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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. After the fatigues of preaching and teaching, Jesus towards evening left the temple, as it is in the Greek, eporeueto apo tou ierou, and went towards Mount Olivet, where he was accustomed to spend his nights, as we learn from S. Luke, c. xxi. v. penult. Jans. — His disciples came to shew him the buildings, not moved by curiosity, for they had seen them frequently before, but by pity; because he had on a former occasion, and only just before in Jerusalem, threatened the destruction of the temple and city, hoping that the splendour and magnificence of so fine a structure, consecrated to God, might alter his determination, as S. Hilarius observes. But the anger of God, provoked by sins, is not to be appeased with stones and buildings. He therefore answered them: (Jans.)
Ver. 2. Do you see all these things? Examine again and again all this magnificence, that the sentence of heaven may appear more striking. — A stone upon a stone. We need not look on this as an hyperbole. The temple burnt by the Romans, and afterwards even ploughed up. See Greg. Naz. orat. ii. cont. Julianum, Theodoret l. iii. Histor. c. xx. &c. Wi. — Julian the apostate, wishing to falsify the predictions of Daniel and of Jesus Christ, attempted to rebuild the temple. For this purpose, he assembled the chief among the Jews, and asking them why they neglected the prescribed sacrifices, was answered, that they could not offer any where else but in the temple of Jerusalem. Upon this he ordered them to repair to Jerusalem, to rebuild their temple, and restore their ancient worship, promising them his concurrence in carrying on the work. This filled the Jews with inexpressible joy. Hence flocking to Jerusalem, they began with scorn and triumph to insult over the Christians. Contributions came in from all parts. The Jewish women stripped themselves of their most costly ornaments. The emperor opened his treasures to furnish every thing necessary for the building. The most able workmen were convened from all parts; persons of the greatest distinction were appointed to direct the work; and the emperor's friend, Alipius, was set over the whole, with orders to carry on the work without ceasing, and to spare no expense. All materials were laid in to an immense quantity. The Jews of both sexes bore a share in the labour; the women helping to dig the ground, and carry away the rubbish in their aprons and gowns. It is even said that the Jews appointed some pick-axes, spades, and baskets, to be made of silver, for the honour of the work. Till this time the foundations and some ruins of the walls had remained, as appears from S. Cyril, in his catechism xv. n. 15. and Euseb. Dem. Evang. l. viii. p. 406. These ruins the Jews first demolished with their own hands, thus concurring to the accomplishment of our Saviour's prediction. They next began to dig a new foundation, in which many thousands were employed. But what they had thrown up in the day, was, by repeated earthquakes, the night following cast back again into the trench. When Alipius the next day was earnestly pressing on the work, with the assistance of the governor of the province, there issued, says Ammianus Marcellinus, such horrible balls of fire out of the earth near the foundations, as to render the place inaccessible from time to time to the scorched workmen. And the victorious element continuing in this manner obstinately bent, as it were, to drive them to a distance, Alipius, thought proper to abandon, though reluctantly, the enterprise. This great event happened in the beginning of the year 363, and with many very astonishing circumstances is recorded both by Jews and Christians. See the proofs and a much fuller account of this astonishing event, which all the ancient fathers describe as indubitable, in Alban Butler's life of S. Cyril of Jerusalem, March 18th. Thus they so completely destroyed whatever remained of the ancient temple, that there was not left one stone upon another; nor were they permitted by heaven even to begin the new one. Maldonatus.
Ver. 3. Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the consummation of the world? We must take good notice with S. Jerom, that three questions are here joined together. 1. Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; 2. of the coming of Christ; 3. of the end of the world. Christ's answers and predictions in this chapter, are to be expounded with a reference to the three questions. This hath not been considered by those interpreters; who expound every thing here spoken by Christ of the destruction of Jerusalem; nor by others, who will have all understood of his coming to judgment, and of the end of the world. Wi. — It is probable the apostles themselves did not understand that they were asking about two distinct events. Being filled with the idea of a temporal kingdom, they thought that Christ's second coming would take place soon; and that Jerusalem, once destroyed, the Messias would begin his reign on earth.
Ver. 4. And Jesus answering. Various are the interpretations given here. Some will have it refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place, A.D. 70; and others, to the end of the world. That of S. Chrys. seems to be very conformable to the context, and is followed by many. He explains all, to the 23d verse exclusively, of what shall precede the destruction of Jerusalem; nor is there any circumstance which cannot easily be referred to that event, as will appear from a careful and attentive observation of the history of the Jews, and of the Church at that time, in the writings of Josephus and Eusebius. Even the preaching of the gospel to the whole world, which seems to favour the contrary explanation, is by the same father said to have taken place before the destruction of Jerusalem. S. Paul tells the Colossians, that even in his time the faith was spread all over the world. The abomination of desolation may be explained of the Roman soldiery, or, of the seditious zealots, who, by their murders and other atrocities, polluted the temple. See Josephus, b. 4. and 5. of the Jewish war. As deicide was a crime peculiar to the Jews and exceeded every other crime, their punishment was severe above measure. Had the Almighty punished them to the full of what they had deserved, not one of the Jews would have escaped. But as he formerly would have spared Sodom and Gomorrha, had there been found therein ten just men to avert the impending ruin; so shall these days of affliction be shortened for the sake of some who believe. The verses subsequent to the 22d, are explained by S. Chrys. of the second coming of Christ, previous to the general judgment. Jans. — Such as wish for a more particular explanation of every thing preceding the 23d verse, how it applies to the Jews, may consult the concordance of Jansenius, who thus concludes his observations: "Hitherto we have explained all things of the destruction of Jerusalem, which prophecies, though they principally regarded the times of the apostles, may be of use to us in two ways. 1. It will confirm our faith, when we see clearly fulfilled whatever was distinctly foretold of this people; and may serve to increase our fears, when we reflect, that what is immediately added concerning the day of judgment, shall be fulfilled with the same rigorous exactitude and certainty. It is another effect of divine Providence for the increase of our faith, that this prophecy, which was to take place with regard to Jerusalem, is not mentioned by S. John, who lived long enough to see it accomplished, but by the other evangelists, who died long before the event. 2. It should animate us in the practice of virtue, and gratitude to reflect, that whatever tribulations happen to the Church, or throughout the earth, all co-operate to the advantage of the elect. Such as will be good, have nothing to fear." Jans.
Ver. 5. For many will come. One of these was Simon Magus, who in the Acts (c. viii. v. 10.) is mentioned as calling himself the power of God; hence the apostle S. John (1 ep. ii. 18,) says, and as you have heard that Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists. By Antichrists I understand heretics, who, under the name of Christ, teach doctrines different from Christ; neither is there any reason for us to be surprised, if many be seduced, since our Lord declares that many will be seduced. S. Jerom. . . . This alone will be sufficient for us to know the false doctrines taught by Antichrist, when they assure us that they are Christ; for we do not read in any part that Christ said so of himself. The miracles he performed, the doctrines he taught, and the virtues he on every occasion exhibited, were proofs sufficient to convince us that he was the Christ. There is need of the assistance of God to overcome the snares laid for us by hypocrisy. Origen. — Among these impostors were one Theodas, (Acts v. 36,) the impious Egyptian, (Acts xxi. 38,) Judas of Galilee, Menander, and several others who preceded the destruction of Jerusalem; but many more will precede the destruction of the world. This therefore is the first sign, the seduction of many souls from the true faith by heresies, and is common to both events. Jans. — See much more in Barradius, tom. iii. l. 9, c. 2, where he collects various illustrations from Josephus and profane authors. M.
Ver. 6. Shall hear of wars. Most authors understand this second sign of the Jewish wars which preceded the ruin of Jerusalem; others of the wars of Antichrist, previous to the end of the world. Both are very probable. The first is proved from history, and from the events; the latter, from what we learn from the Apocalypse, will certainly happen. M. — These things must happen, as is said of scandals and heresies, not absolutely, but considering the malice of man, and the decree of God, by which he had determined to punish the Jews. Maldonatus.
Ver. 7. And there shall be, according to the proverb, loimoV meta limon, plague after famine, both natural daughters of war, with intestine divisions, earthquakes, and other calamities; the third sign. . . . As the bodies of men generally grow weak and faint previously to dissolution, so will it be with the earth before the destruction of the world; so that this inferior globe will be shaken with unusual convulsions, as if making its last effort for existence. The air filled with destructive vapours will turn to the ruin of men, and the earth exhausted of its natural fertility, will refuse its accustomed support to the sons of Adam. Hence will arise wars and famines, insurrections, rebellions, and mobs; some driven on by famine and want, others by ambition and avarice. But if the corrupted heart of man shall refuse to depart from its evil ways, these calamities shall be increased; for all these are only the beginnings of more dreadful sorrows. Origen.
Ver. 9. Then shall they deliver you up, &c. The fourth sign, common to both these events, shall be the persecution raised against the Church, which will be two-fold; it will regard both body and soul. See Luke xxi. 12. Mark xiii. 9. All this happened to the apostles previously to the siege of Jerusalem, as well as to the martyrs in subsequent times. A similar persecution, attended probably with additional severity, will most probably be the lot of the faithful during the reign of Antichrist. The calamities, bloodshed, and utter ruin which took place at the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, are a figure of the still more dreadful calamities, bloodshed, and ruin to be expected towards the end of the world; and which should be frequently present to our minds. The late learned and venerable prelate Walmesly admonishes all parents to stand prepared for the bloody trial themselves, and to teach their children to be ever ready to meet, with Christian resignation, the awful and approaching event; for the rest of the world, as we learn from revelation, will be taken by surprise, as the people at the deluge. Yes, this last may literally be styled a bloody trial; for the Church, which was purified with blood, began in blood, increased in blood, and will end in blood.
Sanguine mundata est ecclesia, sanguine cœpit,
Sanguine succrevit, sanguine finis erit.
The last chapter of the Apocalypse, which is the last communication of the divine will to man, is deserving our frequent and very attentive perusal. In it Jesus Christ, by his repeated warnings, wishes to awaken us to a sense of that day of general retribution, saying: surely I come quickly: behold I come quickly: and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works. (Behold the merit of good works proceeding from faith and charity.) With what earnestness have the servants of God, in every age, prayed with S. John: (ibid) Come, Lord Jesus; come, put a final end to the reign of sin and Satan; come, admit thy elect, who have been purified in the waters of the great persecution, and in the blood of the Lamb, to thy heavenly bosom; to that happy sanctuary and asylum, where no hunger or thirst, no scorching heat of the sun, no fiery temptation will any more reach or molest them; where the sigh and the groan will not be heard; where all tears will be wiped away from every eye, and where they will be inebriated at the torrent of immortal delights, and will see and enjoy the Lord Jesus, without any apprehension of offending him, for ever and ever. A.
Ver. 11. And many false prophets shall rise, like those lying teachers mentioned by S. Peter, (2nd Ep. c. ii. v. 1) who shall bring in sects of perdition, (i.e. heresies destructive of salvation) bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
Ver. 12. And because iniquity hath (literally, shall) abounded, shall arrive at its height, the charity of many, carried away by the force of bad example, will grow cold; and scarcely, even among Christians, will a person be found willing to assist Christians, lest he may be known for a Christian. Of this we have an example, 2 Tim. iv. 16, At my first answer, no man stood with me, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their charge; but the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me. Maldonatus.
Ver. 13. But he that shall persevere to the end, in the midst of this trying and afflicting scene, in faith and charity, (or as it is in the Greek; he that shall preserve his patience to the end, o upomeinaV, proof against heresies, persecutions, hatreds, or scandals) shall be saved. To perseverance alone this promise is made; for, non quæruntur in Christianis initia sed finis. Tert. A part of this prediction was, beyond all doubt, accomplished with regard to the faithful, in the first persecutions raised by the Jews against the infant Christian Church; but the entire and literal completion of it is reserved for the latter times.
Ver. 14. This gospel . . . shall be preached in the whole world, to serve as a testimony to all nations, of the solicitude of heaven in having the doctrine of salvation announced to them. This then is a fifth sign, and not till then shall the consummation come. — And then shall the consummation come. The end of the world, says S. Jerom. The destruction of Jerusalem, says S. Chrys. and others. Wi. — If the final destruction of Jerusalem be here meant, the gospel had been preached throughout the major part of the then known world. See Rom. x. and Colos. i. 6, 23. If the end of the world, there is the greatest probability that the true faith will have been announced to every part of the globe, before that period.
Ver. 15. The abomination of desolation was first partly fulfilled by divers profanations of the temple, as when the image of Cæsar was set up in the temple by Pilate, and Adrian's statue in the holy of holies, and when the sacrifices were taken away; but will be more completely fulfilled by Antichrist and his precursors, when they shall attempt to abolish the holy sacrifice of the mass. S. Hyppolitus, in his treatise de Anti-Christo, mentioned by Eusebius, S. Jerom, and Photius, thus writeth: "The churches shall lament with great lamentations, because there shall neither be made oblations, nor incense, nor worship grateful to God. . . In those days the liturgy (or mass) shall be neglected, the psalmody shall cease, the reciting of Scripture shall not be heard." — The prophet Daniel (xii. 11.) calculates the reign of Antichrist, from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away; which, by able commentators, is understood of the sacrifice of the mass, which Antichrist will endeavour to suppress. — The abomination of desolation, or the abominable desolation. Instead of these words, we read in S. Luke, (xxi. 20.) When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by an army. Christ said both the one and the other. But the words in S. Luke, seem rather to give us a sign of the ruin of Jerusalem, than of the end of the world. — Spoken of by Daniel, the prophet. The sense is, when you shall see that very prophecy of Daniel literally fulfilled hereafter. What follows in the prophecy of Daniel, confirms this exposition; when the prophet adds, that the desolation shall continue to the end; that the Jews from that time, shall be no more the people of God, for denying their Messias; and that they shall put the Christ to death. But what then was this desolation, which by the following verse, was to be a sign to the Christians to fly out of Judea? Some expound it of the heathen Roman army, approaching and investing Jerusalem, called the holy city. Others understand the profanation of the temple, made by the Jews themselves, a little before the siege under Vespasian; when the civil dissensions, those called the Zealots, had possessed themselves of the temple, and placed their warlike engines upon the pinnacles; and a part, at least, of the temple was defiled with the dead bodies of those killed there. It was at that time that the Christians, according to Christ's admonition, left Jerusalem and Judea, and fled to Pella, beyond the river Jordan. See Euseb. l. iii. Hist. c. v. Wi.
Ver. 16. Then let those. It is well known that this prophecy was verified to the letter, in the destruction of Jerusalem. For, as the Roman army advanced, all the Christians who were in the province, forewarned by divine admonition, retired to a distance, and crossing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella, situated in Trachonitis, and became subjects of king Agrippa, who was in amity with the Romans. Remigius.
Ver. 17. Not come down, into the house. They had no occasion, as Mauduit and others seem to suppose, to throw themselves from the roof, for the Jews had usually stairs on the outside of their houses. V.
Ver. 20. In the winter: an inconvenient season for flying away. — Or on the sabbath, when it was lawful to travel only about a mile. Wi. — Pray to God that you may be enabled to escape those evils, and that there may be no impediment to your flight. Estius in dif. loca.
Ver. 22. No flesh: a Hebraism for no person; denoting that no one would have escaped death, had the war continued. Wi. — All the Jews would have been destroyed by the Romans, or all the Christians by Antichrist. Maldonatus. — From this place, Jesus Christ foretells the coming of Antichrist, and forewarns Christians of latter ages, to guard all they can against seduction.
Ver. 23. Lo, here is Christ. These words are very aptly applied by Catholics to the conventicles of heretics; and would Christians attend to the injunctions of their divine Master, Go ye not out:—believe it not, we should not see the miserable confusion occasioned in the Catholic Church, by unsteady Christians; who are guilty of schism, in forsaking the one true fold, and one shepherd, to follow their blind and unauthorized leaders. E.
Ver. 26. Behold he is in the desert. This prediction of false Christs, may be understood before the destruction of Jerusalem, but chiefly before the end of the world. Wi. — As we have mentioned above, in note on verse 5.
Ver. 28. Wheresoever the body, &c. This seems to have been a proverb or common saying among the Jews. Several of the ancient interpreters, by this body, understand Christ himself, who died for us; and they tell us, that at his second coming the angels and saints, like eagles, with incredible swiftness, will join him at the place of judgment. Wi. — When he shall come to judgment, all, as it were by a natural instinct, shall fly to meet him, and receive their judgment. S. Hilary understands this literally; that where his body shall hang upon the cross, there will he appear in judgment, i.e. near the valley of Josaphat; in which place the prophet Joel (c. iii. v. 2,) declares, that the general judgment shall take place. T.
Ver. 29. The sun shall be darkened, &c. These seem to be the dreadful signs that shall forerun the day of judgment. — The stars shall fall, not literally, but shall give no light. Wi. — According to S. Austin, by the sun is meant Jesus Christ; by the moon, the Church, which will appear as involved in darkness.
Ver. 30. The sign of the Son of man, &c. The Fathers generally expound this of the cross of Christ, that shall be seen in the air. Wi. — This sign is the cross, much more resplendent than the sun itself. Therefore the sun hides its diminished head, whilst the cross appears in glory; because the great standard of the cross, excels in brightness all the refulgent rays that dart from the meridian sun. S. Chrys. hom. lxxvii. — The Jews, looking upon him whom they had pierced, now coming in the clouds of heaven with power and exceedingly great glory, shall have great lamentations. Bitterly will they weep over their misery, in having despised and insulted him on a cross, who ought to have been the object of their veneration, adoration, and love. S. Chrys. hom. lxxvii.
Ver. 34. This generation; i.e. the nation of the Jews shall not cease to exist, until all these things shall be accomplished: thus we see the nation of the Jews still continue, and will certainly continue to the end of the world. T. — Then the cross, which has been a scandal to the Jew, and a stumbling-block to the Gentile, shall appear in the heavens, for the consolation of the good Christian. Hoc signum crucis erit in cœlo, cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit. — If it be to be understood of the destruction of Jerusalem, the sense may be, this race of men now living; if of the last day of judgment, this generation of the faithful, saith Theophylactus, shall be continued: i.e. the Church of Christ, to the end of the world. Wi. — This race, I tell you in very truth, shall not pass away till all this be finally accomplished in the ruin of Jerusalem, the most express figure of the destruction and end of the world. V. — By generation, our Saviour does not mean the people that were in existence at that time, but the faithful of his Church; thus says the psalmist: this is the generation of them that seek the Lord. Ps. xxiii, v. 6. S. Chrys. hom. lxxvii.
Ver. 35. Shall pass away: because they shall be changed at the end of the world into a new heaven and new earth. Ch.
Ver. 36. No man knoweth . . . but the Father alone. The words in S. Mark (xiii. 32.) are still harder: neither the angels, nor the Son, but the Father. The Arians objected this place, to shew that Christ being ignorant of the day of judgment, could not be truly God. By the same words, no one knoweth, but the Father alone, (as they expound them) the Holy Ghost must be excluded from being the true God. In answer to this difficulty, when it is said, but the Father alone, it is certain that the eternal Son and the Holy Ghost could never be ignorant of the day of judgment: because, as they are one and the same God, so they must hove one and the same nature, the same substance, wisdom, knowledge, and all absolute perfections. 2. It is also certain that Jesus Christ knew the day of judgment, and all things to come, by a knowledge which he could not but have, because of the union by which his human nature was united to the divine person and nature. See Colos. ii. 3. And so to attribute any ignorance to Christ, was the error of those heretics called Agnoitai. 3. But though Christ, as a man, knew the day of judgment, yet this knowledge was not due to him as he was man, or because he was man, but he only knew the day of judgment, because he was God as well as man. 4. It is the common answer of the fathers, that Christ here speaks to his disciples, only as he was the ambassador of his Father; and so he is only to know what he is to make known to men. He is said not to know, says S. Aug., what he will not make others know, or what he will not reveal to them. Wi. — By this Jesus Christ wished to suppress the curiosity of his disciples. In the same manner after his resurrection, he answered the same question: 'Tis not for you to know the times and the moments, which the Father has placed in his own power. This last clause is added, that the apostles might not be discouraged and think their divine Master esteemed them unworthy of knowing these things. Some Greek MSS. add nor even the Son, as in Mark xiii. 32. The Son is ignorant of it, not according to his divinity, nor even according to his humanity hypostatically united to his divinity, but according to his humanity, considered as separate from his divinity. V.
Ver. 37-38. And as it was. The same shall take place at the coming of the Son of man at the last day, as at the general deluge. For, as then they indulged their appetites, unmindful of the fate that was attending them, gamounteV kai ekgamizonteV, marrying and given in marriage, solely occupied with the concerns of this life, and indifferent to those of the next; so shall it be at the end of the world. They are not here accused of gross sins, but of a supine security of their salvation, as is evident from what follows. Jans.
Ver. 39. And they thought not of the deluge, though preached and predicted by Noe, (which rendered their ignorance and incredulity inexcusable) till it came and swept them all away. So shall it be at the coming of the Son of man. S. Luke adds, (c. xvii, v. 28,) likewise as it was in the days of Lot; they shall be eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, i.e. totally immersed in worldly pursuits. Hence the apostle; when they shall say peace, viz. from past evils, and security, viz. from future, then shall destruction come upon them on a sudden. But some one may ask, how can there possibly be all this peace, all this security, when the evils mentioned above, famines, wars, plagues, earthquakes, and particularly the darkness of the sun, &c. &c. are presages calculated to strike with panic and consternation minds the most thoughtless and giddy? I answer, that the wicked are chiefly designed here, who in the midst of the afflictions and alarms of the good, will still indulge in their pleasures and luxuries, like cruel soldiers, whilst the peaceable inhabitants are plundered. S. Jerom adds, that the world for some time before its final dissolution, will be freed from all those calamities. As to what is said (v. 29,) of the darkness of the sun and moon, these are circumstances that refer to the very coming of the judge. Jans.
Ver. 40. Then of two men, who shall think of nothing less than of going to appear before God, one shall be taken to be placed among the number of the elect, and the other shall be left condemned to eternal fire with the damned, on account of his crimes. V. — This example of the men in the field, and of the condition and disposition of men at the period of the deluge, strongly expresses how unexpectedly these evils will rush in upon mankind; and the subsequent account of the two women grinding in the mill, shews how little they were solicitous for their salvation. We are, moreover, taught by these examples, that some of all states and conditions will be saved, whether rich or poor, in ease or labour, or decorated with all the various degrees of worldly honour. The same is mentioned in Exodus, c. xi, v. 5. From the first-born of Pharao, who sitteth on his throne, even to the first-born of the handmaid that is at the mill, . . . every first-born shall die. S. Chrys. hom. lxxviii.
Ver. 41. Two women. Slaves of both sexes were employed in grinding corn. Of these, one shall be carried up to heaven by angels, the other shall be left a prey to devils, on account of her bad life. V. — In many ancient MSS. both Greek and Latin, what we read in S. Luke, (xvii. 34.) of two men in the same bed, one shall be taken, and the other shall be left, is here added.
Ver. 42. Watch ye, therefore. That men might not be attentive for a time only, but preserve a continual vigilance, the Almighty conceals from them the hour of their dissolution: they ought therefore to be ever expecting it, and ever watchful. But to the eternal infamy of Christians be it said, much more diligence is used by the worldly wise for the preservation of their wealth, than by the former for the salvation of their immortal souls. Though they are fully aware that the Lord will come, and like a thief in the night, when they least expect him, they do not persevere watching, nor guard against irreparable misfortune of quitting the present life without previous preparation. Therefore will the day come to the destruction of such as are reposed in sleep. S. Chrys. hom. lxxviii. on S. Mat. — Of what importance is it then that we should be found watching, and properly attentive to the one thing necessary, the salvation of our immortal souls. For what will it avail us, if we have gained the whole world, which we must then leave, and lose our immortal souls, which, owing to our supine neglect to these admonitions of Jesus Christ, must suffer in hell-flames for all eternity? A.