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Matthew 1:1

Ver. 1. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.

JEROME. (Prolog. in Comm. in Matt.) ‘The face of a man’ (in Ezekiel’s vision [Ez. 1:5]) signifies Matthew, who accordingly opens his Gospel with the human genealogy of Christ.

RABANUS. By this exordium he shews that it is the birth of Christ according to the flesh that he has undertaken to narrate.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Homil. in Matt. Hom. i.) Matthew wrote for the Jews, and in Hebrewa; to them it was unnecessary to explain the divinity which they recognized; but necessary to unfold the mystery of the Incarnation. John wrote in Greek for the Gentiles who knew nothing of a Son of God. They required therefore to be told first, that the Son of God was God, then that this Deity was incarnate.

RABANUS. Though the genealogy occupies only a small part of the volume, he yet begins thus, The book of the generation. For it is the manner of the Hebrews to name their books from that with which they open; as Genesis.

GLOSS. (Ordinaria.) The full expression would be This is the book of the generation; but this is a usual ellipse; e. g. The vision of Isaiah, for, ‘This is the vision.’ Generation, he says in the singular number, though there be many here given in succession, as it is for the sake of the one generation of Christ that the rest are here introduced.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. Hom. ii.) Or he therefore entitles it, The book of the generation, because this is the sum of the whole dispensation, the root of all its blessings; viz. that God became man; for this once effected, all other things followed of course.

RABANUS. He says, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, because he knew it was written, ‘The book of the generation of Adam.’ He begins thus then, that he may oppose book to book, the new Adam to the old Adam, for by the one were all things restored which had been corrupted by the other.

JEROME. (Comm. in Matt. ch. 1.) We read in Isaiah, Who shall declare His generation? (Is. 53:8.) But it does not follow that the Evangelist contradicts the Prophet, or undertakes what he declares impossible; for Isaiah is speaking of the generation of the Divine nature; St. Matthew of the incarnation of the human.

CHRYSOSTOM. And do not consider this genealogy a small thing to hear: for truly it is a marvellous thing that God should descend to be born of a woman, and to have as His ancestors David and Abraham.

REMIGIUS. Though any affirm that the prophet (Isaiah) does speak of His human generation, we need not answer to his enquiry, Who shall declare it? “No man;” but, “Very few;” because Matthew and Luke have.

RABANUS. By saying, of Jesus Christ, he expresses both the kingly and priestly office to be in Him, for Jesus, who first bore this name, was after Moses, the first who was leader of the children of Israel; and Aaron, anointed by the mystical ointment, was the first priest under the Law.

HILARY. (Quæst. Nov. et Vet. Test. q. 49.) What God conferred on those, who, by the anointing of oil were consecrated as kings or priests, this the Holy Spirit conferred on the Man Christ; adding moreover a purification. The Holy Spirit cleansed that which taken of the Virgin Mary was exalted into the Body of the Saviour, and this is that anointing of the Body of the Saviour’s flesh whence He was called Christb. Because the impious craft of the Jews denied that Jesus was born of the seed of David, he adds, The son of David, the son of Abraham.

CHRYSOSTOM. But why would it not have been enough to name one of them, David alone, or Abraham alone? Because the promise had been made to both of Christ to be born of their seed. To Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth he blessed. (Gen. 22:18.) To David, Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy seat. (Ps. 132:11.) He therefore calls Christ the Son of both, to shew that in Him was fulfilled the promise to both. Also because Christ was to have three dignities; King, Prophet, Priest; but Abraham was prophet and priest; priest, as God says to him in Genesis, Take an heifer; (Gen. 15:9.) Prophet, as the Lord said to Abimelech concerning him, He is a prophet, and shall pray for thee. (Gen. 20:7.) David was king and prophet, but not priest. Thus He is expressly called the son of both, that the threefold dignity of His forefathers might be recognized by hereditary right in Christ.

AMBROSE. (in Luc. c. iii.) He therefore names specially two authors of His birth—one who received the promise concerning the kindreds of the people, the other who obtained the oracle concerning the generation of Christ; and though he is later in order of succession is yet first named, inasmuch as it is greater to have received the promise concerning Christ than concerning the Church, which is through Christ; for greater is He who saves than that which is saved.

JEROME. The order of the names is inverted, but of necessity; for had he written Abraham first, and David afterwards, he would have to repeat Abraham again to preserve the series of the genealogy.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Another reason is that royal dignity is above natural, though Abraham was first in time, yet David in honour.

GLOSS. But since from this title it appears that the whole book is concerning Jesus Christ, it is necessary first to know what we must think concerning Him; for so shall be better explained what this book relates of Him.

AUGUSTINE. (de Hær. 8, et 10.) Cerinthus then and Ebion made Jesus Christ only man; Paul of Samosata, following them, asserted Christ not to have had an existence from eternity, but to have begun to be from His birth of the Virgin Mary; he also thought Him nothing more than man. This heresy was afterwards confirmed by Photinus.

PSEUDO-ATHANASIUS. (Vigil. Tapsens. [Athan. Ed. Ben. vol. ii. p. 646.]) The Apostle John, seeing long before by the Holy Spirit this man’s madness, rouses him from his deep sleep of error by the preaching of his voice, saying, In the beginning was the Word. (John 1:1.) He therefore, who in the beginning was with God, could not in this last time take the beginning of His being from man. He says further, (let Photinus hear his words,) Father, glorify Me with that glory which I had with Thee before the world was. (John 17:5.)

AUGUSTINE. (de Hæres. 19.) The error of Nestorius was, that he taught that a man only was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom the Word of God received not into Unity of person and inseparable fellowship; a doctrine which Catholic ears could not endure.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Ep. i. ad Monachos Egypti.) Saith the Apostle of the Only-begotten, Who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6). Who then is this who is in the form of God? or how emptied He Himself, and humbled Himself to the likeness of man? If the above-mentioned heretics dividing Christ into two parts, i. e. the Man and the Word, affirm that it was the Man that was emptied of glory, they must first shew what form and equality with the Father are understood to be, and did exist, which might suffer any manner of emptying. But there is no creature, in its own proper nature, equal with the Father; how then can any creature be said to be emptied? or from what eminence to descend to become man? Or how can he be understood to have taken upon Him, as though He had not at first, the form of a servant? But, they say, the Word being equal with the Father dwelt in Man born of a woman, and this is the emptying. I hear the Son truly saying to the Holy Apostles, If any man love Me, he will keep My saying; and My Father will lore him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23.) Hear how He saith that He and the Father will dwell in them that love Him. Do you then suppose that we shall grant that He is there emptied of His glory, and has taken upon Him the form of a servant, when He makes His abode in the hearts of them that love Him? Or the Holy Spirit, does He fulfil an assumption of human flesh, when He dwells in our hearts?

ISIDORE OF PELEUSIUM. (Epist. lib. iv. 166.) But not to mention all arguments, let us bring forward that one to which all arguments point, that, for one who was God to assume a lowly guise both has an obvious use, and is an adaptation and in nothing contradicts the course of nature. But for one who is man to speak things divine and supernatural is the highest presumption; for though a king may humble himself a common soldier may not take on him the state of an emperor. So, if He were God made man, all lowly things have place; but if mere man, high things have none.

AUGUSTINE. (de Hæres. 41.) Sabellius they say was a disciple of Noetus, who taught that the same Christ was one and the same Father and Holy Spirit.

PSEUDO-ATHANASIUS. (Vigil. Tapsens. [ibid. p. 644.]) The audaciousness of this most insane error I will curb by the authority of the heavenly testimonies, and demonstrate the distinct personality of the proper substance, of the Son. I shall not produce things which are liable to be, explained away as agreeable to the assumption of human; nature; but shall offer such passages as all will allow to be decisive in proof of His divine nature. In Genesis we find God saying, Let Us make man in Our own Image. By this plural number shewing, that there was some other person to whom He spoke. Had He been one, He would have been said to have made Him in His own Image, but there is another; and He is said to have made man in the Image of that other.

GLOSS. (non occ.) Others denied the reality of Christ’s human nature. Valentinus said, that Christ sent from the Father, carried about a spiritual or celestial body, and took nothing of the Virgin, but passed through her as through a channel, taking nothing of her flesh. But we do not therefore believe Him to have been born of the Virgin, because by no other means He could have truly lived in the flesh, and appeared among men; but because it is so written in the Scripture, which if we believe not we cannot either be Christians, or be saved. But even a body taken of spiritual, or ethereal, or clayey substance, had He willed to change into the true and very quality of human flesh, who will deny His power to do this? The Manichæans said that the Lord Jesus Christ was a phantasm, and could not be born of the womb of a woman. But if the body of Christ was a phantasm, He was a deceiver, and if a deceiver, then He was not the truth. But Christ is the Truth; therefore His Body was not a phantasm.

GLOSS. (non occ.) And as the opening both of this Gospel, and of that according to Luke, manifestly proves Christ’s birth of a woman, and hence His real humanity, they reject the beginning of both these Gospels.

AUGUSTINE. (cont. Faust. ii. 1.) Faustus affirms, that “the Gospel both begins, and begins to be so called, from the preaching of Christc, in which He no where affirms Himself to have been born of men. Nay, so far is this genealogy from being part of the Gospel, that the writer does not venture so to entitle it; beginning, ‘The book of the generation,’ not ‘The book of the Gospel.’ Mark again, who cared not to write of the generation, but only of the preaching of the Son of God, which is properly The Gospel, begins thus accordingly, The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Thus then, all that we read in Matthew before the words, Jesus began to preach the Gospel of the kingdom, (Matt. 4:17.) is a part of the genealogy, not of the Gospel. I therefore betook myself to Mark and John, with whose prefaces I had good reason to be satisfied, as they introduce neither David, nor Mary, nor Joseph.” To which Augustine replies, What will he say then to the Apostle’s words, Remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ of the seed of David according to my Gospel. (2 Tim. 2:8.) But the Gospel of the Apostle Paul was likewise that of the other Apostles, and of all the faithful, as he says, Whether I, or they, thus have we preached the Gospel.

AUGUSTINE. (de Hær. 49.) The Arians will not have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be of one and the same substance, nature, and existence; but that the Son is a creature of the Father, and the Holy Spirit a creature of a creature, i. e. created by the Son; further, they think that Christ took the flesh without a soul.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. i. 6.) But John declares the Son to be not only God, but even of the same substance as the Father; for when he had said, The Word was God, he added, all things were made by Him; whence it is clear that He was not made by Whom all things were made; and if not made, then not created; and therefore of one substance with the Father, for all that is not of one substance with the Father is creature.

AUGUSTINE. (cont. Fel. 13.) I know not what benefit the person of the Mediator has conferred upon us, if He redeemed not our better part, but took upon Him our flesh only, which without the soul cannot have consciousness of the benefit. But if Christ came to save that which had perished, the whole man had perished, and therefore needs a Saviour; Christ then in coming saves the whole man, taking on Him both soul and body.

AUGUSTINE. (Lib. 83. Quæst. q. 80.) How too do they answer innumerable objections from the Gospel Scriptures, in which the Lord speaks so many things manifestly contrary to them? as is that, My soul is sorrowful even unto death, (Matt. 26:38.) and, I have power to lay down My life; (John 10:18.) and many more things of the like kind. Should they say that He spoke thus in parables, we have at hand proofs from the Evangelists themselves, who in relating His actions, bear witness as to the reality of His body, so of His soul, by mention of passions which cannot be without a soul; as when they say, Jesus wondered, was angry, and others of like kind.

AUGUSTINE. (de Hæres. 55.) The Apollinarians also as the Arians affirmed that Christ had taken the human flesh without the soul. But overthrown on this point by the weight of Scripture proof, they then said that that part which is the rational soul of man was wanting to the soul of Christ, and that its place was filled by the Word itself. But if it be so, then we must believe that the Word of God took on Him the nature of some brute with a human shape and appearance. But even concerning the nature of Christ’s body, there are some who have so far swerved from the right faith, as to say, that the flesh and the Word were of one and the same substance, most perversely insisting on that expression, The Word was made flesh; which they interpret that some portion of the Word was changed into flesh, not that He took to Him flesh of the flesh of the Virgind.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Ep. ad Joan. Antioch. tom. 6. Ep. 107.) We account those persons mad who have suspected that so much as the shadow of change could take place in the nature of the Divine Word; it abides what it ever was, neither is nor can be changed.

LEO. (Epist. 59. ad Const. Id. Ep. 83. ad Palest.) We do not speak of Christ as man in such a sort as to allow that any thing was wanting to Him, which it is certain pertains to human nature, whether soul, or rational mind, or flesh, and flesh such as was taken of the Woman, not gained by a change or conversion of the Word into flesh. These three several errors, that thrice false heresy of the Apollinarists has brought forward. Eutyches also chose out this third dogma of Apollinaris, which denying the verity of the human body and soul, maintained that our Lord Jesus Christ was wholly and entirely of one nature, as though the Divine Word had changed itself into flesh and soul, and as though the conception, birth, growth, and such like, had been undergone by that Divine Essence, which was incapable of any such changes with the very and true flesh; for such as is the nature of the Only-begotten, such is the nature of the Father, and such is the nature of the Holy Ghost, both impassible and eternal. But if to avoid being driven to the conclusion that the Godhead could feel suffering and death, he departs from the corruption of Apollinaris, and should still dare to affirm the nature of the incarnate Word, that is of the Word and the flesh, to be the same, he clearly falls into the insane notions of Manichæus and Marcion, and believes that the Lord Jesus Christ did all His actions with a false appearance, that His body was not a human body, but a phantasm, which imposed on the eyes of the beholders.

LEO. (Ep. 35. ad Julian.) But what Eutyches ventured to pronounce as an episcopal decision, that in Christ before His incarnation were two natures, but after His incarnation only one, it behoved that he should have been urgently pressed to give the reason of this his belief. I suppose that in using such language he supposed the soul which the Saviour took, to have had its abode in heaven before it was born of the Virgin Marye. This Catholic hearts and ears endure not, for that the Lord when He came down from heaven shewed nothing of the condition of human nature, nor did He take on Him any soul that had existed before, nor any flesh that was not taken of the flesh of His mother. Thus what was justly condemned in Origenf, must needs be rebuked in Eutyches, to wit, that our souls before they were placed in our bodies had actions not only wonderful but various.

REMIGIUS. These heresies therefore the Apostles overthrow in the opening of their Gospels, as Matthew in relating how He derived His descent from the kings of the Jews proves Him to have been truly man and to have had true flesh. Likewise Luke, when he describes the priestly stock and person; Mark when he says, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God; and John when lie says, In the beginning was the Word; both shew Him to have been before all ages God, with God the Father.

Matt 1:1

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