Home      Back to Trinity 18





St. Thomas Aquinas, 
Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), 
Gospel of Matthew 22:34-46
(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)
34. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.  
35. Then one of them, which was a Lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,  
36. "Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?"  
37. Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  
38. This is the first and great commandment.  
39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  
40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."  

Jerome: The Pharisees having been themselves already confuted (in the matter of the denarius), and now seeing their adversaries also overthrown, should have taken warning to attempt no further deceit against Him; but hate and jealousy are the parents of impudence. 

Origen: Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, to shew that the tongue of falsehood is silenced by the brightness of truth. For as it belongs to the righteous man to be silent when it is good to be silent, and to speak when it is good to speak, and not to hold his peace; so it belongs to every teacher of a lie not indeed to be silent, but to be silent as far as any good purpose is concerned. 

Jerome: The Pharisees and Sadducees, thus foes to one another, unite in one common purpose to tempt Jesus. 

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or the Pharisees meet together, that their numbers may silence Him whom their reasonings could not confute; thus, while they array numbers against Him, shewing that truth failed them; they said among themselves, Let one speak for all, and all speak, through one, so if He prevail, the victory may seem to belong to all; if He be overthrown, the defeat may rest with Him alone; so it follows, "Then one of [p. 761] them, a teacher of the Law, asked him a question, tempting Him." 

Origen: All who thus ask questions of any teacher to try him, and not to learn of him, we must regard as brethren of this Pharisee, according to what is said below, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of mine, ye have done it unto me." [Matt 25:40] 

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 73: Let no one find a difficulty in this, that Matthew speaks of this man as putting his question to tempt the Lord, whereas Mark does not mention this, but concludes with what the Lord said to him upon his answering wisely, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." [Mark 12:34] For it is possible that, though he came to tempt, yet the Lord's answer may have wrought correction within him. 

Or, the tempting here meant need not be that of one designing to deceive an enemy, but rather the cautious approach of one making proof of a stranger. And that is not written in vain, "Whoso believeth lightly, he is of a vain heart." [Eccl. 19:4] 

Origen: He said "Master" tempting Him, for none but a disciple would thus address Christ. Whoever then does not learn of the Word, nor yields himself wholly up to it, yet calls it Master, he is brother to this Pharisee thus tempting Christ. Perhaps while they read the Law before the Saviour's coming, it was a question among them which was the great commandment in it; nor would the Pharisee have asked this, if it had not been long time enquired among themselves, but never found till Jesus came and declared it. 

Pseudo-Chrys.: He who now enquires for the greatest commandment had not observed the least. He only ought to seek for a higher righteousness who has fulfilled the lower. 

Jerome: Or he enquires not for the sake of the commands, but which is the first and great commandment, that seeing all that God commands is great, he may have occasion to cavil whatever the answer be. 

Pseudo-Chrys.: But the Lord so answers him, as at once to lay bare the dissimulation of his enquiry, "Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love," not 'fear,' for to love is more than to fear; to fear belongs to slaves, to love to sons; fear is in compulsion, love in freedom. Whoso serves God in fear escapes punishment, but has not the reward of righteousness because he did well unwillingly through fear. God does not desire to be served servilely by [p. 762] men as a master, but to be loved as a father, for that He has given the spirit of adoption to men. 

But to love God with the whole heart, is to have the heart inclined to the love of no one thing more than of God. To love God again with the whole soul is to have the mind stayed upon the truth, and to be firm in the faith. For the love of the heart and the love of the soul are different. The first is in a sort carnal, that we should love God even with our flesh, which we cannot do unless we first depart from the love of the things of this world. The love of the heart is felt in the heart, but the love of the soul is not felt, but is perceived because it consists in a judgment of the soul. For he who believes that all good is in God, and that without Him is no good, he loves God with his whole soul. But to love God with the whole mind, is to have all the faculties open and unoccupied for Him. He only loves God with his whole mind, whose intellect ministers to God, whose wisdom is employed about God, whose thoughts travail in the things of God, and whose memory holds the things which are good. 

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: Or otherwise; You are commanded to love God "with all thy heart," that your whole thoughts -- "with all thy soul," that your whole life -- "with all thy mind," that your whole understanding -- may be given to Him from whom you have that you give. Thus He has left no part of our life which may justly be unfilled of Him, or give place to the desire after any other final good [marg. note: alia re frui]; but if aught else present itself for the soul's love, it should be absorbed into that channel in which the whole current of love runs. For man is then the most perfect when his whole life tends towards the life [marg. note: al. bonum] unchangeable, and clings to it with the whole purpose of his soul. 

Gloss., interlin.: Or, "with all thy heart," i.e. understanding; "with all thy soul," i.e. thy will; "with all thy mind," i.e. memory; so you shall think, will, remember nothing contrary to Him. 

Origen: Or otherwise; "With all thy heart," that is, in all recollection, act, thought; "with all thy soul," to be ready, that is, to lay it down for God's religion; "with all thy mind," bringing forth nothing but what is of God. And consider whether you cannot thus take the heart of the understanding, by which we contemplate things intellectual, and the "mind" of that by which we utter thoughts, walking as it were with the mind through each expression, [p. 763] and uttering it. 

If the Lord had given no answer to the Pharisee who thus tempted Him, we should have judged that there was no commandment greater than the rest. But when the Lord adds, "This is the first and great commandment," we learn how we ought to think of the commandments, that there is a great one, and that there are less down to the least. And the Lord says not only that it is a great, but that it is the first commandment, not in order of Scripture, but in supremacy of value. 

They only take upon them the greatness and supremacy of this precept, who not only love the Lord their God, but add these three conditions. Nor did He only teach the first and great commandment, but added that there was a second like unto the first, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:" But if "Whoso loveth iniquity hath hated his own soul," [Ps 11:5] it is manifest that he does not love his neighbour as himself, when he does not love himself. 

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 30; see Rom 13:10: It is clear that every man is to be regarded as a neighbour, because evil is to be done to no man. Further, if every one to whom we are bound to shew service of mercy, or who is bound to shew it to us, be rightly called our neighbour, it is manifest that in this precept are comprehended the holy Angels who perform for us those services of which we may read in Scripture. 

Whence also our Lord Himself would be called our neighbour; for it was Himself whom He represents as the good Samaritan, who gave succour to the man who was left half-dead by the way. 

Aug., de Trin., viii, 6: He that loves men ought to love them either because they are righteous, or that they may be righteous; and so also ought he to love himself either for that he is, or that he may be righteous. And thus without peril he may love his neighbour as himself. 

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 22: But if even yourself you ought not to love for your own sake, but because of Him in whom is the rightful end of your love, let not another man be displeased that you love even him for God's sake. Whoso then rightly loves his neighbour, ought to endeavour with him that he also with his whole heart love God. 

Pseudo-Chrys.: But who loves man is as who loves God; for man is God's image, wherein God is loved, as a King is honoured in his statue. For this cause this commandment is said to be like the first. 

Hilary: Or otherwise; That the second command is like [p. 764] the first signifies that the obligation and merit of both are alike; for no love of God without Christ, or of Christ without God, can profit to salvation. 

It follows, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." 

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 33: "Hang," that is, refer thither as their end. 

Raban.: For to these two commandments belongs the whole decalogue; the commandments of the first table to the love of God, those of the second to the love of our neighbour. 

Origen: Or, because he that has fulfilled the things that are written concerning the love of God and our neighbour, is worthy to receive from God the great reward, that he should be enabled to understand the Law and the Prophets. 

Aug., de Trin., viii. 7: Since there are two commandments, the love of God and the love of our neighbour, on which hang the Law and the Prophets, not without reason does Scripture put one for both; sometimes the love of God; as in that, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God;" [Rom 8:28] and sometimes the love of our neighbour; as in that, "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." [Gal 5:14] 

And that because if a man love his neighbour, it follows therefrom that he loves God also; for it is the selfsame affection by which we love God, and by which we love our neighbour, save that we love God for Himself, but ourselves and our neighbour for God's sake. 

Aug., de Doctr. Christ., i, 26, 30: But since the Divine substance is more excellent and higher than our nature, the command to love God is distinct from that to love our neighbour. But if by yourself, you understand your whole self, that is both your soul and your body, and in like manner of your neighbour, there is no sort of things to be loved omitted in these commands. The love of God goes first, and the rule thereof is so set out to us as to make all other loves center in that, so that nothing seems said of loving yourself. 

But then follows, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," so that love of yourself is not omitted. 

41. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,  
42. Saying, "What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?" They say unto him, "The Son of David." [p. 765]  
43. He saith unto them, "How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,  
44. 'The Lord saith unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?'  
45. If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?"  
46. And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.  

Pseudo-Chrys.: The Jews tempted Christ, supposing Him to be mere man; had they believed Him to be the Son of God, they would not have tempted Him. Christ therefore, willing to shew that He knew the treachery of their hearts, and that He was God, yet would not declare this truth to them plainly, that they might not take occasion thence to charge Him with blasphemy, and yet would not totally conceal this truth; because to that end had He come that He should preach the truth. 

He therefore puts a question to them, such as should declare to them who He was; "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He?" 

Chrys., Hom. lxxi: He first asked His disciples what others said of Christ, and then what they themselves said; but not so to these. For they would have said that He was a deceiver, and wicked. They thought that Christ was to be mere man, and therefore "they say unto Him, The Son of David." To reprove this, He brings forward the Prophet, witnessing His dominion, proper Sonship, and His joint honour with His Father. 

Jerome: This passage is out of the 109th Psalm. Christ is therefore called David's Lord, not in respect of His descent from him, but in respect of His eternal generation from the Father, wherein He was before His fleshly Father. And he calls Him Lord, not by a mere chance, nor of his own thought, but by the Holy Spirit. 

Remig.: That He says, "Sit thou on my right hand," is not to be taken as though God had a body, and either a right hand or a left hand; but to sit on the right hand of God is to abide in the honour and equality of the Father's majesty. 

Pseudo-Chrys.: I suppose that He formed this question, not only against the Pharisees, but also against the heretics; for [p. 766] according to the flesh He was truly David's Son, but his Lord according to His Godhead. 

Chrys.: But He rests not with this, but that they may fear, He adds, "Till I make thine enemies thy footstool;" that at least by terror He might gain them. 

Origen: For God puts Christ's enemies as a footstool beneath His feet, for their salvation as well as their destruction. 

Remig.: But "till" is used for indefinite time, that the meaning be, Sit Thou for ever, and for ever hold thine enemies beneath thy feet. 

Gloss., ap. Anselm: That it is by the Father that the enemies are put under the Son, denotes not the Son's weakness, but the union of His nature with His Father. For the Son also puts under Him the Father's enemies, when He glorifies His name upon earth. He concludes from this authority, "If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?" 

Jerome: This question is still available for us against the Jews; for these who believe that Christ is yet to come, assert that He is a mere man, though a holy one, of the race of David. Let us then thus taught by the Lord ask them, If He be mere man, and only the Son of David, how does David call Him his Lord? 

To evade the truth of this question, the Jews invent many frivolous answers. They allege Abraham's steward, he whose son was Eliezer of Damascus, and say that this Psalm was composed in his person, when after the overthrow of the five kings, the Lord God said to his lord Abraham, "Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool." 

Let us ask how Abraham could say the things that follow, and compel them to tell us how Abraham was born before Lucifer, and how he was a Priest after the order of Melchisedech, for whom Melchisedech brought bread and wine, and of whom he received tithes of the spoil? 

Chrys.: This conclusion He put to their questionings, as final, and sufficient to stop their mouth. Henceforward accordingly they held their peace, not by their own good-will, but from not having aught to say. 

Origen: For had their question sprung of desire to know, He would never have proposed to them such things as should have deterred them from asking further. 

Raban.: Hence we learn that the poison of jealousy may be overcome, but can hardly of itself rest at peace.