the faith, and became reprobates (see John 6:67).

Lastly, the Manichees inferred wrongly from the passage (as S. Augustine asserts) that some men are good by their own nature, as created by the good God, but others are naturally evil, as created by the evil principle.

Morally:—S. Gregory infers thus from this saying of Christ: "Let each one ask himself if he takes in the word of God with the ear of his heart, and he will understand whence it is. The truth bids us long for the heavenly country, to crush the desires of the flesh, to shun the glory of the world, not to covet others" goods, to be liberal with one"s own. Let each one of you consider with himself if this voice of God has prevailed in the ear of his heart, and he will acknowledge that it is from God." And just below, "There are some who willingly listen to the words of God so as to be moved by compunction even to tears, but who after their tears go back again to their sin. And these assuredly hear not the words of God, because they scorn to carry them out in deed." Hence S. Gregory infers that it is a mark of divine predestination if a man obeys the holy inspirations of God, and of reprobation if he rejects them (see Proverbs 1:24). And John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice." They who hear the voice of Christ their Shepherd are saved, they who hear not are devoured by the devil. So too Christ says plainly, "Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it" ( Luke 11:25). And S. Bernard (Serm1 , in Septuag.) tells his monks that the greatest proof of predestination is the profitable hearing of the word of God. For it was their constant food, by reading and meditation and prayer, to examine whatever proceeds from the mouth of God, and to fulfil it in their lives.

Ver48.—The Jews answered and said, &c. They used to say it, though it is written nowhere else. But why did they call Him a Samaritan? (1.) Because He associated with the Samaritans. (2.) Because He came from Galilee, which was near Samaria. (3.) Because the Samaritans were partly Jews and partly Gentiles, and Christ seemed to them to be the same as bringing in a new faith and religion; and He thus seemed to be mixing up the traditions of the elders with the Gospel. (4.) And lastly, because He seemed to be making a schism, like the Samaritans. A Samaritan was, moreover, a term of reproach.

And has a devil. (1.) Because they said He cast out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. (2.) Because He made Himself God, transferring to Himself the glory due to God, as Lucifer strove to do. So Leontius. Our Lord so understood it, and answered, "I seek not My own glory." (3.) Thou art mad, like lunatics, and those possessed with devils (see x20 , and vii20). This was an atrocious blasphemy. How wondrous, then, the patience of Christ! For He answered,

Ver49.—I have not a devil, &c. As loving truth He denies the false charge, but though all-powerful He returns not their reproach. "God, though receiving an injury, replies not with words of contumely; and thou, when insulted by thy neighbours, shouldest abstain from their evil words, lest the exercise of just reproof should be turned into weapons of anger." And Chrysostom, "When it was necessary to teach, and to inveigh against their pride, He was severe. But in bearing with those who reproached Him, He exercised great gentleness, to teach us to resent any wrongs done to God, to overlook the wrongs done to ourselves." And S. Augustine, "Let us imitate His patience, that we may attain to His powers."

Christ took no notice of the term Samaritan, because it was a reproach directed only against Himself, and not against God. He refused therefore to avenge His own wrongs, but would defend the honour of God. All knew He was a Galilean, and not a Samaritan, and by saying that He had not a devil, He refuted at the same time the charge of being a Samaritan. For the Samaritans, as schismatics, were the bond slaves of the devil. S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.) gives a mystical reason for His silence. "A Samaritan," he says, "means a guardian, and He is truly our guardian, of whom the Psalmist speaks, "Except the Lord keep the city, they watch in vain who guard it" ( Psalm 127:2); to whom moreover it is said by Isaiah, "Watchman, what of the night?" He would not therefore say, "I am not a Samaritan," lest he should deny also that He was our guardian."

I have not a devil. But ye have one. So far from detracting from the glory of God, or claiming it for Myself, as Lucifer did, I continually honour the Father and say that I derive everything from Him, that I am sent from Him, that I obey Him in all things, that I refer everything I have to Him, and direct everything to His honour and glory. But ye rather dishonour God the Father, because ye dishonour Me, and assail Me with most bitter reproaches, though I am His Son, and His ambassador in the world. So Leontius. Others explain it more generally of sin— I honour My Father by good works, ye dishonour Him by your sins. So S. Augustine.

Ver50.—I seek not, &c. It is God the Father who will most sharply punish those who seek not My glory, but in every way dishonour and discredit Me. S. Chrysostom.

It may be said, "This is contrary to what Christ says (v22), The Father judgeth man." But there Christ speaks of the public and general judgment, here He speaks of the private and daily judgment with which He avenges the wrongs done to His Son and His saints, as by the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus for the death of Christ; as He here seems to hint. So Maldonatus and others.

But the Gloss says, "There is one that judgeth who distinguishes My glory from yours; as David says, "Judge Me, 0 God, and distinguish My cause from that of the ungodly people"" ( Psalm 43:1, Vulg.)

Ver51.—Verily, verily, I say. He says this not from indignation but from pity of the Jews, showing that He is seeking not His own glory, but their salvation. "I say in very truth," and as S. Augustine thinks, he means I swear, "that if ye keep My commandments ye shall never die the death of the soul; ye shall never sin, for sin is the death of the soul. But ye shall ever live, here in the grace of God, and in heaven in His glory. Ye shall die indeed in the body, but I will raise you up in the day of judgment, and ye shall live in happiness of body and spirit for all eternity." So S. Augustine.

Ver52.—Now we know, &c. "The devil suggests to Thee such proud and absurd boasting, that Thy word will drive away death from those who believe in Thee, when we see that Prophets and holy men, as Abraham, all died. But as says S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.), looking only to the death of the body, they were dark to the word of truth. For as Bede saith, "Abraham, though dead in the body, was alive in his soul." Learn from this, thou Religious, thou Preacher, thou Christian, from thy Master to receive calumnies for thy good deeds, curses and ill-will for thy kindnesses. Learn also to be good to the ungrateful. For Christ, though unweariedly teaching the Jews, healing them, delivering them from evil spirits, yet patiently endured these contumelies and reproaches, ingratitude in return for kindnesses, blasphemies for miracles, and for His teaching derision and reprehension, and yet did not cease to benefit those who were ungrateful, the very highest point of patience and charity.

Abraham is dead, &c. Thou blasphemest then, in making thyself greater than Abraham and the Prophets, yea, even greater than God Himself, since the word of God could not deliver Abraham and the Prophets from death. But yet the word of God, promulged by the lips of Christ, was more powerful than the word of God which was uttered to Abraham and the Prophets. And, moreover, Abraham and the Prophets were not dead in their souls, and though dead in the body were to be raised up by Christ to eternal life.

Ver53.—Art thou greater? &c. They considered it most absurd, and even blasphemous, for Christ to prefer Himself to Abraham, as He really did; for He was both God and man, though the Jews knew it not, or rather refused to believe it.

Ver54.—Jesus answered, &c. This was in answer to their question, Whom makest thou Thyself? He refers all His glory to His Father from whom He is, and who is God. What I say of Myself is of no value or weight, and that not only with you, as S. Chrysostom says, but with others. For in every court no one is believed on his own word but on the testimony of others, who witness for him (see chap. v31). Solomon also says, "Let another praise thee, and not thine own lips" ( Proverbs 27:2). The Arians objected that the Father glorifies the Son. He is therefore greater than the Son. S. Augustine replies, "Thou heretic, readest thou not that the Son Himself said that He glorifies His Father? But He also glorifies the Son, and the Son glorifies the Father. Put aside thy pernicious teaching, acknowledge their equality, correct thy perversity."

Ver55.—Yet ye have not known Him, &c. (1.) Ye know not the true God whom ye worship; ye know Him not to be one in essence and threefold in person, for ye think Him to be one in Person, as He is one in essence. Ye know not that God is a Father, and that He begat Me His Son, and that we two by our Breath produced the Holy Ghost. For had ye known it, ye would certainly have known and believed Me to be the Messiah, the Son of God; and conversely, "if ye had known Me, ye would assuredly have known My Father," says S. Chrysostom.

(2.) S. Augustine says, Ye believe that there is one God, though ye neither see nor hear Him (see chap. v37). Ye ought therefore equally to believe in Me His Son, on account of the many signs and wonders which I work, though ye see not the Godhead which is hid within. (3.) Ye have not known Him, ye have not believed His testimony, This is My beloved Son; for ye knew not, or rather would not know, that this was the true voice of God. (4.) Euthymius explains, "Ye have not shown that ye know Him, because ye live wickedly, not as worshippers of God, but like idolatrous Gentiles, professing, as S. Paul says, to know Him (Tit, i16), but in works denying Him."

And if I say, &c. Maldonatus thinks that Christ called the Jews "liars," because they said to Him, "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil." For these were two most gross falsehoods, nay even blasphemies. But S. Chrysostom, Ammonius, and Theophylact are more to the point in asserting that they were called "liars," because they lied in saying that they knew God. For they believed not that He had a Son, and was threefold in His personality.

But I know Him, &c. Theophylact explains it thus, "I show by my life and conduct that I know, reverence, and worship God, because I reverently observe and constantly fulfil His word. Or it may be explained, even better, in this way. Because I acknowledge God the Father, and clearly perceive His Majesty, Power, and Holiness; I therefore, as man, greatly reverence Him, and clearly and fully observe His precept, which ye Jews do not observe, because ye know not nor comprehend His Majesty, and therefore do not reverence it." So Theophylact. Moreover, S. Augustine says, "He spake as the Son, the Word of the Father, and was the very Word of the Father Who spake to men." And He fitly said the "word," not the "precept," because He Himself was the Word of the Father, and the Father had ordered Him to announce to men that very truth, that they should acknowledge, believe, and worship God the Father and God the Son.

Ver56.—Your father Abraham, &c. He longed for it with exulting mind; "He feared not, but exulted," says S. Augustine. "Believing he exulted with hope, that he might see by understanding." It is a catachresis. But what day? S. Augustine understands by it, that day of all eternity, wherein from all eternity the Son was begotten of the Father. "He wished to know My eternal generation and My Godhead, that he might believe in it, and be thereby saved." "He saw," says S. Augustine, "My day because he acknowledged the mystery of the trinity." (Bede follows him, as usual.) S. Jerome (on Dan. viii.) and S. Gregory (in loc.) say that it was the day when, by the three angels that appeared to him, only one of whom spoke to him, the mystery of the Trinity was by symbols revealed to him; he saw three but adored one (Gen. xviii2).

(1.) But others generally refer it to the day of His Humanity, and thus understand it of the day of His Passion, Crucifixion, and death. See S. Chrysostom, &c. (2.) It is more simple to understand it of the day of His Incarnation. For all the Prophets and Patriarchs earnestly longed for the coming of Christ, to free them from their sins and from their imperfect state (limbo). "To see" (says John Alba) "is to enjoy the happiness and blessings brought by Christ." The word has often that meaning, as in the Psalm "to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," i.e., to enjoy it.

He saw it. By faith, and again in a figure when he was commanded by God to offer up his son Isaac, which was a type of Christ"s offering on the Cross. So S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine, and S. Bernard (Serm. vi. de. Vigil Natalis) adds that by smiting on his thigh he signified that Christ was to come from his race.

(2.) He knew by prophetical revelation. But this would not be "seeing."

(3.) The genuine meaning is, he saw from his own place (in limbo). He knew the day when Christ was incarnate and was born, not only from what Simeon told him, when he met him in the place below (in limbo), but also from what Anna the Prophetess, Zacharias, Anna the Virgin"s Mother, and S. John the Baptist told him, but he saw it by intuitive perception. He saw all, just as the Blessed in heaven behold all things on earth and under the earth, and as S. Anselm saw with his eyes lifted up by God what was doing behind a wall. Abraham longingly desired to see this, as if present. For the promise that Christ should be born of him had been frequently made him by God. And it was due to him, in consequence of his faith, obedience, and many merits, that as the father of the faithful, who for so long a time, without any fault of his own, was so long detained in prison (limbo), most eagerly looking for Christ to deliver him, might for his own consolation, and that of his fellow-patriarchs, and in solace of their long and anxious expectation, know the very day when Christ was Incarnate and born. For two thousand years had he eagerly waited for Christ and sighed for His birth. And therefore God revealed it to him by His Spirit, and then Abraham and all the Saints in prison rejoiced and were glad. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Lastly, the angels who comfort souls in Purgatory, much more consoled the souls of Abraham and the Patriarchs (in limbo), even as the same angels announced that much longed-for birth to the shepherds. Christ said this, (1.) To show that He was greater than Abraham, and that He was God, (2.) to show how highly He was valued, though absent, by Abraham, though the Jews despised Him when present among, them. (3.) And also to prick their consciences indirectly in this way: "Abraham had so great a longing for Me, but ye have rejected Me. Ye are therefore not true children of Abraham, but spurious and degenerate." He says "Abraham your father," whose children ye glory in being, though I do not glory in him, but he rather glories and exults in Me.

Ver57.—Thou art not yet, &c. So that Abraham on his part could have seen Thee, and rejoiced at the sight. Irenæus hence infers that Christ lived fifty years on earth (adv. Hær. ii39 , 40). But it is the common opinion that He was on earth for only thirty four (and those not complete) years. S. Chrysostom and Euthymius read forty years, but the common reading is fifty. The Jews seem to have been thinking of the jubilee. "Thou hast not reached one jubilee, how then canst Thou say that Thou hast seen Abraham, who lived forty jubilees before?" (So Severus of Antioch in Catena.) But Euthymius thinks that Christ seemed to the Jews, by reason of the maturity of His judgment and the gravity of His bearing, and also from the labours He had undergone in journeying and preaching, to be fifty years old. But you may easily say that the Jews, in order to avoid exception or mistake, put His age much higher than they knew He had attained to.

Ver58.—Jesus said, &c. That is, I am God. The word am denotes eternity, which is ever present, and has no past or future. I am eternal, immutable, and ever the same. So S. Augustine, Bede, S. Gregory. I as God exceed the age of Abraham not by fifty years, but by infinite durations of years. For as Tertullian (de Trinit.) says, unless He had been God, He could not, as being descended from Abraham, have been before him. Hear S. Augustine on this passage, "Before Abraham was made, that refers to human nature, but I am pertains to the Divine Substance; was made (Vulg.), because Abraham was a creature. He said not, "Before Abraham was, I am," but Before Abraham was made, I am. Nor did He say, "Before Abraham was made, I was made." For in the beginning God made heaven and earth; for in the beginning was the Word. Before Abraham was made, I am. Acknowledge the Creator, distinguish the creature. He who spake was made of the seed of Abraham; and in order that Abraham might he made, He was (existed) before Abraham."

Ver59.—Then they look up, &c., as a blasphemer, who placed Himself above Abraham, and made Himself equal to God. Blasphemers were ordered to be stoned ( Leviticus 24:16). It is clear that these Jews were not those who were said to have believed in Him (as Theophylact supposes), but the others who were opposed to Christ. "And to what should such hardness betake itself but to stones?" says S. Augustine (in loc.) "They sought to crush Him, whom they could not understand," says S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.)

But Jesus hid Himself, &c. He made Himself invisible, and thus passed unharmed through the midst of them. So Leontius and others. S. Gregory says, "Had He willed to exercise His power, He would have bound them in their sins, or would have plunged them into the pains of eternal death. But He who came to suffer, would not exercise judgment." And S. Augustine, "He would rather commend to us His patience, than exercise His power. He forsakes them, since they would not accept His correction. He hides not Himself in a corner of the temple, as if afraid, or running into a cottage, or turning aside behind a wall or column: but by .His Divine Power making Himself invisible, He passed through their midst. As man He fled from the stones, but woe to them from whose stony hearts God flies away.

Morally, we are taught by this example (says S. Gregory) humbly to avoid the anger of the proud, even when we have the power to resist them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Luke 8:4". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/clc/luke-8.html. 1890.

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