18.Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having said above, “And Jacob begat Joseph,” to whom Mary being espoused bare Jesus; that none who heard should suppose that His birth was as that of any of the forementioned fathers, he cuts off the thread of his narrative, saying, “But Christ’s generation was thus.” As though he were to say, The generation of all these fathers was as I have related it; but Christ’s was not so, but as follows, “His mother Mary being espoused.”
Chrys.: He announces that he is to relate the manner of the generation, shewing therein that he is about to speak some new thing; that you may not suppose when you hear mention of Mary’s husband, that Christ was born by the law of nature.
Remig.: Yet it might be referred to the foregoing in this way, The generation of Christ was, as I have related, thus, “Abraham begat Isaac.”
Jerome: But why is He conceived not of a Virgin merely, but of a Virgin espoused? First, that by the descent of Joseph, Mary’s family might be made known; secondly, that she might not be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress; thirdly, that in her flight into Egypt she might have the comfort of a husband.
The Martyr Ignatius [margin note: vid. Ign. ad Eph. 19] adds yet a fourth reason, namely, that His birth might be hid from the Devil, looking for Him to be born of a wife and not of a virgin.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore both espoused and yet remaining at home; for as in her who should conceive in the house of her husband, is understood natural conception; so in her who conceives before she be taken to her husband, there is suspicion of infidelity.
Jerome, Hieron. cont. Helvid. in princ.: It is to be known, that Helvidius, a certain turbulent man, having got matter of disputation, takes in hand to blaspheme against the Mother of God. His first proposition was, Matthew begins thus, “When she was espoused.” Behold, he says, you have her espoused, but as ye say, not yet committed; but surely not espoused for any other reason than as being to be married.
Origen: She was indeed espoused to Joseph, but not united in wedlock; that is to say, His mother immaculate, His mother incorrupt, [p. 41] His mother pure. His mother! Whose mother? The mother of God, of the Only-begotten, of the Lord, of the King, of the Maker of all things, and the Redeemer of all.
Cyril, Epist. ad Monach. Egypt. (Ep. p. 7): What will any one see in the Blessed Virgin more than in other mothers, if she be not the mother of God, but of Christ, or the Lord, as Nestorius says? For it would not be absurd should any one please to name the mother of any anointed person, the mother of Christ. Yet she alone and more than they is called the Holy Virgin, and the mother of Christ. For she bare not a simple man as ye say, but rather the Word incarnate, and made man of God the Father.
But perhaps you say, Tell me, do you think the Virgin was made the mother of His divinity? To this also we say, that the Word was born of the very substance of God Himself, and without beginning of time always coexisted with the Father.
But in these last times when He was made flesh, that is united to flesh, having a rational soul, He is said to be born of a woman after the flesh. Yet is this sacrament in a manner brought out like to birth among us; for the mothers of earthly children impart to their nature that flesh that is to be perfected by degrees in the human form; but God sends the life into the animal. But though these are mothers only of the earthly bodies, yet when they bear children, they are said to bear the whole animal, and not a part of it only.
Such do we see to have been done in the birth of Emmanuel; the Word of God was born of the substance of His Father; but because He took on Him flesh, making it His own, it is necessary to confess that He was born of a woman according to the flesh. Where seeing He is truly God, how shall any one doubt to call the Holy Virgin the Mother of God?
Chrysologus, Serm. 148: If you are not confounded when you hear of the birth of God, let not His conception disturb you, seeing the pure virginity of the mother removes all that might shock human reverence. And what offence against our awe and reverence is there, when the Deity entered into union with purity that was always dear to Him, where an Angel is mediator, faith is bridesmaid, where chastity is the giving away, virtue the gift, conscience the judge, God the cause; where the conception is inviolateness, the birth virginity, and the mother a virgin. [ed. note: The allusions here made may be illustrated by a passage in the Ad Uxor. ii. 1, of Tertullian, who, with reference to the civil usages, speaks of “the [cont. p. 42] happiness of that Marriage, which the Church “brings about, (conciliat,)” the “Oblation” confirms, the Blessing “seals,” the Angles “witness,” and the Father “ratifies,” In Chrysologus the Angel brings about, (interpres ost,) virtue is the oblation or bride’s gift, and a pure conscience is the witness.]
Cyril, Epist. ad Joan. Antioch. (Ep. p. 107): But if [p. 42] we were to say that the holy Body of Christ came down from heaven, and was not made of His mother, as Valentinus does, in what sense could Mary be the Mother of God?
Gloss: The name of His Mother is added, “Mary.”
Bede, in Luc., c. 3: Mary in interpreted, ‘Star of the Sea,’ after the Hebrew; ‘Mistress,’ after the Syriac; as she bare into the world the Light of salvation, and the Lord. [ed. note, r: their rebellion. S. Ambrose interprets it “God from my race,” and “the bitterness of the sea.” de Instit. Virg. 33. It is not necessary to give the origin of these various interpretations.]
Gloss: And to whom she was betrothed is shewn, Joseph.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Mary was therefore betrothed to a carpenter, because Christ the Spouse of the Church was to work the salvation of all men through the wood of the Cross.
Chrys.: What follows, “Before they came together,” does not mean before she was brought to the bridegroom’s house, for she was already within. For it was a frequent custom among the ancients to have their betrothed wives home to their house before marriage; as we see done now also, and as the sons-in-law of Lot were with him in the house.
Gloss: But the words denote carnal knowledge.
Pseudo-Chrys.: That He should not be born of passion, of flesh and blood, who was therefore born that He might take away all passion of flesh and blood.
Aug., de Nupt. et Concup., i, 12: There was no carnal knowledge in this wedlock, because in sinful flesh this could not be without carnal desire which came of sin, and which He would be without, who was to be without sin; and that hence He might teach us that all flesh which is born of sexual union is sinful flesh, seeing that Flesh alone was without sin, which was not so born.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. 122 et. al.: Christ was also born of a pure virgin, because it was not holy that virtue should be born of pleasure, chastity of self-indulgence, incorruption of corruption. Nor could He come from heaven but after some new manner, who came to destroy the ancient empire of death. Therefore she received the crown of virginity who bare the King of chastity. Farther, our Lord sought out for Himself a virgin abode, wherein to be received, that He might shew us that God ought to be borne in a chaste body.
Therefore He that wrote on tables of stone without an iron pen, the same wrought in Mary by the Holy [p. 43] Spirit; “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
Jerome: And found by none other than by Joseph, who knew all, as being her espoused husband.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For, as a not incredible account relates, Joseph was absent when the things were done which Luke writes. For it is not easy to suppose that the Angel came to Mary and said those words, and Mary made her answer when Joseph was present. And even if we suppose thus much to have been possible, yet it could not be that she should have gone into the hill country, and abode there three months when Joseph was present, because he must needs have enquired the causes of her departure and long stay. And so when after so many months he returned from abroad, he found her manifestly with child.
Chrys.: He says exactly “was found,” for so we use to say of things not thought of. And that you should not molest the Evangelist by asking in what way was this birth of a virgin, he clears himself shortly, saying, “Of the Holy Ghost.” As much as to say, it was the Holy Ghost that wrought this miracle. For neither Gabriel nor Matthew could say any futher.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Therefore the words, “Is of the Holy Ghost,” were set down by the Evangelist, to the end, that when it was said that she was with child, all wrong suspicion should be removed from the minds of the hearers.
Pseudo-Aug. , Serm. 236 in App.: But not, as some impiously think, are we to suppose, that the Holy Spirit was as seed, but we say that He wrought with the power and might of a Creator. [ed. note: And thus S. Hilary speaks of the sementiva ineuntis Spiritus “efficacia.” de Trin. ii, 26]
Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct., ii, 5: That which is of any thing is either of the substance or the power of that thing; of the substance, as the Son who is of the Father; of the power, as all things are of God, even as Mary was with Child of the Holy Spirit.
Aug., Enchir. c. 40: Furthermore, this manner in which Christ was born of the Holy Spirit suggests to us the grace of God, by which man without any previous merits, in the very beginning of his nature, was united with the Word of God into so great unity of person, that he was also made son of God. [margin note: Aug., Enchir. c. 38]
But inasmuch as the whole Trinity wrought to make this creature which was conceived of the Virgin, though pertaining only to the person of the Son, (for the works of the Trinity are indivisible,) why is [p. 44] the Holy Spirit only named in this work? Must we always, when one of the Three is named in any work, understand that the whole Trinity worked in that?
Jerome, Hieron. Cont. Helvid. in princip.: But says Helvidius; Neither would the Evangelist have said, “Before they came together,” if they were not to come together afterwards; as none would say, Before dinner, where there was to be no dinner. As if one should say, Before I dined in harbour, I set sail for Africa, would this have no meaning in it, unless he were at some times or other to dine in the harbour?
Surely we must either understand it thus, – that “before,” though it often implies something to follow, yet often is said of things that follow only in thought; and it is not necessary that the things so thought of should take place, for that something else has happened to prevent them from taking place.
Jerome: Therefore it by no means follows that they did come together afterwards; Scripture however shews not what did happen.
Remig.: Or the word “come together” may not mean carnal knowledge, but may refer to the time of the nuptials, when she who was betrothed begins to be wife. Thus, “before they came together,” may mean before they solemnly celebrated the nuptial rites.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 5: How this was done Matthew omits to write, but Luke relates after the conception of John, “In the sixth month the Angel was sent;” and again, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.” This is what Matthew relates in these words, “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” And it is no contradiction that Luke has described what Matthew omits; or again that Matthew relates what Luke has omitted; that namely which follows, from “Now Joseph her husband being a just man,” to that place where it is said of the Magi, that “They returned into their own country another way.”
If one desired to digest into one narrative the two accounts of Christ’s birth, he would arrange thus; beginning with Matthew’s words, “Now the birth of Christ was on this wise;” then taking up with Luke, from “There was in the days of Herod,” [Luk_1:5] to, “Mary abode with her three months,” and “returned to her house;” then taking up again Matthew, add, “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” [Mat_1:10]
19.Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
Chrys.: The Evangelist having said that she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, and without knowledge of man, that you should not herein suspect Christ’s disciple of inventing wonders in honour of his Master, brings forward Joseph confirming the history by his own share in it; “Now Joseph her husband, being a just man.”
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. s. 195: Joseph, understanding that Mary was with child, is perplexed that it should be thus with her whom he had received from the temple of the Lord, and had not yet known, and resolved within himself, saying, What shall I do? Shall I proclaim it, or shall I overlook it? If I proclaim it, I am indeed not consenting to the adultery; but I am running into the guilt of cruelty, for by Moses’ law she must be stoned. If I overlook it, I am consenting to the crime, and take my portion with the adulterers. Since then it is an evil to overlook the things, and worse to proclaim the adultery, I will put her away from being my wife.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: St. Matthew has beautifully taught how a righteous man ought to act, who has detected his wife’s disgrace; so as at once to keep himself guiltless of her blood, and yet pure from her defilements; therefore it is he says, “Being a just man.” Thus is preserved throughout in Joseph the gracious character of a righteous man, that his testimony may be the more approved; for, the tongue of the just speaketh the judgment of truth.
Jerome: But how is Joseph thus called, “just,” when he is ready to hide his wife’s sin? For the Law enacts, that not only the doers of evil, but they who are privy to any evil done, shall be held to be guilty.
Chrys.: But it should be known, that “just” here is used to denote one who is in all things virtuous. For there is a particular justice, namely, the being free from covetousness; and another universal virtue, in which sense Scripture generally uses the word justice. Therefore being “just,” that is, kind, merciful, he “was minded to put away privily” her who according to the Law was liable not only to dismissal, but to death. But Joseph remitted both, as though living above the Law. For as the sun lightens up the world, [p. 46] before he shews his rays, so Christ before He was born caused many wonders to be seen.
Aug.: Otherwise; if you alone have knowledge of a sin that any has committed against you, and desire to accuse him thereof before men, you do not herein correct, but rather betray him. But Joseph, “being a just man,” with great mercy spared his wife, in this great crime of which he suspected her. The seeming certainty of her unchastity tormented him, and yet because he alone knew of it, he was willing not to publish it, but to send her away privily; seeking rather the benefit than the punishment of the sinner.
Jerome: Or this may be considered a testimony to Mary, that Joseph, confident in her purity, and wondering at what had happened, covered in silence that mystery which he could not explain.
Rabanus: He beheld her to be with child, whom he knew to be chaste; and because he had read, “There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse,” of which he knew that Mary was come [ed. note: Jerome in loc. Ambros. de Spir. S. ii. 5. and Pseudo-Augustine (t. vi. p. 570.) so apply these words, considering Christ the ‘Branch’ or flower (flos) which is spoken of in the clause following. Cyril Alex. et Theod. in loc. explain it of Christ.], and had also read, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” he did not doubt that this prophecy should be fulfilled in her.
Origen: But if he had no suspicion of her, how could he be a just man, and yet seek to put her away, being immaculate? He sought to put her away, because he saw in her a great sacrament, to approach which he thought himself unworthy.
Gloss, ap Anselm: Or, in seeking to put her away, he was just; in that he sought it privily, is shewn his mercy, defending her from disgrace; “Being a just man, he was minded to put her away;” and being unwilling to expose her in public, and so to disgrace her, he sought to do it privily.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 1: But as no one puts away what he has not received; in that he was minded to put her away, he admits to have received her.
Gloss, part ap. Anselm, part in Ordinaria: Or, being unwilling to bring her home to his house to live with him for ever, “he was minded to put her away privily;” that is, to change the time of their marriage. For that is true virtue, when neither mercy is observed without justice, nor justice without mercy; both which vanish when severed one from the other.
Or he was just because of his faith, in that [p. 47] he believed that Christ should be born of a virgin; wherefore he wished to humble himself before so great a favour.
20.But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Remig.: Because Joseph was minded, as has been said, to put Mary away privily, which if he had done, there would have been few who would not rather have thought her a harlot than a virgin, therefore this purpose of Joseph was changed by Divine revelation, whence it is said, “While he thought on these things.”
Gloss., ap Anselm: In this is to be noted the wise soul that desires to undertake nothing rashly.
Chrys.: Also observe the mercifulness of Joseph, that he imparted his suspicions to none, not even to her whom he suspected, but kept them within himself.
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. 195: Yet though Joseph think on these things, let not Mary the daughter of David be troubled; as the word of the Prophet brought pardon to David, so the Angel of the Saviour delivers Mary. Behold, again appears Gabriel the bridesman of this Virgin; as it follows, “Behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph.”
Ambrose: In this word “appeared” is conveyed the power of Him that did appear, allowing Himself to be seen where and how He pleases.
Raban.: How the Angel appeared to Joseph is declared in the words, “In his sleep;” that is, as Jacob saw the ladder offered by a kind of imagining to the eyes of his heart.
Chrys.: He did not appear so openly to Joseph as to the Shepherds, because he was faithful; the shepherds needed it, because they were ignorant. The Virgin also needed it, as she had first to be instructed in these mighty wonders. In like manner Zacharias needed the wonderful vision before the conception of his son.
Gloss., part Int., part Anselm: The Angel appearing calls him by name, and adds his descent, in order to banish fear, “Joseph, son of David;” Joseph, as though he were known to him by name and his familiar friend.
Pseudo-Chrys.: By addressing him as son of David, he sought to recall to his memory the promise of God to David, that of [p. 48] his seed should Christ be born.
Chrys.: But by saying, “Be not afraid,” he shews him to be in fear that he had offended God, by having an adulteress; for only as such would he have ever thought of putting her away.
Chrysologus: As her betrothed husband also he is admonished not to be afraid; for the mind that compassionates has most fear; as though he were to say, Here is no cause of death, but of life; she that brings forth life, does not deserve death.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Also by the words, “Fear not,” he desired to shew that he knew the heart; that by this he might have the more faith in those good things to come, which he was about to speak concerning Christ.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: Be not troubled that he calls her his wife; for she is not herein robbed of her virginity, but her wedlock is witnessed to, and the celebration of her marriage is declared.
Jerome: But we are not to think that she ceased to be betrothed, because she is here called wife, since we know that this is the Scripture manner to call the man and woman, when espoused, husband and wife; and this is confirmed by that text in Deuteronomy, “If one finds a virgin that is betrothed to a man in the field, and offer violence to her, and lie with her, he shall die, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife.” [Deu_22:25]
Chrys.: He says, “Fear not to take unto thee;” that is, to keep at home; for in thought she was already dismissed.
Raban.: Or, “to take her,” that is, in marriage union and continual converse.
Pseudo-Chrys.: There were three reasons why the Angel appeared to Joseph with this message. First, that a just man might not be led into an unjust action, with just intentions. Secondly, for the honour of the mother herself, for had she been put away, she could not have been free from evil suspicion among the unbelievers. Thirdly, that Joseph, understanding the holy conception, might keep himself from her with more care than before.
He did not appear to Joseph before the conception, that he should not think those things that Zacharias thought, nor suffer what he suffered in falling into the sin of unbelief concerning the conception of his wife in her old age. For it was yet more incredible that a virgin should conceive, than that a woman past the age should conceive.
Chrys.: Or, The Angel appeared to Joseph when he was in this perplexity, that his wisdom might be apparent to Joseph, and that this [p. 49] might be a proof to him of those things that he spoke. For when he heard out of the mouth of the Angel those very things that he thought within himself, this was an undoubted proof, that he was a messenger from God, who alone knows the secrets of the heart.
Also the account of the Evangelist is beyond suspicion, as he describes Joseph feeling all that a husband was likely to feel. The Virgin also by this was more removed from suspicion, in that her husband had felt jealousy, yet took her home, and kept her with him after her conception. She had not told Joseph the things that the Angel had said to her, because she did not suppose that she should be believed by her husband, especially as he had begun to have suspicions concerning her.
But to the Virgin the Angel announced her conception before it took place, lest if he should defer it till afterwards she should be in straits. And it behoved that Mother who was to receive the Maker of all things to be kept free from all trouble. Not only does the Angel vindicate the Virgin from all impurity, but shews that the conception was supernatural, not removing his fears only, but adding matter of joy; saying, “That which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
Gloss. ord: To be “born in her,” and “born of her,” are two different things; to be born of her is to come into the world; to be born in her, is the same as to be conceived. Or the word, “born,” is used according to the foreknowledge of the Angel which he has of God, to whom the future is as the past.
Pseudo-Aug., Hil. Quaest. N. et V. Test. q. 52: But if Christ was born by the agency of the Holy Ghost, how is that said, “Wisdom hath built herself an house?” [Pro_9:1]
That house may be taken in two meanings. First, the house of Christ is the Church, which He built with His own blood; and secondly, His body may be called His house, as it is called His temple. But the work of the Holy Spirit, is also the work of the Son of God, because of the unity of their nature and their will; for whether it be the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, that doeth it, it is the Trinity that works, and what the Three do, is of One God.
Aug., Enchir., 38: But shall we therefore say that the Holy Spirit is the Father of the man Christ, that as God the Father begot the Word, so the Holy Spirit begot the man? This is such an absurdity, that the ears of the faithful cannot bear it. [p. 50]
How then do we say that Christ was born by the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit did not beget Him? Did He create Him? For so far as He is man He was created, as the Apostle speaks; “He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” [Rom_1:3] For though God made the world, yet is it not right to say that it is the Son of God, or born by Him, but that it was made, or created, or formed by Him. But seeing that we confess Christ to have been born by the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, how is He not the Son of the Holy Spirit, and is the Son of the Virgin? It does not follow, that whatever is born by any thing, is therefore to be called the son of that thing; for, not to say that of man is born in one sense a son, in another a hair, or vermin, or a worm, none of which are his son, certainly those that are born of water and the Spirit none would call sons of water; but sons of God their Father, and their Mother the Church. Thus Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, and yet is the Son of God the Father, not of the Holy Spirit.
21.And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Chrys.: What the Angel thus told Joseph, was beyond human thought, and the law of nature, therefore he confirms his speech not only be revealing to him what was past, but also what was to come; “She shall bring forth a Son.”
Gloss., ap Anselm: That Joseph should not suppose that he was no longer needed in this wedlock, seeing the conception had taken place without his intervention, the Angel declares to him, that though there had been no need of him in the conception, yet there was need of his guardianship; for the Virgin should bear a Son, and then he would be necessary both to the Mother and her Son; to the Mother to screen her from disgrace, to the Son to bring Him up and to circumcise Him. The circumcision is meant when he says, “And thou shalt call His name Jesus;” for it was usual to give the name in circumcision.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not, “Shall bear thee a Son,” as to Zacharias, “Behold, Elisabeth thy wife shall bear thee a son.” For the woman who conceives of her husband, [p. 51] bears the son to her husband, because he is more of him than of herself; but she who had not conceived of man, did not bear the Son to her husband, but to herself.
Chrys.: Or, he left it unappropriated, to shew that she bare Him to the whole world.
Raban.: “Thou shalt call His name,” he says, and not, “shalt give Him a name,” for His name had been given from all eternity.
Chrys.: This further shews that this birth should be wonderful, because it is God that sends down His name from above by His Angel; and that not any name, but one which is a treasure of infinite good. Therefore also the Angel interprets it, suggesting good hope, and by this induces him to believe what was spoken. For we lean more easily to prosperous things, and yield our belief more readily to good fortune.
Jerome: Jesus is a Hebrew word, meaning Saviour. He points to the etymology of the name, saying, “For He shall save His people from this sins.”
Remig.: He shews the same man to be the Saviour of the whole world, and the Author of our salvation. He saves indeed not the unbelieving, but His people; that is, He saves those that believe on Him, not so much from visible as from invisible enemies; that is, from their sins, not by fighting with arms, but by remitting their sins.
Chrysologus: Let them approach to hear this, who ask, Who is He that Mary bare? “He shall save His people;” not any other man’s people; from what? “from their sins.” That it is God that forgives sins, if you do not believe the Christians so affirming, believe the infidels, or the Jews who say, “None can forgive sins but God only.” [Luk_5:1]
Ver. 22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,23. Behold, a Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Remig.: It is the custom of the Evangelist to confirm what he says out of the Old Testament, for the sake of those Jews who believed on Christ, that they might recognize as fulfilled in the grace of the Gospel, the things that were foretold in the Old Testament; therefore he adds, “Now all this was done.” [p. 52]
Here we must enquire why he should say “all this was done,” when above he has only related the conception. It should be known that he says this to shew, that in the presence of God “all this was done” before it was done among men. Or he says, “all” this was done, because he is relating past events; for when he wrote, it was all done.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Or, he says, “all this was done,” meaning, the Virgin was betrothed, she was kept chaste, she was found with child, the revelation was made by the Angel, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken. For that the Virgin should conceive and should bring forth would never have been fulfilled, had she not been espoused that she should not be stoned; and had not her secret been disclosed by the Angel, and so Joseph taken her unto him, that she was not dismissed to disgrace and to perish by stoning. So had she perished before the birth, that prophecy would have been made void which says, “She shall bring forth a Son.” [Isa_7:14]
Gloss: Or it may be said, that the word “that” does not here denote the cause; for the prophecy was not fulfilled merely because it was to be fulfilled. But it is put consecutively, as in Genesis, “He hung the other on the gallows, that the truth of the interpreter might be proved;” [Gen_40:22] since by the weighing of one, truth is established. So also in this place we must understand it as if it were, that which was foretold being done, the prophecy was accomplished.
Chrys.: Otherwise; the Angel seeing the depths of the Divine mercy, the laws of nature broken through and reconciliation made, He who was above all made lower than all; all these wonders, all this he comprises in that one saying, “Now all this hath happened;” as though he had said, Do not suppose that this is newly devised of God, it was determined of old. And he rightly cites the Prophet not to the Virgin, who as a maiden was untaught in such things, but to Joseph, as to one much versed in the Prophets.
And at first he had spoken of Mary as “thy wife,” but now in the words of the Prophet he brings in the word, “Virgin,” that he might hear this from the Prophet, as a thing long before determined. Therefore to confirm what he had said, he introduces Isaiah, or rather God; for he does not say, Which was spoken by Isaiah, but, “Which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet.”
Jerome, in Isa_7:14; Since it is introduced in the Prophet by the words, [p. 53] “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign,” it ought to be something new and wonderful. But if it be, as the Jews will have it, a young woman, or a girl shall bring forth, and not a virgin, what wonder is this, since these are words signifying age and not purity?
Indeed the Hebrew word signifying “Virgin” (Bethula) is not used in this place, but instead the word, ‘Halma,’ [ed. note, a: , &c.] which except the LXX all render ‘girl.’ But the word, ‘Halma,’ has a twofold meaning; it signifies both ‘girl,’ and ‘hidden;’ therefore ‘Halma’ denotes not only ‘maiden’ or ‘virgin,’ but ‘hidden,’ ‘secret;’ that is, one never exposed to the gaze of men, but kept under close custody by her parents.
In the Punic tongue also, which is said to be derived from Hebrew sources, a virgin is properly called ‘Halma.’ In our tongue also ‘Halma’ means holy; and the Hebrews use words of nearly all languages; and as far as my memory will serve me, I do not think I ever met with Halma used of a married woman, but of her that is a virgin, and such that she be not merely a virgin, but in the age of youth; for it is possible for an old woman to be a maid. But this was a virgin in years of youth, or at least a virgin, and not a child too young for marriage.
r For that which Matthew the Evangelist says, “Shall have in her womb,” the Prophet who is foretelling something future, writes, “shall receive.” The Evangelist, not foretelling the future but describing the past, changes “shall receive,” into “shall have;” but he who has, cannot after receive that he has. He says, “Lo, a Virgin shall have in her womb, and shall bear a Son.”
Leo, Serm. 23, 1: The conception was by the Holy Spirit within the womb of the Virgin; who, as she conceived in perfect chastity, in like manner brought forth her Son.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. s. 123: He, who by a touch could heal the severed limbs of others, how much more could He, in His own birth, preserve whole that which He found whole? In this parturition, soundness of the Mother’s body was rather strengthened than weakened, and her virginity rather confirmed than lost.
Theodotus, Hom. 1 and 2. in Conc. Eph. ap. Hard. t. i. pp. 1643, 1655: Inasmuch as Photinus affirms that He that was now born was mere man, not allowing the divine birth, and maintains that He who now issued from the womb was the man separate from the God; let him shew how it was possible that human nature, born of the Virgin’s womb, should have preserved the [p. 54] virginity of that womb uncorrupted; for the mother of no man ever yet remained a virgin.
But forasmuch as it was God the Word who was now born in the flesh, He shewed Himself to be the Word, in that He preserved His mother’s virginity. For as our word when it is begot does not destroy the mind, so neither does God the Word in choosing His birth destroy the virginity.
Chrys.: As it is the manner of Scripture to convey a knowledge of events under the form of a name, so here, “They shall call His name Emmanuel,” means nothing else than, They shall see God among men. Whence he says not, ‘Thou shalt call,’ but “They shall call.”
Raban.: First, Angels hymning, secondly, Apostles preaching, then Holy Martyrs, and lastly, all believers.
Jerome, in Isa_7:14; The LXX and three others translate, ‘Thou shalt call,’ instead of which we have here, “They shall call,” which is not so in the Hebrew; for the word, ‘Charathi,’ [ed. note: ] which all render “Thou shalt call,” may mean, ‘And she shall call,’ that is, The Virgin that shall conceive and shall bear Christ, shall call His name Emmanuel, which is interpreted, ‘God with us.’
Remig.: It is a question who interpreted this name? The Prophet, or the Evangelist, or some translator? It should be known then, that the Prophet did not interpret it; and what need had the Holy Evangelist to do so, seeing he wrote in the Hebrew tongue? Perhaps that was a difficult and rare word in Hebrew, and therefore needed interpretation. It is more probable that some translator interpreted it, that the Latins might not be perplexed by an unintelligible word.
In this name are conveyed at once the two substances, the Divinity and Humanity in the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who before all time was begot in an unspeakable manner by God the Father, the same in the end of time was made “Emmanuel,” that is, “God with us,” of a Virgin Mother. This “God with us” may be understood in this way. He was made with us, passible, mortal, and in all things like unto us without sin; or because our frail substance which He took on Him, He joined in one Person to His Divine substance.
Jerome: It should be known, that the Hebrews believe this prophecy to refer to Ezekias, the son of Ahaz, because in his reign Samaria was taken; but this cannot be established. Ahaz [p. 55] son of Jotham reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem sixteen years, and was succeeded by his son Ezekias, who was twenty-three years old, and reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem twenty-nine years; how then can a prophecy prophesied in the first year of Ahaz refer to the conception and birth of Ezekias, when he was already nine years of age? Unless perhaps the sixth year of the reign of Ezekias, in which Samaria was taken, they think is here called his infancy, that is, the infancy of his reign, not of his age; which even a fool must see to be hard and forced.
A certain one of our interpreters contends, that the Prophet Isaiah had two sons, Jashub and Emmanuel; and that Emmanuel was born of his wife the Prophetess as a type of the Lord and Saviour. But this is a fabulous tale.
Petrus Alfonsus, Dial. tit. 7: For we know not that any man of that day was called Emmanuel. But the Hebrew objects, How can it be that this was said on account of Christ and Mary, when many centuries intervened between Ahaz and Mary? But though the Prophet was speaking to Ahaz, the prophecy was yet not spoken to him only or of his time only; for it is introduced, “Hear, O house of David;” [Isa_7:13] not, ‘Hear, O Ahaz.’
Again, “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign;” meaning He, and none other; from which we may understand that the Lord Himself should be the sign. And that he says “to you,” (plur.) and not ‘to thee,’ shews that this was not spoken to Ahaz, or on his account only.
Jerome: What is spoken to Ahaz then is to be thus understood. This Child, that shall be born of a Virgin of the house of David, shall now be called Emmanuel, that is, God with us, because the events (perhaps delivery from the two hostile kings) will make it appear that you have God present with you. But after He shall be called Jesus, that is, Saviour, because He shall save the whole human race. Wonder not, therefore, O house of David, at the newness of this thing, that a Virgin should bring forth a God, seeing He has so great might that though yet to be born after a long while, He delivers you now when you call upon Him.
Aug., Cont. Faust., 12, 45, and 13, 7: Who so mad as to say with Manichaeus, that it is a weak faith not to believe i Christ without a witness; whereas the Apostle says, “How shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? Or how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom_10:14]
That those things which were preached by the Apostle might [p. 56] not be contemned, nor thought to be fables, they are proved to have been foretold by the Prophets. For though attested by miracles, yet there would not have been wanting men to ascribe them all to magical power, had not such suggestions been overcome by the additional testimony of prophecy.
For none could suppose that long before He was born, He had raised up by magic prophets to prophesy of Him. For if we say to a Gentile, Believe on Christ that He is God, and he should answer, Whence is it that I should believe on Him? we might allege the authority of the Prophets. Should he refuse assent to this, we establish their credit from their having foretold things to come, and those things having truly come to pass. I suppose he could not but know how great persecutions the Christian religion has formerly suffered from the Kings of this world; let him now behold those very Kings submitting to the kingdom of Christ, and all nations serving the same; all which things the Prophets foretold. He then hearing these things out of the Scriptures of the Prophets, and beholding them accomplished throughout the whole earth, would be moved to faith.
Gloss, in Anselm: This error then is barred by the Evangelist saying, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet.”
Now one kind of prophecy is by the preordination of God, and must needs be fulfilled, and that without any free choice on our part. Such is that of which we now speak; wherefore he says, “Lo,” to shew the certainty of prophecy.
There is another kind of prophecy which is by the foreknowledge of God, and with this our free will is mixed up; wherein by grace working with us we obtain reward, or if justly deserted by it, torment.
Another is not of foreknowledge, but is a kind of threat made after the manner of men; as that, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown;” [Jonah 3] understanding, unless the Ninevites amend themselves.
24.Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son: and he called his name, Jesus.
Remig.: Life returned by the same entrance through which death had entered in. By Adam’s disobedience we were ruined, by Joseph’s obedience we all begin to be recalled to our former condition; for in these words is commended to us the great virtue of obedience, when it is said, “And Joseph rising from sleep, did as the Angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
Gloss. ord. et ap. Anselm ex Beda cit.: He not only did what the Angel commanded, but as he commanded it. Let each one who is warned of God, in like manner, break off all delays, rise from sleep, and do that which is commanded him.
Pseudo-Chrys.: “Took unto him” not took home to him; for he had not sent her away; he had put her away in thought only, and now took her again in thought.
Remig.: Or, Took her so far, as that the nuptial rites being complete, she was called his wife; but not so far as to lie with her, as it follows, “And knew her not.”
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. c. 5: Helvidius is at much superfluous trouble to make this word “know” refer to carnal knowledge rather than to acquaintance, as though any had ever denied that; or as if the follies to which he replies had ever occurred to any person of common understanding. He then goes on to say, that the adverb, ‘until,’ denotes a fixed time when that should take place, which had not taken place before; so that here from the words, “He knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born Son,” it is clear, he says, that after that he did know her. And in proof of this he heaps together many instances from Scripture.
To all this we answer, that the word ‘until’ is to be understood in two senses in Scripture. And concerning the expression, “knew her not,” he has himself shewn, that it must be referred to carnal knowledge, none doubting that it is often used of acquaintance, as in that, “The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and His parents knew not of it.” [Luk_2:43]
In like manner, ‘until’ often denotes in Scripture, as he has shewn, a fixed period, but often also an infinite time, as in that, “Even to your old age I am He.” [Isa_46:4] Will God then cease to be when they are grown old? Also the Saviour in the Gospel, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this world.” [Mat_28:20] Will He then leave His disciples at the end of the world? Again, the Apostle says, “He must reign till He has put His enemies under His feet.” [1Co_15:25]
Be it understood then, that which if it had not been written might have been [p. 58] doubted, is expressly declared to us; other things are left to our own understanding.
[ed. note: In other words, “till,” need not imply a termination at a certain point of time, but may be giving us information up to a point from which onwards there is already no doubt. Supposing an Evangelist thought the very notion shocking that Joseph should have considered the Blessed Virgin as his wife after he was a witness of her bearing God the Son, he would only say that the vision had its effect upon him up to that time when it was no longer necessary. Just as if, in speaking of a man like Augustine, one said, that, in consequence of some awful occurrence, he was in the habit of saying prayers till the time of his conversion, no one would suppose that he left them off on being converted.]
So here the Evangelist informs us, in that wherein there might have been room for error, that she was not known by her husband until the birth of her Son, that we might thence infer that much less was she known afterwards.
Pseudo-Chrys.: As one might say, ‘He told it not so long as he lived;’ would this imply that he told it after his death? Impossible. So it were credible that Joseph might have known her before the birth, while he was yet ignorant of the great mystery; but after that he understood how she had been made a temple of the Only-begotten of God, how could he occupy that? The followers of Eunomius think, as they have dared to assert this, that Joseph also dared to do it, just as the insane think all men equally mad with themselves.
Jerome, cont. Hevlid. 8: Lastly, I would ask, Why then did Joseph abstain at all up to the day of birth? He will surely answer, Because of the Angel’s words, “That which is born in her, &c.” He then who gave so much heed to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, would he, after he had heard the shepherds, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord?
Pseudo-Chrys.: It may be said, that “know” here signifies simply, to understand; that whereas before he had not understood how great her dignity, after the birth he then “knew” that she had been made more honourable and worthy than the whole world, who had carried in her womb Him whom the whole world could not contain.
Gloss: Otherwise; On account of the glorification of the most holy Mary, she could not be known by Joseph until the birth; for she who had the Lord of glory in her womb, how should she be known? If the face of Moses talking with God was made glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look thereon, how much [p. 59] more could not Mary be known, or even looked upon, who bare the Lord of glory in her womb? After the birth she was known of Joseph to the beholding of her face, but not to be approached carnally.
Jerome: From the words, “her first-born Son,” some most erroneously suspect that Mary had other sons, saying that first-born can only be said of one that has brethren. But this is the manner of Scripture, to call the first-born not only one who is followed by brethren, but the first-birth of the mother.
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. 10: For if he only was first-born who was followed by other brethren, then no first-birth could be due to the Priests, till such time as the second birth took place.
Gloss. ord.: Or; He is “first-born” among the elect by grace; but by nature the Only-begotten of God the Father, the only Son of Mary. “And called His name Jesus,” on the eighth day on which the circumcision took place, and the Name was given.
Remig.: It is clear that this Name was well known to the Holy Fathers and the Prophets of God, but to him above all, who spake, “My soul fainted for Thy salvation;” [Psa_119:81] and, “My soul hath rejoiced in Thy salvation.” [Psa_13:5] Also to him who spake, “I will joy in God my Saviour.” [Heb_3:18]