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NPNF1-06. St. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount; Harmony of the Gospels; Homilies on the Gospels
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Chapter VIII.

20. In this sentence the meaning is twofold.7474     Here begins the second part of the Sermon. In it our Lord sets forth His relation as a lawgiver to the Mosaic law, especially as currently interpreted according to the letter only (Meyer, Alford etc.). We must deal with it in both ways. For He who says, “I am not come7575     Veni; Greek, ἦλθον. to destroy the law, but to fulfil,” means it either in the way of adding what is wanting, or of doing what is in it. Let us then consider that first which I have put first: for he who adds what is wanting does not surely destroy what he finds, but rather confirms it by perfecting it; and accordingly He follows up with the statement, “Verily I say unto you,7676     A decisive assertion of authority. Asseveratio gravissima ei propria, qui per se ipsum et per suam veritatem asseverat (Bengel). The prophet’s most emphatic statement was, “Thus saith the Lord.” Christ speaks in His own name, as the fount of authority (v. 20 and often: John iii. 3, xiv. 12, etc.). Till heaven and earth pass, one iota or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” For, if even those things which are added for completion are fulfilled, much more are those things fulfilled which are sent in advance as a commencement. Then, as to what He says, “One iota or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law,” nothing else can be understood but a strong expression of perfection, since it is pointed out by means of single letters, among which letters “iota” is smaller than the others, for it is made by a single stroke; while a “tittle” is but a particle of some sort at the top of even that. And by these words He shows that in the law all the smallest particulars even are to be carried into effect.7777     “Christ’s words are decisive against all those who would set aside the Old Testament as without significance, or inconsistent with the New Testament” (Alford). Christ declares the New to be rooted in the Old; its consummation, not its destruction. The essence and purport of the law, the “whole law,” was fulfilled by Him (Meyer). Theophylact well compares the law to a sketch, which Christ (like the painter) does not destroy, but fills out. After that He subjoins: “Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Hence it is the least commandments that are meant by “one iota” and “one tittle.” And therefore, “whosoever shall break and shall teach [men] so,”—i.e. in accordance with what he breaks, not in accordance with what he finds and reads,—“shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven;” and therefore, perhaps, he will not be in the kingdom of heaven at all, where only the great can be. “But whosoever shall do and teach [men] so,”7878     Sic; Greek, οὗτος; Vulgate, hic. i.e. who shall not break, and shall teach men so, in accordance with what he does not break,—“shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” But in regard to him who shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven, it follows that he is also in the kingdom of heaven, into which the great are admitted: for to this what follows refers.


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