Against the Jews
by St. John Chrysostom
Wild beasts are less savage and fierce as long they live in the forests and have had no experience fighting against men. But when the hunters capture them, they drag them into the cities, lock them in cages, and goad them on to do battle with beast-fighting gladiators. Then the beasts spring upon their prey, taste human flesh and drink human blood. After that, they would find it no easy task to keep away from such a feast but they avidly rush to this bloody banquet.
(2) This has been my experience, too. Once I took up my fight against the Jews and rushed to meet their shameless assaults, "I destroyed their reasoning and every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and I brought their minds into captivity to the obedience of Christ. And after that I somehow acquired a stronger yearning to do battle against them.
(3) But what is the matter with me? You see that my voice has grown weaker and cannot again last for so long a time. I think that what has happened to me is much the same as what happens to a soldier in battle. He cuts to pieces a number of his foes, courageously throws himself against the enemy lines, strews the ground with corpses, but then breaks his sword; disheartened by this mishap he must retreat to his own ranks. Indeed, what has happened to me is worse. The soldier who has broken his sword can snatch another from some bystander, prove his courage, and show how eager he is for victory. But when the voice becomes weak and exhausted, you cannot borrow another from somebody else.
(4) What shall I do, then? Shall I, too, run away? The power your loving assembly holds over me does not let me run away. I reverence and respect our father, who is here. I reverence and respect your eagerness and earnestness. Therefore, I shall entrust the whole undertaking to his prayers and your charity and I will attempt what lies beyond my power.
(5) It is true that today's feast of the martyrs invites me to recount the conflicts they underwent. If I neglect this topic, if I strip and get ready to enter the arena against the Jews, let no one accuse me of choosing the wrong time for my discourse. The martyrs would find a discourse against the Jews more desirable than any panegyric of mine, since I could never make them more illustrious than they are.
(6) What need could they have of my tongue? Their own struggles surpass our mortal nature. The prizes they won go beyond our powers and understanding. They laughed at the life lived on earth; they trampled underfoot the punishment of the rack; they scorned death and took wing to heaven; they escaped from the storms of temporal things and sailed into a calm harbor; they brought with them no gold or silver or expensive garments; they carried along no treasure which could be plundered, but the riches of patience, courage, and love. Now they belong to Paul's choral band while they still await their crowns, but they find delight in the expectation of their crowns, because they have escaped henceforth the uncertainty of the future.
(7) What need could they have of any words of mine? Therefore, they will find this topic more desirable than any panegyric of mine which, as I said before, will bring no increase to their personal glory. But it could be that they will derive great pleasure from my conflict with the Jews; they might well listen most intently to a discourse given for God's glory. For the martyrs have a special hatred for the Jews since the Jews crucified him for whom they have a special love. The Jews said: "His blood be on us and on our children" the martyrs poured out their own blood for him whom the Jews had slain. So the martyrs would be glad to hear this discourse.
If the present captivity of the Jews were going to come to an end, the prophets would not have remained silent on this but would have foretold it. I gave adequate proof of this when I showed that all their bondages were brought upon them after they had been predicted: the bondage in Egypt, the bondage in Babylon, and the bondage in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. I proved that for each of these the Sacred Scriptures had proclaimed beforehand both a time and a place. But no prophet defined a duration for the present bondage, although Daniel did predict that it would come, that it would bring total desolation, that it would change their old commonwealth and way of life, and how long after the return from Babylon it would come to pass.
(2) But Daniel did not reveal that it would come to an end nor that these troubles would ever stop. Nor did any other prophet. Daniel did, however, predict the opposite, namely, that this bondage would hold them in slavery until the end of time The great number of years which have come and gone since that day are witnesses to the truth of what he said. And the years have shown neither trace nor beginning of a change for the better, even though the Jews tried many times to rebuild their temple. Not once, not twice, but three times they tried. They tried in the time of Hadrian, in the time of Constantine, and in the time of Julian. But each time they tried they were stopped. The first two times they were stopped by military force; later it was by the fire which leaped forth from the foundations and restrained them from their untimely obstinacy.
(3) Now I would be glad to ask them a few questions. Why, tell me, did you recover your own country after spending so many years in Egypt? And after you had been again dragged away into Babylon, why did you come back to Jerusalem? Again, in the time of Antiochus, you suffered many evils, but you came back to your old state, you again recovered your sacrifices, your altar, your holy of holies, and all the rest, along with the dignity these things once had. But nothing such as this has happened in your present bondage. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred years and many more than that have passed. This is the five hundredth year up to our own day, but we see no hint of such a change for the better on the horizon. What we do see is that the Jewish fortunes have completely collapsed; they do not even have a dream to show they might have any expectation such as they had in their former captivities.
(4) Suppose the Jews should plead their sins as an excuse. Suppose they should say: "We sinned against God and offended him. This is the reason why we are not recovering our homeland. We did treat shamelessly the prophets who never ceased to accuse us, we did deny the blood-guilt of which the prophets spoke in tragic phrases, but we will now confess and condemn ourselves for our own sins." If the Jews should plead this excuse, I will be glad to question each one of them again.
(5) Is it because of your sins that you Jews have been living for so long a time outside Jerusalem? What is strange and unusual about that? It is not only now that your people are living sin filled lives. Did you, in the beginning, live your lives in justice and good deeds? Is it not true that from the beginning and long before today you lived with countless transgressions of the Law? Did not the prophet Ezechiel accuse you ten thousand times when he brought in the two harlots, Oholah and Oholibah, and said "You built a brothel in Egypt; you passionately loved barbarians, and you worshipped strange gods."
(6) What about this? After the waters of the sea were divided, after the rocks were broken asunder, after so many miracles were worked in the desert, did you not worship the calf? Did you not try many times to kill Moses, now by stoning him, now by driving him into exile, and in ten thousand other ways? Did you ever stop hurling blasphemies at God? Were you not initiated in the rites of Baal of Peor? Did you not sacrifice your sons and daughters to demons? Did you not make a display of every form of ungodliness and sin?
(7) Did not the prophet, speaking in behalf of God, say to you: "Forty years I was offended with that generation, and I said: 'These always err in heart.' "' How was it, then, that at that time God did not turn himself away from you? How is it that after you slew your children, after your idolatries, after your many acts of arrogance, after your unspeakable ingratitude, that God even allowed the great Moses to be a prophet among you and that he worked wondrous and marvelous signs himself? What happened in the case of no human being did happen to you. A cloud was stretched over you in place of a roof; a pillar instead of a lamp served to guide you; your enemies retreated of their own accord; cities were captured almost at the first battle-shout. You had no need of weapons. no need of an army in array, no need to do battle. You had only to sound your trumpets and the walls came tumbling down of their own accord. And you had a strange and marvelous food which the prophet spoke of when he exclaimed: "He gave them the bread of heaven. Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance.
(8) Tell me this. In those days you were guilty of ungodliness, you worshipped idols, you slew your children, you stoned the prophets, and you did ten thousand dreadful deeds. Why, then, did you enjoy such great kindness and good will from Him? Why did He offer you such protection at that time? Now you do not worship idols, you do not slay your children, you do not stone the prophets. Why are you now spending your lives in endless captivity? God was not one kind of God then and a different kind now, was he? Is it not the same God who governed those past events and who brings to pass what goes on today? Tell me this. Why did you have great honor from God when your sins were greater? Now that your sins are less serious, he has turned himself altogether away from you and has given you over to unending disgrace.
(9) If he turns away from you now because of your sins, he should have done so all the more in those days. If he put up with you when you were living lives of ungodliness, he ought to put up with you all the more now that you venture no such enormities. Why, then, has he not put up with you? Even if you are too ashamed to give the reason, I will state it clearly. Rather, I will not state it, but the truth of the facts will do so.
(10) You did slay Christ, you did lift violent hands against the Master, you did spill his precious blood. This is why you have no chance for atonement, excuse, or defense. In the old days your reckless deeds were aimed against his servants, against Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Even if there was ungodliness in your acts then, your boldness had not yet dared the crowning crime. But now you have put all the sins of your fathers into the shade. Your mad rage against Christ, the Anointed One, left no way for anyone to surpass your sin. This is why the penalty you now pay is greater than that paid by your fathers. If this is not the reason for your present disgrace, why is it that God put up with you in the old days when you sacrificed your children to idols, but turns himself away from you now when you are not so bold as to commit such a crime? Is it not clear that you dared a deed much worse and much greater than any sacrifice of children or transgression of the Law when you slew Christ?
III.Tell me this. Will you still dare to call him an imposter and lawbreaker? Will you not instead go off and bury yourselves somewhere, when you look the facts in the face, since their truth is so obvious? If Jesus were an imposter and lawbreaker, as you say he was, you should have been held in high honor for putting him to death. Phinehas slew a man and put an end to all God's wrath against the people? The Psalmist said: "Then Phinehas stood up and propitiated him and the slaughter stopped." He rescued a great many ungodly men from the wrath of God by slaying a single lawbreaker. This should have happened all the more in your case, if indeed the man you crucified was a transgressor of the Law.
(2) Phinehas, then, was held guiltless after he slew a lawbreaker; indeed, he was honored with the priesthood. But after you crucified an imposter, as you say, who made himself equal to God, you did not receive esteem nor were you held in honor. Instead you suffered a more grievous punishment than you did when you sacrificed your children to idols. Why is this so? Is it not clear even to the dullest minds? You committed outrage on him who saved and rules the world; now you are enduring this great punishment. Is this not the reason?
(3) Yet even today you abstain from blood which would defile you and you observe the sabbath. But at the time you slew Christ, you violated the sabbath. God even promised, through Jeremiah, to spare your city if you would stop carrying burdens on the sabbath. Look, you are observing this law now; you are not carrying burdens on the sabbath. But God is not reconciled to you on this account. Since that sin of yours surpassed all sins, it is useless to say your sins are keeping you from recovering your homeland. You are in the grip of your present sufferings not because of the sins committed in the rest of your lives but because of that one reckless act. If this were not the case, God would not have turned his back on you in such a way, even if you had sinned ten thousand times. This is clear not only from all I have already said but from what I am now going to tell you.
(4) What is this? Oftentimes we have heard God speak to your fathers through the prophets and say: "You deserve countless evils. But I do this for my name's sake, that it may not be profaned among the nations." And again: "It is not for your sakes that I do this, O house of Israel, but for my name's sake." What God is saying is this: "You deserved heavier vengeance and punishment. But so that no one may say that God let the Jews stay in the power of their enemies because God was weak and unable to save them, I am helping you and protecting you."
(5) Suppose Christ were a lawbreaker and you crucified him; suppose you had committed countless sins and much worse ones than the sins of your fathers. God would still have saved you to keep his name from being profaned. If Christ were a lawbreaker, God would not have let him be considered a great man, God would not want people putting the blame on Christ for your misfortunes. If God clearly overlooks your sins for His glory's sake, he would have done so all the more if you crucified a lawbreaker. He would have approved of this slaughter and would have blotted out your sins, many as they are. But when God clearly and completely turns himself from you, it is obvious that, by his anger and by abandoning you forever, he is proving even to the most shameless that he who was slain was not a lawbreaker, but the lawgiver who has come as the author of countless blessings. You acted outrageously against him and you are now held in indignity and dishonor. We worship him and, even though heretofore we were held in greater dishonor than all of you, now, through the grace of God, we are more venerable than all of you and are held in higher esteem.
(6) But the Jews will say: "Where is the evidence that God has turned away front us?" Does this still need proof in words? Tell me this. Do not the facts themselves shout it out? Do they not send forth a sound clearer titan the trumpet's call? Do you still ask for proof in words when you see the destruction of your city, the desolation of your temple, and all the other misfortunes which have come upon you? "But men brought these things upon us, not God." Rather it was God above all others who did these things. If you attribute them to men. then you must consider that, even if men were to have the boldness, they would not have had the power to bring these things to accomplishment, unless it were by God's decree.
(7) The barbarian came down upon you and brought all Persia with him. He expected that he would catch you all by the suddenness of his attack and he kept you all locked up in the city as if you were caught in the net of a hunter or fisherman. Because God was gracious to you at that timeI repeat, at that time without a battle, without a war, without a hostile encounter, the barbarian king left one hundred and eighty-five thousand of his slain soldiers among you and fled, contented that he alone was saved. And God often decided countless other battles in this way. So also now, if God had not deserted you once and for all, your enemies would not have had the power to destroy your city and leave your temple desolate. If God had not abandoned you, the ruin of desolation would not have lasted so long a time, nor would your frequent efforts to rebuild the temple have been in vain.
IV.These are not my only arguments. I shall use other sources as well in my efforts to prevail upon you to agree that it was not by their own power that the Roman emperors did what they did. They did what they did because God was angry with the Jews and had abandoned them. If the things that happened were the work of men, your misfortunes should have ended with the capture of Jerusalem and your disgrace should not have gone beyond it. Let me grant, according to your argument, that men demolished the walls, destroyed the city, and overturned the altar, Was it the work of men that you have no more prophets? Men did not take away the grace of the Spirit, did they? Did men destroy the other things you held solemn, such as the voice from the propitiatory, the power which came in the anointing, the declaration made by the priest from the stones?
(2) The Jewish religious way of life did not have all its origins from here below; the greater number and the more solemn things came from heaven above. For example, God permitted the sacrifices. The altar was from here below as were the faggots, the knife, and the priest. But the rite which was going to enter the sanctuary and consume the sacrifices had its source from on high; no man carried the fire into the temple, but a flame came down from above and by this the ministry for the sacrifice was fulfilled.
(3) And, again, if they ever had to know something, a voice came forth from the propitiatory, or mercy-seat, from between the cherubim, and foretold the future. Again from the stones which were on the breast of the high priest, which they called the declaration, there came a sort of flashing which indicated the future. Furthermore, whenever someone had to be chosen and anointed, the grace of the Spirit would wing its way down and the oil would run on the forehead of the elect. Prophets fulfilled these ministries. And many a time a cloud of smoke obscured the sanctuary. To keep the Jews from continuing their shameless ways and attributing their desolation to men, God not only permitted the city to fall and the temple to be destroyed but he also removed the things which had their source from heaven above: the fire, the voice, the flashing of the stones, and all other such things.
(4) The Jews will tell you: "Men waged war on us; men plotted against us." When they say this, tell them that men would certainly not have waged war against them unless God had permitted it. Granted that men tore down your walls. Did a man keep the fire from coming down from heaven? Did a man stop the voice which was continually heard from the propitiatory? Did a man stop the declaration from the stones? Did a man put an end to the anointing of your priests? Did a man take away all those other things? Was it not God who withdrew them? Surely, this is clear to everybody. Why, then, did God take them away? Is it not obvious that he hated you and turned his back on you once and for all? The Jews will say: "By no means! The reason why we do not have these is because we do not have our mother-city." But why do you not have your mother-city? Is it not because God has abandoned you?
(5) Let us, rather, stop their shameless mouths with still more proof. To do this, let me prove from the Scriptures themselves that the destruction of the temple was not the reason for destroying the ritual given to the prophets. The real reason was the wrath of God. And he is much more provoked to anger now, because of the Jews' mad rage against Christ, than he was when they worshipped the calf. Surely, when Moses was their prophet, there was neither temple nor altar. Even though they kept committing countless acts of ungodliness, his gift of prophecy did not desert him. To be sure, he was a great and noble man, but, in addition to him, there were again seventy other men who, at that time, were proclaimed as prophets.
(6) This was true not only in Moses' day but also thereafter, when they had been given a temple and the rest of the ritual. Even after this temple was burned and they all had been led off to Babylon, Ezechiel and Daniel saw no holy of holies, stood beside no altar. But even though they were in the middle of a barbarian land and in the midst of unclean transgressors of the Law, they were filled with the Spirit and foretold the future, predicting events far more numerous and marvelous than those prophesied by their predecessors. And they saw divine visions insofar as it was possible for them to see.
(7) Tell me this. Why is it that you have no prophets now? Is it not clear that it is because God has turned his back on your religion? Why did he turn his back on you? It is again obvious that he did so because of him whom you crucified and because of your recklessness in committing that outrage. What makes this so obvious? It is obvious from this: when you Jews lived the life of ungodliness before, you got everything; now, after the cross, although you seem to be living a more moderate life, you 'endure a greater vengeance and have none of your former blessings.
The prophets clearly and distinctly put the truth before you so that you could learn the reason for your troubles. hear how Isaiah predicted not only the blessings that will come to all through Christ but also your senseless arrogance. He said: "By his stripes we were healed," and by these words he foretold the salvation which has come to all through the cross. Then, to show the kind of men we are, he went on to say: "We had all gone astray like sheep, each turned aside on his own way." In describing the manner of his execution on the cross, he said: "Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer, he was silent and opened not his mouth. In his humiliation his legal trial was taken away."
(2) And where can we see that all these things came true? In Pilate's unlawful court of law. Although they testified to so many things against him, as Matthew said, Jesus made no answer to them. Pilate, the presiding official, said to him: "Do you hear what witness these men bear against you? And he made no answer but stood there silent. This is what the heaven-inspired prophet meant when he said: "Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer, he was silent." Then he showed the lawlessness of the law court when he said: "In his humiliation his legal trial was taken away." No one at that time cast a truly just vote against him, but they accepted the false testimony against him. What was the reason for this? Because he did not wish to proceed against them.
(3) If he wished to do so, he would have stirred up everything and shaken the world to its depths. When he was on the cross, he split the rocks, darkened the earth, turned aside the rays of the sun, and made night out of day over the whole world. If he did this on the cross, he could have done it in the courtroom. Yet he did not wish to do it but, instead, showed us his mildness and moderation. This is why Isaiah said: "In his humiliation his legal trial was taken away." Then, to show that Jesus was not just anybody, he went on to say: "Who shall declare his generation? Who is this man of whom Isaiah said: "His life is taken from the earth? This is why Paul also said: "Our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, our life, shall appear, then you too will appear with him in glory."
(4) But let me return to the topic which I proposed to discuss and prove, namely, that the Jews are enduring their present troubles because of Christ. It is time now to bring in my witness, Isaiah, who spoke these words. Where, then, did he say this? After he spoke of the trial, death, and ascension, after he said: "His life is taken from the earth," he went on to say: "And I shall give the ungodly for his burial, and the rich for his death." He did not simply say "the Jews," but "the ungodly." What could be more ungodly than those who first received so many good things and then slew the author of those blessings?
(5) If these prophecies have not been fulfilled, if you Jews are not now held in dishonor, if you are not now bereft of everything your fathers had, if your city did not fall, if your temple is not in ruins, if your disaster has not surpassed every tragedy, then you Jews should refuse to believe me. But if the facts shout out and prophecy has been fulfilled, why do you keep up your foolish and unavailing impudence?
(6) Where are the things you held as solemn, where is your high priest, where are his robe, his breastpiece, and stones of declaration? So do not talk to me about those patriarchs of yours who are hucksters and merchants and filled with all iniquity. Tell me, what kind of priest is he if the ancient oil for anointing priests no longer exists nor any other ritual of consecration? What kind of a priest is he if there is neither sacrifice, nor altar, nor worship? Do you wish me to speak of the laws governing the priesthood and how priests were consecrated in olden times? In this way you would find out that those among you who are today called patriarchs are not priests at all. They act the part of priests and are playing a role as if they were on the stage, but they cannot carry the role because they are so far removed from both the reality and even the pretense of priesthood.
(7) Recall how in those days Aaron was made a priest, how many sacrifices Moses offered, how many victims he slew, how he bathed Aaron, anointed the lobe of his ear, his right hand and right foot. Only then did Moses lead Aaron into the holy of holies; only then did he bid him remain there a set number of days. But it is worth your while to hear his very words. "This is the anointing of Aaron and the anointing of his sons. And the Lord spoke to Moses saying 'Take Aaron with his sons, their vestments, and the oil of unction, the calf for sin, and a ram, and gather together the community at the entrance of the meeting tent.' And Moses spoke to the whole assembly: 'This is the word which the Lord has commanded.' And after he brought them forward" (for I must cut the account short), "he washed them with water, put the tunic [on Aaron], girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, placed the ephod on him, girded him and fastened it around him. He then set the breastpiece on him with the declaration of doctrine and truth on it, and put the miters on his head, and on the miter, the gold plate. Taking the anointing oil he sprinkled the altar with it and consecrated it and the vessels; the laver and its base he also consecrated. And he poured some of the oil on Aaron's head and did in like manner to his sons. And he brought forward the calf. After he sacrificed it, when Aaron and his sons had put their hands upon it, he took some of its blood and put it on the horns of the altar and purified the altar. And he poured the blood on the base of the altar and consecrated it by performing the rite of atonement over it. After he burned portions of the calf, some within on the altar, others outside the camp, he brought in a ram and offered it for a holocaust.(8) And again he brought a second ram, the ordination ram. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on it and Moses immolated it. He took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron's right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot. And he did the same thing to Aaron's sons. Then he took some parts of the sacrifice and put them into Aaron's hands and those of his sons and in this way he made the offering. And again he took the blood and some oil and sprinkled Aaron and his vestments with it, and his sons and their vestments. He consecrated them and ordered them to cook the flesh at the entrance to the tent of meeting and to eat it there. And he said: 'You shall not go forth from the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days until the day when the day of your ordination is complete."'
(9) Moses said that by all these rites Aaron was ordained, purified, and consecrated, and that they appeased God. But we find none of these today: no sacrifice, no holocaust, no sprinkling of blood, no anointing with oil, no tent of meeting where they must sit for a definite number of days. This makes it obvious that the priest among the Jews today is unordained, unclean, under a curse, and profane; he only provokes God's wrath. If a priest could not be ordained in any other way than by these rites, and these rites no longer exist, then there is no possible way that their priesthood could have continued to exist. You see that was right when I said they had gotten somewhere far off and had been far removed from both the reality and even the pretense of the priesthood.
We can also learn from other sources how awesome was the dignity of the priesthood. Indeed, there was a day when some wicked and evil men revolted against Aaron, quarreled with him over his position in the community, and tried to drive him from his leadership. Moses, the mildest of men, wanted to persuade them by the facts themselves that he had not brought Aaron to the leadership because he was a brother, relative, or member of his family, but that it was in obedience to God's decree that he had entrusted the priesthood to him. So he ordered each tribe to bring a staff, and Aaron was instructed to do the same.
(2) When each tribe had brought a staff, Moses took all of them and put them inside the meeting tent. Once he had put them there, he gave orders that they await the decision of God which would come to them through those staves. Then all the other staves kept their same appearance, but a single oneAaron'sblossomed and put forth leaves and fruit. So the Lord of nature used leaves instead of letters to teach them that he had again elected Aaron.(3) God said in the beginning: "Let the earth bring forth vegetation," and he stirred up its power to bear fruit; in Aaron's day, he also took that dry and fruitless wood and made it blossom without earth or root. That staff was thereafter a proof and witness both of the wickedness of those men and of God's choice. It uttered no word, but the very sight of it, in tones clearer than any trumpet's call, urged every man never to attempt such things as did Aaron's foes.
(4) Not only in this case but at another time and in another way God made clear his choice of Aaron. Many men conspired against Aaron in their lust for the leadership for which God selected him. (And leadership is the kind of thing many men fight over and desire.) Moses ordered them to bring their censers, put incense in them, and to wait for a decision from heaven. As they were burning their incense, the earth split apart and gulped down all their supporters, and a flame from heaven consumed those who had taken up their censers.
(5) Moses did not want anyone to forget, with the passage of time, what had happened. Nor did he want men of a later day to remain ignorant of God's wondrous decision. Therefore, he gave orders that those bronze censers be picked up and beaten into plates for the altar. Just as the very sight of the voiceless staff sent forth a voice, so these bronze plates would speak to all men thereafter, to exhort and advise them never to imitate the madness of those men of old, for fear that they might suffer the same judgment.
(6) Do you see how priests were chosen in former days? But everything that goes on among the Jews today is a ridiculous sport, a trading in shame, filled with outrages beyond number. Tell me, then. Do you let yourself be led by these men who stubbornly oppose God's laws in their every word and deed? Do you rush to their synagogues? Are you not afraid that a bolt of lightning may come down from above and consume your head? Even if a man is not a thief himself but is seen in a den of robbers, he pays the same penalty as they. You do know this, do you not? But why talk about robbers and their crimes?
(7) Surely you all know and remember the time when some evil tricksters in our midst tore down the statues? You remember how not only those who did this reckless deed but also those who were seen simply standing there when it happened were all arrested and dragged off to court together. And you remember that they all paid the supreme penalty. Tell me, then. Are you all agog to run off to a place where they outrage the Father, blaspheme the Son, and reject the Holy Spirit, the giver of life? Are you not afraid, do you not shudder to set foot inside those profane and unclean places? Tell me. What defense or excuse will you have since it is you who have thrust yourself into ruin and perdition, since it is you who have hurled yourself from the precipice?
(8) Do not tell me that the Law and the books of the prophets are there. These do not make it a holy place? Which is the better thing? Is it better to have the books there or to speak out the truths they contain? Obviously it is better to speak out these truths and to keep them in your heart. Tell me, what about this? The devil quoted Scripture. This did not make his mouth holy, did it? You cannot say it did, since the devil kept on being the devil. What about the demons? Just because they spoke out and proclaimed: "These men are servants of the most high God and they proclaim to you a way of salvation," do we on this account rank them among the apostles? By no means! Just as before, we keep right on turning our backs on them and hating them.
(9) If spoken words do not make the mouth holy, does the presence of the Scriptures make a place holy? But how could this be right? This is my strongest reason for hating the synagogue: it does have the Law and the prophets. And now I hate it more than if it had none of these. Why is this? Because in the Law and the prophets they have a great allurement and many a snare to attract the more simple-minded sort of men. This is why Paul drove out the demon which did not remain silent but spoke out. As the author of Acts says: "Being very much grieved, he said to the spirit, 'Go out of her.' Why? Because the demon kept shouting: "These men are servants of the most high God.
(10) As long as the demons remained silent, they did not deceive people by their words; when they spoke out, they did so with the intention of enticing many of the simpler sort into listening and heeding them in these other matters. The demons wish to open the door to their deceits and to create confidence in their lies. And so they give some admixture of truth, in the same way that those who mix lethal drugs smear the lip of the cup with honey to make the harmful potion easy to drink.
(11) This is why Paul was very much grieved and why he hurried to stop up the demons' mouths when they took to themselves a dignity which ill became them. This is why I hate the Jews. Although they possess the Law, they put it to outrageous use. For it is by means of the Law that they try to entice and catch the more simple-minded sort of men. If they refused to believe in Christ because they did not believe in the prophets, the charge against them would not be so severe. As it is, they have deprived themselves of every excuse because they say that they do believe in the prophets but they have heaped outrage on him whom the prophets foretold.
VII.In short, if you believe the place is holy because the Law and the books of prophets are there, then it is time for you to believe that idols and the temples of idols are holy. Once, when the Jews were at war, the people of Ashdod conquered them, took their ark, and brought it into their own temple. Did the fact that it contained the ark make their temple a holy place? By no means! It continued to be profane and unclean, as the events straightway proved. For God wanted to teach the enemies of the Jews that the defeat was not due to God's weakness but to the transgressions of those who worshipped him. And so the ark, which had been taken as booty in war, gave proof of its own power in an alien land by twice throwing the idol to the ground so that the idol was broken. The ark was so far from making that temple a holy place that it even openly attacked it.
(2) Look at it in another way. What sort of ark is it that the Jews now have, where we find no propitiatory, no tables of the law, no holy of holies, no veil, no high priest, no incense, no holocaust, no sacrifice, none of the other things that made the ark of old solemn and august? It seems to me that the ark the Jews now have is no better off than those toy arks which you can buy in the market place, in fact it is much worse. Those little toy arks cannot hurt anybody who comes close to them. But the ark which the Jews now have does great harm each day to those who come near it.
(3) "Brethren, do not become children in mind, but in malice be children, and rescue from their untimely anguish those who are frightened by these things. Teach them what should really terrify them and make them afraid. They should not be terrified by that ark but they should be afraid that they will bring destruction to the temple of God. How will they destroy the temple of God? By constantly rushing off to the synagogue, by a conscience which is inclined toward Judaism, and by the untimely observance of the Jewish rites.
(4) "You who would be justified in the Law have fallen away from grace." This is what you must fear. On that day of judgment you must be afraid of hearing him who will judge you say: "Depart, I know you not." "You made common cause with those who crucified me. You were obstinate toward me and started up again the festivals to which I had put an end. You ran to the synagogues of the Jews who sinned against me. I destroyed the temple and made ruins of that august place together with all the awe-inspiring things it contained. But you frequented shrines that are no better than hucksters' shops or dens of thieves."
(5) The cherubim and the ark were still there, the grace of the Spirit still abounded in the temple when Christ said: "You have made it a den of thieves" and "a house of business." And He said this because of the transgressions and blood-guilt of the Jews. Now, after the grace of the Spirit has abandoned them, after all those august solemnities have been taken away, they are still stubborn with God and carry on their irreligious rites. What worthy name can we find to call their synagogues?
(6) The temple was already a den of thieves when the Jewish commonwealth and way of life still prevailed. Now you give it a name more worthy than it deserves if you call it a brothel, a stronghold of sin, a lodging-place for demons, a fortress of the devil, the destruction of the soul, the precipice and pit of all perdition, or whatever other name you give it.
(7) Do you wish to see the temple? Don't run to the synagogue; be a temple yourself. God destroyed one temple in Jerusalem but he reared up temples beyond number, temples more august than that old one ever was. Paul said: "You are the temple of the living God. Make that temple beautiful, drive out every evil thought, so that you may be a precious member of Christ, a temple of the Spirit. And make others be temples such as you are yourselves. When you see the poor, you would not find it easy to pass them by. When any of you see some Christian running to the synagogue, do not look the other way. Find some argument you can use as a halter to bring him back to the Church. This kind of almsgiving is greater than giving to the poor, and the profit from it is worth more than ten thousand talents.
(8) Why do I speak of being worth more than tell thousand talents? Or worth more than the whole visible world? A human being is worth more than the whole world. Heaven and earth and sea and sun and stars were made for his sake.
(9) Consider well, then, the dignity and worth of the man you save. Do not think lightly of the care you show to him. Even if a man gives away more money than you can count, he does not do as great a thing as the man who saves a soul, leads it from its error, and takes it by the hand along the road to godliness. The man who gives to the poor takes away the poor man's hunger; the man who sets a Judaizing Christian straight, wins a victory over godlessness. The first man gave consolation to the poor; the second put a stop to reckless transgression. The first freed the body from pain, the other snatched a soul from the fires of hell.
(10) I showed you the treasure; do not forsake the profit. You cannot dare put the blame on your poverty or excuse yourself because you are indigent. The only expense is one of phrases; the only cost is one of words. Therefore, let us not shrink back from the task but, with all the zeal and desire we possess, let us go hunting for our brothers. Even though they be unwilling, let us drag them into our own houses, let us sit down with them at table and put a meal before them. Let us do this so that after they have broken their fast before our eyes, after they have given us a full and sufficient guarantee of their conversion and return to better ways, they may help both themselves and us to a share in eternal blessings through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, now and forever, world without end. Amen.
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