Monday, June 18, 2012

An Excerpt from Jerome's Letter to Hedibia (Epistle 120)

          After I found, side-by-side at , the Latin text of Jerome’s Epistle 120 (To Hedibia), and a French translation of it, I used the online Google™ Translate tool to render the text into a mechanical sort of English. I then took my best guesses about what the text meant.  In the Preface and in the first three questions, I consulted the English translation already made by Roger Pearse, and John Burgon’s rendering of part of the text (on pages 53-54 of his 1871 The Last Twelve Verses of Mark).
           What you read here should not be considered completely reliable as far as details are concerned, and here and there I suspect that I completely obscured the actual meaning of Jerome’s statements.
          By comparing this part of Jerome’s Ad Hedibiam to Roger Pearse’s English translation of Ad Marinum (in the book Eusebius of Caesarea:  Gospel Problems and Solutions, pages 96-129), anyone can see that Jerome depended heavily and extensively upon Ad Marinum.  The third, fourth, and fifth Q-and-A in Jerome’s Ad Hedibiam are based on the first, second, and third Q-and-A in Eusebius’ Ad Marinum.  Dr. Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary has written, "It is not clear to me why Jerome is merely seen as repeating Eusebius." (See Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views, © 2008 Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville.)   Hopefully a comparison of the similar content shared by Jerome's letter to Hedibia and Eusebius' letter to Marinus will make it clear that Jerome,as he dictated this letter, recycled Eusebius' work. 
          Jerome’s letter is packed with citations and allusions to Biblical passages.  I have added footnotes to a few of them. 
          At the entire English translation of Ad Hedibia is available.  Here I have presented only Jerome’s preface and the first seven Question-and-Answers.
          Yours in Christ,
          James Snapp, Jr.



Although I have never had the honor of seeing your face, I know very well the reputation that you have gained in the world by your ardent faith.  So, from far-off Gaul you have written to me, coming to seek me in my solitary repose in the wilderness near Bethlehem, so that I may respond to some little questions on Holy Scripture.  And you come on the recommendation of the man of God, my son Apodemius, as if there was not anyone in your province suitably knowledgeable about God’s law who could instruct you to see the way through your doubts.

But perhaps, instead of seeking to be instructed yourself, you seek me in order to test my ability, and after having consulted others on the difficulties that have caused you to hesitate, you still want to know what I think.  Your ancestors Paterus and Delphidus – the first of whom taught rhetoric at Rome before I was born, and the second of whom, during my youth, was illustrious among all the Gauls due to the power of his prose and poetry – both now dead, may not validly chasten me for the liberty I take by instructing a member of their family.  They excelled, I admit, in eloquence and in the literature of the humanities, but I daresay, without fear of stealing their glory, that they were less knowledgeable about God’s law, in which no one can be instructed except by the Father of lights, who enlightens every man coming into this world, and who is found in the midst of the faithful who are gathered in his name.

So I declare, without fear of being accused of vanity, that in this letter I will not use any pompous words, which belong to the human wisdom that God must destroy one day, but instead the language of faith, treating spiritually spiritual things.  Thus the deep of the Old Testament calls to the deep of the gospel with the noise of the waterfall, that is, the prophets and the apostles, and the truth of the Lord shall rise up to the clouds, which He has forbidden to shed rain upon the unbelieving Jews, but rather to water the lands of the Gentiles, and to soften the torrent of thorns, and to sooth the waters of the Dead Sea.

So pray that the true Elijah will invigorate the dead and sterile waters within me, and season the meats that I present to you with the salt of the apostles, to whom He said, “You are the salt of the earth.” For nothing can be offered to God that is not seasoned with salt.  Do not look here for the thunder of that worldly eloquence that Jesus Christ saw fall from heaven like lightning; instead cast your eyes upon this man acquainted with sorrow, who had neither beauty nor attraction, who understands infirmity.  And believe that as I respond to your questions, I do not depend on my own training and ability, but on the promise of Him who said, “Open your mouth and I will fill it.” [Via this quotation of Psalm 81:10 Jerome  indicates that he is composing the letter by dictation, his customary method of letter-composing at Bethlehem.]

You ask me how a person can become perfect, and how a childless widow should manage her life.

Such a question was put to Jesus Christ by a doctor of the law:  “Master,” he said to him, “what is it that I do to gain eternal life?”  The Lord replied, “Do you know the commandments?”  “Which commandments?” replied the doctor.  Jesus said, “Do not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  This doctor answered him, “I kept all these commandments since my youth.”  Jesus Christ said, “You still lack one thing: if you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor; then come and follow me.” [A recollection of Mt. 19:16-21.]

So, madam, in response to the question you pose, I will employ the words of Jesus:  if you want to be perfect, carry your cross, follow the Savior, emulating Saint Peter, who said, “You see, Lord, that we have left everything to follow you.”  Go, sell everything you have, give to the poor and follow the Savior.

Christ does not say, “Give it to your children, your brothers, your parents,” for by this standard, even if you had such, the Lord must have first preference:  “Give it to the poor,” or rather, to Christ, whom you assist in the person of the poor.  He, being rich, became poor due to love of us – He who said in the thirty-ninth Psalm, “As for me, I was poor and needy, and the Lord took care of me.”  And, at the beginning of the following psalm, “Blessed is he who is attentive to the needs of the poor and the needy.”

Indeed attentiveness is needed to discern the poor from the many people who live in their sins as much as in squalor and poverty; what is meant is those of the sort of whom the apostle Paul spoke when he says, “They only asked us not to forget the poor.”  It was for the relief of these poor people that Paul and Barnabas carefully collected alms on the first day of the week in the congregations of the Gentile converts to the faith, and they disciplined themselves, not sending others, to bring it to those who had been stripped of their property for Jesus Christ – those who suffered persecution, and who told their father and their mother, their wives and their children, “We do not know you.”  These are the authentic poor, who have performed the will of the heavenly Father, and of the Savior who said, “These are my mother and my brothers: those who carry out the will of My Father.” [Mt. 12:49, without the reference to sisters.]

In saying this, I do not mean that to prevent alms-giving to Jews, to Gentiles, and to all other poor people of any nation whatsoever.  But we must always prefer the Christian to the unbeliever, and among the Christians themselves, we must make a great distinction between a poor man whose life is pure and innocent and one whose life is corrupt and disorderly.  For this reason the Apostle Paul, who in many places in his epistles urges the faithful to exercise charity toward the poor, recommends that they do so primarily to fellow believers – to one with whom we are united in the same religion, and who is not separated from the brotherhood by disruptive and corruptive immorality.  Inasmuch as Saint Paul commands us to give food to our enemies when they are hungry, and to give them something to drink when thirsty, and thereby to pour coals of fire upon their head, [Romans 12:20] how much more ought we to do so for those who are not our enemies, and who profess a holy Christian life?

It is necessary to take in a beneficial way, and not in a bad sense, what is said by the apostle: “Thereby you pour coals of fire on his head.”  He meant that in doing good to our enemies, we overcome their malice and hatred with our expressions of goodness, and thus we will soften their adamancy; we banish the bitterness and fury to make room for friendship and affection.  Thus we pour upon their heads those coals about which it is written, “A mighty hand launches sharp arrows with devouring coals.”  For, just as the seraph of whom Isaiah speaks purified the prophet’s lips with a fiery coal which he had taken from the altar, we shall purify the sins of our enemies, overcoming evil with good, blessing those who curse us, and imitating our Father in heaven, who “makes his sun rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the sinners.”

Since you have no little children, “use the wealth from swindling to make more friends for yourself, that you may be received in the eternal dwelling-places.”  It is not for no reason that the Gospel refers to the earthly riches of wealth as unjust, because they have no source other than the injustice of men, and one cannot gain unless someone else loses.  So I consider the axiom to be true, that those with much property are either swindlers, or the heirs of swindlers.

This doctor of the law, being told by Jesus Christ that to be perfect we should renounce all the wealth we possess, could not resolve to do so, because he was rich.  Then the Savior, turning to His disciples, said, “How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!”  He does not say it is impossible, but it is difficult, although the example that He gives shows an absolute impossibility:  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  But this is impossible rather than difficult, for it will never be possible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; therefore a rich man can never enter the kingdom of heaven.  But the camel is a terribly hunchbacked animal, and it usually carries heavy burdens.  And when we wander off the path that Jesus Christ blazed, and follow bad paths that lead to sin, we are loaded with the burden of riches or the weight of our sins, and it is impossible for us to enter the kingdom of God.  But if we unload this oppressive weight, and put on the wings of a dove, then we will fly away ourselves; we will find rest [cf. Ps. 55:6] and we will say, “When you can sleep in the middle of the campfires, you will become like the dove, whose wings are silver, and whose back is as bright as gold.[Ps. 68:13]  With our back, which was deformed by the heavy burden that was crushing us, covered with this bright gold, representing the spiritual sense of the divine Scriptures, and with these “silver wings,” which signify the literal sense, we will be able to enter into the kingdom of God.

The apostles, saying that they had abandoned all their possessions, boldly sought from Jesus Christ a proper reward for this virtue, and the Lord replied, “Whoever, for My name, shall abandon his house, or his brothers, or his sisters, or his father or mother, or wife, or children, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”  What blessedness to have Jesus Christ himself as your debtor, and to receive much in return for little things – the eternal in exchange for the temporary, and durable and strong goods in exchange for our fragile and perishable wealth.

So, if a widow has children, especially if her family is upper-class, she must not leave them in poverty. Let her love them equally, and have regard for her soul, treating it like one of her own children. She must apportion the property together with them, and not abandon everything to them; rather, she must make Christ a fellow-heir.  You could perhaps say that this is difficult, and revolting, and that such treatment of children opposes your tender instincts.  But you will hear the Lord reply:  “The one who is able to perform such a thing, let him do so,” “If you want to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess,” etc.  In saying, “If you want to be perfect,” He does not make this burden a requirement, but allows freedom to pursue either course regarding children.  Do you want to be perfect and raise yourself to the highest level of virtue?  Imitate the apostles, sell everything you have, give to the poor, and follow the Lord.  Separated from all creatures and stripped of everything that you own in the world, follow Him bare, with only a cross.  Or, are you content not to be perfect, and to remain in the second-highest level of virtue?  Then abandon everything you have, and give it to your children and parents.  No one will rebuke you, if you follow this lesser way, provided that you also agree that it is fair that you defer to one whose way tends toward perfection.

You will want to tell me that such sublime virtue is for the men and apostles, but it is impossible for a refined woman, who needs a thousand things to maintain her way of life.  Hear therefore what the apostle Paul says:  “I do not mean that others are helped and that you are overburdened, but that, to relieve inequality, your abundance compensates for their poverty, so that your poverty is also relieved by their abundance.”  That is why the Lord says in the Gospel, “Whoever has two coats, let him give to him who has none.” [Luke 3:11; this was said by John the Baptist.]

Now, if we lived among the ice of Scythia and the snow of the Alps, where not only two and three coats, but even the animal-skins are scarcely sufficient protection from the harsh cold climate, would we be obliged to strip ourselves to clothe others?  We must understand “coat” to mean all that is necessary to clothe us and provide what is naturally required, since we are born naked.  And by “the provisions of a single day” is meant, whatever is necessary to feed ourselves.  In this sense we fathom the commandment in the Gospel, “Do not worry about tomorrow,” that is, about the future, and the apostle’s statement, “While we have food and covering, we must be content.”

If you have more than you need, give to the poor, and know that you are thus paying a debt. Ananias and Sapphira deserved to be condemned by the apostle Saint Peter, because they had quietly set aside part of their property.  Is it a crime, you might ask, not to donate everything one has?  No, but the apostle punished them with the death penalty because they had lied to the Holy Spirit, for while reserving for themselves what they needed to live, they pretended to surrender completely all earthly things – thus seeking, in vain, only the approval and esteem of men.  Notwithstanding that we are free to give or not to give, he who renounces all his goods in order to be perfect must expect that one day in the future his poverty will be rewarded with property.

Regarding the life that a widow must lead, the apostle sets the rules in a few words, when he says, “The widow who lives in luxury is dead, although she seems alive.”  I have dealt with this matter thoroughly in the two books that I have dedicated to Furia and Salvina.

How shall we understand what the Savior said in Saint Matthew:  “And I tell you that henceforth I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink with you again in the kingdom of My Father?

This passage has caused some authors to invent a certain fable, claiming that Christ will reign in the flesh for a thousand years, and will drink the wine which He has not drunk from that time until the end of the world.  [Here Jerome may allude to a statement by Papias.]  But as for us, we believe about the bread, which the Lord broke and gave to His disciples, is nothing but the body of our Lord and Savior, as He Himself said to them, “Take, eat, this is my body.”  And the cup is the one about which He said, “Drink of this, all of you, for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.”  This is the cup of which we read in the prophet, “I take the cup of salvation,” and elsewhere, “How admirable is your cup which overwhelms me!”

So, inasmuch as “the bread which came down from heaven” is the body of the Lord, and if the wine He gave to His disciples is his blood, “the blood of the new covenant, which was poured out for many for the remission of sins,” let us reject the Jewish fables, and assemble with the Lord in this great upper room, furnished and prepared, in which He kept the Passover with His apostles, and there, receiving from His hand the cup of the new covenant, and celebrating Easter with Him, let us become intoxicated with that wine of sobriety.  For the kingdom of God is not drink and food, but justice, and joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.

It was not Moses, but our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us the true bread – He who is both the diner and the dinner, the eater and that which is to be eaten.  It is His blood we drink, and we cannot drink it without Him.  Every day in His sacrifices, we press the grapes of the true vine, and of the vine of Sorek, which means “Chosen,” and we drink in this wine of the kingdom of the Father, not according to the letter, but in the newness of the spirit, singing a new song which no one can sing except in the kingdom of the church, which is the kingdom of the Father.  The patriarch Jacob desired to eat this bread, saying, “If the Lord God is with me, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear,” [Genesis 28:20] and so forth.  For when we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are protected by Christ.  We eat the bread of angels, and we heard the Lord telling us, “My food is to do the will of my Father who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” [Jn. 4:34, with a textual variant.]  Let us therefore also do the will of the Father who sent us, and carry out His work, and Christ will drink His blood in the kingdom of the church with us.

Why do the evangelists speak differently about the resurrection of our Lord, and how He appeared to His apostles?

Here you first ask why Matthew says that our Lord rose “on the evening of the Sabbath, when the first day of the following week was just beginning to shine,” [Mt. 28:1] and Saint Mark, on the contrary, said that He arose in the morning, “Jesus arising on the first day of the week in the morning appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had expelled seven demons. And she, departing, told those who were His companions, as they mourned and wept.  And these, hearing that He was alive, and that she had seen Him, did not believe in Him.” [Mk. 16:9-11, with textual variants.]

This problem has a twofold solution.  Either we do not accept the testimony of Mark, because this final portion [In Latin, “capitulum”] is not contained in most of the Gospels that bear his name – almost all the Greek codices lacking it – or else we must affirm that Matthew and Mark have both told the truth, that our Lord rose on the evening of the Sabbath, and that He was seen by Mary Magdalene in the morning of the first day of the following week.

So this is how this passage of Saint Mark should be read:  “Jesus arising,” place a little pause here, then add, “on the first day of the week in the morning appeared to Mary Magdalene,” so that, being raised, according to Saint Matthew, in the evening of the last day of the week, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, according to Saint Mark, “the morning of the first day of the week,” which is how John also represents the events, stating that He was seen on the morning of the next day.

How can Saint Matthew’s statement, that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus Christ “on the evening of the last day of the week” – agree with what John said, that “the morning of the first day of the week,” she wept at the tomb?

By “the first day of the week” is meant Sunday, because the Jews concluded the week on the Sabbath, and pagans marked the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days of the week with the names of idols and planets.  So the apostle Paul instructs the believers in Corinth to collect, on “the first day of the week,” the alms they designated for the relief of the poor.  So do not imagine that Saint Matthew and Saint John do not agree together:  they supply different names for only one hour, which is midnight and the singing of the rooster.  For Saint Matthew said that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene “on the evening of the last day of the week,” that is, when it was already late and the night was not only underway, but even far advanced, almost gone.  And he adds, in further explanation, that the first day of the week was already approaching.  As for John, he does not only say, “The first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early in the morning to the tomb,” but adds, “When it was still unclear.”  So they both agree about the time, which is the rooster-song and midnight; one of which marked the beginning and the other marked the end.  It seems to me that the text of Saint Matthew, who wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, is, “When it was already late,” and not “evening,” which the interpreter, who was not aware of the true meaning of this word, translated as “evening” instead of saying, “When it was already late.”  [This explanation, based on the theory that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, was offered by Eusebius in Ad Marinum.]  In the ordinary use of the Latin language, the word means “elgonza,” late [sero], and we can use it when, for example, we say to someone, “You came too late,” meaning that a prearranged meeting-time has passed long ago.

Now we meet the objection, “How can Mary Magdalene, after seeing the risen Lord, come again to the tomb, as the Gospel says, weeping?”  We must answer, according to a keen sense of perception, that in accordance with all the gifts that Christ had given, she ran several times to his tomb, either alone or in the company of other women, and that sometimes she gazed adoringly at what she saw, and sometimes she wept as she waited.

Some believe, however, that there were two Mary Magdalenes, both natives of the village of Magdelon, and the one who met the risen Christ, according to Saint Matthew, is different from the one which, according to Saint John, appeared so forlorn.  [Eusebius favored this view in Ad Marinum.]  What is certain is that the Gospel makes mention of four women called Mary:  the first is the mother of our Lord, and the second is Mary, wife of Cleophas and aunt of Jesus Christ, being His mother’s sister, and the third is Mary, mother of James and Joses, and the fourth is Mary Magdalene.  Some, however, confused the mother of James and Joses with the aunt of Jesus Christ.

Others, to get rid of this difficulty, say that the true reading speaks of Saint Mary, and that he did not include the name of Magdalene, but the scribes have added it inappropriately.  [Eusebius mentioned this proposal in Ad Marinum.]  As for me, it seems to me that we can meet this challenge in a simpler and less embarrassing way, by saying that these holy women, unable to bear the absence of Jesus Christ, were in transit all night, and went to observe His grave not only once and twice, but constantly, especially as their sleep was disturbed and interrupted by the earthquake, by the sound of splitting stones, by the eclipse of the sun, by all sorts of confusion and inconvenience, and especially by the desire they had to see the Savior.

QUESTION #5 [Cf. Question #3 in Eusebius' Ad Marinum]
How can we reconcile what Saint Matthew says, that on the evening of the last day of the week, Mary Magdalene, along with another Mary, bowed at the feet of the Savior, and what we read in John, that Jesus said, “Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father?”

Mary Magdalene, with the other one, had already seen the risen Christ Jesus, and had fallen prostrate at His feet, but the concern that she felt due to the absence of the Savior did not permit her to remain quiet in her house.  She returned to the tomb during the night and, seeing that the stone had been removed which was previously used to close the tomb, she ran to tell Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus dearly loved that they had taken the Lord’s body, and she did not know where he was laid.  The woman was simultaneously subject to her piety and her error: her piety, as she sought with such eagerness to seek after the King, and her error, as she said that they had removed the Lord.

Saint Peter and Saint John then went into the tomb, and having seen on one side the body-wrappings, and the other on the shroud that had enveloped the head of the Savior, they were convinced of the resurrection of their divine master, whose body was no longer in the tomb.  But Mary stood outside, near the tomb weeping, and bending down to look inside, she saw two angels dressed in white, seated in the place where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the feet, so that she might observe that it was impossible that men had been capable of removing a body that angels had been guarding, and thus she should have been overjoyed to see these famous and powerful protectors.

These angels, when she saw them, said, “Woman, why do you weep?”, as Jesus Christ had once said to his mother, “Woman, what is common between you and me?  My time is not yet come.”  They address her as “Woman,” and in saying, “Why do you weep?” they point out the uselessness of her tears. But the Magdalene was so beside herself, not knowing what to believe, and full of awe at the wonders she saw – wrapped in a cloud, as it were, which was so thick that without realizing that she was speaking to angels, she replied, “I weep because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they laid him.”  O Mary, if you are convinced he is the Lord, and your Lord in particular, how can you believe they have removed Him?  You do not know, you say, where they have gone?  How can you ignore what you gaze at, this very moment?  She sees angels without realizing it, caught up in fear and amazement, and occupied only by the desire to see the Lord; she turns her head and casts her eyes all around.

Finally, having looked behind her, she saw Jesus standing, without realizing, however, that it was Him.  Not that Jesus Christ, as some claim – Manes and other heretics – had changed his figure so as to appear when he wanted in different forms, but rather, the Magdalene, surprised and amazed at all the wonders, thought she was seeing a gardener, such was her anxiety and eagerness.  Jesus therefore said to her, as the angels had said, “Woman, why do you weep?” And He added, “Who are you looking for?” Mary replied, “Lord, if you have removed Him, tell me where you put Him and I will take Him thence.”  It is an expression of a truly humble faith when she calls to the Savior, “Lord,” an address which would require a gardener to respond with respect and honesty.

But notice, please, the extent of her error and her blindness:  she imagines that the gardener was able to remove only the body of Jesus Christ, which was guarded by a company of soldiers, whose tomb was under the protection of angels, and forgetting her inherent weakness, she is persuaded that, alone and frightened as she is, she nevertheless has enough strength to transport the body of a man of full age, and who, never mind the rest, had been embalmed with a hundred pounds of myrrh.  Jesus having called by name, so that she knew at least the voice of Him whose face she did not perceive, the woman, still occupied her mistake, said not “Lord,” but “Rabboni,” that is to say, “Teacher.”  What reversal of mind! What a way of thinking!  She bestows upon a gardener the title of “Lord,” and calls Jesus Christ as “Teacher.”

After she had sought among the dead for a man full of life, and she and the other one had run away, without her weakness, her wandering imagination guided her to seek for the dead body of Him whom she had seen alive, whose feet she had fallen before, worshiping Him.  So the Lord said to her, “Do not touch me, because I am not yet ascended to my Father.”  That is, since you are seeking a dead man, you do not deserve to touch my life.  If you believe that I am not yet ascended to my Father, and that men came stealthily to remove my body, you are unworthy to touch me.”  Jesus told her this, not to cool her zeal or to prevent the confirmation which she sought, but to show her that this fragile and mortal body which He had occupied was surrounded by all the glory and all the radiance of divinity, and that she would not have wished to see the Lord in a tangible and material body, if her faith had been better cultivated, and if she had learned that He would now be with His Father.  Indeed, the faith of the apostles seems much more lively and more vibrant, because, unlike the Magdalene, without having seen the angels or the Savior, they merely found the contents of the tomb where His body had been, and they immediately thought that he was truly resurrected.

Some believe that Mary Magdalene, as reported by Saint John, first came to the tomb and saw that the stone which had closed its entrance had been removed, and then, after going back to tell Saint Peter and Saint John, she remained alone, and they see this as a lack of faith, which justly attracted the Lord’s rebuke.  After they had returned to their homes, she returned again to the tomb with the other Mary, with whom she met the angel who told her that Jesus had risen.  Then she left the place of His burial, and bowed at His feet in adoration, as it says, “You will be given salvation.”  “They came to the Savior,” says the Gospel, “and held His feet and worshiped Him.”  At this time their faith became so strong and so ardent that they were considered worthy to go to the apostles and tell them this happy and pleasant news: Jesus said first, “Do not be afraid,” and then, “God tell my brethren that they are to go into Galilee, where they will see Me.”

[Eusebius, after describing how to harmonize the passages if it is granted that there is only one Mary Magdalene, stated that if it is granted that there are two individuals named Mary, then one is described in Matthew, but “the Mary in John would be a different person, who gets there later than the others, early in the morning; this would be the same one from whom, according to Mark, he had cast out seven devils.” – See p. 119 of Eusebius of Caesarea:  Gospel Problems and Solutions (David Miller, translator) © 2010 Roger Pearse, Chieftain Publishing, Ipswich, UK.]  

How could Saint Peter and Saint John have so easily entered the tomb, which was guarded by a company of soldiers, without any of these guards attempting to defend against their entry?

Here is the reason that Saint Matthew gives us:  “The Sabbath being past,” he says, “and the first day of the next week just beginning to shine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came to turn the stone which closed the tomb, and sat on it.  His face was shining like lightning and his clothing was white as snow, and the guards were so seized with fear that they turned dead-like.”

Consider these soldiers, consumed by a fear so great that they seemed dead:  we ought to believe that they left the tomb, or that they were so stunned and mortified that they did not dare to object.  I do not say their non-objection was against men, but to the women who wanted to enter.  For this very large stone that had been removed from the tomb’s entrance to the tomb, and the earthquake that seemed to threaten the universe with a general upheaval, and the angel who had descended from heaven, and whose face was so bright that it did not resemble the artificial torches that men are accustomed to turn to their uses, but was like a flash of light that spreads its brightness everywhere – with all these frightening objects, they could easily see through the night, and their souls had been thrown into fear and dread.  Thus Saint Peter and Saint John came easily and without hindrance into the tomb.

In fact Mary Magdalene, who had learned the news of the Savior’s resurrection, had already noticed that His body was removed from the tomb, and that the stone which had closed the entrance was removed.  Moreover we must not imagine that the angel descended from heaven expressly to remove the stone and open the tomb for Jesus Christ, but the Lord had arisen when He wanted to, without any man knowing, and this heavenly spirit came to teach the faithful what had happened, and to show the evidence, the stone was overthrown; the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb, and this could be easily discovered through the bright light coming out of his face, removing all the horror of the darkness of the night.

How should we understand what we read in Saint Matthew and Saint Mark, that the women who went to the tomb were ordered to tell the apostles that they had to go to Galilee, and there they saw the Lord, along with what is said by Saint Luke and Saint John, that He was seen in Jerusalem?

There are many differences in the ways in which the Savior appeared to the eleven apostles.  When, out of fear of the Jews’ forcefulness, they remained in hiding, He entered the place where they were, the doors being closed, and “He showed them the wounds of his hands and his side” to convince them that it was not a spirit as they imagined, and besides, He showed Himself alive to them when He saw fit, as Luke said, “by overwhelming evidence that He was alive, being seen for forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God,” and, “Eating with them, He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.” [Acts 1:4]  For in this way, by appearing and conversing with His disciples and eating the same normal food that they ate, He was consoling His apostles and dispelling their fear, anticipating that He would shortly disappear suddenly from before their eyes.  That is why the Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ appeared at the same time to more than five hundred of His followers.  We also read in John that as the apostles were fishing, He appeared on the shore and ate “a piece of roasted fish and a honeycomb,” so that He was seen by them to have truly risen in a physical form.  And can we not see that He did something similar in Jerusalem?  [Jerome here seems to have confused Lk. 24:42-43 and Jn. 21:13.  The Latin text of the last two sentences:  “And in Joanne legimus, quod piscantibus apostolis, in steterit littorea and assi partem pisces, favumque comederit resurrectionis indicia quae vera sunt. In Jerusalem autem nihil horum fecisse narratur.”]


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Why not do a direct comparison of Eusebius and Jerome here?