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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Chap. XVIII.—Of the Lord’s Passion, and that It Was Foretold.

When, therefore, Christ fulfilled these things which God would have done, and which He foretold many ages before by His prophets, incited by these things, and ignorant of the sacred Scriptures, they conspired together to condemn their God. And though He knew that this would come to pass, and repeatedly733733     Subinde, “from time to time.”   said that He must suffer and be put to death for the salvation of many, nevertheless He withdrew Himself with His disciples, not that He might avoid that which it was necessary for Him to undergo and endure, but that He might show what ought to take place in every persecution, that no one should appear to have fallen into it through his own fault: and He announced that it would come to pass that He should be betrayed by one of them. And thus Judas, induced by a bribe, delivered up to the Jews the Son of God. But they took and brought Him before Pontius Pilate, who at that time was administering the province of Syria as governor,734734     Legatus. This title was given, in the time of the Roman emperors, to the governors sent by them into the provinces. Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judæa, which was not a separate province, but a dependency of the province of Syria, which was at this time governed by Silanus.   and demanded that He should be crucified, though they laid nothing else to His charge except that He said that He was the Son of God, the King of the Jews; also His own saying,735735     John ii. 19, 20. The forty-six years spoken of were not occupied with the rebuilding of the temple, which was completed in nine years, but with the additional works which Herod the Great and his successors were continually carrying on for the adorning and beautifying of the temple. See Prideaux. [I regret the loose references of the translator, and yet more that the inexorable demands of the press give me time to supply only the more important ones. See Connections, book ix. vol. ii. p. 394.]   “Destroy this temple, which was forty-six years in building, and in three days I will raise it up again without hands,”—signifying that His passion would shortly take place, and that He, having been put to death by the Jews, would rise again on the third day. For He Himself was the true temple of God. They inveighed against these expressions of His, as ill-omened and impious. And when Pilate had heard these things, and He said nothing in His own defence, he gave sentence that there appeared nothing deserving of condemnation in Him. But those most unjust accusers, together with the people whom they had stirred up, began to cry out, and with loud voices to demand His crucifixion.  

Then Pontius736736     [It is probable, that, owing to the perpetual and universal recitation of the Creed, this unhappy name has been more frequently uttered and recalled to human memory than that of any other human being.]   was overpowered both by their outcries, and by the instigation of Herod the tetrarch,737737     Herod Antipas the tetrarch of Galilee. According to St. Luke (xxiii. 15), Herod agreed with Pilate in declaring the innocency of Jesus.   who feared lest he should be deposed from his sovereignty. He did not, however, himself pass sentence, but delivered Him up to the Jews, that they themselves might judge Him according to their law.738738     This statement requires some modification. Pilate did indeed say to the Jews, “Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law;” but they declared that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death. The punishment was entirely Roman, the mode of death Roman, the executioners Roman soldiers. There were two distinct trials,—one before the Jewish Sanhedrim on a charge of impiety, the other before the Roman governor on a charge of treason.   Therefore they led Him away when He had been scourged with rods, and before they crucified Him they mocked Him; for they put upon Him a scarlet739739     Punicei coloris. The colour was a kind of red, not purple. [It was mixed with blue, so as to be at once purple and in some reflections scarlet.]   robe, and a crown of thorns, and saluted Him as King, and gave Him gall for food, and mingled for Him vinegar to drink. After these things they spat upon His face, and struck Him with the palms of their hands; and when the executioners740740     The quaternion of Roman soldiers who carried out the execution.   themselves contended about His garments, they cast lots among themselves for His tunic and mantle.741741     De tunicâ et pallio. The “tunica” was the inner garment, the “pallium” a mantle or cloak. Thus the proverbial phrase, “tunica proprior pallio.” [Vol. iv. p. 13, Elucidation I., this series.]   And while all these things were doing, He uttered no voice from His mouth, as though He were dumb. Then they lifted Him up in the midst between two malefactors, who had been condemned for robbery, and fixed Him to the cross. What can I here deplore in so great a crime? or in what words can I lament such great wickedness? For we are not relating the crucifixion of Gavius,742742     Gavius was crucified by Verres. [In Verrem, act ii. cap. 62. This event providentially illustrated the extreme wickedness of what was done to our Lord, but so quickened the Roman conscience that it prevented like injustice to St. Paul, although a Roman citizen, over and over again. Acts xvi. 37, 38, and xxii. 24, 25.]   which Marcus Tullius followed up with all the spirit and strength of his eloquence, pouring forth as it were the fountains of all his genius, proclaiming that it was an unworthy deed that a Roman citizen should be crucified in violation of all laws. And although He was innocent, and undeserving of that punishment, yet He was put to death, and that, too, by an impious man, who was ignorant of justice. What shall I say respecting the indignity of this cross, on which the Son of God was suspended and nailed?743743     Suffixus.   Who will be found so eloquent, and supplied with so great an abundance of deeds and words, what speech flowing with such copious exuberance,744744     Tantæ affluentiæ ubertate. [Compare Cicero (ut supra): Crux, crux! inquam infelici et ærumnoso, qui nunquam istam potestatem viderat comparabatur.]   as to lament in a befitting manner that cross, which the world itself, and all the elements of the world, bewailed?  

But that these things were thus about to happen, was announced both by the utterances of the prophets and by the predictions of the Sibyls. In Isaiah it is found thus written:745745     Isa. l. 5, 6, quoted from the Septuagint.   “I am not rebellious, nor do I oppose: I gave my back to the scourge, and my cheeks to the hand:746746     i.e., of the smiters; Gr. εἰς ῥαπίσματα, “blows with the hand.”   I turned not away my face from the foulness of spitting.” In like manner David, in the thirty-fourth Psalm:747747     Ps. xxxv. 15, 16. The quotation is from the Septuagint, and differs widely from the authorized English version.   “The abjects748748     Flagella, said to be used for men deserving the scourge; wicked men.   were gathered together against me,749749     Super me, “over me.”   and they knew me not:750750     Ignoraverunt. Others read “ignoravi,” I knew it not.   they were dispersed, nor did they feel remorse; they tempted me, and greatly751751     Deriserunt me derisu. So the Greek, ἐξεμυκτήρισάν με μυκτηρισμόν   derided me; and they gnashed upon me with their teeth.” The Sibyl also showed that the same things would happen:—  

“He shall afterwards come into the hands of the unjust and the faithless; and they shall inflict on God blows with impure hands, and with polluted mouths they shall send forth poisonous spittle; and He shall then absolutely752752     ἁπλω̑ς.   give His holy back to stripes.”

Likewise respecting His silence, which He perseveringly maintained even to His death, Isaiah thus spoke again:753753     Isa. liii. 7.   “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” And the above-mentioned Sibyl said:—  

“And being beaten, He shall be silent, lest any one should know what the Word is, or whence it came, that it may speak with mortals; and He shall wear the crown of thorns.”

But respecting the food and the drink which they offered to Him before they fastened Him to the cross, David thus speaks in the sixty-eighth Psalm:754754     Ps. lxix. 21.   “And they gave me gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” The Sibyl foretold that this also would happen:—  

“They gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst vinegar; this inhospitable table they will show.”

And another Sibyl rebukes the land of Judæa in these verses:—  

“For you, entertaining hurtful thoughts, did not recognise your God sporting755755     παιζοντα. Another reading is πταίοντα, which would imply that they regarded Christ as a transgressor.   with mortal thoughts; but crowned Him with a crown of thorns, and mingled dreadful gall.”

Now, that it would come to pass that the Jews would lay hands upon their God, and put Him to death, these testimonies of the prophets foretold. In Esdras it is thus written:756756     Justin Martyr quotes this passage in his Dialogue with Trypho, and complains that it had been expunged by the Jews. [See vol. i. p. 234, and remarks of Bishop Kaye, Justin Martyr, p. 44, on passages suppressed by the Jews.]   “And Ezra said to the people, This passover is our Saviour and our refuge. Consider and let it come into your heart, that we have to abase Him in a figure; and after these things we will hope in Him, lest this place be deserted for ever, saith the Lord God of hosts. If you will not believe Him, nor hear His announcement, ye shall be a derision among the nations.” From which it appears that the Jews had no other hope, unless they purified themselves from blood, and put their hopes in that very person whom they denied.757757     Negaverunt. Another reading is “necaverunt,” they put to death.   Isaiah also points out their deed, and says:758758     Isa. liii. 8–10, 12. The quotation is made from the Septuagint.   “In His humiliation His judgment was taken away. Who shall declare His generation? for His life shall be taken away from the earth; from the transgressions of my people He was led away to death. And I will give Him the wicked for His burial, and the rich for His death, because He did no wickedness, nor spoke guile with His mouth. Wherefore He shall obtain759759     Consequetur. In the Greek, κληρονομήσει, “shall inherit.”   many, and shall divide the spoils of the strong; because He was delivered up to death, and was reckoned among the transgressors; and He bore the sins of many, and was delivered up on account of their transgressions.” David also, in the ninety-third Psalm:760760     Ps. xciv. 21, 22.   “They will hunt after the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood; and the Lord is become my refuge.” Also Jeremiah:761761     Jer. xi. 18, 19, quoted from the Septuagint.   “Lord, declare it unto me, and I shall know. Then I saw their devices; I was led as an innocent762762     Sine malitiâ. Another reading is “sine maculâ,” without spot.   lamb to the sacrifice;763763     Ad victimam.   they meditated a plan against me, saying, Come, let us send wood into his bread,764764     For the various explanations, see Pole’s Synopsis Some suppose that there is a reference to the corruption of food by poisonous wood; others that the meaning is a substitution of wood for bread. Another explanation is, that the word translated bread denotes fruit, as in the English authorized version, “Let us destroy the tree, with the fruit thereof.” But see Pole on the passage. [Jer xi. 19. Here is a very insufficient note, the typology of Scripture not being duly observed. Compare Tertullian, vol. iii. p. 166, especially at note 10, which illustrates the uniform spirit of the Fathers in dealing with the Jews. And note Bishop Kaye’s remark, vol. ii. p. 206, note 5, this series.]   and let us sweep away his life from the earth, and his name shall no more be remembered.” Now the wood765765     This explanation appears altogether fanciful and unwarranted.   signifies the cross, and the bread His body; for He Himself is the food and the life of all who believe in the flesh which He bare, and on the cross upon which He was suspended.  

Respecting this, however, Moses himself more plainly spoke to this effect, in Deuteronomy:766766     Deut. xxviii. 66.   “And Thy life shall hang767767     So the Septuagint. The English authorized version appears accurately to express the idea intended to be conveyed: “Thy life shall hang in doubt before Thee.”   before Thine eyes; and Thou shall fear day and night, and shalt have no assurance of Thy life.” And the same again in Numbers:768768     The idea is that God is not in doubt, as a man, as to His conduct, nor is He liable to change His mind, or to be influenced by threats or in any other way.   “God is not in doubt as a man, nor does He suffer threats769769     Minas patitur.   as the son of man.” Zechariah also thus wrote:770770     Zech. xii. 10.   “And they shall look on me, whom they pierced.” Also David in the twenty-first Psalm:771771     Ps. xxii. 16–18. [Compare vol. i. p. 176, note 4, this series.]   “They pierced my hands and my feet; they numbered all my bones; they themselves looked and stared upon me; they divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they did cast lots.” It is evident that the prophet did not speak these things concerning himself. For he was a king, and never endured these sufferings; but the Spirit of God, who was about to suffer these things, after ten hundred and fifty years, spoke by him. For this is the number of years from the reign of David to the crucifixion of Christ. But Solomon also, his son, who built Jerusalem, prophesied that this very city would perish in revenge for the sacred cross:772772     1 Kings ix. 6–9, with some additions and omissions; and 1 Chron. vii. 19–22.   “But if ye turn away from me, saith the Lord, and will not keep my truth, I will drive Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have built for them in my name, I will cast it out from all:773773     Ex omnibus. The English authorized version has, “out of my sight.”   and Israel shall be for perdition774774     In perditionem et improperium.   and a reproach to the people; and this house shall be desolate, and every one that shall pass by it shall be astonished, and shall say, Why hath God done these evils to this land and to this house? And they shall say, Because they forsook the Lord their God, and persecuted their King most beloved by God, and crucified Him with great degradation,775775     This is not taken from the passages cited, nor from the Old Testament.   therefore hath God brought upon them these evils.”  


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