Against the Jews
by St. John Chrysostom
Again the Jews, the most miserable and wretched of all men, are going to fast, and again we must make secure the flock of Christ. As long as no wild beast disturbs the flock, shepherds, as they stretch out under an oak or pine tree and play their flutes, let their sheep go off to graze with full freedom. But when the shepherds feel that the wolves will raid, they are quick to throw down the flute and pick up their slingshots; they cast aside the pipe of reeds and arm themselves with clubs and stones. They take their stand in front of the flock, raise a loud and piercing shout, and oftentimes the sound of their shout drives the wolf away before he strikes.
(2) I, too, in the past, frolicked about in explicating the Scriptures, as if I were sporting in some meadow; I took no part in polemics because there was no one causing me concern. But today the Jews, who are more dangerous than any wolves, are bent on surrounding my sheep; so I must spar with them and fight with them so that no sheep of mine may fall victim to those wolves.
(3) That fast will not be upon us for ten days or more. But do not be surprised that from today on I am taking up my tools and building a fence around your souls. This is what the hard-working farmer does. When he has a rushing stream nearby which may wash away the fields he has tilled, he does not wait for winter. Long beforehand he fences in the banks, builds the dikes, digs ditches, and makes every preparation against the flood. While the stream runs quietly and is low in its bed, it is a simpler matter to restrain it; when it has become swollen and is swept along with a violent rush of waters, it is no longer so simple to oppose the flood. And so it is that long beforehand the farmer anticipates the surge of the torrent and contrives by every means to keep his fields secure in every way.
(4) As well as farmers, every soldier, sailor, and reaper makes it a practice to prepare ahead. Before the hour of battle, the soldier cleans off his breastplate, examines his shield, makes ready the bridle and bit, feeds and cares for his horse, and sees to it that he is well prepared in every way. Before the sailor launches his ship into the harbor's waters, he prepares the keel, repairs the sides, hews and shapes the oars, stitches together the sails, and makes ready all the other equipment of his ship. Many days before the harvest, the reaper sharpens his sickle, gets ready the threshing-floor, his oxen, his wagon, and everything else which may help him in the harvest. Indeed you can see men everywhere making preparations for their business beforehand so that, when the time does come, it is an easy matter for them to carry on their enterprise.
(5) I am following the example of these men. Many days beforehand I am making your souls secure by exhorting you to flee from that accursed and unlawful fast. Do not tell me that the Jews are fasting; prove to me that it is God's will that they fast. If it be not God's will, then their fasting is more unlawful than any drunkenness. For we must not only look at what they do but we must also seek out the reason why they do it.
(6) What is done in accordance with God's will is the best of all things even if it seems to be bad. What is done contrary to God's will and decree is the worst and most unlawful of all thingseven if men judge that it is very good. Suppose someone slays another in accordance with God's will. This slaying is better than any loving-kindness. Let someone spare another and show him great love and kindness against God's decree. To spare the other's life would be more unholy than any slaying. For it is God's will and not the nature of things that makes the same actions good or bad.
Listen to me so that you may learn that this is true. Ahab once captured a king of Syria and, contrary to God's decree, saved his life. He had the Syrian king enjoy a seat by his side and sent him off with great honor. About that time a prophet came to his companion and "said to him: 'In the word of the Lord, strike me.' But his companion was not willing to strike him. And the prophet said to him: 'Because you would not hearken to the word of the Lord, behold, you will depart from me and a lion will strike you.' And he departed from him, and the lion found him and struck him. Then the prophet found another man and said: 'Strike me.' And the man did strike him and wounded him, and the prophet bandaged up his face."(2) What greater paradox than this could there be? The man who struck the prophet was saved; the one who spared the prophet was punished. Why? That you may learn that, when God commands, you must not question too much the nature of the action; you have only to obey. So that the first man might not spare him out of reverence, the prophet did not simply say: "Strike me" but said: "Strike me in the word of God. That is, God commands it; seek no further. It is the King who ordains it; reverence the rank of him who commands and with all eagerness heed his word. But the man lacked the courage to strike him and, on this account, he paid the ultimate penalty. But by the punishment he subsequently suffered, he encourages us to yield and obey God's every command.
(3) But after the second man had struck and wounded him, the prophet bound his own head with a bandage, covered his eyes, and disguised himself. Why did he do this? He was going to accuse the king and condemn him for saving the life of the king of the Syrians. Now Ahab was an impious man and always a foe to the prophets. The prophet did not wish Ahab to recognize him and then drive him from his sight; if the king drove him away, he would not hear the prophet's words of correction. So the prophet concealed his face and any statement of his business in the hope that this would give him the advantage when he did speak and that he might get the king to agree to the terms he wanted.
(4) "When the king was passing by, the prophet called aloud to him and said: 'Your servant went forth to the campaign of war. Behold, a man brought another man to me and said to me: "Guard this man for me. If he shall leap away and bound off, it will be your life for his life, or you will pay a talent of silver." And it happened that as your servant turned his eyes this way and that, the man was not there.' And the king of Israel said to him: 'This is your judgment before me: You slew the man.' And the prophet hurried to take the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized that he was one of the sons of the prophets. And he said to the king: 'So says the Lord: "Because you let go from your hand a man worthy of death, it will be your life for his life, and your people for his people.'
(5) Do you see how not only God but men make this kind of judgment because both God and men heed the end and the causes rather than the nature of what is done? Certainly even the king said to him: "This is your judgment before me: you slew the man." You are a murderer, he said, because you let an enemy go. The prophet put on the bandage and presented the case as if it were not the king but somebody else on trial, so that the king might pass the proper sentence. And, in fact, this did happen. For after the king condemned him, the prophet tore off the bandage and said: "Because you let go from your hand a man worthy of death, it will be your life for his life, and your people for his people."
(6) Did you see what a penalty the king paid for his act of kindness? And what punishment he endured in return for his untimely sparing of his foe? The one who spared a life is punished; another, who slew a man, was held in esteem. Phinehas certainly slew two people in a single moment of timea man and his wife; and after he slew them, he was given the honor of the priesthood. His act of bloodshed did not defile his hands; it even made them cleaner.
(7) So you see that he who struck the prophet goes free, while he who refused to strike him perishes; you see that he who spared a man's life is punished, while he who refused to spare a life is held in esteem. Therefore, always look into the decrees of God before you consider the nature of your own actions. Whenever you find something which accords with His decree, approve thatand only that.
Let us examine the matter of fasting and apply this rule to it. Suppose we should not apply this rule but merely take the act of fasting and consider it with no reference to anything else. The result will be great tumult and confusion. It is true that highwaymen, grave-robbers, and sorcerers have their sides torn to pieces; it is also true that the martyrs undergo this same suffering. What is done is the same, but the purpose and reason why it is done is different. And so it is that there is a great difference between the criminals and martyrs.(2) In these cases we not only consider the torture but we first look for the intention and the reasons why the torture is inflicted. And this is why we love the martyrsnot because they are tortured but because they are tortured for the sake of Christ. But we turn our backs on the robbersnot because they are being punished but because they are being punished for their wickedness.
(3) So, too, in the matter of fasting, you must pass a judgment. If you see people fasting for the sake of God, approve what they do; if you see that they do this against God's will, turn your back on them and hate them more than you do those who drink, revel, and carouse. And in the case of this fasting we must inquire not only into the reason for fasting but we must consider also the place and the time.(4) But before I draw up my battle line against the Jews, I will be glad to talk to those who are members of our own body, those who seem to belong to our ranks although they observe the Jewish rites and make every effort to defend them. Because they do this, as I see it, they deserve a stronger condemnation than any Jew. Not only the wise and intelligent but even those with little reason and understanding would agree with me in this. I need no clever arguments, no rhetorical devices, no prolix periodic sentences to prove this. It is enough to ask them a few simple questions and then trap them by their answers.
(5) What, then, are the questions? I will ask each one who is sick with this disease: Are you a Christian? Why, then, this zeal for Jewish practices? Are you a Jew? Why then, are you making trouble for the Church? Does not a Persian side with the Persians? Is not a barbarian eager for what concerns the barbarians? Will a man who lives in the Roman empire not follow our laws and way of life? Tell me this. If ever anyone living among us is caught in collusion siding with the barbarians, is he not immediately punished? He is given neither hearing nor examination, even if he has ten thousand arguments in his own defense. If ever anyone living among the barbarians is clearly following Roman custom and law, again, will he not suffer the same punishment? How, then, do you expect to be saved by defecting to that unlawful way of life?
(6) The difference between the Jews and us in not a small one, is it? Is the dispute between us over ordinary, everyday matters, so that you think the two religions are really one and the same? Why are you mixing what cannot be mixed? They crucified the Christ whom you adore as God. Do you see how great the difference is? How is it, then, that you keep running to those who slew Christ when you say that you worship him whom they crucified? You do not think, do you, that I am the one who brings up the law on which these charges are based, nor that I make up the form which the accusation takes? Does not the Scripture treat the Jews in this way?
(7) Hear what Jeremiah says against those same Jews: "Go off to Kedar and see; send off to the islands of the Kittim and find out if such things have happened. What things? "If the gentiles will change their gods, and indeed they are not gods, but you have changed your glory and from it you will derive no profit." He did not say: "You have changed your God," but, "your glory." What he means is this. Those who worship idols and serve demons are so unshaken in their errors that they choose not to abandon them nor desert them for the truth. But you, who worship the true God, have cast aside the religion of your fathers and have gone over to strange ways of worship. You did not show the same firmness in regard to the truth that they did in regard to their error. That is why Jeremiah says: "Find out if such things have happened, if the gentiles will change their gods, and indeed they are not gods; but you have changed your glory and from it you will derive no profit." He did not say: "You have changed your God," for God does not change. But he did say: "You have changed your glory." You did no harm to me, God says, because no harm has come to me. But you did dishonor yourselves. You did not make my glory less, but you did diminish your own.
(8) Let me also say this to those who are our ownif I must call our own those who side with the Jews. Go to the synagogues and see if the Jews have changed their fast; see if they kept the pre-Paschal fast with us; see if they have taken food on that day. But theirs is not a fast; it is a transgression of the law, it is a sin, it is trespassing. Yet they did not change. But you did change your glory and from it you will derive no profit; you did go over to their rites.
(9) Did the Jews ever observe our pre-Paschal fast? Did they ever join us in keeping the feast of the martyrs? Did they ever share with us the day of the Epiphanies? They do not run to the truth, but you rush to transgression. I call it a transgression because their observances do not occur at the proper time. Once there was a proper time when they had to follow those observances, but now there is not. That is why what was once according to the Law is now opposed to it.
IV.Let me say what Elijah said against the Jews. He saw the unholy life the Jews were living: at one time they paid heed to God, at another they worshipped idols. So he spoke some such words as these: "How long will you limp on both legs? If the Lord our God is with you, come, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." Let me, too, now say this against these Judaizing Christians. If you judge that Judaism is the true religion, why are you causing trouble to the Church? But if Christianity is the true faith, as it really is, stay in it and follow it. Tell me this. Do you share with us in the mysteries, do you worship Christ as a Christian, do you ask him for blessings, and do you then celebrate the festival with his foes? With what purpose, then, do you come to the church?
(2) I have said enough against those who say they are on our side but are eager to follow the Jewish rites. Since it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle line, let me extend my instruction further. Let me show that, by fasting now, the Jews dishonor the law and trample underfoot God's commands because they are always doing everything contrary to his decrees. When God wished them to fast, they got fat and flabby. When God does not wish them to fast, they get obstinate and do fast; when he wished them to offer sacrifices, they rushed off to idols; when he does not wish them to celebrate the feast days, they are all eager to observe them.
(3) This is why Stephen said to them: "You always oppose the Holy Spirit." This is the one thing, he says, in which you show your zeal: in doing the opposite to what God has commanded. And they are still doing that today. What makes this clear? The Law itself. In the case of the Jewish festivals the Law demanded observance not only of the tune but also the place. In speaking about this feast of the Passover, the Law says to them something such as this: "You will not be able to keep the Passover in any of the cities which the Lord your God gives to you." The Law bids them keep the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and in the city of Jerusalem. The Law also narrowed down the time and place for the observance of Pentecost, when it commanded them to celebrate the feast after seven weeks, and again, when it stated: "In the place which the Lord your God chooses." So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles.
(4) Now let us see which of the two, time or place, is more necessary, even though neither the one nor the other has the power to save. Must we scorn the place but observe the time? Or should we scorn the time and keep the place? What I mean is something such as this. The Law commanded that the Passover be held in the first month and in Jerusalem, at a prescribed time and in a prescribed place. Let us suppose that there are two men keeping the Passover. Suppose one of them neglects the place but observes the time; suppose the other observes the place but neglects the time. Let the one who observes the time but neglects the place celebrate the Passover in the first month, but far away from Jerusalem; and let the one who observes the place but neglects the time celebrate the feast in Jerusalem but in the second month instead of the first.
(5) Next, let us see which of these two is charged and accused, and which receives approval and esteem. Will it be the one who transgressed in the matter of time but observed the place, or the one who neglected the place but observed the time? If the man who transgressed about the time so as to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem clearly deserves esteem, but the one who observed the time while neglecting the place deserves to be charged and accused for his impious action it is quite obvious that those who do not keep the Passover in the proper place are transgressing the Law, even if they maintain a thousand times over that they are observing the proper time.
(6) Who will make this clear to us? Moses himself. As he tells it, even after some men had observed the Passover outside Jerusalem, "they came up to Moses and said: 'We are unclean through touching the body of a dead man. We should not fail to offer the Lord's offering at its proper time among the sons of Israel, should we'?.' And Moses said to them: 'Stay here and I shall listen to what the Lord will command in your regard.' And the Lord spoke to Moses and said: 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say: "If any man be unclean through the body of a dead man, or if he be afar off on a journey, whether he be one of you or of your descendants, he shall keep the Pasch in the second month.'(7) He means something such as this. If anyone be away from home in the first month. let him not keep the Passover outside the city: but let him return to Jerusalem and keep it in the second month. Let him disregard the time so as not to fail in the matter of the city. In this way he shows that observance of the place is more necessary than observance of the time.
(8) But what could the Jews say if they observe the Passover outside the city of Jerusalem? Since they transgress in the more necessary matter of place, their observance in the less important matter of time cannot be urged in their defense. The result is that they are guilty of the worst transgression of the Law, even if it is obvious a thousand times over that they are not neglecting the matter of time.
(9) This is certain not only from what I have said but also from the prophets. What excuse would the Jews of today have when it is clear that the Jews of old never offered sacrifice, nor sang hymns in an alien land, nor did they observe any such fasts as they do today? To be sure, the Jews of old were expecting to recover the way of life in which they could observe these rituals. Therefore, they remained obedient to the Law and did what it commanded, for the Law told them to expect this. But the Jews of today have no hope of recovering their forefathers' way of life. In what prophet can they find proof that they will? They have no hope, but they cannot bear to give up these practices. And yet, even if they were expecting to recover the old way of life, even so they ought to be imitating those holy men of old by neither fasting nor observing any other such ritual.
V.To prove to you that the Jews in exile observed none of these rituals, hear what they said to those who asked them to do so. For their barbarian captors were urging them by force and demand to play their musical instruments. "Sing to us a hymn of the Lord," they said. But the Jews clearly understood that the Law commanded them not to do so. Therefore, they said: "How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?" And, again, the three boys who were captives in Babylon said; "At this time we have no prince or prophet nor place to offer sacrifice in your sight and find mercy." Certainly there was much room for a place of sacrifice in the country, but since the temple was not there, they steadfastly refrained from offering sacrifice.
(2) And again God spoke to his people through the lips of Zechariah: "For these seventy years you have not kept a fast for me, have you? He was speaking of the captivity. Tell me. By what right, then, do you Jews fast today, when your ancestors neither offered sacrifices, nor fasted, nor kept the feasts? And this makes it especially clear that they did not observe the Passover. Where there was no sacrifice, there no festival was held, because all the feasts had to be celebrated with a sacrifice.
(3) Let me provide proof for this very point. Listen to the words of Daniel: "In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate not desirable bread, and neither flesh nor wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself with ointment in those weeks. And it came to pass on the twenty-fourth day of the first month that I saw the vision. Pay careful heed to me here, for this text makes it clear that they did not observe the Passover. Let me tell you how this is. The Jews were not permitted to fast during the days of the feast of unleavened bread. But for twenty-one days Daniel took no food at all. And what proves that the twenty-one days included the days of the feast of unleavened bread? We learn this from what he said, namely, that it was on the twenty-fourth day of the first month.
(4) But the Passover comes to an end on the twenty-first of that month. If they began the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and then continued it for seven days, they then come to the twenty-first. Nonetheless, Daniel steadfastly continued his fast even after the Passover had come and gone. For if Daniel had begun his fast on the third day of the first month and then continued through a full twenty-one days, he passed the fourteenth, went on for seven days after that, and then kept fasting for three more days.
(5) How, then, do the Jews of today avoid being cursed and defiled? The holy ones of old followed no such observances of what the Law prescribed, because they were in a strange land. Are today's Jews doing just the opposite so that they may stir up contentiousness and strife? If some of the holy ones of old who spoke and acted this way were lax and irreverent, perhaps we would have considered their failure to observe these precepts as a sign of their laxity. But they loved and revered God, they gave their very lives for what God had decreed. So it is abundantly clear that failure to keep the Law was not the result of their laxity. Rather, their failure to keep the Law was prompted by the Law itself, because the Law said they must not observe those rituals outside Jerusalem.
(6) This brings us to a conclusion on another matter of great importance. The observances regarding sacrifices, sabbaths, new moons, and all such things prescribed by the Jewish way of life of that day were not essential. Even when they were observed they could make no great contribution to virtue; when neglected they could not make the excellent man worthless, nor degrade in any way the sanctity of his soul. But those men of old, while still on earth, manifested by their piety a way of life that rivals the way the angels live. Yet they followed none of these observances, they slew no beasts in sacrifice, they kept no feast, they made no display of fasting. But they were so pleasing to God that they surpassed this human nature of ours and, by the lives they lived, they drew the whole world to a knowledge of God.
(7) Who could match a Daniel? Who could match the three boys in Babylon? Did they not anticipate the greatest commandment which the Gospels give, the commandment which is the chief source of all blessings? Had they not already proved this by their deeds? For John says: "Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life of his friends. But they laid down their lives for God.
(8) We must admire them for this. But we must also admire them because they were not doing it for any reward. This is why the boys in Babylon said: "There is a God in heaven, and he can save us; but if he will not, be it known, O king, that we will not worship your gods." The prophet means: The reward is sufficient for us that we are dying for God. And they gave proof of this great virtue even though they were observing none of the Law's prescriptions.
VI.You Jews will say: "Why, then, did God impose these prescriptions if he did not wish them observed?" And I say to you: If he wished them observed, why, then, did he destroy your city? God had to do one or the other of two things if he wished these prescriptions to remain in force: either he had to command you not to sacrifice in one place, since he intended to scatter you to every corner of the world; or, if he wished you to offer sacrifice only in Jerusalem, he was obliged not to scatter you to every corner of the world and he should have made that one city impregnable, because it was there alone that sacrifice has to be offered.
(2) Again the Jews will say: "What is this, then? Was God contradicting himself when he ordered the Jews to sacrifice in one place but then barred them from that very place?" By no means! God is very consistent. He did not wish you to offer sacrifices from the beginning, and I bring forward as my witness of this the very prophet who said: "Hear the word of the . . . Lord, you rulers of Sodom, give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah." But it was really to the Jews the prophet spoke, not to those dwelling in Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet he calls the Jews by the names of these people because, by imitating their evil lives, the Jews had developed a kinship with those who dwelt in those cities.
(3) In fact Isaiah called the Jews dogs and Jeremiah called them mare-mad horses This was not because they suddenly changed natures with those beasts but because they were pursuing the lustful habits of those animals. "'What care I for the number of your sacrifices?' says the Lord. But it is clear that those who dwelt in Sodom never offered sacrifices. Isaiah is aiming his remarks against the Jews when he calls them by the name of those brute animals, and he does so for the reason I just mentioned." 'What care I for the number of your sacrifices' says the Lord 'I am filled up with your holocausts of rams, I desire not the fat of sheep, and the blood of bulls, not even if you come to appear before me. For who required all these things from your hands?' Did you hear his voice clearly saying that he did not require these sacrifices from you from the beginning? If he had made sacrifice a necessity, he would also have subjected the first Jews to this way of life and all the patriarchs who flourished before the Jews of Isaiah's day.
(4) Then the Jews will ask: "How is it that he straightway did permit the Jews to sacrifice?" He was giving in to their weakness. Suppose a physician sees a man who is suffering from fever and finds him in a distressed and impatient mood. Suppose the sick man has his heart set on a drink of cold water and threatens, should he not get it, to find a noose and hang himself, or to hurl himself over a cliff. The physician grants his patient the lesser evil, because he wishes to prevent the greater and to lead the sick man away from a violent death.
(5) This is what God did. He saw the Jews choking with their mad yearning for sacrifices. He saw that they were ready to go over to idols if they were deprived of sacrifices. I should say, he saw that they were not only ready to go over, but that they had already done so. So he let them have their sacrifices the time when the permission was granted should make it clear that this is the reason. After they kept the festival in honor of the evil demons, God yielded and permitted sacrifices. What he all but said was this: "You are all eager and avid for sacrifices. If sacrifice you must, then sacrifice to me." But even if he permitted sacrifices, this permission was not to last forever: in the wisdom of his ways, he took the sacrifices away from them again.
(6) Let me use the example of the physician againthere is really no reason why I should not. After he has given into the patient's craving, he gets a drinking cup from his home and gives instructions to the sick man to satisfy his thirst from this cup and no other. When he has gotten his patient to agree, he leaves secret orders with the servants to smash the cup to bits; in this way he proposes, without arousing the patient's suspicion, to lead him secretly away from the craving on which he has set his heart.
(7) This is what God did, too. He let the Jews offer sacrifice but permitted this to be done in Jerusalem and nowhere else in the world. After they had offered sacrifices for a short time, God destroyed the city. Why? The physician saw to it that the cup was broken. By seeing to it that their city was destroyed, God led the Jews away from the practice of sacrifice, though it was against their will. If God were to have come right out and said: "Keep away from sacrifice," they would not have found it easy to keep away from this madness for offering victims. But now, by imposing the necessity of offering sacrifice in Jerusalem, he led them away from this mad practice: and they never noticed what he had done.
(8) Let me make the analogy clear; the physician is God, the cup is the city of Jerusalem, the patient is the implacable Jewish people, the drink of cold water is the permission and authority to offer sacrifices. The physician has the cup destroyed and, in this way, keeps the sick man from what he demands at an ill-suited time. God destroyed the city itself, made it inaccessible to all, and in this way led the Jews away from sacrifices. If he did not intend to make ready an end to sacrifice, why did God, who is omnipresent and fills the universe, confine so sacred a ritual to a single place? Why did he confine worship to sacrifices, the sacrifices to a place, the place to a time, and the time to a single city, and then destroy the city? It is indeed a strange and surprising thing. the whole world is left open to the Jews, but they are not permitted to sacrifice there; Jerusalem alone is inaccessible to them, and that is the only place where they are permitted to offer sacrifice.(9) Even if a man is completely lacking in understanding, should it not be clear and obvious to him why Jerusalem was destroyed? Suppose a builder lays the foundation for a house, then raises up the walls, arches over the roof, and binds together the vault of the roof with a single keystone to support it. If the builder removes the keystone, he destroys the bond which holds the entire structure together. This is what God did. He made Jerusalem what we might call the keystone which held together the structure of worship. When he overthrew the city, he destroyed the rest of the entire structure of that way of life.
Let then my battle with the Jews wait awhile. I did fight a skirmish of words with them today, but I said only what was enough to save our brothers from danger. Perhaps I said much more than that. But I must now exhort those of you who are here in church to show great concern for the fellow members of our body. I do not want to hear you say: "What concern is this of mine? Why interfere and meddle in other people's affairs?"(2) Our Master died for us. Will you not take the trouble to say a single word? What excuse or defense will you find for this? Tell me this. If you look the other way when so many souls are perishing, how will you find the confidence to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.'? I wish I could know which ones are running off to the synagogue. Then I would not have needed your help but I would have straightened them out with all speed.
(3) Whenever your brother needs correction, even if you must lay down your life, do not refuse him. Follow the example of your Master. If you have a servant or if you have a wife, be very careful to keep them at home. If you refuse to let them go to the theater, you must refuse all the more to let them go to the synagogue. To go to the synagogue is a greater crime than going to the theater. What goes on in the theater is, to be sure, sinful; what goes on in the synagogue is godlessness. When I say this I do not mean that you let them go to the theater, for the theater is wicked; I say it so that you will be all the more careful to keep them away from the synagogue.
(4) What is it that you are rushing to see in the synagogue of the Jews who fight against God? Tell me, is it to hear the trumpeters? You should stay at home to weep and groan for them, because they are fighting against God's command, and it is the devil who leads them in their revels and dance. As I said before, if there once was a time when God did permit what is against his will, now it is a violation of his law and grounds for punishments beyond number. Long ago, when the Jews did have sacrifices, they did sound their trumpets; now God does not permit them to do this.
(5) At least listen to the reason why they got the trumpets. God said to Moses: "Make for yourself trumpets of beaten silver. Next God explained how the trumpets were to be used, for he went on to say: "You will sound them over the holocausts, and the sacrifices for your deliverance.
(6) But where is the altar? Where is the ark? Where is the tabernacle and the holy of holies? Where is the priest? Where are the cherubim of glory? Where is the golden altar of incense? Where is the mercy-seat? Where is the bowl? Where are the drink offerings? Where is the fire sent down from heaven? Did you lose all those and keep only the trumpets? Do you Christians not see that what the Jews are doing is mockery rather than worship?
(7) I blame the Jews for violating the Law. But I blame you much more for going along with the lawbreakers, not only those of you who run to the synagogues but also those of you who have the power to stop the Judaizers but are unwilling to do so. Do not say to me: "What do I have in common with him? He is a stranger, and I do not know him." I say to you that as long as he is a believer, as long as he shares with you in the same mysteries, as long as he comes to the same church, he is more closely related to you than your own kinsmen and friends. Remember, it is not only those who commit robbery who pay the penalty for their crime; those, too, who could have stopped them but did not, pay the same penalty. Those guilty of impiety are punished, and so, too, are those who could have led them from godless ways but did not, because they were too timid or lazy to be willing to do so.
(8) To be sure, the man who buried his talent gave it back to his master whole and entire; yet he was punished because he did not make a profit from it. Suppose, then, that you yourself remain pure and free from blame; if you fail to make a profit from your talent, if you fail to bring back to salvation your brother who is perishing, you will suffer the same punishment which he does.
(9) Is it some great burden I am asking of you, my beloved? Let each one of you bring back for me one of your brothers to salvation. Let each one of you interfere and meddle in your brother's affairs so that we may come to tomorrow's service with great confidence, because we are bringing gifts more valuable than any others, because we are bringing back the souls of those who have wandered away. Even if we must suffer revilement, even if we must be beaten, even if we must endure any other pain whatsoever, let us do everything to win these brothers back. Since these are sick brothers who trample us underfoot, revile us, and rail against us, we are not stung by their insults; we want to see one thing and only one thing: the return to health of him who behaved in this outrageous way.
(10) Many a time a sick man tears the physician's clothes. But the physician does not let this stop him from trying to cure his patient. It is normal, then, for physicians to show such concern for their patients' bodily health. When so many souls are perishing, is it right for us to slacken our efforts and to think we are suffering no terrible harm, even if our own members are rotting with disease? Paul did not think so. What did he say? "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire?" See to it that you catch this fire.
(11) Suppose you see your brother perishing. Even if he reviles you, if he insults you, if he strikes you, if he threatens to become your foe, if he menaces you in any other way, show your courage and endure all these insults so that you may win his salvation. If he should become your foe, God will be your friend and will give you in return many great blessings on that day.
(12) May the prayers of the saints save those who have wandered into error, may you who are faithful be successful in your hunt, may those who have blasphemed God be freed from their ungodliness and come to know Christ, who died for them on the cross, so that all of us may, with one accord and one voice, give glory to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power together with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
|Bookmark this site|