18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When
as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she
was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having said above, "And Jacob begat Joseph," to whom
Mary being espoused bare Jesus; that none who heard should suppose that
His birth was as that of any of the forementioned fathers, he cuts off
the thread of his narrative, saying, "But Christ's generation was thus."
As though he were to say, The generation of all these fathers was as I
have related it; but Christ's was not so, but as follows, "His mother Mary
Chrys.: He announces that he is to relate the manner of the generation,
shewing therein that he is about to speak some new thing; that you may
not suppose when you hear mention of Mary's husband, that Christ was born
by the law of nature.
Remig.: Yet it might be referred to the foregoing in this way, The generation
of Christ was, as I have related, thus, "Abraham begat Isaac."
Jerome: But why is He conceived not of a Virgin merely, but of a Virgin
espoused? First, that by the descent of Joseph, Mary's family might be
made known; secondly, that she might not be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress;
thirdly, that in her flight into Egypt she might have the comfort of a
The Martyr Ignatius [margin note: vid. Ign. ad Eph. 19] adds yet a fourth
reason, namely, that His birth might be hid from the Devil, looking for
Him to be born of a wife and not of a virgin.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore both espoused and yet remaining at home; for
as in her who should conceive in the house of her husband, is understood
natural conception; so in her who conceives before she be taken to her
husband, there is suspicion of infidelity.
Jerome, Hieron. cont. Helvid. in princ.: It is to be known, that Helvidius,
a certain turbulent man, having got matter of disputation, takes in hand
to blaspheme against the Mother of God. His first proposition was, Matthew
begins thus, "When she was espoused." Behold, he says, you have her espoused,
but as ye say, not yet committed; but surely not espoused for any other
reason than as being to be married.
Origen: She was indeed espoused to Joseph, but not united in wedlock;
that is to say, His mother immaculate, His mother incorrupt, [p. 41] His
mother pure. His mother! Whose mother? The mother of God, of the Only-begotten,
of the Lord, of the King, of the Maker of all things, and the Redeemer
Cyril, Epist. ad Monach. Egypt. (Ep. p. 7): What will any one see in
the Blessed Virgin more than in other mothers, if she be not the mother
of God, but of Christ, or the Lord, as Nestorius says? For it would not
be absurd should any one please to name the mother of any anointed person,
the mother of Christ. Yet she alone and more than they is called the Holy
Virgin, and the mother of Christ. For she bare not a simple man as ye say,
but rather the Word incarnate, and made man of God the Father.
But perhaps you say, Tell me, do you think the Virgin was made the mother
of His divinity? To this also we say, that the Word was born of the very
substance of God Himself, and without beginning of time always coexisted
with the Father.
But in these last times when He was made flesh, that is united to flesh,
having a rational soul, He is said to be born of a woman after the flesh.
Yet is this sacrament in a manner brought out like to birth among us; for
the mothers of earthly children impart to their nature that flesh that
is to be perfected by degrees in the human form; but God sends the life
into the animal. But though these are mothers only of the earthly bodies,
yet when they bear children, they are said to bear the whole animal, and
not a part of it only.
Such do we see to have been done in the birth of Emmanuel; the Word
of God was born of the substance of His Father; but because He took on
Him flesh, making it His own, it is necessary to confess that He was born
of a woman according to the flesh. Where seeing He is truly God, how shall
any one doubt to call the Holy Virgin the Mother of God?
Chrysologus, Serm. 148: If you are not confounded when you hear of the
birth of God, let not His conception disturb you, seeing the pure virginity
of the mother removes all that might shock human reverence. And what offence
against our awe and reverence is there, when the Deity entered into union
with purity that was always dear to Him, where an Angel is mediator, faith
is bridesmaid, where chastity is the giving away, virtue the gift, conscience
the judge, God the cause; where the conception is inviolateness, the birth
virginity, and the mother a virgin. [ed. note: The allusions here made
may be illustrated by a passage in the Ad Uxor. ii. 1, of Tertullian, who,
with reference to the civil usages, speaks of "the [cont. p. 42] happiness
of that Marriage, which the Church "brings about, (conciliat,)" the "Oblation"
confirms, the Blessing "seals," the Angles "witness," and the Father "ratifies,"
In Chrysologus the Angel brings about, (interpres ost,) virtue is the oblation
or bride's gift, and a pure conscience is the witness.]
Cyril, Epist. ad Joan. Antioch. (Ep. p. 107): But if [p. 42] we were
to say that the holy Body of Christ came down from heaven, and was not
made of His mother, as Valentinus does, in what sense could Mary be the
Mother of God?
Gloss: The name of His Mother is added, "Mary."
Bede, in Luc., c. 3: Mary in interpreted, 'Star of the Sea,' after the
Hebrew; 'Mistress,' after the Syriac; as she bare into the world the Light
of salvation, and the Lord. [ed. note, r: their rebellion. S. Ambrose interprets
it "God from my race," and "the bitterness of the sea." de Instit. Virg.
33. It is not necessary to give the origin of these various interpretations.]
Gloss: And to whom she was betrothed is shewn, Joseph.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Mary was therefore betrothed to a carpenter, because
Christ the Spouse of the Church was to work the salvation of all men through
the wood of the Cross.
Chrys.: What follows, "Before they came together," does not mean before
she was brought to the bridegroom's house, for she was already within.
For it was a frequent custom among the ancients to have their betrothed
wives home to their house before marriage; as we see done now also, and
as the sons-in-law of Lot were with him in the house.
Gloss: But the words denote carnal knowledge.
Pseudo-Chrys.: That He should not be born of passion, of flesh and blood,
who was therefore born that He might take away all passion of flesh and
Aug., de Nupt. et Concup., i, 12: There was no carnal knowledge in this
wedlock, because in sinful flesh this could not be without carnal desire
which came of sin, and which He would be without, who was to be without
sin; and that hence He might teach us that all flesh which is born of sexual
union is sinful flesh, seeing that Flesh alone was without sin, which was
not so born.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. 122 et. al.: Christ was also born of a pure virgin,
because it was not holy that virtue should be born of pleasure, chastity
of self-indulgence, incorruption of corruption. Nor could He come from
heaven but after some new manner, who came to destroy the ancient empire
of death. Therefore she received the crown of virginity who bare the King
of chastity. Farther, our Lord sought out for Himself a virgin abode, wherein
to be received, that He might shew us that God ought to be borne in a chaste
Therefore He that wrote on tables of stone without an iron pen, the
same wrought in Mary by the Holy [p. 43] Spirit; "She was found with child
of the Holy Ghost."
Jerome: And found by none other than by Joseph, who knew all, as being
her espoused husband.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For, as a not incredible account relates, Joseph was
absent when the things were done which Luke writes. For it is not easy
to suppose that the Angel came to Mary and said those words, and Mary made
her answer when Joseph was present. And even if we suppose thus much to
have been possible, yet it could not be that she should have gone into
the hill country, and abode there three months when Joseph was present,
because he must needs have enquired the causes of her departure and long
stay. And so when after so many months he returned from abroad, he found
her manifestly with child.
Chrys.: He says exactly "was found," for so we use to say of things
not thought of. And that you should not molest the Evangelist by asking
in what way was this birth of a virgin, he clears himself shortly, saying,
"Of the Holy Ghost." As much as to say, it was the Holy Ghost that wrought
this miracle. For neither Gabriel nor Matthew could say any futher.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Therefore the words, "Is of the Holy Ghost," were
set down by the Evangelist, to the end, that when it was said that she
was with child, all wrong suspicion should be removed from the minds of
Pseudo-Aug. , Serm. 236 in App.: But not, as some impiously think, are
we to suppose, that the Holy Spirit was as seed, but we say that He wrought
with the power and might of a Creator. [ed. note: And thus S. Hilary speaks
of the sementiva ineuntis Spiritus "efficacia." de Trin. ii, 26]
Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct., ii, 5: That which is of any thing is either
of the substance or the power of that thing; of the substance, as the Son
who is of the Father; of the power, as all things are of God, even as Mary
was with Child of the Holy Spirit.
Aug., Enchir. c. 40: Furthermore, this manner in which Christ was born
of the Holy Spirit suggests to us the grace of God, by which man without
any previous merits, in the very beginning of his nature, was united with
the Word of God into so great unity of person, that he was also made son
of God. [margin note: Aug., Enchir. c. 38]
But inasmuch as the whole Trinity wrought to make this creature which
was conceived of the Virgin, though pertaining only to the person of the
Son, (for the works of the Trinity are indivisible,) why is [p. 44] the
Holy Spirit only named in this work? Must we always, when one of the Three
is named in any work, understand that the whole Trinity worked in that?
Jerome, Hieron. Cont. Helvid. in princip.: But says Helvidius; Neither
would the Evangelist have said, "Before they came together," if they were
not to come together afterwards; as none would say, Before dinner, where
there was to be no dinner. As if one should say, Before I dined in harbour,
I set sail for Africa, would this have no meaning in it, unless he were
at some times or other to dine in the harbour?
Surely we must either understand it thus, - that "before," though it
often implies something to follow, yet often is said of things that follow
only in thought; and it is not necessary that the things so thought of
should take place, for that something else has happened to prevent them
from taking place.
Jerome: Therefore it by no means follows that they did come together
afterwards; Scripture however shews not what did happen.
Remig.: Or the word "come together" may not mean carnal knowledge, but
may refer to the time of the nuptials, when she who was betrothed begins
to be wife. Thus, "before they came together," may mean before they solemnly
celebrated the nuptial rites.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 5: How this was done Matthew omits to write,
but Luke relates after the conception of John, "In the sixth month the
Angel was sent;" and again, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee." This
is what Matthew relates in these words, "She was found with child of the
Holy Ghost." And it is no contradiction that Luke has described what Matthew
omits; or again that Matthew relates what Luke has omitted; that namely
which follows, from "Now Joseph her husband being a just man," to that
place where it is said of the Magi, that "They returned into their own
country another way."
If one desired to digest into one narrative the two accounts of Christ's
birth, he would arrange thus; beginning with Matthew's words, "Now the
birth of Christ was on this wise;" then taking up with Luke, from "There
was in the days of Herod," [Luke 1:5] to, "Mary abode with her three months,"
and "returned to her house;" then taking up again Matthew, add, "She was
found with child of the Holy Ghost." [Matt 1:10]
19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to
make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
Chrys.: The Evangelist having said that she was found with child of
the Holy Ghost, and without knowledge of man, that you should not herein
suspect Christ's disciple of inventing wonders in honour of his Master,
brings forward Joseph confirming the history by his own share in it; "Now
Joseph her husband, being a just man."
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. s. 195: Joseph, understanding that Mary was
with child, is perplexed that it should be thus with her whom he had received
from the temple of the Lord, and had not yet known, and resolved within
himself, saying, What shall I do? Shall I proclaim it, or shall I overlook
it? If I proclaim it, I am indeed not consenting to the adultery; but I
am running into the guilt of cruelty, for by Moses' law she must be stoned.
If I overlook it, I am consenting to the crime, and take my portion with
the adulterers. Since then it is an evil to overlook the things, and worse
to proclaim the adultery, I will put her away from being my wife.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: St. Matthew has beautifully taught how a righteous
man ought to act, who has detected his wife's disgrace; so as at once to
keep himself guiltless of her blood, and yet pure from her defilements;
therefore it is he says, "Being a just man." Thus is preserved throughout
in Joseph the gracious character of a righteous man, that his testimony
may be the more approved; for, the tongue of the just speaketh the judgment
Jerome: But how is Joseph thus called, "just," when he is ready to hide
his wife's sin? For the Law enacts, that not only the doers of evil, but
they who are privy to any evil done, shall be held to be guilty.
Chrys.: But it should be known, that "just" here is used to denote one
who is in all things virtuous. For there is a particular justice, namely,
the being free from covetousness; and another universal virtue, in which
sense Scripture generally uses the word justice. Therefore being "just,"
that is, kind, merciful, he "was minded to put away privily" her who according
to the Law was liable not only to dismissal, but to death. But Joseph remitted
both, as though living above the Law. For as the sun lightens up the world,
[p. 46] before he shews his rays, so Christ before He was born caused many
wonders to be seen.
Aug.: Otherwise; if you alone have knowledge of a sin that any has committed
against you, and desire to accuse him thereof before men, you do not herein
correct, but rather betray him. But Joseph, "being a just man," with great
mercy spared his wife, in this great crime of which he suspected her. The
seeming certainty of her unchastity tormented him, and yet because he alone
knew of it, he was willing not to publish it, but to send her away privily;
seeking rather the benefit than the punishment of the sinner.
Jerome: Or this may be considered a testimony to Mary, that Joseph,
confident in her purity, and wondering at what had happened, covered in
silence that mystery which he could not explain.
Rabanus: He beheld her to be with child, whom he knew to be chaste;
and because he had read, "There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse,"
of which he knew that Mary was come [ed. note: Jerome in loc. Ambros. de
Spir. S. ii. 5. and Pseudo-Augustine (t. vi. p. 570.) so apply these words,
considering Christ the 'Branch' or flower (flos) which is spoken of in
the clause following. Cyril Alex. et Theod. in loc. explain it of Christ.],
and had also read, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive," he did not doubt
that this prophecy should be fulfilled in her.
Origen: But if he had no suspicion of her, how could he be a just man,
and yet seek to put her away, being immaculate? He sought to put her away,
because he saw in her a great sacrament, to approach which he thought himself
Gloss, ap Anselm: Or, in seeking to put her away, he was just; in that
he sought it privily, is shewn his mercy, defending her from disgrace;
"Being a just man, he was minded to put her away;" and being unwilling
to expose her in public, and so to disgrace her, he sought to do it privily.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 1: But as no one puts away what he has not received;
in that he was minded to put her away, he admits to have received her.
Gloss, part ap. Anselm, part in Ordinaria: Or, being unwilling to bring
her home to his house to live with him for ever, "he was minded to put
her away privily;" that is, to change the time of their marriage. For that
is true virtue, when neither mercy is observed without justice, nor justice
without mercy; both which vanish when severed one from the other.
Or he was just because of his faith, in that [p. 47] he believed that
Christ should be born of a virgin; wherefore he wished to humble himself
before so great a favour.
20. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the
Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear
not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her
is of the Holy Ghost.
Remig.: Because Joseph was minded, as has been said, to put Mary away
privily, which if he had done, there would have been few who would not
rather have thought her a harlot than a virgin, therefore this purpose
of Joseph was changed by Divine revelation, whence it is said, "While he
thought on these things."
Gloss., ap Anselm: In this is to be noted the wise soul that desires
to undertake nothing rashly.
Chrys.: Also observe the mercifulness of Joseph, that he imparted his
suspicions to none, not even to her whom he suspected, but kept them within
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. 195: Yet though Joseph think on these things,
let not Mary the daughter of David be troubled; as the word of the Prophet
brought pardon to David, so the Angel of the Saviour delivers Mary. Behold,
again appears Gabriel the bridesman of this Virgin; as it follows, "Behold
the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph."
Ambrose: In this word "appeared" is conveyed the power of Him that did
appear, allowing Himself to be seen where and how He pleases.
Raban.: How the Angel appeared to Joseph is declared in the words, "In
his sleep;" that is, as Jacob saw the ladder offered by a kind of imagining
to the eyes of his heart.
Chrys.: He did not appear so openly to Joseph as to the Shepherds, because
he was faithful; the shepherds needed it, because they were ignorant. The
Virgin also needed it, as she had first to be instructed in these mighty
wonders. In like manner Zacharias needed the wonderful vision before the
conception of his son.
Gloss., part Int., part Anselm: The Angel appearing calls him by name,
and adds his descent, in order to banish fear, "Joseph, son of David;"
Joseph, as though he were known to him by name and his familiar friend.
Pseudo-Chrys.: By addressing him as son of David, he sought to recall
to his memory the promise of God to David, that of [p. 48] his seed should
Christ be born.
Chrys.: But by saying, "Be not afraid," he shews him to be in fear that
he had offended God, by having an adulteress; for only as such would he
have ever thought of putting her away.
Chrysologus: As her betrothed husband also he is admonished not to be
afraid; for the mind that compassionates has most fear; as though he were
to say, Here is no cause of death, but of life; she that brings forth life,
does not deserve death.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Also by the words, "Fear not," he desired to shew that
he knew the heart; that by this he might have the more faith in those good
things to come, which he was about to speak concerning Christ.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: Be not troubled that he calls her his wife;
for she is not herein robbed of her virginity, but her wedlock is witnessed
to, and the celebration of her marriage is declared.
Jerome: But we are not to think that she ceased to be betrothed, because
she is here called wife, since we know that this is the Scripture manner
to call the man and woman, when espoused, husband and wife; and this is
confirmed by that text in Deuteronomy, "If one finds a virgin that is betrothed
to a man in the field, and offer violence to her, and lie with her, he
shall die, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife." [Deut 22:25]
Chrys.: He says, "Fear not to take unto thee;" that is, to keep at home;
for in thought she was already dismissed.
Raban.: Or, "to take her," that is, in marriage union and continual
Pseudo-Chrys.: There were three reasons why the Angel appeared to Joseph
with this message. First, that a just man might not be led into an unjust
action, with just intentions. Secondly, for the honour of the mother herself,
for had she been put away, she could not have been free from evil suspicion
among the unbelievers. Thirdly, that Joseph, understanding the holy conception,
might keep himself from her with more care than before.
He did not appear to Joseph before the conception, that he should not
think those things that Zacharias thought, nor suffer what he suffered
in falling into the sin of unbelief concerning the conception of his wife
in her old age. For it was yet more incredible that a virgin should conceive,
than that a woman past the age should conceive.
Chrys.: Or, The Angel appeared to Joseph when he was in this perplexity,
that his wisdom might be apparent to Joseph, and that this [p. 49] might
be a proof to him of those things that he spoke. For when he heard out
of the mouth of the Angel those very things that he thought within himself,
this was an undoubted proof, that he was a messenger from God, who alone
knows the secrets of the heart.
Also the account of the Evangelist is beyond suspicion, as he describes
Joseph feeling all that a husband was likely to feel. The Virgin also by
this was more removed from suspicion, in that her husband had felt jealousy,
yet took her home, and kept her with him after her conception. She had
not told Joseph the things that the Angel had said to her, because she
did not suppose that she should be believed by her husband, especially
as he had begun to have suspicions concerning her.
But to the Virgin the Angel announced her conception before it took
place, lest if he should defer it till afterwards she should be in straits.
And it behoved that Mother who was to receive the Maker of all things to
be kept free from all trouble. Not only does the Angel vindicate the Virgin
from all impurity, but shews that the conception was supernatural, not
removing his fears only, but adding matter of joy; saying, "That which
is born in her is of the Holy Spirit."
Gloss. ord: To be "born in her," and "born of her," are two different
things; to be born of her is to come into the world; to be born in her,
is the same as to be conceived. Or the word, "born," is used according
to the foreknowledge of the Angel which he has of God, to whom the future
is as the past.
Pseudo-Aug., Hil. Quaest. N. et V. Test. q. 52: But if Christ was born
by the agency of the Holy Ghost, how is that said, "Wisdom hath built herself
an house?" [Prov 9:1]
That house may be taken in two meanings. First, the house of Christ
is the Church, which He built with His own blood; and secondly, His body
may be called His house, as it is called His temple. But the work of the
Holy Spirit, is also the work of the Son of God, because of the unity of
their nature and their will; for whether it be the Father, or the Son,
or the Holy Spirit, that doeth it, it is the Trinity that works, and what
the Three do, is of One God.
Aug., Enchir., 38: But shall we therefore say that the Holy Spirit is
the Father of the man Christ, that as God the Father begot the Word, so
the Holy Spirit begot the man? This is such an absurdity, that the ears
of the faithful cannot bear it. [p. 50]
How then do we say that Christ was born by the Holy Spirit, if the Holy
Spirit did not beget Him? Did He create Him? For so far as He is man He
was created, as the Apostle speaks; "He was made of the seed of David according
to the flesh." [Rom 1:3] For though God made the world, yet is it not right
to say that it is the Son of God, or born by Him, but that it was made,
or created, or formed by Him. But seeing that we confess Christ to have
been born by the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, how is He not the
Son of the Holy Spirit, and is the Son of the Virgin? It does not follow,
that whatever is born by any thing, is therefore to be called the son of
that thing; for, not to say that of man is born in one sense a son, in
another a hair, or vermin, or a worm, none of which are his son, certainly
those that are born of water and the Spirit none would call sons of water;
but sons of God their Father, and their Mother the Church. Thus Christ
was born of the Holy Spirit, and yet is the Son of God the Father, not
of the Holy Spirit.
21. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name
Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Chrys.: What the Angel thus told Joseph, was beyond human thought, and
the law of nature, therefore he confirms his speech not only be revealing
to him what was past, but also what was to come; "She shall bring forth
Gloss., ap Anselm: That Joseph should not suppose that he was no longer
needed in this wedlock, seeing the conception had taken place without his
intervention, the Angel declares to him, that though there had been no
need of him in the conception, yet there was need of his guardianship;
for the Virgin should bear a Son, and then he would be necessary both to
the Mother and her Son; to the Mother to screen her from disgrace, to the
Son to bring Him up and to circumcise Him. The circumcision is meant when
he says, "And thou shalt call His name Jesus;" for it was usual to give
the name in circumcision.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not, "Shall bear thee a Son," as to Zacharias,
"Behold, Elisabeth thy wife shall bear thee a son." For the woman who conceives
of her husband, [p. 51] bears the son to her husband, because he is more
of him than of herself; but she who had not conceived of man, did not bear
the Son to her husband, but to herself.
Chrys.: Or, he left it unappropriated, to shew that she bare Him to
the whole world.
Raban.: "Thou shalt call His name," he says, and not, "shalt give Him
a name," for His name had been given from all eternity.
Chrys.: This further shews that this birth should be wonderful, because
it is God that sends down His name from above by His Angel; and that not
any name, but one which is a treasure of infinite good. Therefore also
the Angel interprets it, suggesting good hope, and by this induces him
to believe what was spoken. For we lean more easily to prosperous things,
and yield our belief more readily to good fortune.
Jerome: Jesus is a Hebrew word, meaning Saviour. He points to the etymology
of the name, saying, "For He shall save His people from this sins."
Remig.: He shews the same man to be the Saviour of the whole world,
and the Author of our salvation. He saves indeed not the unbelieving, but
His people; that is, He saves those that believe on Him, not so much from
visible as from invisible enemies; that is, from their sins, not by fighting
with arms, but by remitting their sins.
Chrysologus: Let them approach to hear this, who ask, Who is He that
Mary bare? "He shall save His people;" not any other man's people; from
what? "from their sins." That it is God that forgives sins, if you do not
believe the Christians so affirming, believe the infidels, or the Jews
who say, "None can forgive sins but God only." [Luke 5:1]
22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23. Behold, a Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth
a Son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is,
God with us.
Remig.: It is the custom of the Evangelist to confirm what he says out
of the Old Testament, for the sake of those Jews who believed on Christ,
that they might recognize as fulfilled in the grace of the Gospel, the
things that were foretold in the Old Testament; therefore he adds, "Now
all this was done." [p. 52]
Here we must enquire why he should say "all this was done," when above
he has only related the conception. It should be known that he says this
to shew, that in the presence of God "all this was done" before it was
done among men. Or he says, "all" this was done, because he is relating
past events; for when he wrote, it was all done.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Or, he says, "all this was done," meaning, the Virgin
was betrothed, she was kept chaste, she was found with child, the revelation
was made by the Angel, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken. For
that the Virgin should conceive and should bring forth would never have
been fulfilled, had she not been espoused that she should not be stoned;
and had not her secret been disclosed by the Angel, and so Joseph taken
her unto him, that she was not dismissed to disgrace and to perish by stoning.
So had she perished before the birth, that prophecy would have been made
void which says, "She shall bring forth a Son." [Isa 7:14]
Gloss: Or it may be said, that the word "that" does not here denote
the cause; for the prophecy was not fulfilled merely because it was to
be fulfilled. But it is put consecutively, as in Genesis, "He hung the
other on the gallows, that the truth of the interpreter might be proved;"
[Gen 40:22] since by the weighing of one, truth is established. So also
in this place we must understand it as if it were, that which was foretold
being done, the prophecy was accomplished.
Chrys.: Otherwise; the Angel seeing the depths of the Divine mercy,
the laws of nature broken through and reconciliation made, He who was above
all made lower than all; all these wonders, all this he comprises in that
one saying, "Now all this hath happened;" as though he had said, Do not
suppose that this is newly devised of God, it was determined of old. And
he rightly cites the Prophet not to the Virgin, who as a maiden was untaught
in such things, but to Joseph, as to one much versed in the Prophets.
And at first he had spoken of Mary as "thy wife," but now in the words
of the Prophet he brings in the word, "Virgin," that he might hear this
from the Prophet, as a thing long before determined. Therefore to confirm
what he had said, he introduces Isaiah, or rather God; for he does not
say, Which was spoken by Isaiah, but, "Which was spoken of the Lord by
Jerome, in Isa 7:14; Since it is introduced in the Prophet by the words,
[p. 53] "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign," it ought to be something
new and wonderful. But if it be, as the Jews will have it, a young woman,
or a girl shall bring forth, and not a virgin, what wonder is this, since
these are words signifying age and not purity?
Indeed the Hebrew word signifying "Virgin" (Bethula) is not used in
this place, but instead the word, 'Halma,' [ed. note, a: , &c.] which
except the LXX all render 'girl.' But the word, 'Halma,' has a twofold
meaning; it signifies both 'girl,' and 'hidden;' therefore 'Halma' denotes
not only 'maiden' or 'virgin,' but 'hidden,' 'secret;' that is, one never
exposed to the gaze of men, but kept under close custody by her parents.
In the Punic tongue also, which is said to be derived from Hebrew sources,
a virgin is properly called 'Halma.' In our tongue also 'Halma' means holy;
and the Hebrews use words of nearly all languages; and as far as my memory
will serve me, I do not think I ever met with Halma used of a married woman,
but of her that is a virgin, and such that she be not merely a virgin,
but in the age of youth; for it is possible for an old woman to be a maid.
But this was a virgin in years of youth, or at least a virgin, and not
a child too young for marriage.
For that which Matthew the Evangelist says, "Shall have in her womb,"
the Prophet who is foretelling something future, writes, "shall receive."
The Evangelist, not foretelling the future but describing the past, changes
"shall receive," into "shall have;" but he who has, cannot after receive
that he has. He says, "Lo, a Virgin shall have in her womb, and shall bear
Leo, Serm. 23, 1: The conception was by the Holy Spirit within the womb
of the Virgin; who, as she conceived in perfect chastity, in like manner
brought forth her Son.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. s. 123: He, who by a touch could heal the severed
limbs of others, how much more could He, in His own birth, preserve whole
that which He found whole? In this parturition, soundness of the Mother's
body was rather strengthened than weakened, and her virginity rather confirmed
Theodotus, Hom. 1 and 2. in Conc. Eph. ap. Hard. t. i. pp. 1643, 1655:
Inasmuch as Photinus affirms that He that was now born was mere man, not
allowing the divine birth, and maintains that He who now issued from the
womb was the man separate from the God; let him shew how it was possible
that human nature, born of the Virgin's womb, should have preserved the
[p. 54] virginity of that womb uncorrupted; for the mother of no man ever
yet remained a virgin.
But forasmuch as it was God the Word who was now born in the flesh,
He shewed Himself to be the Word, in that He preserved His mother's virginity.
For as our word when it is begot does not destroy the mind, so neither
does God the Word in choosing His birth destroy the virginity.
Chrys.: As it is the manner of Scripture to convey a knowledge of events
under the form of a name, so here, "They shall call His name Emmanuel,"
means nothing else than, They shall see God among men. Whence he says not,
'Thou shalt call,' but "They shall call."
Raban.: First, Angels hymning, secondly, Apostles preaching, then Holy
Martyrs, and lastly, all believers.
Jerome, in Isa 7:14; The LXX and three others translate, 'Thou shalt
call,' instead of which we have here, "They shall call," which is not so
in the Hebrew; for the word, 'Charathi,' [ed. note: ] which all render
"Thou shalt call," may mean, 'And she shall call,' that is, The Virgin
that shall conceive and shall bear Christ, shall call His name Emmanuel,
which is interpreted, 'God with us.'
Remig.: It is a question who interpreted this name? The Prophet, or
the Evangelist, or some translator? It should be known then, that the Prophet
did not interpret it; and what need had the Holy Evangelist to do so, seeing
he wrote in the Hebrew tongue? Perhaps that was a difficult and rare word
in Hebrew, and therefore needed interpretation. It is more probable that
some translator interpreted it, that the Latins might not be perplexed
by an unintelligible word.
In this name are conveyed at once the two substances, the Divinity and
Humanity in the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who before all
time was begot in an unspeakable manner by God the Father, the same in
the end of time was made "Emmanuel," that is, "God with us," of a Virgin
Mother. This "God with us" may be understood in this way. He was made with
us, passible, mortal, and in all things like unto us without sin; or because
our frail substance which He took on Him, He joined in one Person to His
Jerome: It should be known, that the Hebrews believe this prophecy to
refer to Ezekias, the son of Ahaz, because in his reign Samaria was taken;
but this cannot be established. Ahaz [p. 55] son of Jotham reigned over
Judaea and Jerusalem sixteen years, and was succeeded by his son Ezekias,
who was twenty-three years old, and reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem twenty-nine
years; how then can a prophecy prophesied in the first year of Ahaz refer
to the conception and birth of Ezekias, when he was already nine years
of age? Unless perhaps the sixth year of the reign of Ezekias, in which
Samaria was taken, they think is here called his infancy, that is, the
infancy of his reign, not of his age; which even a fool must see to be
hard and forced.
A certain one of our interpreters contends, that the Prophet Isaiah
had two sons, Jashub and Emmanuel; and that Emmanuel was born of his wife
the Prophetess as a type of the Lord and Saviour. But this is a fabulous
Petrus Alfonsus, Dial. tit. 7: For we know not that any man of that
day was called Emmanuel. But the Hebrew objects, How can it be that this
was said on account of Christ and Mary, when many centuries intervened
between Ahaz and Mary? But though the Prophet was speaking to Ahaz, the
prophecy was yet not spoken to him only or of his time only; for it is
introduced, "Hear, O house of David;" [Isa 7:13] not, 'Hear, O Ahaz.'
Again, "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign;" meaning He, and none
other; from which we may understand that the Lord Himself should be the
sign. And that he says "to you," (plur.) and not 'to thee,' shews that
this was not spoken to Ahaz, or on his account only.
Jerome: What is spoken to Ahaz then is to be thus understood. This Child,
that shall be born of a Virgin of the house of David, shall now be called
Emmanuel, that is, God with us, because the events (perhaps delivery from
the two hostile kings) will make it appear that you have God present with
you. But after He shall be called Jesus, that is, Saviour, because He shall
save the whole human race. Wonder not, therefore, O house of David, at
the newness of this thing, that a Virgin should bring forth a God, seeing
He has so great might that though yet to be born after a long while, He
delivers you now when you call upon Him.
Aug., Cont. Faust., 12, 45, and 13, 7: Who so mad as to say with Manichaeus,
that it is a weak faith not to believe i Christ without a witness; whereas
the Apostle says, "How shall they believe on Him of whom they have not
heard? Or how shall they hear without a preacher?" [Rom 10:14]
That those things which were preached by the Apostle might [p. 56] not
be contemned, nor thought to be fables, they are proved to have been foretold
by the Prophets. For though attested by miracles, yet there would not have
been wanting men to ascribe them all to magical power, had not such suggestions
been overcome by the additional testimony of prophecy.
For none could suppose that long before He was born, He had raised up
by magic prophets to prophesy of Him. For if we say to a Gentile, Believe
on Christ that He is God, and he should answer, Whence is it that I should
believe on Him? we might allege the authority of the Prophets. Should he
refuse assent to this, we establish their credit from their having foretold
things to come, and those things having truly come to pass. I suppose he
could not but know how great persecutions the Christian religion has formerly
suffered from the Kings of this world; let him now behold those very Kings
submitting to the kingdom of Christ, and all nations serving the same;
all which things the Prophets foretold. He then hearing these things out
of the Scriptures of the Prophets, and beholding them accomplished throughout
the whole earth, would be moved to faith.
Gloss, in Anselm: This error then is barred by the Evangelist saying,
"That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet."
Now one kind of prophecy is by the preordination of God, and must needs
be fulfilled, and that without any free choice on our part. Such is that
of which we now speak; wherefore he says, "Lo," to shew the certainty of
There is another kind of prophecy which is by the foreknowledge of God,
and with this our free will is mixed up; wherein by grace working with
us we obtain reward, or if justly deserted by it, torment.
Another is not of foreknowledge, but is a kind of threat made after
the manner of men; as that, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown;"
[Jonah 3] understanding, unless the Ninevites amend themselves.
24. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord
had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son:
and he called his name, Jesus.
Remig.: Life returned by the same entrance through which death had
entered in. By Adam's disobedience we were ruined, by Joseph's obedience
we all begin to be recalled to our former condition; for in these words
is commended to us the great virtue of obedience, when it is said, "And
Joseph rising from sleep, did as the Angel of the Lord had commanded him."
Gloss. ord. et ap. Anselm ex Beda cit.: He not only did what the Angel
commanded, but as he commanded it. Let each one who is warned of God, in
like manner, break off all delays, rise from sleep, and do that which is
Pseudo-Chrys.: "Took unto him" not took home to him; for he had not
sent her away; he had put her away in thought only, and now took her again
Remig.: Or, Took her so far, as that the nuptial rites being complete,
she was called his wife; but not so far as to lie with her, as it follows,
"And knew her not."
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. c. 5: Helvidius is at much superfluous trouble
to make this word "know" refer to carnal knowledge rather than to acquaintance,
as though any had ever denied that; or as if the follies to which he replies
had ever occurred to any person of common understanding. He then goes on
to say, that the adverb, 'until,' denotes a fixed time when that should
take place, which had not taken place before; so that here from the words,
"He knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born Son," it is
clear, he says, that after that he did know her. And in proof of this he
heaps together many instances from Scripture.
To all this we answer, that the word 'until' is to be understood in
two senses in Scripture. And concerning the expression, "knew her not,"
he has himself shewn, that it must be referred to carnal knowledge, none
doubting that it is often used of acquaintance, as in that, "The child
Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and His parents knew not of it." [Luke
In like manner, 'until' often denotes in Scripture, as he has shewn,
a fixed period, but often also an infinite time, as in that, "Even to your
old age I am He." [Isa 46:4] Will God then cease to be when they are grown
old? Also the Saviour in the Gospel, "Lo, I am with you always, even to
the end of this world." [Matt 28:20] Will He then leave His disciples at
the end of the world? Again, the Apostle says, "He must reign till He has
put His enemies under His feet." [1 Cor 15:25]
Be it understood then, that which if it had not been written might have
been [p. 58] doubted, is expressly declared to us; other things are left
to our own understanding.
[ed. note: In other words, "till," need not imply a termination at a
certain point of time, but may be giving us information up to a point from
which onwards there is already no doubt. Supposing an Evangelist thought
the very notion shocking that Joseph should have considered the Blessed
Virgin as his wife after he was a witness of her bearing God the Son, he
would only say that the vision had its effect upon him up to that time
when it was no longer necessary. Just as if, in speaking of a man like
Augustine, one said, that, in consequence of some awful occurrence, he
was in the habit of saying prayers till the time of his conversion, no
one would suppose that he left them off on being converted.]
So here the Evangelist informs us, in that wherein there might have
been room for error, that she was not known by her husband until the birth
of her Son, that we might thence infer that much less was she known afterwards.
Pseudo-Chrys.: As one might say, 'He told it not so long as he lived;'
would this imply that he told it after his death? Impossible. So it were
credible that Joseph might have known her before the birth, while he was
yet ignorant of the great mystery; but after that he understood how she
had been made a temple of the Only-begotten of God, how could he occupy
that? The followers of Eunomius think, as they have dared to assert this,
that Joseph also dared to do it, just as the insane think all men equally
mad with themselves.
Jerome, cont. Hevlid. 8: Lastly, I would ask, Why then did Joseph abstain
at all up to the day of birth? He will surely answer, Because of the Angel's
words, "That which is born in her, &c." He then who gave so much heed
to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, would he, after he had heard
the shepherds, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach
the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord?
Pseudo-Chrys.: It may be said, that "know" here signifies simply, to
understand; that whereas before he had not understood how great her dignity,
after the birth he then "knew" that she had been made more honourable and
worthy than the whole world, who had carried in her womb Him whom the whole
world could not contain.
Gloss: Otherwise; On account of the glorification of the most holy Mary,
she could not be known by Joseph until the birth; for she who had the Lord
of glory in her womb, how should she be known? If the face of Moses talking
with God was made glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look
thereon, how much [p. 59] more could not Mary be known, or even looked
upon, who bare the Lord of glory in her womb? After the birth she was known
of Joseph to the beholding of her face, but not to be approached carnally.
Jerome: From the words, "her first-born Son," some most erroneously
suspect that Mary had other sons, saying that first-born can only be said
of one that has brethren. But this is the manner of Scripture, to call
the first-born not only one who is followed by brethren, but the first-birth
of the mother.
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. 10: For if he only was first-born who was followed
by other brethren, then no first-birth could be due to the Priests, till
such time as the second birth took place.
Gloss. ord.: Or; He is "first-born" among the elect by grace; but by
nature the Only-begotten of God the Father, the only Son of Mary. "And
called His name Jesus," on the eighth day on which the circumcision took
place, and the Name was given.
Remig.: It is clear that this Name was well known to the Holy Fathers
and the Prophets of God, but to him above all, who spake, "My soul fainted
for Thy salvation;" [Ps 119:81] and, "My soul hath rejoiced in Thy salvation."
[Ps 13:5] Also to him who spake, "I will joy in God my Saviour." [Heb 3:18]